People’s attitudes toward their unread books fascinate me. Some people love being surrounded by books they have yet to read. From what I can tell, those piles represent all the possibilities for their future, the many pleasures that are ahead of them. Or perhaps they consider it a comfort to know that they’ve stockpiled a nice collection that will keep them happily busy with books to read for years.
And then there are those people who consider those piles of books a task to accomplish. They feel obligated to read those books, which is fine except when the books come in more quickly than they can get read.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know that for the most part, I’m a member of this second tribe. I do like having books around—it is indeed a comfort to know that I won’t run out of anything to read anytime soon. But those unread books tend to taunt me.
One of the reasons that I dislike having large numbers of unread books around is that it takes some of the spontaneity out of my reading. I like to have a general plan of what books I’d like to read in the coming months, but I don’t like to make many firm commitments. And buying a book feels like a commitment. These commitments make me feel bad about following my whims when my whims call for something different. I end up not using the library so much—and I love the library, so not going makes me sad. What I’m realizing is that there’s a point of balance that would allow me to have plenty of options on hand without feeling hamstrung by the commitment I have to those books. For me, having enough books to last for three years even if I read nothing else is probably not it.
Last year, thanks in part to the TBR Dare, I did a a big cull to get all my books onto a single bookcase. Despite my
best sadly ineffectual efforts, the bookcase was overflowing again by the end of 2011. So I decided it was time for another cull. This year, I decided to get rid of all books I can get at my local library. It’s silly to have them in the house when the library is in walking distance. I also got rid of books I could get on Project Gutenberg, the logic being that they’ll take up less space on my e-reader than on my shelves. The only exceptions to these rules were for gifts; some of the more collectible editions (Persephones, Folio Society, NYRB, Viragos, signed copies); and the two series I’ve recently started (Margery Allingham’s Campion series and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series). Everything else had to go.
I ended up getting rid of about 50 books, which are now in bags in the trunk of my car, waiting to be donated to the library. Is there a chance I’ll buy one or two back at the next Friends of the Library sale? A small one, perhaps, but my plan for the future is to try to buy books I’m prepared to read right away, books I can’t get at the library, and books that are particularly collectible. These are not rules but guidelines. I’m not a fan of hard-and-fast rules. I have been thinking it would be smart to make a list of books I can’t get at the library, so I’ll know what I’m on the hunt for when I go to book sales. Sometimes I do buy books thinking my library doesn’t have them only to find out that it does.
As far as this year’s TBR Double Dare goes, I feel like I haven’t been properly participating because I’ve been all about the international crime fiction this January. I did plan for exceptions for this month, and in truth, almost all the books I’ve read have been from my shelves. Still, I haven’t been thinking much about it. What I did do was go the library at the end of December to pick out several books to have at the ready if I were to finish what I had on my shelves. This reminded me once again of how much fun library browsing is. So many possibilities! Free for the taking! No commitments! And the hourlong walk there and back is lovely exercise. Must. Do. This. More.
And then there’s Netgalley. I’ve been requesting books on Netgalley as if the TBR Dare weren’t a factor. So with February on the horizon and two months left, I decided to get serious. I went through my Netgalley list and declined all books that are coming out before April 1. Technically, I requested several of those before January 1, so they would officially fit within the parameters of the Dare. However, part of the point of the TBR Dare for me is to read the books I have sitting around. Books on a virtual list aren’t sitting around my house.
So, from now until April 1, I hope to read only physical books from my TBR bookcase (pictured above). (There are a few international crime books and a review copy not on the bookcase because they’re in my “read soon” pile.) I’ll be interested to see how many I’ve read come April 1!