Monday, May 22, 2017

Too Many Books Collecting Dust

This post originally ran here
I was driving home from a lunch date with friends, thinking about how I don’t read much anymore. Well, I was thinking about it again. I think about it quite a lot. During the 2016 US election cycle, my reading fell off almost completely, and in the months since, it’s come and gone, limped along, existed on life support. However, if I’m being honest with myself, this shift started much earlier.
As I’ve gotten older, taken on tons of responsibility, and as I’ve realized that my goal in life is not, in fact, to own a McMansion, books have felt like added weight. Like too much. Like too many things collecting dust.


No doubt, I still love a good story–I am a reader–but I find myself using services like Scribd or my library’s digital catalog where I can instantly download whatever strikes my fancy, rather than turning to my established stable of books.
Over the past few years, I’ve steadily whittled away at my TBR. 50 books sold to the used bookstore here. 75 books donated to Little Free Libraries there. 160 out the door. At one time, the number of unread books on my shelves would have exceeded 800, 600, 450, 260, now 100.
As of today, I own 100 unread, physical books. That still feels like too many.
In a stunning example of how our perspectives can change, I used to look at my mountains of unread books and think, “Look at all the good to come. Think of all the things to learn, experience, and feel. Those books are possibility.”
I’m sure it’s a combination of age, grumpiness, and an ever-more-prevalent minimalism that changed my attitude toward my TBR. These days, I feel guilty when I’m not reading the books on my shelves. I feel overwhelmed because there are so many. I feel silly for keeping the ones I’ve lost interest in or held onto just because they were gifts. I can’t always remember which ones I own and don’t.
They have to go.
I was listening to Amanda and Jenn on the Get Booked podcast on my drive when this latest urge hit me, and the book The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon came up. I thought, “I’d really like to read that book. I would read more impulsively if I didn’t own so many.”
When I got home and decided to do a major cull, I found a copy of The Winter People. I had no idea I owned it. I take this as a sign that I’m doing the right thing.

16 comments:

  1. I was reading on a bunch of blogs about Queens Of Geeks and how good it was. I put it on my Goodreads list. Then I decided to put all my ARC's on a spreadsheet and guess what I found on my kindle.....yep...Queens of Geeks!!
    I used to have Scribed but I can't get over the three book limitation.

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    1. LOL, I love it! That's a happy accident, for sure. If I was reading more the Scribd limit might affect me more, but I've just been sooo slowww to read lately. Arrgh!

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  2. I don't feel weighed down by the number of books I own but I do feel a sense of urgency when it comes to review copies in general. I never have more than 8 at a time and they usually span several months as far as release dates go. Those remain a priority and I fit the "I wants" in between them. I think in general I just don't have a lot of time to read. It hurts me to say it. When I do have time, my eyes hurt from looking at my computer all day or I am too unfocused to read. It's age. It's a total bitch and I hate her.

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    1. Oh yes. I remember that urgency all too well. Stopping accepting ARCs (unless it's something I really want and seek out) was really freeing for me personally. It sounds like you have a good system of alternating ARCs and free reading. I've become all too familiar with the tired eyes syndrome that keeps me from reading sometimes. It's the worst.

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  3. I own about 50 and it feels like too many! Like you, now I get whatever books I can from the library, and if I really love them I buy the paper book versions. I used to lull myself to sleep staring at my tbr pile (true story) but now it's just stressful

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    1. Right? Gawd, my goal is 50. Hell, my goal is 20. LOLed at lulling yourself to sleep staring at the TBR. The honeymoon days. :)

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  4. I am still in the "I need all of the books" phase, but I admire your tenacity. I hope to one day have a true urge to purge my books. I know that it would make my husband ecstatic!

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    1. Girl, that "need all the books" phased ruled me from age 21 to 34. LOL, I feel like I'm in recovery.

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  5. Very cool that you have donated a bunch of books to little libraries. I'm still looking forward to seeing one "live" in my area.

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    1. YES! There's one in our town that no one really knows about or uses (womp), so my husband and I try to sprinkle our book donations to several in the area. Here's hoping one crops up near you!

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  6. I totally get what you are saying, but I am personally not there. I love having all of those unread books on my shelves. I remember when we were first married and didn't have a lot of money, living in Germany before e-readers and with a very small English library. The panic I felt at having nothing new to read was horrible. That panic lasted until I started blogging. Now, I take comfort in having all of the choices and know that good reads are just waiting for me to get to them.

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    1. I can definitely see how that feeling of being afraid to be without books would follow a person for a long while. I was reading Amanda's post tonight and nodding my head because when I have too much choice, I have a tendency to shut down. (https://figandthistlebooks.wordpress.com/2017/05/23/im-a-restless-reader/)

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  7. I completely identify with the loss of reading in my life but it is one I am actively working to cultivate and bring back. For me my divorce, along with all the horrible reasons that caused it, left me absolutely paralyzed. NOT ONLY could I not read, I couldn't listen to podcasts, I couldn't watch tv or a movie - all things that routinely bring me so much pleasure. For me there is certainly a level of single mom, overworked life happening but I also know it's a concentration thing - and Facebook, instagram and so many other like things take up my attention. So I am actively working to bring reading back into my life. My daughter LOVES reading and learned to read this year so sharing that with her has really helped...we are currently reading the BFG and I am enjoying it as much as she is! But I am with you on not wanting/needing to own as many books as I once did - I have a set of built in bookshelves in my office and I have decided with the exception of a couple in every room, the books either have to fit on those shelves or be donated or thrown out or whatever.

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    1. Girl, yes. When I was single momming (and all the mental/emotional stuff that comes with that and the end of a relationship) I was also paralyzed. It was so much easier to default to something that required less time and focus (all the social medias, TV, etc.). Good luck bringing reading back it. It definitely helps when the little ones can be a part of the reading. I love Greyson making it clear he sees me as a reader (which he does quite often). He had a harder time seeing himself as one because his ADHD slowed the process of learning down and hurt his confidence for a while. Sending you lots of good comfort and reading vibes!

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  8. Thanks for the reminder about selling to used bookstores. I was planning to donate most of mine to the Friends of the Library sale but some may be worth a little bit of pocket change. Something to consider.

    It's hard for me to read books I actually own. I continually put them off in favor of reading books from the library. It's the deadline that does it for me, I think.

    I still read a ton but finding books I'm genuinely excited about reading is getting harder.

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  9. I totally get how you're feeling! I have around 40 unread books and it can feel like baggage. Also I love selling books. Mostly those which I've read but just today I actually sold around 6 books which I haven't read and got as gifts (they even had dedications written on the first page which I took photos of) and it feels really freeing. I'm still planing to read my TBR though, at least the ones I'm actually looking forward too :) Just blogged about it too: http://anyasunita.blogspot.de/2017/05/readmyowndamnbooks-challenge-2017-end.html

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