How many books is too many?

I have a lot of books. I have a lot of unread books. I keep saying I’ll go through the ones I’ve read and ditch some but I never do. Instead I buy more. I don’t know why I do that. Why do I do that? Why do I buy more? I have enough as it is, many unread. So why, as I have many books, do I buy?

It’s a compulsion, etched into my mind, an inherited trait that I can’t fight, an itch that remains out of reach no matter which way I toss and turn.

I have books on all sorts of topics, fictional stories that others have recommended, factual books on many topics, from mental wellbeing, web design, philosophy, gardening, exercise, movies and more. Just about all of them are kept for some tenuous reason or another but I really need to let go…

But that doesn’t help solve the puzzle of why I keep buying new books, especially as I have so many that remain unread, some of which I purchased several years ago.

I’ll quite happily admit that I bought a few books with ‘betterment’ in mind (and ‘of mind’). Be they a classic novel or a book on the great philosophical thinkers (bought from Meg I think) I deliberately chose them with a view to becoming better read, whatever that means, although I quickly ditched those in favour of the really highbrow stuff (The Da Vinci Code for example) so that reasoning has back-fired.

I wonder if I buy books because I don’t trust my memory and I’m scared I’ll forget the name or author of that one killer book? Perhaps I need to do is hack my brain to chuck the name and author of a book into a list, rather than just order it “because it’s only £4.99”. I mean we all know what lies at the end of that road, “it’s only £4.99” soon becomes, “yeah but I’m gettin’ 4 books for under £20!”, swiftly followed by “Ohhh one more for free shipping…”.

I buy books based on author, David Mitchell, Ian Rankin, Alice Sebold, and ignore them for the latest James Patterson. Hell I’ve probably read more pages from Esquire magazine in the past 6 months than I have pages of a book. I know I go through spells of reading but this is becoming an increasingly dry time. A fallow spell of unbroken spines, if you will.

Why do I read? For enjoyment largely. I enjoy the escape, the way time slips past in the shadows as you immerse yourself deeper and deeper into the words on the page.

If this were a movie, this is where you’d get a CGI scene with the words floating up off the page and spinning up and round me as I sit, transfixed.

Ohh and whilst I remember, you bloggers who have had books published (I count 5 on my shelf) aren’t helping!

You know what, perhaps a clear out would help. Allow me to refocus on the books I’ve not read. Yes yes, a clear out is in order.

Let’s not be too hasty though… let me just check what Amazon have on sale…


  1. I’m the same way. I’d have to spend every waking moment during the next year to finish all the unread books I own. I’ve stopped buying books this year. I refuse to buy anything until I’ve caught up on my to-read list (for the first time in probably 15 years).

    I just got over a reading dry spell. I have no tips for how to come out of one, it just sort of happens. I find ditching the book I’m currently reading (something I usually don’t do) and picking up a lighter, interesting book seems to help kick-start things.

  2. Oh I am so with you on this. Amazon wishlist has managed to curb the worst of my excesses but I still manage to have several shelves of unread books on my “to read” list (I long since gave up having a pile of books by the bed… I was at risk of avalanche…)

    The only problem is, I’ve got really into podcasts and audiobooks recently so have been completely ignoring the to read shelf for months. Perhaps I need to send the kids to grandma’s for a month and do nothing but read just to catch up…

  3. Yup. We’re with you on this one. We’ve got so many books. All I can say is, “Thank God for the library”. We’d be overrun if I didn’t use it.

  4. I’m like Pewari – my Amazon wishlist has become a virtual unread pile, although there’s still an actual unread pile too.

    I was trying not to buy any more from Amazon until I’d worked through the ones I’ve already got, but then we didn’t have enough space in the car to bring everything when we were coming to Torino. So now I’ve bought new books from Amazon and have a pile of unread ones in a box in my parents’ loft…

    As far as getting rid of books I’ve read, I used to have a cull every year or so and charity-shop a load, but just recently I’ve started just posting/giving them away one at a time to people who I think might enjoy them.

  5. ‘a fallow spell of unbroken spines’ wow! Marking tens of thousands of essays over 40 years teaching I can count on one – well maybe almost two hands – the number of times my heart has lifted at a phrase like that amongst the load of dross I read!
    On a more practical note, my friend Joy is having a book fair in April for charitee so she will take as many as you like. Can you reach the bookshelves over the washing machine?…..

  6. I thought I had far too many unread books on my shelf and then I signed up for a McSweeney’s subscription and now I have even more!

    Beautiful books though 🙂

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