The ABC Reading Project

Last month one of my library book clubs read The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald and it went over really well. We had a very fulfilling discussion and all the members expressed interest in reading more of Fitzgerald’s work. When I mentioned to the group that the library only owned one other of her novels (Offshore) but that I owned them all and they were welcome to borrow them, they asked which was my favorite. I said, “Well, I’ve only read The Bookshop so far.” They got puzzled looks on their faces and there was silence. Then one of the members asked, “Why do you own books that you haven’t read?” Good question!

They would probably be appalled to learn just how many books I have that are unread, that have been sitting on the shelves for years, trapping desert dust and cat hair between the pages.

That evening when I got home I walked in the door with new eyes – noticing the untidy, neglected book shelves and the piles and piles of books scattered around the house. Books I hardly ever think about or consider cracking open. I thought of the money spent on items that are really not serving me well while they remain unread. Of course, like all bookish people I do enjoy collecting books for the sake of collecting – I love pretty spines lined up on my shelves and vintage covers displayed face out. But it is getting to the point where I need to purge and I need to let titles go if I’m not going to read them, not only for space considerations but for my peace of mind as well.

So, over the weekend I devised a plan. I think it would be fun to read my books in alphabetical order by title. I will go through the alphabet reading one book from each letter until I get to Z – and then I will start all over again. I have already put all my shelves, fiction and nonfiction, in alphabetical order and am ready to begin. How is this going to help me? If I start a book and don’t like it I will need to make a decision – keep for another time (sometimes we’re just not in the mood for a particular book) or donate. I don’t want to keep things on my shelves that I will never, ever read. That is silly. And when I finish a book I will also need to decide – keep or donate? I have also decided not to purchase any books until December. My shelves – and my wallet- need a bit of a break!

I’m really feeling excitement over this new project! I’ll still read contemporary fiction from the library, but I am going to make a true effort to read more from my own shelves. I hope you will follow along and see what I read, what I keep and what I donate.

Do you also have a habit of collecting books you don’t read?

7 thoughts on “The ABC Reading Project

  1. I know exactly how you feel although I don’t often buy new books as I tend to look for the original editions of oldies, but I am at the stage when I’ll have to weed them out – as I read them, if I keep buying as they’re double parked already! I haven’t read anything by Penelope Fitzgerald for decades and I can’t remember what I have read. I’m looking forward to this project of yours and love that you’re doing it in alphabetical order – a true librarian!

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    1. Haha, you are right! Such a librarian thing to do.
      I saw someone on Instagram has a policy of “one in, one out.” I’m not sure I could stick to that!

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  2. I laughed picturing those puzzled faces at your book group because my book stocking practices align with yours. But it reminds me of the time I was mildly chastised by a library customer. She asked me what I was reading so I described the book. It appealed to her so she asked to be placed on the holds list. When I told her it was a personal copy of something the library didn’t stock she was so deflated, saying “Why would you tell me about a book I can’t read?”. Ever since then I preface the question about what I’m enjoying with a disclaimer!
    My shelves are very loosely ‘organized’ by genre and if I buy a book by an author already on my shelves, it joins the others….for a rainy day.
    It’s lovely to see you posting again!

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    1. Darlene, I have the same issue! I have stopped taking my own personal books to the info desk because I kept having to explain to patrons that they were unavailable in the US.
      I’m hoping to post more regularly with this new project of mine. 🙂

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      1. I stopped bringing my current reads to the desk when one was lost — I suspect picked up by accident by a family of patrons with a stack of checkouts. It was particularly frustrating because it was a book borrowed via ILL! I was VERY embarrassed when I had to call my ILL department and explain what happened (thankfully, they were very nice and just charged me for replacement).

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  3. I love this idea — I was thinking about a similar strategy from Rachel at BookSnob, though I was thinking about reading all the titles beginning with A, then moving on to B, etc. (I decided to go by title rather than author to mix things up a bit more). I have more than 150 unread books on my shelves so I really must do something drastic soon!

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