Time to Think and Time to Cull…

I interrupt the scheduled posts with a random one about bookish puzzlement… 

Whilst most of the UK was watching the X Factor, or possibly out on the town I found myself typing about books whilst watching the adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s ‘Further Tales of the City’, which I have borrowed for some cheer as I have the sniffles (though the idea of a few days in bed with a fever and lots of books is lovely, I don’t actually want a cold) this weekend. It was this DVD that sparked off half of today’s post along with recording episode eight of The Readers yesterday morning. I am feeling like I need a book cull and a little like I have lost my way with my reading habits (not my blogging habits, this isn’t a ‘moaning blogger naval gazes’ post honest, though I might talk about blogging a bit) somewhere recently, though I think this feeling has been brewing a while. I feel like I have lost my reading identity.

Armistead Maupin is a favourite author, interestingly though he is not an author I have really blogged about. This in itself doesn’t make sense. How can an author I love and want to read everything by have not had a single book read and reviewed on the blog, I have actually read one which was long listed for The Green Carnation Prize last year so I couldn’t talk about it on here, that still isn’t enough Maupin in my reading life though, in over four years? That doesn’t make sense. I even made a pact with myself to read more Maupin… almost three years ago. So why have I not?

This doesn’t just apply to Maupin; it applies to favourite authors like Daphne Du Maurier, Muriel Spark, Margaret Atwood, Arthur Conan Doyle, Susan Hill etc who I have read ‘some’ of in the last four years of blogging. I wanted to read much more of their stuff, they are my favourites after all and yet I haven’t. Have I lost my way with reading? I weirdly think I have a little, not the spark of reading itself, just the reading I am doing isn’t quite where I think I should be at in my reading life. This doesn’t mean I am not enjoying what I am reading; I am just not sure why I am not reading all the books that are ‘me’. I wonder if I am making sense.

Since I have gotten more into blogging, both in the upkeep of Savidge Reads with posting and commenting (which I am finally up to date with, hoorah) and in reading all the other blogs I love (which I am catching up with at the moment) the amount of books I want to read has quadrupled, well that’s an understatement if I am honest, but with all these endless possibilities of reading I seem to be forgetting all the authors I wanted to wander off with in favour of new delights. Books are tempting me from publishers etc. Plus its nice to be reading things that I wouldnt normally. Yet what about me reading more books from or about India, or lost classics, or fairytales for adults? Where is the focus?

Fickle? Maybe! And with the ever growing Mount TBR delightfully expanding all the time (no complaints here honest) I seem to be in a battle to catch up with my old favourites as the new arrivals pile up. I know some of them will become firm favourites of the future, but I must not forget the authors I loved before the days of reading and writing blogs. I feel a little out at sea with it all and am in danger or drowning in a delightful deluge of books.

Being adrift makes me feel a little uneasy; it seems to have become a little apparent, ripples have been appearing on the blog, which many of you, including Dark Puss, have  picked up on. Though I wouldn’t call it lacking self confidence I am lacking reading confidence and a little reading direction. I also think I have fallen into the ‘oh that book sounds perfect… so I will save it for a rainy day’ syndrome (the irony of this as I live in Manchester, one of the rainiest city, hasn’t passed me by) why save it why not just read on and read what I want when I want? I think I need to find my way again, but how?

Well it is going to start with a cull. I don’t mean one of my regular routine culls; I am talking about a major cull (which will prove doubly helpful as I am moving in the next month or two). Like a reverse of out with the old and in with the new. Not quite a case of starting from scratch but something near that. This won’t happen over a weekend, this will happen over the next two or three weeks with a box of books dealt with here and there, this should be more effective and more stringent than a weekend of culling madness. A clearer Mount TBR might mean a clearer reading mind. Here’s hoping.

Any tips for finding your reading modjo/identity once more? This isn’t readers block, its something else. Any other advice on tips for culling, how ruthless is too ruthless, how flaky is too flaky? I’ve also reminded myself of the small pact I have planned to bring in from the 21st of December 2011 until the 21st of December 2012, it’s a tough one but I think it should become my mantra once more. Do you have any book buying mantras or the like?

…Normal service will resume shortly, I apologise for this unscheduled meandering post.

20 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

20 responses to “Time to Think and Time to Cull…

  1. Sue

    It is sometimes good to return the core of what we are and books and authors are a good way of doing that. Maupin is part of yours (and also of a good friend of mine). Sometimes they don’t hold up which is a disappointment but it is thrilling when they not only hold up you get more from them by reading with older eyes. I recently re-read The Rainbow and Women in Love and I was instantly back to my 18 year old intense self but not only that I understood more of what Lawrence was talking about – I also saw the arrogance, obsession and clunky writing but I still loved them and they held up.

    I regularly cull my books – driven by space issues but there is a line of creased white spines on the top shelf of my main bookshelves that I would never get rid of.

