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:
- Get rid of anything that's been on the list since 2006 (probably 10-15%).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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?