The never-ending to-read pile

I have 176 books right now on my shelves that I haven’t read and that I want to read. 176! Physically standing on my shelves. That’s a lot! Ideally, I would like this number to be below 100 – or even lower. That’s not going to happen. At least not this year. I started the year with 181 books and in spite of having read 17 books, I’m still at 176. Now, I am rather good at maths so obviously, there’s something going on with these numbers.

And the thing going on is really simple. Even though I want this number to go down, I haven’t stopped reading library books which doesn’t make the number go down. And even more important – I haven’t stopped buying books… And every time I buy a new book, the number goes up. So I’m actually rather pleased that it has gone down. Even if it is just a little bit down.

But I need it to get further down. It’s silly to own 176 books that you haven’t read! And it’s not like I don’t own some amazing books that are worth reading. I have The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Ulysses by James Joyce, a couple of Dostoevsky novels, various Joyce Carol Oates novels, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, a Robin Hobb trilogy and so many more, just standing there waiting.

I have a goal this year to end it with less books on my to-read shelf than when the year started. I have gotten the number down by 5. I will try for the rest of this year to read more books than I buy and I will try not to buy too many books. But it’s just so darn hard. Why do book stores and online stores have to have all these tempting new books that can so easily be mine?

I wish that I could get a year just to buy books. A year where there were no new books published so I could get that darn number of books down. Or rather – I wish that time would stop everywhere around me and I could just read and read for 365 days without feeling guilty, without having to deal with anything but just my books.


Or not.

Because the beauty of books is that they give you a break from your life. They offer you an escape when you need it. They give you the opportunity to go to imaginary worlds, to see amazing sights, to experience what’s it’s like to be someone else. But books work best in a context. If you shut yourself off from the world and spend all your time reading, having time to read stops being something to treasure. If all you could do was to read, eat and sleep, life would be boring. To read wouldn’t be a choice. It would be your only choice, your only option. You would have nothing else to do. And how sad would that be? Not to even have the comfort of someone else since that someone else would of course distract from your reading time? Just you and your books and nothing else.

So no. I don’t want. I want to read as much as possible while still living a life filled with people and experiences. People and experiences that sometime makes me miss my books a lot – but at other times makes me completely forget them.

So I’ll probably never have the time to get my to-read shelf down to 0 but I don’t want that either. I want to have it at a more manageable size but I’m working on that. It’s a thing in progress. I’m not giving up on my life and part of that life involves book shopping. So no, my shelves will never be without books I haven’t read. But that’s okay. That’s just right.

10 thoughts on “The never-ending to-read pile

  1. I have the same problem; I have tons of books on my shelves that have been sitting there for years without being read – and yet I keep checking books out of the library and buying new books. A terrible habit…

  2. It’s like a comfort to have them up there, a potential that while never fully met speaks of hope and promise. Cheers!

  3. I own about 600 books that I’ve not read, which I’m embarrassed to even write! I can’t stop going to the library either, but I have stopped buying new books, with the only exception being spending gift vouchers. I can’t give up the library though!

  4. I was gasping at 176 but 600 books to read!! I did a quick tally of what I have on my ‘to read’ pile in my own bookcase plus the ones I’m going to read as part of my Booker challenge ( in various piles dotted around the house and even with adding those on my e reader ‘not yet read’ list , I couldn’t get above 70. And I do count myself as a compulsive book buyer. So maybe I am not as bad as i thought. The booker prize judges got 138 books to read for this year’s award. I wonder how many they really get through……

    • I would love if my list had only 70 books on it. I think one of the reasons my list has so many books on it is, that I’ve never stopped buying books even when I wasn’t reading them.
      And there’s no way the judges can make it through 138 books. They most each read some and then talk about which one they should all read and discuss for the long list.

      • I do the same – buy books even though I know I will never get around to reading them. Part of the enjoyment is browsing through the shelves, and then handing over the cash. It’s the physical pleasure that buying from Amazon – no matter how quick and convenient – will never replace for me

      • I love shopping for books! I love browsing through the shelves and staggering under the weight of all the books I want. I love visiting book stores when on holiday. And I plan to read all the books I buy … even though I already have 175 waiting for me …!

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