About Shelf Life

I suppose if you’re going to have an addiction to something there are worse things to be addicted to than books.  I have been a book addict ever since I learned to read and Mom started taking me to the local library.  There is a downside to a book addiction, however, and that takes place when you walk into a bookstore.  A book addict cannot walk into a book store (or yard sale, or flea market, or library sale, or the local thrift shop) and buy just one book.  I buy several.  On the surface that doesn’t seem bad, however, before I’ve read all the books I’ve bought I’m in the bookstore or other venue again buying more.  I buy them faster than I can read them.  Many don’t stay.  If I start a book and find I don’t like it or I like it but know I’ll never read again it goes to the book exchange where I trade it for yet more books, or they get passed on to other readers or donated to a library. For a while I played at Bookcrossing but it was a short lived fascination.  Once, when I was between jobs and desperate to pay the light bill numerous boxes of books were sold at the local flea market.  So it isn’t as if I have rooms full of books.  Just one room and an overloaded Kindle.  I have in the vicinity of 600 books not counting reference tomes.  I have 600 books bought for the sheer pleasure of reading books.  Now of this 600 there are books I have already read because if I really like a book I will keep it either to read again or just because I liked it so much I find joy in knowing it is there to remind me of how much I enjoyed it even if I don’t intend to read it again.  There are also books the my wife has brought into the household; some I want to read, some I’ve read, and some I wouldn’t touch unless it was to move them to a less conspicuous place.  Still between my house and my Kindle there are approximately 600 books, 75% of which I have not read.  So I set myself a challenge.  I would not buy another book until I have read 100 books already in my possession.

And that’s what this blog will be about.  It will be a memoir of sorts.  It will be about books and the joy they bring.  It will be about remembering what moved me to buy these books and whether or not they live up to those initial expectations.  It will be about favorites.  It will be about reading and readers, writers and writing.   It will be about the resisting of the temptation to buy more books before the goal of 100 has been reached.

Within my collection is more than enough to keep me occupied for a quite a few years.  There is fiction and non-fiction, books to be discovered and old favorites to be revisited.  Poetry and plays are represented as are short stories and epics exceeding 1000 pages.

I think most genres are represented.  Horror is a little light but I don’t read a lot of horror anyway, well, not since my teens and twenties.  I think one eventually grows out of horror.  Sci-fi and Fantasy are slightly better represented.  Erotica is missing.  I had a brief fling with erotica when I was in my late teens but what I had collected has gone on to the hands of other horny readers or has been strategically stashed in the bottoms of boxes heading to church rummage sales (anonymously donated, of course).  There is a heavy leaning toward historical fiction and mystery, my two favorite fiction genres.  Contemporary literature is represented.  There are classics galore.  Non-fiction is mostly historical, science, metaphysical, and memoir, with a slight nod toward politics and geography.  So there is plenty to keep my interest and I have reminded myself that most of these books, with the exception of my wife’s contributions, were purchased because I wanted to read them.

I have set some ground rules for this project.  Collections of short stories and poetry count as one book.  However, collections of novels and plays will count as however many novels and/or plays are represented in the book.  For example, I have a volume that contains three complete novels by Dawn Powell.  Reading that will count as three books.  But if I go back and re-read Points of View, a cherished short story collection from my college years, that one will count as only one book.   If I start a book only to find that it and I were never meant for each other I will not force myself to finish it.  I will commit to reading at least 25% of the book before casting it aside.  I have found in the past that some books that start out painful can eventually sink the hook.  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is one such example.  I was bored rigid with the opening of the story but along about page 150 I became a lost cause.  Seven books  and more than 8000 pages later I emerged from what was then available in the series gasping and begging for her to complete the next installment.

Lao-tze said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  In my case the journey of a hundred books is beginning with Shogun by James Clavell.  I started it last week.  It was the impetus for starting this project which I have been considering for some time.

And what of the money that I would have been spending on books during this time?  I figured approximately what I spend per month on books.   I’ve taken that money and pledged it to a capital campaign taking place in our diocese for the next five years.

Here’s to 100 books and many cups of tea.


One response to “About Shelf Life

  1. K. H.

    I like the fact that instead of hoarding the books you have purchased and found you don’t like you find a way to move them along, get them in another persons hands. I think most of the ways you do this are great except for one. This one exception is to donate them to your library. I say this after having donated thousands of books to my local library only to find out twenty years later that the library system in my county throws most of these books in the trash! I was horrified but yes, they throw them out. I was told that this is due to the fact that they get so many books donated to them they can’t use them all. Apparently they can’t give them away, although they do give some away and they also sell some books for about $2, so I still don’t understand why they throw so many away but that is their policy. Maybe this practice varies with the state or county you live in, I don’t know but it might be a good idea to ask your local library first if they practice throwing out books. If you are anything like me this practice makes your skin crawl with distaste So make sure of their policy before one takes those lovely books to their local library and kindly leaves them there thinking they will be put on the shelf for others to read, they might well end up out back in the dusty trash bin.


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