Friday, February 20, 2009

So I signed up for a TBR challenge, because I am looking at the amount of books I have to pack - 3 keeper bookcases, overfilled: 2 little plastic 3-drawer chests, also overfilled, of books I've listed on PaperbackSwap and am waiting to swap; all of my children's books (which are in 5 different Rubbermaid containers, three bookshelves in the parlor, and two bookshelves in the side of my desk); and my TBR 'pile', which, at present consists of 2 stacks under my bed (each 9 books high), 3 bins and the books tucked between my mattress and the bed frame (I'm counting 6 on this side) - and I am thinking that there will be no room in the new house for anything besides my books. (Not that we have a new house yet, HA! Am ignoring this fact as much as possible. Moving on!)

When I say that my keeper shelves are overfilled, I mean literally: I do not understand how people are able to 'display' things on book shelves... there is only room for books, and even then, there is still not nearly enough room for all the books. Oh, I've shown you the pretty book case, all organized by color and beautiful, but what I did not show you is the two other bookcases - also well organized (by genre, time period, &/or category), but also overflowing and extra-burdensome. (Also, the drawback of the by-color bookcase is that when you get a new book that should go on there somewhere, you have to shift the whole damn thing and try to make them fit... it's a little aggravating, but still totally worth it if only for the fact that people who Live In Your House and come in your room rather often, are only just noticing - after two years - the fact that it is color coded, thereby proving that they are totally oblivious, as has been previously suggested.)

So, the goal of joining the TBR challenge, for me, was to help me clear up a little bit of my TBR pile, and to commit to it publicly. But here's the thing: my to be read piles are varied and I am a finicky reader: I have to be in the mood to read a particular thing.

Right now in my non-fiction TBR I have a book on helping kids cope with divorce, another 3 or 4 about chronic illness, at least one about style (because I haven't got any), a book on photography, a memoir or two, and a book about food that I started reading in November and it scared me so much that I put it back in the pile, instead of having to starve to death because I could never eat anything again, ever. My fiction pile consists of a bunch of romance novels; a bunch of classics I keep meaning to read; a bunch of contemporary 'literature' that people told me was good or I read an intriguing review of; a few YA novels, a tiny bit of Sci-Fi, a comic book, and holy crap, let's not even start talking about the kids books.

And yet, with all that variety, the likelihood that I will still say "I don't have anything to read" is fairly high. (I will usually say this only to myself, of course, because members of my family are apt to react badly to this assertion, for reasons incomprehensible to me.)

So I've committed to the TBR challenge - for me, it's a 3:1 ratio: 3 from the TBR pile for every re-read or new buy - because I think I am judging my books to harshly - if they don't immediately 'call' to me, then I move on, usually to a reread from the keeper shelves, and the piles don't get any smaller.

Part of this is realistic - since I am no longer in school, I refuse to 'force' myself to read anything: if I am not in the mood for a book about killer food, then I will not read it, even if I know I should. (And will, eventually.) For optimum entertainment value, a book should suit your mood - it should be a good fit. I'm not going to throw that out the window, challenge or no. A second element to the mountainous TBR piles is that I continue to buy new books, which, also is unlikely to change. (Cannot not buy books: is physically impossible.)o

But another part of why my TBR pile never shrinks is a strange combination of laziness and fear - I fall back on the books I know will be good (because I've already read them) instead of attempting something new, taking the risk that this new book will have poorly plotted scenes or lacks witty dialogue. As long as those books stay in the TBR, they have promise, and too often that promise falls through once I start to actually read.

But I've decided that I don't like that aspect of myself - the playing it safe all the time part of me - all that much, and am trying to make changes when I see the opportunity to do so. Yes, this is a small thing, a trivial change, and no real hardship - if a book sucks, after all, I am not required to finish it: I just post it and move on. If it doesn't, and is instead wonderful, I have given myself a treat. Either way, the book is out of my TBR, and so: mission accomplished - but it feels good and necessary and like I'm doing something positive that, if I get the hang of it, might just carry over into other aspects of my life.

"Basically," you are saying to yourself now, "this entire post was her way of saying anything in her life can somehow be connected to books?" And you would be right, I expect. But at least I know I'm not alone.

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