My TBR Tower of Terror


Okay. It’s official. My To Be Read list is out of control.

I have a stack of books beside my bed that require my attention. This is nothing new – I always have a couple of books on the go and a few waiting to be read – but the current tower is giving me pause. I have no idea how I’m going read them all – and still have a life.

The bedside tower contains 11 Must Read Now (MRN11) books.

It includes books that have been short-listed for literary prizes that I’m reading for work (currently The Bees, Outlines, A God in Every Stone). I read these so I can answer the inevitable “Have you read this? What’s it like?” questions that go with every short-listed book. It’s not essential to read the book in order to sell it but it is much more enjoyable when you have read and genuinely like an award winner. The book I’m currently reading is so lacklustre that I’m really hoping it doesn’t win so I don’t have to respond with my 50-Shades-inspired, “It’s crap. Read this other book instead.”

Other books in the MRN11 include a couple of self-help books (Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, Ellen Langer’s Mindfulness) that I need to have a quick look through to see if they are worth recommending. A good self-help book is a rare find so “reading” usually consists of a scan of the contents page, a read of introduction and a flick through to see what the style is like. If it shows promise, I’ll read the whole thing. But the TBR List is long at the moment, so I’m not-so-secretly hoping they are duds.

Then there are the books in the MRN11 that I really want to read (Jon Ronson’s Lost At Sea; Vincent Deary’s How to Live; Paul Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While anthology). Oh and a couple of collections of short stories (Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, etc; Something Special Something Rare). I love short stories and there are just so many great collections now. I’ll treat myself with those after I’ve read a few of the literary books.

There’s also a queer novel (Virginie Despentes’ Apocalypse Baby) in the MRN11 that I can’t remember why I wanted to read. I’ll apply the 50 Page Test and if it passes then read the whole thing.

So that’s the pile beside my bed. The Must. Read. NOW. tower.

I also have four books in permanent residence under my bedside table: two copies of the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell’s and Ursula LeGuin’s), Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender and Susan Jeffers’ Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway. I may not read them often or in any great volume but these are the books that must always be within reach at 3.00am.

In addition to the bedside collections, there are the books awaiting my attention on my bookshelves. Dozens of them. They are the books I’ve brought home from work, optimistically thinking I’ll read them one day because they sort-of sound interesting. They are the books I’ve picked up in an op shop or on sale; books I’ve always wanted to read and intend to – one day. They are the also books that I’ve brought home from work to give to my family and friends (reading and damaged copies).

Then. Then there are the ebooks on my iPad. Again, there are a couple of dozen books waiting there (mostly literary fiction) that fit into the really want to read category. I’m on a bit of a no-devices-before-bed thing at the moment to manage my insomnia and seeing as the only time I have to read now is before I go to sleep (and at 3.00am) the ebooks aren’t getting a look in. Which is a shame because there are some titles there, such as Ann Leckie’s Ancilllary Justice, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks that I really really want to read. I have considered getting paper copies so I can read them at night – but that sort of defeats the purpose of having an ereader …

And then buried in the back of my bookcase, I have books I really really want to read but am leaving until I have a block of time (like a holiday! What’s that?). Middlemarch. Middlesex. The Shadows of the Wind trilogy.

Oh and then there’s my Goodreads Want To Read List (approximately 150 titles at the moment) that I rarely look at because it just makes my TBR  even more overwhelming. I just keep adding books that look interesting. Occasionally I’ll go through and delete things that are no longer relevant or find things I’d forgotten existed.

And that’s fairly much it: A couple of hundred books waiting for my attention. Well, plus the new books that arrive in the shop every week.  And the books that have reviewers swooning in my favourite book review sources. And the books on the latest literary prize short-list. And the books that jump out at me when I wander around the library.

But otherwise, that’s about it.

This is the life of a reader – sourcing, categorising, ranking, appraising, acquiring, letting go, discussing, recommending, reviewing and, somewhere in amongst that, reading. Joyful joyful reading.

Books will be read – or not read. New titles will be added. Classics discovered. Wisdom imparted. The disappointments flung across the room (not so easy with eBooks).

And, like life, it goes on.

Now that I think of it, my TBR Tower is not that terrifying after all.