Saturday, 7 January 2012

Why Do I Buy Great Books And Then Not Read Them?


Something that I do too frequently and am trying not to do in 2012 is buy books that I've heard great things about and then proceed to ignore them in favour of books that aren't as good.  I don't know why I do this, but I possess many books that are either critically acclaimed or the subject of much positive hype that are simply sitting collecting dust.  I buy them and can't wait to read them - and then just don't.

Part of the problem in the last year has been review commitments.  It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of review copies, especially when you can actually access the good books from the good publishers on NetGalley, but it does meant that the books I own are getting less love.  I have quite a few to review early in the year but I'm being much stricter with myself and refusing more this year.

Another problem is the hype itself.  Often I see a book reviewed positively so many times that I almost don't want to read it myself - what if I don't like it?  What if it isn't as good as it is supposed to be?  It's easier in a way for me to read more obscure books or books that are not as loved.  I can also be fickle - if I don't read a book very soon after purchasing it, it gets overshadowed by more recently bought books later on.

But this year as a personal goal I want to read some of these great books sitting on my shelf. I have some review commitments to clear first then I hope to get back to my own books. I haven't included my Christmas gifts of The Marriage Plot and The Night Circus in this list, as I'm hoping they won't fall victim to dust-gathering.  The books I already own that I really want to read this year are the following (links take you to goodreads):

1. The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
3. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
4. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
5. Between Shades Of Grey by Rutya Sepetys
6. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
7. The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
8. The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss
9. Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
10. The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna
11. Room by Emma Donoghue
12. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Realistically, I am not going to read everything on this list as I also want to read more classics and reread some of my favourites, but I want to make at least a dent in this list.

Am I the only one who does this, buys great books and then doesn't read them?  If you do it too, why do you think this is?


  1. You're are so not the only one who does this...I think I love books so much that I think I can read them's as if I think I don't buy it right then, the publishers/booksellers might run out :/
    Sounds like an addiction of some sort to me ;) I love to be surrounded by just makes me feel good. I guess that's how I can justify buying when I have more than plenty of wonderful books on my shelves that I haven't managed to get around to.

  2. You have a lot of wonderful books on your list!! I have read 7 of them, and will definitely read the rest. Thanks!!

  3. You have some truly wonderful books on your TBR list. And I so enjoy seeing those new-to-me covers. Your Suitable Boy is so much nicer than the US one I know. I've been slowly working my way through Memory of Love for the last several months because I keep misplacing it, and I very much liked most of the books on your list that I read.

  4. I'm the same way. My reasoning always goes along these lines: I'll just quickly read the newer freshly-hyped books that keep coming out and get them out of the way so I can devote the time and attention I need to really settle into and immerse myself in these other classic, older and more literary books. Of course in my twisted, book-addicted mind I don't see a problem. Like there's ever a limit to the number of books/hours in a day? No. This year will be different. I've made, not a commitment, but a plan to read more of my oldies first and leave the new stuff for . . . later. I don't think I can bring myself to stop acquiring books, though. I just have to be more strict about the order in which I read them. We'll see how THAT all works out. Good luck to you and your reading in 2012! You've got a great list there.

  5. I only pick up books from the Melbourne library or from a second hand bookshop but I still tend to go for the books with fabulous reviews all over and then get loaded with books!
    Your list looks lovely and I am chuffed that I have read quite a few on your list as well. It means my reading is quite upto date!!!

  6. I also often put off starting a highly acclaimed book in fear of not liking it myself. I've read The Shadow of the Wind, The Help, and Water for Elephants and I don't think you will be disappointed in them.


  7. I ask myself that same question. I rush over and download new Kindle books and then they sit there unread:(

    We must have some sickness.

  8. I'm finishing up The History of Love right now and will post about it this week. Read it you'll love it :)

  9. I've only read 2 of your 12 I vote you read The Help! ..the other's Water for Elephants. ;)

  10. I am afraid I also do the same thing. I think that I need to have the book on hand for that moment when it is the perfect moment to read it and then I am endlessly distracted by new titles or reviews that make me feel I must read something immediately. I also can't walk past a bargin so when so many bookshops were closing down and had big specials I felt I had to buy some of the books on offer which has resulted in an out of control TBR. This year I am trying to curtail purchases. (I am also planning on reading The Tiger's Wife in the near future.)

