Friday, 8 November 2013

in which I panic because I want to read ALL THE THINGS

My life is very book-centric: I sell books; I write books; I read books; I write blog posts about reading books. Euan at Blackwell's in Oxford said when he walks through his bookshop, it's like the books have souls and they keep on nudging him, saying 'Why haven't you read me yet?' I feel that, I really do. Who else suffers from book guilt?

I recently rearranged the books in my house (some of them are still at my mum's house, so not all are here), and I got in a panic thinking 'how am I ever going to read all the books I want to, before I die?' Very morbid of me, I know. But, you know, seriously.

Autumn/winter makes me want to reread a few favourites (Through the Looking Glass, His Dark Materials, Jane Eyre) but then I feel guilty because a reread is a lost opportunity to read something new. I read quite a lot - about 150 books a year, squeezed in between work at the shop, and writing work, and life but I still don't have time to read ALL THE THINGS. I tend to have three or four books on the go at once (a novel, poetry, short stories, non-fiction). I used to always finish a book, even if I didn't like it, because I felt I should (er, go figure), but now - nope. If a book doesn't grab me within the first three or four chapters then... goodbye.

It doesn't help that because of my EEC I may very well lose my sight in the not-so-far-off-future and that limits certain reading time even more (oh, cripes). So, how do you choose which books to read when you don't know how much time you have left to read? HOW? (Can you sense my panic yet? ;) )

Who was it who said that when we buy books we naively think we're buying the time to read them? Whoever it was is damn right.

How about you guys? How do you choose what to read next? How many books do you have on the go at one time? Do you allow yourself rereads? Do you have ridiculous biblio-panics like me?

Oh dear.

I'm going to go make myself a cup of tea, sit down, and read a book.



  1. ridiculous biblio-panics. I also want to read all the things! & there is not enough time to read ALL OF THE THINGS because then there will be NEW things I want to read and ah, it's a vicious circle.

  2. Aww Jen, I sympathise, but I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. I like to have a pile of books by my bed to be read next but If I've heard something is particularly good or if I've accidentally bought a book (Blackwells Broad St I'm looking at you) it can sometimes completely skip the pile. As long as I'm enjoying what I'm reading I try not to get book guilt. Copious amounts of tea will always be a good thing for reading anything, hope you enjoy your current read!

  3. I feel like this all the time. MY TBR pile at work is threatening to fall over and squash my computer, my pile at home is basically as big as the sofa, and I have no idea how I'm going to get through them all before the next enormous pile forms. I also used to finish every book before realising that the time I had reluctantly devoted to finishing Shadow of the Night really could have been better spent on books that didn't make me want to stab myself in the eyes with a letter-opener. Take deep breaths, have lots of tea, and don't be afraid to skim-read sometimes.
    Good luck choosing your next book, or three. I'm currently reading Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh, Rags & Bones ed. by Neil Gaiman and Paris Requiem by Lisa Appignanesi, and I'm exhausted!

    1. Glad you also feel the pain. I'm currently reading Allegiant, still The Shining, and Beautiful Girls by Melissa Lee-Houghton (damn she's so good). x

  4. I'm totally the same. My non-bookish friends don't understand why I sometimes feel anxious about all the books I own that I haven't read yet, let alone all the books out in the world waiting for me. Gah! I have m.e., so I can only read in short bursts and can't read anywhere near as much as I used to. It's made me stop finishing things I don't like (unless it's for a book club), because there are just too many things I want, no need to read and I don't want to waste my limited reading time. Still far too many to read though! (I need a scientist to invent a way of humans reading by osmosis - you just stick your hand on the book and it's done)
    I don't have a literal TBR pile because it would make me crazy, I only have a pile of current reads (which also usually means a short story collection or two, a fiction book and a non-fiction book, though if it's a 'difficult' novel I might mix in some other fiction to give my brain a break!). I just put new books on my shelves mixed in with already-read stuff. I usually have a good idea of what I'm in the mood for next, but I like not having things in order so I sometimes stumble upon books I'd forgotten about and didn't realise was Exactly The Thing I wanted to read. x

  5. Eeep I'm exactly the same! I also used to feel like I had to finish EVERY book I started but I've written a post on how I've definitely given up that silly practice. And again, rereading an old favourite if like doing an injustice to all the new books I haven't read yet! So many book related woes!
    Maybe you could create a smaller pile of books you HAVE to read, and it will seem a little less daunting?

