Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Reading In Order: A Personal Challenge

I've long been perplexed and slightly overwhelmed by my hulking "to be read" or TBR pile. I have hundreds of books in my house that remain unread after years on my shelves, and while they still look tantalizing, it seems like I'm constantly looking over them in favor of other things. After I finished Julie and Julia the other day, I started thinking that I sort of wish my bookish (and life and work and romance, etc.) blog had a theme of some variety. Some goal or general purpose.

As I was lying in bed staring at my TBR and my library books and my review books I thought to myself, "Why don't I just read them in order?"

Hmmm. There's a thought.

I have my books alphabetized and categorized by genre. The general fiction is the one that gets passed up most often lately, so I've set a new personal challenge for myself. I plan to read through my books in order, alpha by author, beginning at the end of the alphabet and working my way toward the beginning. That means I'll be starting somewhere around Jane Yolen and working up to Jane Austen.

As you all know, I refer to myself as "the finicky reader" because my reading moods often dictate what I choose. Therefore, I probably need to give myself some leeway in this little project of mine to avoid burnout. The fine print:

  • I will allow myself to drop books if they're not kicking up my skirt, but I will progress to the next book in line by author name.
  • I will allow myself to veer off track when a review book or library hold comes calling or when I feel an overwhelming urge for a non-fiction break.
  • I will include all genres of fiction: general/literary fiction, children's and adolescent, and graphic novels.

I don't undertake this challenge to limit myself in a bad or unpleasant way. In fact, I feel that having some sort of structure in the way that I attack the books I already own will push me to read some new titles and a larger variety than I have before. Oftentimes I have a hard time choosing my next read because three or four or five books are calling to me, but if I'm urged to take them one at a time, I think my "wandering eye" might be assuaged a bit.

I'm right smack dab in the middle of The Hunger Games, and I'm going to try to finish Jose Saramago's Death With Interruptions by the time it's due back at the library, but after those two are finished I'll be diving into my first "Reading In Order" book and whatever needs to be reviewed next.

I did take a quick glance at the shelves this morning, and I think the first book to begin this personal challenge really is Jane Yolen's Briar Rose. I'll check again later, but I'm almost certain that's the one. Incidentally, it's been sitting on my shelves for several years, it looks great, but it always gets passed over. No longer! Watch out, Jane Yolen, here I come!

If anyone else cares to join me in this personal challenge--if you're as nutball crazy as me--let me know. I might even make a button for it!


  1. I think I will join you. The only problem is that I have several bookcases. I'm thinking of which one to start with.

  2. Vasilly, I hear ya. I have a small bookcase in the living room and I have a big one in the bedroom. I'm not sure which one I want to start with or if I just want to consult both to see which title is next in line. *sigh* I'll keep you posted.

  3. I have too many books in my TBR pile, so I should follow your lead. I don't think I could stick with reading alphabetically, but I certainly need to spend more time reading what I Already Own! :) Good luck with your challenge--I always do better on personal challenges than any other!

  4. good luck! i've got books everywhere so i'd have to go by my librarything list. I still don't think i could do it though!

  5. I have sometimes thought of reading my TBR books in order. Or perhaps just picking one letter in the alphabet and reading all the books by the author whose surname begins with that letter. If I wasn't inundated with review books at the moment, I might just do that.

    I wish you luck with your goal! Have a great week, Andi.

  6. Your bookshelves are alphabetized by author?! You are mega organized. Mine are sort of my genre...

  7. That is a GREAT idea! I once had a plan to read through my library's "browsing" section in alphabetical order. Three Diane Ackermans in a row, however, turned out to be too much. Another time I planned to read through all the Penguin Classics in alphabetical order. Didn't get very far with that either, but I still love the idea.

  8. Great post! I've thought about doing this, too. (My bookshelves are also alphabetized by author.) You may have given me some inspiration to actually do this ....

  9. Good luck! I generally pick my next book based on a deadline or my mood at the time. Not sure I could stick with your challenge.

  10. What a fabulous undertaking! I'm in the process of getting new bookshelves. Once I get them, I can't wait to organize (heehee, aren't we all library nerds at heart!).

