The TBR Triple Dog Dare is alive and well again this year, cheered on by the ever-gracious host at Ready When You Are, C.B. A wonderful idea! "The rules are simple. Read only books on your TBR shelf (or bookcase in my case) between January 1 and April 1, 2014. "On your shelf" includes books you have already paid for but not received and books you have on reserve at your local library." I've participated twice. And I cheated ridiculously both times, crafting elaborate rationalizations in order that I might declare myself successful on April 1. It was an incredibly helpful exercise both times though, a reminder of exactly how many books I have, and how little concept I have of the breadth of print I own.
But here's the thing for me. I don't really see my book problem as a problem. I view the unread about my house like some view a savings account or investments. A guarantee that needs will be met if hard times fall. A guarantee that in the midst of a family member or best friend's crisis, I will have the book most needed at that moment. A promise that my house will always hold moments of gleeful surprise held in just discovered though long forgotten book acquisitions. By now you are no doubt beginning to discern that gift for rationalization that brought me "success" in those other TBR challenges. My problem is not in the shelves and shelves of the undigested around me. My problem is in my "hall of shame," those books that I intend to read year after year but never seem to find in the right moment.
So instead of devoting myself to the shameful charade of pretending that I'm not constantly acquiring books, I have decided to take on four areas of my hall of shame between the new year and April 1. The first you see above. Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell. When it is not good enough to have just seen the movie. I have owned these books for a double digit number of years I believe. And have wanted to read them the whole time. Honestly.
The second area of bibliophile weakness has to do with a love of great design. Multiple copies of the same book in your home for no other reason than a new edition is simply too gorgeous to resist. How many copies of Jane Eyre do you have? Only 6? Most reasonable. When the lovely Coralie Bickford-Smith designs you see above starting rolling out, I had to have them. All. But as I looked through recently, I discovered there was one I had never read under any cover. So this winter I will also take on Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.
The lure of collecting. The near obsessive compulsive desire to have the whole set even without remarkable design. Even when the dovegrey wrappers make only the quietest of promises as to what the book might hold. I won't expose you to the whole of my Persephone unread. Just these four that I have had the longest, and hope to have read when the daffodils start popping from the ground - Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple, The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski, and Farewell Leicester Square by Betty Miller.
And the final area of bookish weakness for me - the gimmicky, the clever. When Melville House released all five of these dueling volumes on the same day, I was beside myself with joy. What a magnificent idea! I have yet to read them. So this winter I say "En garde!" to Chekhov, Casanova, Von Kleist, Conrad, and Kuprin.
My specificity here is no guarantee that I will be successful. As with all resolutions and plans for the new year, it is sometimes just enough to name out the aspiration.