I’ve written before about my fear that if I’m not careful my TBR pile will someday take over my small house. And although I’m usually careful about my book-buying and tend to get rid of books I don’t adore after I read them, now and then I’ll go on a book-buying bender that makes it impossible to keep my physical TBR pile from expanding beyond the bookcase I’ve devoted to my unread books. I buy books I want to read, usually because I’ve found a ridiculously good deal at a library and charity sale, and then I let them sit… and sit. My current rule (as in vague sort of guideline with exceptions) is that any book I’ve left unread for longer than four years goes in my library donation bag. But I continue to acquire books as quickly as I read them, and my love of the library always puts me in danger of acquiring more quickly than I read.
So every year, I look forward to James’s TBR Dare as a way of forcing me to focus on those books I own but haven’t read. The idea is to read only books from your TBR pile from January 1 until April 1. Not a long time, but long enough to make a dent. I’ve participated all four years, but I believe I only made it to the end the very first year. Something always called to me more loudly than the TBR Dare did. And even in the year when I did make it to April 1, I read a lot of e-galleys and library books that I picked before the dare began. That’s officially within the loose parameters of the dare, but it kind of defeats the purpose.
This year, I did better… sort of. I’ve stopped taking review copies or visiting Netgalley, so there were none of those to read, and I made a point of not going to the library in the last half of December. So I had nothing but that bookcase of books to pull from. OK, actually, I had that bookcase of book and a few hundred books on my e-reader, plus a few books family members lent me during the holidays. But the point for me is keeping the physical book pile at bay, so I tried to forget about those.
By April 1, I had managed to read nothing but books from my TBR, most of them physical books on that overflowing bookcase. I did read one of the borrowed books, but it was the second in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series, and after reading the first at Christmas, I couldn’t not read the second right away. And I had a couple of e-books and a reread for book group. Plus another reread because Jenny and I are rereading Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles together And Jenny assigned me No Name to read this year, and it was already on my e-reader, so it counts, even if reading it was not helpful in TBR culling. I got a little shaky by mid-March and had to visit the library, but the books I checked out weren’t due until April, and having them was enough to quell my craving for something different.
With those semi-exceptions out of the way, I ended up reading 12 books from my TBR bookcase, which got the bookcase almost back to a state in which all the books are neatly lined up, with none stacked on top. In actuality, I have to keep a couple of books I plan to read very soon off the shelf for that to work, but it’s still of where I want it to be. There are 168 unread books in the house right now. I would have liked to have made a bigger dent in the bookcase collection, but my reading has been slower than usual this year. I blame Twin Peaks, Being Human, and Call the Midwife for that. And comic books, which I decided not to count because making your own rules is perfectly acceptable on the TBR Dare.
Yesterday, I went to the library for just the second time this year and checked out Night Film by Marisha Pessl and Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. The first I had on hold, and the other called to me from the new books shelf by the checkout. I like checking out library books, even if I don’t read them. Right now, I’m actually reading a book from my TBR pile, Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huang. Maybe I’ll try to alternate TBR and library books for the rest of the year. I love the TBR Dare for making me really look at the books I have on hand, but I also love following my whims at the library and bookstore.