To Be Read

On Saturday, I was chatting with a few book bloggers on Twitter, as you do (my username is at tony_malone, by the way), and the topic of to-be-read (TBR) books happened to come up.  I was perplexed when my admission to having a total of twenty-two unread books on my shelves was met with derision by several people, a feeling which was quickly replaced by incredulity when the other people in the conversation said that their TBR pile was well into three figures.  One blogger (who shall remain nameless) claimed to have more than 800 unread books at home, which leaves me wondering two things: firstly, how many books they have in total, and secondly, where they sleep, as I’m sure there is no room for a bed in their dwelling.  Be that as it may, I thought it might be nice to dash off a quick post with a picture of my unread treasures, letting you all know what I may or may not be reading over the coming months.
As always, I have a few Wordsworth Editions classics waiting to be read.  These books come with introductions and notes and only cost a few dollars each from the Book Depository.  They’ve recently changed from the dark blue cover (seen above for Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, along with a very old, neglected and battered copy of Cervantes’ Don Quixote) to a rather Gothic looking black number (as modelled here by Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and a Dostoyevsky double bill – The Gambler and The House of the Dead).

The other classics here are Oxford World’s Classics and are review copies which I haven’t yet reviewed (or read…).  I’m currently half-way through Anthony Trollope’s An Autobiography, and I hope to get to Gogol’s Plays and Petersburg Tales and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela very soon.  No, really.
Naturally, my reading preferences for Japanese and German literature are also represented here; I have a chunky copy of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre awaiting me, and there are also a few Japanese classics.  I’ve yet to read anything by Japan’s two Nobel laureates in literature, so Kenzaburo Oe’s The Silent Cry and Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes should rectify that.  The other Japanese-related book here is Jay Rubin’s biography of one of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words.

Amongst all the classics, there are some modern(ish) books too.  I’m hoping to read a lot of Kazuo Ishiguro in 2011, and these copies of The Unconsoled and An Artist of the Floating World are a good place to start.  Also, after enjoying A Fine Balance so much, I was pleased to snap up Rohinton Mistry’s debut novel, Such a Long Journey, from a bargain bin a few weeks ago.  Finally, Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting will increase my already hefty Kundera collection 🙂

There are two books by authors totally new to me, bought for a dollar apiece at the campus bookshop: Robertson Davies’ Murther & Walking Spirits and Margaret Drabble’s The Needle’s Eye.  I don’t often buy books by new authors (that’s what the library’s for!), but one little Australian dollar?

Finally(!), there are three books which have been on my shelves for a long, long time.  Jane Gleeson-White’s Classics is a great book which I am putting off reading until I have read more of the novels discussed in it!  Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths is fairly self-explanatory, and I’m sure I’ll get around to it one day.  Which leaves…

…Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged!  I bought this on a whim for $5 at a book sale, didn’t really like the sound of it when I checked out what it was actually about, and it has now lain dormant on my shelves for about two years.  Will I ever read it?  I’m not sure.  I’m not afraid of the length, but do I really want to spend a few precious reading weeks on something I’ll probably hate…

So, that’s it, dear readers: my TBR shelf.

Of course, by next week there’ll be another few books there…


15 thoughts on “To Be Read

  1. I was just looking at my shelves this morning and wondering how many books I have. Well, I don't know, I would say more than 500 and probably a third of them are unread :S I doubt I will ever manage to reduce my TBR pile to 22 books!


  2. My TBR topped out (hopefuly) at 200 at the beginning of the year and I am working hard to reduce it by closing my eyes as I walk past book stores and putting a block on certain websites 🙂

    I wouldn't normally offer a complete stranger advice but I feel obliged to say “save yourself” and don't read Atlas Shrugged. I would even go so far as to say rid yourself of it completely. It is the most repetitive, poorly written piece of drivel I have ever had the misfortune to read. And it is long. Excrutiatingly long. You would know by the size that it has lots of pages but some big books don't feel long because lots happens within the pages but Ayn Rand didn't know the meaning of brevity – there are so many soliloquies that are pages long and go nowhere that you have to fight the urge to gnaw of your own arm to relieve the boredom. I am probably closer than a lot of people to the political themes of the novel but I still think it is the worst thing I have read. Ever.


