The books we don’t read

I dreamed last night that I heard a big van pull up outside my house, and something heavy hit the ground. Went outside and found a huge shipment from Amazon — hundreds of paperbacks delivered to me on two large wooden thingies (damn, what are they called, those squarish wooden platforms that heavy stuff sits on?) All of ’em, authors whose names I didn’t recognize. A la Roy Scheider, I thought, “We’re gonna need a bigger bookshelf.” Didn’t give one second’s thought to how I’d find the time to read them.

I’ve been bad about this for some time now. A quick perusal of my library reveals I’m especially lazy in reading short story collections and nonfiction. It’s rare for me to leave long fiction unread, although Michael Moorcock’s Elric series lies dormant (never really grabbed me), and I never quite finished Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth. But short story collections? I have Gogol, Chekhov, Maugham (to name three off the top of my head). Maureen McHugh’s Mothers and Other Monsters, from which I enjoyed the first story, but never managed to reopen. Library of America collections from Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and Dashiell Hammett. And in nonfiction, I could go on and on . . . numerous popular science books, Sara Benincasa’s memoir, T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom (which exists unread in my library, as well as on my Nook).

I regard this as a form of shopaholism. See it, want it, buy it. A very mild form of the disease, given that my birthday prezzy Barnes and Noble gift certificate (from my sister) still lies unused . . .



  1. KGK says:

    I manage to keep my stack of unread books pretty low, aside from Moby Dick, which I downloaded to my never used Kindle (my husband predicted I’d never use it – I’m definitely a late adopter!). We just got back from a week in Croatia (was great and I should have gone there before, but despite living in Europe for twelve years this was my first visit) and I read my usual few thrillers and then got to The Night Circus, which I’d bought during a previous trip (Edinburgh – another first and also fabulous). Loved it! I read it too fast and might read it again. Really, really cool concept and nicely written. You might like it.

    I do a lot of short reading in the bathroom (yes, it’s a cliche), so maybe you might want to leave a few of the short story collections there.

    And, appropos of nothing, just read a cool article in The New Yorker (which just endorsed BHO – not a great shock there) about bacteria, including the possible positive impact of H. pylori on the prevention of asthma and allergies in children. I guess this bateria stuff is pretty hot. Was fascinated to read about fecal transplants having been very successful in treating certain digestive problems. (And, yes, I should get my own blog and not whitter on in yours!)

  2. Walnut says:

    Hmm. Why have a fecal transplant when you could just go eat a burger from your local fast food joint?

    I’ll have to look up The Night Circus. Right now I’m reading Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon . . . was roped into it by the promise of a Berkeley novel, but it’s far more Oakland than Berkeley. But I keep hoping.

    Were you going to reread Gator & Shark? I did send you the final version, right? nag, nag . . .

  3. jmc says:

    I think those wooden things are palets? Or palettes? I don’t know the proper spelling.

    I suffer from a combination of bibliophilia and poor impulse control, which is how I accumulated maybe 2,000 books. Well, those characteristics plus hereditary packrat-itis and the inability to throw books away, even ancient textbooks. For a variety of reasons, I started winnowing my collection last fall and am still working on it after getting rid of maybe 25% of them. It’s really slow work, as I try to make myself read 50 pages of each book in order to make the decision to keep or toss. (And by toss, I mean donate to various places or take to the UBS.) Sometimes I wonder WTH I was thinking, but then see the $0.25 library sale price tag — I wouldn’ve reasoned that at that price, it was a low risk investment if I didn’t like the book(s).

    Today’s books to keep/toss: Linda Fairstein and Sue Grafton mysteries.

  4. Chris says:

    The wooden things are pallets, and you can use them to make all kinds of stuff!

    I’m pretty good about reading the books I buy for full price, because I’m really picky, but I take more chances buying used, or from library sales, and wind up only finishing about half of those. And it’s about time for us to do a major book cull, ’cause our shelves are full – 2 deep with more shoved in sideways on top. Perhaps we should load them on a pallet and ship ’em your way :-)

  5. KGK says:

    One feels very guilty, especially after having whined to get a copy! Action will be taken (but maybe not right away, since my husband is showing up tomorrow and staying through Monday – hurrah!).

  6. Walnut says:

    Yes, pallets, that’s it! I kept thinking “plattes” or “plats”, which is something altogether different.

  7. dean says:

    Is it only me that finds ‘fecal transplant’ grotesquely hilarious?

    re: Moorcock. I think the ideas suffer for the telling, and none of the Moorcock I’ve reread is as good as I remember it. There’s an Imperial shit ton of moping, and that’s ok if you’re an angsty teen but good god it gets tedious when you’re 50.

  8. Walnut says:

    Yeah, I just don’t see the there there. Guess if you had nothing to compare it to but Tolkien it would feel refreshing, but given what’s gone down in Fantasy ever since, it doesn’t hold up, I think.

  9. Dean says:

    It’s more than that. I haven’t read a great deal of fantasy in the last 20 years, so my opinion isn’t coloured by that. It’s that Moorcock does go on and on and fucking ON about people’s internal states. As I said, the idea is good – a deeply conflicted, deeply flawed being of immense power who makes bargains with soul-shuddering demons. But Moorcock overplays it. When he kills Moonglum, for example, it’s a bit of anti-climax because Elric has MOPED so goddam HARD for pages and pages and pages…

  10. Chris says:

    Elric kills Moonglum?!?!?!?!

    Kidding, I never made it through even one Elric book.