Friday, August 31, 2012

I Have A Book Problem

It will come as no surprise to those who know me well but for anyone who is reading this blog and has never had the privilege (yes, privilege I say) of making my acquaintance there is something you should know about me—I am a complete and total nerd when it comes to books. I love to read and always have. Ever since I can remember I have always had shelves full of books surrounding me. In fact, while most young children sleep with stuffed animals, I would actually sleep with my books when I was little (which, from the stories I am told about my childhood was probably one of my lesser oddities—thank goodness I am completely normal now--heh).

So before I could afford spending large amounts of money on books I used to love going to the library where my mom worked for a short time—browsing the shelves and always coming home with a stack full of books. I was so excited about the books I read that I wanted to share them with everyone and I even created a small library in room where my family and friends could “check out” books from my own personal collection. I was always getting free pizzas from the school BookIt program and one of my favorite shows was Reading Rainbow ("Take a look it's in a book of Reading Rainboooow...").

Perhaps one of the best childhood stories about my book-loving obsession that my mom likes to tell is how I totally (at least I think unknowingly) gave the figurative finger to some haters at the new school I started when we moved from Georgia to Pennsylvania in the first grade. See, the Pennsylvania educators didn’t believe my test scores were as good as they were since all southerners must be dumb hicks (which, okay, Honey Boo Boo Chile is not doing us any favors in dispelling that myth) so they gave me several of their own IQ tests. When they were finally satisfied that I wasn’t completely ignorant , I drove the I-told-you-so needle in even further by politely asking “now can you please show me to your library”?

Why tell these stories? Well I’m hoping that they will help you understand the confession I am about to make in that while (I admit) this problem I have is completely ridiculous it does have some historical bearing. It’s not pretty and I am not proud of it but I feel as if it is an omission I must make to control the madness.
Here goes.

I have a book buying problem. As of today I have about 80 books in my house that I have not read (but bought with the good intention of reading) and for whatever reason I keep buying more. I know what you’re thinking—I must be broke from buying books. Well no, not really. I buy most of my books when I am out thrifting at Goodwill so most of the time I get them for about a $1-$1.50 each which, you know, isn’t too bad in my opinion. A lot of the books I buy are classics that I feel I should be reading but there are also a lot of fiction books, some nonfiction books, and a few beach type reads that I think would be good guilty pleasures (in my crazy mind my unread books should have variety to accommodate whatever mood I might be feeling when I am never reading them).

I realize that there is a simple solution to this book obsession I have—stop buying books until I have read the ones I have--easy, right? Okay so I have tried that in the past and it lasted for maybe a couple months. The problem is that I am a slow reader and combined with work and everything else going on in my life I wasn’t making much progress. Then I would see a book at the thrift that I had remembered wanting to read and I would be like “it’s just one book, it’s no big deal.” Or “but it’s a classic—classics are different than just buying some trashy literature.” Thus the vicious cycle would begin again.

The whole problem really sucks –I like physical books and I like having them around me. There are worse things to be addicted to right? But in the sense of practicality and the fact that my current house does not have any extra room for a library (oh someday) I realize I have got to do something. I don’t really know what that something is but I am open to suggestions. One possible solution I have thought of is to publish my list of unread books on this blog so that you readers can give me the thumbs up/thumbs down on any that I either must read or ones where I shouldn’t waste my time. I purchased all the books on my list thinking they might be good so if there are any that you all out there have read that totally suck I would love to know. On the other hand, I would also love to get excited about any on the list so if there are some that are truly amazing must-read-right-away books, please do tell!

So, in all it’s glory I give you Ashley’s Unread Booklist (try not to be too judgey ok?):