    • Maupin in one of the authors that I should have written about more on the blog because he (along with Daphne Du Maurier, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie) was one of the reasons that I got so swiftly back into reading. I devoured this series and yet I never really mention it and I should.

      I am going to turn to Maupin very soon, possibly imminently, and am just debating between the stand alone ‘Maybe The Moon’ or getting back into the wonders of Barberry Lane with ‘Babycakes’ as ‘Further Tales of the City’ has refreshed my memory so well? Hmmm tough decisions.

      I am going to start the culling today with ‘Further Tales of the City’ on in the background reminding me why I am doing it.

  2. Eva

    I think it’s SO easy to lose sight of old favourites with all of the shiny new-to-us books being blogged about! This year, I made a conscious effort to start reading more of authors I’d already read and loved, and I’m slowly getting back into that habit. It’s been lovely, as you might imagine. 🙂

    I did my own cull a few months ago and was quite ruthless, but I’m also not terribly attached to owning books since I have a wonderful public library. So I primarily saved books I’d already read and loved, with only two shelves for TBR books. And even those are now mainly by authors I already know I like!

    Next year, I plan to return even more firmly to my roots. More rereading, more reading of authors I already know, more exploring of my old favourite genres (mystery & fantasy & classics). I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to ‘quantify’ it, but I probably will. For me, giving myself a firm ratio to use as a yardstick helps me change my habits, so that eventually it takes less conscious effort on my part to read whatever kinds of books I want to increase in my life. Last year, I increased authors of colour. This year, I’ve been increasing ‘older’ books (aka, that were published before 2000). So next year, I’ll be in a good place to rest on my laurels and read more deeply rather than broadly!

    This has gotten quite rambly: sorry about that. But it’s a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot too: I’ll probably post on it next month. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see what you decide!

    • Maybe its something in the air Eva. I was chatting with Gavin of Gav Reads about this quite a lot yesterday after we finished recording the latest episode of The Readers and how unfocused I felt. Not in the sense of not enjoying what I am reading, which I am, but that I seem to be loosing sight of my favourite authors and all those books of theirs I wanted to read.

      It could see Savidge Reads go in a new direction maybe? Not with a new look though I have done that far too many times and am happy with the layout, just less so the content.

      I think with The Green Carnation too, as much as I love it, it does swap my reading a lot and I sort of loose time with books I have been meaning to read. Lets see what happens I guess. I don’t want to not find new exciting though so its finding that balance. Ha, I have gone rambling on again, see I don’t think I quite know where I am at at the moment with it all.

  3. Louise

    I have noticed a change in your reading lately..you seem to be reading for a purpose more than the love of.. You’ve been reading for The Green Carnation, Bookmarked, Reading With Authors, Man Booker titles etc I’m sure you’ve read some great titles but thinking back to some of your reviews a year or so ago, there has been a definite change in your reading taste. Maybe you should think about what YOU would like to read rather than reading something for a particular purpose.

    As for book culling…I did remove 100 or so books off my shelves a few weeks ago, they were books I’d never read again, some that were unread and wouldn’t touch with a barge pole and some which I bought wanting to read and now they just don’t appeal. I was a little ruthless, but one has to be, especially with all the books I’m hoping Santa brings me 😉

    • Oh no, I am hoping that even though you have noticed Louise it hasnt been to the detrement of the blog. I have been enjoying the things I have read even if its not been through choice like with The Green Carnation (I havent blogged about all the books submitted or longlisted etc unless they were submitted after the initial reading through my own choice) and Bookmarked, which is on an extended break, was all authors that I had loved the books of and so invited. I have decided no more Man Booker or Orange readathons though, well maybe from shortlist on.

      I have spent the day culling and have all the books in the house sorted, just the few hundred in the garage to go.

  4. I completely hear you and have been pondering the same thing myself. I was looking back at my reading over the past year and was distressed at how many mediocre books I’d read in the interests of being willing to try anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love how blogging has opened me up to authors I never would have heard about or considered reading, but I think I’ve started to lean too far in the direction of being open-minded and stopped being choosy. I’m thinking for next year I’m going to put a limit on how many new books I read, just so I can catch up on old favorites as well as many authors I’ve been wanting to try for years.

    • Oh Teresa that is spooky, I have been culling and updating all my bookish documents today. One was updating the ‘books I have read in 2011’ list I keep. I hadnt done it since March and was so dismayed to see how many books I had read which I have come away now feeling rather ‘meh’ about is ridiculous – I didn’t include Green Carnation books in this. My reasons for reading them have been like yours, open minded to new ventures and now I am thinking ‘blimey why didn’t I stick to what I know’.

      I will have to think about how I combat this next year, but I may well do a you.

  5. gaskella

    This is something I always struggle with, so I sympathise totally Simon. This year I started off by only reading TBR books for 3 months, but as the year has wound on, I’m predominantly reading new acquisitions. I’m doing better on culling the TBR – I can now see the floor in my bedroom and spare room, and I’m being quite ruthless about not keeping books unless they’re special. I may well do the TBR thing again at the start of 2012, (with exceptions for book club and the new Ali Shaw book). I may need to move next year too, which will mean a major cull rather than the gentle one I’ve recently favoured – eek!

