6 ways to read print books affordably

There’s no shortage of books to read, which may then lead to the question of how to stick to your budget? Naturally, there’s nothing wrong with paying more / full price for books, and there are different cases where you’d want to do so. But in the event that bargains (or even hard-to-find titles) are on your mind, these 6 tips came to mind.

I note that while this list is about print books (my preferred reading method), I trust that many of these also have free and/or affordable ebook options.

How right you are, Mr. Darcy 🙂

In order of most affordable (no cost to low cost):

1. Public libraries
Unsurprisingly, an automatic fulfilling way to access print books for free are libraries. Naturally, what’s required is a visit to the location and a membership card, and you’re good to go. With technology increasingly impacting our lives, we may not think of libraries as much as we did in the past, but they remain an amazing resource that should not be forgotten and/or underestimated.

As with any situation, there are factors to consider if this is the right option, such as location, inventory, and borrowing protocols. While borrowing time limits can be intimidating, they can also motivate you to meet your goals (and as I recently heard inspirational figure Brendon Burchard say, studies show that few things push people as much as deadlines!). In any case, libraries seem the surest way of accessing desired titles for free, at least at some point.

^Haha! The man is just amazing 🙂

2. Your network
Another option might be to borrow from friends, coworkers, relatives, etc. especially in the case where they’re recommending a title they happen to own. How feasible that is also all depends on how often you see them, how quickly they need it back, etc.

3. Goodreads giveaways
If you’re a book lover, it goes without saying that you should be on Goodreads. It’s a great lit-oriented platform that has a range of activities that allow you to: create your virtual bookshelves, track what you’ve read and want to read, rate books, write book reviews, discover new books, socialize through joining groups and discussions, create an author page and host book giveaways (if you’re a writer/publisher), and enter free book giveaways.

You’re allowed to enter as many giveaways as you want, and while there’s never any guarantee you’ll win, it’s definitely a possibility. As reference, adding a book to your ‘to-read’ bookshelf will alert you when a giveaway for that book goes live. Even if this option doesn’t yield many (any?) free books, all the other perks are well worth joining the platform.

4. ARCs
Another option, which may or may not be connected to Goodreads, is to acquire an Advanced Reader’s Copy of a certain book, aka “ARC”. These are basically pre-publication copies that are sent out to readers who are active on social media, and who intend to read the book and share that experience with their platform(s). The idea is to bring attention to the title in question in a timely manner, and probably close to its publication date for maximum marketing impact.

Publishing houses may have different protocols for requesting ARCs, so you’d want to look these up individually. With that said, a good place to start might be reviewing these tips by All Things Urban Fantasy:
Part 1 – ARC Resources
Part 2 – Requesting ARCs
Part 3 – ARC Protocol

5. Local bookstores, low cost bookstores & used books
One of the top 2 ways that I love getting books is from local bookstores. In addition to supporting independent business, it can contribute to more sustainable practices through buying used books at such locations.

An amazing store I’d highly recommend checking out is Half Price Books! They have both new and used books at reduced prices, as well as Clearance sections which feature books (often brand new!) ranging from $1-$4! I cannot count the many, many hauls I’ve acquired in that way, and though it can feel mind-blowing, it’s greatly contributed to my library, and motivates me to read more. (One great reminder is that books are never a waste either; especially not when you think of all the lovely tomes you’d want to pass on to your kids 😉 )

For other discounted rates, used books via Amazon is another great option. The selection is just unbeatable and also comes in quite handy when you’re looking for hard-to-find titles (which is often a factor for me).

?! bahahahaha 😀

6. College libraries
College libraries are another great resource to consider. While their selection may primarily lean on scholarly and curriculum-appropriate titles, they very often have general fiction and other books–and in several different languages too. (You may also be able to check out their inventory online to assess availability.)

This process would likely entail getting some kind of fee-based ‘Alumni membership’ that would grant borrowing privileges. This option is a great way to access many titles (and possibly hard-to-find and/or very expensive titles, as is often the case with scholarly work!), while supporting educational institutions. Based on your needs and goals, you can consider your own college and/or check out others near you.

Speaking of which: this list shows some gorgeous European-like US libraries, many of which are part of universities; yet another reason to consider checking them out!

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Source

As with anything in life, a range of factors will determine where we want to splurge and where we want to cut back. But with several book access options available, reading shouldn’t have to be expensive–especially not if reading, as opposed to book collecting, is one of your primary goals.

One of the side effects of book reading will be determining what to do with the book(s) next. As I’ve gotten older and reflected more about the kind of space I want to be in,  I’ve increasingly taken to discarding titles (and other objects) that don’t resonate. In that case, several of the aforementioned options can double as ways to pass them on to other readers.

Cheers to happy reading! 😀

Remembering the first novel I read — Konsalik’s Natalia

I was recently thinking about how I love to find out about, and dig up little-known books. I get a rush from it, sorta like I’m discovering a treasure; which they are; treasures of forgotten and/or little-known stories!

