Sunday, October 28, 2012

So Many Books, So Little Time or Tackling My Unread Pile

I am avid reader and book collector.  Every book I acquire personally (as opposed to those are given to me) I do so with the intention of reading.  Notwithstanding my good (reading) intentions, in the corner of my living room there is a pile of unread books.  As the pile grew it came to represent a certain degree of failure and waste on my part.  I mean in some case years have gone by before I got around to reading them.  One day I decided enough is enough and I resolved to get those books read, so I made a list.

I estimated that there were maybe forty books in the pile but after writing down the titles of all the books on a legal pad it turned out there were ninety-three books.    Undaunted I started reading books and scratching them off my list.  This worked for awhile.  The pile shrunk to somewhere in the mid-sixties.  Then I attended my first American Library Association (ALA) conference (where publishers give books away) my list once again grew to about 125.  At the beginning of the year my goal was to get the list down to under 100, but after a second ALA conference (along with continued book buying) the list and the pile grew to 175.  I also joined Goodreads where among other things you can keep track of the books you have read, are reading, and want to read.  I also started going to the library more and when I couldn’t get a book right away I signed up for the waitlist.  The net effect was that not only had my unread pile gotten even bigger but the number of lists had grown from one to three.  It was time for a new plan.

First, I have embraced my Goodreads list and the library waitlist.  Once I’ve bought a book I feel obligated to read it.  It is rare that I’ll discard it without at least giving it a try, but with Goodreads and the library I can delete books from the list without guilt.  Even if the book stays on the list for years it doesn’t bother me since I don’t have a physical reminder of it sitting in my living room.  I still want to reduce the pile of unread books in my living room and these electronic lists help me to note books that I am interested in without spending money on books I doubt I’ll actually read in the near future.  Along with using the library and Goodreads more, I’ve tried to not buy a book unless I actually plan to read it within the next couple of weeks.

There is still the matter of the unread pile.  So second, I decided to pick out ten to fifteen books at a time and decide those are the books I’m going to focus on for the next few weeks or months or however long it takes to get through them.  It makes the overall pile seem less daunting.  My unread pile is down to 149.  I’m not going to make it to 100 by the end of the year, but the pile is slowly getting smaller.

Third, I realized there are always going to be books I want to read.  New books are published every year.  Furthermore, there are a million books that have already been published that I have just now discovered, and thus, I am never going to catch up.  I am never going to finish my unread pile, and that’s okay.  In fact, it is great because it means I’ll never run out of books to read. 
I am wondering how other people deal with their to read list and how they feel about it.  Any thoughts?

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