The “TBR” pile

It keeps growing. The “to be read” pile has not only overwhelmed the built-in shelves on the bed, it’s creeping onto the nightstand and I’m running out of room on the “to be read after some of these others” shelf in the adjoining room. (The interim stop for books between the TBR stack and “one of these days I should read that book” status on my regular bookshelves.)

The list at right confirms it’s an obsession but it seems to be moving into compulsion territory. Not only do I have at least three in the pile I purchased on the St. Paul-Springsteen trip four weeks ago (e.g., 102 Minutes), there’s five library books (e.g., No god but God) and I’ve got three books I ordered coming in the mail (e.g., Iron Sunrise). Then there’s those soon to be in the TBR pile: a couple books I’m awaiting from a publisher for review and a couple in my Amazon shopping cart. And, I keep eyeing these Dell handhelds largely because they take memory cards and I figure I could fill a couple of those with e-books.

At least my wife agrees there are worse habits (although I notice her TBR stack has some degree of restraint). And it isn’t like we’re talking literary trash here. Still, the thought that “planning” my reading would take some of the joy out of it means I don’t have any structure to attack the pile. After all, if I’m meant to read a book at a particular time, I’ll know. That doesn’t make the various stacks any less disheartening, especially since I haven’t even mentioned the magazine and DVD piles.

The possession of a book becomes a substitute for reading it.

Anthony Burgess, in the NY Times Book Review

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