Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Drowning in Paper

Motivated by curiosity, I just did a quick census of my book collection.

I didn't count them all -- I have to work today. I just counted those that I have never finished (either never started, or started then abandoned).


262 full-length books (not including travel guides, and not including the two books that I'm currently reading) that I've never got all the way through.

Now, I worked as a book reviewer for some years, and accumulated lots of free books that way, some of which I've kept (apparently for the day when I become rich, and can sit around and read all day) far too long (I doubt I'll ever get around to reading the scholarly history of Montreal, or the explanation of pheromones). Some I bought when I was in a genre-specific phase (I'm probably not going to bother with the unread Clive Barker or Jim Thompson books, or some of the poorly-written hockey biographies). Some of them I bought because of an interest in the subject, then found that I wasn't that interested (anyone who can read the works of Enver Hoxha is a better Albania-nut than I).

But still. 262.

There's a lot of good stuff in those 262 books, I'm sure. There's some unread F. Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh. I still have two (mammoth) volumes each of Norman Sherry's Graham Greene biography, and C.L. Sulzberger's diaries (in both cases, I loved vol. 1). I have histories of Czechoslovakia. Misha Glenny's "The Balkans." Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon," which I vowed to read prior to his new book's release, a vow I'm probably gonna have to break.

I really can't justify buying any books for a while, though I'm sure I will. And I'm going to have to get to a major clean-out of this collection. This little survey turned up a lot of books I'd forgotten I had (and in a few cases, forgotten I'd ever bought).

Just for reference, I also subscribe to, at last count, five magazines. The Economist and the New Yorker, both of which I'm pretty good about reading; National Geographic, which I always get to one morning when I'm hungover on the couch; and Foreign Affairs and Conde Nast Traveler, both of which languish (I'll take some random unread issue of FA on plane trips; Conde Nast Traveler usually just ends up going to a friend after I've flipped idly through the pages).

And yesterday, I sent off a subscription form for the New York Review of Books, thinking that CNT runs out soon (it doesn't-- December 2007).

Too many damn words, and no time to read them all (especially when I go out six nights a week).

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