  11. Books come in a lot more quickly than they get read. But I've taken to not buying at or near full price if I don't have a strong feeling I will like it. Like Night Circus and The Help. Descriptions weren't all that interesting to me, but read them because of the hype, but checked out both from the library. Boy am I glad I did that. Didn't really like either of them that well. I expect The Help made a fine movie, but as a book it didn't work for me.

    Shadow of the Wind was excellent. That was one my neighbor gave me to read, and I'm glad she did. A couple of your list are on mine as well, but I only actually have the Tiger's Wife, which I won on Goodreads.

  12. I do the same exact thing ... and I have no idea why. All I can think of is that we're saving these books for the "perfect" time to read them. I don't know. But I've resolved that this is the year that I'm going to read these books! We'll see how I do.

  13. I have this problem. It's one reason why I don't accept books for review from authors or publishers until I get my pile under control. Here's hoping that my book buying restriction lasts the year and I finally get around to all those books collecting dust on my shelves.

  14. Story of my life too. You are very right about the hype keeping you away. that's the reason I haven't read Room or Night Circus yet. I'm afraid they'll be disappointing after all the glowing reviews I read.

  15. Setting goals is a great idea but please don't feel guilty! I think you tend to open a book when you are ready for it. Who cares if that isn't during the hype phase? :).

    We are such similar readers! I wanted to comment on a few.

    1. I'm reading this year too. I loved the Angel's Game and have been saving this because I expect to love it and don't want to rush the first time (this is a reason some of my books haven't been read!)
    2. Really enjoyed, then felt guilty. I'm hoping your distance from the south will make it more on the enjoyment side for you.
    3. I didn't think this one lived up to the hype, but I was also sick when I read it. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.
    4. Someday...
    5. Unknown to me, interested to hear about it
    6. Very recently read; I know you saw
    7. Read and enjoyed, but not sure I'd re-read, unlike the rest of Mitchell.
    8-11. Read and enjoyed. Loved Krauss's more recent book.
    12. This one I read in the perfect time for me, right after reading a bunch of books about feminine spirituality. It meant a lot o me, and as of such I've been unable to read it again. But I own it.

  16. My shelves are full of books (great or not) which I intended to read and couldn't. My only explanation is lack of time. My days should be 48 hours instead of 24! Then, since I started blogging my choices are often "led" by the items I get from authors and publishers. However, reading must be a pleasure, not a duty. So, no sense of guilt, please! Happy Sunday, Sam.

  17. So it seems like I am definitely not the only one who does this, which is a bit reassuring!

    Peppermint PhD, I think I do this too. If I see a book I like, I have to get it right away, even if I know I won't have time to read it for months.

    As The Crowe Flies and Reads, are you enjoying Memory of Love? I have high hopes for it.

    Trish, I would settle for 30 hours in a day rather than 24! I hope your plan for 2012 works out, I am hoping to be strict with myself in a similar way.

    Arabella, I am easily distracted too, especially when I start to see lots of positive reviews about certain books on other blogs. My older titles are sadly neglected. I hope we both enjoy The Tiger's Wife.

    Sarah, the library actually adds to my problem! I end up reading books from there rather than the ones which I actually own...

    Jenny, thanks for your thoughts on the books I mentioned. Shades of Grey is a YA book about Russian gulags, it is supposed to be very good. If I ever do get around to reading it, I'll let you know what I think :P

  18. I just did this! I just got The Marriage Plot, which I was super excited for in the mail and the next day I started a different book. Oops! Oh and I am sorry to say it, but Water for Elephants was disappointing so I wouldn't worry too much about that one. :]

  19. I am the same as all these other bloggers. I buy books and think yes when I have finished my next book I will get round to it and read that but it never happens as I get waylaid with something else. That is why I have copies of Room on my shelf and Wolf Hall.

    Though sometimes it is nice to read a book after all the hype has died down, that way you are not being drawn towards other peoples thoughts and it also means the book lives on for a bit longer in people's consciousness.

  20. I love to buy books and buy many that I have heard or read great things about but then I don't get the chance or have the time to read so many of them. So that's why I started out this year participating in the TBR Double Dare Reading Challenge!
    Last year I accepted and requested too many review books. I had so many great books sitting on my shelves that I wanted to read and, instead I read other books, some that weren't as good as those on my shelf. I'm definitely limiting review books this year.
    Several of the books on your list are ones I want to read, too. And I highly recommend The Red Tent, Room, The History of Love, Water for Elephants and The Night Circus is amazing - I'm not usually a fan of magic or fantasy but that book was fantastic.