  3. Huh. I guess that depends on what you consider your TBR pile. I would be willing to bet that I have over 100 books sitting on my shelves that I haven't read yet. (I'm a writer and an editor; I use my work as an excuse for having obscene amounts of used paperbacks.) I guess you could call this a TBR pile if TBR means “to be read, probably, at some point before I die.” But usually, when I refer to my TBR pile, I mean “books I hope to read sometime within the next year.”

    _Atlas Shrugged_ is also sitting on my shelves, waiting. It may wait a long, long time.


  4. Obviously this post touched some raw spots 😉 I think that perhaps I'm a little more controlled with book buying than I thought; even since discovering the Book Depository, I haven't gone mad.

    It could also have something to do with the fact that there is no decent second-hand book shop anywhere near me (and that the mainstream bookshops in Oz are a joke…). Of course, when you've got a family to support, book buying isn't quite the priority it used to be!

    As for 'Atlas Shrugged', well, it's not looking good is it!


  5. My goal is to reduce my piles to somewhere around 20 books that I haven't gotten around to yet. This year, I intend to avoid purchases as best as I can and instead only read the many books I already have. I'm not yet in the triple digits, but if I don't keep myself in check, it will get there. Let's put it this way: I'm incredibly jealous of your restraint and non-book hoarding tendencies.

    Don Quixote! Yes! And I'm currently sort of reading North and South (a chapter every few nights), but I think my pace speaks for itself…

    I also need to get to Atlas Shrugged eventually. And I actually do sort of want to read it!


  6. I wouldn't be derisive of someone who has a small TBR pile, actually, I rather admire that! Unfortunately, I own a little over 200 unread books. I am trying to change that, but it is a slow-going thing.

    I did not know the Wordsworths editions changed to black. I used to buy them all the time. Now I usually read the classics on my ereader and only buy them if I loved them (which is still an awful lot). Or rather, I am trying to implement that kind of thinking, because I have a lot of unread classics on my shelves too.


  7. Biblibio – I will get to 'Don Quixote'… some day 😉 'Atlas Shrugged'? Less chance by the day.

    Iris – It's a recent change (and one which will interrupt the colour scheme of some of my shelves!). When I get an e-reader, I'm sure I'll be downloading more free classics, but I'll still be buying some favourites, both for the peripherals and the feel 🙂

    Darlyn – That's the idea; quality over quantity 😉


  8. Oh dear I bought Atlas Shrugged a week ago!! and I trust Bernadette, what about if you and me put this book back to our favourite charity bookstores? 🙂

    At least you are not alone in this.


  9. I'm a first time visitor and have to say your blog is great!

    I have a list (saved on my computer) of 500+ books, mostly novels, that I want to read, which is possibly a sign of insanity. Of course it grows all the time as I read a new author and decide I really want to read everything else they've ever written. Then there's the classics I'd never heard of that I feel I should get around to reading some time before I pop my clogs (and, like you, I love the classics); plus the fact that living authors just keep on writing and publishing new books, which is both great but also inconvenient! I think they should stop for at least a decade so I can try to catch up a little!

    As for TBR books that I actually own, the total is probably around 50. So to read all the books on that list of mine I'm going to have to a) win the lottery to pay for them all; b) build an extension to my house to fit in all the bookshelves I'd need; and/or c) use the library a lot more.


  10. JoV – All unwanted books should be given to a good (or, at least, a better) home 😉

    CJ – Thanks for the kind words 🙂 I'm not quite as organised as you with my list of things I want to/should read (Book Depository wishlist, free e-book classics saved on my computer in anticipation of buying a Kindle), but I'm sure the list would be… well, let's say 'exstensive'!


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