    • I have started years with those intentions so I completely get where you are coming from too Annabel, see this is why blogging is brilliant, we can all compare notes when we have hurdles.

      The culling I have found rather less difficult than usual because I am in a bit of a grump about it. Thats my advice, cull a section but when you are feeling frustrated. I have only managed the ones in the house but its feeling much better – as I am now 150 books lighter – and I will work on all the ones in the garage on and off over the next few weeks.

  6. I’ve done a cull just before New Year’s last year and the year before. Books just have a way of piling up around our house. I consider myself a bit ruthless. If I’ve read I only keep it if I think I might re-read it or use it, somehow. I’ve I’ve had it in the TBR shelf more than a certain number of years, it goes.

    I make exceptions for titles that I think might be hard to find again should I get the desire for them in a few years, and for some sentimental favorites, and for a few categories i still collect.

    In the end, I wound up taking one very full shopping bag of books to the library book sale donation table.

    • My local library won’t take my books you know CB. I think its bonkers instead the local charity book store will get all the books they can sell and the local train station will get all the promo copies which can’t be sold – we have a swap shop at the station now and I like to donate as and when I can, they have bumper crop coming tomorrow I can tell you!

  7. Kate, Sydney

    I have a never ending battle that is out of control of TBR’s and my “wish list”. Blogs like yours have definitely helped the “out of controlness” and I have so many poor books on my own shelves that I had to have that are still unread – some years old now – that it’s scary.

    2010 was a year I refused to buy/borrow any books and had to read at least one book from A-Z (authors) from my own shelves. Out of all the books I read in that year, I did feel at least I’d read 20-odd of my own. I did of course have to read books for my two book clubs. This year I’d be lucky if I’ve read any of my own.

    I think I have to stop reading blogs and reviews to seriously get things under control – so good luck Simon!!! You get so many unsolicited freebies as well – I can’t imagine ever getting your books under control. But I love the plan!

    • I interestingly don’t have a ‘wish list’ Kate, I am not sure why. I just keep them in my head. I do want to concentrate on sorting out those lingering books. Believe it or not but the way my Mount TBR is sorted the books are in boxes and box seven has the books I have had the longest and box one the newest, make sense? So I need to go back to the old malingering ones and see if I really want to read them and if so dig them out as they have waiting all this time.

      I think reading blogs can help cull though, if a new book gets mentioned here there and everywhere I go off it and some peoples reviews will make me rethink a book I have been keeping as I ‘might’ like it and if certain bloggers didnt I am almost certain I won’t – there are some great pluses to reading reviews both for getting more books (oh come on we all love it even when it gets too much) and for getting rid.

  8. Stephanie

    The problem with being a committed reader is that there is so much potential material out there to read. I have a book buying habit, a book borrowing habit (from our wonderful local library system) and two book clubs to satisfy. As well, I read reviews in papers and magazines and follow several blogs whose authors have wide reading interests. Along the way, I pick up more and more potential books to devour. When I have read a book that I particularly enjoyed, I am very tempted to read another book from the same author. It’s very difficult to put a foot on the tiger’s tail as it continually grows. This year I decided to rein in my book buying but have actually bought a similar number to last year with the majority being ‘withdrawn’ books from the library where I have picked up ‘older’ books from authors I am keen to read. Although this cost less, it still takes up floor and shelf space.
    So what to do? One cannot stop the publication of new books, the re-releases of old books, the local library displaying all its wares and the continual recommendations from multiple media outlets. This all adds to the mounting TBR problem. However, I think you need to make sure that you are reading for you more than you currently feel you are. Perhaps have a minimum of one book a month that you select ahead of time irrespective of other reading commitments and keep this named book in your focus for the month. By the end of a year, you may have read six of the twelve or even twelve of the twelve books. AND … learn to say ‘No’ to some attractive reading/bookish challenges that arise. Living in the modern world, we have too much information and too much choice so we have to learn to reduce what we absorb.

    • I love you analogy of “It’s very difficult to put a foot on the tiger’s tail as it continually grows.” That is so true. I also thing book lovers are programmed to just always see more and more potential books for future reads and I wouldn’t want to stop reading reviews or blogs etc

      I do think I need to stop with challenges or prize long list readalongs. Apart from The Green Carnation Prize of course.

  9. i sometimes wonder if blogging has taken me away from some writers I love ,in fact it has I m certain it has ,I need to read some of my old favourites too ,all the best stu

    • I don’t mean this post as a moan but I do think that while blogging has been great for widening my reading horizon I also think it has lead me away from old favourites and sometimes I just read lots and lots of new stuff not the older stuff, I don’t mean classics exactly, that I also loved reading. Time to get back to those.

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