Sunday Salon: Taking Stock

booktowerThe new year has been ushered in with the usual burst of activity on the personal effectiveness front.  Whether you want 2014 to be the year you really do lose weight, or you’re aiming to get fit, learn a new skill, get a new job or just up the happiness quota, you can be sure one of the newspapers or magazines in the UK has run an article on the topic in the last couple of weeks. January apparently seems to the one month in the year when people up and down the country take stock of their lives and resolve to do something different.

I’ve been doing a little of my own stock-taking on the reading front over the last week and I don’t mean just thinking about goals and plans for the year. I mean I’ve done a tally up of all the books that are on my To be Read (TBR) shelves.  This has been the first time in my life I’ve ever done this and it’s been a eye-opening and somewhat sobering experience.

I wouldn’t have even embarked on the exercise but for the fact that I couldn’t find any space for the books I received as Christmas presents.  Bookcases throughout the house seemed to be full and the ones I use just for my  TBR books were  jammed tight with novels doubled up on every shelf.  There were some in piles on the floor but these were threatening to topple over.  As I looked around at the mess, I realised I didn’t actually know what was on those shelves or in each pile so if I wanted a particular title I wouldn’t know if I already had it or where it would be found. So I began taking them out in armfuls and putting all the titles and author names into a document.

And then I counted them.

Now if someone had asked me a month or so ago to estimate how many books I owned but had yet to read, I would have put it around the 50 mark. Maybe 60 at a stretch.

How wrong I was.

I have, it seems a total of 110 unread books. This doesn’t include, by the way, any books on my e-reader nor does it include titles my husband bought for himself but which I also fancy reading at some point. If I were to include those, the list would go up to around 150.

Now I know that some bloggers have far more than that on their TBR list (I think the highest I saw was 250 cited by one person). But I don’t read probably as many titles in a year as many others seem to be able to do; at my pace I have more than two years worth of reading already in my home.

Some of them have been there for at least 3 years. It could in fact be longer than that because I don’t absolutely know when I acquired them. Some were Christmas or birthday presents which I may even have requested but then forgot I had or went off the idea of reading that author. But by far the majority are ones I’ve bought for myself, especially after I began reading other blogs and picking up their recommendations. December was an especially bad month since I bought 10 novels that month. Shopping for gifts for family and friends was clearly too much of a temptation.

I can’t help thinking about all the money wasted if I don’t now get on and read these books. Until I made a sizeable hole in the pile, I can’t really justify buying anything new. A book buying ban is now in place in the BookerTalk household.  I’m not going to make this a challenge or put a timeline in place (I haven’t forgotten that only a week ago I said I wouldn’t be taking on any new challenges). Realistically I know I won’t be able to avoid all temptation for a year but at least when I do succumb I will be making sure that it’s something I am really really want.

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 January 12, 2014, in Sunday Salon and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. Don’t feel bad! I have a few hundred books I have bought and haven’t read and the is a book on my TBR shelf that I still intend to read that I bought when I was 16 and it has been a very long time since I have seen 16. So don’t stress yourself out. From all the comments, you are definitely not alone!

  2. When I moved to the UK i put a book buying ban in place. I don’t want to have to move all those books back to Canada! As a result i have become the biggest library user imaginable and if feels good. Even though i like to own books, i rarely re-read them, so what’s the point in owning them? Though i must confess I have bought some books since moving here, but not nearly as many as I used to. Of course, in Canada I worked in a bookstore, so that didn;t help the situation.

    • Working in a bookshop would be far too enticing. I do use the library also but so often they don’t have what I am looking for and it takes ages to order it

  3. It is definitely overwhelming to find out how many books you have on your list. I made a list on my blog a few years ago and now I keep it updated and have just under 200 (including my kindle books). Good luck keeping your piles in check!

  4. 746. Hence my blog. I dream of having 100. If I stick to my plan I may have 100unread books around 2026……

  5. I try hard not to buy books until I’m actually ready to read them so my TBR pile is largely virtual – except for the loads of Kindle Daily Deals that I swooped up in the first flush of enthusiasm. Now I’m trying to train myself not to go for deals or freebies unless I’d be willing to pay the full price. It works a bit on keeping the physical books under control but makes no dent at all in the want-to-read list…but at least it means I’ve (almost) stopped reading books I’m lukewarm about just because they were 99p.

