The To-Read List Update

It’s been a year since I decided to do something about my out of control to-read list. I have managed to get more reading into my routine, increasing it to about 30 books a year, but I’m not sure I’m doing as well at reducing the book buying as I need to.

Last time I picked five aspects of stash reduction, so I’ll review how well I’ve done with each.

I’ve kept up the culling, by reviewing what was on the bottom of the list from time to time and taking out anything that didn’t excite me any more, and by removing a whole series when the first book didn’t thrill me.

To help I put together a spreadsheet, noting whether a book was for research of part of a series I’d already begun. Later I added everything to Goodreads in the hope I could cull out anything with low star ratings, but everything is rated pretty highly and it’s much faster to change the order of the books on the spreadsheet.

I wasn’t supposed to buy more books except…
Books for research – I did buy some non-fiction that wasn’t specifically research, so I’m not doing so well here
Manuscripts for friends or to provide quotes for – I haven’t had any to read this year
Ongoing books in a series I’m hooked on – I bought four of these, was given one, and read four
To support a specialty bookshop – nothing that didn’t also qualify under other rules
If I run out of books on holiday – this is where I fell down, buying both new and second hand books in New Zealand
Books given to me – six, five by my publisher
Books with proceeds going to charity – none

In general, I broke the rules when I was at a bookshop, and in particular when I was on holidays. I had no problem with willpower at conventions, so I reckon this was a matter of being in holiday mode and having my guard down. I suspect with non-fiction books that I reasoned they were research at the time, but aren’t really. I also know that I started buying books ‘for Paul’, despite knowing that they’d end up on my to-read list once he finishes them – and he’s a fast reader.

Encouragement (or cheating):
I wound up choosing smaller books toward the end of last year in order to get my total up to 30. And I do find myself grabbing shorter books when I want to see some progress. I’ve also noted a few books that I’m partway through that I could finish off.

Well, the list has gone from the 130s to the 110s, so that’s one small achievement. And I am reading more than I used to. I’ve got to some books I’ve been wanting to read for ages, in particular ones by writers I know or was going to meet so it was nice to be able to talk about them.

So, what to do? Well, I’ve come up with some new rules:

If I buy a book I have to cull one – but that can only go on so long before the whole point of this exercise is gone
I’m not allowed to buy books ‘for Paul’ – unless he asks for them
No non-fiction unless it really is for research – especially as they usually take longer to read
Pick less specific research books – so instead of buying one on the Silk Road, buy one that covers several great trading routes.
I can’t buy any new book until I’ve read 3 to-read list ones – and I’ll keep a wish list to help me prioritise what I buy when I do

I doubt I’ll be reading more books per year without any major lifestyle change, so my best chance of getting the list down is to reduce my book buying habit. The list stands at 118 books. With luck and willpower it’ll be under 100 in another year. And with the Olympics taking over the tv in a few weeks, I ought to take the opportunity to get a few more ticked off the list.