Tuesday 12 August 2014

Bookishness: Exposing the 'To Be Read' Pile

I shared this photo of my To Be Read (TBR) pile with some bookish friends on Twitter the other day and found it an unexpectedly cathartic experience. Despite attempts at self-control and the counselling of my family, I can't help but add to this wall of books at every opportunity. An unexpected siege might prevent me from leaving home, connecting to the WiFi or receiving post for a couple of years, but at least I'll know I'm not going to run out of reading material.

Looking at the variety of Twitter TBRs we were sharing, some smaller but others even larger than mine, I was suffused with delirium at the thought of no longer being alone in my obsession. Here was proof of others just as afflicted as me! Equally fascinating was the chance to check out their books, see what authors we had in common and yes - shame upon shame - find new inspiration.

I discovered some of my fellow addicts have neat shelves, others are more 'organic'. Some even have a system, dividing TBR books into genres; quite a crafty move this, dotting lots of small piles around the place to give an overall impression of order. Perhaps something to think about as my generic sprawl begins to spawn sub-piles (including some intended rereads) like this:

I wonder how much of the attraction is the physical book itself - the cover, the typography, the feel and smell - as well as its content? Writing for Oprah's website, Zadie Smith discusses what it means to be addicted to reading and why this is not so much a positive choice as an immutable part of your being. Even though she now owns a Kindle she recounts how, going to a friend's house for dinner, she still takes several books with her...for what? 

I suspect most bibliomaniacs can relate to this. When my car broke down recently, I was less annoyed about being late for lunch and more irate that this was one of the few times I'd convinced myself to leave home without a book. I'd squandered the perfect reading opportunity of an hour waiting for the RAC  - a mistake I've vowed never to repeat. From now on, I'm not even going as far as my local bookshop without a large, sturdy bag stuffed from one of my sub-piles - just in case.

Do you have a TBR pile? How does it compare?


  1. If you count the books I just ordered from Powells that are on their way but haven't arrived yet, my TBR pile comes close to yours. And sometimes I feel stress from having so many books hanging over my head that I haven't read yet, but mostly I like knowing I've got extra books around 'just in case'. Because it's awful to be without a good book...as you know. :) Great post.

    1. I do share your guilt at having so many books I should be reading, but mostly I like being able to choose my next book from the pile, depending how I feel. And the reassurance of knowing I'm not going to run out...I like this online support group for my addiction too!

    2. I have far too many books and those in physical format have their own shelf... I generally take a book with me just in case too.

    3. I now view that 'just in case' book as an essential. Problem is I'm starting to need two or three, which means a bigger bag...


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