Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Banish the Guilt!

New Year's resolutions are not for me.  Other than my perennial resolutions to eat less, drink less, swear less; be kinder to children, animals, and old people; and to keep my room clean, I don't make resolutions as a rule.

But there is a bookish resolution that has been nagging at me for a while.  So, inspired by a great essay, On Guilt and Reading, on Bella's Bookshelves, I am taking the Reading Resolution plunge.  My resolution is to tackle my Guilt List and stop taking books if I don't think I'll get to them within a month or two -- without feeling guilty about it!

Let me back up.  I never feel guilty about the (according to my LibraryThing tags) 1196 books on my TBR shelves. Or even the fact that I converted a spare bedroom to a library just to hold them for me. I figure that as far as time-sucking, money-gobbling hobbies go, buying more books than I can read is pretty benign.  I could have a boat, for example.

What I do feel guilt about is my stack of books from publishers, authors, and publicists that I don't get around to reading.  True, I didn't ask for all of them -- some just arrived out of the blue. But most of them are books I asked for or agreed to take and now, months later, they are still sitting there.  This "Guilt List" gets to me.

Right now, the books on my Guilt List are, in roughly the order I received them:

  1. The Evolution of Shadows by Jason Quinn Malott
  2. Soldiers in Hiding by Richard Wiley
  3. Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz 1942-1957 by Robert Dietsche
  4. An Architectural Guidebook to Portland by Bart King 
  5. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
  6. To the Woods: Sinking Roots, Living Lightly, and Finding True Home by Evelyn Searle Hess 
  7. 42 States of Grace by Maureen Hovenkotter
  8. Where the Crooked River Rises: A High Desert Home by Ellen Waterston
  9. Fish With What You Find by Jim Gilsdorf
  10. Because You Might Not Remember by Don Colburn
  11. Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
My resolution is to whittle this list down; to finish these books in a reasonable amount of time, although that may be longer than the generous people who gave them to me had in mind.  And, more important to my reading peace of mind, my resolution is to graciously refuse new books, unless I really know I will read them right away. 


  1. I've heard that "The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott" is supposed to be a good read.

    I'm terrible for buying books and not reading them because I've already bought more. I have about 300 waiting for me. This year, I'm going to see how long I can go just reading from my TBR list.

  2. Sam: I've heard good things about the Alcott book too, but still don't seem to find the time for it. I will get to it.

    I buy books off my "To Read" list whenever I find them at used book sales and stores. So I have a lot of books on my TBR shelves. But I don't mind, even though I know it will take me years to get to them all. It does make me reluctant, though, to branch out from my master list.

  3. I'll be interested to hear if you can keep to the idea of graciously refusing a book when it's offered. That would require more willpower than I have available.

  4. I need to work on my guilt list too. Good luck!

  5. JG: That's what I'm worried about. I'm going to try!

  6. Bravo! I really feel your sense of excitement about your resolution. Admittedly I still can't commit to whittling down my list, I don't think—what if I don't feel like any of them at the moment? But I admire you for resolving to, trying your best, at any rate, and especially for not only tackling guilt but being able to say no. I too have difficult saying it, but have been more comfortable doing it because it not only alleviates guilt, sure, but also is being fair to the publisher.

    I'm glad my post helped, and thank you for linking to it!

    PS. Your pile isn't all that bad. :) I have at least 20, but maybe it doesn't matter. Guilt is guilt, eh. It's just that when my blog started getting attention it all happened at once! Books flowed in here as though it was Christmas. It's slowed down considerably now.

  7. Great post. I don't feel guilt about books that I've bought and own that languish about unread. After all there really are so many books and so little time. The books I have serious guilt over are those that kindly souls have either lent to me or given to me because they know I'm a reader, and they expect that I'll read them and love them. These books build up so much guilt that in the end when I finally do get to read them, I often find them less enjoyable than I was expecting. I'm going on holidays in a week and taking one of my guilt books with me- The Girl Who Played with Fire.

  8. Steph: Thank you for your really great essay on "book guilt" -- you inspired this post, but your essay was much more thoughtful. Good stuff.

    Louise: You are exactly right! OI discourage friends from giving me books or, even worse, LOANING me books, because I know if will be years before I get to them. I actually like a book to mellow on the shelves for a while, reminding me of its existence every now and again, but only slowly percolating to the top of my conscious, when I will finally read it. So getting a book that needs immediate attention is a mistake for me!

    But I hope you enjoy TGWPWF. I much preferred it to the first one.


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