Book Title Author
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  Alan Bradley
The River King  Alice Hoffman
Made in America   Bill Bryson
Rocket Men   Craig Nelson
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius   Dave Eggers
Naked   David Sedaris
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle   David Wroblewski
The Age of Innocence   Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth  Edith Wharton
The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard   Erin McGraw
A Good Man Is Hard to Find   Flannery O’Connor
Love in the Time of Cholera   Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Middlesex   Geoffrey Eugenides
Waiting  Ha Jin
Atonement   Ian McEwan
The Grapes of Wrath   John Steinbeck
Freedom   Jonathan Franzen
The Postmistress   Sarah Blake
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  Seth Grahame-Smith
Vanity Fair   William Thackeray
Their Eyes Were Watching God   Zora Neale Hurston
Innocent Traitor   Allison Weir
Saving Fish From Drowning   Amy Tan
The Pilot’s Wife  Anita Shrieve
Run   Ann Patchett
The Magician’s Assistant  Ann Patchett
The Shipping News   Annie Proulx
Nickel and Dimed   Barbara Ehrenreich
Animal Dreams   Barbara Kingsolver
The Stone Diaries   Carol Shields
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter   Carson McCullers
Lady Chatterly’s Lover   D.H. Lawrence
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress  Dai Sijie
Snow Falling on Cedars   David Guterson
Outlander   Diana Gabaldon
The Fiery Cross Diana Gabaldon
The Little Friend  Donna Tartt
Angela’s Ashes  Frank McCourt
When Everything Changed   Gail Collins
Madame Bovary   Gustave Flaubert
Collapse Jared Diamond
The Eyre Affair  Jasper Fforde
The Namesake  Jhumpa Lahiri
Strange But True  John Searles
A Civil Action   Jonathan Harr
The Kite Runner  Khaled Hosseini
The Inheritance of Loss  Kirin Desai
War and Peace  Leo Tolstoy
The Master Butcher’s Singing Club   Louise Erdrich
Tara Road  Maeve Binchy
The Blind Assassin  Margaret Atwood
Gone With the Wind   Margaret Mitchell
Stiff   Mary Roach
The Omnivore’s Dilemma  Michael Pollan
American Gods   Neil Gaiman
Ender’s Game   Orson Scott Card
The Cotton Queen  Pamela Morsi
The Good Earth   Pearl Buck
The Constant Princess   Phillipa Gregory
The Boleyn Inheritance  Phillipa Gregory
Watership Down  Richard Adams
A Reliable Wife   Robert Goolrick
The Satanic Verses  Salman Rushdie
Shalimar the Clown   Salman Rushdie
The Birth of Venus  Sarah Dunant
In the Company of the Courtesan   Sarah Dunant
Affinity  Sarah Waters
The Little Stranger   Sarah Waters
Fingersmith   Sarah Waters
Adam and Eve  Sena Jeter Naslund
Jane Slayre   Sherri Browning Erwin
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell   Susanna Clarke
The Bell Jar  Sylvia Plath
The Once and Future King   T.H. White
Sarah’s Key  Tatiana de Rosnay
The Things They Carried  Tim O’Brien
The Girl with the Pearl Earring   Tracy Chevalier
In Cold Blood   Truman Capote
Life of Pi   Yann Martel
White Teeth   Zadie Smith


  1. What a list! :) Admittedly, I am biased towards science fiction and more light-hearted works. That being said, I have enjoyed the following from your list:
    Anything from Bill Bryson - he's hilarious and usually accessible enough to read fairly quickly.
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman is very layered and as such benefited from a more close reading (for me anyway) to make the most of it.
    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is extremely well told in my recollection and includes action, strife, and other great sci-fi features.
    The Once and Future King by T.H. White was also a favorite in high school. Good, compelling story telling as I recall.
    Several of the others on your list seem like they might be "things I should read," but personally are too heavy or emotionally tiring, but that's just me! :)
    Books are definitely, not the worst of addictions - but they are HEAVY to move. :) Good luck!

    1. Thanks Kristina! I had another recommendation for Ender's Game too so maybe I will go with that to start! And you're def. right about the moving part--I was hoping that a Kindle might help me move away from having so many physical books but sadly that was not the case! Oh well!

  2. I tried to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and I couldn't get into it. I liked Atonement and The Things They Carried. I'm glad I read Atonement before I saw the movie. I've considered trading a lot of my books in at the local bookstore for credit, but I just can't bring myself to do it! They're MY books!

    1. I know what you mean Lauren! I've tried to hold into as many of my favorites for that one day I'll have a library in my house (it's gonna happen). Thanks for the advice! I haven't seen Atonement so that is good to know about the book.

  3. Your list of books makes ME feel nerdy, because I read them going, "Oh! That one's good! OH! That's unread on MY shelf, too! OOH! Now, my husband LOVES that one...". That said, There Eyes Were Watching God and Grapes of Wrath are two of my all-time favorites. My husband thinks Neil Gaiman (American Gods) is one of the best writers of our time (I've never read him, though), but he and I both loved Angela's Ashes (you'll laugh, you'll cry, you won't want to put it down).
    Considering that I don't know you and you don't know me (I think we must be on the Alpha Gam blog network together), you can take my suggestions for what that's worth to you, but I just had to comment. :)

    1. Thanks for reading the blog Erika and for your recommendations! We nerds must stick together! : )
      But seriously I'll put Angela's Ashes on my shortlist.