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WHEN YOU REREAD, YOU DON'T SEE MORE IN THE BOOK THAN YOU DID BEFORE, YOU SEE MORE IN YOURSELF
For someone as perpetually busy as I am, a weekend with no plans is both soothing and disorienting. I'm constantly torn between the need to relax and the urge to fill my time. I need the downtime, my shivering soul protests, but my brain won't stop buzzing. Everywhere I look there is, of course, something to be done, a project half-finished looking at me reproachfully, dust bunnies prowling under the bed.

The bathroom needs scrubbing and I dutifully swab the decks but my heart's not in it. Laundry goes in, yet another load in the endless cycle. I close my eyes to all the feelers reaching for me, the to-do lists in my brain that flutter down and wrap my mind in sticky gauze and I pick up an old beloved book and read for an hour instead.

While my family was gone I went through my library list and looked at every book on every shelf (except the kid's books in their rooms...those are still to be done). I am the only person I know who keeps an inventory of my books. Lists make me happy and lists of books bring that happiness to a peak. I did the list 11 years ago, before we moved to Sweden, because the moving company insisted on a written inventory of EVERY SINGLE ITEM we owned for insurance purposes.

We had more than 2000 books then. We have more now. I say we, but I mean I. I have more now. Every time I buy a book I add it to the list. Okay, I confess, it's actually an Excel spreadsheet. I read so much and so fast that I can no longer remember every book I have or have read and must keep track so that I'm not constantly buying duplicates.

I can remember my first bookshelf. It was a little brown cabinet that my mom gave me. I think it held records before I inherited it. It was short and squat and dark brown with 2 doors and 2 really deep shelves. I filled it with books and I knew every one. A Wrinkle in Time, Turi's Poppa, Mandy, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, The Little Broomstick, Lad: A Dog, Little Women, Heidi, James and the Giant Peach, Nancy Drew, all those lovely-smelling hardcovers with birthday and christmas notes written in the flyleafs, in my parents' handwriting, or my grandparents'.

Later, when I was old enough to be spending my own allowance, I invariably spent it on books and I began adding paperbacks. I read them over and over and over. Some books I own have been read so many times that the titles on the spines are all but unreadable from being cracked in every possible place.

I don't keep every book I read, of course. If I did, the house would have been reduced to small pathways between towering piles of paperbacks long ago; the kids trapped in their rooms, the only available seating a reading chair with good light. Each time I finish a book now, it is kept or discarded on the basic criteria of the answer to the question: did I like it enough to read it again? If the answer is no, it goes in the bag for the annual AWC media sale. If the answer is yes, I must make space on the already over-crowded shelves, which have now begun to be two rows deep in places, despite my real strictness with myself and my periodic sweeps of purging.

I don't get panicky about many things but the idea that I might not get around to reading all the books I want to read makes my chest tighten. All the books on my list, all the books I haven't discovered yet, all the books my favorite authors have yet to write. And all the ones I loved and want to immerse myself in and visit with again.
 contemplative
mood: contemplative
music: Vienna Teng—Whatever You Want


Comments

The idea that I might not get around to reading all the books I want to read makes my chest tighten.

Man do I get that statement. I've got books I bought but haven't gotten around to reading yet, I've got an Excel sheet of books I've had people recommend and ones I've seen favorably reviewed that I jot down so I won't forget the titles/authors.

Not only do I like to keep books that I love, I enjoy loaning them out to friends for them to appreciate.

Me, too...but you know what? I keep track of them now, too. I've lost too many books that way. :/

I can relate to this so much, both the disorientation of "free time" and the urgency that comes with loving books. I'm glad you took the time to read. I think it matters more in the long run.

I've gobbled up 2 books already in the past 2 days (albeit short ones) and am nearly done with a 3rd. Feels good :)

Ahhh. I always have the very best intentions not to buy another book until I finish X number on my shelf but it never happens. When we move again in a year or two, it is either going to be real painful getting rid of some books or seeing the boxes grow. Fortunately, I rarely re-read anything b/c I am always dying to get on to the next book in the stack and routinely give away 4 out of 5 finished books. I suppose people who go to libraries wouldn't have this problem.... I should train myself to go to the library instead esp. for fiction.

Have you tried Librarything.com? I've cataloged all my books online and also have the fun of seeing other people's reviews on each one. :) I also maintain a separate reading list over at Cottontimer.com that stretches back to 1995.

PS You may be interested in the Sunday Salon of avid readers.

I keep track on my own website of what I have read, and am using Visual Bookshel on Facebook for what I am reading now, but I don't read or write reviews. I'm pretty snobby that way. I'd rather trust my own judgment and the recommendations of people I trust than anything else.

It's hard to go to the library here, it's too far away and they often don't have books I'm looking for. Our little library can order from all over Sweden, but it takes forever and you can only have the book for a short time. So I end up ordering or putting them on my list for my mom :)

I didn't start keeping track of the books I'd read until 1993, I wish I started much earlier, like you!

I use the iRead application on Facebook but I'm not sure I want to add the Visual Bookshelf too. It is fun to see what people are reading/have read.

(Anonymous)

Ohhh I know exactly how you feel. In the beginning of January I tried calculating how many books I could still read in my lifetime at my present rate. I was sooooo disappointed that I promised to read MORE. Way MORE.

BTW I also have made that excel spreadsheet when we moved from Amsterdam to Bucharest. They told me it was part of the required paperwork for the international move. What a nightmare making that was! Now I use Librarything.com and love it!

Kim @ www.acrossthelana.blogspot.com (Albania)

I haven't switched to an online version because of the sheer amount of work it would be to retype in everything! :) I figured I can just keep the Excel sheet updated. I do keep track online of what I've READ, but that's different.

(Anonymous)

I'm an Excel book list fan too, though I started using goodreads.com to track my read books and our daughter's books. Since we started a circular library of kids' books with friends, having them online helps me keep track of what really is our book and what I can lend to the next person ;-).

What are some of your most reread books?

It's a really long list because I read really fast, do you really want it?? :D

I stopped keeping track of the books I read just a little while ago. I can't exactly remember when, but it had to do with switching from paper journal to blog...I think...It feels strange not to be noting down that I just finished the last Harry Potter book. But then, there is something about living more in the present now that appeals to me. Inventory of all books owned! I love that.

I meant to keep track for YEARS and never did. I finally started in 2003, and it's fun to see how many books I've read in a month, in a year, how long ago I re-read a favorite, what books we were reading for book group. I can't imagine stopping now I've started (and been keeping track for several years now)

I did it for maybe 15 or longer years. And then poof. It's amazing.

You are lucky it's only one of you with that obsession. Here, it's both of us totally obsessed with books and reading. We start and end each day with books (and often time in the middle as well!)

Like you, I think about all of the wonderful books out there - so much to read and so little time.

I know! Anders rarely reads, though he does once in awhile. He'd much rather be outside sporting or working. Martin is the other reader in the family, but he's as easily captured by comic books as anything else, still :)

(Anonymous)

I'm really interested in your list. Since it's a bit difficult/expensive to get books here and I read too fast I'm always on the lookout for books to reread and keep. And you could create a new (and interesting) meme with this list!

Julia @ kolo

You sound just like me. I'll see what I can do :)

Here's to bookaholics!

*raises a glass*

Reading about YOUR reading habits makes my chest tighten... ;)

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