I just finished ordering the last book I need for next year's list. By the luck of the draw, I needed to buy an unusually high number: ten books. Most years I have to buy only about five. Of course, I could get almost all of them from the University library, but I like to have them in the house. I like to look at them over the course of the weeks and months and think about reading them. I like to have them ready when the day comes to start them. And I like being able to mark in them if I want to without feeling bad about it.
I own most of the books on my list already. The Greek plays, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Euclid, Kant, Shakespeare, Boswell, and James are all in the Britannica set. I've bought all the Lewis books over the years, and I have a copy of Calvin and of Boccaccio. Of course, I've spent a lot of time in used books stores: my favorites are the Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City and the Cranbury Bookworm in Cranbury, NJ. I got the whole Durant set for free once for joining the Book of the Month club. I have a whole shelf of Chesterton from Ignatius Press. They've been working gradually on publishing his complete works, and I once subscribed to the project, but I only received one volume from that agreement. Most of them I just ordered. I have multiple copies of most of Dickens's novels; a couple of years ago I got a bunch of them as Oxford paperbacks in return for doing a prepublication book review for Oxford Press. The Oxford Classics always have a scholar's introduction and lots of notes (which are usually really helpful).
But I still needed quite a few books for next year. So where do I get them all?
1) paperbackswap.com: Become a member, and other members will send you books for free. To get credit for more books, you post books you want to get rid of and agree to pay the postage when other members request your books. A typical paperback book costs $2.17 to mail. So you could say each free book you receive costs $2.17.
2) amazon.com: Once used bookstores started selling through Amazon, life got so much better! I usually look for the cheapest price on a book in "very good" condition, and even with postage, I normally end up saving over 50% off the price of a new copy. And sometimes you get bonuses. I got a book once from Key West, and the seller had wrapped it in a map of the island. I bought some used movies once from a place selling through Amazon, and they tossed in an episode of Poirot.
3) www.alibris.com: Alibris is another internet mall for used bookstores. It seems to specialize in rare books, so while prices here are usually higher than they are on Amazon, they sometimes have books Amazon doesn't.
4) ccel.org: The Christian Classics Ethereal Library has all the Christian classics online for free. I've read some of them online, but I also bought their CD, which has everything on it for not very much money. I can read the CD on the computer or convert the files to read on the Kindle. Which leads me to three places to download text files, html files, or Kindle-ready files of copyright-free books:
If you don't have a Kindle or Nook, you can still read books from these sites on your computer. (I think you can read them on a smart phone, but I'm not smart enough to understand smart phones.)
Here's a sample of what I got where for the 2011 list:
Livy: Project Gutenberg, free
Eusebius: Amazon, used and cheap
Hegel: alibris, used (about $25)
Morrison, Christ in Shakespeare: alibris, used (about $10)
Orlando Furioso: Amazon, used and very cheap
Wordsworth: Amazon, used and cheap
Spengler: Amazon, used and cheap
Blackmoor, Lorna Doone: eBooks @ Adelaide, free
Thackeray, Henry Esmond: eBooks @ Adelaide, free
Trollope, Doctor Thorne: eBooks @ Adelaide, free
Waugh, Men at Arms: paperbackswap.com, $2.17
Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: manybooks.net, free
If you have a few minutes right now, stop reading my blog, go to manybooks.net, and start reading something else!