Mt. TBR is a term of endearment. If you haven't heard it, the acronym means “Mount ‘To Be Read.’” It's the stack of books that accumulates on the nightstand. It's the shelf of books in the living room. It's the book on the dining table. It's the book in the bathroom cabinet. It's the list of books to be read in the future. It is the spreadsheet with multiple lists of award winners and other books to be read in the future. It probably amounts to more inches in height than you do. (64" in my case). [Digression: The photo shows me standing next to the stack of unread books in my house, not including virtual reading commitments or books I intend to keep but not read].
I haven't read most of the books in my house. Once I read them, I lose my attachment and let them go. My intention has always been to read everything that I own. I just can't seem to manage it. I've set a resolution to change my relationship with books, and I've spent all of this year so far trying to climb my personal Mt. TBR. I've got the oxygen canisters and the dehydrated meals and the crampons and everything.
The trouble is that I seem to have two personas, who are both interested in lots and lots of books. There is the me who buys books, and then there is the me who goes to the library for books. Neither seems to be aware of the other. What happens is that I always read the library books, and never finish the books that I buy. The result is that I read during all the time available, spend money on things I don't use, and fill up my house with unread books.
Then there is the third me, who is constantly saving links to articles to read later. I could read for eight hours a day, and perhaps finish my backlog in three weeks.
What I am doing is making commitments for Future Self. It appears that I think Future Self will be more likely to find the time to read these things than I will today. Present Self is already listening to audiobooks and podcasts on 2x speed. Present Self is already using the ReadQuick app. There is no margin here! Present Self seems to think that nothing interesting to read will ever be published again, and we can somehow catch up to the present date.
The funny thing here is that I have been writing a book for the past four years. My available reading time is about 20% of what it used to be. I seem to be choosing reading material based on my prior quantity of free time.
The other funny thing is that I am very interested in learning foreign languages. It is the nature of the beast that I will have to give up at least some of my English-language reading material to make room for this. If I don't have enough time to keep up with my English-language reading material now, it will be that much more difficult when I am also trying to read everything in several other languages.
There are several approaches to my dilemma:
1. Stop going to the library.
2. Delete the entire reading queue and start from scratch.
3. Donate every book I own and have not read for at least a year.
4. Read only foreign-language news sources.
5. Don’t read anything at all until my book is published.
6. Estimate how much I can read in a week and accumulate only 80% or less than that amount.
7. Realize none of these things are going to happen in the long term, and maybe aim for the short term?
We took this photo and went to a large bookstore a couple hours later. I came out empty-handed. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.
I feel frantic when I contemplate changing my ways. My reading habits are the core of who I am. I tried giving up reading for a month once just to see what I would do. It was SO depressing. I cheated. I read the newspaper during my lunch and I started playing audiobooks. I finished a lot of projects and did a lot of cooking, and my apartment was never cleaner. But it was sad. Did I then start reading through my backlog of books? What do you think?
The paradox is that I want to read what I want, when I want. Yet I keep assigning reading homework to Future Self. I don't want to shut down the possibility of ever reading a particular book; I just don't seem to want to read it right at this very moment. The longer a book sits around, the less appealing it seems to be. It's like stale bread.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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