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Zoethe

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Contemplations on plenty [Mar. 22nd, 2009|08:20 am]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |confusedconfused]

Ferrett put up a poll yesterday asking, in part, what percentage of the respondents' book collections were read or unread. And what perplexed me was not the spread in the answers but the sense of defensiveness of some of the commenters. Some people seemed to feel the need to justify their relatively low percentage of read books.

This I do not understand. I love that I have a ton of books in the house still unread. I love that there is always something else new for me to read lying about here. When Ferrett and I combined our lives and our books, we brought together highly divergent collections. He may not find a lot among my books that he wants to read, but I find tons among his. And I have books that I bought myself, purchased when found on remainder or on sale, that I have not had time to read yet.

This delights me. In case of disaster, quarantine, or just plain leisure, I will always have new things to read. I could be under siege for a year and never run out of new reading material. Oh, sure, I feel the occasional guilt that I haven't gotten around to this or that, and there are times when I walk away from a bookstore empty-handed because I already have plenty to read.

But that's the delight of it! I have plenty to read! How can that ever be a bad thing?!!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: bart_calendar
2009-03-22 12:39 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine having an unread book around. My partner and I are freelance writers and don't make a ton of money. We scour the used book store for something we might like and when we buy a book it gets read instantly. Even at used prices books are expensive (about five bucks here) and when we buy a new book it's usually about $30 or more so there is no chance it would ever sit on a shelf unread.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 12:56 pm (UTC)
The library is your friend, and library sales even more so. The last three hardbound books I bought cost me a princely $2.50. Total. I am unbothered by the fact that I haven't read them yet.
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[User Picture]From: poxy_report
2009-03-22 12:40 pm (UTC)
I do enjoy having a backlog of books to read. Right now I don't have one and I'm somewhat dreading reaching the end of Neuromancer because I have nothing to go onto. I need to visit the bookshop when I get paid.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 01:01 pm (UTC)
Libraries! I have rediscovered the library. Yes, despite books unread in the house, I still check books out and read them ahead of owned books. In case of that siege, I may not be able to get to the library, after all!
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[User Picture]From: thejunebug
2009-03-22 01:21 pm (UTC)
I left your hubby a comment, but I'm the same way - when Jay and I combined our collections, that left me with a TON to read and watch and I'm ok with that. Unfortunately, not all of it interests me. ;) And the same could be said for Jay and my collection.

Before we got married, though, I was at 100%. I never purchased anything unless I really wanted it and had time to "consume" it, because such spending was frivolous and way out of my budget at the time. So if I owned a book or a movie, you could be certain I'd either already read or seen it, or read/watched it right away.

Now, though - I'll be YEARS catching up on all that stuff upstairs, if I ever do! And I don't think I will. Russian literature and French art films are just not my cup of tea.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 01:54 pm (UTC)
Books have never felt like luxury items to me. What's the old quote? Whenever I get some money, I buy books. And if any is left over, I buy food. Probably not the smartest way to live, but I never claimed to be smart. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: shezan
2009-03-22 02:15 pm (UTC)
Books are like good wine! You lay bottles in the cellar and sometimes the right time to drink them is only ten years later! How can ANYONE live without a cellar?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly!
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2009-03-22 02:15 pm (UTC)
I have a lower percentage because I have a lot of history books that I read certain chapters for a class, and I never got around to reading the whole book. Or I was supposed to read the whole book but skimmed the important parts...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but I don't keep those.
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2009-03-22 02:21 pm (UTC)
Maybe the defensiveness comes from the societal pressure in our increasingly Type A world not to be a slacker.

I bought a bunch of Charles Dickens novels so that I would have a copy of all of his work. I already had five, four of which was from a Dickens class I took in college. I've spent the past year or so working my way through them. It's taken a fair amount of time because I only have the time and energy to read a chapter, maybe two at most, per day. However, if you try to read new reading everyday, you can eventually get through a lot of stuff, even if you're a recovering Type A personality like me who has to fight the impulse to feel I should be able to do a lot more than I actually have the energy and time for.

