… for now.
This spring, during an intensive clean out session that cut my wardrobe in half, I began counting my books. Specifically counting the number of books I own but haven’t read. At the time of this piece’s publication (how fancy does that sound!), I’m at 93 unread books which I assume is shocking to anyone else. But for me this actually a drastically lower number than I started with this year so at least I’m under triple digits right?
I have always been a avid book reader but also, a pretty big book buyer. Growing up, I would hit the loan limit every time I visited the public library. Balancing ten books against my 4’8 frame, I’d juggle Nancy Drew and “The Cat Who…” and “Princess Diaries” as I made my way to counter where suddenly I’d have an entire library of new books to devour over the next two weeks. But as I got older and life got a little crazier, I found myself more frequently crossing over Valencia Boulevard from the public library to the Barnes and Noble. By buying my books, I suddenly didn’t have a reading time limit and suddenly, I was stocking up on everything: Classics, mysteries, newly released fiction, comics. In high school, I would spend hours pouring through Barnes and Noble, avoiding the SAT book that I’d brought to study in the tiny Starbucks cafe, and instead reading the first few pages of books that caught my eye in the fiction section or the travel section or the teen lit section or the biography section.
When I look back, I feel especially grateful for the inherent literary curiosity that has always captivated me. And also for having parents who were big readers themselves. There was never a restriction on what I read and so I took in everything. So books were beyond my understanding if I read them when I was too young, but I often revisited them in high school or college and it was like seeing an old friend in a new light.
Through every life change, reading has been a constant and become my own form of meditation, a way of leaving the anxiety of an uncontrollable situation. But over the years, my appetite for literature has exceeded the speed at which I can read. With so many amazing books coming out every week, I constantly find myself drooling at bookstore windows or taking notes from my favorite BookTuber’s haul videos on which book I want to read next.
This spring I fell down a rabbit hole of productivity videos on YouTube and before I knew it, everything was coming out of the closet and off my shelves. The book section of this clear out started after my last trip with friends to Greenlight Bookstore. On this outing, like every time I walk into a bookstore, I wanted to read everything. So many of the new releases had caught my eye in magazine reviews or New York Times articles. The graphic novel section was full of titles I’d wanted to read over the past couple years. It was a situation in which I could have easily bought ten books I really really wanted to read. But for the first time, I found myself a little blue at the thought of buying a few new books, bringing them home and having them collect dust until I picked them up again at the end of my 93 book TBR list.
This year I’ve been trying to work what I consider to be two of my biggest personal challenges: One is wanting to do everything at once. I’m someone who loves a lot of things and wants to try a lot of things — which is great! Well it’s great until it’s a bit paralyzing. Before I even start I psych myself out about if I’m choosing the right thing, what if I miss an opportunity with another thing, and when it’s okay for me to let go. There is only so much time and doing everything at once often means I’m not doing anything to the absolute best of my ability. So I’m working on it. The second thing is adhering to deadlines — especially self-imposed deadlines for longterm projects or ideas. This is just a hard one in general but something I would like to be better at.
As I began thinking about how to approach these two personal challenges, I began my descent into the productivity rabbit hole. Implementing new habits can be incredibly hard, especially if they’re large scale life changes, so to take the first step I’m starting with my bookshelves. I am not buying any new books until I finish the ones I currently have. I have made three exceptions:
- I am allowed to pick up books left on stoops around New York. I’ve found so many books I’ve wanted to read this way and once I’ve read them, I leave them out for someone else to take home.
- I can rent new books from the library.
- I can buy a used copy of a book for a book club — which I will go to someday.
So far my Amazon wishlist is taking the biggest brunt of this challenge as I’ve been using it to store all the names of the books-of-interest I’ve come across these last couple months. I’m still debating if I can ask for books for Christmas or birthdays but I figure I’ll decide closer to. My deal with myself is I will start buying new books again when I’m down to seven TBR books on my shelves. I’m currently loving “Middlesex” which I believe I bought over seven years ago? Yep, that’s embarrassing.
Wish me luck because I’m going to need it.