Why I’m Doing the #UnreadShelfProject2020

Things people say when they come to my house:

  • You have a lot of books
  • Wow
  • Will I knock this pile over if I’m not careful?

Things people do when they come over:

  • Look at me like this:

shutterstock_751016992 concern

(Yes, I need to have more bookish people in my life, but that is a different post).

(Also, Mike Bloomberg –I am a girl who goes to the library. Look out.)

Once after a contractor looked especially horrified, I stored books under the bed to appear to own an amount of books in the ‘normal’ range. There wasn’t enough space under the bed to actually accomplish this, so I learned to accept that too many books was just my MO.


Things people ask me after the see all the books:

  • So have you read all these books?

The answer, sadly, is no. Not even close, bud.


Perversely, if I really want to read a book, I buy it. That way I always have it and can read it at my leisure. As opposed to books I take out of the library which have a time limit, therefore I prioritize them. Those are the books that I actually read!  Crazy right? So the books just continue to pile up. Occasionally, I do a cull and donate to the library. Marie Kondo really inspired me to declutter, but probably 95% of the books bring joy! I like having them near me and there is nothing wrong with that!

And then I moved.

The realtor came and said: you must de-clutter to make this place look larger. She had seriously concerned/who has hired me face. The only possible solution was to put some things and many of the books in storage. When you are faced with paying to store your books and hauling them to and from a storage facility, you really start to get real with yourself about whether you actually need ALL of these books. I did a major, major, major cull. I went through all the stages of grief of losing my friends. I talked myself through it. I can always buy them again if I want them. I can always get them from the library if I want to read them. Yes, I can always get them from the library!  I probably won’t even notice they are gone (note: one week after moving, I spent over an hour looking for a book that I really wanted to read, and guess what… I had donated it. But I won’t that stop me).

I still have a sizeable collection (see stats below), but I feel it’s down to the ones that I most want to read, as opposed to the ones that just seemed like a good idea at the time. I decided that I would start a project to read the books I already had (I also decided that last year, but that didn’t work out).

And then by kismet I discovered the #UnreadShelfProject2020   YES!  These are my people! This is what I needed. Some structure, others going through the same issues, other readers. Like any self help program, the first step is admitting the problem. We were asked to add up our owned book totals. This wasn’t difficult for me because I have a crazy huge book spreadsheet. So ta dah, here were my stats when I started in January:

337 Print books

130 ebooks

Keep in mind, this was AFTER my major culls. This means I moved or stored 337 books. Ay yi yi!

But these are the books I really want to read and laid out my hard earned money to buy, so that is why I’m doing to the #UnreadShelfProject2020.  Any questions?

Worrying ’bout this wasted time…

The #24in48 has me revisiting my ongoing thoughts and challenges of productivity and time management. See for one weekend, I wanted to prioritize reading, but I didn’t manage to do it. Reading shared the spotlight with all the other mundane things that needed to be done. Sure they need to be done, but do they need to be done right now? I woke up thinking about how people one can’t do everything at the same time so choices must be made, priorities must be set.  I then found that just this morning Seth Godin had described this better than I would: Opportunity Costs Just Went Up, which, of course, I found while checking Twitter rather than getting up and writing this, which is what I claim to want to do. So in this case, kismet, but not most of the time. Why do I make the choices I do when I know they mean I’m not doing other things I want to be doing? Why am I on Twitter or any other app or website rather than doing any of the million other things that I want to be doing, including reading? Every time I read or listen an interview with a person who is considered prolific in their field, they say they don’t spend time on social media. I used to not spend time on social media. Until I was thirty years old, I barely watched tv. Coincidentally, this was the golden age of my reading life. Somehow social media and tv have become and addiction and I need to just stop. As Seth says: I could spend that time learning a new skill, or I could work on a creative project, I could go to the gym. It’s my choice and I need to own that choice.

What about you? Anyone kicked a bad habit and want to give advice on how?

As I often find, The Eagles have some wisdom to impart:

So you live day to day
And you dream about tomorrow, oh
And the hours go by like minutes
And the shadows come to stay
So you take a little something
To make them go away
I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind
From wonderin’ what I left behind
And from worrying ’bout this wasted time

#24in48 Wrapup

Here is my final total… plus the 10 hours and 10 min I had when the time reset. Stupid timer


So 13 hours 33min. This is 1 hour 33 minutes linger than my goal.. yipee!