    • Luckily most of the daily deals are not my kind of book otherwise I know I would have given in to the same temptation – I like your idea of only buying a discount book if you would want it at full price. My downfall has been the charity shop in the nearest town..

  6. Like Bryan I got rid of books a few years ago and then had very tiny TBR piles — 3 or 4 books at a time, but I have found that because of blogging that pile has started to grow again. Time to purge — some I will probably never get to or I’m just no longer interested.

    • You probably win the prize for the smallest TBR mountain – more like an ant hill than a mountain with only that small number. You must be extremely disciplined Barbara

  7. I, too, have resolved to get through more of my TBR list in the next few months. I keep borrowing things from the library and not getting through what I already have!

    • Ah yes I have that same problem – got carried away in the summer and ordered up lots of the Booker longlisted novels without realising just how big some of them would be

  8. I have no idea how many unread books I have on my shelves but I’m sure the number is hitting the roof!

  9. I have 200 books on my TBR list. At my current pace, that’s about four years of reading. Yeah. I try to end each year with fewer books I that list than I started the year with but it’s not going to well. Last year I broke even, do to speak. I both began and ended the year with 195 books to read. This year I hope to get the number just a bit down…

    • I’m starting to feel better now with my modest number Christina. Though I can’t let it get any bigger otherwise someone in the house would notice (I’ve managed to keep my vice hidden somewhat until now)

  10. While I didn’t count, I probably had about that many on my shelves this past summer. I took a lot of them to our library for the book sale there, because I decided that if I really wanted to read them, either I would have by now or I always can get them later on ebook or from the library or both later. I still have about 50 or so, I’m guessing, on the shelves, but I have no deadline as to when I’ll get to them.

  11. I completely understand! I fall somewhere between Litlove and Kayla with 400-450 books in my TBR, which sounds crazy when I type it out. I’ve gone through spasms of guilt about it and had book buying bans at the beginning of each year for a while now. But once a little dent is made in my TBR the new books call me back. Now I’m settling for getting a balance – reading equal parts TBR and new, which seems to work well. Good luck with the restraint. I find that rediscovering a forgotten book in the TBR is often as good as buying a new one. 🙂

  12. I have loads on my eReader which is when I started buying books on more of a whim (or they were in the daily deal) but not so many physical books that haven’t been read. I did work hard in November to read these but I have bought several this month as price drops etc. so really need to impose a ban too…. but my willpower is rubbish!

    • The daily deals are not a problem but I keep loading up my e reader with classics that you can get free at Gutenburg. My brain argues that it will mean I don’t have to carry books with me for long plane or train trips but I never get around to actually reading them. My e reader is my comfort blanket!

  13. I have well over 200. I feel so ashamed admitting that, but I have an obsession with buying books with pretty covers that I never have time to read. One of my resolutions this year is to read at least 20 of those, so I can justify buying more pretty books.

    Kayla from My One Nightstand: For Girls Who Date Books

  14. I hope it will make you feel a bit better to know I must have something like 600 books I’ve yet to read. And I don’t mind – usually I bought them in deals that might not have been available at other times, and in any case, the book industry is one I really want to support. I perfectly understand you wanting to catch up, but you could only feel bad about the books if each one turned instead into a carton of cigarettes you’d smoked, or a drink in a London nightclub that you’d drunk! There are far worse vices…. 🙂

    • Ah so you are really trying to do your bit for the economy?? Nice argument. And yes it is my only vice (since I don’t count eating chocolate in that vein at all)

  15. I exchanged money for very few books last year. Unfortunately, many of the books I ended up with last year were of the free variety, and churning through those meant I read very few of the paperbooks I have in my possession.

    I refuse to count the number of books I have in my possession (couple of hundred I’m guessing) but a set of pictures are here ( if you really want to go “there but for the grace of god, go I”.

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