Yesterday I tidied the to-read shelves and piles. Yes, you read that right, shelves and piles. And then there’s the Kindle to read list. And the library book bag. I’m starting to think I should open with “Hi, I’m Verity, and I have a book buying problem”…
I’ll admit that things have got a little out of hand.
The background: I’ve always been a voracious reader. When I was at primary school, I used to go to the library on a Saturday morning with my mum and sister, fill my card (10 books) and then fill whatever space was left on theirs. Buy the end of Sunday, I’d usually have read three-quarters of what I’d borrowed – a diet of Sweet Valley Twins/High/University, Babysitters Club, boarding school stories, young adult angst and whatever else I could lay my hands on.
At secondary school I spent my lunchtimes in the library “helping” partly to avoid people I didn’t like (and who didn’t like me) and partly so I could spend more time reading. I read for pleasure less at university – because studying History and French meant I was spending a lot of time reading and I needed to see some sunlight. Plus I’d discovered student radio and that was sucking my life away in a new and interesting way. When I went out into the big wide world I went back to books. After a day spent staring at computer screens, what could be better than a good book?
When I moved to Essex for my first job I took 10 “favourite” books with me. When I moved in with The Boy two and a half years later, I bought 75 home with me. And that was after I’d got rid of some I wasn’t going to read again. I’d also been making good use of Essex’s excellent library service – and their free request service to augment my reading diet with the stuff I couldn’t justify on my (tight) budget.
The Boy had one bookcase when I moved in, half full of books, half full of magazines and paperwork. Now we have three full-size bookcases, two of which are completely full of my stuff – and I’m starting to have to double shelve stuff. When my parents’ church had a fête 18 months ago, the book stall was basically the result of a clear out I had. They still haven’t sold them all.
My to-read shelves are a little half-sized bookcase (£4.99 in the sale from B&Q in the days of the first Essex Flat) which sits under the sitting room window, next to my end of the sofa. It’s full (of course) so there are now two piles of books behind my arm of the sofa. And the library book bag sits next to that. And then there’s my Kindle. I deliberately didn’t count how many books I hefted around yesterday in my reorganisation, but it must be close to 60. I know that the unread folder on my kindle has 144 items in it because it tells me it does every time I open the kindle. I had got the Kindle under 100 – but I’ve been making real efforts to make inroads into the physical pile – as The Boy was mocking me about it (he doesn’t know about the figures for the Kindle) and the digital bits have been stacking up.
What’s causing the problem? Well, I have a series of authors who I will buy anything and everything they write, so whenever something new from one of them appears it jumps straight to the top of the list. Then I have a terrible habit of starting a series, really liking it and then proceeding to buy the rest of the series one after the other, ignoring the rest of the books I should be reading first (examples include the Daisy Dalrymple, Phryne Fisher, Mitchell and Markby and Lord Edward Corinth series) and if I find a new author I like then I’ve been known to do the same to their back catalogue. And then I get suckered by multibuys in places like the Works and on occasion Tesco.
I’m also very bad at forcing myself to read stuff if I’m not in the mood. So there are some really interesting looking non fiction books sitting on my shelf that I do want to read – except that I’m tired and don’t want something taxing, or there’s a new book by X on the pile, or I really want to read the next book in Y series next.
And the real killer is the very thing that means I read so many books – my commute. My job is in London, I live in Northampton. The train takes between 50 minutes and nearly 90 minutes depending on what time of day it is, and I prefer to fill this time with reading. And some times I stay down in London when I have a lot of shifts in a row or the transport situation is difficult (like this weekend for example). Now I read fast (about 100 pages an hour if it’s something I’m enjoying and don’t have to think to hard about) so I can often read nearly a book a day on the commute. The kindle was total godsend, but then the physical books – the ones I might want to keep, lend or that I buy really cheap and give away afterwards – started to pile up. So I’ve been making an effort to take actual books instead – but they’re heavy so I don’t take epic sagas and I take a new book each day (sometimes leading to a pile up of 2/3 finished books) so I don’t end up carrying something that I’ve finished around all day.
So, what am I going to do about it? Keep reading, try to stop buying as much – and write about it here to keep track of how I get on.