My Library Pile

It’s out of control. I’m writing a post about it to ease my anxiety about this. Why can’t I just read some of my own books?! Because browsing the library website is fun. And the new is always more tempting than what’s languishing in my TBR, forgotten. And since I’ve been reading more lately, I imagine I can read even more: my library eyes are bigger than my reading stomach. Finally, I’m not very disciplined about library holds, but also when I request a book that’s “on order,” its arrival is very unpredictable. It could appear immediately after the publication date, or several months after. All that is part of why my library pile is out of control.

Here’s the pile: 11 12 (one’s missing) physical books, and one digital. What are they?The books from work:

One day I forgot to pack the book I was reading (The Comforters by Muriel Spark. It was weird and good). I tried to download my library ebook and for some reason I couldn’t (I suspect my iPad is signed in to Overdrive a different way than my phone). So, somehow feeling I must have something for my homeward commute, I went to the college library and got a couple of political science books I’d been wanting to read. Then I rode home on the train with my husband and read nothing. Will I get to these? Maybe not anytime soon. But unless a student requests them, I can probably renew them many times. Or, you know, take them back and grab them later when I have time to read them. Why not?

  • Neither Liberal Nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public, by Donald R. Kinder and Nathan P. Kalmoe (the preface has a lovely tribute to Philip Converse, the scholar whose work they build on; one of the nicest academic tributes I’ve ever read)
  • Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, by Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels

The Poetry Pile:

My “bookend your day” resolution is going very well and really increasing my reading time and focus. Teresa gave me the idea of reading poetry in the morning, and I’m enjoying letting a handful of poems wash over me in my half-awake state. I didn’t really mean to end up with three books at once, though. One of these was overdue for quite a while and so I got a backup. Then the overdue one suddenly appeared. Of course.

  • Observations, by Marianne Moore (a fellow Bryn Mawr College alumna, but I’ve only read a couple of her poems before)
  • A Place Called no Homeland, Kai Cheng Thom (found browsing the new arrivals, and I think I also spotted it at Book Riot or in a friend’s Twitter feed)
  • Whereas, Layli Long Soldier (from the National Book Award list)

Rohan’s Recommendations:

I think that’s how I discovered both of these.

  • An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, by Daniel Mendelsohn (not in the photo, I just realized, so that’s 13! I’m reading this now and so far it’s what I hoped Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch would be–fascinating about both Homer and Mendelsohn’s own life. Mead’s book was OK, but this is deeper. Maybe because I don’t know The Odyssey the way I know Middlemarch, but I suspect it’s more than that. Must finish this because it’s due soon and others are waiting).
  • The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It, by Joanna Scutts (don’t think Rohan has read this, but she’s how I found Scutts on Twitter and learned of the book. I’ve never lived alone, and I think I’d be bad at it, but I somehow think of myself as solitary, so I’m drawn to this book).

Been Waiting Forever!

Well, it feels like it.

  • Winter, by Ali Smith (it was “in cataloguing” for about two weeks while I waited impatiently for my hold. Autumn was one of my favourites last year)


  • Beau Death, by Peter Lovesey (I’ve read some of the Peter Diamond series, all out of order. This is the latest. Must read fast, because many others are waiting).
  • A Snake in the Grass, by Anthony Gilbert (I requested this mystery from 1954 because it meets the PopSugar Challenge category of woman writing under a male pseudonym–I Googled a list–and I’d read so many of the other obvious choices for this category. I am enjoying the heck out of this. It’s the book I’m actually picking up at the end of the day and looking forward to reading).
  • Missing Presumed, by Susie Steiner (this was pretty popular, I think, and I picked it at random from the library shelf. Now, of course, someone else wants it and I may have to return it unread and try again later. Which is fine! Fine! I tell myself to relieve my library anxiety.)
  • The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey (on the iPad; I’ve started this mystery, set in 1921 Bombay with a female solicitor. It’s a little info-dumpy so far but feels well researched, and I like the concept)

Random Pick:

Off the new books shelf. Someone I follow reviewed it recently. Likely to be returned unread because look at this out of control pile. Something must be done!

  • Katalin Street, by Magda Szabo

These are all due sometime in the next three weeks. Somewhere in the next week or so I also have to choose something for the TBR Challenge. (At least that will be one I own!) And then I’ve got another 13 on hold. . . . My name is Liz, and I have a Library Problem. How about you?

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17 Responses to My Library Pile

  1. Lisa says:

    Hi, I saw a tweet about this post and it resonated with me! I have stacks of books from two libraries that are all coming due. Because I suddenly decided to re-read a beloved series of books, they will probably all go back unread. I’ve finally “suspended” some of my library holds, so the stacks don’t get any higher 🙂

    Of course, now I want to put In the Days of Rain on hold, because it sounds so interesting.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      There’s always another book that sounds interesting! And really, would we want it to be different? I wrote the post partly because I know I’m not alone in my piling habits, and it’s always good to feel less alone.

