Books are not weeds

WeedsWe book bloggers can seem like a miserable lot. Anxious about the huge piles of unread books in our homes. Stressed because we’re behind with challenges and projects. Worried about all the classics we’ve never read. Down in the dumps when we’ve lost our reading mojo. To read our blog posts you’d think we were in desperate need of counselling.

Though many of these ‘complaints’ are not meant to be taken that seriously, I can still sympathise when I read them. I’ve had touches of these feelings myself.  I attribute some of them directly to blogging.

It wasn’t until I started this site that I ever planned my reading, let along planned along particular themes or genres. But there were so many challenges and projects doing the rounds that it was hard not to get tempted. Last year I made a conscious effort to avoid signing up to new long term challenges.  It still means I can dip in whenever there is a themed read I fancy especially if its something short (like the German Literature Month) that doesn’t haven’t any ‘rules of engagement’ . It’s help assuage any ‘guilt’ feelings that I was falling behind. Now I just have four projects (I refuse to call them challenges): the Classics Club project, the TBR project, Booker Prize project and World of Literature project. They’re trundling along at a fairly slow pace but that’s ok. Nothing dire will happen to me if I slip.

It wasn’t until I started blogging that my other ‘problem’ developed. I acquired books like they were going out of fashion. Yes I’ve always loved to buy books and have always come out of a library with more than I can possibly read in the three week loan period.  But never before did I have shelf upon shelf of unread books.   But as I started following other people’s blogs and saw recommendations for authors I’ve never read, new titles about to be published and titles that were shortlisted for prizes, my acquisitorial nature went into overdrive.  Now I have so many books I’ve had to start making a list.

Like so many other bloggers I have from time to time been guilty of moaning a bit about the stack of unread books. Sure, when I walk in the room and see them toppling over, I get that deer in the headlight look of panic occasionally, that feeling of “Oh hell when am I ever going to read all these??” It lasts for all of thirty seconds. Honestly I love having my own little library that I can browse at any time of day or night. No waiting for the shop or the public library to open. No waiting in a queue to pay. Instant access = instant bliss.

What’s brought all this on you might be wondering? My stint on the soap box was prompted by an item that popped into my in box this week from the Book Riot site. “How to Weed Your Bookshelves” was an account by Jessica Pryde of two distinctly different methods of reducing the number of books in your home. No issues with the content or the fact that on occasions (like house moves) we might be forced to make some adjustments. But that subject line began to irritate me. A weed to me is something undesirable, objectionable, unwelcome; something that needs to be eradicated forthwith. I don’t think of my books like that. To me they are all objects of pleasure. It may be the pleasure of looking at a beautifully designed cover. Or the pleasure that I anticipate I will get from opening that first page and diving into a new world. I refuse to think of them as a problem that must be dealt with or else..

A large TBR is a source of delight not a source of lamentation and woe. Lets treat it as such. Anyone care to join in me in rethinking our attitude to the TBR?





About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on November 22, 2015, in Bookends, Sunday Salon and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 62 Comments.

  1. You’re absolutely right. Even though I really should comb through my TBR and decide whether I really need to keep all of them, it’s not because I consider any of my books a waste of space and it will be genuinely hard to part with any of them. And like you, I love having a library, a room to walk into and absorbing all those beautiful books.

  2. Hope it isn’t too late to join in this conversation. I read your post when it was first published and I had a lot a thoughts about it and no time to comment. I agree with many of your sentiments and observations and, Amen, books are not weeds! Although the consistent growth of my TBR is sometimes a vexation, I love when other readers direct my attention to a great book I may not have found on my own. You aren’t by yourself in taking pleasure in browsing one’s personal library and having tempting choices about what to read next! I’m getting better at detecting when my reading behavior becomes a bit obsessive-compulsive, and maybe turn my attention to other things I find delightful. Afterward I return to my TBR refreshed!

  3. Great title, and great concept! I don’t think I’ll ever say ‘weeding’ in relation to books again. Wedding, maybe. I feel like I’m married to my book collection sometimes, for better or worse…

    • Love the idea of the book marriage. Do you take out a prenuptial agreement where you have to promise to give the partner to a good home in the event of a separation?

  4. I’ll join you, especially after recently looking at my current wishlist, combined with my TBR shelves.

    Once every few years I tidy my bookshelves – the last one was to change things from being ordered in height to ordered by theme, and it’s then that I take the chance to evaluate each book on my shelf. It’s not a case of “weeding” my shelves, more a case of “am I realistically going to read this book before I die, and should I give it to someone else to read instead?”. So it’s looking at getting the book read sometime in the next 20 years, rather than treating it like a weed!

