Soliloquy of a Book Hoarder

To read, or not to read, that is not the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms against a shelf of troubles,
and by reading end them.

Before January is completely gone, I must make a resolution for this year. With all the good fortune, yes, books I’ve hoarded over the years at outrageously low prices, like slings and arrows raining down from shelves, many more shooting out from boxes… I must conquer them.

No excuse, but… loots hauled back from the annual Crossroad Market book sale is the Trojan horse of latent guilt. Why, wouldn’t you have fallen into the trap too, 15 books for $30? All in mint condition, some look like they’ve never been opened.

Upon reading two bloggers, Grad and Terri B, resolving to do similar courageous acts, I must start doing something to end the onslaught. I thereby resolve that in 2013 I’ll read from my TBR piles  only  , ok, mostly. Actually, the Bonheoffer and the Proust read-alongs are within this strategic move.

Here are some of the slings and arrows of my good fortune. Any of these in your TBR piles too? Read-along?


Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale

Anne Bronte: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

A. S. Byatt: Possession

Kate Chopin: The Awakening

Kiran Desai: The Inheritance of Loss

Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Jonathan Frantzen: The Corrections, Freedom

Shilpi Somaya Gowda: Secret Daughter

Henry James: The Ambassadors

Nicole Krauss: The History of Love

Ian MacEwan: Enduring Love, Saturday, Amsterdam

Herman Melville: Moby Dick (Will be reading in August with TerriB)

Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall

Claire Messud: The Emperor’s Children

Toni Morrison: Love

Irène Némirovsky: Suite Française

Marilynne Robinson: Home, Housekeeping

Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things

Salman Rushdie: The Enchantress of Florence

John Steinbeck: East of Eden

Zadie Smith: White Teeth

Jane Urquhart: The Underpainter

Winifred Watson: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence



Julia Briggs: Virginia Woolf, An Inner Life

Joseph Campbell: The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Mary Karr: Lit

Marilynne Robinson: Absence of Mind


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

37 thoughts on “Soliloquy of a Book Hoarder”

  1. Lately, I’ve been thinking I need to unload some books, but I hate to let go I’m a hoarder. I know that many of the books I’m keeping I’ll never read again, but when I look at the books on the shelf I remember the books and the discussions about them. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction and contentment, even as the books pile up and spill out. I try to get most of my books from the library to avoid this hoarding instinct.

    I’ve read some of the books in your list, and they remain on my shelves as happy reminders. I don’t have many TBR waiting for me. I do have a couple waiting for me on my Kindle. Just not the same!


    1. Cathy,

      There are books that I love and reread, so they will be in my permanent collection. And then there are those that I don’t have emotional ties, I’d gladly donate them back to the book sale, after reading, or maybe even without.


  2. What a fantastic list, I have read some of them, all good books, I especially liked:
    Nicole Krauss: The History of Love – Ian MacEwan: Enduring Love + Saturday & Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping

    My plan for this year is to read in two directions:
    1) Contemporary poetry
    2) Theory on mindfulness
    Both requires new books be added to my collection, but then I must say that my stock was heavily reduced in the moving-process I just went through, so I have still room for some addition …


    1. sigrun,

      I’m really curious about your ‘Theory on mindfulness’. Will you post about it and the books you’ll read on it? And yes, a move sure is a good way to streamline one’s possessions. 😉


  3. I’m making leeway in the Bonhoeffer book which I really enjoy but don’t sit down often enough to read. I think I’m up to chapter 6 or 7…
    I’ve weeded out a few of our hoard but I need to weed out more.


    1. Ellen,

      I can say the same too. I’ve just finished 11 chapters in it. Would love to read a bit faster so I can think about how to write the post. Plus, I’ve other books waiting TBR. 😉


  4. My husband and I are book hoarders of a large magnitude – we have books in each room of the house – plus in the halls – I am not sure how many, could be as many as 5,000 or even more. My problem is that I start getting interested on a subject and if I don’t have the books on it, I get them from the library or buy them second-hand. Right now, because of Downton Abbey, I am interested on the Gilded Age and because of traveling am reading on Venice. I have read 5 books so far this month, on both subjects and have 2 more half read. I need to give my books away – it is hard to do. I have some of the books you mention in my shelf, like The God of Small Things, The Age of Innocence, Moby Dick, The Ambassadors, and have read Suite Française. All the books I read this month are non-fiction though.


    1. Vagabonde,

      Don’t think I’ve enough space for 5,000 books in my home. 😉 But now I don’t feel so burdened knowing about your home library. Yes, I’d like to think of it that way, a home library. Who ever read all the books in the library, right? That’s how I try to see it… these are all fortunes that have come my way, might as well enjoy them, by reading, or, just by looking. 😉 But every now and then, I seem to feel a tiny nudge.