    So No Worries, Sam, you're in very good company re: this issue!

  21. Oh Sam...please please please read The History of Love!! :-) This is such a great list and I'll be following along as you complete it! I have this same habit (like most of the blog world, I'm sure) and find that many of your titles are also sitting on my shelves. I'd love to see what you're reading and then commit myself. I can't stress how much I love The History of Love (what's up with that cover art-not that awesome) & hope you do too! I was thinking about starting your number one this week because I hear it's been compared to The Thirteenth Tale. Good luck & I know you'll finish!

  22. I think most of us can guiltily raise our hands and agree with you! My personal challenge this year is to half the unread books on my TBR, and there are about 150, I think. I probably won't manage, but I'm running out of room to put them!

    I can't wait to read Water For Elephants this year - I read Ape House by the same author at the end of 2011 and it was wonderful.

    I do the same thing as you when I see a book that's been over-hyped - it puts me off in case it's not that good. I did that with Divergent. It doesn't help that I'm not a massive YA reader anyway, but then I saw so many glowing reviews and it made me back away even more! I'm glad I finally picked it up though, it actually deserves all its praise.

    Definitely read The Night Circus though! :D

  23. I tend to buy books at a faster rate than I read them as well. On one hand, there are days that I feel like I'm neglecting the books that I have, but on the other hand, I'm never going to run out of books, and I've got a variety to choose from depending on my mood.

    As far as NetGalley, I think the best way of doing it is to request only one at a time. I'm pretty picky about which ones I request, just because I want to make sure that I actually read them...

  24. I'm the most hardcore guy about reading books, but sometimes I'm burning myself with it. Reading three Milan Kundera novels for example, wasn't worth it at all. Same for even attempting Finnegan's Wake. I have this weird thing with validating my spending, so I try to power through everything, even the bad books.

    I heard great things about Nicole Krauss , I'd be interested in your review.

  25. Jennifer, I do this all the time even though I know I shouldn't!

    Jo, I didn't really enjoy Wolf Hall but plenty of other people have. It's one you need to devote time and concentration to. And you are right about taking time after the hype has died down.

    Amy, I don't do challenges, but if I did I would be all over the TBR Double Dare challenge. But I know that if I properly challenged myself to read from my TBR, I would avoid it all year!

    Beth, I am excited to read History of Love now! I actually have The Thirteenth Tale out from the library, I'm hoping to get to it over the next few weeks. It would be great if we read some of these books at the same time.

    Hanna, I have many more unread books than you, creating my goodreads account has shamed me! Good luck with your own personal challenge this year :)

    bookswithoutanypictures, if only we could read as fast as we can buy! You are right about NetGalley, although some times I go on a requesting binge and have to deal with the aftermath (like now!)

    Ben, I am starting to get guilty about buying books I don't read, so I can see myself turning into you. I have heard so many great things about Krauss too, I can't wait to get to her book.

  26. I do the same thing! I hear about a book that it supposed to be absolutely amazing, do everything I can to finally get my hands on it, then it sits on my shelf for months before I finally force myself to read it. I'm going to do my best to not do that this year and just read them as they come into the house :)

  27. I think we do this because we like the feeling that we have lots of great books to easily pick from as our next read.

  28. AND I have 3/4 of these books on my shelves as well! We're in the same reading boat.

  29. I have a problem with this as well. I've got a couple of critically-acclaimed books in my TBR pile, but I've ignored them in favor of classics and young adult novels. There's just something about hyped books that I find highly suspicious.

  30. I'm the same! Often what I find is that I always favour my newer purchases over the old ones, because I get so excited about certain titles I've just bought. I've had The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for years and it's still collecting dust... and Water for Elephants, too! I'm half tempted to make a rule to not buy anymore until I've read everything in my house, but I know that won't happen. Lol!

  31. Can totally sympathize (and also have some of these on my shelf/tbr) So many reasons, definitely review obligations, and sometimes just waiting for exactly the right mood to strike, and occasionally there are books that one buys because one feels one ought, but ought is always second to the truly tempting read!

  32. You are definitely not alone, and all the other comments can attest to that! It's just so easy to get swept up in the moment, distracted by the hype, fall victim to mood or opportunity to borrow a book from a friend. We've all been there and will be there again. Comes with the territory, I guess :) Reading what I have is one of my resolutions as well and incidentally Shadow of the Wind is waiting its turn on this side of the Atlantic as well! Hope you enjoy Water for Elephants, it was one of the better books of last year for me.