I then found myself thinking about the first novel I recall reading, which in some ways may be part of that category of little-known books, at least depending on where you live. This book in question is by German author Heinz G. Konsalik, titled Natalia (French edition).

I was quite young, not even ten yet, growing up in Brussels and found this book among my mom’s collection. I don’t know how she came about it, but given her German background, she was likely already familiar with the author’s long list of literary achievements. (My parents also did briefly have a spiritual bookstore in 80’s Brussels, which I wrote about in my short story collection, but this novel wouldn’t have been sold there.)

Aside from the title—reminiscent of my own name—I remember being struck by the cover and the attractive, femme-fatale like woman featured on it. Reading the synopsis quickly lured me, and which, translated to English, reads something like:

“Even in the era of the sputnik, the infinite Siberian taiga forest remains largely unknown. Dangerous. Just about inaccessible to “outsiders.” It’s another world, filled with sometimes horrible legends…

Here we are in the taiga, in the village of Sadovka where strange characters live, such as the priest Tigran or the widow Anastasia Alexeievna… In the heart of the village, a house remains shut, uninhabited. And when the engineer Tassbug, arriving from the city, wants to rent it, Anastasia tells him that it’s impossible, because for nearly two centuries frightening, supernatural things have been happening there…

Throwing caution to the wind, Tassburg enters the premises. He’ll be greatly surprised to find there a proud and wild young woman: Natalia. She’s run across the taiga, tracked down by the brutal Kassougai, who passes her off as a murderer. And now she’s hiding… But is it really Natalia whom Tassburg has in front of him? Or is it not the ghost of the one who was killed there long ago, the countess Albina Igorevna?

Konsalik’s new novel brings us to one of the famous writer’s favorite locations: the dark and mysterious taiga. In this setting, a fabulous adventure, perils, enigmas, intersect to the reader’s great delight. And the moving face of Natalia, the beautiful heroine who attempts to escape all fate’s evil designs, remains unforgettable.”

I guess it was meant to be because it felt right up my alley, and I gladly dived in!

^French book synopsis

Of course, I can’t say that this was the actual *first* book I read. After all, by then I’d already read quite some popular Belgian comics, not to mention all the animal books and baby books that had come my way… But this is definitely the first novel I read, and I do recall a sense of a ‘rite of passage,’ and feeling grown up at the thought of graduating to this kind of ‘adult’ genre. It was several hundred pages after all, and no images, haha! 😀 What might’ve looked intimidating quickly proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, encompassing adventure, paranormal themes, and romance topped with a strong—if wounded—heroine.

It’s interesting that up to that point I didn’t have anything to compare it to, so there was something about this type of story that interested me. I’m not against the view that I may have been energetically picking up on its themes, long before I knew anything about these things (after all, children are naturally sensitive if often unaware of that ability to ‘sense’ things; a trait which we may unfortunately suppress and/or ignore as we get older).

In retrospect, it’s easy for me to see that reading this book may have—at least in some ways— influenced my subsequent tastes in books. I’ve realized a while ago that some of the stories I tended to be drawn to involved a combination of strong women… and rather dramatic / sad narratives. Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and Flaubert’s Salammbo are a few that come to mind. This was a bit of a revelation to me, since the drawing point for me wasn’t the sadness per se; perhaps I was looking for something bigger to come out of that, and which I suppose perhaps I found, if subconsciously, while reading the stories. It’s not that I ‘liked’ sad endings—I rather love happy ones!—but I suppose part of me did feel that the sadness made the stories a bit more ‘real,’ for who can go through life without hardships? Or maybe it was seeing characters go through these things and still come out fine (at least at times?) that fascinated me… Like most things, there are likely multiple, complex reasons for my early interest in such narratives.

Interestingly enough, Natalia differs from these stated examples as it doesn’t really have a ‘sad’ ending, but definitely has its fair share of drama and intensity. All the same, I’ve never forgotten it and only wished the story was more well-known and accessible…

Which eventually led me to wondering if the book had been translated to English. For a long time, it appeared that it was only available in German and French. I contacted the publisher, who eventually replied with a link to the English version, titled “The Damned of the Taiga.” This struck me as odd, for it doesn’t really seem to fit with the story (it could in some ways, but still, why not just preserve the original name?). By now I have reasons to doubt this is accurate info, in part due to the original German titles. Natalia‘s original German title is Natalia, ein mädchen aus der taiga (which would read more like Natalia, a girl from the taiga, and which in French at least preserves the same Natalia name). So cue in my surprise to see there’s an actual German Konsalik novel titled, Die Verdammten der Taiga, literally translated to The Condemned / Damned of the Taiga… ?! This seems to point to the fact that they’re distinct novels, albeit set in a similar location; therefore making it possible that Natalia still hasn’t been translated to English… And I definitely think it should be! (Shall I volunteer for the role?! 😀 )

Also, as is the case with many great stories, I never stopped thinking what a great movie it would make. Of course filmmaking is a different medium, and while it wouldn’t be exactly like the book, it’d be another way of enjoying the story 🙂 (An NY Times article states that “The Damned of the Taiga” was made into one, but even then I’ve yet to find anymore information on that.)