      As for DA, I know, I was in a kind of ‘binge’ last year after watching S2 that I went to find books and films on WW1. But now, seems like DA has gone into another phase. And O, esp. after last night’s E4, I really don’t know where Julian Fellowes will take us.


  5. I’m at the same thought as you are. I can’t keep borrowing books and reading books from the library anymore (greedy me!) So i’ll be happy to read any of the following with you (just that you have to give me a month to finish it, can’t tell what’s going to happen at work and how busy I will be) 😉

    Kiran Desai: The Inheritance of Loss,
    Jonathan Frantzen: The Corrections, Freedom
    Ian MacEwan: Saturday
    Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
    Claire Messud: The Emperor’s Children
    Irène Némirovsky: Suite Française
    Salman Rushdie: The Enchantress of Florence
    Zadie Smith: White Teeth (Need to sink my teeth into this one, after one false start!)
    Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence

    All of these are in my TBR file. 🙂


    1. JoV,

      Great! I’m glad you have these books too. You know, at Ripple Effects here, it’s both books and films. So I’d like to give priority to those that have been or will be adapted into movies. Right now, I’m thinking Suite Française since it’ll be made into a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas, one of my favorite actors. And presently with Daniel Day-Lewis getting all the buzz, deservedly, I’d like to read Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and rewatch his excellent performance there. I’ll let you know more later. Are you on Twitter?


  6. I recently reread “Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton and she blows my mind by how great she can write and how impeccably she depicts her era. Another take away was how faithful the 1993 movie was to the book and the dialogue (Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis: Newland Archer · Michelle Pfeiffer: Ellen Olenska · Winona Ryder: May Welland).
    Amen to reading what we have already bought and have on hand. That pretty much wraps up my cooking philosophy too.


    1. Hedda,

      O that’s a book that is probably on the top of my TBR list. Esp. now with Daniel Day-Lewis getting all the attention with his portrayal of Lincoln. I’d like to read Age of Innocence and re-watch the film.

      Also, I forgot whether you’ve decided on our Bonhoeffer read-along. Our first post on Ch. 1-18 will be Feb. 15. Hope you’re enjoying it. 😉


  7. Best of luck with reading from the TBR pile. I hope you do better than I did. I have the same problem, shelves of books and always adding more. Last year I vowed to read one book a month from that pile… and failed. Newer books kept jumping to the top of the pile!


    1. Leslie,

      I think if we have others reading along, then it could work better. Like last year, without the read-along, I don’t think I could finish Midnight’s Children. 😉 So this year, I’ve others reading with me Bonhoeffer, and later in the spring, Proust. Would you like to join us?


  8. I’ve read a few books on your list. the Age of Innocence is wonderful and if you follow it with the film then you won’t be disappointed. I’ve tried to read The Corrections several times but can never get past a few pages. Maybe a read along would motivate me.


    1. Mrs. B,

      You know, I started The Corrections too but gave up. At this point, I think I’d like to go on with other ones first before I come back to it. As I was saying to JoV, I’d like to read Suite Française since there’ll be a film adaptation with Kristin Scott Thomas. Would you like to join me reading that?


  9. Good luck with your tbr pile, Arti. East of Eden is one of my all-time favorites and I also loved Suite Francaise, Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Miss Pettigrew, The Corrections, and a couple more. The Age of Innocence is on both my Classics Club list and tbr pile.


    1. JoAnn,

      A few of these titles are films in development, including Suite Française, The Corrections, and East of Eden. But there are just so many books, so little time. I still have to select from this long list. Beginning to see the value of audiobooks. 😉


  10. Ooh I keep feeling I should not buy books, and then I always end up giving in to temptation. Plus, if we book lovers don’t buy them, how will the industry survive? It’s already in pretty dire straits. But still, I do have a lot of unread books on my shelves at the moment. Great list – several there I’ve read and enjoyed, and several I’d like to read.


    1. litlove,

      You know, there’s an ‘escape clause’ here unwritten… I would try to read mostly from my TBR list, but that doesn’t preclude not buying or borrowing any more. I know my weakness. Like, your review of Findings by Kathleen Jamie, and just today Sigrun has recommended that to me too. Well, what’s a book hoarder going to do? 😉


  11. What a collection. I think you have your work cut out for you, but if you can master all of those in a year (plus those little extras that happen along!).
    But it’s an admirable goal and if anyone can make it, you will!


