Friday, February 4, 2011

TBR true confessions and Anthony Trollope

In August of 2009, I finally faced the fact that my "to be read pile" was not a pile, it was a tor, an alp.  I have a bad habit of buying books that sound good, which I fully intend to read at some point - as soon as I finish what I'm reading right now.  And by the time I finish the current book, something else has caught my eye or my credit card.  So the TBR books pile up.

One day on an impulse I sat down and made a list of the books I had on hand, waiting to be read.  I was shocked to come up with a total of 283.  And that wasn't counting books I'd received as gifts, or books I had to buy for work.  I'd known there were a lot.  I just had no idea it was that many.  Or that I'd had some of them for so long. 

So I made a resolution to reduce that number. I started off with the best of intentions, and in the first month I cleared five off the list - four of which were keepers, the other I finished and promptly gave away (Houston's libraries have benefited from my impulsive book buying habit).

But, in that same month that I crossed five books off the list, I added eight other books.  Net result: a gain of three to the TBR total.  Eighteen months after I started this project, my TBR total stands at 313.  I've crossed 140 books off the list, but I've added 183.  Clearly, I have a problem.

I had a short-lived strategy of setting a TBR/new book ratio, originally at 7:1.  That is, I'd read seven books off the TBR list for every new book I added to it.  That lasted probably about a month.  In December, I discovered two new to me authors, Louise Penny and Julia Spencer-Fleming, both of whom have written marvelous multi-book mystery series (literary catnip to me, I love following characters through different books, watching their lives evolve).  Well, TBR confession: I had the first Louise Penny book, Still Life, on the TBR pile for over a year.  I finally read it, and headed out the next day for the next book - and brought home all five (but hey, I only have one of *those* left), followed by all six of JS-F's books.

With the new year, a new resolution/strategy: if I buy a book, I have to read it before I can buy another new/unread book.  As of today, I have 18 books to read before I can buy another new book (that's 18 purchased since Jan. 1st).  And since Julia Spencer-Fleming, CS Harris, and Miranda James have new books coming out soon, I need to read.

So this blog is going to be a combination of therapy for my book habits, accountability (just to myself) for my resolution, and my meandering thoughts on my meandering reading.  For me, one of the best things about the net has been connecting me with others who really read, who have introduced me to fantastic authors like Dorothy Dunnett, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Connie Willis - though it's also connected me with booksellers and made indulging my book habit oh so easy.

What did I spend today reading? Later Short Stories, by Anthony Trollope.  Trollope is one of my favorite authors, but because his books can be hard to find (except The Warden and Barchester Towers, which I see everywhere), I tend to buy any book of his I find in the used bookstores (yep, that's a rationalization, I know).  I've only read a few of his short stories, but I'm enjoying them very much.  Unlike many other authors, he seems to be able to condense the essence of his style into the story format - but in 20 pages, rather than his usual 500.   And as the editor pointed out, there are a couple of real LOL moments - including an analysis of towel draping in The Turkish Bath that seems far too risqué for a Victorian story.


  1. I just found your blog -- and I love your TBR story! I've only read a three Trollopes so far but I always snatch them up when I see them, so I share your obsession. I look forward to reading your postings.

  2. My first comment - I'm new to blogging, so it's very exciting! and addictive.

  3. I'm always glad to meet another Trollope reader, btw - it's rare.

  4. Wonderful tbr anecdote - very familiar! Although I've stopped counting how many books I have tbr. I suspect it's around 500... or, more likely, nearer 800. Probably best that I don't find out.

  5. Reading about other people's TBR lists always makes me feel better except for one friend who has 20. But then reading book blogs like yours also ends up adding to my TBR list.

  6. Lisa, I had the habit of picking up classic children's and young adult books every time I saw a good one in a used book store -- especially the Library friends' store, for 50 cents each. Someday, I would say, Beth will want to read this! And I would put it in the pile. Then, I realized that I had 3 copies of The Island of the Blue Dolphins in the (teetering) pile. I try not to buy TBRs for my children too much any more.

    [p.s. Not really Beth but Kate -- she stayed signed in and I'm too lazy to log out/in and retype]

  7. Aren't library book sales fascinating? Such a variety - but also what seem like entire collections. A few weeks ago, someone had donated probably 40 film screenplays. Today, it was three shelves of cookbooks. I can't remember if I ever stockpiled for the nieces - probably I was too busy grabbing for myself.


Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!