A Hymn to Unread Books
I’ve had a fibro flare-up this past week, which is why I’ve been absent from the internet. And if this post doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, I’m still in a bit of a fibro fog. But I was inspired by sorting through my library books yesterday, returning over half of them unread, and the lightness that I felt afterwards. After all, I can always request them again when I’m in the proper mood! And my sleek new library stack contains only the books I’m dying to read right now. Anyway, apologies in advance for any incoherence. -Eva
Actually, I was originally going to title this ‘How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Unread Books,’ but that felt a bit too much like what you’d find on those blogs that are focused on increasing their traffic. Or like a self-help guru. As I fall into neither of those categories, I rephrased. But you should know that I very rarely feel overwhelmed by all of those unread books out there in the universe. In fact, when I contemplate my wishlist (it’s already over five hundred books on LT, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg), I feel delight. Why? Because that means there’s a book for any possible mood! And one that I already know about. :D While I use the phrase ‘tbr list’ when leaving comments on other blog as a convenient shorthand, I don’t actually think of it has a to-be-read list. Instead, I think of it as a pool of potentials. That way, the larger it gets, the better: I have more awareness of my choices, so that I can satisfy every whim. It’s incredible just how many books there are out there; some have survived millenia of history, others have just seen the printing press for the first time, but they’re all patiently waiting for you on the library (or bookstore) shelves. Rather intoxicating, isn’t it? And the magic about the kind of reading that we do, is that we’re reading for ourselves. Of course, we all pick up books for a variety of reasons, but each of those reasons originates within ourselves. Want to learn more about ancient Greek tragedy? There are books for that. Want to explore the evolution of twentieth century fantasy? Look at these shelves over here. Need a fast-paced story with believable characters to get caught up in? Check these titles out. And when I find the perfect book for my mood, or get lost in yet another story, or find another author whose every word perfectly resonates, it’s as if books exist solely for me. So when I look at my wishlist, or my pool of potentials, or whatever you’d like to call it, I don’t see a strictly regimented line of books, stretching from here to eternity, each demanding to be read. Instead, I see a huge pile of presents, all wrapped up and labelled to help me decide which one is perfect for now. Who doesn’t want more presents?
Have I inundated y’all with enough mixed metaphors yet? My point is this: of course I’m not going to be able to read every book in the world. But that’s not necessary! I’m an amateur reader: there are no lists of titles I have to know to further my career. I read because I have a deep-seated need to do so, a place within me that is only spoken to by books. And thus, I don’t have to spend my life reading every title ever, or every genre, or every anything. I just have to spend my reading life with books that fill that need, whatever form it might take at the present moment. And the more books I learn about, and add to my wishlist, the better the chances that I’ll find the books that do so. And if I find I guessed wrong, and abandon a book, I can just turn to that list for many more possibilities. As long as my reading time is full of books that challenge me, or delight me, or educate me, or amuse me, or fulfill any of the myriad of desires I have from reading, those books are enough. Like a scout, I shall spend my reading life following old paths and discovering new ones through the forest of available books. Without the forest’s existence, there’d be nothing to explore. And wouldn’t that be the real tragedy?
How you view your to-be-read list? Or mentally process the stunning amount of books available?