    I’m also getting used to

    1) DNFing a book – starting it then letting it go if it’s not right
    2) letting books go via bookcrossing etc (must find new places to release them!)
    3) have managed to go over a year with only picking up a handful of books at bookcrossing meets, so rarely adding to the collection
    4) my problem is interacting with publishers on interwebs, where I seem to “win” books on a semi-frequent basis
    5) have ignored recent review requests, and may put a blanket ban on all requests for a year or so.

  5. Hear Hear. We can’t pressurize ourselves too much. TBR books lying around need to “ripen” first before being plucked by us just when we want to read them most. Having lots of books around should be fun, and not a chore.

  6. Thank you! I needed that! Recently I’ve been so worried about making the wrong choice when it comes to the next book that I’ve become paralyzed by an inability to make any choice. I have borrowed books from friends that I’d like to return, read, soon; I have books from the library with their due date looming (I’ve never liked renewing books – I feel bad for people potentially waiting to read the ones I have!); I have all my own books that I still want to read and my husband giving me some serious side eye if I happen to bring more home.
    But you’re completely right – having all these books around me, wanting to read so many wonderful books, is a gift. My library is something I’m super proud of, it says a lot about me and I won’t apologize for it anymore.

  7. I so agree with your post. I read the same Book Riot article, and I quickly dismissed it. Yes, I have a never-ending TBR list and I will probably never read all the books I own, but so what?! It makes me happy to see all my books. I like to browse and reminiscence and think about the treasures I might find on my very own shelves.

  8. I’ve been reading on a whim recently and even took a couple from the library, but I never tell myself off for not getting to one of those books that’s been languishing, they are a constant source of pleasure, more like wildflowers than weeds!!

  9. I don’t think of weeding as being pejorative at all. Maybe it is because I am a gardener and a good many of the weeds I pull from my garden are edible in one way or another and make their way into a meal. When I weed my books I think of it as removing books from the shelves that have served their purpose and making room for others. The books I weed are usually ones I have already “eaten” and I am sending them off to find a home in someone else’s book garden. 🙂

  10. Yes! I often stop and remind myself that having too many good books to read is a good ‘problem’ to have, and if that’s all we have to complain about, then we’re doing pretty good.
    And, I love my shelves full of books; I love the way they look, and I love thinking about all the good reading to come. Great post!.

  11. Book Riot annoyed me a while ago so I’ve stopped paying attention to it. I definitely liked The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up‘s advice because she said to keep those that give you joy and that was surprisingly easy for me when I was moving.

    • What annoyed you Geoff – a particular post or just the overall tone and content?

      • I think for me it was the overall time and content. It all for a little too clickbait after some time. To me it felt like the genuineness of the writers and the brand slowly disappeared and other bloggers attempted to do the same thing. Which more power to them, that is their prerogative, it’s just not for me.

  12. I totally agree! I never stress about having too many books, because there are always places like the library that can benefit from a donation. Also now that I mostly read e-books and library books, I’m actually sad that my bookshelves don’t pile up the way they used to.

    • Interesting that you mention donating to the library – on that Book Riot article many people commented that libraries didnt always want donations because it pushed out other things they would prefer to display

      • That makes sense. Some books – like hardback fiction – don’t hold their value. My library holds a big used book sale a couple times a year so they take all donations.

  13. Great post! I have been guilty of moaning about my books…but my unread books are now mostly confined to my Kindle, and my physical books are a short stack. I am trying for balance…..

    I have been guilty of moaning about my stacks, but those stacks I talk about are the books I’ve already read that seem to be taking over my home. I have purged fairly consistently this year, donating to the library, not to “weed,” per se, but to give me a good feeling when I enter my rooms. I had 1435 physical books (print), and now have around 400. Still a nice enough number to give me that feeling I enjoy.

    Great post, Karen, and thanks for sharing.

    • I don’t even count my Kindle editions Laurel – they are somehow not real. You’ve done well to reduce the total like that without feeling you were depriving yourself

  14. I love my monstrous TBR. My tagline is “I have too many books! Help!” But it was created in good fun. As most people here have pointed out, with a big TBR pile you have a book for every mood/occasion/flight of fancy.

  15. I love this post! It’s such a comfort to be surrounded by books, both read and unread, and I can’t imagine why people find it such an affront to have bookshelves filled with books. I wrote a similar post over the summer because I was so annoyed with all the advice I keep reading about getting rid of books, as if that’s such a virtuous way to be: Why My Books Are Not Clutter ( By the way, I’m not some crazy hoarder — my house is very clean and tidy, and I don’t have a lot of useless junk sitting around!

    • I missed that post of yours but agree with so much of what you say. There does seem to be a feeling among interior decorators and home stagers that books are not desirable – that they put potential buyers off. How stupid

  16. I love my TBR pile. It’s full of possibilities and I can always find something to fit my mood.

  17. Such a common sense post – thank you! Yes, I have more books than I’ll ever be able to read, but it *is* lovely to be able to pick and choose, they’re my only vice and they don’t cost much as I pretty much always buy second hand. As long as they don’t take over the house I shall try not to worry – books are definitely *not* weeds!

