Tuesday 13 October 2020

Too Much Choice by Sheena Wilkinson


I don’t have a TBR pile. I don’t like piles of stuff, not even of books. The problem with this is, as any fule kno, one can sometimes buy a book but not be ready to read it at once. In my case it would be shelved (in alphabetical order, natch) and sometimes forgotten, or at least swallowed up by its neighbours. You can have too much choice. 


About two years ago I rationalised the bookcases in my house: from seventeen to fourteen. It was a relief to rid myself of books I would never reread, many of which – mostly lit crit – were only there to impress (whom? I can safely say there is no visitor to my house whose opinion of me would be improved by seeing that I owned Hard Pretentious Theory*.)


And then there were those books I had bought with good intentions, and possibly started, but would never finish – no longer would they sit there accusing me, daring me. And the books by friends, mostly YA novels I had enjoyed but would not reread: they have all had new lives in school libraries, making new friends and new readers. Yes, fourteen bookcases was the right number; I couldn’t possibly go down any more. 


During lockdown, like most people I spent more time home alone than usual, and I began to feel crowded out by books. Don’t get me wrong, I love books, and I have spent part of each day of my life in reading since I was five, but those long hours in the living room forced me to realise that there were novels I had owned for years and would never, ever reread. And maybe it would be nice to have a little more, well, space. And so fourteen bookcases became ten. Which is the perfect number. 


Some of the books were easy to get rid of; others I wasn’t so sure about. That novel I knew I'd enjoyed but didn’t remember clearly – would I reread it? That book a friend had given me, promising I would love it – I’d never been in the mood yet; would I ever be? That 40th birthday present – why hadn’t I read it? Those lovely new hardbacks – I had been too impatient to wait for the paperback, but not actually got round to reading it yet. I ended up with a sort of TBR pile. 


I spend about 40% of my time in my partner’s house. It’s not exactly a bookless zone, but there are nine fewer bookcases than there are in my house now, i.e. one, and half the books are about sport, and the other half seem to have been written by someone called Sheena Wilkinson. (Oh yes, and there are some David Walliams, but we don’t talk about those). For a long time, every weekend I would pack carefully, to ensure I had enough reading material with me. I was terrified of Abibliophobia: I didn’t really want to read Long-Distance Cycling or and there isn’t a bookshop in the local town. Bringing my kindle wasn’t always the answer; I had to remember the charger too. 


So I had a brainwave. I installed one of my small, unwanted bookcases in my room at his house. I packed up the sort of TBR pile, and, just to keep the books company, some new books and some old friends – because you never know what mood you’ll be in, especially in these anxious times. Sometimes you can have exactly the right amount of choice. 





* There is no such book.


Susan Price said...

I'm glad you told us there is no such book as 'Hard Pretentious Theory.' I was about to go looking for it, just to find out how hard and pretentious it was.

Enjoyed reading this and admired the raw courage. I have nine crammed bookcases and can't imagine getting rid of any of them. Although I do occasionally, after much consideration, release a couple of books to the charity shop.

Steve Gladwin said...

Ten bookcases, hey. Alas ours are fewer, but terribly fat - and we can go no further. If only that stopped us. Of course, Sheena, we now all want to know what made the TBR shelf!!

catdownunder said...

Oh...fourteen bookcases here and all but one of them double or triple stacked. I MUST do some clearing out but... what have you got on that small bookcase?

Sheena Wilkinson said...

On top of the small bookcase -- which is the one I have brought to my partner's house is the BUnty annual from the year I was born! Thanks for the comments, all!