Questionable Reasons to Buy Books

A guest post by Nurfatehah Shamsul

I like to think that I’m a fickle reader and an even more fickle buyer, but I know that’s a lie. I say to myself (and to others) that I won’t pick up a book and purchase it just because everyone and their grandmother has read it. But in reality, I read Fifty Shades of Grey because it bothered me that I wasn’t in the loop. I have even paid for books before I read the synopses because I liked a character’s name. Here is a list of other questionable justifications for book purchases I have made so far:

1. It has a good title: The temptation to own a beautifully-named book is strong and fuels the curiosity for you to know more of what lays inside. Books I had bought purely for the name include The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, Song Yet Sung by James McBride, and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Thankfully, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Thirteen Reasons Why turned out to be really good books. I have yet to read Song Yet Sung. I’ll get there. One day…

2. A blogger I follow said it was the best book they have ever read: When I was in Form 5, I saw my homeroom teacher wrote ‘easily influenced’ in my student file by “accident”. She smiled knowingly when I protested and insisted that wasn’t the case. After three years, I now concede defeat. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire was bought because a post on my Tumblr dashboard sang praises to the series. I don’t remember who the blogger was, nor did I read the book’s synopsis, but a click on the ‘Purchase’ button meant that it was coming to my door steps soon. Another book was Please Take Care of Mother by Shin Kyung Suk. The latter made me cringe because of the awkward translation and the approach the writer had taken at trying too hard to make the audience cry. Luckily, the Mistborn series ended up as one my favourite books and has become my quality benchmark against other books of the high fantasy genre. Just goes to show: you can’t trust everyone on the internet, but others have pretty good judgements too.

3. The cover is gorgeous: Hey, new Penguin Classics covers, how you doin’? If the temptation to buy a book with an intriguing title is strong, to own one with a to-die-for cover is almost worth forgoing buying meat for a while. The Jane Austen collection makes me swoon faster than if you were to show me Jonny Lee Miller’s Mr. Knightley’s confession scene. However, as a perpetually broke university student, I had to settle with only getting Pride and Prejudice, since as much as dearest George Knightley will always be that to me, I identify more with Elizabeth than Emma. If I loved beautifully-bound books any less, I would be able to talk more about it!

4. So I would have something to talk about with [insert name of person I want to interact with more]: I think I am unimpressive in real life. Among other shortcomings, I have a hard time getting words out and end up giving the impression that I don’t know the English language very well. It’s why I feel it an enormous lie if I were to write that I have “excellent verbal communication skills” on my CV. When I make new friends, I would check out what they have said they like, and if the mention of books or series pop up, I will read it as soon as I can, then write my thoughts down so I would have something coherent to talk to them about the next time I see them. Is that pathetic? I guess it is. In German class, I met a girl who was and still is what I think to be the personification of my ideal self. To say I admire her is an understatement: she was cool, funny, nice, smart, and ridiculously pretty. She had great hair, and she liked to read. It was a little like falling in love. Anyway, she had excitedly suggested the Kate Daniels series after I (equally as excitedly) recommended the Mistborn series. After I ended up gushing to her how in love with Derek the bodyguard werewolf I was, she asked for my number. I’d call that a success. But regardless of the motives, if the book ends up being good, it was a good gamble, right? We can only regret and move on from the bad ones!


Nurfatehah Shamsul is is a second year undergraduate at Reading University. Learn more about her reading behaviour on A Conversation With

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1 thought on “Questionable Reasons to Buy Books

  1. Hanafi Mustafa

    Can’t help but to relate this article to myself. I am really not the type to follow on the current hype, especially when it comes to books. Unfortunately, the Twilight saga proved to be too much to ignore that i decided to hop on the bandwagon. The first book was good (although terrible a terrible movie imo), but a couple chapters into the second book i realised the horror i have put myself into.

    So i stopped reading and gave the book to my sister instead (unsurprisingly she loved it).


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