I love books. Buying them, holding them, cracking their spines. New and unread books have a special spot on my bookshelf.
I remember when buying books was a chore. One option was the local library, with a limited selection but no penalty if you didn’t enjoy a book. The local bookstores, Waldenbooks and BDalton, had a better selection, but the stakes were higher. I felt obliged to finish any book from retailers. Now, both of those barriers are gone with Amazon Prime, my Wishlist and cheap used books. Books cost the same as when I was a kid, but my pockets are deeper.
When my mood is high, the to-read pile is thrilling. Who knows what new knowledge or story or character awaits? Or the warm embrace of a great story? As an amateur writer, every story is a learning opportunity.
When my mood is low, though, the pile mocks me. So much work to do. And the pile gets bigger, quicker. Coming into December, the pile got too big; it can only (as per my rules) get as high as a one bookshelf, about sixteen inches. I resolved, not for the first time, to stop ordering new books until this pile reduced to only two or three books. Then, my wife needed gifts for me. Nothing easier than ordering books off of the wish list. After that, a good friend recommended this book, and I purchased it right away. Finally, the founder of my company sent out his annual gift (always a book)…which looks interesting but is roughly a million pages and made the pile dangerously high.
So, once again, I have a moratorium on ordering new books. I think four or five remaining is the perfect time to re-stock. The balance of books on the pile is off, though…the mix of fiction and non-fiction. I try to have one of each going at once. Right now, I am reading Neverwhere and a book on Creative Space. Next, a book of short stories and a book on technology or trees. But the remaining books on the pile skew heavily toward non-fiction.
The best hedge is to re-read fiction. I started at night, re-reading Cheever’s short stories. I recently did the same with David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten. Reading fiction a second time allows me to see what the author is doing, more of the mechanics of what they are writing. And lets me keep the 1:1 reading ratio.