The Well-Readheads: Talking About Our TBR Piles


Liberty gives new meaning to "cooking the books."

LH: Last time, you mentioned my formidable to-be-read stacks. Yes, it’s true – my name is Liberty Hardy and I am a biblioholic. I have just over 900 books in my house that I have yet to read. It’s like that Erasmus quote: “When I get a little money I buy books and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

RJS: And you, what, just skip the food and clothes parts altogether? New campaign: read naked! Liberty, I say this because I love you: you can’t go on this way. Your biblioholic tendencies are putting your life in danger. Literally. I mean, didn’t you read Homer and Langley?

LH: Inorite? It all started a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, before there was RiverRun Bookstore, when I lived next door to a Barnes & Noble for a year. DANGER, MARILYNNE ROBINSON. I had one of those cards that got you 10% off every purchase you made, and after a year, they sent a statement saying how much you’d saved. I got my statement and proudly showed it to my boyfriend.

‘I saved $413 on books this year!’

‘You know that means you spent roughly the equivalent of five months’ rent on books, don’t you?’

‘Rent, schment – I’m going to buy more books. Have dinner waiting on the table when I get back.’

RJS: Oh, how I’ve been there. Back before someone preached me the Holy Gospel of Independent Bookstores, I worked for a chain that included “dollars saved on books” in the quarterly statement of benefits for employees. I get that companies like to remind employees of the perks they receive, but who thought it was a good idea to show a bunch of book junkies, in black and white, how much they spent on books? I will take ignorance and bliss on that matter, thankyouverymuch.

LH: I live in a two-room attic apartment: In addition to the stacks of books on the floor and the overstuffed bookcase shelves that keep snapping in half, I have books on the kitchen table, the counters, the stove, in the closet, in dresser drawers, on my desk, under the bed, on the bed. And the really crazy thing is that I still think I can read them all.

RJS: Of course you can read them all! (See that? It’s the kind of codependent, enabling behavior they keep telling me I should stop. BUT I CAN’T!) I can’t say my piles are quite as, erm, drastic–I use my stove for cooking–but they are plentiful. Just last weekend, my husband and I walked through the house together.

‘What’s that pile for?’

‘Those are books I need to read for reviews.’

‘And that pile?’

‘Those are books I’ve already read and still need to write about.’

‘And that one?’

‘Books I’m in the process of writing about.’

[sigh]

‘That one?’

‘I’m sending those to my mom.’

[points at another pile] ‘Should I even ask?’

‘I’m sending those to your mom.’

Okay, it didn’t end that way, but I sure wish it had.

Do you find that the people in your life love your book hoarding–maybe because they want to borrow your books–or is it something they just tolerate, the way you deal with it when you love your friend even though she snores or doesn’t like soup or sometimes listens to Avril Lavigne?

LH: My friends are very accepting of my book hoarding – they know my books are an extension of me, like my tattoos or my freckles. They’ve also accepted the fact that, because of my book addiction, one day I will end up like Langley Collyer. Boys? If they’re worth keeping around, they know without being told that it’s love me, love my cats – and get used to the bed being full of books. The good ones don’t question it.

And as far as reading them all, have you ever seen the film Old Boy? At the beginning, the main character is kidnapped and locked away in a furnished hotel room for 15 years. He’s fed and cared for. He has a television and books. He just doesn’t know why he’s being held captive. I have a fantasy kinda like that: I’ll wake up one morning and find I’m sealed in my place with all my books and I have to read every last one before I can leave. And someone will slip mashed potatoes under the door each night that I’m there.

So. Now that I’ve just shared my private nerd fantasy with the internet…back to you, Rebecca!

RJS: First I have to bring you books in jail, and now I have to slip mashed potatoes under your door?! We might need to talk about the status of our relationship. But there IS a business idea in that fantasy of yours. If people are willing to pay extra to stay in hotels that lock their electronic devices away from them for a tech detox because they don’t have the self-control to do it themselves, I have no doubt we could find bookworms who would do the same. “Now go to your room and don’t come out until you’ve finished that book!”

Next time: The Well-Readhead Inn, where books abound and pants are optional! But first: let us know we’re not alone by sharing your own Tales From the TBR.

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Liberty Hardy is a bookseller at RiverRun bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H. and runs Write Place, Write Time. Follow her on Twitter: @MissLiberty

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