Counting up the books

Danger! Danger! Beware of falling books!

I have shelf overload. A few years ago, I added a bunch of shiny new bookshelves, assuming they’d be neat and organized, with room to spare, for years and years and years.



They’re full. They’re overflowing. They’re messy. They’re disorganized.

I won’t do anything as drastic as going on a book-buying ban, but I do want to finally take some time to acknowledge how many unread books are actually sitting here in my house.

To that end, one change I’ll be making is mostly sitting out my usual “Wishing & Waiting” posts for a while. I want to stop focusing on upcoming new releases and instead give myself time and space to concentrate on the books I already own. You know, the ones I was actually dying for when they first came out… and then never did anything with.

Step #1 in my goal of appreciating what I already have (okay, yes, this could be a much wider goal about appreciating all the good in my life… but for now, let’s focus on books, shall we?) is taking stock of all the books tucked into all the various nooks and crannies in my house. I can’t read what I already have if I don’t know what I already have!

Like the numbers and Excel geek that I am, I started by doing an inventory. Picture me, laptop in hand, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of my shelves. I decided to create a spreadsheet listing every book in my house that I haven’t read yet. Here are the basics of what I did:

  • Going shelf by shelf, I made a list of everything on my shelves not yet read.
  • I only counted the books that are actually mine — so my kids’ books don’t count. Unless they’re kid books that I want to read myself. (I’m starting to get muscle strain from tying myself into so many knots.)
  • As I scoured my shelves, I came across bunches that — let’s face it — I’ll probably never read. The ones that I felt “never will I ever” about got pulled from the shelves and put into to-be-donated boxes. Yippee! I’m counting and I’m cleaning!
  • I set up separate tabs in my worksheet (fun with Excel!) for fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels.
  • When I got through all the physical books in my house, I decided to check my Kindle contents. Yikes. I have a lot of Kindle stuff that I’ve snatched up when there were price drops, but never got around to reading. So, another tab just for Kindle, but I only included books that I really intend to read. Because there are some that just aren’t going to happen, ever.
  • I didn’t include ARCs. Either I’ll read them or I won’t, but since I didn’t purchase them and can’t give them away (since they’re mostly on my Kindle), I’m not including them in my inventory.

So where did I end up? Let’s do the math:

Book Math 1

Ha. 598? That’s a bit daunting. Overwhelming. Coma-inducing.

When will I ever read them all???

Listen, I’m a realist (sometimes). It’ll take time. No pressure, no timetables, no deadlines. After all, the last thing I need in my life is one more way to feel stressed!

My entire goal here is to keep myself aware. Aware that I have plenty of awesome books sitting on my shelves, just waiting for me to show them some love.

So will I stop buying or borrowing new books? Heck, no.

But I will try to make more time for the books I already have, rather than always rushing toward the newest and shiniest. I want to read without pressure, without commitments, without timetables. Just reading what I want, when I want — isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

And what about my book math? To keep myself on track, I’m going to be check my “book score” at the start of each new month. I know I’m unlikely to read more than a few non-fiction books in a year, and that’s okay. The Kindle books, well, I’ll get to when I get to. So, going forward, I’ll do a little Book Count update, including my physical books (fiction and graphic novels) still unread, plus any new additions, minus any I’ve read in the past month. Fun with numbers! And to keep myself on track, I’ll have a little Book Count icon in my sidebar that I’ll update too… because, what the heck – why not?

Here’s where I stand as of right now:

Book Math 2

Wish me luck!

25 thoughts on “Counting up the books

  1. You are a brave soul to put it in numbers! I’m certainly inspired though, I definitely forget what books I already own!

    Good luck with your goal!

    • I do forget what books I own… and then I come home from our library’s big annual sale and find that I’ve bought copies of books already on my shelf. Argh! Thanks for the good wishes! πŸ™‚

      • Haha me too! I always promise that I’ll do what you did and catalog them but I always get distracted a quarter of the way through, and I think I have less than you so I definitely admire the effort.

        In fact, I just realized the other day I have three copies of The Odyssey and I’m really not sure how that happened.

        • I’ve had that happen to me too! (Well, not The Odyssey, but multiple copies of a book, purely by accident.) A friend of mine is smart and keeps an “owned but not read” shelf on Goodreads, so when she’s out and about, she can always check. I’m just not that organized yet!

    • Thank you! I’m hoping I stick with it — I feel like by putting a number on it, I’ll be able to be strong when tempted by new, new, new books. πŸ™‚

  2. AHH! I feel your pain! Although, I have to admit, 598 sounds blissful to me. I’m pretty sure I’m coming dangerously close to 1400 D-: Like you, I also have a spreadsheet, although I’m really bad at updating it. I usually get to it every 5-6 months when I find myself picking up more duplicates than new titles…..

    • 1400? Wow. That is a ton of books! Good luck — and on the positive side, if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse that forces us to barricade ourselves in our houses, at least we won’t run out of reading material! πŸ™‚

    • Ha, I completely understand! For me, hopefully having a number attached will motivate me to turn to my shelves when I’m ready to pick up a book, instead of always looking for the next new thing.

  3. We are are the same boat for sure! I thought I’d have extra room on my shelves for a long time when I bought them too, and that is so not the case! I’ve started doing a cull, but I’m not quite finished yet — this was inspired by the fact that my latest order from Book Outlet doesn’t fit on my shelves 😦 I love your idea of a book score…I didn’t call it that, but I tried to do basically the same thing when I started my blog — with the title Buckling Bookshelves, my whole point was to read what I already had, but I seem to have veered off track along the way! It might be time to revisit my blogging roots πŸ™‚

    • It is really disturbing to realize how quickly I managed to fill up all these shelves! I have relatives coming to visit next month, so one goal is that I need to get my “book room” neat and organized before anyone actually spends time there. So funny that you mention your blogging roots — I also had something similar in mind when I started mine, but I definitely got off track!

  4. Oh this is such a good idea! I’ve got to the point where I occasionally buy something I already own, simply because I can’t remember what’s on my (mostly unread) shelves! I’ve been meaning to do something like this for ages (if only to pull out all the books I know I won’t read), so thank you for the inspiration πŸ™‚

    Good luck getting through them!

  5. I love your shelves! My current dream/wish/hope is to someday have a room in my house like this with a wall filled with shelves and books. Just out of curiosity, where did you find these shelves? My shelves all only have 5 shelves (including the bottom) and the pre-done shelves at places like Menards are either too big or too small to fit in to add more lol.

  6. I am almost at that point in my life. I did try to write down all the Kindle books I have but your way is more organized and I feel like I”m compelled to do the same. I don’t have as many books as you have but they’re still a lot. And now my brain is going on overdrive coz I have a lot of epubs “lying around” in my hard drive and phone and I FEEL LIKE I need to write them down and keep tabs on them. Isn’t that what Goodreads is for? Hehehe.

    • A friend of mine has a Goodreads shelf specifically for “owned but not read”, but I’m just not that organized! Seeing all of my unread Kindle books is kind of astonishing. What was I thinking? πŸ™‚

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