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Unread, Forgotten, Dusty

A coworker and I talked about books that were intriguing enough for us to buy in the first place but that somehow we never got to read. I’m sure many readers have books that are collecting dust on our shelves unread. But what happened to the books that had obviously lost the appeal? Forgotten, banished, and set aside, they are not even in the TBR pile.

1. The book everyone is reading or recommedning.
I sometimes succumb to the popular opinion and sheep syndrome. Even though I know better about my taste, I still buy books that everyone is reading or talking about. Well—not Fifty Shades of Grey although a girlfriend who has never toughed a book is reading it. I’m talking about those phenomenal bestsellers that Hollywood quickly bought off the copyright to make a movie out of them. Like A Kite Runner. The Life of Pi. These books largely remain unread.

2. The book is dirt cheap.
Ever felt left out if you can’t make it to the $1 book sale at the local charity or library sale? When books cost no more than pennies and nickels, I tended to be much less selective. The result is a stack of books that I felt half-hearted about. The bargain bin can be dangerous because you never realize how quickly that pile builds up.

3. The book is a giant, intimidating-looking tome.
One day, I will read Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. But to give me the credit, I have survived The Fountainhead (which I loved), and this year American Tragedy and The Secret History. At this point I don’t even want to think anything by Proust! It’s such a commitment to tomes.

4. The book is a classic, meaning an obligation.
I don’t know why I still feel obliged to reading books that bored the hell out of me in school. Just because something is shelved under classics doesn’t mean I have to read it. I enjoyed The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Sound and the Fury but I shouldn’t read everything written by Fitzgerald, Dickens, and Faulkner? One day, I’ll get to Les Misérables. (See #3)

5. The book is written by an author whose other work(s) I like.
Sometimes buying the entire oeuvre is a big mistake. I should have left Umberto Eco alone after reading, cherishing, and loving The Name of the Rose. Most of his other novels I cannot even get through the first chapter. Focault’s Pendulum is flat out boring and pointless, a huge mess. Cloud Atlas is another one, and the film doesn’t help. David Mitchell is the kind of author whom you just have to read one and you read them all. Number 9 Dream is gathering dust.


5 Responses

  1. I wrote a post similar to this recently and had some of the same titles on mine, too. I’m a big victim of intimidation and buying an author’s whole backlist. I recently stocked up on Meg Wolitzer and James Salter in a used spree after loving their newest books. While I’m sure I’ll get to them eventually, they might be waiting a bit.

  2. No 6 must be (I am so guilty of this) the book I buy in enthusiasm at the book shop, cover is great, blurb is interesting and different, bring it home, put on shelf, never to be seen again b/c I don’t have energy, the topic doesn’t look so great, even the cover has faded. Can certainly relate to all the other numbers you posted.

  3. Checkmarks are placed on items 3 and 4.

    1 – I am glad (?) that I don’t trust the majority’s opinion and the best seller lists. In fact, I have a tendency to contradict something popular not only because it’s popular but also because I am suspicious.

    2 – I lack shelf space so I don’t mind returning super cheap books in the sale bins. What I do regret is returning a cheap book on the shelf, seeing a wonderful review of it a few days later, and finding out that the book is gone when I come back for it.

    5 – Collecting the works of Raymond Carver and David Mitchell did me good. You have a point in saying that one Mitchell is enough, but I think one wouldn’t mind if he or she immensely enjoyed that one Mitchell. Or Carver.

  4. I know what you mean! I am guilty of all 1 and 4! UGH! Although I have been trying not to fall for the bestsellers or popular books, especially since I tend not to agree with the masses about them – now I just get a free sample sent to my kindle and if I like what I read then I buy it. And those classics – ugh! I have all of the Brontes’ works and Austen’s and have yet to read them (except for like 2 of the books – 1 from each collection). I do tend to get obsessed with one author at time though and buy their entire collection – John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Jean Rhys and now Haruki Murakami. However, those collections have turned out to be my favorites, so I guess it depends on which author you get obsessed with. Anyhow, great post!

  5. I have banned myself from library book sales! I end up with so many books that I might never get around to reading. And I do find it hard to stick with an author. But my favorite thing about your post is your comment on Foucault’s Pendulum. Yes, yes, yes! OMG, I made it to page 700 and just quit. I read the ending and got rid of it. It was just too tedious. I did enjoy In Search of Lost Time however. I had dropped out of graduate school and didn’t know what to do next.

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