Simplify your reading

halloweenkindleeffectsBuzz, buzz, buzz simplify, minimize, reduce. Buzzz!You know, this is what everyone is talking about these days. It seems that we live lives that are generally overwhelmed by information and stuff, and we need to escape that if we want to lead a fulfilling existence.

So when it comes to books, how do you do it? I am not talking about how you shelve or get rid of physical books. I have solved that dilemma for myself: I don’t buy paper books anymore: only digital. It suits me and I’m very happy with it.

But these digital devices, sorry to break this terrifying news to you, can store hundreds of books that you don’t have to dust or pack into a wall of boxes when you move. These books accumulate very quietly and subversively, until one day when you have so many that you just can’t breathe anymore. They are all over and they keep growing. They are in your dreams and in your every thought. They take so much space that you can’t breathe anymore. I know it happens to me. But then I clear my Gmail inbox every year or so, because the idea of thousands of e-mails hanging around there is just intolerable. Digital clutter is as bad to me as physical clutter. Don’t you feel the same?

To keep my book list simple I apply a few filters. I read fiction only written by women and in a few genres like literary, contemporary women’s fiction, mystery. I enjoy sci-fi too, but haven’t read anything of that in a million years. When it comes to non-fiction, I usually try to decide at some point (beginning of the year) what area of interest I want to investigate deeply and try to stick to that. Of course, I will make exceptions here and there, when trusted friends recommend one book or the other, knowing that will be a satisfying read. In general my non-fiction reading will fall into a few categories: psychology, philosophy, spirituality, and women’s studies.

I constantly check the list on my e-book reader and delete everything that I have finished or I’m not planning to finish. Still, you will probably find at least twenty books on my reader at any given time.

How do you keep your book list from turning into an out-of-control monster that one day will surely eat you alive? (Sorry, but it is Halloween!)

20 thoughts on “Simplify your reading

  1. Okay, long comment because this is an issue very close to my heart. I devote a lot of mental energy to the management of books, including those I neither own nor have read (yet).

    I went several years without buying books at all (paper or digital) and just relied on the library. But then I started my Cavalcade of Classics and wanted to write in the books and have them to reference later, and I used the excuse that, as homeschoolers we “need” to own books to further our kids’ education (that’s not a good excuse; my kids love the library, too), and I started buying books again. Once I opened the floodgates…yowza! Some people buy shoes; I buy books.

    So, now I’m restricting myself. I buy paper books if: 1) I want to write in them; 2) I’ve read them already from the library, and I want to read them over and over again; 3) They’re not available in the library and I plan to read them and then donate them to the library.

    I don’t like reading digital, so the only reason I’ll buy a digital book is if I want a copy to take on my e-reader while I’m traveling (I read digital to save space while traveling) and it’s not available from the library’s digital catalog.

    The other problem area I have is review copies. I’m not letting myself get review copies anymore, but even so, that shelf is way too full, so I need to find some other way to remove them from my house. Since they’re not supposed to be sold, I can’t donate them to the thrift store, and since I’m paranoid about people knowing my address, I can’t give them away on my blog. I’m trying to give the ones I have to friends. (Which reminds me: would you like some review copies?) I might have to resort to recycling them, but that’s way down the list; reducing books to their component materials feels like sacrilege, even if they’re being reused.

    I keep track of my “to-read” and “read” lists on Goodreads and Librarything. I limit myself to 800 books on my to-read list at any one time, and I try not to bring the books into the house until I’m ready to read them. Eight hundred is not a practical number, but so far it’s as low as I can make myself go.

  2. Okay, long comment because this is an issue very close to my heart. I devote a lot of mental energy to the management of books, including those I neither own nor have read (yet).

    I went several years without buying books at all (paper or digital) and just relied on the library. But then I started my Cavalcade of Classics and wanted to write in the books and have them to reference later, and I used the excuse that, as homeschoolers we “need” to own books to further our kids’ education (that’s not a good excuse; my kids love the library, too), and I started buying books again. Once I opened the floodgates…yowza! Some people buy shoes; I buy books.

