Oh, no, you say—not again! You've heard it all before, right? Well, the problem hasn't gone away, and the last couple of weeks have introduced yet more complications.
Let's start with the Bouchercon conference, now a rapidly receding memory—except for the stacks of books. If you've never attending a writers conference, you may not know that when you walk in you are handed a badge and a bag full of books. Yes, a whole bag. These are contributed by publishers seeking to promote lesser known authors, but the bag often includes recent books by mainstream authors. Even Big Name authors: my bag this year included books by Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky. It also included books by several people I had never heard of, but that's the whole point of promotion, isn't it?
I couldn't part with any of them. Usually at such conferences there is a place to leave or swap books, and this year was no exception. The problem was, I ended up taking more than I left. The sad thing is, at most of these swap tables there is usually one book that a great number of people abandon from their freebie bags. Can you imagine how bad the poor author must feel seeing stacks of his gift books sitting there, rejected? I couldn't bring myself to dump it, even though it was heavy. Of course, now that I've hauled it home, I have to read it.
And if the gift bag didn't provide enough books, there are people who will thrust books upon you, in hallways, at parties. How can you say no? The (usually unknown) author is standing in front of you, his (or her) precious work outstretched—what are you going to say? I hate the cover? I've never heard of you, now go away? I was raised to be polite, so I take the book. It may be a wonderful book, but I haven't read it yet. I haven't read the one I got that way last year, from two Scandinavian authors who were all but flinging their first book at everyone who walked by them. But I still have it.
For the first time, this year I mailed a box of books back after the conference. It cost about as much as the excess weight fee on my suitcase would have, and I didn't have to lug another twenty pounds of books through airports. A bargain all around.
But that's only part of the rampant book problem. I'm reading broadly for my forthcoming Irish series, and the first book in the series in due to my editor in a few months. I've been doing research on Ireland, mainly genealogy, for a decade now, and I've collected quite a few books, including classic references on Irish history, the Famine, etc. Many of those will give me a few hundred years of history, but not what's going on there now. For that I need recent histories, and books by current authors. Given that Ireland has been going through rapid and extreme upheavals over the past decade, I have to look critically at the source and the date of any book I pick up now, if I want to catch a glimpse of the Celtic Tiger and the devastation it left in its wake.
|A perfect example: the description of the Celtic Tiger,
and the description of its demise
And if that weren't enough, a well-meaning friend sent me a link to a site which offers free ebooks on Irish history and family records. The list is sixteen pages long, in teeny print. There is no way I have time to read even a smattering of them. The TBR pile of print books about Ireland is already three feet high and teetering.
So how do I cope with this avalanche? I have already acknowledged to myself that it is almost physically painful to give away or refuse any book. I mean, it's a book! I can't do it! And yet, I'm surrounded with stacks of books, for research or written by friends or much praised by critics, that I want to read. And there simply isn't enough time to do it all.
|Alas, not my library, but I can dream (it's the Trinity College Library