Illustration by Mr. Schultz

I have set myself a new challenge, and I hope some of you will join me. I get most of my books from the library. I always have far more on hand than I can read. Because I work there, I am always aware of new and forthcoming titles. Plus, books just catch my fancy as I walk by them. Or maybe they ensnare me in their clutches?

I’ve been trying to buy fewer books, but I do buy some when I travel. Sometimes I can’t resist books from the remainder tables! I always read my library books first because they have due dates and waiting lists. So my own stack of books keeps getting back-benched.

A few years ago I stopped borrowing books and committed to reading only what was in the house. By removing the distraction of “even newer” books from the library, I was able to get through 8 of my own books, which I really enjoyed.

So I have set myself another READING DOWN THE HOUSE challenge. If you would like to give it a go, the “rules” are:

  • Tell us you’re “in” in the comments below
  • If you’re a blogger, post about the books you have at home waiting to be read, set a reading goal, and link back to this post
  • Tell us which books you’ve read and what you thought of them by commenting here or on any of the follow-up posts I’ll be writing (or linking your post to one here)

I have seventeen books waiting to be read: 10 that I bought new, and 7 used or freebie books. 3 are music biographies and the rest are novels. My goal is to read 5 by the end of the year, and the remaining 12 in 2014. Since I read a lot, that will still give me time to read the other books that jump out at me.

Books in search of their reader

Books in search of their reader

Here are my 17 in no particular order:

  • The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak
  • Cloud of Bone – by Bernice Morgan
  • The Birth House – by Ami McKay
  • When God Was a Rabbit – by Sarah Winman
  • A Forest for Calum – by Frank MacDonald
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics – by Marisha Pessl
  • Beatrice and Virgil – by Yann Martel
  • Going Out – by Scarlett Thomas
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Turtle Diary – by Russell Hoban
  • Citizen Girl – by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
  • Aquamarine – by Carol Anshaw
  • London Triptych – by Jonathan Kemp
  • Maggie and Me – by Damian Barr
  • Ride a White Swan: the Life and Death of Marc Bolan – by Lesley-Ann Jones
  • In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran – by John Taylor
  • From the Velvets to the Voidoids: the Birth of American Punk Rock – by Clinton Heylin

If you’ve read any of these, you can tell me what to read first – but no spoilers, please!

Do you have a big stack of books at home to “read down”?


  1. Great idea – I need to make a pile first, plus finish off a bunch of half finished books. The only book on your list that I’ve read is The Birth House – and I loved it (though it was quite a while ago that I read it).

  2. Suzanne Carlton

    Would love to do this–hope I can!

  3. What a great challenge. I have way too many books at home to read but really do need to read them.
    I tend to buy both second hand (cheap) and books that I just have to read right away (too many of those!)
    I’d love to join the challenge.
    I’ll have to compile my list and how many I hope to read in the next 14 months.
    I have read “The Book Thief” and “When God Was a Rabbit” – both very unique books which I enjoyed.

  4. I’m in! will do a post on this tonight.

    You should read The Book Thief first, but be prepared to cry. And tell me, Duran, Bolan and american punk. Are these indicative on your playlist? (Now I have “You Can’t Fool the Children of the Revolution” stuck in my brain.)

  5. Brilliant- I made a list of my books last December, with the idea of reading them, but have not made great progress so far. (

    I’ve ditched quite a few of the books on the list, realising that I am never going to actually read them, so I will do an updated list and set myself a reasonable challenge later today (5.30am here currently!)

    The only book I have read on your list is One Hundred Years of Solitude- I think I missed the subtleties! because I found it quite dreary. I hope you enjoy it more!

    When God Was a Rabbit appealed to me (though didn’t buy it)- possible just because it has a rabbit on the front (!) So, get no other suggestions, start with that!

  6. todadwithlove

    I have a house of such books, Dar, but like you I keep being seduced by newer ones, so much so that the house (okay, bookshelf :-)) is bursting with unread embarrassment. You have inspired me to perhaps think about which ones I want to read this year and next… 🙂

  7. Actually, I’m a rare breed, I have read almost all my books, and a few I hadn’t, I gave away recently. I’ll have another scan to be sure though! I bet my mother could easily participate, but I’m not sure (she has a lot of books, but she does read a lot!) I loved the Book Thief! Not sure I recognised any other ones.

  8. This is a great challenge! I understand how you feel; I used to have the same problem with books I’d bought being pushed off as I hurried to read library books. Right now I don’t have any unread books in my house – I’ve been on a book-buying ban for 2 years and finished the last of them over the summer, but I look forward to hearing how it goes. 🙂

    I agree with Sarah and Lucinda – I loved The Book Thief! I haven’t read any of your others.

  9. Fiona

    This sounds like lots of fun; I will scan through my bookshelves and get a post organised. I haven’t read any on your list so I’ll look forward to your reviews!

  10. Jodi

    I read and sold all of my books this year (except cookbooks). Currently I borrow from the library both electronic versions and actual books. This is probably the first time that I do not have a pile of unread books and I must say it feels great. Good luck with your challenge.

    • Thank you for commenting, Jodi, that is where we all want to be! I do keep more books than average but my collection is not growing because some go out, as well. And Rom does only e-books now.

