Bookstores. Oh, dear. My human nature is VERY weak in the bookstore. (Although I don’t think it’s the only place Henry Ward Beecher’s weakness was a problem – from what I know, he was pretty much a ladies’ man.) I love bookstores. Small independent bookstores, used bookstores, chain bookstores, internet bookstores… in that order, but I love them all! Because they sell books. And I’m just a girl who can’t say no to a good book. I love to give them, and I love to get them.
I get such satisfaction from looking at my bookshelves and wondering what book to choose next. Fiction? Non-fiction? Essays or short stories? Mysteries? Fat or thin? A new author or an old favorite? But it leads to, let’s face it… too many books. There. I’ve admitted it. Isn’t that the start or something? Last year I was reading a book titled “Howard’s End is on the Landing” by Susan Hill. She’s an author, editor, publisher, reader… And she decided that for one year she would only read books that she had already read. Now, from her description, I’m going to think she has a great many more books than I do, but it got me to thinking. What if instead for one year I didn’t buy any new books but only read what I already owned? I figured (sheepishly) that I must have 30 or 40 books around the house that I haven’t quite gotten around to. I decided to go around the house and gather them all up and put them on one shelf (ha!) so I could easily choose my next book. So I went through the shelves (and dusted) and collected and put them in one spot to sort and count. Um, oh dear. It would appear that I underestimated my stash. By a factor of only about 3. There they were, piled on the piano, and not really looking like THAT many books. I counted again, to be sure. (I mean, I’m no math major, but in just straight counting I’m not sure by how many I thought I could be off) but there it was again. Ninety-five books. Staggered! That’s really a lot of books. And one of them was a book I had only purchased that morning.
So I carefully put them on THREE shelves in the living room so that they were easy to access and I would be reminded of my pledge. Sorted them too, so depending on my mood, I could easily find just what I wanted. One shelf for fiction and humor, one for non-fiction and biography/memoirs, and one for travel narrative/travel memoir. I’m not so OCD that they are in strict alpha order, but I will admit they are grouped by like-genres. Mysteries together, travel countries grouped by geography, etc. Lordy.
My year is up and I decided to see how I did. I did read a lot, but my shelves didn’t seem to be much emptier, so I was a little nervous to find out the results. This week has been gray and rainy, so it seemed like a good time to stay at home and figure it out. More dusting and counting (and recounting – I live in hope). The new total… One hundred and five. Um, that doesn’t seem like any progress at all. In fact in seems like anti-progress. What happened? I tried so hard. Well, ok, I tried. Some. How did even more come into the house? In the spirit of honesty, I’ll tell you what happened. I fell off the wagon. I went to two different book stores . And although I tried, I really tried, I came home from a visit to the library with more books too. (I always check their used book shelves as I get books to build my beautiful teacher-daughter’s school library for her kids. I believe that I may have purchased about 95% of her admirable stock, but I’m not going to find out for sure, and you can’t make me.) Seventeen new books. But that leaves me as only reading seven books this year. Not computing. So then I factored in gifts (only three – looking back that’s kind of a bad year if you ask me). Now it’s ten. Still not working. Four books in a series from my mom. Fourteen. But I KNOW I’ve read more than fourteen books. So. I looked at the library. I maaaay now have some insight into my problem. But let’s make one thing perfectly clear. It’s not my fault. For my birthday last year, Mr. WoW gave me a Kindle. I’ve been a late adapter to e-readers. I’m not a Luddite, I love my laptop and my iPhone, but I don’t just like reading with them. I like books. Their heft, their smell, their promised adventures if I just open them. It’s just not the same with a tablet. But. It turns out that they are especially useful in one way. They are scandalously easy to use to borrow books from the library. I don’t even need to walk over to the shelves. I can do it right from my brown chair in the window. And technically I made no pledge about borrowing from the library. But I think I may need to do so. Because there it was in my borrowing record. Forty-six books.
I read only fourteen of my own books. In a year that I read sixty books. That was an epic fail. So I guess I have to make a new resolution? No more library books? Well, that won’t work because I often use the library for book group books, and sometimes a girl just needs to read something new, you know? One a month? I have two on my Kindle right now. And I read two last month. Maybe promise one and settle for two? It would halve my library consumption. Hmmm. I’m going to try it. Which leaves me with about 4 books a month from my own stash. (I may have picked up a book at Elliot Bay this week. So my new total is 106. Oops.) So next year I should be down to about sixty books. Wish me luck.
Here are some books I loved last year:
Any mystery by Tana French. She writes about a murder squad in Dublin. Smart and suspenseful. I read three and I’m about to start number four in a series of five (so far). I would read them in order.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. Charming meditation on nature and life viewed through her study of an ordinary garden snail during a debilitating illness. She makes learning about the snail fascinating.
Paradise Imperfect by Margot Page. Hilarious telling of a Seattle family’s year-long move to Costa Rica. Smart and wickedly funny, she did what many of us dream about doing.
Names for the Sea by Sarah Moss. Another travel memoir, this time a British family (she a professor) moving to Iceland during the financial meltdown of 2008. Funny but literate, lots of insight into the country.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. Very funny (if uneven) book of essays about getting older, which I enjoyed a great deal EVEN THOUGH it was given to my by my own sweet husband. Whom I’d like to point out is older than I.
And here’s what I’m actively reading: “Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity” by Emily Matchar, “The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule” by Joanna Kavenna, and “From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairy Tales” by Sara Maitland . Plus on my Kindle: “Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City” by Russell Shorto (for book group) and “Jar City” by Arnaldur Indriðason, Cause a girl needs a little Icelandic mystery with all that non-fiction.
p.s. Our very gray week turned into some sunny days just in time for Mid-Winter Break. Spent some time doing a little garden clean-up on Saturday and then enjoyed a Valentine’s break with Mr. WoW and a glass of wine from our favorite Woodinville winery, Cuillin Hills. Hope you had a great Valentines day too!
p.p.s. Obviously still having a little trouble aligning photos. They look good before I publish.