… too much guilt and not enough space
Two weeks ago to the day I posted about my resolution to cut back on my book buying. No, I haven’t relapsed and ordered a bucket load of new reads. I have, however, been adding books to my basket in Amazon and Verso. That’s a bit like an alcoholic in the early days sitting in the local pub and watching people ordering drinks. So far, so good, though.
But I have decided to make a change to the rules I established on January 7th. Partly, this is because I have cut back on reading. Work and my own writing are now eating into what used to be my reading time. And, for that, I’m almost grateful. For a long time I wanted to change the ratio of writing and reading. This month has seen a dramatic swing away from reading.
At the same time, my wife and I are having increasingly frequent discussions about moving house. Where and when remain unresolved but it will happen, and it will mean moving to a smaller property, which is unlikely to have room for my books. I estimate that at least half of the ones I own now will have to go. Actually, thinking about it, let’s say two thirds.
As I’m unlikely to refrain from buying new books at all, new rules are required. I have a reading list. I’m keeping it at ten books at a time. (I don’t read them one at a time or ‘in order’ but I do stick to books on the list.) Whenever a book on the list is done, it will move to the keep or purge pile. If it moves to ‘keep’, I need to find a book for ‘purge’. That’s straightforward enough.
Then I have the choice to add a book I own to the list or to buy a new book. However, if I want to buy a book, then a total of three books have to find their way to the purge pile.
Putting so many rules around reading and buying books might sound excessive but, truthfully, I’ve got to the point that I find the weight of my collection oppressive. Things I’ve read and enjoyed, I’m happy to see and to think I will read again. There are things I’m happy to see on the shelves that I haven’t read, and I look forward to reading. But there are a lot of books I bought on a whim and which I full intended to read but which now simply sit glowering at me. I feel I ‘should’ read them but there are other books I want to read now and I know I’ll never get back to the volumes casting their passive aggression my way.
So, without getting all Marie Kondo on my shelves, I anticipate the year ahead will be a mix of pain and relief. One positive side-effect, I hope, will be no more impulse buying and no more books that arrive, fall out the box, and are put on a shelf and ignored. I can but hope.
And I’m sure you want to know the ten books on my list at present. Fair enough, but here they are, anyway:
• The Case for a Job Guarantee by Pavlina R. Tcherneva — published by Polity
• Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg — published by Vintage
• Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott — published by Anchor (definitely a ‘keep’)
• Debt by David Graeber — published by Melville House
• The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton — published by John Murray
• The Lonely City by Olivia Laing — published by Canongate
• Politics and Letters by Raymond Williams — published by Verso
• Fascism by David Renton — published by Pluto
• The Penguin Book of Oulipo edited by Philip Terry — published by Penguin
• Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan — published by Orbit