    • If there were more second hand options around here I think I’d be with you and choosing more and more that way. Would certainly keep the cost down. I do buy some second hand ones on line but the quality can be so variable

  18. Yes. Agree. “Weeding” is a library term, and it doesn’t create a pretty picture in my brain either.

  19. I saw your tweet about the Book Riot article and it captured my thoughts exactly. No, my books are not weeds and nor do I think of anyone else’s books as weeds. The gardening metaphor might suit those who want their bookshelves to be as pristine as the gardens of Versailles, but I personally take a much more relaxed and happenstance approach to “cultivating” my book garden.

    • I can’t see my book shelves being anything like pristine. Im far too untidy. Versailles needed an army of gardeners to keep it tidy where all I have is me and husband….(who I don’t dare let anywhere near my books)

  20. What a fantastic post! Like you I never had stacks of unread books before I started blogging but secretly I’m loving the fact that I could (if necessary) manage a whole year or more without needing more reading material but.. this year I’ve found that I’m simply not reading many of the lovely books I own so a more thoughtful approach is required to acquiring more – one that means thinking for another minute before walking to the till with a pile of books!

    • did you see that quiz doing the rounds where it asked you how many books you have to read and how many you read per year. It then told you how many years it would take you to get through the stack. I think mine was 4 years! Which was a bit of a wake up call for all of two weeks. I admire your restraint – good idea to pause for a minute before rushing to the till. I might copy that one.

  21. I reckon I’ve got about 1,000 books in my TBR, and they protect me against mortality. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. What depresses me are the people who never seem to like any of the books they read and write reviews that are always picking holes. I mean everyone is of course entitled to their opinion, but it seems a shame not to experience that all-out pleasure of loving a book. It makes my day when my reading is good (which I know, is sad in a different way!).

    • That first sentence is wonderful! I must have that many books and I shall always quote this when challenged as to why I could possibly want any *more* books! 🙂

    • As a defence against mortality a wall of books has got to be a much healthier (and cheaper) device than cosmetic surgery. Maybe that could be an argument for you against those horrid people who dare challenge your collection.

      What is the point of looking for the flaws instead of revelling in the pleasure – doesn’t that somewhat defeat the purpose, Unless of course these are people who take pleasure in finding fault and being smug because they spotted something us mortals missed.

  22. So enjoyed reading this post and all of your others. Having only started blogging before the summer, have committed the ‘usual’ sins of initially overcommitting, generally going mad (with joy) at the hordes of new recommendations coming in thick and fast, and generally starting to bemoan an overenthusiastic to buy at a far faster rate than I can read. Having spent the last two months dismayed by the realisation that reading was almost becoming a burden and frustrated at trying to fit it in with work and home and the rest, have just recently entered a new phase of starting to enjoy choosing what to read next and giving myself time to savour each read! Could not love your coining the “TBR as a source of delight” more, and will give myself a sharp kick up the derrière any time incipient panic sets in. Thank you for your timely words…

    • I suspect you are not alone Nicola in experiencing that first flush of enthusiastic buying followed by the realisation that it was all getting a bit on top of us. But if you found yourself seeing reading as a burden then that would certainly be a wake up call.

  23. Besides, botanically speaking “weeds” are simply unwanted plants in a specific area by a specific person. So it is a totally subjective designation to be determined by each individual! I have no “weeds”! 🙂

  24. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Though I haven’t read the Book Riot posting, I so totally agree with you! I take joy in all my “stacks” of books! No one else does, but I do! Someone asked me…”But what’s going to happen to all those books if/when you die?” My reply: “What do I care…I’ll be dead! My sons can do as they wish with them. Hopefully, they’ll want at least some of them!” 🙂 And if not, then wherever they donate them it will be a boon to many readers! 🙂 I am in total agreement! Since I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, I have had to deal with the initial “guilt” feelings, etc., and have decided to just do what I can when I can…and that’s it! Though with that said, I do maintain a certain reading schedule of those books/reviews I must complete by a certain date for book clubs I facilitate/co-host, etc. I just try to enjoy each day!

  25. Uh, BTW do you know of any good book counsellors?

    Maybe we should have one of those ‘Keep Calm’ signs that appeared everywhere. Something like: Keep Calm and Keep Reading.

  26. I have a room I enter when I want to browse for something to read. It’s my personal book depository. When I die someone can throw them out if they want but until then … it’s my hoard.

    • a walk in book depository? Now that is luxury. I wonder whether we will ever see estate agents put this selling point on their house descriptions? It would certainly sell the property to me

  27. I think of my book shelves as a library of sorts that doesn’t need weeding much.


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