Scott D. Parker
I know y'all've seen those Geico insurance ads where a person is doing one thing (like shooting baskets) and something flies in from off-screen (like another basketball). The person looks over and he sees a wad of cash with eye balls. The tag line is something like "This the money you could be saving with Geico." What's let unspoken is the cash wad's insistence that you drop whatever you may be doing and pay attention to it, even if you're happily doing something else.
I don't know about y'all but the To Be Read stack of books can be equally as oppressive. There's just so many good books being published that I want to read them all. There are also a ton of authors--both published and unpublished--that I want to support. And I buy books, less than I used to, but I still buy them. And they go on the To Be Read Shelf.
Please tell me I'm not the only one who has a To Be Read Shelf. I used to be quite obsessive in the way I arranged my bookshelves. For whatever reason, my desire to see my books in a particular order on the shelf thankfully passed away. Now, my books are haphazardly arranged on purpose. (No, I don't go out of my way to make them haphazard. I just put them wherever I want to at the time.) It gives me a bit of spontaneity when I examine my bookshelves and see something I haven't seen in awhile.
What has survived is the To Be Read Shelf. It's a single shelf where I stack all the books I want to read next. Right now, I've got at least half my Hard Case Crime books there (around twenty or so). My A. A. Fair books (half dozen) sit next to my comic trade paperbacks while some of my SF/F material look on. It's a full shelf and I'm not even listing everything (I'm at work and can't see the shelf).
Let's get one thing straight: I want to read every, single book on that shelf and all the other shelves in my writing room (let's not count my library for now). But every time I select a book to read, that TBR Shelf stares at me, tempting me to drop whatever book I'm reading and pick up something else. Then, there's the obvious psychological factor. I've already got so many books on that shelf that, theoretically, I should cease buying newer things until I have read all the existing books on the shelf. It can be daunting, depressing, and oppressive. And, as the stack grows larger and larger, the more oppressive the pile becomes. Eventually, reading starts to become less fun and more of a chore.
My wife, on the other hand, is wonderfully blissful when it comes to her reading. She has no TBR pile or shelf. Now, granted, she's not a writer and doesn't obsess over books like we do. Still, her reading habit goes something like this: she finds an author she likes (currently, Margaret Coel) and literally reads everything there is. She did this with Patricia Cornwell, too. She always has something to read but there's no TBR stack. She's free from constraints and oppression. Some days, I envy her freedom.
Thus, I've come to a personal conclusion. There's a way to shake up my reading process and make things fresh again: kill the TBR shelf. I'm going to rearrange my shelves and disperse all the books I want to read throughout all my shelves. That way, I'll have to hunt for the books I want and might stumble onto something I've forgotten for awhile. This is summer time. It's a season to read fun books and, by extension, to have fun reading again.
So, am I the only one whose TBR Shelf/Pile feels like an schoolmarm tapping her toe, making reading more of a chore than a fun activity?