  6. I choose my next book several ways, recommendations s from friends and family, my own interests in history, and cruise through local bookstores both new and used. The usual way most us do it. I believe.

  7. "I read quite a lot - about 150 books a year" -- HA ha ha.
    Girl, that is not quite a lot, that is a fantastic amount!
    You seem to be doing well at eating away at that list so remember that you're reading to enjoy not because you have to fulfil a target.

    (and yes, absolutely also feel book guilt, but now even more so as I do not get anywhere near this 150 per year mark...)

  8. Currently I have 6 books on the go. I try to have some poetry, some fiction and some non-fiction going all the time. Sometimes I make up challenges for myself (like alphabetic) and sometimes I choose my next book very randomly or purely for the reason that I have had it for so long.

    I do worry whether I will ever manage to read everything I want to read and at the same time I do "suffer" from abibliophobia.

  9. I feel your pain. I'm a teacher and always build up a book pile for school hols, then new books come out, books by my fave authors and then by the end of the holiday the 'to read' pile has grown. How can I be expected to work and read all the amazing books out there?

  10. I feel like this all the time. It's hell!

  11. I have restricted myself to one bookcase with books I still want to read (with 152 books). again and again I promise myself I won't buy any more books before I've read at least a hundred. I never keep that promise, because I can't resist the temptation of a (second hand) bookshop or a book market. I'm currently reading "Die Bertinis" by Ralph Giordano which is taking a long time, because my German is getting rusty. In between I read essays by Leslie Stephen and I'm rereading The Lord of the Rings. I'm amazed at how many books you read. I can only manage eighty each year.

  12. I allow myself one bookcase with books I still have to read (with 152 books). I keep promising myself I won't buy any more books until there are 50 books left, but I never keep that promise. I just can't resist (second) hand bookshops or bookmarkets. I read approximately 100 books a year, preferably in English or Dutch. I'm currently reading "Die Bertinis" by Ralph Giordano, but my German is getting very rusty, so it's slow-going although it's well written. In between I'm reading "Hours in a library" by Leslie Stephen and I'm rereading The Lord of the Rings. And although I love my job (I'm a teacher), I just wish I would be able to work one day less, but then I wouldn't be able to buy that many books.

  13. Definitely understand this feeling. I'm a bookseller too, and I read so much, but people always say things like "Why haven't you read this book yet?" and they never care about the huge list of books I have read because those don't interest them. It's frustrating.

  14. I am actively reading five books right now (new fiction and non-fiction at home, two fiction at work, and an audiobook in the car for my commute). Sometimes I have more going, sometimes fewer. I had never thought about why, but your explanation makes perfect sense (so many books, so little time) (also impatience). If I could just read, full time, all the time, I would do so happily. I know about the panic, but fortunately, I think the answer lies within the problem. And it's reading. Like you, I don't tolerate a book I'm not loving (though I used to), and it is such a liberating feeling. As far as re-reads, I guess I would, if re-reading something I had enjoyed sounded more exciting than trying something new. I get new book ideas from all over: trusted reading friends, book reviews, new books by authors I have enjoyed in the past. Excellent, thought-provoking post. Cheers!


    Constructive response is constructive. ;)

  16. It truly is depressing when I see the stacks of books piling up in my house. I never feel I have the time to read all I want to and I never read as fast as I want to in order to get to all the next ones!

  17. I think in every bookworm's life there comes a point when he realizes that life is just too short and he have to simply allow himself to drop the book unfinished when it doesn't "grab" him, like you said, Jen. We've all been there :-) The other healthy thing to realize is: it is humanly impossible to read all the books; but that's ok, no need to panic about that. Don't waste your energy panicking about something you cannot change. Look at it this way: there will be always lots of wonderful books in the world for me to read. I have practically neverending selection of books for me to be constantly amazed and never be bored till the end of my days. isn't it wonderful? :-) The other important thing is: there are two kinds of reading: reading new books and rereading books you love. Both are important for your personal growth and mental health. So don't feel guilty when you reread your favorite books. Whatever makes you happy right now.