Thursday, October 16, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: The Curse of the Long-Term TBR

Okay–here was an interesting article by Christopher Schoppa in the Washington Post.

Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books — it’s the letting go that’s the difficult part. … During the past 20 years, in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I’ve certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others’ shares) in my library. Many were read and saved for posterity, others eventually, but still reluctantly, sent back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I’ve clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I’ve yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I’m not sure, as I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works.

So, the question is his: “What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?“

This is a good one, as I finally just picked one of them up last week and polished it off, finding it worth the wait. The answer to this question can largely be found on this blog already -- my TBR list is an amalgalm of interesting-looking new releases, and books that have languished all these years. How did they come into my life? Some were unexpected and surprising gifts, like The Rape of Nanking and City of Masks. A shameful few were school books, assigned late in the term when I had many other things on my plate, that I never got to.

A large number came from the annual "orgy at the library," their used-book sale, where books started at a dollar each and were reduced to ten cents each on the last day of the sale. We often went several times during the week-long sale and carted out as much as we could carry. One year, I acquired most of the biographical novels by Irving Stone (of The Agony and the Ecstasy fame), which I had to have after reading his Van Gogh novel Lust for Life but still haven't read. Another significant chunk of them are refugees from my parents' purge a couple of summers ago. I was going to the library and they had all of these fascinating books they wanted me to take for the book sale. I took most of them, but kept a fair number for myself. I still haven't started them.

The question is: why not? If I checked any of these books out of the library, I'd probably get to them immediately (since I'm not even certain of a complete list, I may do that by mistake one day). I think it's because there's less of a sense of urgency with them. I am the type of person who likes to use the new things I buy right away. It hasn't changed much from childhood, where I'd be ripping open the packaging of a new toy on the car ride home. Even if it's something as mundane as a new sponge caddy, I put the sponges in it right away. Library books always have that dreadful timer running on them from the moment you check them out. But books you own, that you acquired in great numbers or needed for a class, will always be there.

It's too bad, really. I've decided (and I know I made this resolution before) that when I finish my current read, I'll choose my next book from my own library, rather than the public one.