I did finish Travels With Charley. Lordy couls that man write and his powers of observation and description. Perfection. Plus a poodle!

I went off stack when I decided to listen to audio book, When Paris Went Dark, about the German occupation of Paris in World War II, something I’ve wanted to learn more about since reading All the Light We Can Not See and The Nightengale. I did, indeed, start The Stranger Beside Me because I want to watch the new documentary on Netflix. I had read this book as a teenager. This edition I’m reading now is updated and I’m a little nerve wracked to say I notice where some of the updates are and that Ssome of the pictures are new. This may be more burned into my psyche  than I like. As a suburban teen I couldn’t believe anyone could do the things he did.

Somehow even though I exceed my goal, I am disappointed. I had envisualized curling up and reading for large chunks of the weekend, coffee, tea or wine by my side depending on time of day. Instead more than half of the time was spent listening to the audio book while I ran errands, cooked, cleaned and did laundry. I know audio books are reading, but I also know I don’t absorb as much, especially when I’m multi-tasking. I missed probably an entire minute while trying to decide between regular or low sodium soy sauce as the grocery store. I also spent the 30 minutes before writi g this o  Twitter and Instagram. Apparently I am the only person not watching Rent live with someone who broke their foot. I was reading, so I’ve got that.  My goal was to put this time aside for me, but I let other things come first, though having clean clothes will be a plus this week. I want to chose reading more often than I do now. So that is my new goal: more reading, less tv, twitter and instagram (I deleted my Facebook account already and you should, too. They are giving out your information like halloween candy, except they make money doing it. But that is a rant for another day).


This weekend I’m once again attempting the #24in48 #readathon. For the uninitiated this where you read 24 out of 48 hours in a weekend, starting Saturday at 12am on your timezone. Read all about it… you can still sign up!

Think you can’t read 24 hours in one weekend? You don’t have to! My goal is 12 hours because you know, life. I think of it as having a goal of reading more than I usually would (an actually having an excuse to read more than I usually would in one weekend).

Here is my stack:


It’s got it all: fiction, non-fiction, essays, classics, recent works, a book about books/reading (I love those), something for every mood so I can switch it up depending on my mood. Though there is a very high probably that I’ll start with The Stranger Beside Me then move on to the Ted Bundy documentary on Netflix. Must.not.

What do you say? Are you in?

Need a word for:

When you stayed up late finishing a book, then don’t up early to do other things you want to do but you’re exhausted anyway and you don’t feel one whit bad about it, well maybe half a whit.

Coffee time.

So Many Books, So Little Time..

There should be a word for:

The cycle of really wanting to read a book you’ve just heard about, someone or many people are raving about it, it will certainly change your life or make you see things in a whole new way! So you add it to your to be read pile with all the best intentions in the world (my TBR already two miles long. Don’t scoff, at my average rate of reading, my TBR will take me years, years!, to get through. My TBR may be where great books go to die). I’m reading four other books right now, but then this new book, for sure. Except by that time, you have a book club book to read (I am in two book clubs, both of which read books that invariably don’t come from my TBR except when it’s my turn to pick), and maybe a book to read for work, or a library hold comes in (or two or three or five). Those books are on a deadline! I have to get to them! And simply must re-read Little Women, I meant to last year for the 150th anniversary, but I didn’t quite get to it. Then I need to balance between print reading and ebook reading, which I can do on my commute via train, and having an audio book, which for a lot of reasons I like to read non-fiction in audio, and all of a sudden the paperback of the book I really, really wanted to read is out. Horrible that I have not read that book I really, really want to read. A feeling of failure sets in, yet I continue to listen to podcasts and read reviews about other new books that I really want to read and they also go on the TBR with the best of intentions. The cycle of not being able to read all the books continues! What a ghastly realization to let sink in. I feel bad, I look longingly at the book, which I probably own (because I only request books from the library that I think I don’t need to own, then insanely feel as if I have to read them even though I should read the ones I own because I think I’ll love them). Then one day you hear the author has a new book coming out. Yes, the author has birthed and seen to publication an entire new book in the time you’ve been not reading their book that you really, really want to read. Gah…

I feel as if there is no cure for this disease, and it’s the only disease I want to have.

