I love to read. Depending on how much I have going on outside of work, the density of the book and the amount of sleep I’m willing to lose, I can go cover-to-cover in two weeks or less. But even using old cheapo Amazon.com, I could easily shell out $30 for a new release. What’s a young literati to do!? The answer: Explore my local library! When I was growing up my local library was not within walking distance and was not particularly well stocked. It was a small branch. As a result, I didn’t figure out the genius of this public service until I got to college.
Ironically, I’m strongly advocating the use of the library despite the fact that the best aspects about libraries is that they’re so vastly underutilized. I can get pretty much any book I want at any time, excluding new or newly popular books (like Barack Obama’s last work).
The short of it is that I’ve been able to read classic works of literature, science fiction, travel books and generic non-fiction books alike just by using the public service my taxes already pay for. Not to mention they sometimes have great books for sale for CHEAP! I bought a hardcover book written by a Nobel laureate in chemistry for $2. Two freakin’ dollars! It was a whimsical purchase, but I figured a (sort of) autobiography about a Nobel laureate that had a picture of the guy holding a surfboard was worth a shot. And it was. I read it shortly after getting through a pair of Richard Feynman (sort of) autobiographies so it was right up my alley. I’m thoroughly entertained by stories of eccentric geniuses.
I understand some people just want to start “building their libraries,” but if a book is personal library-worthy then it should be worth reading more than once. That means you can take every book that might be personal library-worthy for a test drive by checking each one out of the library and then purchasing it if it passes your tests. What’s funny is that libraries are the only way to legally do this with any media except TV shows. You can’t test-run a band’s CD through iTunes. There are no public movie theaters to check out if it’s worth the $10 (or so) to see the latest blockbuster hit. It’s such an amazing scam in the public’s favor that it sparked this thread on the Freakonomics blog. If you like reading or would like to start reading more, the library is definitely the best way to start. It’s like pasta to a starving college student: cheap, easy, and readily available.