Wednesday, May 11, 2005

TBR Anonymous

Hello, my name is Lynn, and I'm a TBR-aholic.

I have 82 books on my to-be-read bookshelf, plus another five books on their way from Amazon. (And if my DH is reading this - I swear, at least half of, more than half!...are from the used book store! Where I paid half the cover price and used up my credits. Honest!!)

Among this collection are books that are deemed classics in the romance world or at the very least, DIKers at AAR (Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale, Too Deep for Tears by Kathryn Lynn Davis (plus the two sequels, of course), A Well Pleasured Lady by Christina Dodd, The Blood of Roses by Marsha Canham, The Rake by Mary Jo Putney) that I snatched up because I feel I need to read them to see what all the fuss is about (and I do want to read them...).

There are books I've glommed by a writer I read and decided I liked - I have no less than nine Crusie books obtained after I'd read Bet Me and six Linda Howards that came after reading Mr. Perfect. The Crusies I bought when my neighborhood K-Mart had a display featuring a bunch of her re-released titles that I figured would be hard to find if I didn't grab 'em when I could.

I also have books that piqued my interest because I'd read a review or a discussion about it and the premise sounded interesting. Lisa Cache's Come To Me and Sherrilyn Kenyon's Fantasy Lover fit in this catagory.

Some books claim to feature a hero or heroine that strikes a chord. Sandra Brown's Slow Heat in Heaven for a hero so dark he's only borderline hero and Maggie Osborne's Foxfire Bride, which promises a heroine who is as tough as any man.

A few of the books are current-day hot copies - Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson fits this description.

And some books are by writers I've encountered personally - The Night We Kissed by Laurie Brown, who taught a writing course I took - or via their blogs and on-line.

I have YA books I consider research and I have books that I've actually already read but want to read again for various reasons so now consider TBRs. I have books I've started and intend to finish when I get back to it.

In short, I have a wide range of pickings to choose from. No hardship for me.

What inspires me to buy a book even though I have enough reading material that if it took me a full week to read one book, I'd be set for nearly two years, changes all the time. I go in spurts, buying a handful of books on a trip to the USB or via Amazon (where I employ the excuse of needing to spend at least $25 so I can get the free shipping), none of these purchases justifiable since I need more books like I need another ten pounds on my butt.

Part of my rational is that I'm afraid that when I want to read a certain book, I won't be able to find it. It'll be out of print and the copies in all of the libraries of metro Chicago and its suburbs will have mysteriously gone up in flames and I'd have to pay $350 plus shipping to get a copy on e-bay. Better to buy now, read later.

Plus there is a certain thrill - an anticipation - in pressing that "check out" button on Amazon and knowing that a story that looks so full of promise is heading my way. I'm sure this is the same rush gambling-aholics get when they slip the quarter in the slot machine and pull the handle or extreme sports athletes feel when they stand in the open doorway of the plane they are about to jump out of onto a hillside covered with virgin snow. It's an addiction of sorts, plain and simple.

The thing is, once I acquire a new book, it doesn't necessarily go to the bottom of the TBR pile. I don't subscribe to the FIFO system, which for those of you who did not take Accounting 101 in college is the fundamental first-come, first-served philosophy that works so well for the DMV and Disney World. No, the way I decide what to read next makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Some books I buy and plan to read. Someday. In the indefinable future. When I have more free time, which should happen around the year 2020.

Other books I might not have ever heard about before, but some discussion or other brings it to light. I then decide I must have this book and subsequently begin as soon as I get my hot little hands on a copy. Straight to the top of the pile it goes.

That's the case with Anne Stuart's Black Ice. I read the recent At the Back Fence on AAR this Saturday in which BI was discussed at length because the hero, Bastien, is one of the darkest sorts of heroes. The entire premise sounded intriguing, so that afternoon I ordered the book on Amazon.

When I saw - a mere hour after placing my Amazon order - that K-Mart had it on the shelf, I went home and cancelled it from Amazon (and screwed up my free shipping despite my efforts to fake out the system) because waiting seven-to-ten business days was unacceptable, even though I was already 2/3 of the way into Mr. Impossible and determined to finish it, not to mention those 82 other books on hand in case I got bored. I went back to K-Mart Sunday morning, meaning that less than 24 hours after first learning that this book even existed, I had a copy of it. I did wait to finish Mr. Impossible but then started reading BI yesterday and am now about half-way through.

A book discovered, obtained and read in less than a full week.

What is that?

Especially when so many other books have been waiting so patiently for their turn. And I'm talking good books. I've had Putney's The Rake for well over a year now, and everyone raves about it so I'm sure it's a good read.

Sometimes a book gets bumped to the top because of what I call research. If I'm writing a dark hero or a klutzy heroine, or my premise is time travel or military men in action, I'll read a book that has those elements to see how the writer handled certain things. Often this backfires on me because I see how well the writer handled certain things and get discouraged thinking I'll never be able to do it that good. Or I'll read something that I'd planned to do and discover that I'm not the Original Creator of This Idea and then don't want to look like a copycat.