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

Last night I watched Jane Austen Book Club, the movie. “Jane Austen is the perfect anecdote… to life!”, Bernadette declares in the films in which six people take on reading each of Austen’s six novels, one for each person. I love this premise so much and immediately want to take on the same project, re-reading all of Austen (though in truth, I’m not sure I’ve read Northanger Abby. I think I just think I have, I must have at some point, right? But I thought the same thing about Middlemarch a few years ago, and discovered that no.. I was sadly wrong. So perhaps I have a treat left out there for me). I own all the books, some I own multiple copies of, beautiful editions that make me smile at my bookshelves. Why not? Sadly, I also wanted to take on this project when I first saw the movie about ten years (ten!) ago, and it’s yet to happen.  Desire to do is not the same thing as doing. What a sad, sad statement. Will I actually do it? Who knows. I’ve got 250 pages left of my current book club book, then the book my friend lent me, unprovoked, and now there is pressure for me to read it, the audio book I’m in the middle of, the library book I put aside when I decided to listen to the audio book on whim because an author I loved raved about it, and then my whole other TBR, an unspeakable number long to which I just added the Ursula LeGuin novel recommended in the Jane Austen Book Club, which compete with making six Jane Austen novels my next thing.

I am the sort of person who comes up with these great projects, gets excited about them, but then they languish. I just over the weekend completed a project I started over a year ago to frame and hang up some photography to jazz up a bare wall. Why can’t I just decide on a project, do it, and move on to the next rather than attempting five projects at once and making little progress on each, until some just whither away? I know that focus on something is how to will something into life. I just can’t stand to let some ideas die away, or have to be put on the back burner, but in doing so, most of them end up on the warmer burner where they slowly burn and have to be thrown away (ugh, that was horrible, sorry). Yet, the thrill of completing things and the process of doing so (for you journey is the destination folks) is so lovely. I need to commit to projects and see them through. I don’t know if it will be re-reading Jane Austen because I want to prioritize first.

How do you decide how to spend your free time? What tools, if any, do you use to keep track of all your ideas?

Sorry, Marie Kondo!

Some book lovers seem horrified at the Marie Kondo recommended techniques for de-cluttering (at a very distilled level:  take your stuff out where you can see it all, go through each item and ask if it sparks joy. If not, tell it thank you and give it away. Off to somewhere else where it may spark joy. Ta dah! You are de-cluttered). De-clutter your life, de-clutter your mind. But books clutter your mind in a good way. For most things, clothes, extraneous power cords, baking pans (why do I have three different 9×12 pans?) this is all fine. And then you get to books. The mind recoils. How can one even consider books as clutter? They are the balm of the soul. Book lovers struggle with this approach because to them, books aren’t in the ‘stuff’ category. Books represent ideas, other worlds, stretching your brain, and are potentially life changing. How can one just let go of that? I love being surrounded by books. Books are everywhere. Rammed into the overflowing book cases, on the nightstand, for a period of time there some piles under the bed until I acquired some additional storage. Books everywhere do spark joy! That is how book lovers should look at it and not be so upset with Marie Kondo.

I did the Marie Kondo thing when her book came out. It did help me with clothes, coats, random crap on my desk, and somewhat with books. I did cull some books and give them to the library, but I’m sure she would still be appalled.



No Edith Wharton will leave this house!

The truth is sometimes I am overwhelmed by the volume of books. I do feel cluttered. I would surely die if my bookshelf fell on me.


Is this really so bad? This is before Marie Kondo, but I can’t say it looks better now because.. more books! Also, this is only one of the bookcases.

But my love and joy of the books is greater than my disdain for clutter, so they are staying. I just need a better organizational system, more bookcases or to move to a bigger place where books can fit and not appear cluttered. Sorry, Marie Kondo!

A President and Love and Books and Empathy

“I don’t worry about the survival of the novel.  We are a story telling species”

Read this.  Read it now!  It’s Obama on love of the written word, how writing helped him define himself and how we explore other’s experiences.  


