Saturday, December 13, 2008

Do Not Fear The Unread Books, They Are Your Patient Friends!

I am sure that many of us have a book or two on our shelves that we haven't read. I think that I might have a few...or a hundred. Yes, the feared “To Be Read” pile. Well, as you my dear readers know, it is feared by my imaginary kitty, Kitty, who is concerned, in her sweet, imaginary cat mind, that it will topple over and crush her.

But, is there a good side to that TBR pile? Is it like a little piggy bank, a pile of saved money? bookninja suggests as much; that in these hard economic times, the pile of unread books is a untapped financial resource.
"Instead of going out and buying more books you fully-intend-to but are-not-going-to read, why not examine your shelves for ones that slipped through the cracks and feel lonely and neglected."
No need to buy new books...which, true, may hurt the book industry, but may, he suggests, help the 'hospitality services industry', because people will now have extra beer money!
Well, speak for yourself mr. bookninja. Kitty and I drink tea, with our pinkies extended. Kitty has an imaginary pinkie. And we have quite a pile of tea also.

But as this article in The Guardian suggests, perhaps there is more to the question. Mr. Jordison refers, in a tone that may strike fear in the hearts of some, to “the tyranny of the to-be read pile.
“In directing us to the books we already own, bookninja is asking us to confront the tyranny of the to-read pile head-on. Bibliophiles everywhere will be only too well acquainted with the demons of guilt and shame that such explorations would conjure. The to-read pile is more than just a physical stack of books: it's a tower of ambitions failed, hopes unrealised, good intentions unfulfilled. Worse still, it's a cold hard reminder of mortality.”
And, as he raises another point, quoting from yet another article, this one by Cynthia Crossen in the Wall Street Journal.
“As I scanned my shelves, I found I had convincing arguments why I shouldn't read each one of the orphans -- or convincing to me anyway...I rejected a book called "English, August," by Upamanyu Chatterjee because it is, after all, November... Try it yourself and see how many pitiful excuses you can find for not reading a book you own.”
Yes, that is one way to view the TBR pile. I know that some people feel pressured by all those unread books and guilty that they continue to buy new books while they have even one unread on their shelves. But I have to admit that I feel rather differently about it. I find it comforting. Say that tomorrow the worse possible thing in the world happens. It is decided that no more books will be published. Oh, maybe some of those 'cheaper to turn out but harder for my aged eyes to read on those little screens' E-books, but no beautiful leather covers, no artistic dust jackets, no smell of new paper and ink. Well, I don't know about you, but I am in good shape for a long, long time. Or say that I break my leg and am trapped in my house for a month and the TV blows up. No worry, so long as I can crawl over to the shelves. “Fetch Kitty, fetch.”
And when I finish the ones I have not read, I can just start at the beginning with the rest, because I surely will have forgotten most of them. Because I will be quite old.

I had a discussion with someone recently, who questioned why I, who lives alone, shops at Sam's Club, the home of the giant sized packages of goods. Does no one else draw a warm and cozy feelings from the sight of a pantry shelf lined with a dozen rolls of paper towels, a gallon of hot cocoa mix? That is how I see my TBR pile, a stockpile of treasures, waiting to be savored. They, my little book friends, don't mind waiting. They know their moment will come one day. There is no pressure, no one will go stale. They are a reservoir from which to draw, a cache to cherish. A month from now or five years from now, every book will be just as perfect to read as the day it came off the printer's press or the day it came home from the used book store.

Perfect with a cup or two of that cocoa...drink up, I have lots and lots of cocoa.


  1. I find my TBR pile comforting, too. I don't feel the pressure of deadlines that some people do - it'll get read when it gets read.

  2. hmm...cocoa will kill me. why do you have so much poison!? esp. when im coming to stay with you, i'm scared!

  3. check this out: know how much i love my computer. i love it so much that i think everyone should have one to love it as much as me.

  4. I agree that deadlines are a bit of an issue when talking about ARC's. I TRY to get to them near to the release date but if I don't, well then I don't I figure that a review when a book come out is good..but so is one before ("Hmmm...I will have to look out for that...") or after it comes out (wandering in Borders.."Oh, that book is familiar..") It is all good.

    List for dog sitting Bandit.
    1. No cocoa

  5. Yay, thank you for this! I needed a reminder that having lots and lots of unread books is a good thing!

  6. I like your attitude. I find my TBR pile comforting- and at the same time, since my husband lost his job and new books have turned into a luxury item, it's nice to have this little (or not so little!) stash that no one can take away. :-)

  7. Simply fantastic post, Caite!

    I was eternally grateful for hot tea and a good book during our three day power outage. Nothing like a wonderful book to take you away from your troubles.


  8. how did you boil the water for the tea? gas...fireplace....sterno?

    Glad your electric is back on Carey! Ice is nasty...

    I have said it before no doubt, but I truly believe there are few situations in life that can not be made just a little better by a nice cuppa tea, a cookie and a good book.


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