Just before I left my doctoral program in history, I was absolutely horrified when I read the announcement that doctoral candidates had to complete their written and oral exams in ONE semester. Given the insane amount of reading you're given to read to prepare for these exams, I don't know how that'd be even possible. Birds of a feather might indeed flock together, but having a bunch of OCD Type A personalities together made my experience in grad school a totally surreal experience.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:32 pm (UTC)
Maybe - if you have unread books, you must be a poser?
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[User Picture]From: lurkerwithout
2009-03-22 03:09 pm (UTC)
I have books that I haven't reread recently. Is that close to not having read them?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:34 pm (UTC)
Not in the least. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2009-03-22 03:16 pm (UTC)
Maybe the defensiveness comes from the societal pressure in our increasingly Type A world not to be a slacker.

I would combine that with the financial recessionary reasoning that if you buy something and do not use it, you have wasted money. If you buy a book and do not read it, why, that's a waste! Minimally you should give it to someone who lost their job and needs something to do.

I have few unread books for a variety of reasons. One is that I read bloody fast, and since reading is my tactic for decompressing after work, I go through books quickly: one light scifi/fantasy book lasts one evening. Another is that I have become picky in my selections, so spend more time rereading than reading new things. And then, as zoethe mentioned, there is the "many more books than bookshelf space" syndrome.

(edit: this makes more sense if you assume it is a comment to jeffpalmatier's comment.. silly misclick)

Edited at 2009-03-22 03:17 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2009-03-22 11:43 pm (UTC)
Good thing I scrolled down! I remember this one time I accidentally clicked the wrong link to respond, and the woman said something like, "Uh, thanks. That's a really interesting comment, but I don't see how it relates to what I said." So I explained to her what happened so she wouldn't think I was totally insane.

Yeah, that idea you have to use what you buy can be a pressure. The most extreme example of this in my own collection was how I bought my copy of Dickens A Tale of Two Cities when I was in middle school and finally read it this past year! I got my copy of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov around the same time for Christmas, but it was only a little over a year ago that I finally read it.

I don't stress out too much about worrying whether I'll read a book I buy. I know I'll probably get to it sooner or later. And it's not like I spent hundreds of dollars on them, so even if I read it and it sucks, I can sell it on Amazon or give it away. I ended up with a ton of history monographs that my professors assigned but I didn't find that interesting. I knew I'd probably never read them again, so I sold them for much-needed cash and free up equally much-needed shelf space.

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[User Picture]From: wrendragon
2009-03-22 04:18 pm (UTC)
Normally budget concerns won't let me buy books I know I won't have time to read relatively soon, but we got over $200 in Chapters giftcards last Christmas (our family knows us well), and then we were swallowed by school/work and haven't had a chance to get to what we bought. X_x So normally I have read almost all of what I own, but the number's a little lower than usual. I am very much looking forward to devouring the gap as soon as this semester is done!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:38 pm (UTC)
And yet I still can't make myself stop buying books...

This. They are lovely, seductive things that I adore so much.
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2009-03-22 06:32 pm (UTC)
Since I'm just out of college and have a measly two bookcases full of books, there aren't a ton of books I haven't read on there. But I unfortunately can't buy books right now, and have been relying heavily on the library to provide me with new and interesting books. The problem is, I very much want to move at my own pace, so I'll put a hold on a book, get it, then decide I don't really want to read it right now and it'll sit next to my bed for two months (while I renew it periodically) before I either give in and decide to turn it in or read it and (most likely) enjoy it.

