L’Shana Tovah, everybody! It’s the Jewish New Year, which means that I am not at school teaching the little monsters geniuses and am instead at home, ironically finding time to learn things for myself. Of course, this being a day of reflection, I find that I am learning about myself. And I’m a little nervous about what I see.
Sunday will be the second anniversary of my becoming a blogger. No congratulations here, please! (And no threats – pleeeeaaaaase!) I’m planning a post for that special day. Those of you who have hung around with me even a little bit know that I love to read. I especially love to read mysteries. And since I’ve begun this whole ego trip that is the blogosphere, I have followed other mystery lovers (my favorite part of the whole shebang) and learned much about classic fiction. And I’ve bought things. And I’ve read them. And I’ve bought some more – and I meant to read them. And I’ve bought some more . . . . . . . . . and I’ll get to them real soon. And then . . . I bought some more . . .
All of us who blog about books talk about the dreaded/beloved “TBR pile.” I have to tell you that when I moved from the city almost fourteen years ago in order to buy a condo, I had to downsize. With great difficulty, I gave away so many books, a lot of them classic mysteries. Many of them were plastered with a little sticker of ownership on the inside cover that my parents had given me when I was a kid. It contained a lovely quote by Emily Dickinson:
I hated to part with these books, but I needed the space. And now, look at what two years have wrought: today I find myself ordering new bookshelves so that I can stock up on old titles – some of them titles I gave away before! It’s as if suddenly these books that I have enjoyed all my life have taken on a deeper significance. I suppose that when we get older, we start to relish the things we have developed a great passion (and some little knowledge) about. And that’s what I’m doing here. But is it getting out of control? Is this to be my new book sticker:
When I stumbled upon the GAD group on Facebook several years ago, I came out of the (literary genre) closet and embraced a small, stylish community of my own kind. In my dreams, I had an image of a roomful of Talmudic scholars, arguing fiercely over text. Only our texts took place in Much Deeping and involved little old lady detectives and slaughtered squires holed up in the fireplace. This image has come to life for me, albeit in a virtual setting. (So far! I can’t wait till the day I can travel to Bouchercons and British Library events and meet these people for real.) And since knowledge begats a thirst for more knowledge, the stacks of books have begun to grow again.
This morning, as I am wont to do, I checked out the latest posts by JJ and Kate. At Cross Examining Crime, Kate has been averaging a post a day, both on authors well known to me (Christie, Stout, Marsh, Hilda Lawrence) and others I’ve never heard of (Joanna Cannon, Francis Duncan). I don’t know how she keeps up the pace. Today at The Invisible Event, JJ discovered an author he couldn’t stand, and I felt such relief. Cross one “new” old mystery off the list. But – oh no! – in the comments section, John and JJ talked about the imminent publication from Locked Room International of a mystery from China (Death in the House of Rain) that sounds terrific!!!
I know it’s a sickness, but I immediately went to the LRI website to suss out more info. I liked what I saw. But before I clicked the order button, I started to think about my own dreaded/beloved TBR pile. What exactly is the damage I have wrought over the past two years? And so, my friends, as Ko-Ko famously sang: I’ve got a little list . . .
(Interesting sidebar: I am no fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, but I have of course heard of The Mikado. I was speaking with a friend of mine over the weekend who is now the artistic director of a local renowned G&S company. Evidently, nobody sets The Mikado in Japan anymore. The show has been rewritten to take place in Italy to eliminate the racial stereotyping of the original. This is something we talk about all the time when discussing classic mysteries. The other thing I didn’t know is that Ko-Ko is the Lord High Executioner, and the lyrics of his song would fit beautifully in a classic inverted mystery.
As someday it may happen that a victim must be found
I’ve got a little list – I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
And who never would be missed – who never would be missed!
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the best (updated) rendition of the song by Seth McFarland:
So, with much fanfare, here’s the list I made of the books sitting on my shelf (or programmed into my Kindle) waiting to be read:
- Anthony Abbott, About the Murder of a Startled Lady
- Anthony Abbott, About the Murder of a Circus Queen
- Anthony Abbott, The Creeps
- Catherine Aird, Henrietta Who?
