Our Reading Lives

I Have Too Many Books Collecting Dust

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I was driving home from a lunch date with friends, thinking about how I don’t read much anymore. Well, I was thinking about it again. I think about it quite a lot. During the 2016 US election cycle, my reading fell off almost completely, and in the months since, it’s come and gone, limped along, existed on life support. However, if I’m being honest with myself, this shift started much earlier.

As I’ve gotten older, taken on tons of responsibility, and as I’ve realized that my goal in life is not, in fact, to own a McMansion, books have felt like added weight. Like too much. Like too many things collecting dust.

No doubt, I still love a good story–I am a reader–but I find myself using services like Scribd or my library’s digital catalog where I can instantly download whatever strikes my fancy, rather than turning to my established stable of books.

Over the past few years, I’ve steadily whittled away at my TBR. 50 books sold to the used bookstore here. 75 books donated to Little Free Libraries there. 160 out the door. At one time, the number of unread books on my shelves would have exceeded 800, 600, 450, 260, now 100.

As of today, I own 100 unread, physical books. That still feels like too many.

In a stunning example of how our perspectives can change, I used to look at my mountains of unread books and think, “Look at all the good to come. Think of all the things to learn, experience, and feel. Those books are possibility.”

I’m sure it’s a combination of age, grumpiness, and an ever-more-prevalent minimalism that changed my attitude toward my TBR. These days, I feel guilty when I’m not reading the books on my shelves. I feel overwhelmed because there are so many. I feel silly for keeping the ones I’ve lost interest in or held onto just because they were gifts. I can’t always remember which ones I own and don’t.

They have to go.

I was listening to Amanda and Jenn on the Get Booked podcast on my drive when this latest urge hit me, and the book The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon came up. I thought, “I’d really like to read that book. I would read more impulsively if I didn’t own so many.”

When I got home and decided to do a major cull, I found a copy of The Winter People. I had no idea I owned it. I take this as a sign that I’m doing the right thing.