Can Buying Books Make You Happy? Here’s What Psychology Says…

I mean, the easy answer is hell yes.

I buy all these pretty and shiny books and I can’t stop smiling the whole day. There’s just something exciting about getting your hands on a book that you are eager to read and getting that new book smell….

Girl smelling a book and saying, “Nothing, nothing smells like that”

Okay, I’m back. I just had to smell a book after that.

So yeah, new books make me very happy, they probably make every reader happy. But does it really? How happy does buying new books make you and how long does that happiness last? How long can you keep looking at those new books and light up at the sight of them?

These are some of the questions I wanted to address. Now, this is not a discussion post. I’m putting forward some facts and research that comes from psychology and applying it to book buying culture. But that doesn’t mean your feelings or opinions aren’t valid. Just read this post and remember no research or finding is set in stone, I’m just trying to explore the psychology behind buying books and happiness.

Can Buying Books Make You Happy? Here’s What Psychology Says…

I’ve pushed back this post for months and now that I’m sitting down to write, I’m reminded of my excitement for it. So you see, way back during my summer holidays I was taking an online psychology course about happiness and well-being and I came across a lot of interesting findings. If you want to know more about the course or the findings, I’ll happily send you the details, but for the sake of this post I’ll move on to my point.

The question being explored was, does money really make us happy? Research found out that it does, but only up to a point. I won’t bother you with the figures but yes, there’s actually a set amount to be earned after which it was found that people’s happiness doesn’t really increase.

I was very excited about this finding and did some more poking around. It’s a relatively known fact that if you buy experiences rather than material objects, the happiness associated stays with you longer. What do I mean by buying experiences? Taking that vacation with you family, going on a road-trip with your friends, taking surfing lessons etc. There’s a lot of research backing this and I feel it makes a lot of sense.

Part of the reason why buying books makes us happy is because we often buy our experiences associated with the book. I’m looking at my Percy Jackson hardcover series which cost quite a bit but I bought them because every time I look at them I get sent back to the nostalgic wattpad days. I see myself sitting at my library and inhaling the pages of The Last Olympian when I had a panic attack, I go back to when I burnt my eyeballs reading the series the entire night while travelling. I have very fond memories and nostalgia associated with it so buying this series made me happy, and continues to make me happy.

Man smiling and saying “these make me very happy”

If you compare this to the feeling of happiness I got when I bought a copy of Pride and Prejudice… I can’t even compare the two. Like no bad feelings to the book but I can’t remember when I bought it and I haven’t read it yet and even as I look at it right now I can only think, yeah I plan on reading that some day. I probably felt pretty happy when I first bought the book but now those feelings have dissipated.

Sometimes the happiness we associate with what we think are monumentally happy moments can also dissipate with time. Say you buy 20 books or arcs at Book Con and feel extremely happy because they’re shiny and new and you feel privileged. How long is that going to last?

But if you go to the same Book Con and your friends hand-pick books that they think you would like or ones that are their favourites or simply books that helped them through dark times, your happiness regarding those books might last longer because there are experiences attached to them. Experiences of your friends who gave those books and your memories of your friends that day that will flow forward when you look at those books.

Unless there is an emotion or experience attached to a materialistic object that we purchase, our happiness associated with that item will quickly fade away.

Woman yelling from the car, “make good choices!”

Another very interesting research finding that I came across was personality-guided-spending. A study found out that if you spend your money in accordance with your personality, it will make you happy. So if you were to take an introvert or an avid reader and ask them to buy an experience of a party it wouldn’t increase their happiness, despite the fact that they’re buying an experience rather than something materialistic. But if you send them to a bookstore or simply let them buy books, it will make them happy because that’s in accordance with their personality. The more a person’s spending is in sync with their personality, the happier they will be overall.

So what’s the conclusion we come to? Buying books can make you happy!

Yes that’s the same statement we started with but it was important to go through this whole process, mainly because now you can point your family and loved ones to this post and tell them there’s scientific research backing your statement that buying books makes you happy! So they better let you buy books or you know, buy them for you 😉

But as a last note, I must add that too much of anything can be bad for you. Your book buying needs to be intentional. Like I mentioned, try going for emotional and experiential purchases. If you’re buying books just because they’re on a sale or to show them off on your bookstagram that’s not going to make you happy.

And I haven’t even touched the stress of all the new books going on top of your never ending TBR because that’s a whole another topic that psychology probably won’t be able to help you with…

How many of the books you’ve bought are experience or emotion related? Do any purchases come to mind?

What are your book buying habits like? Do you have a schedule or limit?

Did you know that buying experiences makes you happier? I’ve know it for a long while but I’m a psychology student so I’m interested to know whether this is common knowledge or not.


21 thoughts on “Can Buying Books Make You Happy? Here’s What Psychology Says…

  1. Unless there is an emotion or experience attached to a materialistic object that we purchase, our happiness associated with that item will quickly fade away.

    Ahhh, the sweet sweet sound of justification. Lmfao.

    Great read Charvi! I always enjoy your psychology posts!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Aaah the whole having an emotion/experience attached to it makes so much sense! Not just for like books but there are certain songs, which trigger memories for example some of Jessie J’s older songs trigger memories of me playing Harvest Moon Sunshine Islands as I went through a phase of listening to her music as I played the game. I definitely feel like buying things in accordance to your personality fits and in line with a persons values too. As my values have shifted, I always get a buzz of excitement buying something from say a small business, a thrift store and of course buying books which have been talked about in the book community hehe. Also buying books which are part of an ongoing series/by an author I love = same buzz. Loved this post Charvi!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is such a great post!
    Buying books definitely makes me happy haha! Especially if I haven’t bought any in a while! And as you said it is also often the experience related to the book! Which can both be the reading experience but also the browsing through shelves in the bookstore 🙂


    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ahhh I love the point about books being their own experience (potentially). I think that at least part of the pleasure of buying books is the promise of that really, really good reading experience that we’re all constantly chasing. Which is funny because it’s very hard to actually create and get that experience! It’s completely up to fate! But I suspect there’s an element here of those studies where the rats get a reward SOMEtimes if they press a lever, and that unpredictability keeps them pressing the lever forever. Is that me and books? MAYBE!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, exactly! We’re all here for those experiences but they’re often so hard to create. Omg yes, intermittent conditioning! You just made me very excited and omg that makes absolute sense 😍

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree that buying a new book always makes me happy, in anticipation of the reading pleasure, like what you said. Though I have to say sometimes the book turns out different from what you expected and you become disappointed.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is an amazing post!!! I hope you don’t mind me reposting it!
    My friends and I are always justifying our book purchases even though we have long lists to still read 📚

    Liked by 1 person

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