On Reading, Dreams, and Potentially Murderous Books

"Read us," whisper the books of the TBR pile. "Read us or we'll jump."

“Read us,” whisper the books of the TBR pile. “Read us or we’ll jump.”

Here I go. Starting 2016 with some truth.

Sometimes I’m surprised that I don’t have dreams that my books are trying to kill me.

I wonder what that says about my psyche.

It’s not exactly unfounded. My books are so precariously stacked on the overburdened bookshelves near my bed that it’s only a matter of time before a couple of them take a tumble from the towering heap and cause blunt-force trauma to the head. In fact, I’m pretty sure that at this point any number of the new additions, overwhelmed by the excessively cramped literary confines, will find themselves with no choice but to jump.

(Or be pushed. By another book. I’m not saying it will be by a murder mystery but … come on. It will be by a murder mystery.)

Lately, I’ve been trying to keep my to-read books separate from the rest of my library—maybe thinking that the shame of seeing so very many books quarantined into the “TBR pile” will a) prevent me from buying more books, and b) force me to read them in an attempt to clear enough of a spot on my desk to actually use it to, you know, get stuff done. As it happens, the first has proven to be a futile effort, and the second … well, I’m working on it.

In fact, my renewed desire to get cracking on this TBR business was inspired by a recent article that I posted on social media called “How to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day”, which I read with interest and a healthy dose of skepticism. For a brief moment, I thought, “Eureka! Maybe this will help me slay the beast currently reproducing with the frightening efficiency of a single-celled organism.”

But while I’ve been known to gulp down books during marathon reading sessions, usually I’m a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kind of girl. There’s something to be said for taking small sips, for enjoying a book for each word, sentence and paragraph that it contains. In one notable instance—and against the prevailing societal trend—it took me a good several months to read the sixth Harry Potter book. (It was long, OK?)

I’m a firm believer that absence makes the heart grow fonder. The best way for me to find out whether a book will really stick with me is if I’m thinking about it when I’m gone, if I’m wondering what happens next, theorizing about plot points and character development.

Plus, I’ve been known to dream that I’m reading, the sentences writing themselves on the page as I go, occasionally to be rewritten when my editorial mind kicks in and dislikes a particular turn of phrase.

So while speed-reading or binge-reading or whatever-style-of-quick-reading may be in fashion at the moment, I’ll stick to my method of contemplative enjoyment. And hey, if I can resist the temptation to purchase any new volumes, I’m on track to finish my 35-book TBR pile by the end of the year.

If that’s not satisfaction, I don’t know what is.


portraitWell, what about you folks? Do you have a mountainous TBR pile? Are your bookshelves overflowing? Can you relate to the mild guilt of the unread? Or are you one of those mythical creatures that actually manages to stay up to date with his/her reading? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. sig

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.