Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Think It's Called "Obsession"

"What on earth is the matter with me?" That's a question you've been known to read from time-to-time on this blog. Those of you who know me in real life, have heard me ask it, what, oh about a billion and six times, right? Well, I'm asking it yet again. You see, I've been up visiting the office this week, and one thing I love about the office is that there's a great little independent bookstore here (quite different from the independent bookstores in and around my new home town, but that's a topic for another post). I almost always make it a point to stop in when I'm in town, so I wandered over there the other day at lunchtime, and (gee, what a surprise, huh?), I ended up buying two books. I can already read many of your thought bubbles: "Well, what's wrong with that? That seems like a perfectly sane thing to do."

Well, here's what's wrong with it. First of all, I've already bought four new books since the beginning of the year, only one of which has been read yet. A friend just lent me a fabulous collection of stories (I have to plug it here for those of you who like such things. It's called Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Arthur Machen, probably out of print. I haven't checked). My mother just sent me a bunch of Georgette Heyers. And, you know, I've got a few challenges for which I'm reading books. You see, add the four library books I also have, and I probably have enough to read just from what I've listed here to get me through to summer. Even if I didn't have all these new and borrowed books, the bookshelves Bob and I had custom-built finally arrived last week, and we've now unpacked all our books (or almost all of them). While unpacking them, I decided we have tons and tons of fabulous books I really want to read and that I really don't need to buy anymore. Then, I commented recently over at Stef's that I'm resolved to buy only one new book for every three I already own and actually read. I have not read three books of my own since making this decision. My two new purchases put me in deficit mode. I now have to read nine books before I can buy another one.

You know, my low tolerance for it means alcoholism and liver damage will never be a problem for me. Drug addiction? Nope. Working myself into an early grave? Not me. Death by bought-and-unread books tumbling from the shelf? Now that's a real possibility. Seriously.

Here's the other problem with my purchases (or I should say one of my purchases). Not only have you heard me often ask what's wrong with me, but you've probably heard me, even more often, bemoan the length of my TBR list (which I'm now beginning to refer to as my TBR tome). So which book did I choose to buy from my TBR list? Why Anne Fadiman's Rereadings. Terrific choice, right? I need nothing more than I need a collection of essays about books I haven't read written by many authors whose books I haven't read. One could say, "Well, you know, it's a great way to find out about books." Yes, it is, but it isn't as though I don't read blogs, or that Slightly Foxed is some rag to which I subscribe that never mentions a single book worth reading, or that I'm someone who can browse the shelves at a public library (even a tiny little public library with a very small collection) and walk out the doors empty-handed. Have all my friends and family members suddenly taken a vow never to recommend a single book to me again? Nope (although maybe they should). In other words, I'm not living in a book-recommendation desert, gasping for at least one new title (although some might think I am, the way I often seem desperately to accept anything anyone throws my way).

Oh well, let's look on the bright side. I will probably whiz through Rereadings in no time. I've already read one of the four books I bought this year (Blankets, on which I will be posting soon, for those of you who are curious about my first foray into graphic novels). The other book I bought this week is a YA novel I've been meaning to read A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. YA novels tend to be very quick reads. Thus, I will be down to a mere six book deficit in no time, right? And, of course, I never said that picture books don't count. It's been quite some time since I read Curious George or Ferdinand the Bull. Until then, though, maybe I'd better stay out of bookstores.


ZoesMom said...

I can relate. It is so delicious to buy new books -- no matter how big the TBR pile is. You should see my couple of shelves worth and yet I can never resist especially when something suddenly sparks my interest from a review or the like. Besides, I don't think the unread books feel bad -- they have all those other great books to keep them company.

Anonymous said...

I think it's called normal book buying behaviour. As if it's possible to have too many books!

Anne Camille said...

I don't know how likely death is from books tumbling from a shelf, but I did break my nose that way!

mandarine said...

Now, let us admit for the sake of the argument that you simply have to buy new books to feel good, but that you cannot possibly read them or take them home. How about donating those new books to fellow bloggers, and then get the pleasure of reading a summary and a review?

Rebecca H. said...

Oh, I have the same problem! I'm feeling burdened by all the books I have at home but haven't read, and yet I find it hard to stop ordering and acquiring new ones. I'm thinking now that I prefer the way I used to do things -- buy books only as I read them. I hardly had any books I owned but hadn't read in the years before blogging. And now ... it's all changed.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fellow-sufferer, and truth be told, I don't want to be cured. Which must mean it's really serious. I'm trying to finish The Forsyte Saga vol. 1 (with vols 2 and 3 to go before the end of next month) so I've read 2 other books this week, and you've just reminded me that I haven't finished the current Slightly Foxed. Good thing it's the weekend (not so good, I've got a book to typeset...)

Eva said...

That's why I cut myself off completely for my New Year's resolution (at least until I read all the books I own). So far, I've been very, very good about not buying any books (this involves avoiding my favourite used bookstore downtown like the plague) but less than successful on the mooching front. *sigh*

On the other hand, I think it's an issue every book blogger deals with! So you're not abnormal, lol.

litlove said...

Oohhhh, don't talk to me about this! I have just ordered four more books after I had told myself absolutely strictly no more. When am I going to find the time to read them? I have five on the go already, and multiple reading doesn't turn out to be faster or more efficient reading. Help! I need a support group!

Emily Barton said...

ZM, you're absolutely right. The unread books love all that company, I'm sure of it.

MFS, you're right, too: normal book buying behavior, although now I'm feeling the need to write "Obsession II," after coming away from your place with even MORE books over the weekend.

Cam, really? So, see, you have first-hand experience of how dangerous such an obsession can be.

Mandarine, good idea, but then I'd be begging to have them all sent back!

Dorr, blogging has definitely made the probably worse for me.

GCat, maybe instead of making resolutions about how many books I must read before buying, I just ought to resolve not to be cured.

Eva, oh my, you are a brave soul to cut yourself off completely. (But then, you do get review copies of things to help out a bit, don't you?)

Litlove, support group will meet in Philadelphia this summer. Hope you can make it.

Stefanie said...

Hee, hee, you made me laugh :) Rereadings is short and you will be hard pressed to read it slowly. So that's okay. And besides, if you have to read every single book you buy right away, you wouldn't have all those books sitting on your beautiful new bookshelves, and that would be a very sad thing.

Emily Barton said...

Stef, a very sad thing indeed. I mean, empty bookshelves just look so lonely; don't they?