  2. lawless says:

    I wondered if that Peter Lovesey was another entry in the Peter Diamond series. I’ll have to look for it at the library.

    Good luck managing your library pile!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      That has been “on order” for months and then suddenly appeared. But I think it may just have been released. I enjoyed the last Diamond book a lot and am looking forward to this one.

  3. Sunita says:

    Hah! I am right there with you. In the last week I sent a bunch of books backs to the library because they are not getting read any time soon (including endlessly-renewable uni library books). I had requested most of the TOB shortlist books I hadn’t read, and there was no way I was going to read them in time. Then there were the new releases I had on hold, and the impulse books, and, and, and.

    I’m down to 6 ebooks and 2 print books from the library but come on, they’re not going to happen either. Maybe 2 of the library books?

    And did I mention I made bulk purchases from two UK small presses in January, and they just showed up? Oh yeah.

    I keep telling myself that I should just read and not worry, but I like hearing what other people are reading and talking to them about it on blogs and GR, and of course more stuff winds up on the short- and long-terms TBRs. Sigh. Thanks for the photo, though; I just realized your ebook will fill a reading challenge category for me.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Why is “just read and not worry” so difficult? I’m not sure why I should feel guilty about checking out some library books and not getting to them—that’s part of what the library is for, and it’s better than buying them and not getting to them! Maybe if I went entirely offline and stopped reading newspaper book sections, I’d dig more into my own home library. But as you say, talking about books and checking out lists is part of the joy of reading.

  4. Oh Liz, you are so not alone. I put library books on hold all the time, especially new ‘on order’ books that I know I will want to read. Those usually do get read. However, for every 6 ‘gee, that looks interesting’ books that I put on hold, at least 5 will go back unread. Flipped through, yes, but once in hand I find myself reacting ‘what were you thinking??’ The 6th one may or may not get read within the allotted time; if not read, I usually stick that title on a ‘want to read’ list, where it will languish for a year or more. Then I will delete it from the list because I can no longer remember why I was interested!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Ohhhh, my “For Later” library shelf. Why did they invent the ability to create such a thing? I do pick things off it sometimes, but it can function as just another TBR of guilt. Why be guilty about flagging books that caught my eye as something I may want to read? But somehow in my mind it becomes a commitment.

      • I have reached the point now that I read only for pleasure–no more guilt about books I ‘should’ read or books that I’ve lost interest in. Too many books, too little time–it is rather sad to truly realize you will never have time to read all the books. My current problem is finding time for re-reads. There are a number of books I want to revisit. I’m doing better about making sure said books are easy to get my hands on rather than buried in a box somewhere!

  5. Rohan MaitzenRohan says:

    My library pile is mostly e-books, which makes it much less stressful. I just turn off my Kobo and nobody ever has to know! The down side is that it is also easy for me to forget about the titles there and then they expire.

    Jo Scutts wrote some great essays and reviews for Open Letters; I haven’t read her book yet but I’m sure it will be smart and interesting.

  6. Teresa says:

    One side effect of my new job is that I no longer walk past the library on my way home, so I’m not going as often. Last year, I ended up making great use of the “suspend hold” feature to dole out books one or two at a time, but the pile still got away from me! Once the Tournament of Books is over and I’ve read the handful of books still on my holds list, I plan to really buckle down and focus on the books I own. But I will probably have to ignore a lot of appealing recommendations to make that happen!

  7. willaful says:

    *Notes Anthony title for my own challenge*

    You know I am with you! The psychology of doing the worst possible thing to distract ourselves is a very strange one.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Strange, but seemingly very common. There’s probably research that explains everything about my library pile.

      I think you’d like the Gilbert—good classic mystery. Her detective is a deliberate answer to the popular aristocratic types of the time (a shady lawyer named Crook), and there’s a great spinster character and a Golden-Age-mystery style insta-romance.

  8. Democracy for Realists is on my list too! That one looks amazing and I think I’m going to learn a lot from it.

    I have a ton ton TON of library books out right now (and always), and I just try not to feel too bad about it. Isn’t the whole point of buying books that you’ve bought yourself time to read them at your absolute leisure? :p I’ve got a resolution this year to read 10 of my own damn books, and I am perfectly comfortable with that.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      This is a very healthy attitude to library books! I found that just focusing on reading one at a time (rather than trying to read 5 at once and feeling I was making no progress on the pile) helped a lot.

      • willaful says:

        I’m also doing better with focusing mainly on one book, though I have nonfiction books I read in bits when I need a break. I keep catching myself thinking, “time to turn to another book now” even when I’m actually quite absorbed, so I need to break that habit.

        I also returned a bunch of ebooks for later. I feel bad about it, because I think each license only gets so many checkouts, but hey, maybe I’m doing the authors a favor. 🙂 I need to start regularly checking my holds and suspending some when they’re all getting close at the same time.

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