I've been feeling like a neurotic pinball when it comes to my books and reading. Like many bookworms, I struggle with reading the books I already own. New book displays at the library and bookstore always beckon, and then there's the allure of tantalizing social media posts and well-meaning friends who go on about the latest great book they've read. I've been wondering how to help myself overcome this conundrum and actually read the books I already own. Initially I was excited about Andi's #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks reading effort earlier this year, but lost sight of it.
While sitting at my writing desk the other day pondering this issue, I looked up at the book holder that sits atop the desk. My first thought was one of dismay: I haven't glanced at those books in ages. And then: I really want to get to Shelter sooner rather than later and Rebecca is next month's book group read, so I have to get to that one. I know I stuck those two books there on the edge, perched and ready to fall off, so I wouldn't "forget" about them. Suddenly, my lack of attention and organization seemed unacceptable.
I needed a plan and I wanted my book stand to be a part of it. When the book stand first came into my life, I knew I wanted to give it a place of honor and use it regularly. It is a common book stand, but what makes it special to me is that I inherited it from my mother-in-law, Kit, who passed away last year.
Thinking all these thoughts, I had a flash of what to do: I'd use the book stand as a TBR Zone!
I've long kept written TBR lists in my book binder and, more recently, a digital TBR on Goodreads. And, for as long as I've had these lists, they've served primarily as shopping lists and/or invoked feelings of guilt or anxiety. If I use the book stand as a physical and contained short list TBR, maybe I'd actually read more of my own damn books. And using the stand in such a proactive manner will be a way to honor my mother-in-law. Kit was a big reader, so I know this stand has good reading juju.
So, I cleared off the books that had been collecting dust and decided I'd only add books that I wanted to read soon (as opposed to the books I thought I "should" read. No more shoulding on myself). This will be the place I go to select my next read. As one book gets pulled out and read, another book can go in its place.
I looked at my shelves around the house and the stacks that are still *cough* on my office floor and started constructing a new TBR. After a few rounds of addition and subtraction, these are the books that will kick off my new TBR ACTION ZONE:
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I was on the fence about reading this one, but after hearing that Emily Blunt will star in the movie, I'm all in.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I've seen every adaptation of this novel and can't believe I haven't read it yet. I tried when I was younger, but didn't have the patience for it.
- The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope. Thomas of Hogglestock and The Readers enjoys Trollope so I thought I'd give him a try. I didn't remember I had this book until looking through my shelves.
- Middlemarch by George Elliot. I read Adam Bede in college and enjoyed it. Have heard mixed things about this one from friends, but know it is Elliot's masterpiece and considered one of the best English novels of all time, so I'm giving it a go.
- A Blind Eye by Jane Gorman. I came across Gorman and her books on Instagram. First time I'll be reading a novel I discovered via IG.
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Mourier. Next month's book group read. Another book I tried reading in my younger years and didn't take to. We'll see how it goes this time.
- Animal Instinct by Alexander Pschera, translated by Elisabeth Lauffer. Won this one through the German Book Office's monthly giveaway on Facebook.
- The Price of Salt by Claire Morgan, aka Patricia Highsmith. My current Classics Club spin book.
- Code Name Mary: Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground by Muriel Gardiner. Found this one in my friend Elliot's book barn.
- Shelter by Jung Yun. Jung was a Booktopia VT author this year, but I wasn't able to read it prior to the event.
- The Fox was Ever the Hunter by Herta Muller, translated by Philip Boehm. Another book I won recently from the German Book Office.
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. I love Hemingway's novels, we'll see about this. People tend to gush about it, which makes me want to avoid it.
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. The only book of this group that's a re-read. I read it in high school and thought it was the most boring fucking book in the world. Since then it has grown in my imagination to become the most boring fucking book in the universe, so I'm curious to give it a read as an older and more patient reader. We shall see.
- Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. I've been wanting to read this since I read Berg's excellent bio of Max Perkins, Editor of Genius.
Oh, but I just remembered as I write this that I own an e-reader and have a few TBRs on it. Will have to think about how to incorporate them. Perhaps my Kobo will live below the book stand, where the Writing America book is currently hanging out. That book isn't exactly on my TBR--it's covering an ancient heat stain from a prior owner of the desk. I plan on ironing it out eventually. I tend to use my e-reader only when traveling or when I can't find a stink-free edition of a classic. On rare occasions I've used it to read a hot new release, but I don't have to worry about getting bogged down with unread books in that direction.
After finalizing my new TBR and standing there looking at, I realized that the cluster of reference books over on the left hand side of the desk were dead weight. I rarely consult them, so don't need them at my finger tips. They weren't sparking joy, so off they went! (Off the desk, not out of my life, thank you very much Marie Kondo.) Another flash of bookish inspiration struck and I decided that books I'm currently reading will be stationed on the left hand side of the desk. Here they are:
- Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi
- The Life You Were Born to Live by Dan Millman
- It's Not You, It's What Happened to You: Complex Trauma and Treatment by Christine A. Courtois
- German for Reading by Karl C. Sandberg and John R. Wendel
- The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- Hurricane Street by Ron Kovic
I usually don't have so many books going at the same time, but, as the saying goes, shit happens.
And so--drum roll, please--here is my brand new READING and TBR ACTION CENTER:
We bookworms are notorious for making reading plans, book organizational schemes, and deals with the devil, so there's a 50-50 chance this won't last more than a week, but I'm feeling like this system might work. I'll check in next month and let you know how its working out.