In December 2014, I finished reading 16 books (over 14 months) that had been sitting on my home bookshelves unread – for months or years. I knew it would happen again. I’d continue to accumulate books and not have time to read them all. What is life but an exercise in setting reading priorities?
Fast forward almost 4 years and I have THIRTY unread books at home. I would have started with 35, but I read another 5 books from my home shelves in 2018.
Between 2015 and now, I bought 25 books – this despite having top-rate library access! Happily, I read 20 of them so only 5 are on the new Reading Down the House list. Maybe I am getting better at choosing books that compel me to read them quickly! Better yet, I only kept 10 of the 20 and passed the rest along.
So where did my 30 unread books come from?
- 5 purchased – 3 new and 1 used from UK book shops, and 1 from Amazon
- 3 left over from last Reading Down the House project – I didn’t feel up to reading them at the time, but I do now
- 4 given to me
- 18 library discards
As a librarian, I have continuous access to books the library has discarded. These are titles that have declined in popularity and must go to make room for the new. Every library book does most of its circulation in its first year when it’s still in the media and trending. For every book that isn’t a bestseller (à la James Patterson or Debbie Macomber), its use rapidly declines in year 2. The library system might buy 40 copies of a bestseller to meet demand in year one, and only keep 10 of them by the time the author comes out with their next book. Libraries take chances on well-reviewed and local first novels, some of which just don’t take off. We don’t have space to keep the complete works of each author at every library branch – we keep them somewhere in the library system, so they’re available through holds/reserves. And – 20% of our check-outs are e-books, so the demand for print copies has lessened.
All this to explain why I brought home 18 discards that are well worth reading. Since last February, I’ve been working in a library office job rather than in public services, so my supply has dried up, and it’s a perfect time to read what I have!
About the 30 books:
- Coincidentally, 15 are by female authors and 15 by male authors (none are by non-binary people – that’s because when I find those books, I read them immediately)
- 19 are fiction and 11 are nonfiction, including 5 memoirs
- The shortest is 113 pages (Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish) and the longest is 679 pages (Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls Trilogy, which, obviously, is 3 novels in one)
- Two books will require some pre-reading: I have read The Country Girls (volume 1) and will reread it before the other two; and I will reread Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries before its sequel, Forced Entries
Here is the list in title order:
- The Ask – by Sam Lipsyte
- Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – by Dai Sijie
- The Bird Catcher – by Laura Jacobs
- The Brides of Rollrock Island – by Margo Lanagan (recommended by reader Fiona)
- The Buddha in the Attic – by Julie Otsuka
- Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure – by Samira Kawash (a social history of candy in the USA)
- The Country Girls Trilogy – by Edna O’Brien
- Crucial Accountability – by Kerry Patterson et al (conflict and communication on the job)
- A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories – by Margaret Drabble
- Eddie Signwriter – by Adam Schwartzman
- The Enchanted – by Rene Denfeld (recommended by Lucinda Sans)
- Forced Entries: the Downtown Diaries 1971-1973 – by Jim Carroll
- Four Sisters of Hofei – by Annping Chin
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – by Dave Eggers
- I Am Not Sidney Poitier – by Percival Everett
- I Think I Love You – by Allison Pearson (David Cassidy connection)
- Inside the Dream Palace…New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel – by Sherill Tippins
- Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish – by David Rakoff
- Lovesong – by Alex Miller
- Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! – by Kenzaburo Oe
- Set the Boy Free – by Johnny Marr
- The Snow Child – by Eowyn Ivey
- The Tale of Genji – by Murasaki Shikibu (translated and abridged)
- Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture – by Jon Savage
- 31 Songs – by Nick Hornby
- To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – by Joshua Ferris
- Tolstoy Lied – by Rachel Kadish
- Vivienne Westwood – by herself (with Ian Kelly)
- Wetlands – by Charlotte Roche
- What Are You Looking At?…150 Years of Modern Art – by Will Gompertz (recommended by Michele)
Did you notice 31 Songs is alphabetized as if it were Thirty-One Songs? That is my old-school library filing rules talking! And one would never file a title under the articles A, An or The.
If you have read any of these, please let me know what you thought of them!
How many unread books do you own?