In the end, maybe it's all about moods. I was in a Crusie mood a couple months ago, hurried through Bet Me, ambled through Crazy For You, and then kind of hit a wall half way through Welcome To Temptation. Don't know if I'd just over-Crusied, but WTT wasn't living up to all the wonderfulness I'd expected based on the raves and reviews and on the other two Crusies I'd just finished. It doesn't seem very fair to a writer to OD on her work, so I'm giving Crusie a rest for a while because I want to enjoy her stuff.

So, what about the rest of you? How and why do you establish a TBR stash? Do you read on a first in, first out basis? Are there books in your TBR that you suspect will never get read, in which case a good housecleaning is in order to make some more room (and ratchet up those credits at the USB)?

Whenever I thing about my TBR bookshelf, which is every time I walk past it on the way to my bedroom, so at least twice a day, I'm reminded of that old Twilight Zone episode called Time Enough At Last, about the man who loves to read but never has enough time. I won't spoil the story, but those who have a towering pile of TBRs like I do will be careful as to what you wish for. I know I am.


Anonymous said...

You've had The Rake for over a year and haven't read it yet?? What are you waiting for?????

Wendy Duren said...

You have how many books on your TBR pile? Oh my god, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I've had the same four books staring at me for a month now and I feel like an unfit mother by letting them languish there without my readerly love.

Slow Heat In Heaven is my favorite romance of all time. Given I was 17 the first time I read it, but have read it a number of times since and just loooove the hero, Cash. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again. :D But, I don't know, if it was new to me today, how I would feel about it. On the whole the work reflects the period it was published in, it makes use of long forgotten constructs and cliches.

All that said, I hope it makes it to the top of your massive TBR pile and that you enjoy it.

Candy said...

82 books? I laugh at your 82 books! BWAH! See my mockery?

When I moved in 2003, I did a wholesale purge of my TBR stacks. I did a 5-page test for many of them (with exceptions for books by autobuy authors like Karen Ranney and Ruth Wind), and sold/gave away those that didn't grab me immediately. Got rid of about 1/3 of my books that way, and for TWO WHOLE YEARS managed to not add to it.

Then I started Smart Bitches with Sarah. Woe woe woe.

I just pick whatever book grabs my fancy. I've been reading a lot of books for SBTB lately, and once I finish the two review books I have on my plate and recover from Emma Holly-itis, I'm hankering for some Ruth Wind or Theresa Weir category romances that, no joke, have been glaring at me accusingly for the last five years.

Lynn M said...

Yeah, I know. I need to bump The Rake up to the top of the pile. Maybe I should institute a policy of reading one contemporary followed by one historical. Go about it with a method in mind...

Wendy, I envy you your discipline. That you don't go hog-wild buying books when you know you have an adequate supply waiting. Plus you actually read them when you get them. I'll bet you write thank-you letters right after opening the gift, don't you? And you probably also put your clean clothes away after they come out of the drier rather than letting them sit, folded, in the laundry basket until you need to dig them out to wear...dang, I hate you! *VBG* But now that I have two copies of SHIH, I promise to start it right away...Cash, another dark hero. My fav.

Candy, you always make me feel better. And I think you have the right idea - starting Smart Bitches was inspired because now you have a deadline and an audience who expects things from you so you can't procrastinate. I want you to know that I've adopted your 15-page test, except that I find I don't have the time to stand in the store for as long as it takes for me to read 15 pgs of several maybe I need to go down to a 5 page test?

Marilyn said...

I enjoyed FANTASY LOVER and will get to meet the author at my RWA luncheon tomorrow. She'll be the keynote speaker and I'm anxious to hear her.

I feel your pain. I have a TBR pile that is more like a mountain than a pile. But when you find an old Linda Howard for twenty-five cents or an early Desire by one of your favorite authors, it's just hard to say no.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Lynn, you should see the basket of laundry which sits in our bedroom after every wash-day...! And if you were to open my tumble-dryer, chances are you'd find laundry inside ;)

As for my TBR pile, I suspect that if I were to count it (including what I call 'throwaway' books - usually secondhand or remaindered books saved for trips and when I just want to read something light and forgettable) I wouldn't be too far off your 80-odd. ;) And that includes all of Mary Balogh's Slightly series - yes, I'm ashamed! My trick is not to have a specific TBR shelf - they're all shelved by author/series, but I know which ones I haven't read yet.

I only nag you about The Rake because it's so good. Hope you enjoy it when you get around to it! Actually, it's a sequel to another of Putney's books in which the hero is - well, not exactly a villain but not far off it. The Diabolical Baron is not one of Putney's best, so not really worth reading it first; suffice to say that when you get the impression at the beginning of The Rake that Reggie's not a very nice guy, you're dead right. ;) Enjoy!