I’ve mentioned my love of Librarything before. It’s a website for cataloging your personal collection(s) of books, and I have quite a collection. I buy ridiculous amounts of books. It’s almost shameful. My husband has the same addiction that I do so our library is huge. I’d say about a third of the books are just mine, a third are just his, and a third are books we both like. So there’s a lot of books. I see the shelves, bulging with books, covering most of the walls in our home, and I know there’s a lot of books. But seeing it in print, seeing the actual number (BTW: which still isn’t accurate because I’m still cataloging) is embarassing
Sharing the link to my Librarything list makes me feel very vulnerable. I think you can learn a lot from someone’s bookshelves. And now that I’m going through, cleaning up the list, and categorizing things, I can see just how many of these books I have never read. And over the years, I’ve gotten rid of hundreds of books, many of them ones I knew I wouldn’t read. But I still keep a lot of books that I’ve barely even cracked open. I’ve moved 10 times in the past 15 years and there are an embarrassing number of books that I have moved with me. Why do I do this?
Well, buying books is a comfort thing; it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I like having a bookish home. It makes me happy to see shelves bowing under the weight of thousands of pages. I like owning books and making them look lived in. I like writing in the margins and dogearing pages. (I can hear some of you saying we can’t be friends anymore. I’m ok with that.) There are some books that I keep because they remind me of where I was in my life — the women’s studies phase, the short story phase, the essay phase, the anthology phase.
But why have I not read these wonderful books that I claim to love?
I don’t have a good reason. I’m a great book-starter, but I’m not that great of a book-finisher. A book really has to grab me. So many excuses.
I’m rambling to stall for time so I don’t have to share the link to my Librarything catalog. I don’t want you to see the long list. I don’t want you to see the shameful number of books that are tagged “read or rid.” It’s like that episode of Friends where Chandler discovers a locked closet in Monica’s apartment and she won’t let him see it, even though they’re living together. When he finally gets in – I think he picks the lock – he discovers Monica’s secret shame. The neat-freak Monica has a secret closet chock full of random crap. Well, I have shelves stuffed with books I haven’t read.
Here it is. My Librarything Profile Link.
I’m not even done going through it. I’ve done most of fiction, all of poetry, and some other random stuff but there are still quite a few books that need to be deleted and probably a couple hundred that need to be added. And despite all that, my “read or rid” tag still numbers over 200. I’m ashamed of myself.
One of the first things I learned from Brené Brown’s book, I thought it was just me, but it wasn’t, was the idea that we all have these identities that we want for ourselves and identities that we don’t want. And when something happens that makes us feel like we’re not living up to our desired identity or feel like we are becoming one of the unwanted identities, we feel shame. I like to think of myself as a book nerd, a reader, a bookish, literary person. Admitting that I own so many books I haven’t read is a huge shame trigger for me so I decided it was a big deal to face it. I’m facing the shame by acknowledging it, by putting the truth out there, and realizing that I am still a smart, bookish, nerdy reader. And I’m facing/defeating the shame by adding “read or rid” to my Forty-Two Things list. I don’t like being a person who owns so many unread books, so I will do something about it — Read the damn books.
But first, I’ll finish the catalog on Librarything. Because doing that makes me happy, despite the embarrassment.