I have been paying very close attention to my reading life lately. Perhaps more so than in past years. Most of the time I would just request books from the library, and then read them as they came in (or not, you know. Sometimes those piles come in all at once!). But this year, I am doing some challenges that will cover areas that I have been meaning to get to.
The first one is something on Instagram called The Unread Shelf Project. Imagine! Reading the books you already own! Waving your arm across an entire bookcase of books that you have actually read! What a concept. It has been a long time since I could do that. I’ve tried a couple “Read Your Own Books” challenges before, but I fell flat with them after only a month or two. I know that #BeattheBacklist is going on again this year, but I like Instagram so much that it made sense to find one there.
It is run by a lady named Whitney, and she is just so pleasant and non-judgy and kind. I know she did this last year but for some reason I didn’t join in. But this year, I was on top of it. Her first task was to Count. Your. Unread. Books. Because you have to know where you are starting from.
Friends. I counted 500 books. And those were just the books I could see. That doesn’t count the books in boxes or the books that were in the bookshelf behind the Christmas tree or books behind other books on the shelf. Yes, I have subscribed to the notion It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books. But honestly, things are getting a little out of control. Last year, I ended up buying a lot of books from shops on Instagram. A good many of them were vintage books or subjects that were hard to find, and a lot of them were titles I thought would be helpful for my research for my book. Well. That only goes so far.
Now none of those new books have homes. They were in piles and stacks all over. And what I need to do is to look at the books on the shelves and decide what I want to keep and what I don’t. Because I’ve acquired two new short bookcases in the past two years, and they are both full too. Yikes. So I’ll be taking a long hard look at the old bookshelves, and digging into the boxes and bags in the basement, and choosing which books I want to read, and those that I don’t want to read will have to leave.
So already this project has helped me. But she also has little mini-challenges and each month there is a basic challenge. For January it was a No Buy No Borrow month. But this was hard because I had already requested books for readalongs and other challenges. I needed a little more of a heads up on this. So I did borrow, and I did buy an eagerly awaited title that released at the end of the month (King of Scars, natch). But I didn’t make any random trips to Half Price Books. So there’s that.
I’m looking forward to enjoying the books I have, and finding new homes for the books that I no longer want, or maybe never wanted in the first place. I am not going to beat myself up about it, because working in publishing for twenty years means you are bound to acquire some books. Now, like Whitney says, I just want to be more intentional about the library I am building. And to feel comfortable surrounded by the books I love, instead of feeling frustrated about having stacks all over the floor.
As part of the mini-challenges Whitney did little weekly challenges too. The first one was just read a book you already own. For my choice I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, which is the first Flavia de Luce mystery. I got it at a bookswap last November (so maybe it wins a prize for being read closest to acquisition date!), when we had a MN Bookstagrammer meetup. I also got three other books but we won’t talk about those yet. The person who brought this had raved about the series, and I have since joined the fanclub (I mean, not literally, but yes, I will continue with the series). It has a very sweet and clever protagonist who gets into all kinds of scrapes.
The February monthly challenge is to read a book gifted to you. I am choosing the last book I was given, Upstream by Mary Oliver, which I got for Christmas of 2017 from my Book Aunt. I started it but didn’t get very far, and with the recent passing of Oliver I feel like it is a good time to read it. I remember that what I read was lovely. I don’t know if Whitney is doing the weekly challenges again this month, but I am ready to make some headway, so give me whatever you’ve got!
All in all, I can see where this is going to be a good exercise. I want to treat my books better, read more widely (I’ve really been deep in YA fantasy the past couple years), and try to sort out my book organization. Looking forward to what this challenge brings! If you are on Instagram, you can follow Whitney at @theundreadshelf and you can join the challenge at #theundreadbookshelf2019.