As I’m sure many of you can attest about your own bookshelves, I have a huge number of volumes on a vast array of topics sitting prettily in carefully organised rows, making me look very erudite indeed, but whenever people come over and say ‘oh my goodness, you have so many books – have you read them all?’ I have to sheepishly admit that about half of them I have never opened. In fact, many of them have been waiting to be opened for upwards of a decade. I love watching TV programmes about hoarders – I experience an immense sense of satisfaction in the transformation from chaos to order – and always feel enormously sorry for the people who have, often through trauma, felt the need to obsessively hold onto objects as an anchor. However, I have come to think of late that perhaps I am not so different – I may not be navigating my way through piles of mouldering newspapers as I try to make it from my bedroom to the bathroom, or eating out of takeaway containers because my kitchen is inaccessible due to piles of unwashed crockery – but I just can’t seem to stop myself from buying more books when I already have hundreds – yes, hundreds! – I haven’t read. My excuse is that I love book shopping, it’s harmless, I have plenty of room for them, and I’ll definitely read them one day – they are stored up waiting for me to be in the right mood, and how often have I come across something interesting somewhere and then remembered with glee that I have a book on that exact topic nestled on a shelf at home? – but despite all these very good reasons, this year, I want to take things in hand. I don’t want to possess things I don’t use or enjoy. So, I am going to read every unread book on my shelves. Fiction and non-fiction. Classic and modern. Adult and children’s. Uplifting and miserable. And to force myself to read every one, I’m going to read them in alphabetical order. No dodging the doorstoppers – when I get to D, I am going to read Bleak House, whether I like it or not.
My caveats to this are that if I get to page 100 and am not enjoying it, I can give up and put the book in my charity shop pile. If I start a book and don’t enjoy it but think it’s just because I’m not in the right mood for that theme or topic, I will allow myself to put it on a ‘come back to’ pile to revisit when I do feel like reading it. Some books do have to be read when you’re in a particular frame of mind, I find, and so I am going to allow myself some leeway for when I need a light read. My aim is to discover what I really have hiding away on my shelves, to broaden my reading and hopefully find new favourites in the process, and to make room by getting rid of the books I decide I don’t want to keep for future acquisitions, as I’m currently at shelf capacity. It’s going to be difficult to not be tempted by new releases, or recommendations from friends and other book bloggers, but I have preempted some of that by unsubscribing from all of the bookshop emails I receive in my inbox. I will still allow myself to go into second hand bookshops, however, because I have decided another caveat will be I am allowed to buy nice old editions of books I’ve already read, or rare finds I’ve been hunting for years, so that I can still indulge in the pleasures of book shopping to some extent. I couldn’t go completely cold turkey!
So, I’m essentially going go be hibernating in my own little cave of books all year, and I’m excited. I’ve already made a start; I’ve read Lynne Reid Banks’ The L Shaped Room, one of Simon‘s favourites (but I didn’t love it, sadly!) and got to the first 100 pages of The Call by Edith Ayrton Zangwill and decided to give up as I am not enjoying it enough to plough on (it’s a long book). Next up is James Baldwin, followed by Adrian Bell, then Dorothy Canfield, then Willa Cather, then Richmal Crompton – there’s so much to enjoy! I’m also going to be reading at least one non-fiction book per month, as those are the majority of my unread books – I’m excited to finally read all the books I have about Jack the Ripper, train stations, Victorian explorers, and female novelists! So many adventures to have, and I won’t even need to leave the sofa!