23 September 2010

Discovery of a Problem

For those of you who aren't aware, I'm super anal retentive about, well, a lot of things (go ahead, laugh).  Chief among them is the fact that if a task is not on a list, it doesn't get done.  My husband often tells me, "Make a list, you'll feel better".  For the most part, this is a good thing.  Lots of studies show that you achieve more if you write down your goals, be it "save $10k" or "vacuum the house".  But today, my list making fetish got me in trouble.

You see, I keep a list of books that I'm reading.  Not just a list of titles to read, which I do have, but also a list of unread books that I own, with titles, authors, page counts, and dates that show what page I'm on.  I don't apologize, spreadsheets make me happy.  I've been doing this weekly since August of 2006.  And because I also have a tendency to play with numbers, I noticed something disturbing today.  See if you can spot it:

Pages:  Added       Read
2010     17,955     13,850
2009     14,308     17,713
2008     42,943     29,125
2007     17,350     22,441

As you can see, there's a serious problem.  On the whole, I'm adding more to my book collection than I'm reading, to the tune of about 9,400 pages.  I read an average of 23k pages a year, so I keep telling myself that I'll catch up eventually, that's it's good to have so many new books just in case (of what?  Libraries shutting down?  Amazon going out of business?).  I even expected to finish half of my unread books by the end of the year, which looks increasingly unlikely now (I tend to read the brand new books first, then go back to my collection).  So it's time to fix the system.

But what to do?  The first solution is to read more, but I just can't read for four or five hours per day.  I have too much to do and besides, that would get old very quickly.  I already tried to stop buying new books for awhile, but that has created a 5,000 page buying list backlog and seriously, have we met?

Thus, the best course of action is to eliminate books from my reading list, currently resting at 25,848 pages.  That's right, admit to myself that I have failed and will fail to read them, regardless of how awesome they might be, and give them to better homes.  This makes me sad, but I feel that healthiness is lurking behind the sadness.  My dilemma: which ones do I choose?

Here are my working theories:

  1. Get rid of anything that's been on the list since 2006 (probably 10-15%).
  2. Get rid of the unread Star Wars books (gasps for air...).  I'd finish up with the well-written series I'm in the middle of and pick up future books by authors I know write well, but anything else is not worth my time.
  3. Get rid of titles by going book by book and asking myself if I really intend to read it (not likely to work, as I'd just get pulled by in by the premise of the book).
  4. Get rid of titles by focusing on non-fiction, which not only slows down my reading but is often purchased impulsively due to my interest in, well, pretty much everything.
  5. Get rid of 80% of my unread books.  I find the Pareto Principle coming up in my life (and reading) more and more often.  This seems drastic, but let's face it, I'm losing in a big way right now and this would be a huge step forward.
Maybe I should do some combination of them all.  What do you think?  Does anyone else have this problem?  Any other ideas? 


  1. I have the same problem...well, I've never calculated mine, but I do have my fair share of unread books on my shelves. What I've done is gone through and eliminated books I am 90% sure I will never read again or really know that I was kidding myself when I purchased. Books that I have started and abandoned, are out the door as well.

    (And yes, I am aware that I contributed to your un-read backlog... hahaha)

    My dilemma right now is that we are planning on homeschooling Kaitlyn, so there are books that I know I should hold on to because they are very likely to crop up on future reading lists for her. We literally have a bookshelf in every room, except the kitchen and bathrooms (and even the bathrooms have magazine racks that books have managed to creep their way into).

    The bargain book rack is the bane of my existence. And I love every minute of it. LOL

  2. i actually have kinda the opposite problem right now. i dont' know what to ADD to my reading list. i've been very picky over the years and now that i've gotten myself un-hitched from the star wars EU, caught up with my favorite authors, and approaching boredom with my new go-to series (Rogue Angel), i'm not sure where to turn next. with all the nausea i've been having during the pregnancy, reading has been my go-to always-successful calming method. and since i've been doing so much of it lately i've been having to do a lot of re-reading of old favorites. that's not a bad thing at all, except that now i'm RUNNING OUT! is your reading list (past and present) visible somewhere online where i can get to it, or can you send me your spreadsheet? i'm not sure what to add to my list and i trust your judgement.

  3. I can absolutely do that: My Goodreads Profile

    In my copious (i.e. unemployed) spare time, I consolidated all of my online reviews in one place. My entire reading history is available on Goodreads. Every book I've read is rated and I'm making an effort to increase the number of reviews I've written, although there are already a lot.

    You can either sign up on Goodreads (which I recommend) or you can add the Goodreads Books app on Facebook (I've had issues with the fb/website settings). You can actually already see my reviews without signing up, but if you sign up and friend me you can see all of my reading.

    Anything in particular that you're looking for?

  4. You, anal-retentive???? *shocked face* Never... :)

    Though admittedly, this post makes me rather sad, as cutting down on reading lists always does.