Climbing Mount Tsundoku
March 7, 2018 12:40 PM   Subscribe

The sky may burn, civilization may fall, I might be reduced to stalking and eating my former neighbours, all so very considerately composed of tasty, tasty meat—but I will never, ever lack for reading material.

Right up till you accidentally drop and break your glasses a la Burgess Meredith.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:55 PM on March 7 [10 favorites]

As a person that does not work in publishing, buying used books means buying MORE books.
posted by Billiken at 12:57 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]

Overall the humble bragging is a little much but this definitely resonated with my own book buying habits: “Then there’s the promise of potential. Every new book on the wall, each epub tucked away in my Kobo gives me a delicious tingle of anticipation.”
posted by not_the_water at 1:02 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]

This is me and music.

The future is wonderful for its instant access to so much diversity in intellectual stimulation and entertainment and simple pleasures.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:13 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

I used to be like this, but with wine.

Seriously though, I used to acquire books WAY faster than I could read them. Unlike the writer of this piece, I am a slow reader. Teachers suspected I might be dyslexic when I was in grade school, but reality was my reading comprehension was high, and I wasn't having difficulty, I just get hung up on structure, language, and description. A good sentence or a good scene needs to be read more than once! And my mind wanders. I will sometimes get to the bottom of a page and realize I have no idea what I've just read. The words were nice and they massaged my brain pleasantly, but other than a feeling of contentment, I got nothing from the page. So I would of course have to reread. I also eschew the use of bookmarks, convincing myself I will remember where I left off, as I fall asleep reading, but I never remember, so sometimes I will read the same passage multiple nights in a row.

Being an inefficient reader has never bothered me. To me it has never been about the quantity. Completion is not the goal, it's a byproduct. Spend enough time doing anything and eventually you have to finish, right? Besides, I love living inside a book, in the world the author paints, so why would I want that to end? Sometimes I will even set a book aside for a while to do nothing but think about the story or the characters. Sometimes if the book is really really good I will even stop reading it for a while and read something else, just to preserve the original for a bit longer.

At some point I had to admit I had a problem. I had more books than I could ever read. Which is an issue when finances and space are limited. For years I justified my mad collecting as something normal, since I figured when I got old I'd open a used bookstore with my own stock to start the inventory, or I would have kids and there would just be a library for them to live in that we called a home. But as I got older I more and more hated moving them, and the books I loved when I was 14 or 24 now somewhat embarrass me. I'm glad I parted with the majority of them.

Now days I still buy faster than I can read, but I try to have a one in, one out, rule to collecting. And every now and again I "Spring clean" my collection, and nothing makes me feel more like a failure than to part with unread books.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:20 PM on March 7 [9 favorites]

Now days I still buy faster than I can read, but I try to have a one in, one out, rule

I started last year to try to enforce a one-in, two-out rule. I figure if I do this long enough, I will be left with one superb book. All by itself on 400 linear feet of shelf.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:32 PM on March 7 [9 favorites]

I have shared this before, am sharing it again:

I spotted this on the wall of City Lights bookstore when I visited - it was a handwritten sign, tacked up over a doorway, that read "Buying more books than one can possibly ever read is the soul's way of trying to reach infinity."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on March 7 [34 favorites]

On Justifying Broken Behaviours to Oneself
posted by blue t-shirt at 2:07 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]

Wait, a person can have too many books!?
posted by chavenet at 2:19 PM on March 7 [10 favorites]

James Nicoll essay - he's Mefi's own, isn't he?
posted by ocschwar at 2:31 PM on March 7

I don't *think* so? He does have a Dreamwidth, though.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:37 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

If there's anyone I'd have faith in to make a good attempt at reading all those books, it's Nicoll. I think some of his Core SF lists have been linked before, but there's been no FPP about those. Hmm.
posted by asperity at 3:15 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

Also, I sometimes defer reading books if the author is dead and I know there cannot be any more.

I've got this problem with a few authors.
posted by asperity at 3:21 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]

I'm this way with my metafilter favorites. Oh man, this nugget of information is neat, I might need it one day. Many a time, it's actually come to save the day when I needed advice on a particular topic or thing to buy.
posted by fizzix at 3:29 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]

> I have shared this before, am sharing it again

I have favorited that quote before, am favoriting it again.

