January 10, 2011

Unread Count: Many

After I reorganized all my books, I intended to figure out how many of them I hadn't read. I was guessing that even after getting rid of a bunch of books that I admitted to myself I would never read, I had only read about half my collection, but I didn't really know. When The Book Roadie posted last week about her unread books, I remembered to make a count of my own.

I decided only to consider the fiction, because that's what mostly what I read and that's the fastest growing part of the collection. (See, I got rid of all those books last month, so I get to buy more, right?) This section currently has about 250 books (mainly novels, a few short story collections). Sure enough, my calculations show that I've read only a little over half of these, with some 115 books that I've never read.

I guess this is supposed to be a bad thing, something I should be embarrassed about. It's true that I do feel a little silly when a friend examines my shelves and asks about several books in a row that I have to confess to knowing nothing about. And I suppose Kyeli does have a point when she writes of her book buying ban, "The addition of new books is fun, alluring, tempting -- but not fulfilling. How can it be, when I just add them to a stack of others? I'm not getting anything out of the books, but I'm giving up space and money for them." Every time I buy a new book, or even borrow one from a friend or the library, a voice in my head asks me why I need this other book when I have so many perfectly good books still to read at home.

But you know what? I already have enough irrational guilt in my life. I'm taking a different perspective on these unread books: Hooray, I'm never going to run out of perfectly good books still to read at home! When the zombie apocalypse comes and I'm trapped in my house and there's no more internet to download from, I'll still have plenty of new books.

Or taking a different but more reality-based perspective: Nothing requires that a personal library be a record of books read. That might be what it is for some people, and maybe these are the same people who frequently take down old favorites for another read. I'm not much of a rereader, and while I held on to all the books that survived my culling because I believed I might look at them again, perhaps I should be justifying having so many read books in my collection. I've gotten what I wanted to out of these books, they're taking up space, and they could be providing value to somebody else. Any minute now, I'm going to start feeling guilty that I didn't give away all the books I've read.

Instead, I'll keep on gradually reading the unread books on my shelves and gradually acquiring more unread books, and I'll try to remain free of guilt about this particular issue. I'll save my energy for preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Shannon Page writes about the problems of characters not behaving the way you intended: "You don't know the characters when you write the outline. I mean, you sort of do; you invent them, after all. But they're a paragraph from your imagination at that point. Now they are 400 pages of action and thoughts and crappy decisions and love and drama and *living*. They are alive and real, and they don't like being pushed around any better than the rest of us do."

→ Kevin Hartnett at The Millions resolves to stop blaming the Internet: "What I realized then is that the opposite of the Internet is not concentration. That morning I was indeed successful at staying off the Web, but so what? I fiddled with my pen, adjusted my socks, stared out the window, filled and refilled my water bottle, went to the bathroom. It turns out there are a lot of ways to fritter away time that don't involve a computer screen."

1 comment:

skneal said...

I also have quite a stack of unread books. I don't feel guilty about them either. I have always wanted a library filled with all my favorite authors and then some. I reread often, even though there are books I've yet to read. Why? Sometimes I'm in the mood for an 'old friend' rather than a new one.
Eventually I want to own the complete collections of my favorite authors, so I purchase their new books sometimes without reading them because I know that one day I will read the book.

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