Am I a bibliophile? Most people would say I have a bookworm-ish personality.

I wore glasses at a very young age – 11!!

Whenever I have extra money to spare, they all go to books! And since extra money don’t come very often, it is enough to make me commit a mass murder (of the author, the agent, the publisher and the book shop owner) when the book I end up buying is not worth the money spent.

Here are a few tips of how to make sure your money is well worth it. Note that this is a safety tips; not a guarantee that you will end up satisfied with what you buy.

1)Stick to what you know as good!

-If you like a particular author, stick to him or her. It means you like her style of writing! Let’s face many ORIGINAL plots can an author come up with within that particular genre. A romance will always be a boy-meets-girl scenario with happy ending in the last page. A thriller will always be with a hero-conquers-devil kind of format. Face it! It’s the style of writing! The way the author uses all the literary tools at his hand!

And when it comes to the style of writing, people differ in their preference! If I don’t like Sydney Sheldon compared to David Baldacci, it doesn’t (have to) reflect badly on Sydney Sheldon. Got it?

Whenever I am feeling like a cheapskate and not particularly  advantageous (in trying out new authors/genres) I stick to what I know best! That’s why it’s a good idea to have favourite authors!

2) Read book reviews!!

To a bibliophile, a book review is like a map with places of interest on it. Make use of it! If you are feeling quite advantageous and want to try other genres or other authors but still feeling like a cheapskate and wanting to buy only those that satisfy, read the book review first!

Shelfari helps quite a bit! Or you can always search the term in Google and damn if you don’t get hundreds of blogs and websites talking about that book! So…yes! Do your research. Writers and readers do share that particular habit in common; and that is research!

Also if you have a favourite bookshop, the shop usually provides you with their top 100 (or top 50/top 10 etc) list! That can be a rough guide too! Browse through the list and google them up for book reviews! It decrease the chance of future disappointment.

3) Go with what’s populour and what’s classic

Now, popularity can be such a superficial thing to judge something on! But it’s not always bad to buy books base on popularity. Why? Let me tell you.

-If it’s populour and it also fulfills your criteria of a good read, then you are the winner in both aspects. Examples of this would be Khaled Hoseini’s books (both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are gorgeously written) that I thoroughly enjoy emotionally and intellectually AND they are also very widely publicized!!

-If it’s populour but you think the contents is eyes-drooping, you can always talk about it at you rnext book club meeting! You will end up sounding really knowledgeable about a book that is so populour someone will end up bringing it up in your dinner parties or social gathering (I am assuming book readers would socialize with book readers most of the time too). It can generate heated discussions about why you think that book is lousy and what the author could have done to improve it!

Besides, I sometimes make a practice of collecting books that do not fulfill my criteria of a good read simply because the book is very populour and every avid bibliophile should have read it! Books like Gone With The Wind (not exactly my cup of tea) or Slumdog Millionaire (Vikas Swarup, originally titled Q&A)….I would not pick them up except that they are soo populour! For that alone, I could convince myself that the money is well-spent!

4)Join a book club!

-Oh, you don’t have to PHYSICALLY be there. There are heaps of online book clubs in Shelfari and other websites. Join them and you will be in the loop of what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not! Be an active member. Cultivate frienships all over the world. You will love it!

5) Develop New Interests

Got it? err, no?

Well, it’s easy! When I was a teenager, my choice of good books were very limited. Because all I really liked to read were teenage thrillers by R.L Stine and some teenager high school books (The Sweet Valley series) by Francine Pascal. At the age of 16, I was inroduced to the Romance world by my friend…so I ONLY spend my money reading books by Judith McNaught and Amanda Quick (and only the Historical ones too).

My narrow interest limited my choice of what I would find as an enjoyable read. If you can develop a new interest (eg, a curiosity about World conspiracies, a thrill at adventurous saga, an appreciation for wisdom or a newfound fascination for the metaphysical) you will have so much more choices to pick on. Therefore, you can have several favourite authors from different genres…and therefore you know precisely which book to buy if your favourite author in the romance genre is a bit too tardy at producing a new novel. Instead of trying for a new author in the same genre (which may disappoint you; I had found Jane Feather a disappointment when I bought one of her books because Amanda Quick was taking her time producing a new romance), you can buy the thriller from your favourite author in the thriller genre or a biography of someone famous who you have always been intrigued by!

So, spread your wings high and wide and see all the other genres that you have missed and identify several favourite authors in each genres!

However in order to develop a new interest and acquire new favourite authors in other genres, it does require you to buy something you haven’t tried yet…and may cause you to end up disappointed (refer to tip number 1). But worry not!

That’s where a relationship with the library would come to your rescue. Which brings me to my next point:

6)Build a solid relationship with your local library and the librarian (so that you can influence her on what books to buy in her next budget)

-If you are thinking of developing interest in other genres but afraid to spend that money on something new that you may not like, visit the library first. Go and borrow a few books from different genres by different authors until you have discovered the author(s) you absolutely adore.

-Only THEN, you start collecting the books using your hard-earned money! Got it? You can never go wrong sticking to a new author whose several books you have liked. While one book of his would always be better than the other books of his, but overall, he always delivers better than his other colleagues writing in the same genre because his style of writing is your utmost favourite (as you have discovered from your library research). Remember the first tip…when you enjoy some books, they are mostly due to the style of writing and very little to do with the plot.

You can marvel at the ingenuity and the cleverness of a plot but if the author does not have the style of writing that you like…then you are going to loathe the book. Trust me! That’s why when we were writing essays back in high school, we have different grades even as we are writing about THE SAME essay topic! The plot (or the contents) in our essay back then may not differ so much with one another, but one of us will always be at the top of the class.

It’s all about the style of writing, folks! Trust me, I have analyzed this for years!!

7) Last but not least, have a career that gives you lots of money!

Yes, exactly! So that you can afford to be disappointed while being advantageous and trying something new!

At this point in time, I am just a lowly final year medical student! So these tips are for sudents who live with instant noodles year in and year out and rarely have extra money for anything else.

Wait until I become a hot shot intern doctor in town with a salary of  AUD5000 per month (not including the money for on call hours!) hehhehe *drools*

My only wish is, by the time that happens (hopefully early next year, insya Allah) I will have the time to enjoy all that money! And the time to read all those expensive books I have been salivating at!

Knowing the crazy internship years and the slavery that await me next year, especially were I to do my internship in Malaysia (which is ten times more intense than in Australia)…I think my wish will remain a wish.

Oh well, life throws you challenges after challenges. In student years, you have the time (well yeah, a lot less as a med student but not bad) but not the money. In internship years, you have the money (heaps more than you know what to do with) but not the time nor the energy!

It makes life so much more interesting trying to overcome all these trials! We’ll see how it goes, eh folks?