- Catherine Aird, Parting Breath
- Mark Aldridge, Agatha Christie on Screen
- Delano Ames, She Shall Have Murder
- Margaret Armstrong, The Man With No Face
- Margaret Armstrong, The Blue Santo Murder Mystery
- Margaret Armstrong, Murder in Stained Glass
- George Bellairs, Death of a Busybody
- Phyllis Bentley, Chain of Witnesses: The Cases of Miss Phipps
- Anthony Berkeley, The Poisoned Chocolates Case (I’ve read this one twice, but I bought the new BL edition with two extra endings, so . . . )
- Norman Berrow, The Footprints of Satan
- Norman Berrow, Words Have Wings
- Anita Blackmon, The Is No Return
- John Dickson Carr, Death Turns the Tables
- John Dickson Carr, The Dead Man’s Knock
- Carter Dickson, The White Priory Murders
- Carter Dickson, Nine, and Death Makes Ten
- Carter Dickson, He Wouldn’t Kill Patience
- Carter Dickson, Seeing Is Believing
- Carter Dickson, Death and the Gilded Man
- Carter Dickson, The Curse of the Bronze Lamp
- Carter Dickson, The Skeleton in the Clock
- Carter Dickson, A Graveyard to Let
- Carter Dickson, Night at the Mocking Widow
- Edmund Crispin, Love Lies Bleeding
- Elizabeth Daly, Arrow Pointing Nowhere
- Elizabeth Daly, Murders in Volume 2
- Elizabeth Daly, Nothing Can Rescue Me
- Eilis Dillon, Death in the Quadrangle
- Todd Downing, Vultures in the Sky
- Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes
- Martin Edwards, The Dungeon House
- Martin Edwards, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books
- Curtis Evans, Clues and Corpses: The Detective Fiction and Mystery Criticism of Todd Downing
- Curtis Evans, Mysteries Unlocked: Essays in Honor of Douglas G. Greene
- Robin Forsythe, The Polo Ground Mystery
- Christopher Fowler, Full Dark House
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Buried Clock
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Stuttering Bishop
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Demure Defendant
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Lucky Loser
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Cautious Coquette
- Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Haunted Husband (I got all these Perry Mason titles for $2.00 at a local library sale!)
- Julius Green, Curtain Up: Agatha Christie, A Life in the Theatre
- Paul Halter, The Lord of Misrule
- Paul Halter, The Seven Wonders of Crime
- Mavis Doriel Hay, The Santa Klaus Murder
- Mavis Doriel Hay, Death on the Cherwell
- Mo Hayder, Poppet
- Annie Haynes, The Crime at Tattenham Corner
- Anthony Horowitz, The Word Is Murder
- Michael Innes, What Happened at Hazelwood
- Sebastien Japrisot, The Sleeping Car Murders
- Harry Kemelman, The Nine Mile Walk
- Rufus King, Murder on the Yacht
- Ronald Knox, The Three Taps
- Hans Olav Lahlum, The Human Flies
- Donna Leon, A Question of Belief
- Frances and Richard Lockridge, Death on the Aisle
- Peter Lovesey, Stagestruck
- Ngaio Marsh, Spinsters in Jeopardy (Yecch!)
- Helen McCloy, Cue for Murder
- Helen McCloy, Two-Thirds of a Ghost
- Helen McCloy, A Change of Heart
- Jill McGown, Murder Movie
- Francis M. Nevins, Ellery Queen: The Art of Detection
- Rupert Penny, Policeman’s Evidence
- Tyline Perry, The Owner Lies Dead
- John Pugmire and Brian Skupin, The Realm of the Impossible
- E.R. Punshon, The Conqueror Inn
- E.R. Punshon, There’s a Reason for Everything
- E.R. Punshon, Night’s Cloak
- E.R. Punshon, Diabolic Candelabra
- E.R. Punshon, Suspects Nine
- E.R. Punshon, Four Strange Women
- Patrick Quentin, A Puzzle for Fools
- Patrick Quentin, A Puzzle for Puppets
- Patrick Quentin, A Puzzle for Wantons
- Patrick Quentin, A Puzzle for Fiends
- Patrick Quentin, Run to Death
- Patrick Quentin, The Puzzles of Peter Duluth
- John Rhode, Dead of the Night
- Kelley Roos, The Frightened Stiff
- Theodore Roscoe, Murder on the Way
- Harriet Rutland, Bleeding Hooks
- Harriet Rutland, Blue Murder
- John Sladek, Black Aura
- St. John Sprigg, Death of an Airman
- Jonathan Stagge, The Stars Spell Death
- Rex Stout, And Be a Villain
- Rex Stout, The Second Confession
- Rex Stout, Even In the Best Families
- Rex Stout, Too Many Clients
- Rex Stout, The Silent Speaker
- Rex Stout, Might As Well Be Dead
- Rex Stout, If Death Ever Slept
- Rex Stout, Please Pass the Guilt
- Rex Stout, 3 at Wolfe’s Door
- Rex Stout, Gambit
- Rex Stout, A Family Affair (Someone at school left a collection of six of these lying in the faculty lunchroom. Fellow mystery lover, won’t you find me please???)
- Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Octagon House
- Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Punch With Care
- Jean-Paul Torok, The Riddle of Monte Verita
- Arthur Upfield, Wings Above the Diamantina
- Noel Vindry, The Howling Beast
- Henry Wade, New Graves at Great Norne
- Henry Wade, The Hanging Captain
- Ayelet Waldman, Murder Plays House
- Katherine Woodfine, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
I can only imagine how much larger the TBR piles are of my friends who have been doing this so much longer. I remember looking for a Secret Santa gift for my blog buddy Bev Hankins. I went onto her website and found the books she was looking to read. They numbered in the hundreds of hundreds. Noah Stewart is/was a bookseller. Margot Kinberg must own a second home stockpiled with books.
A sickness, I tell you! I know it is a sickness! But it is one I am prepared to grapple with! And I will win! From this moment on, I will not buy another book until I have ploughed through my current TBR pile.
Just as soon as I’ve finished ordering Death in the House of Rain. Oh, and Helen McCloy’s Dance of Death. And I need Patrick Quentin’s A Puzzle for Pilgrims and A Puzzle for Players to complete my Peter and Iris Duluth collection. Then I’ll stop. Honestly. I’ll stop.
Help me . . . please . . .
(P.S. I’ll be back on Sunday with a review . . . of a book I checked out of the library!)
28 thoughts on “RUNNING OUT OF TIME: Reflections on an Out-of-Control TBR Pile”
114 is not all that bad. Always remember there are others who have many many more books in their TBR pile than you. Unfortunately I am not one of them. I only have 23 mystery novels in my TBR pile. (Rare moment where I get to feel smug and then a moment later feel bad about feeling smug – it’s complicated!)
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Kate: I have decided that you are a reading robot. There is no other explanation for the way you zoom through all these books! I keep looking wistfully at the mountain range lining my hallway and thinking if only I could read books as fast as Kate (or even as fast as I used to just ten years ago…..). 😀
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haha I could well be. Thankfully my reading speed is just about quick enough to keep on job of the TBR pile.
L’Shanah Tovah, Brad, and may it be a good year for you. I know exactly what you mean about the impact of the blogosphere on the TBR. It’s astounding, isn’t it? It’s gotten to the point, for me, where I know I will never read everything on my list, or everything I want to read. That’s not possible in a human lifespan. I will read what I can and enjoy that. And I will just conveniently look away from the TBR list… 😉
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And we will go on buying as we please, Margot! And I will donate all my books to a suitable lending library with the understanding that the classic mysteries must NEVER go out of circulation! 🙂
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No one is going to believe this, but I don’t actually have a TBR pile. I have a couple of books on my bedside table that I read before bed, but most of the time they’re not mysteries (collections of bridge problems, mostly). If I buy it to read, it gets read pretty much the same day; otherwise it just goes into a box and every once in a while five or six boxes go into storage. I have the advantage of being a very, very fast reader, so unread books don’t usually last a day in my house.
I still have a few dozen Gladys Mitchell novels to go through, but I’m realizing that I don’t think I’ll ever be sufficiently motivated to read them; they’re just going into storage.
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The truth is that many of the titles on my list are books I tried to start – or bought due to a huge bargain sale – and then discovered they may go unread. My first Punshon was not a big success, but they keep having 99 cent Kindle sales. I hear the second Anita Blackmun is better – and hopefully less racist – than the first. And so it goes . . .
114? Pshaw! I thought you might be in trouble for a moment there, but that’s barely Walking Around money…
Part of me likes having a lot of books to choose from — a few years ago I got my TBR down to something like 6 books and it felt weird being so restrained in choice — because I’m never entirely sure what I’m going to want to read next, so I need a range of GAD, SF, YA, SPQR, and WTF to pick from. I try to genre-hop as much as possible to stop stuff getting old, but this leads to the problem of precisely when it becomes unacceptable to buy any more until I’ve read some. The easiest way around this, I’ve found, is to arbitrarily apply a moratorium at unexpected times and for unusual durations — three months! seventy-six minutes! a week! — though caveats always slip through.
I’ll count up my TBR one day and let you know how perilous it is. You, sir, have nothing to worry about…
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I didn’t include the non-GAD stuff: the books on theatre, the YA, and that Kate Atkinson book that I loaded onto my Kindle three years ago. Oh, and I’ll have Book Six in the GOT series in 30 to 40 years, when George R.R. Martin’s done . . .
Brad–Thanks for the mention. I think. No, wait….are you saying I have a book-addiction problem? I mean…I only have 1,376 unread mysteries hanging around the house here somewhere. [She says from deep within the teetering stacks.] That’s the bulk of my owned TBR pile (there are random SF, fiction, and non-fiction books needing read as well, but I didn’t include them.
