Out of the Closet, Book Buyer!


book_pilesI am moving bookshelves of books, boxes of books, finding random books stacked 2-3 together in smaller, less appropriate places. Back when I went to church, a very erudite minister told me that I am one of those people who believe in Salvation by Bibliography. In other words, having (and displaying) the books on philosophy and theology is as good as actually reading them, so I have books everywhere. I also have a husband who refuses to get rid of any books; they are his journal of his lifetime that he views, poignantly, with head tilted, whenever we move and he has to box them up again.

One of the greatest Readers I have known was a Jesuit priest (if you’ve never known one, they have incredible libraries), who would loan you a book for 24 hours. He had stuff that was not published in the US yet, plays direct from the London stage, books from around the world (way back in the 70s). You could borrow one when you were ready to go home, sit down and read it, then get it back to him. Very protective, very smart. I tend not to lend, unless I have a spare copy or am willing to get another one. Well, that’s not true, I have given the PERFECT book to someone right when they needed it, then looked for it the next time not remembering I had gifted it out.

I’m betting that there are several of you out there like me, a person whose book buying outpaces my book reading. So I have a question: What is the best book you haven’t read? Do you, like me, have a lot of books you have purchased because they sounded like such a great idea, but haven’t had the chance to read yet? The advent of online book ordering has exponentially increased my library.

A reference in an article, an author I like, blink!, it’s on the way. By the time it gets here, it goes to the bedside shelf with the others, and ultimately after several dustings to the bedroom shelves. Sometimes they do get read, don’t get me wrong, but with 6-7 bedside books, sometimes they don’t make it past a few chapters before a newer more seductive title replaces them too soon. My own challenge is to find six, one for every other month this year, that I really do want to read and not end up with a totally unbroken spine at my estate sale.

Either way, I’m interested. Let me know what is the ONE best book you haven’t read, or if you are going to do the SIX book list, I’d be happy to hear one or all from that list. And do you keep a log, or catalog your books in some way? I’ve started thinking I should. It takes a lot longer to read a book than to view a bird, but birdwatchers are diligent about recording the birds they’ve seen in their lifetimes, and readers tend to just move on to the next one without much documentation. Or is that just me?

It’s a bit like when someone comes over to your house and you go to the kitchen to cook or make a drink while they look at your bookshelf and come to some conclusions about the person who owns those books. Except we are being honest with each other that we just bought them, we haven’t read them. I have always loved figuring someone out by what books they read, how about what books they buy? I think it still says something.

Author: Reba Saxon

Reba Saxon finds it hard to write a short concise bio. She has had at least a dozen jobs in her life, and has three current businesses in addition to writing: real estate broker, auctioneer, and apartment locator. She has been in sales and publishing for 25 years, loves to teach anything, and wishes she could be paid for just driving around and describing it. She has driven a minimum of 30,000 miles annually since she had a license 40 years ago. Over a million miles is a meditation style.

6 thoughts on “Out of the Closet, Book Buyer!”

  1. “It takes a lot longer to read a book than to view a bird, but birdwatchers are diligent about recording the birds they’ve seen in their lifetimes, and readers tend to just move on to the next one…”

    I love that sentence. Books, I mean the physical books, can be as beautiful as birds. They sing, too.

  2. I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who has shelf after shelf of unread books. My period of buying books on spec (seemingly by the gross) is some years in the past. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I haven’t made nearly enough of a dent in them in the intervening years.

    The best book I have that I haven’t read? Hard to say, but I think it may be Taylor Branch’s series of books on Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement. There are also a couple of Studs Terkels I haven’t gotten around to, as well as…well, again, there’s the embarassment factor. I think I should probably follow the first rule of holes here and stop digging.

    Again, thanks for letting me know I have company.

  3. I am writing a book about Jack Matthews, a short story writer who wrote several books about book collecting (I am in the process of publishing his first ever interview soon). He made the point that when you buy books you are investing in the possibility of them without actually reading them. It never really bothered him that books remained unread. (All of his books are worth reading, but probably “Booking in the Heartland” is the most insightful about book collecting. Here is a breezy/superficial post I made about him http://www.imaginaryplanet.net/weblogs/idiotprogrammer/2009/06/discovery-a-great-story-writer-named-jack-matthews/ ).

    As far as unread books, I could choose any of a number, but let’s limit myself to Texans. I compiled a list a few years ago of great Texas books from A.C. Greene and James Ward Lee . All the books on that list sound mouth-watering, especially Billy Lee Brammer’s Gay Place, some of Shelby Hearon’s books, Loula Erdman, William A. Owens.

    If I were to pick one book permanently on my To-Read list within that subset, it would have to be Serpent and the Rope by Raja Rao. Raja Rao was a legendary South Indian novelist who purely by happenstance ended up teaching at UT-Austin for 2 decades. All of his books are out of print and really expensive on the used market.I keep doing ILL for Serpent and the Egg and never find the time to finish it. I just wish UT Press could get their act together and republish the English translations of Rao’s works, so I can actually own a copy of his books.

  4. I finished Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” last year. I’m not sure why I started it but once begun I was hooked. I too, always read several books at a time so it took a good six months to finish, but was so worth it. I am now rereading it slowly- a few pages a night –

  5. I have no real library other than reference material for natural history of Big Bend and such, but do manage to have heavy luggage to (returns) and from sister’s home in Montana. I’ve read everything from the last trip so its time to return. I really need to make better use of my library card.

    And Glenn, I’m a fair birder, but I hate lists. I know when I see a new species and that’s plenty good from my viewpoint and usually exciting. Same goes for plants and critters.

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