The Nightstand Problem, or Piles of Books

Pile-of-BooksOnline life has changed our reading habits.

There are fewer bookstores.

The indies crumble.

Amazon is dominant.

And the nightstand bulges with more books than ever.

Before the internet was invented, I was so busy reading books that I seldom bothered reading criticism, except on Sunday mornings when I luxuriated in The New York Times Book Review.  Due to the glory of the internet,  we can now read about books  all day without actually reading the books. I know what Ursula K. Le Guin said about David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, though I haven’t read The Bone Clocks.  I peruse articles about books in translation at  the TLS, savor the tough reviews by the daily critics at The New York Times and Washington Post, and try not to be gobsmacked by incendiary book news.

There are  superb blogs that concentrate on older books and classics as well as the latest publications. I try to catch up with blogs a couple of times a week.

The problem is, the more reviews we read, the bigger the book pile grows.  Everybody asks, What’s on your nightstand? I don’t  have a nightstand; I have piles of books. Chances are if I’m reading War and Peace, I also have a Nancy Pearl Book Lust Rediscovery and an Agatha Christie on the go.  My bet is that many  of you also are dealing with your nightstand problem, and your non-linear book-reading problem.

The book pile or nightstand problem is a common trope at blogs.

Danielle at A Work in Progress expresses it perfectly.

The state of my reading pile has really been bothering me for some time now.  Things have shifted about somewhat since this photo was taken–a few new books added, a few removed, maybe even a few have been finished (though not many at the rate I seem to be reading this year–what’s going on with that anyway. . . ).  With the year completely speeding by I feel I need to take serious steps to reduce the piles and try and get them under control before a new reading year is upon us (and no plans at all in mind as of yet–may have to keep it that way, though I know it is unlikely to happen).  I know we are still months away from 2015, but (scarily) it’s not as far off as it seems.  And already we are midway through September.

Dovegrey reader recently mentioned a pile of books.

The very first book from my Fifty ‘Unread’ Books shelf, The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard, started in early July, when I really was deep into Port Eliot preparations but in need of some space from this big pile of books that I seemed to have been tripping over for months, and some respite from looking at all those Martin Parr photographs…a quick armchair trip to sunny Naples, that’s what I needed.

Thomas at My Porch wrote a blog about acquiring 31 books in five days.

I tweeted this morning that during the five days that Simon Savidge (@SavidgeReads) stayed with me here in Washington, DC, thirty-one books managed to find their way into my apartment. Borrowed, bought, given, and free, I somehow managed to acquire thirty-one books in five days. Sue Parmett (@SueParmet) wanted a list of the titles. That is just the kind of pesky question I would ask and it seemed liked a great topic for a blog post.

Aren’t you relieved that someone is acquiring even more books than you are?

What has caused so many of us to go in this direction?  Is it something to do with the internet?

How many books are on your nightstand?  I have six on my bed, and don’t dare count anything else .

9 thoughts on “The Nightstand Problem, or Piles of Books

  1. It’s definitely accessibility, for a start. When I used to read you only had the local bookshops to buy from and they *were* limited – a trip to somewhere like London was the best chance to expand your collection. But the constant flow of information about books from blogs and the like does create an extra interest in new titles – my Mount TBR has expanded hugely since I started reading about other books and there’s nothing like a glowing recommendation online to send you off in a frenzy buying yet another volume. I must exercise restraint…… :s

  2. I agree with Kaggsy about accessibility. Which is odd when you come to think of it, because the actual number of physical bookshops where I can go and buy a book has diminished rapidly over the last decade. But, when you do hear about a book you’d like the the fact that it is going to be available somewhere simply with a quick click of a mouse makes it almost inevitable that a bibliophile is going to have an ever growing pile of unread tombs. And, I’m afraid I have to say that blog are prime offenders. There are so many more people to ‘talk’ to about books these days and personal recommendations have always been a major reason for my acquiring more books.

  3. Karen and Alex, yes, I agree there is an enormous amount of book chat online that often results in sales. So sad and ironic that there are fewer bookstores!

  4. I have the same problem: too many piles of books, and like Alex and Kaggsy I have the problem of an “embarrassment of riches.” I can reach too many books of just the precise one mentioned. I also am in communication with all sorts of people on line telling me of this or that book, and at home I’m teaching and have my personal projects too. And I miss the bookstores.

    There are worse problems.

  5. My nightstand is literally a stack of books with a lamp on top. I get books from everywhere. Even the VA hospital I went to last week with my brother. They actually have bookcases with free books. I took home four.

    By the way, Kat, I’m reading My Struggle, Book One, finally.

    • Oops. Forgot the 100+ boxes in the attic. My new thing will be to read only one book from the library and one from the stash. Yeah, right.

      • Cynthia, ha ha! Why don’t we have books in our hosptial?

        Yes, reading systems are useless for me. When others attempt to read only books in their house, I know it’s a great idea, but guess who wouldn’t stick to it?

  6. Pingback: Falling Off the Wagon (Books, Not Alcohol) | findingtimetowrite

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