Like so many of us, my shelf of “to be read” books has always been long. While I set some limits on myself — there’s no point to spending money on more books than I’ll ever be able to read — if you stick me in a bookstore or worse, a used-book store, or a used-book library sale, I’ll probably weaken. For most of my time up here in North Carolina the number of books to be read ranged from low twenties to maybe sixty-plus.
Right now it’s at nine. That’s unprecedented.
Not that I’m worrying about running out of stuff to read. The library just opened up (books reserved in advance and picked up by appointment) and I have hundreds of books I can (and do) reread. But to have only nine new books left? And three of them aren’t new, they’re ones my wife owns that I took off our shelves (currently I’m reading and enjoying her copy of All the King’s Men).
The reason, of course, is COVID-19. I don’t browse the sale tables (or anything else) at Barnes & Noble. I’m not visiting any used book stores. There’s a couple of book sales in South Carolina that I usually catch when TYG and I visit friends there, but we’re not traveling anywhere this year (next year? Maybe). Those sales are the kind of event that make me melt: a huge variety of very cheap, often very interesting books. Sometimes they’re crappy books — I picked up a biography of Thomas Malory at one of the sales a few years back and it was dreadful — but at least I’m not kicking myself for wasting money, not at bargain basement prices.
Obviously in the Internet age it’s not like I can’t buy books, including used books, without going to bricks-and-mortar stores. And there are certainly lots of books that I want, both fiction and nonfiction. I just bought, read and enjoyed Brian McFadden’s Amicus Horrors (among other details I didn’t know, the company started not with horror but with rock-and-roll flicks such as It’s Trad, Dad!).
But by and large, I resist the impulse (I’m much more susceptible to comic-book trade collections). When I find a used book sitting in my hand and it’s soooooo cheap, resistance is nil. I suspect I’ll have my queue cleaned out by the end of the year. Though of course, Christmas means gift certificates …