For the last several days I've had the sudden and general urge to buy a new book. . . It's not as if I don't have anything to read; there's a tower of perfectly good unread books next to my bed, not to mention the shelves of books in the living room I've been meaning to reread. I find myself, maddeningly, hungry for the next one, as yet unknown. I no longer try to analyze this hunger; I capitulated long ago to the book lust that's afflicted me most of my life. I know enough about the course of the disease to know I'll discover something soon.I know that urge so well. I may resist it for a day or two, but eventually I find myself at Murder by the Book, or Half Price Books, or Barnes and Noble, browsing through the shelves, like Buzbee not quite sure what I'm looking for.
But Buzbee goes on to say, "I do know that I'll leave with some book and head home to spend hours, both lost and found, in the perfect solitude of my sagging green easy chair." That brought me up short. If I bring a book home, it's rarely to read it right off. No matter how excited I am to bring it home, or how much I anticipate reading it, there is usually something else I need to finish first, and then some other book pops up to distract me. So my acquisition gets added to the TBR stacks, where it sits unread, sometimes for years. In a later chapter, Buzbee quoted an unnamed Stoic philosopher: "Of what use are whole collections of books, when their owners barely find time in the course of their lives to read their titles?" I thought, yep, that's me.
I've watched Simon's Project 24 this year with both awe and envy. I don't honestly think I could do that, limit myself to buying only 24 books over an entire year. Though I haven't bought any books in December (yet), I've bought 116 books this year, and 42 of those books are still on the TBR stacks. I've been playing with ideas for something like Simon's project, but focused on the TBR shelves. At first I thought of only buying books that I've already read, that I want to add to my library. I don't know that I could stick to that, though. There would have to be exceptions for new books by favorite authors, because I'm not going to wait on a library copy of Deborah Crombie's latest before buying my own. And I do think there should be some room for serendipity, and the discovery of books you didn't even know you needed, or authors you've never met before. So I am thinking instead of a TBR limit: no more than 12 books added to the TBR stacks in 2018. That means reading the books I buy as I buy them, or not buying books I haven't read. This seems doable to me, at least today. It's something I want to try, anyway. So there's my first New Year's resolution, a little early.
Edited to add: In a later chapter, Buzbee talks about the purchase of a book, and what happens to it afterwards. "It can be devoured immediately on getting home. . . Maybe the reader will take a few peeks at the first couple of pages while waiting at the stoplight." I've done that many times - Houston traffic has a lot of stoplights.
Once home, the book may go on top of the pile of those still waiting to be read, or to the bottom, where it can stay for years. In my stack of unread books right now, I've got a history of the Danube River by Claudio Magris and a scientific study on the patterns of global migration, DNA, and languages. I would like to read these books, but they've become part of the furniture. Maybe next year, after I finally get to The Aeneid, a twenty-years-ago purchase that has been moved to my permanent shelves.I always feel better reading about other people's TBR stacks. I've got at least a couple of books that have become part of the furniture as well.