If I had the money to buy books, I would buy most of these. My problem is that A) I have no room on my bookcases for new books (seriously, none) and B) I can't buy used books. Don't ask me why, I just hate having books that don't look new, unless I was the one who made them look shabby, or they're just old enough to be that way (I have two quite old books, one is a collection of Emerson's essays and the other is a publication of the plots of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas). If it's a fairly new book (such as Twilight) and looks shabby, I have little to no interest in it. *Sigh* Obviously, you sometimes get used books that don't look totally worn out, but they're the exception rather than the rule.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:45 pm (UTC)
When I was in your situation, I didn't have a lot of unread books, either. It's not BAD to use the library or to be in a limited situation; I was just amused that so many people seemed to feel guilty about unread books in their collections!
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[User Picture]From: blazepoet
2009-03-22 06:53 pm (UTC)
We did our taxes yesterday.

Total book donation was $1305 in books (fair retail value, 5$ paperback, 10$ trade paperback and 15$ hardcover). They were all books at least one of us had read.

I have mountains of books to read because I have new shiny syndrome and the library buck a bag booksales are brutal.

I like having books I haven't read, that way I can pick and choose based on my mood and how I'm feeling.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes,
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[User Picture]From: scarletdemon
2009-03-22 09:10 pm (UTC)
I left a sarcastic "joke" comment because those replies were driving me MENTAL! It seemed like they were all incapable of reading and replying in the spirit of something. All those questions about "what if I played a game and the phone rang and it was a man delivering a new book and I couldn't read it yet because I had a bad eye and..." OH GET OVER YOURSELVES! Seriously, I'm tempted to do an angry post about people who can't just reply to polls (like my Japanese one recently) without fussing as if it actually MATTERED. And I want to rant about books and how people seem to think that the more you own the more intelligent you must be. I'm going to get this off my chest soon, I know it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-22 09:48 pm (UTC)
Well, I own lots of books and I'm intelligent, so it must be!!!

[ducking!!!!]

Yes, the responses to polls are frequently quite mental.
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From: thetisra
2009-03-22 11:20 pm (UTC)
I'm doing a LOT more reading since I bought a Kindle.

I've bought a few books on Amazon since I got it, but I've got tons more... ahem, acquired from other sources ;)

In pre-Kindle days, I did get rid of a LOT of books I'd read but knew I wasn't going to read again. I use the local used book store a ton, just because I got tired of all the clutter.

A bookshelf full of books is a nice thing to look at, until you have to move them, make room for more, etc etc etc. I used to think the physical book was part of the experience too, but I find I don't really miss it. It much nicer having my whole collection with me at all times.

Surviving the purge are all my graphic novels (which don't translate well to Kindle at all), my leather-bound Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy omnibus, and the handful of other favorites that aren't available electronically yet.

Kindle has had me spending a LOT less on books, now that the electronic versions are actually cheaper (which they weren't before).
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-23 01:05 am (UTC)
I haven't gone to eBooks because they are still so expensive. I've downloaded a few on my iPhone, but it's not a good substitute yet. And I know we'll still have books. I love them too much.
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[User Picture]From: mystic_savage
2009-03-23 03:38 am (UTC)
Interestingly, over half of my books are unread. I have very limited shelf space, so I read books, enjoy them and give them away when I'm done with them. The books I keep are either a) childhood favorites, b) written by people I'm related to, c) reference books on spiritual stuff, or d) to be read. C & D (ok, and to be honest, some of B) are all pretty much either unread or partially read.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-23 11:32 am (UTC)
Yes, this is one of the reasons I have a low percentage - if I'm not going to read it again and am not completely in love with it, it goes.
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[User Picture]From: ccr1138
2009-03-24 03:25 am (UTC)
I'm with you! The more books, the better.
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[User Picture]From: libco
2009-03-25 07:47 am (UTC)

Ha

Funny, I am such a fast and avid reader I probably am the type to make people defensive. "What? You have books you haven't read???? Waster! Give them to meeeeeeeee.......
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-03-25 12:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Ha

Never! Waste? They are not wasted, they are treasured!!!
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