The to-be-read pile: It’s something that every avid reader I know has. There are all sorts of landscapes to be found on the slopes of this mountain for avid readers. My own contains plenty of mystery, science fiction, horror and thrillers, but also contains books on sports, on music, on wine, on history…I don’t even know what’s in it anymore. Only the parts I can see, which are heavy on Deaver, Connelly, Child, King, Grafton and Evanovich. I don’t have a clue how many books are in the pile anymore. The only thing I know for sure is that it got a whole lot bigger when I got my Kindle Fire, and while I’m pretty sure most of the content is genre fiction, I haven’t a clue how many unread books there are on that device either.
Before I got married in ’98, I lived a bachelor’s life. I had a small house with three small bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen, and one bedroom was my “music studio” with my keyboards and guitars and an old Tascam Portastudio that recorded four tracks on a cassette. Another was my library and writing room, where my bookshelves contained my nicer hardcovers and double rows of paperback books. Then there was my bedroom. I wish I had a picture of the mess that it was. For a booklover, the mess was sort of beautiful. There were books everywhere. Stacks lined the far walls of the room to a height of about half the distance between the windows and the floor. At least three feet of books (the windows were small and set high), with the columns of the paperbacks lining the walls. I don’t know how many there were. I know that I never got to most of them, and I still have most of them, boxed, in my basement (though a few made the trip to the attic at my office).
Now my TBR stacks are confined to shelves in the basement, in my bedroom, and in our home office. I don’t know the count, but I’d guess thirty in the bedroom, thirty in the office, and another million or so in the basement. Oh, and then there are the ones next to my bed, in the drawers of my nightstand where they are out of sight if not out of mind. And three or four sitting on top of the nightstand, still IN sight, and still IN mind. Oh, and I forgot the stack that’s here at my dental office. Probably less than twenty here.
The Kindle has made it easy for me to pile books on Mount TBR, because the guilt about the sheer number of books is easier to deal with. Also the cost is significantly less. There are only a couple of authors I buy when they release a new book (King and Coben, though F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series was on that list until it was finished). The rest either get bought off the bargain bins, or when I have a coupon to supplement my 10% B&N discount. I still have quite the physical Mount TBR, but the virtual mountain is growing by leaps and bounds.
We scaled down when we moved to NJ. Still, I’ve had to repair three bookshelves where the front edges were coming unglued from the sagging caused by the weight of books. I still have a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica (I still read articles there when I don’t trust Wikipedia, but the B is also online now). PBs are now limited to “classics” (i.e. books I might want to read again)–for example, my wife completed my Greg Benford machine civilization series by perusing old PBs in a Concord, MA used books store (love’em!). Otherwise, even hardbounds go to school book sales in the area.
My Kindle has saved me. In fact, I might have to upgrade soon to a version with more memory. I use it for both casual reading and reviewing. It keeps our bookcases manageable. But I’ve also become more selective–the only King I own is On Writing; Card’s Character & Viewpoint is also a desk reference.
On the other hand, I still have many of my old math and physics books. They served me well in my day jobs, so they’re like old friends, but I use Science News more now for scientific and technical background material.
I think every author should be an avid reader. I’m reading a bio of Churchill now. My fiction wouldn’t be believable if I created a character like him! Unlike you, though, I know what’s on my “mount TBR” because I try to be reasonable and selective–it’s probably an Appalachian hill compared to your Mt. Everest. The list still depressing…I’ll never have time to read them all, but I can hope.
Your post reminded me of a scene from Two and a Half Men where Alan (often funnier than Sheen) has a breakdown in a bookstore, overwhelmed with all the good books he hadn’t read. Hilarious. And there’s a lesson to be learned: we can only do so much. So don’t fret. It takes time away from reading!
The cool thing about many of those old paperbacks (and hardcovers) is that my sons are discovering them and starting to read them, here and there. The other day I went down and searched out ANIMAL FARM and 1984 for my older son. He’s tried some other stuff here and there as well, mostly my Card stuff.
I have both of those books you mention about writing, and I also like Nancy Kress’ book (can’t think of the title off the top of my head) and Lawrence Block’s TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT. (Is the Kress book BEGINNINGS MIDDLES AND ENDS?) I enjoy reading all of them but I don’t know how much I refer to them these days…
Take care, and thanks for reading (and commenting!)
Sandra Parshall had a comment on FB today about TBR shelves. Something in the air? Maybe spring’s coming early and we’re thinking about spring cleaning?
You might have to map out the characters in Animal Farm a bit for your son. Many kids have no idea what LPs are, let alone Trotsky and Lenin. If he’s into old, dark dystopian, have him look at Brave New World, Ape and Essence, Darkness at Noon, and Not this August too. (McCarthy’s The Road can’t compare.) I grew up with those, reading them about the same time we had drills to hide under our student desks in case of atomic attack. You don’t want to depress the bloke too much, though. With our current terrorism problems, the times are depressing enough.
He’s reading the Orwell for school and the teacher has already clued him in on some of what he’s reading.
Three of those four titles you mentioned I am not familiar with. I read BRAVE NEW WORLD many years ago but IIRC, I had a hard time with it. I’ll be checking into the other titles you mentioned, because I’m a big fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic SF. (I have a list on Amazon of post-apocalyptic titles but didn’t include Huxley’s title because I didn’t remember enough about it…)
I think for the first time in their lives my boys are feeling the impact (in an intellectual sense) of terrorism. Even the Boston Marathon bombings, they were a little young to understand/follow the goings-on. But this one has made them wonder more about the problems in the world. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not. End of innocence and all that…