The Perils of Mount TBR

One of the joys (and sometimes banes) of a Bookcrosser’s life is the TBR pile – that tottering stack of books waiting to be read before you send them off into the world (by the way, I’m not going to explain every bit of Bookcrossing terminology I mention in this diary – other people have done a much better job of that than I ever could (e.g. see TexasWren’s FAQ Page), and anyway, it interrupts the flow too much to keep stopping to explain everything. I’m sure you’ll pick it up as you go along.). It’s funny, but almost every Bookcrosser finds that soon after they’ve joined this organisation dedicated to giving away books, they’ve suddenly got more books than ever!

There are two reasons for this phenomenon. One is down to the generosity of other Bookcrossers: someone sees that you quite like the works of Author A, and offers to send you another book by them, or maybe even something by Author B, who has a similar style; or someone posts a message on the forums that they’re desperately searching for a Book X, which you just happen to have on your shelf – you send it off to them, and in gratitude, they send you another book back; or you go to a meetup, and someone’s brought along a huge pile of books to share, and despite your best intentions, half a dozen catch your eye and you just have to take them home to read…

And then there’s the second reason: you catch the releasing bug (warning, Bookcrossing is highly addictive, especially after you get that first catch), but you’ve stripped your shelves clear of everything you can bear to part with (I know what I said in my previous entry about books collecting dust, but there’s some books which are just special!). So you find yourself haunting second hand shops, school fairs, car boot sales… anywhere you might pick up some cheap books. And you discover a useful trick: the guy at the car boot sale who’s selling old paperbacks for $2 each is often quite happy to sell you the whole box of them for $20, despite the fact there might be 50 books in the box – he knows he’ll never sell them all individually, so he’s just happy to get them off his hands, and make a small profit on his entry fee for the sale. So you drag them home, sort through them, find the 10 or 12 you actually want to read, and the rest go straight into the pile ready to be released (after they’ve been registered and suitably labelled, of course). But in the meantime, you’ve got another 10 or 12 books to read… And then there’s new books. Not many Bookcrossers would go and buy a brand new book solely to release into the wild (who has that kind of money???), but you find yourself more willing to buy yourself a book by a new author, or try something a bit different, because always in the back of your mind is the thought, “well, if I don’t enjoy it, I can always Bookcross it”. And then, of course, there’s the books that are discussed on the forums, and sound so fascinating that you just have to go and buy a copy for yourself… This is the usual response given to authors and publishers worried that the Bookcrossing movement might reduce book sales – most Bookcrossers report that since they’ve started Bookcrossing, they’ve bought more new books than they used to, not less.

I actually have several TBR piles – the first, and largest, (in fact, “pile” is a bit of a misnomer, because it now takes up three shelves!) consists of books I’ve bought, and will eventually Bookcross, but want to read first; a second pile is made up of books that other Bookcrossers have given me (which I’ll try to read before the books in the first pile, because I don’t want to keep them out of circulation for too long); and sometimes there’s a temporary third pile, for bookring books.

The etiquette of bookrings says that you should try to read the book and pass it on to the next person as quickly as possible after receiving it. The Murphy’s Law of bookrings says that a bookring book will always turn up in your letterbox the day after you (a) just started reading a 1000-page epic, or (b) received several other bookring books. I’m seriously starting to think that bookring books must be herd animals who don’t like to be alone, because they always seem to arrive in groups, never just one at a time. At the moment I’ve got a pile of books by New Zealand authors that I’d really like to read before November, because I want to take them over to the convention in Sydney (time to introduce these Aussies to some culture! 😉 ), but every time I go to start reading one, a bookring book turns up that I have to give priority to. Last Thursday, Love and Vertigo by Hsu-Ming Teo (oops, hang on, that’s an Australian book – forget everything I said about the Aussies having no culture – it’s a good book!) turned up (while I was in the middle of reading another book, of course). I started reading it yesterday morning while waiting for the bus, and when I got home that evening, what did I find waiting for me but another bookring book: Sweet Dreams by Michael Frayn . So reading those NZ books will have to wait a bit longer…

Oh well, it’s the eternal cry of the Bookcrosser: “So many books, so little time!”

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