I call myself a book collector, but for the past couple of years, the growing ‘collection’ behind me and the number of unread titles lurking in my online libraries has started to make me feel just a little uncomfortable. “I can stop anytime,” I say. Thing is, I can’t. I see a book I want and I want with such wanting, that I have to have. Even if I don’t want to read it right away. I just want to own it. Because I might read it someday.
Someday is only getting farther and farther away, however, and the road there is cluttered with books. I could have worse issues. I could be collecting cat skins or radioactive tentacles or empty bottles of Jim Beam.
Like any anyone with…a collection…I periodically devise ways to deal with it. They include both binging and purging. To make myself accountable, I share my efforts with my husband (who nods and smiles) and write blog posts about the number of books I manage to read, move to a box, another room, donate to the library or, in some extreme circumstances, throw away (and dig back out of the trash, tatty covers and all, because I might read them someday).
One of my more proactive efforts has been participating in reading challenges. For the past two years, I’ve created a list of books I’d like to read as part of the TBR Pile Challenge (hosted by Roofbeam Reader). I’ve failed the challenge both years—the second failure all the more inexcusable because I pretty much knew why I’d failed the first year. Let’s examine why:
- I’m a spontaneous and moody reader. I have an idea of what I’d like to read in the near future, but generally, my next book is picked up on a whim. Whatever I’m in the mood for when I finished the last book, or sometimes (infrequently) the shiny new one I bought just that minute.
- If a book has been on my shelf for at least three years (the TBR Pile Challenge rules require that a book be on the shelf for at least a year to be eligible for inclusion), then the chances of me actually reading it narrow by the day. If I was really excited about that book, wouldn’t I have read it already?
There are a number of philosophical statements and questions we could pose regarding the number of books collecting in every corner of my house, but I think we’ll leave those aside for the time being and get to this year’s Reading Resolution.
I must read TWO physical books from my TBR shelf
(or one of the two piles on my desk,
the other one on the coffee table,
or the one on my nightstand)
in order to earn ONE book credit.
I may only buy a new book (physical or ebook)
if I have an available credit.
So, the idea is, that for every book coming into this house, physically or electronically, two will have departed, or traveled downstairs to take up residence on one of my many ‘read’ shelves.
Because I’m a complicated person, I have devised some extra rules and loopholes:
- Only books from my physical collection qualify.
- Partly because I’m avoiding the ebook collection—as in, I don’t want to know how many unread books are lurking on my numerous virtual bookshelves. I need to start this challenge with a positive outlook, which is hard enough to do with over 200 book stacked behind me.
- There are 229 books stacked behind me. I scanned them all to a new Goodreads shelf and nearly broke the app doing so.
- If I decide not to read or just toss a book from the physical shelf, it doesn’t count toward my book credit. Only READ books count.
- Books can enter the household if they don’t require the use of book credits. These can be:
- Review copies
- Borrowed from library/friends
Do I think I can stick to this resolution? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not going to beat myself up if I fail. The book I’ve been waiting forever for might be on sale in five minutes and it would be stupid of me not to snatch it up, even if I don’t read it right away. Then again, that’s probably the attitude that got me here. So let’s add another rule:
- For the love of all that is printed and bound or otherwise rendered into happy characters, stop collecting books just because they’re cheap or free. They’re usually cheap or free for a reason, as in, you’re not going to enjoy the experience of reading them.
And what’s another rule without another set of exceptions:
- Unless it’s by an author I already know and like.
- Unless it’s a chance to read an author I’m curious about.
There, that should cover it. Let’s see how well I do, eh? Happy reading, and if you have a reading resolution for this year, please share!
(The pictures in this post are from the bookshelf behind me. Top, middle and bottom.)