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I love buying books. I love buying books almost as much as I love reading them. Over the last five years, I have bought, requested, and received far more books than I have time to read. Of my 500+ volume home library, I’m guestimating that at least half of it remains unread.
This has always been problematic for me. For a long time I felt compelled to prioritize my own books over library books and new review copies. I don’t know where this feeling came from. Perhaps it’s the same obsessive part of my brain that compels me to read books completely from start to finish, including endorsements, acknowledgements, and dedication. Or maybe it’s the desire to be able to honestly answer, “yes,” if a visitor ever asks me, “Have you read all these books?”
I requested a lot of new and upcoming books from publishers during my first year of blogging–too many. I burned out and was relieved to focus on my own books once again. Recently though, it dawned on me that I was missing out on many great new books because I was so focused on whittling down the number of unread books on my own shelves. If this were a competition to see who can read the most backlist books, I’d be the surefire winner, but this approach is unsatisfying for two reasons:
- Reading all of these titles from yesteryear’s bestseller list is getting a bit boring. I’m a book blogger! Reading the new stuff and buzzing about it with everyone else is part of the fun!
- When I was rabidly trying to conquer the unread portion of my home library, I never really thought through what would happen if I did actually finish reading all of the books I own. What would there be left to look forward to? What would I do if a massive storm system hit Virginia and the public library shut down for a week? The promise of an unread home library is that there will always be something new to read in an emergency.
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Admittedly, I’m a person of extremes. Since I started blogging, I’ve either gone on ARC-requesting rampages or hunkered down and cut myself off from publishers altogether. I want to have balance in my reading life. I want to enjoy the peace and lack of pressure that comes with reading the backlist books I already own, the excitement of reading sure-to-be bestsellers before their release, and the anticipation of reserving the latest and greatest at my local library. As I mentioned last month, I also want to carve out a little time to reread the occasional all-time favorite, though I know that might be more idealistic than realistic.
Eight of the books on my “Top 10 of 2015” list were backlist titles. When this year closes out, I plan to publish two top ten lists: one for books released in 2016 and one for backlist titles. I’m even thinking of publishing a third list specifically for audiobooks. I think it’s time for me to get back into the swing of things and start reading some new stuff. I think it’s time for me to stop worrying about when I’ll read all those books on my shelves. I also think it’s time for me to stop buying books for a while and let my bank account recover, but that’s a whole other discussion.
My 2016 New and Upcoming Reading List
- Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
- Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
- The Border of Paradise by Esmé Weijun Wang
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang
- The Girls by Emma Cline
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- Barkskins by Annie Proulx
- Swing Time by Zadie Smith
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Nutshell by Ian McEwan
- Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein
- Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
…and many more!
Do you prioritize books from your home library or do you tend to pounce on the latest hits?