The Reading Backlog

The Reading Backlog

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So one of our family goals this year was to de-clutter and clean up the house. All I can say there is that the year’s not over yet and we’ve made some progress.

But, in the process of things, I’ve been able to get a clear idea of how many books I have in the house. More importantly, how many books I have in the house that I haven’t read yet.

It’s a scary number.

You see, I used to work for a large book retailer. The last several years of that particular career were in a couple of different incarnations of an office environment, so there were a few freebies here and there, but mostly in the non-fiction vein. However, whether I worked in the office or the stores, I enjoyed a nice discount on books purchased new, and I took advantage of that.

I’ve also, at various points in my life, been a frequenter of used book stores, accumulating out of print genre books by favourite authors, discovering dozens of new authors, and picking up the occasional edition of one or more of the Lord of the Rings books (I have eight complete, plus one of the unauthorized Ace printings of Fellowship).

Since moving to this house in late 2002, I’ve done several book purges, sending some books to the local library, some to my children’s school library, and more than I like to think about to a used bookstore that didn’t deserve them (I’ve learned better since). It’s made a significant impact on the size of my personal library in my mind, if not my wife’s.

This is all background to lead up to the note that, if I count correctly, I have 317 books classifiable as Fantasy or Science Fiction that I have yet to read. Yes, really. They span decades, from the late 1960s to about 2010.

Knowing I have a lot of books I haven’t read never seems to stop me from picking up just one more when I see something I really like. I think it has slowed me down, but never stopped me.

When I left the retail book industry eleven years ago, I calculated that I had between five and six years of reading material available. Based on my reading speed in 2013, that number is closer to ten at the moment.

Yikes.

But brings up the problem of other changes in my reading habits. I have a hard time finding time to read paper anymore, having almost all at once switched to e-books. Electronic text is portable and convenient and I can read on my phone while waiting to pick up a child from school, standing in a particularly long line at the grocery store, or wherever I feel like it. Paper gets read in that last little bit of time before I turn out the light.

Consequently, paper books have become books to savour while e-books are to consume. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy reading both, but these days new physical books only come into the house if they fall into the first category.

Which makes me wonder how long it’s really going to take me to read those 317 books.

Or if I should even try.

I mostly read on a screen these days, and I don’t think I see that changing. I think that 317 number isn’t likely to shrink in my lifetime. Maybe electronic versions are in order for most of them.

Be well, everyone.

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