Book Karma and the Dread To Be Read ShelfApril 18th, 2012 at 11:52
It’s the National Year of Reading here in Australia, and my one big reading challenge to myself is to buy fewer books. Which is quite a confronting thing to talk about publicly, because, well, I do rather spend a lot of my time online convincing other people to buy books, even if only a minority of them turn out to be my own. I am a book pusher. Listeners of Galactic Suburbia know this to be true!
But my teetering To Read bookcase is currently unsustainable, and my quest this year is to bring my book purchases (which are still flying on my pre-children reading abilities) more closely in line with how many books I am capable of reading. So for the National Year of Reading, I’m trying to read the books I ALREADY HAVE.
So my system is that I am only allowed to buy one book for every three that I read, and two of those three have to be from the physical To Read shelf as opposed to, say, my whopping bag of Agatha Christies, or my books for research shelf, or something from my greater library, or actual library books. I first stated these intentions here.
How am I doing, three months in? Not as well as I’d secretly hoped. Accidentally buying a pack of three Agatha Christies in the post office back in January did rather send the system into a tailspin which took some time to recover from.
I have restrained my book purchasing in 2012 to 9 books (not counting graphic novels, which I don’t have trouble reading through quickly, and Kindle books, because storage is not an issue there, and audio books because, audio books). But I only have one book purchase ‘banked’ (as in I can buy one more without reading any) and the list of books I desperately want is growing and becoming more urgent as new releases pour out of the world. I WANT the new Holly Black and the new Alison Bechdel, and a bunch of anthologies, and the new Cassandra Clare, and the next Kate Elliot (because OMG) and the new novelisation of Shada, and a bunch of Bernice Summerfields, and and and… And apparently I can’t restrict myself to last year’s books because I want to be the person reading the BRAND NEW SHINY and telling you all about it before you’ve heard about it. Sigh.
So thank goodness for my system, because it does check me and make sure that I only buy the books that I desperately, desperately want, instead of the ones I quite want. When I need a book for research I check the library system BEFORE going to buy straight away. And I do now seriously think ‘will I want to keep, lend, reread this book’ before every hard copy purchase, which is probably good for me. The house has not yet burst with books like that time in the Goodies that foam poured out of all the windows.
I feel guilty about it. Even though my book purchases are still quite high compared to many people, and my quest to read books I already own seems a reasonable one, I feel guilty talking about it publicly because, well. Surely if I slow down on my book purchases, I can’t expect other people to buy my book? It feels like I might be messing with book karma. Though that does raise the disturbing possibility that somehow I have been buying books madly and compulsively for the last decade as some form of complicated and expensive magic spell that would likewise encourage people to buy my book in the same fashion. Which seems unlikely. I didn’t even have books AVAILABLE to buy during my book buying peak. And if I was doing that for that reason, even subconsciously… well, all the more reason to buy my books thoughtfully.
Sure, I want to earn a living at this, but I don’t want my books to be languishing on people’s To Read Shelves of Doom because they bought them in haste! Some of the happiest feedback I have received from people is the last year is when they tell me they are RE-READING my books. I have so little time to read, re-reading is one of my high end pure luxuries, and for people to devote that kind of luxury attention to my books makes me giddy and delighted.
The moral of the story is that I need to budget more actual time towards reading. Which I already knew. And possibly that I overthink everything, even my reading habits. THIS IS ALSO NOT NEWS TO ME.
So for this year, the National Year of Reading, I’m going to try to read what I have, and be very selective about what I buy. Because, as it turns out, while newly minted books are fresh and exciting, it’s also pretty damn special to read a fabulous book that was published one or two or five or ten years ago and to think ‘OMG, why did I wait so long?’