#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Update: Overwhelmed, and not

I began today feeling exceedingly overwhelmed by my own damn books.

This weekend, I inhaled The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. As with so many books in my Nook library, it’s there because I found it offered for $1.99.

It’s difficult to resist e-books offered for $2.99 or under. Why, that’s less than a large iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts! I’ll think to myself as I gleefully click “Purchase” on a book that was never on my radar. Even if I don’t fall in love with it, surely I’ll read it at some point?

Digital books - reading slumpWell, maybe. And maybe not. I’m a “mood” reader. I choose the books I read based on what I feel drawn to or what questions I’m thinking about or what I feel I need from a reading experience at a particular moment or … just whatever strikes my fancy, really.

Having enjoyed Moriarty’s two most recent novels, The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies, I downloaded The Last Anniversary and Three Wishes when they came up on sale. I figured the day would come, eventually, when I’d be looking for something to read and find them. That day did come for The Last Anniversary, and I enjoyed reading it. Not quite as much as her more recent novels, but the writing is lively and engaging.

For hundreds of other books in my library, though, that day hasn’t come. I don’t honestly know when, or if, it will.

At time, it appears I’m stockpiling books as if expecting to survive an upcoming apocalypse. (Which reminds me, I really need to order a solar charger.)

Acquiring books in a series I love? Yes. Acquiring classics I know I’ll make my way through, even if it’s slowly? Sure. Acquiring books because I can’t wait to tear through them? Okay. But reflexively clicking “Purchase” because the book is cheap and the topic vaguely of possible interest, maybe, someday in the indeterminate future – that needs to stop.

This insight courtesy of the Read My Own Damn Books challenge and the way it has forced me to stare down the hundreds of books in my library.

As a result, I’m no longer buying e-books I will probably never read just because they’re $2.99 or under. Instead of gleefully clicking “Purchase” on these books, I’m gleefully clicking “delete” on the emails that deliver the offers. (Next, I should probably unsubscribe from the emails … baby steps.)

Where I’m still struggling is with feeling overwhelmed by how many e-books I have and not knowing what to tackle next. The thing is, I can give away paper books I know I won’t read. (I believe this is called “getting rid of the evidence.”) It’s difficult but doable. And I can rest easy knowing the book may find its audience. E-books, on the other hand, cannot be donated. They can be deleted or archived but not shared.

I'm choosing not to feel overwhelmed by the books I'll never read, even if they are my own books.This leaves me overwhelmed by guilt. These worlds – so lovingly constructed by their authors – fester, molder, drown in my swollen e-library with no reader to bring them to life. I’m realizing it’s this guilt, in part, that’s making me scurry about in frantic circles, like the Professor Snape-shaped boggart in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film.

I need to let it go. It doesn’t help me figure out what to read next. It doesn’t get the books read. For now, all I can do is chip away at my gargantuan Nook library one book at a time and feel grateful for this happy problem: having so many books in my library to choose from and the time to read them.

10 Replies to “#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Update: Overwhelmed, and not”

  1. I do the same! I see a book for $2.99 or less and I click “Purchase.” Of course, it’s not every book. It sounds interesting at the time. But like you, I’ve got a growing e-book library. What I just decided to do, is if it sounds like something I’d really want to read, I see if it’s available at my local library. That way, if I don’t end up reading it, I’m not spending any money and it just goes right back to the library.

    1. Thank you, Trista – I’m working on doing this as well! My library has a large e-book collection. I was happy to find three books I wanted to read available on e-book. With the ones I fall in love with and think I’ll read again, I can always purchase them later. And if they don’t work for me, as you say, they can go right back to the library and find their readers.

  2. The biggest thing that has helped me, when I’m hovering over the Buy button, is to ask myself, “Do I already own a book like this that I haven’t read yet?” So often, the answer has been Yes.

    Good luck chipping away; I’m right there with you. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Katherine! That’s such a great question. I’m adding it to my strategies for resisting new buys. 🙂

  3. This is really interesting – and first off, thanks for making me grateful that I’m super-poor and even think hard about $2.99 e-books! 🙂

    I also have those impulse buys on my e-reader – often even the free books some authors put out to hopefully get readers hooked. I consider them standby options. If I really can’t find anything else to read, I’ll browse through them and usually I end up finding one that catches my fancy (I, too, am a “mood reader” – love that term). So maybe it’s not such a bad thing to have so many books on your Nook – I mean, it’s not like you necessarily have a time limit to read them, right?

    I also like your point about how print books can be easily shared or given away. I experienced real regret about the fact that it’s not the same with e-books recently, when my stepmom confessed she hadn’t really liked “Lucky Us,” one of the e-books I’d sent her for Christmas. I, on the other hand, chose it for her because it seemed like something she’d like AND something I wanted to read, but it’s not easy for her to pass it along to me….Sigh….

    Anyway, I’m glad you’ve found a solution for your overwhelming e-book collection, but I guess I just hope you don’t beat yourself up too much about the books you DO have.

    1. Thank you, Alysa! I’m just trying to be smarter about my choices. 🙂

      I’ve heard mixed feelings about “Lucky Us,” but I did love it. If you end up reading it, I would love to hear what you think!

  4. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed over Mount To-Be-Read lately, too. NetGalley and cheap e-books are definitely my weakness. It’s so hard to short-circuit the impulse to acquire. I work hard to add things to my wish list instead of my acquisitions list so that I can pick them up when I’m ready. However, even then, I can’t resist picking up more than I should.

    Good luck with the gradual chipping away at your Mt TBR!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! “Mount To-Be-Read” is the perfect way of putting it! Speaking of NetGalley, I’ve had to cut myself off from it for a little while so I can focus on my e-book backlog. It’s hard!

  5. Praise hands! Love this post! I started feeling really overwhelmed by my books (again), so I did another cull which helped. As SuziQOregon mentioned at Whimpulsive (http://whimpulsive.net/2016/04/10/weekend-update-the-thing-that-happened-because-of-readmyowndamnbooks-edition/) if a book is one I keep moving aside to get to other books, it needs to go.

    As for my digital collection, it really doesn’t niggle at me the way the physical books do. Maybe because I don’t have to dust them! I also tend to be more timely at reading ebooks because I can read across multiple devices and in the dark when I have insomnia.

    Love this post!

    1. Thank you so much, Andi! I just read SuziQOregon’s post and YES, that is a super helpful strategy. I can think of so many books on my shelves for which that’s the case. As I’m typing this, I realize that one of my struggles is, I really just like looking at my paper books (!). Most of my actual reading I do on my Nook for the same reasons you say – reading across multiple devices and at night in the dark. I love that I can read a few quick chapters on line at the coffee shop right from my phone. 🙂

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