    I'm not even looking forward to my TBR pile.

  11. I too, have a collection of TBR's. My current reading goal is to have a summer of reading magically. So far I have read The Time Traveler's Wife (exception) and The Last Song of Dusk. I have just started One Hundred Years of Solitude and I want to get into Midnight's Children.
    I think it is good to have a reading goal that allows for variance, sometimes you can't help it when you get reading cravings. They must be satisfied!

  12. I will skip the part about my own ever-increasing tbr pile and go right on to Julie and Julia. Went back and read your great reading notes because I am having a similar experience right now. Went to the movies on Saturday, saw the trailer for the upcoming movie, went right to a book store after movie and bought book. Half way through and loving it. Only breaking for this and sneak peeks at cookbooks and cooking magazines. Hopefully I will get a chance to post on this week. Happy reading (however you choose to tackle those shelves)!

  13. This is a great idea. I've been planning to do something like it; read my own books in the order that I acquired them. I have been on LibraryThing for more than 2 years now and have very few left unread from when I first joined, so I figured I'd start there and go backwards. I have to get ahead on my review books first, though, so it might be a while!

  14. Thanks, Danielle! I wasn't sure I'd do well with this until I started looking at all the books I desperately want to read but that I've passed over. Now I'm excited!

    Thanks, Mel!

    Thanks, Wendy! I'm glad I built in the exceptions so I can take care of the review books and library holds as they come in. I'm sure I'll screw it up at some point, but it's fun to try!

    Lenore, I only did that recently. Up until that point it was more or less just genre and whatever goes! lol

    Thanks, Julie! I'm pretty sure when I get to the entire shelf of Paul Auster novels (as much as I love him) I'll have to throw in some review books or non-fiction to break things up. :)

    Good luck if you decide to undertake the challenge, Betty and Boo's Mom!

    Bermudaonion, we'll see if even I can stick with my challenge. All these neglected and unread books are getting on my nerves!

    Thanks, Christina! Good luck organizing. I love it, too.

    Amen, Fem! And you have a bunch of fabulous (but dense) books on the go. I didn't have much luck with 100 Years of Solitude, but I'm sure I'll be trying it again with this challenge!

    Frances, I'm so glad you're enjoying the book. It kept me laughing and hungry the entire time. It's definitely going on my "keeper" shelf for a possible re-read in the future.

    Meghan, I understand! So many books get piled up along the way it's hard to clear out those we've already acquired.

  15. Good luck! And good idea to give yourself a bit of leeway...that is one of the things that kills me on challenges sometimes :)

  16. Sounds like a great plan! I can't wait to see what's in that pile. :-)


  17. Okay, I am totally in. Except that I currently have 5 bookshelves, double-stacked, all in (mostly) alphabetical order. Did I mention I have a sickness? But seriously, I'm in. Brilliant.

    Also - Briar Rose is excellent. Lucky you to get to read it for the first time!

  18. See this is the kind of challenge that would make me go insane (especially as I'm sure at some point I'd muck up the alphabet). So I have nothing but intense awe for this project and I hope it goes well.

  19. what a great idea! My books used to be organized, but now they are divided into fiction/poetry/biography/general nonfiction/cooking/crafts. My TBR shelves are separate. I will come up with a similar plan, with lots of exceptions for library books.

  20. Me too, Samantha. I think this'll work the way I have it set up.

    Thanks, Lezlie! I can't wait either. I looked through some of the darker recesses of the TBR corners today and found some books I'd forgotten about.

    Glad you're hopping on board, Eli! Can't wait to hear more about what emerges from your TBR!

    LOL, thank you, Jodie. We'll see if it actually works for me.

    Amen, KnittingReader! Gotta make the exceptions for library books. They're free after all...why should they suffer? lol

  21. Yeah. I can't begin to tell you how many unread books I have in my house. I'm too afraid to count!! My shelves are overflowing. If I ever get myself organized, I'll definitely have to challenge myself in some way to get them all read. Backwards is cool though! As anal as I am, I never would have thought of that one!

