If you want to treat yourself to a new book, it's pretty easy to, you know, go to the bookstore and buy one. But there are a bunch of other ways to enjoy some you-time in a bookish way, without paying a cent.
Browse. Go to the bookstore (or the library) and just have a good long browse. Don't walk in, go right to the new release shelf, pick up a new book and buy it. Go to a section you don't normally visit- like for me, that would be gardening, or notebooks, or travel writing, or biography- as well as your favorites, and just look. Take book a book off the shelf. Page through it. Take a pile of them over to the nice big table in the back, or to a comfy chair. Wander. Don't look at your watch. Or your phone. And don't buy anything. (And for the love of God, please don't showroom- that is, take notes on something you see in a bookstore and then buy it online.)
Just look and read and browse. This is one of my most favorite things to do and I hardly ever do it. Most of the time I head to right to the paperback table and glance over new releases and buy something or not, then head out. Because most of the time I have ten minutes in the bookstore. Taking the time to really browse is such a treat.
Take your current read to the library and sit there and read it, for like an hour. I fall asleep reading at home. Outside the house I can concentrate better. Set time aside for the book- not those ten minutes during your bus commute or five before you doze off at night.
Use your library like a reference collection. When you have a question about something, see if you (or the public library) have a book that will answer it instead of going online. The other day I was thinking about decorating ideas and rather than head to Pinterest I headed to my bookshelves and found a book that was perfect.
Audition some unread books. Take a stack, say four or five, of your unread books and read just the first few pages to give you a sense of what's to come. Doing this from time to time helps me get excited about what's on my TBR pile- not to mention that it helps me just remember what's there!
Meet with an old friend. Put your favorite book by your nightstand and read a chapter every now and then. Doesn't have to be every day or until you finish or whatever. Or even in order. Maybe you just leave that copy of Jane Eyre there for a long time and just open up to a random page and read a little, like visiting with your best friend.
Make a poetry anthology. Copy out your favorite poems into a beautiful blank book so you can refer to it whenever you want to read something that touches you. I have several blank books that would be perfect for this kind of project; do you? This also works for travel or if you have to weed a large number of books but don't want to lose the things you love the best. I actually did this when I was a teenager and brought my little anthology to college with me because I couldn't bring all my books. Go nuts and illustrate it, or just copy out the words. That's all I've ever done.
Listen to audio samples. Go on to iTunes or whatever service you use, and spend like a half hour just trying new things, maybe even outside your usual reading habits. You might find something great or even learn something new.
Go to a bookstore event. Kind of a no-brainer, and it's harder to do for free these days. There are NYC bookstores whose events I can almost never attend because they always require a book purchase and while I'll do it sometimes, I can't do it every time, and I don't like that certain stores demand it virtually all the time. So I just don't go as much. But if you can find a free event, take advantage of it and soak up the bookish atmosphere!
What are your favorite free bookish activities, at home or out in the world? Let me know in the comments.