The Best Book I’ve Never Read

"Pretty Books" by Erin Kurup

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s I packed up all my books and moved. Granted I only moved upstairs to a different room in the same apartment, but I still had to put all 1000+ books in boxes and cart them up one more flight of stairs (or… you know… I paid someone to cart them, but whatever). I ended up with 22 boxes of books, and I decided that for once, I was going to try to unpack them in some semblance of an order.

I’ve never, not once in my life, organized my books. They’ve always been a hodge-podge of genres and authors and titles; fiction by Ali Smith sat next to non-fiction by Laura Hillenbrand. There was no meaning to be found, aside from the occasional handful that were purchased together, and therefore their relationship to each other is recognizable only to me. My TBRs mingled happily with books I’ve read several times over.

Some people would be horrified at the idea of trying to manage that jumble, let alone finding anything, but it worked for me. I am of the school of thought that, my room might be messy, but I know where everything is, so that’s all that matters. It drove my parents crazy, but for me, it worked. Having come from a military childhood, I also didn’t see much of a point in a system for my books; I would just have to pack them up in a year or two anyway.

This move, I vowed, would be different! It’s a new year, why not try something new? So I unpacked, alphabetized, separated by genre, split up TBRs and books I’ve read, and gave review copies their own shelf and stacked them chronologically by release date. And in doing so, something became abundantly clear: I have a couple favorite books, and several favorite authors, that I’ve never read.

I’m normally very good about preventing the odd duplicate purchase. But I have three copies of Jane Eyre all with different covers. I’ve never read any of them. The same goes for Pride & Prejudice, though I did read that once upon a time. I just didn’t read any of the five editions I currently have on my shelves – that well-worn copy seems to have vanished entirely.

And then there are the authors. I’ve never even thought to look at the books I own by the same author, which I haven’t read yet.

But I found copies of Sophie Hannah’s The Wrong Mother, The Dead Lies Down, The Truth-Teller’s Lie and The Cradle in the Grave. And yet, I’ve still never read a single thing by Hannah.

Chris Bohjalian also deserves a place of honor in this list. I read Before You Know Kindness years ago and easily count it among my favorites. From that reading experience, I now own The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, and Midwives. That’s right, I haven’t read any of those either.

Don’t think I restrict my “favorite author I’ve never read” pattern to fiction. Oh no, I’ve got a copy each of Mary Roach’s Spook, Stiff and Bonk. (I’ve got Packing for Mars as well, though I did actually read that one.)

The entire Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld sits unread down the shelf from Maggie Stiefvater’s whole The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, with their pages unturned.

I wish I could tell you that this little problem/addiction of mine is going to stop, but I’ve already got a spot picked out for Per Petterson’s new book, Its Fine By Me, whenever it gets published in the U.S. It’ between I Curse the River of Time and Out Stealing Horses – both of which I haven’t read yet.

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Rachel Manwill is working toward a Master’s in Publishing and writes about books at A Home Between Pages. Follow her on Twitter: @homebtwnpages

 

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