All I meant to do was take a nostalgic look back over my reading activity in 2021, go “I had a pretty good time of it, didn’t I?” and perhaps pick out a highlight or two to share, like an end-of-year postcard.
Everything would have been fine if I’d just browsed the covers, like looking at the photos from your holidays but, no, that wasn’t good enough for me. I had to look at the numbers.
They seemed fine at first. Encouraging even. As of today, 30th December, I’ve read 157 books in 2021. Hurray for me!
Ten per cent of those were books I didn’t finish. Still, that’s OK. More time to read the books I like and that still meant I’d finished 141 books and most of them were four or five-star reads.
Still, I felt the year had been more restless and less satisfying than that. So I dug a little deeper and found that I’d been flitting around in my reading intentions.
‘My Currently Reading’ shelf has fifteen books on it. I’m not really reading that many. These are books I’ve stalled on but don’t want to set aside. I did a lot of that this year. Especially the well-written but tough books like Grady Hendrix’s ‘My Best Friends’ Exorcism’ or Alice Munro’s ‘Dear Life’ or Cadwell Turnbull’s ‘No Gods, No Monsters’.
Then I looked at my Reading Challenge and #FridayReads and found another dozen books that I’d intended to read but hadn’t gotten around to.
At this point, my mother’s voice sounded in my head, saying: ‘Your eyes were too big for your stomach, weren’t they?’
I’d liked to have explained that that wasn’t true. That my hunger for books was proportionate and reasonable but real life had gotten in the way and I’d run out of time.
Except I knew that to assess my hunger, I’d have to look at how many books I’d acquired this year. I didn’t buy all of them. Some came free. Most of the rest were heavily discounted (yes, I can hear how defensive I sound). I checked my obsessively detailed records and found that I’d acquired 295 books this year.
Suddenly, reading 157 books didn’t sound like much.
Of the 295 books I acquired, I read 99 of them.
In other words, two out of three books that I acquired this year are still sitting on my shelves untouched.
And they’re only the ice at the peak of my TBR mountain.
So, now I know, I have a problem.
The problem isn’t really books or buying books. The problem is buying books to make myself feel better because so much of what’s going on in the world makes me feel angry or sad or just defeated. Done in moderation, that would be fine. Buying three times as many books as you can read is not fine.
So, I’m taking a book buying break. No books bought until April 2022 – just to prove to myself that it’s possible – and no more than twenty books bought in 2022 as a whole.
Also, no reading challenges until Halloween Bingo and only two books a week on my #FridayReads plans.
I want to focus on the books and not all the things around them.
I also want to acknowledge that I can’t book-buy my way out of not having a good time. I need things to do and people to do them with.
Now, let’s see if I can live up to all that.