Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Have a Lot of Books

This became clear when I posted a list of the books that I own but haven't gotten around to reading all of yet. And I have many more books than that, not even counting the rpg books or the graphic novels. Probably 400 books or so including all the graphic novels and rpg books.

The funny thing is, I'm always finding new, interesting books in the library. The other funny thing is that I read almost nothing in the typical bestseller or literary fiction categories.

So I thought about it, and this is why I have so many books and haven't read a bunch of the ones I own (though I have read most of the books I own, probably 3/4 or so):
  • I'm a fairly voracious and omnivorous reader. I'm guessing that I average about a book a week (I usually have one work of fiction and one or two nonfiction books going at any given time). I would say that half of what I read is nonfiction (divided amongst science, history, and miscellaneous cultural stuff ranging from theories of magic to linguistics). The remaining half is divided between science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries,in that order of preference. I'm just curious about a lot of things.
  • If I enjoy a book a lot, I really like to own a copy of that book. If I check a book (fiction or nonfiction) out from the library three or more times to read all or part of it, then I try to acquire a copy of that book. And I like shopping for book bargains the way some people like to buy shoes. I love used books and have ever since I was a kid in Las Cruces, where places like Dave's Paperback Exchange were a little oasis of speculative fiction in a town filled with people whose imaginations didn't run in the same vein as my own. (One reason I don't yet own a copy of Clifford Geertz's Local Knowledge is that I haven't found a used copy for less than $5 and I don't feel like buying a beaten up copy for $10 or $20 for a new copy. I like the book but not that much.)
  • In a similar fashion, I reread the best fiction books in my collection every few years and refer back to sections of the best nonfiction books every year or so. Right now I'm debating when I'll get around to rereading several Guy Gavriel Kay novels and whether I'll reread a couple Sheri Tepper novels first. Anyway, this type of behavior isn't conducive to getting rid of books once I acquire them and it can delay me from reading more recently acquired books.
  • I have an odd schedule because I am a work-from-home freelancer. This means that there are stretches when I have more free time than most people because I don't have a paying job and the kids are in school. Even an extra free hour translates into a lot more reading time. But at the same time, I can't predict when I'll be free and when I'll get a contract to work on, so I sometimes get books intending to read them and then have little free time to read for the next couple months. Those books may then slip out of my awareness and gather dust on a shelf.
  • Traits a and b sometimes combine to convince me to buy cheap books without really thinking through the purchase--I see something at a book sale that intrigues me and it looks like a great deal so I grab it. I'm thinking of just avoiding the big library book sale that occurs twice a year here in Boise, because while I have found a few nice books over the years, I probably don't get around to reading the majority of the stuff I acquire.
  • I write speculative fiction and I never know what kind of resource/reference material might be useful, so I cast a wide net. I've got books on some fairly esoteric stuff because I came up with some unusual questions. Our library is good but not exhaustive by any means, so I have to buy some of these books if I want to explore their contents.
My goal with reading the stuff currently on my shelves is trying to figure out which of these books I can donate. The others I probably will read more than once.

I really need to figure out which of the guides to writing are worth keeping. Part of that involves actually doing the exercises that they suggest.

Anyway, my shelves and shelves of books are a pleasure for me for the most part, though it can be hard figuring out what to keep in the basement (where most of my shelves are) and what to keep upstairs for easier access. Every few months I get the urge to reorganize my books, which drives everyone else in the family a little crazy. Don't know why I have that impulse. I just do.

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