    Glad to see you are enjoying The Hunger Games! I read it last month and thought it was just great!

  22. With any luck, it will let you catch up a bit.

  23. This is a great idea and I wish you much luck! I'd like to catch up on reading some of my TBR shelves as well, but mine are in no order at all. (I guess I get enough categorizing at work!) So I might just try to randomly read some of the fiction that's been there longest.

  24. Have to ask - so if you're reading George Eliot's Middlemarch, and you absolutely hate it so you put it down, and you also happen to own George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, do you have to go on to that? Or do you get a pass on an author you've hated?

  25. This is a smart and orderly idea for getting through the TBR stack. I just look at mine and never know where to start - so I go to the library and get something completely new!

  26. Awesome idea! And I love that you're starting at Z and working your way backwards :P
    I'd love to join in, and from the state of my shelves I probably should, but I know I'd be setting myself up for a disaster - concrete reading plans are like diets for me, nice to plan, but destined to derail. :/

  27. Stephanie, The Hunger Games is awesome, isn't it? I'm actually dying to get off the computer for a bit and read through it, but work calls. Bleck!

    Amen, Stu!

    Thanks, Melanie! I tried the random reading from my shelves setup and it never worked. I wasn't disciplined enough to actually do it! We'll see if this pans out any better.

    Jenny, in that case I'd probably give myself a pass or read some non-fiction for a bit and try again. I live by the "if I don't like it by 50 pages it goes" rule, so that should help me along. I foresee this being an issue with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    Becca, that's exactly what I do! Chuck doesn't understand my bringing a stack of library books into the house at intervals, but I assure him that it helps quench my urge to buy and I get to avoid my own stacks at the same time. lol

    LOL, Joanne. Nice comparison. I hope I do better with the reading than my diet/gym plans. Oy!

  28. I like this idea! Vasilly mentioned it to me earlier today, but I am so far behind on blog reading that it took me a while to get to it!

  29. This sounds like what character Francie Nolan does in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the library - I think she reads from A to Z. Good for you!

  30. Oh my goodness, there is no order to my shelves. I'm so embarrassed. They are just thrown up there willy-nilly, where ever I can find a spot. I'm such a bookish loser. LOL

    So, no, I don't think I can join you for this one, but I'll be cheering you on the whole way!

  31. Wow, you're a rock star Andi. I wish I could get through my books "in order" but I get too bored with one genre and have to skip around to keep myself interested and entertained. Keep us updated. I'd love to hear how it goes, and of course what you like and don't like.

  32. Thanks, Kailana! Now I just hope it goes well!

    Tara, I thought about doing that, but the challenge seemed too daunting. My personal library seems a wee bit more manageable (but not much). hehe

    Heather, I used to keep mine in any kind of order, but since I moved in with Chuck I put them in alpha order just so I could figure out where they are. lol They're still sorta split by genre, too. Mostly childrens/ya and graphic novels in the living room, along with selected impressive-looking fiction and non-fiction. Everything else is in the bedroom on a big room divider/bookcase.

    LOL, thanks Funky! We'll see if I end up bored. There's always the distinct chance, but given my weird reading moods that happens no matter what order or genre I read lately. Blah!

  33. I'm extremely late, but that sounds like a great idea! My books used to be in alphabetical order (still are in some places), but I've accumulated too many books and not enough shelves to keep everything perfectly organized.

    If I weren't so set in my ways, I'd join you in this challenge. In fact, I still might!

  34. I love this idea! I am not ready to participate yet because my current reading project is part and parcel to revising my novel, but once that's done I might definitely be down with this. And I know what you mean about blog direction - I'm pondering that for my own blog as needs a project or a goal or something even if the goal or project changes!

  35. That's a really interesting idea! I have never tried that, but I think it would definitely help me get through books that have been on my shelf for FOREVER. I like library books though, and that would throw off the plan a little.

  36. I'm very much a mood reader too but a little disciple never hurts when it comes to catching up on books that have been sitting around for a while. I like this idea and have joined in the challenge post.


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