My three shelves of unread books taunt and shame me. I mostly had such high hopes for each of them when they came into my life. Mostly.
A couple years back, my husband gave me Shadow of the Hegemon, by Orson Scott Card. It looks to be the sixth book in the Ender series. I had read Ender’s Game and one or two of the sequels; knowing that I had, Mike was making a thoughtful choice. What he could not know was that, although I enjoyed Ender’s Game and one or two sequels, by the time I received Shadow of the Hegemon, c. 2002, I was over Ender. Not disliking it, just over it, and on to other stuff. Unfortunately, that makes the prospect of reading Hegemon a bit of a chore.
There is an additional problem with this book. It is part of a series of which I have not read the middle parts, and am not motivated to do so. This, and another Card book, Prentice Alvin, will leave the to-be-read shelves and take up residence in our local used bookstore at the library.
Another gift book, Against the Day, by Thomas Pynchon (almost out of picture, to the right of the orange and yellow tome on the far right of the second shelf) has been teetering on the brink for some time.
I wasn’t that thrilled to unwrap it. It is so BIG, to begin with. A huge commitment, and not, I suspect, an easy read. I watched my husband struggle through Gravity’s Rainbow years ago, and it did not look like fun. I did enjoy The Crying of Lot 49, but that was a nice, short length. For decades, I have read book blurbs calling Phillip K. Dick “…the poor man’s Thomas Pynchon.” From my standpoint they have that the wrong way around. It could be I am the “poor man” here. If I am, so be it.
Against the Day, will not go off to the library bookstore, however, the reason being another occasion of gift-giving. Our daughter has developed an interest in steampunk. Being only modestly familiar with the sub-genre, I Googled the term, in order to give her a steampunk offering under the Christmas tree. I settled upon Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, which was on the Best Of lists of several reviewers, but also noticed that several reviewers listed Against the Day as a great steampunk work as well. I had not known this, and this does pique my interest in the book. I will give it a try, but not just now.
One category of the to-be-read I find troubling are those books I was really, really excited about when I purchased them, but which have, in subsequent months and years, lost their luster and have, time after time, with each book-choosing, been passed over for something else, something newer and shinier. Our Ecstatic Days, by Steve Erickson, falls into this category. I’m not certain why I was attracted to it, although the back cover description says “…a lake appears almost overnight in the middle of Los Angeles…,” a lake which a mother believes means ill toward her young son. It sounds like good stuff.
But the first thirty pages are italics. I don’t like italics, except for book titles and the occasional emphasis. In big blocks they are difficult to read and offer me nothing. I look upon them as something to be gotten through, but not part of the actual story, which I am anxious to get to. Italics are overwrought. I don’t like overwrought. Further on, there are a number of portions written in non-standard paragraphs, as in poetry, and also non-standard capitalization. This is fine, at poetry length. At novel-length, I don’t have the patience.
This may be a great book; it may be my loss, but I know in my heart I never will read it. I have (approximately) two dozen unread books I know I’m more likely to get to, and I’m always buying new books that I know will slip in ahead of this one. The odds of my ever getting to this one are pretty close to zero.
Oh my goodness. I believe I just talked myself into donating it to the library as well.
I’ve always been grateful for my overflowing to-be-read shelves. Some might want to stash gold–just in case–to get them through tough times. For me, it’s books. The world may end, but at least I’ll have something to read.
A time comes, however, when the books that excite me are overshadowed by books that, for one reason or another, have been there too long. It is time to let them go. May the space created by their leaving create a breath of fresh air rather than emptiness.