Sunday, December 19, 2010

Owned But Unread Project

One of my goals for 2011 is to significantly reduce the amount of owned-but-unread books that I have piled up.  I was sorting through the bookshelves the other day and I counted 168 175!  And of course, this does not include any of the books I'm hoping to receive for Christmas . . . or use any Christmas money or gift cards to acquire.  And of course this means I have to have every single one of my unread library books finished before January 1.  All of them. No exceptions!

What's really sad is that I've been schlepping a stack of these from house to house for years. Just for fun, I decided to sort them into piles based on how long ago I'd acquired them.  This wasn't as hard as you'd think -- since I've moved six times in the past 15 years, I just had to remember where I was living when I'd gotten each book.  It's pretty sad -- I have about 20 books I've owned for almost 10 years, some of them even longer.  If I haven't read them by the end of the year, I'm donating them to the Friends of the Library sale.  Period.

So I've decided to make this my project for 2011:  to read as many of these owned-but-unread books as possible.  I'm not signing up for any challenges, though I did sign up for the TBR Dare, which will help me achieve this goal.  With more than 150 books on my TBR shelves, I'd have plenty to read if I didn't acquire a single new book for the entire year, either through purchase or library loot.  But realisticallyI know there's no way this is going to happen -- between my three face-to-face book groups, plus volunteering at my library branch twice a week, I can't swear not to read anything that's not on the TBR pile.

Here are my rules:
  • At least every other book I read MUST be from my own shelves;
  • No new book purchases for three months, starting January 1;
  • Christmas gifts and books purchased before January 1 with Christmas gift cards or money are OK;
  • Books already ordered but not received by January 1 are also OK;
  • I don't have to finish every single book; if I read at least 75 pages and I'm still not interested, I can give it away.
Now, if something miraculous happens, and I actually get a library job, I'm allowed to start reading additional books if they are work-related.  The library is theoretically hiring librarians next year, so I can only hope.

For those of you who are curious, I am compiling a list of all my owned-but-unread books and will post it as a page with a tab at the top of my blog when it's complete.  It'll take a while.  I'm going to try and tackle the oldest books first.  Here's the list of the books I've owned longest.  Any recommendations from the list would be greatly appreciated -- and that includes recommendations to give them away.

The oldest books -- owned since 2002 or earlier:

  • Love and Kisses and a Halo of Truffles: Letters from Helen Evans Brown by James Beard
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniers
  • My Misspent Youth: Essays by Meghan Dowd
  • Perfume from Provence by Lady Winifred Fortescue
  • Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen
  • A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
  • Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Collected Novellas by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Tasting Pleasure: Confessions of a Wine Lover by Jancis Robinson
  • Giants in the Earth by A. E. Rolvaag

Books from 2003-2005 (when we lived in Japan):

  • Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
  • Geography by Sophie Cunningham
  • A Treasury of Royal Scandals by Michael Farquhar
  • The River's Tale: A Year on the Mekong by Edward A. Gargan
  • Murder on the Menu edited by Peter Haining
  • A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  • A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
  • The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett
  • Nectar by Lily Prior
  • Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojurn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbott Riccardi
  • Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

So, book bloggers, which should be read first?  Which should be donated to the library sale?  And, confess, how long have some of your books been hanging around on the to-read shelves unread?  And which ones?


  1. I think this is a great goal! I have SO MANY books I've had for a long time but have not read. I don't really worry about reading them as I know they won't change and will wait patiently for me and I have this weird belief in "the right book at the right time." But... well, I just hope they don't feel NEGLECTED, is all.

  2. Giants in the Earth. Great read, especially in the winter.

    I signed up for the TBR dare too, and of course I also have some exceptions to the rules, including books on the Tournament of Books longlist, books that arrive from the library (I suspended most of my list, but some slipped through), and books loaned to me by friends. At least I'm not shelling out cash for them.

  3. I haven't read many of those, but the ones I did read - The Bromeliad, Captain Corelli and Norwegian Wood - I absolutely loved.

  4. I haven't read any that you

    I'm actually in the process of compiling my entire TBR pile, both physical and virtual, and I might compile the "on my radar but not actually on the TBR yet" too. I have just under 70 books owned and unread and I plan to read quite a few of them - but not all - in 2011. I say "not all" because I have quite a few Nabokov books on the pile and I have to read them spread out. In fact, probably the oldest unread books on my shelves are all Nabokov books, because i bought his entire collected works in 2003 or 2004 for Christmas for Jason. Plus there are ones I haven't read that are in collections Jason brought with him to our marriage.

    Of course, there are also unread books of Jason's that are even older that I have no intention of reading, but those don't count, right?