    So, now I’m restricting myself. I buy paper books if: 1) I want to write in them; 2) I’ve read them already from the library, and I want to read them over and over again; 3) They’re not available in the library and I plan to read them and then donate them to the library.

    I don’t like reading digital, so the only reason I’ll buy a digital book is if I want a copy to take on my e-reader while I’m traveling (I read digital to save space while traveling) and it’s not available from the library’s digital catalog.

    The other problem area I have is review copies. I’m not letting myself get review copies anymore, but even so, that shelf is way too full, so I need to find some other way to remove them from my house. Since they’re not supposed to be sold, I can’t donate them to the thrift store, and since I’m paranoid about people knowing my address, I can’t give them away on my blog. I’m trying to give the ones I have to friends. (Which reminds me: would you like some review copies?) I might have to resort to recycling them, but that’s way down the list; reducing books to their component materials feels like sacrilege, even if they’re being reused.

    I keep track of my “to-read” and “read” lists on Goodreads and Librarything. I limit myself to 800 books on my to-read list at any one time, and I try not to bring the books into the house until I’m ready to read them. Eight hundred is not a practical number, but so far it’s as low as I can make myself go.

  3. Wow. You’re really on top of this!
    800 books would kill me, to be honest. I have a very long Amazon wishlist for books that I hear about and seem interesting at the time, but I don’t consider myself bound to reading those.
    Thank you for offering review copies but I’m really trying to reduce as much as possible all the paper that comes into the house. It’s already too much and it’s killing me.
    I don’t know why I moved so easily to e-books. I used to love buying and owning shelves and shelves of books but now I cannot look back. I feel very comfortable reading from the Kindle.
    Oh, and I was thinking of your Cavalcade of Classics as one way to focus the reading in only one direction, the way I like it.
    I didn’t realize that review copies have such a strict no-sale rule. I would assume that since you’re not the one selling it, then it should be fine. I’m probably wrong though. I don’t know why the authors wouldn’t want a larger circulation for their book.

  4. Wow. You’re really on top of this!
    800 books would kill me, to be honest. I have a very long Amazon wishlist for books that I hear about and seem interesting at the time, but I don’t consider myself bound to reading those.
    Thank you for offering review copies but I’m really trying to reduce as much as possible all the paper that comes into the house. It’s already too much and it’s killing me.
    I don’t know why I moved so easily to e-books. I used to love buying and owning shelves and shelves of books but now I cannot look back. I feel very comfortable reading from the Kindle.
    Oh, and I was thinking of your Cavalcade of Classics as one way to focus the reading in only one direction, the way I like it.
    I didn’t realize that review copies have such a strict no-sale rule. I would assume that since you’re not the one selling it, then it should be fine. I’m probably wrong though. I don’t know why the authors wouldn’t want a larger circulation for their book.

  5. The review copies I have are uncorrected proofs, and as such, they don’t represent the final published version. You’re not supposed to quote from them (although it’s not clear to me how a reviewer is supposed to do a thorough pre-publication review without quoting from the book), and it’s ethically questionable to sell them since they were given away for free. I haven’t found anything that says it’s illegal, but most (perhaps all) libraries and secondhand bookstores won’t accept them as donations.

    But in the course of looking up more information about this, I found this that suggests that I can donate them to prisons: http://www.yahighway.com/2012/03/what-to-do-with-advanced-reader-copies.html

    So, maybe that’s what I’ll do. Or I could always register them and leave them lying around for Book Crossing. (That is, if no one at my salons wants them…)

    1. Yes, I understand. If the review copy is just a proof, then it makes sense that they wouldn’t want it circulating. Honestly, though, it doesn’t sound fair to send uncorrected proofs out for review. I get that they want to “create buzz” early about the book, before it’s released, but it’s not fair to the reviewers. And small quotes should be allowed in the process of reviewing a book. They usually are. Very weird rules.
      I had never heard of Book Crossing. That’s an interesting concept, right? I like it. And prisons are not a bad place to donate books to. Otherwise, yeah, see, this dilemma of yours proves my point: accumulating books can create headaches. Just like any other stuff. Although books are the best of stuff, aren’t they? Let’s give them that.

