My To-Read Shelf or, The Black Hole of Despair

Ahhhhh the to read shelf (minus some stuff on my bedside table)

There are a lot of books I want to read. There are 1001 fiction novels that I must read, apparently, and dozens of new and exciting books out every month. Then there are all those seminal works of philosophy and criticism that I really should read. Also newly discovered favourite authors who all have exciting back catalogues to catch up on. Plus everyone I know gives me their spare books when moving house. They know I can’t say no. And I work at a bookstore that deals with Penguin. If a Penguin book arrives damaged we can’t sell it. We also do not need to send it back. Guess where those books end up.

Right now I have 42 books on my to-read shelf and I am referring only to the concrete, actual books I own. This does not include my mental to-read list, mental to-buy list and the many books that are definitely legally downloaded to my ereader. I have often jokingly referred to this shelf as ‘The Black Hole of Anxiety’ but here’s the thing: it makes me real-life anxious.

Because most of these books have been given to me or acquired via damaged stock, op shops and garages sales, they’re usually not the books I’m super excited to read immediately and more the ones where I think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s something I should probably read.’ It is my shelf of things that I don’t particularly feel like reading right now so when I look at the shelf it fills me with a sense of unfulfilled duty as opposed to enthusiasm.

My to-read shelf is a symbol for all the books I have to read but may never get to. It reminds me that life is short and my to-read list is long and that I should read more widely and with more attention and just more in general. It makes me think about my failures as a reader.

I don’t want to feel unexcited by books EVER. So I am taking a break from duty and trying to bring a bit of spontaneity back to my reading. For a while I am going to read exactly what I feel like reading next, regardless of whether it is or isn’t on the list or on my shelf. I’m still going to try to blog twice a week about what I’m reading but there will be fewer list books for a bit. I hope you don’t mind. You’re probably used to it by now anyway. I hope that then I will be able to see my to-read shelf as filled with excitement and possibility.


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