Humor

An Ode of Gratitude to All the Books I Don’t Want to Read

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Note: I mention a lot of books in this piece that I do not want to read. Please understand this is not intended as a criticism of said books. In fact, that’s the whole point.

A few weeks ago, I listened with glee as several of my fellow Rioters talked about how much they love Emily Henry. They were talking about which books of hers are their favorites, what order to read them in, the best book to start with if you’re new to her work. There were a lot of exclamation points! Everyone loves her! No one could agree on a clear best, because everyone has their own most beloved — Beach Read, Book Lovers, People We Meet on Vacation. My excellent colleagues were going on and on about how funny and sexy and heartfelt and smart these books are, and I was just sitting there, watching the words appear on my computer (this was a Slack conversation), silent and positively beaming.

Why? Because these brilliant book people, whom I trust and love, could have literally spent all day explaining exactly why I would love all of these Emily Henry masterpieces, and I still wouldn’t want to read them. I’m quite sure that if I actually picked one up, I’d like it. But I’m not going to, because I see them in bookstores, I read delighted reviews on Bookstagram, I listen to my colleagues love on them, and none of it makes me the least bit curious. I’m just not interested in straight romance. Maybe one day I will be, but today is not that day. Sorry, but no thank you.

And oh, what joy! What delicious freedom! Three whole books — good books! books that come highly recommended! — that I do not need to add to my overflowing, overwhelming, over-everything TBR. Thank you, Emily Henry, for writing about straight people. Thank you for giving me this precious, precious gift of books that I do not need to feel guilty or sad for not reading. Really, it’s incredibly good of you.

A lot of people I follow on Bookstagram have been reading the 2022 Booker Prize longlist. Now, I’ve never been especially interested in prizes, and I’ve never done a prize list reading project. But a lot of smart, interesting, thoughtful bookish people have been posting about these Booker books for weeks now, and a few of them have caught up my eye. And — miracle of miracles — a few of them haven’t. Booth by Karen Joy Fowler is one. Many people have raved about it! I enjoy historical fiction! But I just can’t get excited. What a glorious relief! One more beautiful book, full of rich historical detail, I’m sure, and with a lot to say about our present moment, I’m sure, that I don’t have to worry about reading.

While we’re at it, I’d like to offer my deep and endless gratitude to Trust by Hernan Diaz, another novel from the Booker longlist that I will not be reading. I have heard nothing but good things about this one. I love books about stories and books that play with form and structure. That’s my catnip, friends. So yes, I suspect I’d like it. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind. But for now, it’s not going on the TBR. I just can’t get excited about such a long book about straight people. (Are you sensing a theme?) I’ll happily admire Trust from afar. I’ll continue to read intriguing reviews that make me curious about it. I’ll heap it with all the praise, because, truly, what a feat, to write a book so many people love, and still, not to tempt me.

Every year there are a few books that, for reasons I still can’t quite figure out, vault quickly into Peak Buzz status. The kind of books you can’t avoid if you spend any time at all in the bookish world. One of those books this year is Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. You cannot turn a corner on the bookish internet without bumping into someone raving about this novel. I read a few glowing reviews from several queer bookstagrammers I follow, and thought, yeah, it sounds like my kind of thing, I’ll read it. And then, I don’t know what happened, I just kept not picking it up. I lost interest. I still have the audiobook saved, and every time I go to pick a new audiobook I scroll past it and think “nope, pass.” Is it because it’s super buzzy and I’m contrary? No, I’ve read plenty of buzzy books and loved them. Is it because I thought it was super queer and it’s really not? Maybe. The truth is, I don’t care. I’m not called to read this book. Phew. One more likely spectacular novel, that, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, I don’t feel compelled to read. Thank you, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, for your service.

I could go on and on. I love the idea of cozy mysteries, but the truth is that when I’m looking for something fun and lighthearted, I turn to queer romance. There’s so much, and I’ll never get through it! So even though the premises of books like Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto, Arsenic & Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, and Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel Reyes sound pretty much perfect, they’re staying off my TBR. I just don’t have the time, and it’s okay by me. It’s wonderful by me!

There are plenty of books out there about things I have absolutely no interest in. Like Medieval French history and cryptocurrency and George Washington. And there are some genres I know I don’t like — very scary and/or gory horror, action-packed thrillers. So of course there are tons of books I don’t want to read. But all of those books are a given, you know? I’m not tempted by the newest crime novel by That White Dude Who Writes All the Crime Books, what’s his name, Patterson? Yeah, him. I know his books aren’t going to do it for me. They exist; I ignore them.

The books I’ve mentioned here are not those kinds of books. They’re my kind of books. If I had all the time in the world, I would absolutely read them. But I don’t have all the time in the world. So instead I offer up my praise and gratitude to these beautiful books that do not tempt me. My TBR is already 9,382 books deep (a rough estimate). Every book I hear about and don’t have to add to it is — say it with me! — a gift.

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