Book blogs should come with a surgeon-general style health warning. For those of us who have an inborn disposition to collect more books than one human can possibly need, reading such blogs is akin to letting a child loose in a sweet shop with unlimited funds.
I’ve long had a propensity to acquire books but, in the last year the combination of discovering scores of great book blogs, joining a book club and taking part in some reading challenges has meant my mountain of books yet to be read has now achieved Himalayan proportions. I’ve used every inch of shelf space in the house and outgrown the storage boxes which were meant to be temporary solutions until I cleared out the shelves. My most recent acquisitions are consequently stacked in piles in various corners of the house, attracting many deep sighs and glowering looks from Mr Booker Talk.
Action is clearly needed. Mount TBR needs to be taken down a size or two. But how is the question? Having given this much thought in the last few days I’ve realised that, much like dieting to get rid of fat, there are really only two approaches — restrict the input or step up the output.
Since there is no Slimming World or Weight Watchers for Readers as yet, I’ve had to come up with my own ideas.
1. Cosmetic surgery. A drastic option in which I’d chop down the mountain with a few nip and tucks here and there. A cull of books (especially non fiction) I’ve had lingering in the back of the cupboard for years, would certainly bring some relief. There are certainly enough candidates for a cull. There’s Charles Handy’s The Empty Raincoat for a start. It’s lain unopened since I bought it at least 5 years ago And then there’s David Smith’s The Dragon and the Elephant: China, India and the New World Order, that bought in 2009 after a business trip to those countries. However much my yearning to sound knowledgeable about world affairs, tealistically, the answer is that I’m unlikely to get around to these for some time so why hold onto them? The answer is that it feels such a waste of money. Perhaps I’ll hang onto them for another year and if I’ve not so much as opened them during that time, I’ll put them up for sale.
2. Go on a fast. Another drastic action. In other words stop buying books. Stop borrowing books from the library. Stop getting free advance copies from publishers. Stop downloading free e-copies from Project Gutenburg. Drastic measures these. I could manage this for say three months but I’m sure my resolve would wobble after that. And three months of this diet, given my rate of reading, isn’t going to make much of an impression on the stack of unread books.
3. The calorie controlled approach. If complete abstinence isn’t likely to be something I can endure for long, how about if I stopped buying/borrowing/downloading everything for the rest of the year except the books chosen for the book club read? Given that I already have July’s read and I will probably skip August since I don’t like the sound of the selected book, that means I’ll only be buying four books between now and Dec 31. Problem with that is, I might end up wasting ‘calories’ on books I don’t really enjoy.
4. Calorie swapping. The problem with options 1 and 2 is that the minute someone tells me I can’t have something, I want it even more. Maybe better to say I can acquire new books but only if I swap them for ones I already have. Swapping one for one won’t get the mountain reduced, so I’ll have to go for a 3: 1 ratio. So I can get a new book only when I’ve read three from my TBR pile. Hmm, I like this idea a lot better…
5. Pump up the volume. I thought I was a quick reader but compared to the eye-watering number of books some bloggers seem to read, I am way behind in the field of runners and riders. Short of taking a speed reading course (which seems rather pointless) or taking early retirement (please!!) , my ability to get through more books in a year is rather limited. Maybe if I focused on the shorter novels in my collection, I’d feel psychologically that I was getting somewhere.
And there you have it. A plan, though not one I approach with any relish. I think I’ll have to start with the softer options of numbers 5 and 4 and build up my courage for the others maybe next year.
How do you all tackle this issue? Anyone tried a fast or the calorie controlled approach? Did it work??
Let me know if you have any bright ideas to share.