Here is a list of the books and authors mentioned in the above and it’s companion piece.   I know I’m adding the books I haven’t read and a sampling of the below authors to my TBR. 

Churchill, Winston

Baldwin, James

Bellow, Saul

Cixin, Liu:  The Three Body Problem

DuBois, W.E.B

Diaz, Junot

Emerson, Ralph Waldo

Flynn, Gillian:  Gone Girl 

Gandi, Mohandas

Groff, Lauren:   Fates and Furies

Hemingway, Ernest:   A Movable Feast

Hughes, Langston

Kanheman, Daniel:  Thinking Fast and Slow

King, Martin Luther Jr.

Kingston, Maxine Hong:  The Woman Warrior

Kolbert, Elizabeth:  The Sixth Extinction

Lahiri, Jhumpa

Lessing, Doris:  The Golden Notebook

Lincoln, Abraham

Mailer, Norman:  The Naked and the Dead 

Mandela, Nelson

Malcolm X

Robinson, Marilyn:  Gilead

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia:  One Hundred Years of Solitude

Morrison, Toni:   Song of Solomon

Naipal, V.S.:  A Bend in the River

Nietzsche, Friedrich

Niebuhr, Richard H.

Roosevelt, Teddy

Roth, Philip

Saint Augustine

Sartre, John Paul


Whitehead, Colson:  The Underground Railroad

Wright, Richard




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I don’t really have book problems.  Others think I have book problems, but I do not agree.  What I have is a reading problem in that there is nowhere near enough time to read all the books.  But I love books!   I love being around them.  I love seeing them on the shelf.  I love going to bookstores. I love going to the library.  I even love to smell them. I know I’m not alone.  When I’ve had a bad day, heading to a bookstore and bought two, three… seven books to feel better is my thing.   It’s like this scene from Almost Famous, just switch out bookstore for record store. 


But all this book buying has led to a space problem.  There isn’t room anywhere for even one more book.  Well… not true, they could be piled up on the floor.  What is wrong with that?   I see nothing wrong with that, but let’s say not everyone agrees.  So now new books are hidden under the bed.   I also went through a phase of squirreling them away on eReaders.  I barely remember I own them because I don’t see them.  I need to SEE the beautiful books!  

The possibility of my reading the books I already have rather than buying even more new books has been suggested.  Am I even aware of how many unread books I own?   Do I know that there are some duplicates?  Pshaw!  Sacrilege.  You know nothing!  

Unfortunately for me, I believe in holding myself accountable.  I only paid off my student loans by maintaining a budget spreadsheet and being brutally honest with myself about what I spent.   So… I made a spreadsheet of all my books.  Author, Title, Type (fiction, non-fiction, etc.), Format (print, ebook, etc.), guestimate of when it was acquired, Read or To be Read.  But to be fully accountable to my book compulsion, I couldn’t track merely the books which already beautify my shelfs.  What about the ones I want to read, but do not yet own?   So I added in my Amazon wishlist, all fifteen pages of it.   What?   Fifteen pages is completely normal! 

The results were striking.  The list was so long I decided to add a second tab to hold just the book already read.  Then I would have a true To Be Read (TBR) list and be able to sort on whether I own it or not.  That way I could refer to this list when looking for my next read and pull from it.  Excellent idea… yes?   Until I totaled up the spreadsheet.  Want to know how many books were on my TBR?   657.   Even I think 657 is batshit crazy!    I own 308 print and 146 eBooks I haven’t read.  Hmmm…  Let’s do some math.  I read around 50 books a year (time constraints!).  This means if I only read the print books I already own, I, in theory, don’t need to buy another book for six years.  If I include ebooks, nine.   NINE years!   This doesn’t even account for the books I’ve marked as ‘On Scribd’ because A. of course I have Scribd and B. theoretically I don’t HAVE to buy a book if it’s on Scribd.  Though sometimes book leave Scribd, but that is a whole aside.  

This feels daunting to me.   Also, it was 657 when I originally made the spreadsheet some time back.  It’s now up to 763, but shhhhh…  

I’m either going to have to pick up the pace or stop adding to this list, right?   I can’t stop adding to the list, so it’s going to have to be pick up the pace.   Why am I writing this?   Gotta go!