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:

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(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?

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.

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.

Proof!

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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.

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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.  

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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

Shakespeare

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!

Bingo!

The results of my Books on the Nightstand Bingo are in and it’s BINGO! 

I read so many other books than this, but they didn’t fit.  Sad trombone.  In truth, the only category I had to go out of my way to find was ‘Set in South America’.  I had to Google books set in South America and was pleasantly surprise to find Bel Canto in the results.  I adore Ann Patchett and here was a book I hadn’t read.   That the entire book takes place inside a large home with characters from all over the world, thus it’s actual physical setting isn’t that relevant doesn’t matter!  It still counts. 

Thanks to Books on the Nightstand for the fun and interesting twist on summer reading.  I think I’ll continue on and try to fill in all the squares, just for shits and giggles. 

 

 

BEA Love

One of the things I love after BEA is the book haul postings. Love it! There are many people who will a completely different haul, 100% different than mine, and be just as thrilled. I love that because it means there are so many books out there, to please so many kinds of people.
I’m just going to keep posting mine, because I’m pretty happy.

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And so I return home after another wonderful BEA. Here is my two day haul:
Day 1 (Thurs)
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Day 2 (Fri):
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AND:
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All this certainly looks like less than it felt like when carrying it or rolling it down the street in this bag, which was completely stuffed, and another entire tote bag.
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I will not be attending Book Con because of last year’s experience. Being herded like cattle in a small, sweltering space just isn’t for me. I hear some of the issues have been resolved, but I’ll reserve judgement until this year’s attendees weigh in. Wait.. maybe not. I’m not sure I want to hear about things I’ve missed. 🙂 I’m already sad about missing Nick Offerman, and I’ve avoided knowing who else is there so I’m not sad…

More complete recap coming soon!