The Shame of the Book Addict

We all have the problem, don’t we? More books than shelf space. More books than we have time to read.

TBR nightstand

Every book in this picture is waiting to be read.

It may be that due to reading speed (or lack of it, actually), other demands on our time, more books coming into the house than there is time to read them. I have all three problems, and the result is a “To Be Read” stack that’s not a stack. It’s several stacks plus an entire bookcase. More than one bookcase.

Here’s a photo of my nightstand, and the book shelf unit next to it. Each of the books in the picture is waiting to be read, or in a couple of cases, re-read. I want to read them as soon as I can. I read a book or two a week, on a good week it might be three. There are enough books here – and some of these are omnibus volumes with two or several novels or short story collections within them – to keep me reading for two or three years, easy.

Am I making any headway in this accumulation? Nope. Why? Because I continue to buy books.

That’s right, even though I have more books than I can read, I continue to buy more. I can’t seem to help it, I’m a book addict.

The books in the photo, and I know it’s hard to see the titles of most of them, range from mystery, science fiction and fantasy, through non-fiction, YA, graphic novels and poetry. Some of them have bookmarks in them, where I stopped reading and haven’t gotten back to continue. Some are recent arrivals and some have been in the house, and on this shelf, for a long time. Oh, and the top shelf? It’s double shelved, there’s another layer behind the one visible. This isn’t all. As I said, there’s another bookshelf this size, it’s on the other side of the bed, and a third one against another wall. What you see here is just the top of my TBR pile.

I love books. I love the look, feel and smell of them. In the good old days when libraries were places filled with books, (as opposed to computer terminals and meeting rooms and data desks and teen activity areas and all the other peripherals), I loved the smell. I’d go through the door and the scent of bindings and pages, of paper and ink, would draw me in. I didn’t have much money for books when I was a kid, or as a young adult, the library was both a resource and a haven of discovery.

Bookstores, the brick-and-mortar kind, had that same wonderful smell, until espresso bars and other additions changed their olfactory landscape. I’d still rather smell the inside of a book store than a Walmart. The best is the used book store, a dying breed from what I can tell in my area, but they smell right.

But back to books themselves. (Oh, and shouldn’t I be reading instead of writing this anyway? Yep.) The best part about a book is what’s between the covers, of course. The cover matters to me, probably more than it should, because I like art and fancy I have some small level of “artistic eye”. I love the old pulp covers, love the great science fiction illustrators and artists. I have purchased a book for it’s cover. There, I said it. It will probably happen again. Sometimes the book itself justifies the purchase, other times I wish I’d kept my money in my pocket.

As it happens, every book in the picture was purchased as a result of: 1) a review I read, 2) a new book or collection by an author known to me that I just had to have, 3) a recommendation by someone whose opinion I value, which I guess is also a kind of review, 4) a discovery on a publisher website, where I’d gone looking for something else. There aren’t so many of the last group, but it happens, especially with smaller, specialty publishers.

Some people smoke. Some drink, or take drugs or spend the day on Facebook, or stay plugged in listening to music and reading tweets all day. I read. I buy books, lots of books. More books than I can read. The shame.

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Humor, Personal Opinion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The Shame of the Book Addict

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    No reason to be ashamed, Rick. Be proud. Being a reader in this day and age is becoming a rare thing and you need to proclaim it, rather than be embarrassed.

    Besides, we can stop whenever we want to, right?

  2. delewis1 says:

    Makes me miss my books. 95% of them are boxed in storage because they’d engulf the house my wife and I now occupy. When I was single I had shelves in every room, some even sticking out library-style, books in the kitchen cabinets, bookshelves in the garage… It’s been tough learning to live with only a couple hundred at a time.

  3. Evan Lewis says:

    Hm. That previous comment was me. Forgot I was still logged in with a WordPress ID. Been experimenting with it to make my blog more comment-friendly to WordPressers. Not yet sure of my success.

  4. Richard says:

    As I’m sure you realize, Jeff, Evan and all readers of this piece, this is humor. Tongue in cheek. Rollicking entertainment, all that. Yet beneath the surface of every jest is a vein of truth…

  5. Richard says:

    Evan – a couple hundred at a time? Oh my. I feel your pain.

  6. Drongo says:

    A bit hard to tell, but I think the paperback in the lower right corner is by John D. MacDonald.

    I like to look at other people’s bookshelves. Always interesting.

  7. That photo looks like it was shot in my house, Rick!

  8. Richard says:

    Drongo – it’s The Last One Left by JDM. I just got that used copy after reading a review on a Friday Forgotten Book blog, can’t recall whose.

  9. Richard says:

    Drongo – I linked it to a larger picture, so you can read the titles. The paperback on the top of the horizontal stack in the lower left is also a JDM, it’s A Bullet for Cinderella.

  10. Richard says:

    George, I imagine we all have lots of books in piles and on shelves, waiting to be read.

  11. Drongo says:

    Thanks for the larger picture. After looking at it, a few things come to mind…

    1) When I was a kid, a family member gave me an old Signet edition of DOOR INTO SUMMER, just like the one you have. It was my first Heinlein, and along with RED PLANET, still my favorite Heinlein.

    2) FAST ONE by Paul Cain is a very difficult book to read. I’ve never encountered a style quite like the one Cain uses. Almost too hard-boiled.

    3) I no longer have a copy, but IMMORTAL POEMS is a fine and useful anthology.

  12. Patti Abbott says:

    We all feel and share your pain.

  13. Richard says:

    Truth is I like looking at other people’s books and bookcases too. I have long believed a bookcase, or a stack of books, tells a lot about a person. It shows tastes in reading, but also often gives hints about the intellect, world view, education, culture and age of the person.

    Oh, and in looking more closely, I realize I told an untruth, there are a few books – the left 9 or so – on that bottom shelf that aren’t TBRs, they’re just shelved there. Oops.

  14. Richard says:

    Drongo – those are fascinating remarks, to me at any rate. I could talk about stuff like that for hours.

    DOOR INTO SUMMER has a bookmark in it. I loved it when I first read it in Astounding, but the second time around it didn’t grab me as much, at about page 50, I set it aside for later.

    FAST ONE was highly recommended, along with GREEN ICE by Raoul Whitfield, by someone, perhaps Bill Pronzini, at a mystery con I attended some years ago and I managed to find copies.

    If you managed to spot Immortal Poems, you were looking closely! Did you spot TWENTIETH CENTURY CHINESE POEMS, next to Martinez’ THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE? Probably not, since part of the title is covered. I read a poem or two each night before I go to sleep.

  15. Drongo says:

    I see it now, right next to John D. MacDonald’s A PURPLE PLACE FOR DYING.

  16. Richard says:

    Wow, Drongo, you ARE good! Those are the only 3 JDM books visible, so you can stop looking now. The rest are filed under “M” on the mystery shelves.

  17. Drongo says:

    It leaves me cold, but FAST ONE is considered to be a minor classic, and Paul Cain himself is an interesting character. I’ll probably try it again, sooner or later.

  18. I understand you, Richard. I read a great deal(200+ a year) and I still can’t keep up. If I stopped buying books and lived to be a hundred I might possibly catch up.
    I guess that makes me an addict as well.

  19. Richard says:

    Randy, your reading number of 200+ a year well exceeds mine. My goal every year is just to hit 104 (2/wk) but I make it only occasionally. I do wish I read faster, though I’m not sure it would solve this problem. My wife says everyone has a weakness, and a weakness for books is about as good as it gets. If only we could find more shelf space in the house!

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