The Books I Haven’t Read

Posted by @ 12:27 pm on August 11th, 2009

Seems like for every book I read, I buy three more. In this way life has quickly become a slowly ascending grid of paper, soon which will hopefully be enough to sell my old house and build a new one, out of words.

Often when I am reading I find it hard to concentrate on a book because of the looming of all the other books in the room waiting their turn. Sometimes I will find myself reading faster, allowing missing, so that I will be more quickly open to the next. I try not to do this, but it is hard, especially with these stacks all looming over.

Here are the stacks in my apartment of the books I have bought within the last year or so (some even just last week) and have not read. These I keep stacked on top of my biggest bookcase, on top of all the ones I actually have found the time for:

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Horrifying, no? And yet at the same time beautiful. Sometimes I just go and stand and look at them like a little kid, pick one up, consider it might be its turn, put it back down, find another. Often when I pick a book I think I might read next, or two or three at the same time, I move them over to the arms of my sofa so I will actually see them and remember I decided I wanted to read them next, though just as often there they sit until I get tired of them being in the way and I put them back on the stacks. If I don’t jump in quick and hard, it probably won’t happen.

Strange that most often the books I am currently reading are ones that have just been ordered in the mail. Once one makes it to ‘the stack’ it seems harder for it to get back out again.

Some books, it’s been more than a year, more than two years since I bought them and they still have not been cracked. Some were bought on whims, or gifts, and some I’ve moved 4-5 times from house to house still carrying them in ‘the unread box,’ which is always a little heavier.

Here are two of my smaller bookshelves, each assigned to hold the books I’ve had for a year or longer and not read yet, which stand on either side of my longest sofa.

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Many of the books here I’ve seriously probably had three or five years or more. Some of them are hardbacks I bought excitedly on the day of the book’s release and never thereafter cracked. Some are galleys I really wanted to read and just couldn’t find the time (my pile of galleys is a whole other picture, one that would require collaging of all the ends of my house and my parents’ house, and more). Some are actually, I’m realizing, transplants, like Laird Hunt’s Ray of the Star, which I read a couple weeks ago and got huge kicks out of, and Lee Klein’s (old school!) Incidents of Ecotourism in the Temporary World, which I read way back in the day and thought I’d lost until taking this picture right now. I need to sort. Some were books I tried to read and gave up on, and yet have not had the heard to get rid of.

Why have I not yet found time for Impossible Object? The Obscene Bird of Night? Color of Darkness? Why have I read every Barry Hannah but Hey Jack!?

Why are books I feel sure I’ve read, and yet can’t fully remember (The End of the Story, The Story of the Eye) stacked along with books I know I likely never will?

What is going to happen?

Obviously: more books, more books, more books.

Where does time go? When does one read?

What do other people do with what they haven’t read? With ARCs and ARCs and ARCs?

What on earth is going on?

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