2012 was the year I didn’t buy any books, see here for why. Really. I did not buy any books. Well, okay, I sort of bought two but they were the cliche that proves the rule. I was given a dispensation by Mrs P to buy a copy of Stig Dagerman’s out of print collection The Games Of Night that I found in my local second hand shop, while Freaks! by Caroline Smailes and Nik Perring had been pre-ordered late in 2011 and as such (I felt) it didn’t count as a 2012 purchase, despite it arriving on my doorstep in the middle of my year of no new books. I was also allowed to pick up the required books for my MA course. Other than that the only new books I received were preview/review copies (thanks Nuala, Christopher, Nik and Caroline), gifts or blog prizes I was lucky enough to win.

Oh! Except, that is, for the copy of Nancy Mitford’s Sun King and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman I bought from a second hand shop near The Hurst while on the Arvon/MA residential in April, but they don’t count because I was on a creative writing course. Or because at least one of them was bought for research purposes. Sort of. For a book I might write. Someday. If I ever finish my MA novel. You see? This kind of thinking is what has slowly filled my house up with unread books. It was to combat this kind of thinking that I decided to stop buying books in 2012. Which, as I say, I did. Except for those four books. So, end result. Days: 365. Books: 4. Not bad, if I do say so.

And what did I learn from my self-imposed hiatus from book buying? Quick answer? That I was buying too many books and that I do not need to buy so many. After the initial yearning for new books waned (sometime in February) I realised that I had enough stuff on my shelves (virtual and actual) to keep me going (probably) until 2020. If I read all day. Every day. And didn’t sleep. I soon settled back and got on with reading stuff I’d been meaning to read or re-read for far too long with the added bonus that my ‘to be read’ pile wasn’t growing at an alarming rate, as if the books themselves were shagging like rabbits.

Another neat side effect was the fact that the books given to me as gifts or won as prizes or sent to me to review felt even more special than usual. I actually read some of them fairly promptly, though my Karl Ove Knausgaard is still begging to be started (but the next volume of his memoir/novel is due out in April so I will most likely read it before then, especially as doing so will help me fulfil my resolutions for this year.

I’d like to offer a big thank you to Mrs P and my pride and joys for the gifts of books given this last year, they were like water to a thirsty man at times. And an especially big thank you to the friends and strangers who sent me a book prize or review copy last year. They were more appreciated than ever.

Would I do it again? Probably not. I can’t really justify trying to be a published author if I am not supporting the many great authors and titles appearing on bookseller shelves. Though I will most certainly be keeping the pace down to a steady trickle in order to stick to resolution 7: ‘ I will only buy books I will begin reading in the next seven days.’

Was it worth doing? Definitely. Give it a go yourself, you might like it.

Previously on danpowellfiction:

In 2012 I read these books. Those that say (gift) were gifts, those that say (review copy) were review copies, those that say (prize were)… well….you get the idea:


  • The Pearl – John Steinbeck
  • Bartleby – Herman Melville
  • The Gathering – Anne Enright
  • The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
  • The Exclamation Mark – Anton Chekhov
  • The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Phillip Pullman
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Woman In Black – Susan Hill
  • The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
  • 99 Reasons Why – Caroline Smailes (review copy)
  • Un Lun Dun – China Mieville
  • Trumpet – Jackie Kay
  • Hotel World – Ali Smith
  • Freaks! – Nik Perring and Caroline Smailes
  • The Old Man and The Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  • Acts of Violence – Ryan David Jahn
  • The Best British Short Stories 2012 – ed. Nicholas Royle (contributor copy)
  • Lazarus is Dead – Richard Beard (library book)
  • The Vaccinator – Michael Marshall Smith
  • Mother America – Nuala Ní Chonchúir (review copy)
  • The Slaughteryard – Esteban Echeverria
  • Heartland – Anthony Cartwright
  • Made In Britain – Gavin James Bower
  • The Steppe – Anton Chekhov
  • Drive – James Sallis
  • Reality, Reality – Jackie Kay (gift)
  • The Afterglow – Anthony Cartwright
  • Beside The Sea – Veronique Olmi
  • The Blue Fox – Sjon
  • The Lighthouse – Alison Moore (gift)
  • The Games Of Night – Stig Dagerman
  • Conversations with S.Teri O’Type – Christopher Allen (preview copy)

My MA required reading list for the Novels II unit took up much of my time during October, November and December:

  • Everything Is Illuminated – Jonathon Safran Foer
  • Going Out – Scarlett Thomas
  • A Short History Of Tractors in Ukranian – Marina Lewycka
  • Dorian – Will Self
  • A Whispering Woman – A. S. Byatt
  • Politics – Adam Thirlwell
  • Christine Falls – Benjamin Black
  • Inherent Vice – Thomas Pynchon
  • Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
  • The Stranger’s Child – Alan Hollinghurst

And I finished the year off with the 50th Anniversary edition of A Clockwork Orange in hardback (gift), reading in tandem with the excellent iPad app (well worth a punt for the additional material, not least the readings by Burgess himself and the complete annotated manuscript).


  • The Juno Charm – Nuala Ní Chonchúir (prize)
  • 12 Nudes – Ross Sutherland
  • You Do Not Need another Self Help Book – Sarah Salway (prize)


  • Howard’s End Is On The Landing – Susan Hill
  • How To Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran
  • Beginnings, Middles and Ends – Nancy Kress

Still reading:

  • A Life In Letters – Anton Chekhov
  • Londoners – Craig Taylor
  • Love, Sex, Death and Words: Surprising Tales From a Year in Literature – John Sutherland, Stephen Fender