The curse of the unread book


I am an inveterate book buyer; sometimes a red mist descends when I am ‘just browsing’ in a bookshop and I leave in a daze weighed down with books. I am also incapable of passing a secondhand bookstore without going in and buying at least two books. I also have to limit myself to only logging onto booktopia once a month (around pay day).

Unfortunately these bouts of bookish bagging have resulted in a number of books finding their way onto my shelves only to be forgotten about. I hadn’t realized how bad it had got until I was happily rearranging my books the other day and kept coming across them all.

So I have decided that before I buy any more books, I must read every unread one on my shelf, and to prove I have read it I will blog a short review every time I finish one. To make sure I don’t cheat here is the list of the unread books on my shelf (along with the reason for purchase at the time) that I am now committed to working my way through:
The Pages, Murray Bail (loved Eucalyptus)
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes (it’s Julian Barnes!)
HHhH, Laurent Binet (heard a lot about it, thought it sounded interesting)
A Whistling Woman, A.S.Byatt (am working my way thorough her entire oeuvre)
The Trout Opera, Matthew Condon (thought it sounded interesting)
Old Filth, Jane Gardam (Vintage special offer)
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons (saving to read on Christmas Day)
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert (have been assured it is nothing like EPL)
Mr Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood (Vintage special offer)
The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver (not sure why I haven’t got round to this)
The Leopard, Guiseppe di Lampedusa (always wanted to read it, picked it up cheap)
Every Day, David Levithan (heard good things)
The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough (saw the TV show years ago, got it cheap)
The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan (haven’t liked anything later than Atonement, except Sweet Tooth so going back to his earlier books)
Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel (picked it up cheap)
The Glass Room, Simon Mawer (Vintage special offer)
Silver, Andrew Motion (‘sequel’ to Treasure Island, seemed like a good idea at the time)
Goodbye, Columbus, Phillip Roth (Julian  is rude about in The Secret History)
The End of Your Life Book Club (good reviews)
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson (liked the title)
Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan (I like bookstores)
The Machine, James Smythe (in list of ‘must-read’ dystopian novels, had read the others)
A Far Cry from Kensington, Muriel Spark (gorgeous Virago Modern Classic hardback 30th anniversary special edition, had to have it)
The Birds Fall Down, Rebecca West (picked it up cheap)

Hmm, when I hit upon this idea I hadn’t actually counted how many unread books there were; this is a slightly larger undertaking than I first envisaged. I don’t know whether to be pleased at this bounty of reading material or embarrassed that I have this many unread books on my shelves. My main concern is how I will cope with this prescribed reading list; I hate knowing what I am going to read next, I like it to be a spur of the moment choice. Of course, this is probably why I have so many unread books and quite a few reread books (more of those another time).

So, watch this space. I won’t be reading in authorial alphabetical order although that is how I arrange my shelves and therefore how I listed them – I will dabble. First cab off the ranks is The Machine by James Smythe.

4 thoughts on “The curse of the unread book

  1. Tasha Goddard (WAHM-BAM!) November 17, 2013 / 6:20 am

    I do that, too, though I’ve been forced to rein in the habit due to frugality measures. Essentially, this means I can’t go into bookshops at all. Because I have no willpower. And if I go into a charity shop to look for clothes or something, I will come out with books (but they’re generally very cheap). I often spot a book on the shelves that I bought in one of my sprees, but haven’t read. But I think there’s a good reason for this and that they will be read (by me, Chris, the girls, or some random friend or relative who spots it on the shelves and asks to borrow it) one day when it’s time.

    Can I thoroughly recommend Sense of an Ending? I really loved it.

  2. Granny Maud's Girl November 21, 2013 / 1:21 pm

    I have a special shelf for unread books. It is a very big shelf, and some of them have been languishing on the unread shelf for a very long time while I buy new books or reread favourites or do something else, like sew. Maybe I should be more disciplined, but I am not sure I have it in me.

    • Nicola November 21, 2013 / 7:13 pm

      I have put all of these books an ‘the shelf of shame’ – am already starting to feel the pressure…

  3. Patrick Solere February 18, 2014 / 1:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Patrick Solere and commented:
    Le mois du re-blog

    Je me suis amusé à lire vos blogs en entier et y découvert des pépites, je vous propose de les faire (re)découvrir ainsi que vos nouveautés.

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