    1. Jeanie,

      This is a long list from which I’ll select further and make a short list. Don’t think I’ll read them all this year. You’re absolutely right about those that happen along. Always, there are those. Can’t just leave them on the roadside, can we? 😉


  12. this is crazy and you won’t believe me but I’m going to tell you anyway. of your fiction, I’ve read half and have the rest in MY stack! Oh, you’re going to love, LOVE, Wharton’s Age of Innocence. Egads, I could talk your ear off right now! and even in the non-fiction pile, 3 of the same books, all 3 unread, too, on my part! It’s an honorable mission you’re on and totally doable. Oh, and Possession – I’m so glad I stuck with that one and wish you the same. I’ll be quiet. No, wait! a bit about DA, too. I actually missed seeing Edith stood up at the altar but have been in on all the rest.
    Is it just me, or is it becoming more American in its film style – we see a piece, the flip to another piece, then flit over there, then back here….It seems to me was more purposeful, slower, lingering as we took in the place, the time, the characters. Perhaps since it’s now post-war and moving toward modernism as an age, the filming is going along with that “change.” I dunno. Maybe just me. Needless to say I watched in tears during last night’s episode. More later…you need to be reading one of those fab books on your ilsts.


    1. Oh,

      Just changed your number. All good now. Yes, seems like The Age of Innocence will be high up on the list then, since several of you have already shared how good it is. I’d enjoyed the movie. With Daniel Day Lewis’s likely winning his third Oscar, think I’ll delve into this timely material.

      As for DA, I’m with you. As I said in my review of S3 E1, it’s just too many stories at the same time, and some shaky camera work, on purpose I suppose, the modern era. But by E3 I think they’ve all warmed up and the pace has improved. Last weekend’s E4 rendered me speechless. But now that I’ve recovered from my shock, I can probably post about it later this week as a recap. E4 is going down as one of the most memorable pieces of TV drama for me.


  13. If you do a read-along for Posession or Wolf Hall, there’s a really good chance that I’d join :). I’d really encourage you to read The History of Love, one of my favorite books ever. East of Eden is good as well. I tried the Enchantress of Florence, but abandoned it at the end :(. I’ll try another Rushdie sometime, probably the Midnight’s Children.


    1. mee,

      I am reading The History of Love now. What a moving story. I’m particularly drawn to the voice of the young character Alma. I find it intriguing that reading this book reminds me of another young voice Oskar, from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Coincidentally, both books were published in 2005, with both authors being wife and husband.

      I’ll keep you in mind about the two books you’re interested. But those two will likely be later rather than sooner. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!


  14. Oh, you know how it is with me. I dream, I linger, I think how wonderful it would be to do some reading – but it’s just so hard to find the time. It shouldn’t be, I suppose, but by the time I get home from work and tend to this and that, I always feel as though there’s something else I should be doing.

    However, I do have this to report! I ordered Eberhart Bethge’s bio of Bonhoeffer to go along with the Metaxas volume. Good grief! It must weigh five pounds! It’s twice the size of Metaxas’ book! That’s all right – if I get through both of those this year, I’ll give myself a gold star.

    I did pull out Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea”, out of some strange compulsion to re-read that. I’ve just dipped in and am completely entranced again. What a wise woman she was – have you read it?


    1. Linda,

      Thanks. Glad you’ve noticed the new Header pic and like it. I didn’t mean it to represent ripples, but just like the color and it depicts what my neck of the woods is like.

      As for the Bonhoeffer, I’m really impressed that you’re going all out with it. Eberhart Bethge’s bio of Bonhoeffer is 1,048 pages, but, that is the definitive version. So glad somebody is reading both for the comparison. Love to hear what you think. I’m all curious and excited to read your first post of Metaxas’ bio, our Read-Along, come Feb. 15! And further down the road this year, your review of Bethge’s. 😉


  15. Nice list! Some I have read recently and some long ago and some are on my one of these days I’ll get to it list. I just finished Wolf Hall–loved it. I’d be glad to partake of The Ambassadors with you.


  16. I see several I would recommend you abandon immediately, but I won’t share those titles as you may end up loving them. I love Possession, and I loved The God Of Small Things. I, too, have The Enchantress of Florence on my list, and I’m thinking of joining you and Terri for Moby Dick in August.


  17. Same here! Mostly. Unread on the TBR: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (actually a newish purchase ha ha), Suite Francaise, East of Eden, and Housekeeping (will actually start reading it later today or this week), Wolf Hall, and Saturday. Let us know if you’re hosting another readalong. Hopefully I will have more time to sneak blogging in! xx


    1. Nothing planned for read-along other than this one I’m wrapping up, and that’s Proust. I’m just letting my free reading spirit roam where I feel like after this. But most possibly The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud since she has a new book out, so just thought I should read her earlier one.


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