Maybe it’s because I just had a birthday or maybe it’s because I find myself surrounded by piles of unread books yet find nothing I actually want to read. Sunday I decided it was time to purge. If I live to be 110, I won’t have time to read all of those literary journals, anthologies, heavy history books, how-to-write-better books, and the various gift books people have bestowed on me that have been sitting there for years. There’s nothing wrong with any of these books, but I just want a good story to get lost in, preferably attractively bound and printed in type that doesn’t hurt my eyes. I read on Kindle, too, but I prefer paper.
I want to read dessert first for a change. I do not want all these books guilting me for not reading them yet. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start reading Harlequin romances, but it does mean that if a book makes me tired, I’m going to toss it. Yesterday, I found several that had bookmarks a little ways in, meaning I started to read them and pooped out. I’m giving them away, along with other books I realized I’m never going to want to read—even though they seem to be wonderful books.
I love books. I’m the kid who read Dickens for fun in junior high. I will take the time for a long novel with a strong story, beautiful language and old-fashioned careful editing. But something tossed out and full of typos, no. Books that change characters with every chapter so I need a spreadsheet to keep track of them, no. Nonfiction full of surface psycho-babble, no. Poetry collections I can’t make sense of, be gone.
The literary magazines wear me out. They’re full of great writing. I’m delighted when I can be published in them, but I can’t read them all. I just can’t.
I know I’m not the average reader. I read a lot, at least a book a week. I read many books as research for my writing. In addition to the piles of actual books and more books collected on my Kindle, I have an overflowing folder with lists of books I want to read. I read as a writer, considering more than just the story, looking at how the writer writes and criticizing the faults I see. I love it when I can forget all that and just enjoy the book.
I grew up in a house where my mother, brother and I read all the time. We got our books at the library and took them back in two weeks. We did not pile them up at home—with the exception of my Nancy Drew books and my brother’s Hardy Boys mysteries, which we donated to younger cousins years ago. There still aren’t many books at my dad’s house. That doesn’t mean we didn’t read. We just didn’t collect unread books. We checked them out, read them, checked them in. That didn’t earn the authors a lot of royalties, but it kept our books from weighing us down.
On New Year’s Eve, I promised myself that this year I would read all the piled-up books, but I have changed my mind. I will read the ones that still appeal to me and send the rest to new homes. Life is short. Read the good stuff first.
How about you? Do you have a lot of unread books? Do you keep books after you read them? Does anybody want a lot of literary magazines? I’m happy to share.
I thank everyone for the birthday wishes. Another birthday survived. Whew.
5 thoughts on “Out, out, piles of unread boring books”
Unfortunately, a lot of self-published books needed a good editor. That can break me as a reader–poorly constructed sentences, punctuation errors, bad margins and layout, or little sense of a coherent literary structure. I too find myself tossing volumes after just a few pages if they alienate me in any of the above-mentioned ways. Life’s too short anyway!
I do not collect books because I prefer using the library’s books and returning them. I do have four fully packed shelves of railroad books which I would love to donate or even sell.
Wise you are for using the library. It’s such an amazing resource. I’m sure you can find someone who’s into railroad books.
I tend to keep all my books, and one of the hardest things about moving into a condo three years ago was downsizing my book collection. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of books (and yes, there are a LOT of unread books among them!). Dh told me I could keep whatever fit on our IKEA bookshelves — three large & one small/narrow. I kind of cheated, because I also have a couple of plastic bins full — one in my closet & two in the corner of the office/library. 😉 (And we’ve accumulated more in the three years since we moved!) But I still had to get rid of a LOT. I lost count at 60 liquor cartons full that we hauled (a few at a time) to the Salvation Army store. I have a lot of e-books that my sister got on free sites for me, so if I had the paper book, it (usually) got tossed. I tossed tons of cookbooks, travel books, books on cleaning & organizing. I figured I could find that information, up to date, online if I needed it. Old textbooks from school. Books I read but didn’t LOVE. Books that were unread & that I probably wouldn’t get around to reading anytime soon. I figure I can always buy the book again, if I find I REALLY miss it. So far, I think I’ve only done that twice.
I used to keep magazines too, but that went by the wayside a long time ago!