Monday 3 December 2007


Chances are, if you read this blog frequently, that you understand the acronym 'tbr'. It probably brings tears to your eyes a little... that's right, I'm sure most of us have to-be-read piles, whether in reality or mentally. On the dovegreybooks Yahoo Group recently we were discussing the number of unread books we had on our shelves - I happened to mention that I had about 300 unread books (unread by me, that is - most of 'em have been read by someone). This was met with aghast amusement by another member, who couldn't stomach the idea of resisting books for so long, while a little bit later I was trumped by someone who estimated they had 4000 unread books in their home - ! Wow.

Here is my defence, i
f defence is necessary. During university I rarely had time to read books for pleasure (though I did derive a lot of pleasure from the books I had to read - subtle difference), but my buying rate didn't slow down... Secondly, when I'm in a charity shop and the books are 50p each, anything I *might* one day want to read, or loan to someone, or refer to, ends up being in my hot little hands. And the money goes to charity. It's like a generous donation, only I get something in return. (Denial is, they say, the first sign - am I right?) Also (I have no end of excuses) I try to read borrowed books as quickly as possible, thus leaving my own spoils to fester.

How about you? A backlog which would suffice for years, should someone dig a moat around your house, or just enough to keep you going until the kettle's boiled?

This is a long-winded way of saying that a whole new heap of books has entered my house... the nicest cover being the one displayed above, A House of Air by Penelope Fitzge
rald. Lynne would be proud. Having heard so much about it, I couldn't resist donating some money to Oxfam, and receiving this book as a total coincidence.

The Harvest by Christopher Hart - not heard of it, but my friend Clare says it's one of her favourite books, and she loves A Lifetime Burning and Tom's Midnight Garden - how could I wrong with £1?

The other four were birthday presents, thanks guys!
-Love In A Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, from Barbara-in-Ludlow - have read The Pursuit of Love but none of the rest, so thanks Barbara, and get well soon!

-Shakespeare by Bill Bryson, kindly given by The Carbon Copy, who knows me very well. My literati offering was a Mr. Funny T-Shirt. Only in our minds are Shakespeare and Roger Hargreaves akin.

-When We Were Very Young by AA Milne - of course I have a copy of this, but my lovely friend Mel bought me a 1925 edition, published less than a year after the first edition.

-Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by Isabella L. Bird - know little about this, but my dear English-student-friend Phoebe sent it, all the way from Japan, in fact. An autobiographical account of an Englishwoman touring Japan in 1878 - sounds wonderful, and may move nearer the very top of the tbr pile. And right now I have to leap out of bed with some vigour, to avoid the besieging books...


  1. Simon, I'm every bit as bad as you. I must have around at least 300 unread books too. They're scattered all over the house so not as obvious as they might otherwise be, but they're there. Like you I often 'donate' to charity shops on the basis that it's cheaper even than eBay because there's no postage to pay. Plus, it's a kind of recycling! Don't feel guilty - I certainly don't. There are many worse addictions to have.

  2. Synchronicity in cyberspace! I was just blogging about unread books on my shelves yesterday after putting up new shelves to accommodate them all... I'm not sure I've got three hundred, Simon, but the tbr pile/scatter is definitely into the dozens, though not necessarily for your well-defended reasons!

  3. We had a new bookcase arrive on the weekend and I collected all my unread books together for the first time to put them on that case; as opposed to having them distributed throughtout our existing bookcases. I am ashamed to say they take up three shelves of what is not an insubstantial sized (1.5 metre wide) bookcase. I keep telling myself to read from the tbr pile but can always find other interesting books to distract me!

  4. I have many many unread books, too. Like you I snap them up in charity shops and wait till I feel like reading them. That's the thing, isn't it? You never know where the mood will take you next. And its such a joy to read and love something that's been hanging around for years.
    Isabella Bird, by the way, is one of my greatest heroines. If you like the one on Japan, try to get hold of A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. Stupendous stuff.

  5. I was interested to see Unbeaten Tracks in Japan in your pile as I'[ve just acquired A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. I thought it might sit (in the psychological sense rather than the purely physical) nicely alongside Freya Stark, whose writing I am enjoying immensely. If you haven't read Traveller's Prelude, I do recommend it.
    I fear that if I had 4000 books in my TBR pile I'd never set foot outside again.

  6. How about sharing some thoughts on the 'where did I put it?' non-existent 'pile' of books? OV speaks of "the box I left in the cellar at Carfax" which, if it truly held all the books he thinks might be there, would solve the Bodleian's storage problems forever! Definitely 2nd cousin to the Tardis. (ie larger on the inside than on the outside)
    I know that some of the 'lost books' have probably been lent/left somewhere, but what of all the others? Do they travel through time and space, existing in a parallel universe or...?

  7. I could happily read from my shelves for years. I have hundreds of unread books, and then if you added in all the cookbooks I could read cover to cover, well....I'm set. That said, I cannot resist new to me books and pick things up for 'when I'm in the mood'. It's a bit of an addiction, isn't it?


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