Like most book lovers, for the past few weeks I’ve been reading lots of “Best Books of 2011” lists. I couldn’t stop myself, even though reading them made me sad. Oh, they excited me, too, and sometimes enraged me, but mostly I just felt sad when I read them. Sad, and a little desperate.
Why? Because I know that no matter how hard I try or how fast I read, I’ll never be able to get to all the books I want to read. Honestly, if I started right now and read non-stop until I was 100 I don’t think I could read all the books I currently own, much less all the others on my “To Be Read” list, much less all the books that haven’t been published or even written yet. And it’s just too much to discover so many books published last year that everyone loves and I haven’t read them or even heard of them and they weren’t on my TBR list but now I want to read them, so I add them to my list and now there are even more books on the list that I won’t ever get a chance to read. Books that might change my life if only I had the time to read them, or at the very least give me a few characters to love or hate, some lines to laugh at, some lessons to learn.
That’s why it made me sad.
I’m trying to get over that, and focus on the excitement of discovering a new book or author. In the past, the possibilities of a book, the potential for delight, far outweighed all other emotions. I need to remind myself not to despair over what I can’t do, but take pleasure in what I can do, not mourn all the books I won’t read but take time to enjoy all the ones I do read.
To help with that, I’ve become much more ruthless about weeding out books. I used to slog my way through every book I picked up, if only so I could get to the end and say, “That was the worst book I ever read.” These days an author gets a chapter, maybe two, before I pitch it and say, “Next.” (Note: This hasn’t yet taken effect when the book in question is part of a series I’ve been reading. Then the author usually gets 3-4 books before I give up on them. I’m not sure if I’m a loyal reader, a hopeless optimist, or a compulsive completer, but I have a hard time giving up on any series I’ve started.)
In the last couple of years I’ve also started weeding out the books I own but haven’t yet read. (Yes, Borders folks, I’m talking RPL.) The first to go were ARCs I got at some distant GM meeting, titles I didn’t remember anything about. I figured if they’d been sitting on my shelf for 5-6 years and I hadn’t touched them except to periodically flush the shelves, then I could get rid of them. Next were the books I vaguely remembered wanting to read, but just hadn’t ever gotten around to yet. The last batch of books I cleared out were those I’d read before that I might, someday, want to reread. While I used to reread books all the time, I’ve cut back on that in order to have more time for all the unread books on my list.
I cleared out lots of space and dramatically decreased the number of books to be read, but then I realized I had extra shelf space, so I bought a few books just to fill in. Then a few more. Then I got an iPad, so I ordered a few books for the Kindle app, a few books from iBooks, and then found that there are some free epub books available out there that looked interesting. And they’re free and don’t take up shelf space, so why not get them? Plus I’ve re-established my love for the public library, so I have a long wish list of books there, too.
Okay, this post is over. I gotta go read.