My White Whale… A New Year’s Resolution

The same one I make every year, honestly. But I thought if I shared it publicly maybe I could shame myself into actually keeping it.

Here’s the thing. In our household we acquire books like lint. They just show up and stick to us.

Gifts, impulse buys, review copies… some of them (more than I like to admit) ….well, I have no memory of how they got here at all. But I know there will always be more.

I used to be able to keep up with them. I was a bus commuter, for one thing, and teaching and writing was about a thirty-hour work week. So I had the time and opportunity. But then circumstances forced me to change jobs and now it’s a forty-to-fifty hour work week and we use the car, so there’s no extra ninety minutes a day to read.

Unfortunately, when we altered our work situation we did not alter our lifestyle. The Shelf of Shame, which is how we refer to the pile of unread books by the nightstand, is now waist-high.

A fair amount of it’s comics. When my trusty local retailer closed a few years ago, I did not reinstate a pull list anywhere else, but instead applied the comics budget to used book collections on Amazon and elsewhere. I discovered to my delight that I could spend ten dollars and instead of getting three newsstand 32-page booklets, I could get two or three trade paperback collections, sometimes even hardcovers. The only thing I was sacrificing was being au courant with Marvel and DC. Which I really don’t care about. At the same time, hardcover collection prices for books like the DC Archive series and others were dropping to levels that I could actually afford.

And a lot of it comes from writing this column. I do a piece on, say, Michael Moorcock and it provokes a rush of “that reminds me, I was going to get….” whatever. In that particular case it was The Cornelius Chronicles and Tales of the White Wolf. Total expenditure– about seven bucks. White Wolf was a pristine first edition hardcover, too.

Other times I think of a column topic and that results in more books arriving. It goes both ways. For example, both of these will feature in upcoming pieces here.

Now, if you want to say I have poor impulse control or I should be mindful of the lack of storage space in this apartment, well, that’s fair comment.

But, see, I don’t regret the acquisitions. My regret is that I never have time to READ them. And they pile up.

So here is the resolution: for the next few weeks, I am going to read at least two and preferably three books from the Pile and build columns around those. I will not acquire new books until I’ve put at least a dozen of these into the finally-read-it-now-shelve-it pile. Hopefully more. But by God, 2020 is going to be the year I get ahead of these.

Okay? So now I’m committed. Wish me luck, folks.

Back next week with something cool… from the Shelf of Shame.


  1. Edo Bosnar

    Yeah, man, for shame. You really need to get to cracking and read all of those books (he says as his own shelf of shame is on the verge of collapsing under its own weight and becoming a gravitational singularity).

    Otherwise, I’ve been looking forward to your report on the George Kennedy books since I saw the images you posted on fb…

  2. Tim Rifenburg

    Hope you are able to make a dent in the pile. I think it happens with a lot of us. Time just gets harder to manage for the pleasure things. If I watch a new dvd or try something on streaming it is less time for reading. If I read a book it is less time for comics. Add real life pursuits and the time dwindles. I noticed a lot of DC Rebirth books on the stacks in your picture. I find a lot of those severely discounted or at thrift and library sales. In your travels do you find a lot of trade oriented comics? I always feel there is a correlation between the trades I see and the movies that have been put out. Do people just not keep trades as much or those that like the movies / tv shows don’t keep the books once they finish them?
    I was curious if you listen to Audiobooks? I upload them to my mp3 player and they help pass time when raking or doing yard chores. I find I don’t retain things as well, but thrillers, mysteries and celebrity oriented audios are fun for me. Definitely help pass the time. Hope you make the pile disappear and the new year is a great one for you.

  3. In my mind, comics TPBs and books go in separate collections. I typically work through collections at a rate of one a week or a month (depending on the material) so even though I have well over two dozen I haven’t finished, they’re not piling up the way books do. Even though TPBs eat into book time, they’re not in the same queue.

  4. Louis Bright-Raven

    Oh, I’ve got plenty of that. 52 SF paperback novels (just a wide array of stuff from the 1960s to the present), 6 issues of PRODIGY, 6 issues of STELLAR, 5 issues of NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT, 4 issues of DEATH ORB, I still haven’t taken the cellophane wrapper off my REBORN Vol. 1 HC, I just got BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS Vol. 2 and 3 in HC for Christmas, I have the Titan Comics BLADE RUNNER series to read, the last year or more of HOUSE OF WHISPERS, BLACK SCIENCE I need to start over at the beginning now that I have the entire run, I just got LIFE & TIMES OF WALLY WOOD Vols. 1 & 2, the Art of Mike Ploog Vols. 1 and 2, two Jack Kamen collections for Christmas… and that’s just off the top of my head! Whee!

    I’ve also got a ton of DVDs to watch. Managed to get through TITANS Season . Better than I expected. I hated the wardrobe for Starfire (yes, it’s the wardrobe that’s off-putting, not the actress or her ethnicity). Didn’t care for Dick Grayson at all. Teagan Croft did really well as Rachel / Raven, and the guy who plays Beast Boy / Changeling was good, too. But Connor Leslie as Donna Troy is the best part of the series to date (which means Season 2 is probably going to piss me off to no end). Also got DOOM PATROL Season 1 on DVD, about halfway through it. My thoughts are pretty much, 1) Either this is way better than TITANS, or my expectations of this going in were non-existent, 2) I really wish Cyborg was on TITANS instead of DP, and 3) This is very much the Grant Morrison Vertigo era version, especially since it’s got Crazy Jane, so why the hell isn’t he properly credited in the show? (He seems to be credited on Wikipedia, but he isn’t in the opening credits. Weird.)

    I also have STAR TREK DISCOVERY Season 2, LOST IN SPACE Season 1 (the netflix series, not the original), and the entire 1980s VOLTRON Lions and Vehicles DVD set (128 episodes) to watch. Ay Caramba!

    I seriously wonder how the hell Burgas here finds the time he does to read / watch all the stuff he does.

  5. papercut fun

    I’ve got my physical “shelf of shame” mostly under control…but that’s only because I shuttled my comics stack into cyberspace by buying my DC books digitally (only ever on sale of course!) and getting a Marvel Unlimited subscription. I still can’t keep up with everything but at least I don’t trip over my unread gems anymore.

  6. Jeff Nettleton

    I parted with most of my shelf when we moved, a couple of years ago. Mostly though, ending 20 years of bookselling reduced the flow to a trickle. I do have to sandbag, occasionally, when you do a column and cracks start appearing in the levy.

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