Some thoughts on book reviewing

I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child growing up in Brussels, Belgium. Back then, I mostly read in French (Disney books, Belgian comics, etc.) but these days I tend to read in English—although my French book collection is constantly growing and in need of some lovin’ attention too.

I love to review books, and gladly do so after finishing a read. Since I tend to pick up another book pretty quickly after, I take notes and try to review as soon as possible, before my new read has a chance to impact my previous impressions.

Browsing through sites like Amazon.com or, even better, Goodreads.com, has revealed some interesting views / opinions on book reading and reviewing. As such, I’ve formed my own thoughts on the matter:

1. Since I made the decision to read the book and therefore to devote my precious time to it, I’m reading it all the way through. It’s only happened twice I think that I put a book aside, but I likely won’t go back to doing so. I despise that feeling of not knowing ‘what happened’ but mostly of not finishing something I committed myself to.

2. Because I’ve read it through. I’m most definitely reviewing it–good or bad! Not only is it an exercise in writing, it’s also a great way to tap into different ‘sides’ of yourself by exploring your views and maybe even getting all analytical & stuff if that’s your thing (haha). 🙂

3. I’ve been quite surprised by the many things I’ve read of people expressing their ‘shock that someone would write a negative review of something…’. UM HELLO, this is life! Life is not only filled with rosy, happy, ‘positive’ things all the time, and that reaction alone seems a red flag to me. I completely understand that people can be sensitive, and that some reviews are indeed written viciously and may be downright mean and uncalled for. That’s not the approach I’ll ever care to take, but I definitely make a point to state my honest opinion and impressions on whatever I read. I’m NOT going to NOT write my review just because the author may not be able to stomach that I gave it a low rating! If that was the case, then I don’t see how anyone would ever go creating (or doing!) anything in life, because you simply can’t please everyone! It should also teach you to develop a kind of healthy thick skin, at least in part because I like to think that we all do things for our own reasons, regardless of whether others can understand their purpose. At least that’s definitely what I do. It’s nothing personal for me, and it shouldn’t be construed that way (and again, I realize that sadly some *shall we say immature?* people actually do this). My view on this issue is that I sacrificed my time too for this read, and I have the right to voice my opinion on it–on the story itself, not the author–regardless of who likes it or not.

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^UM yes, and also, no. Proof of an awesome, hilariously ‘terrible’ book review on (what else) ’50 Shades of Grey’ by Katrina Passick Lumsden HERE.

4. Connected to #3: The ones who are being hateful, vindictive, etc., will end up making that clear through their own actions and/or word usage, and the like. That’s why I actually think it can be ‘good’ to just leave it because it’s often more indicative of the reviewer than the person being attacked. Whoever has bad intentions is sending that out into the universe and is impacting their own good karma, so what does that have to do with you?! 🙂

5. People are different and have different tastes! As such we shouldn’t expect everyone to agree on everything, which obviously includes their views of books. Isn’t that part of the fun of life and experiences: to compare and contrast? Who knows; you may even learn from someone else’s unusual interpretation. 😉

6. Surprisingly, it can also happen that you enjoyed a book, and yet still find yourself agreeing with the negative views others have of it. This happened when I read “The Night Circus” and although I liked it, I totally understood where Lucy was coming from with her 2-star review (which can be seen HERE). Cheers for being able to see things from multiple angles!

7. Say a reader wasn’t ‘into’ a book. The shocker (or not!!!) is that it might not even have anything to do with the author’s writing (as the book could, in fact, be very well written). The thing is, the reader might not have been in a ‘corresponding’ state of mind when they picked up the book, leading to a lesser experience than desired. Hey it happens: it’s called life. 🙂

So there we have it. In the meantime:

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^Yup 🙂

The Great Gatsby & stuff…

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It’s weird.

Very weird that I can’t quite recall whether or not I read The Great Gatsby in high school. I recall my sister reading it and going on about it… but me?! Eh???? I’m a huge bookworm so this is quite unusual because I tend to remember books I read–whether I loved them or not. It probably doesn’t help that I’m not particularly drawn to the Jazz Age (of any part of the world), but hey, we all got our things.

I initially cringed at the thought of seeing the exceedingly *blinged-out* movie version of a story I was already ambivalent about.

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But with that said, it wasn’t half bad either.

I still feel that the whole soundtrack thing was a big no-no for an era so engulfed in jazz, but at least it didn’t dominate the movie’s 2.5 hour long duration. (Thank God!)

Speaking of which…

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I also didn’t quite get mentioning Daisy’s daughter early on, only for her to appear for mere seconds at the movie’s ending. (Screams kinda pointless to me.)

I got the vibe that the story line was all ‘coming back to me’ as I was watching the movie, so I’m thinking maybe I did read the book after all? But even if I have, it’s been well over a decade since… And while I may not have cared for it much before, I feel a re-read coming up in the near future.

P.S. I wish I’d counted the number of times Gatsby uses the term ‘old sport’. UGH!

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