Is there such a thing as having too many books? One would think not; after all, isn’t having lots of books the whole point of being a book dragon? Sure, the once-abundant chain bookstores have winnowed down to a select few, independent bookstores are not, sadly, on every corner, but libraries are free to everyone, and the digital revolution means we are only ever one click away from the promise of a brand new read, often at little to no cost. How can that be a bad thing? Well, as it turns out, there can be a few reasons.
We’ll start with an all too common -pretty much universal- problem: space. Most of us have a finite amount of it. When one has been a reader for any length of time, and especially when one has a particular favorite genre or genres, one does tend to acquire books. There may be, among our number, the odd independently wealthy person, who lives alone in a mansion that is zoned for infinite addition of new stories (in the architectural sense) as needed to house their accumulation of stories (in the bibliophile sense) and, if so, we would all like to move in with them, preferably on a Tuesday, as that’s new book release day. The rest of us, though, only have a certain amount of space, and very likely share it with other human beings of various ages and reading levels, as well as assorted domestic animals. This means that there is only so much space for books, and, when that space is filled, something’s got to give. According to the spouses of several such readers, that would mean old books going out when new books come in, and it’s the rare reader who has an easy time with that. True, e-reading devices and apps mean that the virtual bookshelves can expand indefinitely. That’s useful, especially when other family members want space in the living area for their own interests, though convincing said family members to replace their existing hobbies with romance reading could solve this problem, at least theoretically.
Even if space isn’t a problem, there’s another part of this continuum, and that’s time. No matter how we fill it, we only get twenty four hours in each day. Once we’ve finished with work, school, domestic warrior patrol, tending to the needs of family, friends and fur babies, there’s only so much leisure time left. Now that the new TV season is upon us, there’s another competitor for our reading time. Some of us can multitask, which does help, but the average human lifespan is only so long, new books are coming out every week, and that’s not even counting the books we already have on hand, nor re-reads, or emergent subgenera or discovering new-to-the-reader authors who have extensive backlists, titles of which may or may not be related to each other. If it looks like your TBR pile, shelf, bookcase, crate or storage unit is breeding while you’re asleep, it probably is. Think of it, while you’re reading this, another companion novella to one of your favorite novel series may even now be in the works. There is no end of the influx of books. If we could calculate how long it would take us to read all the books we currently own, even if we never did anything else but read (not complaining on that one) would we even live that long? Maybe the better idea is to find a way to live long enough to read all of our books.
Since we are living in the digital age, never before have we had so many choices of books available to us at one time. New books come out every week, previously out of print books are finding new life in digital format, and once-retired authors are finding a second act in their careers as they take to the self publishing waters. New books, the return of old books, revised editions of beloved classics, to better fit the modern reader’s sensibilities (there’s another discussion topic right there, but that’s for another time) all dressed in enticing covers that make us want to snatch them from the shelves or hit that buy button. Before we know it, we reach for something new to read, and find that we’re spoiled for choice. Do we want the latest installment in that hot paranormal series, a fun category read, lush historical, thoughtful inspirational, intriguing steampunk, the debut contemporary that’s getting all the buzz, or the return of a historical grande dame after years of waiting for her next release? Oh, but there’s this new m/m everyone’s talking about, then that YA with the cool twist our best friend said we had to read, then that classic multicultural we’ve always been meaning to read, but it’s getting to be holiday season, and all those seasonal reads are everywhere. What’s a book dragon to do? We can fall into a reader’s paralysis, spoiled for choice. How does one pick? Close eyes and thrust a hand in blindly?
While we’ve never had more choices of books, it also can seem like we’ve never had less time in which to read them. There are, of course, some fixes: we can listen to audiobooks while driving, working out, or on domestic warrior queen/king duty, take e-reading devices on the road, and nip into reading apps on our phone whenever possible, but there’s yet to be an app to stop time so that we can read everything. Which means we need to make choices, and that isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Some readers draw hard limits; only reads with fantasy/paranormal elements, for example, or only reads without them. No historicals, or nothing but, perhaps, or nothing new until Author X’s backlist has been exhausted. Others do hit that wall, where it’s the reader’s version of water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. In short, tons of books, but nothing looks good, but we want to read, we need to read, but we can’t pick one, and…and…and…and…you get the picture.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Have you ever felt like you’ve had too much of a good thing? Is the correct way to pronounce “too many books” actually “not enough bookshelves?” but then where do they actually go, when one’s living quarters don’t expand like magic? Does your TBR shelf extend into the far future, and yet the urge to acquire new volumes hasn’t abated? How do you cut through the dazzling array of reading material that bombards us every day? Or, do you have the opposite problem and find it difficult to meet your reading needs? Is this whole topic stuff and nonsense? We want to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everyone at this table.