  11. This is a good challenge and I should take it up. I have read The Birth House (absolutely recommend), Beatrice and Virgil (not so much) and One Hundred Years of Solitude about 100 years ago! – well 40 years ago actually while living in Bogota, Colombia. Recently I bought all the Wallace Stegner I could find at Doull’s Used Bookstore as I absolutely love his writing and was reminded of him in “The End of Your Life Bookclub” which recommended Crossing to Safety – fantastic writing! So now I have a stack of Stegner. Most of those are books I want to read again. For “Angle of Repose” it will be at least a 3rd or 4th reading.

    • I bought Beatrice and Virgil at the 4R Bazaar because it was recommended by someone we both know! But I think mainly as something that would challenge me. I haven’t read any Wallace Stegner – would you agree with Crossing to Safety, or would you recommend another one first?

  12. Great idea 🙂 I think I will join in because I have a pile of unread books that I keep in a separate bookshelf. The problem is it’s the same pile of books and it hasn’t gotten any smaller over the past couple of years! Most of them are non-fiction that sound interesting, but I just don’t have time to read them.

    I also loved The Book Thief and have just finished re-reading it. I’ve read 100 Years of Solitude but can’t really remember it, I think I found it hard going.

    • My stack has hardly any nonfiction (except the music books) because I always read those first! I actually find it harder to settle down into a novel, I suppose because it takes more focus. Do you have to buy many research materials? I look forward to hearing what your unread books are!

  13. laura

    The only book I’ve read on your list is When God was a Rabbit – it’s different, but I liked it…..not as much as I’d hoped though.
    I don’t have any unread books*, but I might take the opportunity to re-read 12 on my shelf, after all that’s what I keep them for – to read again.

    *I have three (new) books to read between now and the end of the year.
    – And The Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
    – Frozen Heat – Richard Castle (Ha! from the TV series, but I quite like them as easy reading :))
    – Saved – Ben Hewitt ( a pf book)

    Great challenge 🙂

    • Hi Laura, I hope you’ll check in and tell us how you do with your books! I don’t watch Castle but I think the premise of a fictional author putting out real books is very clever! The Saved book sounds excellent but I guess I won’t be reserving it at the library until I’ve read more of my own books at Home 🙂 You must have read the other Hosseini books too?

  14. mes1947

    Angle of Repose is an old favourite but I first read it 40 years ago too so who knows what about it appealed to me then. I need to re-read it to remind myself of what it’s about. Crossing to Safety is fresh in my mind and it’s his writing as much as the story that astounded me. My brother and his wife (editors and proof readers at Houghton Mifflin) also read it recently and thought it quite wonderful too.

  15. I will join in. I have a tonne of historical fiction at home to be read, but I find I keep just buying new books to read on my e-reader instead of reading the physical books I already own. I will make a list on my blog, hopefully soon. Great idea!

    • Welcome, M! I would love to see your list and I’ve sure it will help me scoop some titles for my ever-expanding list!. Oh wait…I need to read up all my own books first!

  16. I’ve read The Book Thief and loved it. I don’t have any unread books in my house as I am a voracious reader. In fact, I was just thinking that I need to get some new books as I have read most of mine two or three times. Any books that I read that I didn’t really love I pass on to others and ask them not to give them back but to pass on. Apparently, there was a copy of 50 shades of Grey going around our suburb in a paper bag. And no, it never made it to my house!

    • Ha ha, otherwise everyone is reading it secretly on their Kindle! It’s awesome that you’ve read all your books. Are you much of a library user as well? Like you, when I read a book I don’t want to keep, I pass it along and ask them to keep it going.

  17. Your books are so scholarly…all I read is historical romance novels (which I absolutely love but aren’t so scholarly :I ). Since we moved I havent bought a single book but I do love the fact that I can download them from our library at no charge!

    • You know what, April, I think that’s exactly why I haven’t read them yet! When I buy books, I go a little high-brow, but I end up reading “easier” or more fun books first. I usually read the more serious ones eventually, but I have to psych myself up!

  18. I finally have my first set of books (and even created a visual for the books I read and post about)

  19. Hello Dar
    Now that you mention it there is a pile of books in my back bedroom that needs to be read or moved on. We used to frequent a discount place and bought up loads that ‘appealed to us’ – somehow the appeal of these last ones seems to have diminished. There could be a post with a list and a challenge to myself coming up soon lol
    There must be something about The Book Thief, people really must want to read it because I put it on hold at my library then checked to see where I was on the list – number 35!
    Take care

  20. savingfortravel

    Just 17! Wow, that is so few! My book case runneth over. It really is a problem.

    The trouble is people keep giving them to me and because I love books I can’t say no.

    But I will sign up for this challenge because even 20 books will make a difference.

    Thanks for the idea.

    Sft x

    P.s I have the book thief too, some where!

    • OK, I expect I have a confession to make. The 17 books are all sitting on a designated shelf of Books Waiting to Be Read. I know very well I have more that I haven’t bothered to collect in one place and add to the list. So I am pointedly ignoring them! I am interested in seeing your list – I’ll watch for it!

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