  5. My after-Christmas project is to compile a list of owned but unread books... love the idea of making it a page! Corelli's Mandolin is an all-time favorite, and Giants in the Earth has been on my tbr list forever. Good luck!

  6. Aarti -- I'm just so terrible about only reading my library books and new books, not the books that I already own -- which then have to be moved every three or four years. We moved again this past May and the amount of books was just frightening. It's starting to overwhelm me, so I've decided it's time.

    Amy -- a friend gave me that when I moved to Nebraska -- in 2000!! (OK, it's about Minnesota, but the only other book about Nebraska he could find was My Antonia by Willa Cather, which I did love.) ! I keep hearing how good it is so I think it should be one of the first.

    Nymeth -- I've never read Pratchett or Murakami. He scares me a little (so why do I have four of his books on my shelf?)

    Amanda -- other people's books do not count. That's Jason's TBR pile! And I can understand having to spread out works by a single author, especially Nabokov. Who also scares me.

    JoAnn -- I actually started Corelli for a book group before I left Nebraska (which is why I bought it) and I really liked it. I just never got around to finishing it so but I can't bear to give it away unread. Top of the pile!

  7. I got a copy of The Bromeliad and was amused by the first few pages, but then lost interest and never picked it up again. It's in my house somewhere. Then again, maybe you should check with a Pratchett fan; nobody in my house is one.

  8. I love this goal! Do you mind if I adopt it wholesale for myself? I've been thinking about only reading books I own or books from the library in 2011, but I don't think I can stick to a strict book buying ban!

  9. You're much braver than me. I have 100 books to read or cull by the end of the year, and that will still leave me with a huge number unread. Like Aarti, I think that books have to be read at the right moment - and that it would never so to not have the right book to hand.

  10. The thought of making a list of all my unread books makes me hyperventilate! I know there are hundreds. I do want to read more of them though. I don't know why I find library books so irresistible and not my own. I think I need the TBR challenge, for sure! I look forward to reading your list.

  11. Teresa at shelflove just posted similar goals! I have no idea when I acquired most of my books but I too need to read from my shelves this year. I haven't read any on your list except KITCHEN which was okay. I passed it on to someone else via PBS. I started NORWEGIAN WOOD but I don't like modern fiction with tons of sexuality and that is chocked full of it. So I quit. Other than that, I hope you enjoy whatever you try first!

  12. The River's Tale was excellent. I'm also a big lover of food writing and food-themed books so any of those would be high up on my list!

  13. I've heard good things about Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniers and I want but have yet to try any Prachett or Murakami, too!
    The longest unread book I own is by DH Lawrence. I'm throwing on my stack of absolutely must read in 2011.
    Best of realized hopings for a librarian job! and where/when did you live in Nebraska? I was in Bellevue/Omaha for 5 years in the 90s.

  14. Jeanne -- I've never read any Pratchett, but I keep hearing so many good things about him. I love Neil Gaiman and I know they did one book together, so I'm hoping I'll like Pratchett.

    Anbolyn -- I'm happy to share! I'm trying out the book-buying ban for three months; I don't know if I'll be able to do it. Wish me luck.

    Fleurfisher -- good point about the right book at the right time. I can't limit myself exclusively to my owned and unread shelves, so that's why I decided on every other book. Baby steps.

    Debbie -- library books are like a drug to me. I'm always in the stacks when I volunteer, and that is so dangerous. Not to mention all the blogs I read. . . but I just can't cut back! I always put off my own books in favor of library books. It's terrible.

    Rebecca -- I bought the Murakami when I lived in Japan but never touched it. I hope the sexuality won't turn me off too much. PBS is a good idea.

    Falaise -- thanks for the recommendation for The RIver's Tale. The cover was so nice and I'm really intrigued by Vietnam. Of course I haven't opened it.

    Care -- Which DH Lawrence? I read Sons & Lovers a few years ago and was surprised how good it was. I think I was afraid because of Lady Chatterley.

    I was in Omaha from 2000 until 2003, we moved to Japan right at the new year. I really liked it -- we lived on the west side of town at 156th and Dodge but my husband worked at Offutt. My youngest was born there too. I really liked Omaha and I was sad to leave, so many nice people!

  15. I've only read Captain Corelli which I really enjoyed and Norwegian Wood which is a bit weird but I quite enjoyed it. Some of the books which I'm planning to read this year have been eyeing me up with disgust for about 30 years or more!

  16. Working in a library is FATAL. I am quite glad that I work in a reference only library (and I still stagger home after visiting the public library at lunchtime). I've worked in several lending libraries (both public and academic) and the temptation to take books home is irresistible!

  17. I've only read A Wild Sheep Chase, which is not my favourite Murakami, but still good. I know I definitely take the books on my shelves for granted - they'll always be there so why not check something new out of the library? Kudos to you on tackling yours!


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