Here it is April 1st, and the end of the TBR Double Dare, hosted by James over at Ready When You Are, C.B., and I made it all the way! Thus ends three months of reading only from my own TBR stacks (with a few library books checked out before January 1st). I have been trying for three years to reduce the ridiculous number of unread books that I own, but since I add to the piles faster than I read from them, the total TBR number never really goes down. Claire over at The Captive Reader had a wonderful post yesterday about her new e-reader, and one of the reasons I am still hesitating about getting one myself is knowing just how fast I would fill it up, and how high the TBR count will skyrocket then. On the other hand, that TBR stack would all be tucked neatly away in the e-reader, rather than sitting there in silent reproach on the shelves.
The first month of the challenge went by pretty quickly, and I was feeling a little smug about how easy it was. So I was surprised when suddenly in February, it wasn't fun any more. All those shelves of books, and I didn't want to read any of them. I wanted something new - or I wanted something old. Initially I hadn't really taken in the fact that reading from the TBR stack meant no re-reading. I didn't know how much I would miss it, the comfort of returning to old friends, even before posts about favorite books started popping up. All the reviews of The Nine Tailors, like Audrey's over on books as food, sorely tempted me in the very last week!
I managed to clear 71 books off the TBR pile, but I didn't read all of those. Some I tried and gave up on, others I gave away unread. This challenge helped me figure out that clearly, I need to be more mindful about the books I acquire. I need to stop buying books that I may want to read someday, like a literary squirrel hoarding books instead of nuts. I currently have a nine-volume set of Samuel Pepys's diaries, which I bought two years ago, and if I don't get to at least the first volume this year, they're going to a new home. That leads to a second point, which is that I need to be more realistic about letting go of books that I am not going to read. Those 71 books had been on the shelves for an average of 5 years and included a couple I'd had for 20 years. True, with some books it's a question of timing. I'm currently reading Tethers End, which I've started at least twice before in the six years I've owned it; for some reason, it's clicking now. But there were and still are books that I really know I won't read, or re-read. I'm trying to keep in mind Susan Hill's line in Howards End is on the Landing: "You don't have to pay its rent just because it is a book."
I also have to resist the "I want to read that right now" feeling that comes from print and blog reviews, or from a new literary crush - or at least I can resist heading off immediately to Amazon or ABE. That's what libraries are for, particularly when no matter how glowing a review, there is no accounting for tastes, and in the end I might not like the book. I've certainly had the experience of enthusiastically recommending something that another reader found disappointing or worse. That said, I already have waiting for me Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw (Captive Reader - seriously, who could resist "Trollope with dragons"?), Katherine Anne Porter's Pale horse, Pale Rider (Read, Ramble), Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree (so many enthusiastic reviews of her books at Gudrun's Tights, Pining for the West and She Reads Novels), Gavin Maxwell's Ring of Bright Water (which serendipitously turned up at a library sale just after I read about it on Desperate Reader), and Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies (Shelf Love and Read, Ramble) - but at least one of those is from the library. And as long as I'm confessing: I do have a small pile of books from my latest literary crushes, Eric Newby and Charlotte M. Yonge.
All in all, I'm very glad I took on the Double Dare, and I thank James for organizing it again and letting me join. Hopefully I can keep some of these resolutions moving forward, and continue to whittle down the TBR stacks - so the Triple Dare next year will find me in better TBR shape.