I have more books than I can read, but so what? I never know which book I might want to read someday, and the few times I've felt forced to cull for a move, I've regretted it. There are books that have sat untouched on my shelf for ten or twenty years and suddenly they're exactly what I want. Me in my book-lined office is like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin.
posted by languagehat at 3:32 PM on March 7 [9 favorites]

posted by OHenryPacey at 3:52 PM on March 7

I've started to be more finicky about which books to buy, and which books just to get from the library (two blocks away, part of a very good library system). But I still buy some, and that's on top of an enormous TBR pile.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:58 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

"We love to buy books because we believe we are buying the time to read them." - Warren Zevon
posted by 4ster at 7:11 PM on March 7 [18 favorites]

Also, I sometimes defer reading books if the author is dead and I know there cannot be any more.

I’m more likely to start a new author if they are dead and don’t have an unfinished series being continued by Brandon Sanderson.
posted by kreinsch at 7:50 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

"We love to buy books because we believe we are buying the time to read them." - Warren Zevon

And thus my life is summed up in a single sentence.
posted by gtrwolf at 9:12 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]

You might be able to get Panshin's Rite of Passage new; I found that an interesting example of a used bookstore gem. Because for me The Thurb Revolution by him is far better and one of my great used bookstore finds. And actually out of print. It is the second and best book in the Anthony Villiers series. After stumbling on that one I found books one and three pretty quickly, then years of the pre-internet era hunting for book four. Only after the internet did I find it wasn't that it was out of print, but that it was never in print to begin with.

I've been tossing my physical books but there's a weird curve to the books I'm keeping. Masterpieces like Dickens are going in the donation bin, because they'll be easy to replace. But obscure pulp fiction from the sixties has to stay because I may never be able to replace it.
posted by mark k at 9:32 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]

Right up till you accidentally drop and break your glasses a la Burgess Meredith.

Which is a definative possibility with James.

His attitude towards unread books is one I share, but with everything. I've been stockpiling books and comics and movies and anime without any regard as to whether I could ever finish them, because I grew up before the internet and know what it's like on a rainy Sunday afternoon with nothing on television and nothing to read and don't ever want to be that bored again.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:51 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

I read so much MeFi and facebook and news online that it has cut into my actual book time. I've been trying to address that. I had to adjust my book acquisition habits because there have been too many books that looked good in the store and then, meh. Books are special because while they are things, they contain the magic to transport you to other places, or knowledge, poetry, art. Better I should drop the teevee and break it, and pay more attention to the books.
posted by theora55 at 7:25 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

I never have too many books to read because I am constantly, constantly re-reading books that I have and love. Of course I read a new one every month or two, but I also have a couple dozen books I have read five or more times over the course of my life. It's like catching up with an old friend at different stages in your life and seeing what you still have in common, what you have left to learn from one another, or if this is going to be the last time you ever see each other again.

That said, I really appreciate my friends who are buried under piles of books they'll never read, because they are often lending me something new!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:43 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

If James Nicoll of all people admits to having more books than he can read, the rest of us can REALLY relax about it.

In the 90's, he was a frequent posted to science fiction Usenet groups, and a particular habit of his evolved into a trope. He'd start a discussion thread with a title like "Books with [ list of plot elements and attributes ]" where the list was elaborated enough that you'd think only one novel qualified, and then in the body of the post, a bibliography of about a dozen books, with a TLDR'd review of each (TLDR'd from a prior Nicoll posting, that is.)

This is a man who reads and reviews novels for profit and for fun, at a truly astounding pace. If his inbox is piling up, the rest of us can shed our guilt about ours.
posted by ocschwar at 12:12 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]

Someone once said: "Why would you only have books that you have read?"
posted by andreap at 1:22 PM on March 10

"We love to buy books because we believe we are buying the time to read them." - Warren Zevon

After Zevon died, his daughter Ariel Zevon moved all his books out of his apartment with the goal of reading all of them. She didn't quite get through all of them, but they ended up going to a good cause, sold off to support Brookview R&R, a West Barnet, VT retreat that recently became the Nulhegan Abenaki Cultural Center.
posted by zamboni at 1:48 PM on March 10

Those of us who pre-ordered the Go-Betweens box set “G Stands For Go-Betweens” each received a book from Grant McLennan’s personal library. A wonderful additional item I now have to remember him by.
posted by kreinsch at 4:36 PM on March 10

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