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Bev, I would never presume to say you have a problem!
I’ll see you at the next weekly meeting . . .
Reading is not an addiction, it’s a necessity. And the fact of so many people, with so many books stretched out temptingly before them, will inevitably lead to a breakthrough in the field of time-travel and/or immortality through sheer desperation.
Thus, a sufficiently teetering TBR pile may someday be a boon for humanity. You’re doing great work.
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From your lips, my friend . . .
I have a feeling you are going to dislike the Mo Hayder novel even though I’m only familiar with the movie adaptation of her novel “The Treatment”, but it’s a deeply unpleasant work full of child-abuse and torture.
There’s a movie of The Treatment? That can’t be a good watch, it’s easily one of the most unpleasant books I’ve ever read.
There is indeed. It’s a Belgian adaptation. It is so grim and depressing and of such sadistic absurdity that it’s almost ridiculous. But the weirdest thing is, that it has a 7.2 rating on imdb! Do some audiences crave suffering this much?
Given Adam Sandler’s continuing career, I’m inclined to think that they do…
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I feel privileged that I made it into your blog post! 😀 Sorry for directing attention to yet another book to purchase. 🙂 I’m pretty excited by the prospect of a Taiwanese-Honkaku novel, and the dilemma for me pertains to whether or not I should read the novel in its original Mandarin language (my second language), or in LRI’s English translation (my first language). When I discovered that novel through JJ’s re-tweeting of John Pugmire’s tweet, I spent more than an hour searching the author’s other novels, and exploring the wonders of the Taiwanese fair-play mystery genre. 😀
PS I feel fearful that Paul Halter is due for more criticism, given that his titles in your TBR are his weaker ones. 😦 Then again, I thought I’ve read your review of ‘Seven Wonders’ in the past? Why is that still on the TBR pile?
Nope, I read (and reviewed) The Seventh Hypothesis, which is a different kettle of fish entirely! I will get to the others, but it may take a while!
If you didn’t like Seventh Hypothesis… I fear for Seven Wonders. 😦
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I don’t think there is a single book blog I visit regularly that hasn’t written a version of this post at some time or another – so if it is a sickness it is a common one which may you give some “I am not alone” comfort.
As others have said 114 is not really that big a problem relative to some I have read about. The last time i discussed my own TBR on my blog someone commented they have 3000+ unread books and I got the impression that person is even older than I am. This might give you some “I’m sick but not that sick comfort”.
Or you might just choose to stop considering your TBR as a problem that needs to be solved. I do some coaching for personal budgeting and one of the things I have learned in my years of doing this is just about everyone has something they will always spend money on and I am generally much more successful getting them to accept this rather than to try to get them to stop spending on that “thing” all together. Because they generally can’t and pretending they can or will is dangerous. If they pretend they won’t plan for that spending in their budgets, if they stop pretending they allow for the expense (to a limited degree usually) and still have enough left over for bills and mortgage and whatever else they need. I’ve kind of decided that my TBR – which seems to hover around 130 no matter what I do – is an equivalent kind of issue. It’s not so big that people have to start calling the authorities for fear I might bury myself under a pile of unread books and it’s not costing me more than I can afford either. So while it may not be ideal it is, on the scale of Bernadette’s issues that need to be resolved, not a big problem
And you never know…if the zombie apocalypse comes you might just be very grateful to have a good pile of reading on hand 🙂
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Oh, dear! The last time I checked, my tongue was still firmly in my cheek, Bernadette! I actually live a pretty simple life, without a lot of extravagance. I pay my mortgage and my bills on time, and I use my money on the following: good food, good seats in the theatre, the occasional trip to New York City to see said theatre . . . and books. As you point out, like so many book lovers, my purchases outrace my ability to read (I’m a pretty slow reader), so if I’m walking down a street and spot a bookstore (especially a used bookstore) and go in there and find some titles by authors I love – or I get into a fun conversation with the store clerk and get some good recommendations – well, then, my stack is going to grow. All guilt-free, I assure you. 🙂
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I love the theatre and would like to frequent it more often but my state isn’t a metropolis for plays like NYC. I wouldn’t mind taking a trip or two to go see one but I don’t have the luxury, unfortunately 😣
Good yontif to you. My TBR pile got so big I digitized it because I ran out of bookshelves. True. Still wading my way through it.
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Yup! I know it’s bad when my Kindle gets unwieldy!
Hm, did I see Malice in that pile? 😛
My TBR is slightly easier to manage. I really only count books I have in it, (otherwise it would shoot up into the high hundreds). Of course, since I’m a fast reader who takes forever to start, it’s still like seven or eight books at a time. I’d post the full list but I don’t want to clog the comments. 😛
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