  6. The review copies I have are uncorrected proofs, and as such, they don’t represent the final published version. You’re not supposed to quote from them (although it’s not clear to me how a reviewer is supposed to do a thorough pre-publication review without quoting from the book), and it’s ethically questionable to sell them since they were given away for free. I haven’t found anything that says it’s illegal, but most (perhaps all) libraries and secondhand bookstores won’t accept them as donations.

    But in the course of looking up more information about this, I found this that suggests that I can donate them to prisons: http://www.yahighway.com/2012/03/what-to-do-with-advanced-reader-copies.html

    So, maybe that’s what I’ll do. Or I could always register them and leave them lying around for Book Crossing. (That is, if no one at my salons wants them…)

    1. Yes, I understand. If the review copy is just a proof, then it makes sense that they wouldn’t want it circulating. Honestly, though, it doesn’t sound fair to send uncorrected proofs out for review. I get that they want to “create buzz” early about the book, before it’s released, but it’s not fair to the reviewers. And small quotes should be allowed in the process of reviewing a book. They usually are. Very weird rules.
      I had never heard of Book Crossing. That’s an interesting concept, right? I like it. And prisons are not a bad place to donate books to. Otherwise, yeah, see, this dilemma of yours proves my point: accumulating books can create headaches. Just like any other stuff. Although books are the best of stuff, aren’t they? Let’s give them that.

  7. Ooh, love the halloween pic!

    I don’t think about books this deeply at all. Life is too short. I buy ones I want, when I can afford to. I don’t worry about the others. I give away stuff I dont want or stuff I loved so much I think other people might like it. Speaking of….

    1. That’s a different attitude there! I’m sure there are many who agree with you. An argument would be, however, that just because life is too short we need to think so much about the books we read, right? I wished I could be as relaxed as you in this respect. But I also suspect that on some level I enjoy being stressed about everything.

  8. Ooh, love the halloween pic!

    I don’t think about books this deeply at all. Life is too short. I buy ones I want, when I can afford to. I don’t worry about the others. I give away stuff I dont want or stuff I loved so much I think other people might like it. Speaking of….

    1. That’s a different attitude there! I’m sure there are many who agree with you. An argument would be, however, that just because life is too short we need to think so much about the books we read, right? I wished I could be as relaxed as you in this respect. But I also suspect that on some level I enjoy being stressed about everything.

  9. I hear the “life is short” argument, but I really find a lot of pleasure in thinking about books—I sometimes think I like thinking about books more than I actually like reading them—so I don’t find it to be inconsistent with a tempus fugit outlook. Agonizing over a theory for gathering, managing, and redistributing paper books (if applicable) is all part of the complete and profoundly enjoyable experience for me. My spouse memorizes sports stats, I collect the titles of books and arrange them on virtual lists, my father-in-law can identify the year of any Corvette at a glance, and my brother is building a computer out of glass; they’re just different brands of engaging with the ephemeral.

  10. I hear the “life is short” argument, but I really find a lot of pleasure in thinking about books—I sometimes think I like thinking about books more than I actually like reading them—so I don’t find it to be inconsistent with a tempus fugit outlook. Agonizing over a theory for gathering, managing, and redistributing paper books (if applicable) is all part of the complete and profoundly enjoyable experience for me. My spouse memorizes sports stats, I collect the titles of books and arrange them on virtual lists, my father-in-law can identify the year of any Corvette at a glance, and my brother is building a computer out of glass; they’re just different brands of engaging with the ephemeral.

  11. The post is about organisation, no? In this regard, I don’t think about books. But I do think about books in terms of content, what I’ve enjoyed, what speaks to me, what I want to read, write, pass on etc.

  12. The post is about organisation, no? In this regard, I don’t think about books. But I do think about books in terms of content, what I’ve enjoyed, what speaks to me, what I want to read, write, pass on etc.

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