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TSS: Bookish Statistics, or, The Lure of the New

Who doesn’t love bookish statistics?

I’ve been cataloguing my library over on LibraryThing since 2006, well before I started blogging. I have a lifetime membership there and that $25 is among the best I’ve ever spent. Not only does it help me keep track of books across two continents, it also helps me keep track of what I’ve read and tells me all sorts of fascinating statistics about my own reading.

My preferred view uses my tags and my dates read and acquired to help me sort my unread piles and my “read in whatever year” database. Since we’re almost at the close of 2011, I was poking around to see what my general trends look like, and I hit on a startling realisation; more than 4/5 of the books I read this year were also acquired by me this year. Since only 80 or so books acquired in 2011 are left in the “unread” tag, that means that I have over 400 books which I basically haven’t touched this year at all.

Am I alone in this? Do books lose their charm that quickly after I buy them? It seems that if I don’t read them in the few months after their acquisition, I simply never read them at all. Time just slips by – and that book which was so fascinating in July 2008 seems to hold little appeal in December 2011. In fact, it seems none of the books I bought in 2009 hold any appeal as I haven’t read even one this year!

For me, I think this is partly because of the lure of the new book, the more exciting, shinier one that has just arrived on the shelf. It’s also partly because I get, still, quite a few books for review, and they tend to supercede books that are sitting on the shelves. I do have a couple of excuses, though; for one thing, many of my oldest TBRs still live in my parents’ house in New Jersey, so I can’t get to them very often, and for another, I have one TBR bookcase and the older ones just naturally fall behind the newer ones.

This discovery has me wondering what sort of goal I should set for myself in order to turn the trend around. How can I start to read more books that I’ve had for years? There is the theory of the book buying ban, of course, but I don’t really want to inflict that on myself. Seeing the unread numbers go down is always nice, but I like buying books and I’m going to enjoy doing so while I can. I think, instead, I should make an effort to prioritise.

So, for every month next year, before I buy a new book, I need to read two books that I bought in the same month in a previous year. In January, that means I’ll need to read two I bought in January 2011, 2010, 2009, or earlier. Only then will I be allowed to acquire more. That’s only 24 older ones over the course of the year, but perhaps discovering older gems will remind me to continue reading more, and lessen my constant need to buy new.

Do you find that the newer books get read before the older ones in your house, too?

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14 comments to TSS: Bookish Statistics, or, The Lure of the New

  • I’m definitely attracted by the shiny new books that come into my home. I haven’t read many old books this year, but I am reading one now!

  • New books often attract me, but I have been trying to be much better about reading from my own shelves, too. This year, though, I got a Kindle for my birthday and have spent hours scouring Gutenberg to get all these older classics on there so I can read them for free! I kind of fudge by saying that even if I didn’t OWN The Picture of Dorian Gray, it was still generally on my TBR list, but this is really just a lie. It sometimes takes me a while (a LONG while) to get to books I acquired years ago, but every book has its moment and it’s wonderful to pick up a book you bought FOREVER ago and find that it’s really an amazing read! It just takes a while to get there…

  • New books that make it onto the shelf are always top priority for me too, and I have a ton of sadly neglected older book that give me the stink-eye whenever I walk by, so it would probably be helpful for me to read a little more from my own shelves as well. The shelves here are packed with good stuff, and needn’t be ignored in favor of the shiny and bright, and I just need to keep telling myself that!

  • yeah I have the same new book thing, Meghan! It’s annoying. I think part of it is that there’s a reason the book is calling to me in that particular moment. I want to be better about reading from my shelf, too, though.

  • Since I get most (practically all, really) of my ‘new’ books from the library, I need to get through them before they’re due. So I do read my new books before I read the ‘old’ books I’ve had sitting on my shelf for years and years. It’s gotten to the point where I’d just rather get them from the library so they’re not sitting there forever and ever.

    You could always just get rid of your older books. Why torture yourself with books you’re not interested in anymore?

  • I’m not so sure if it’s the new books as much as books from the library where I work that mess up my TBR bookcase(s) at home. And yes, it’s true if I don’t get to ones I’ve bought (mostly used), I’ll probably never get to them…or so it seems.

  • This is one of my 2012 goals…read what I already own. I end up buying books year round but between review books and new releases I hardly read the most of what I buy.

  • That’s exactly why I’m going to do the TBR Double Dare Challenge during the first quarter of 2012 – I do the same thing, and it drives me – and my husband – crazy!

  • I really struggle to fit the books in that I wanted so much that I had to buy them! All the review books and library books keep getting in the way. Every year one of my goals is to read a certain number of books that I already owned before the year began but I haven’t actually checked recently to see how I got on with that goal.

  • I do that too. Once they get shelved I tend to forget about them. I’m distracted by my library’s “New Releases” shelf.

  • That was actually my 2011 New Years Resolution – to read books that I actually owned, instead of buying tons of stuff and getting tons more from the library. I too subscribe to the cult of the new. I started crunching the statistics earlier this evening, and yup, I did read more stuff that I owned this year. Only because I bought so many books this year! I don’t even want to think about how much money I spent on books this year. no wonder I’m wearing jeans with holes in the knees.

  • Yes, new books are way more attractive to me too! I rarely buy new books because of that. I HAVE to read what I have on hand first because otherwise it just gets way to out of control in here.

  • Let’s see how that goal does against the shiny allure of the new ;) No seriously good luck. It is sad when I look at my shelves and realise how many books from years ago are still sitting unread.

  • Tiffani

    There is something about shiny, new books that’s hard to resist. I buy books thinking I’m going to read them right away or within a few weeks and sometimes that is the case, but other times weeks turn into months and in some cases into years. To deal this I try to promise myself that I won’t buy a new book until I’ve read say three to five books from the TBR pile. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. A couple months ago I went through the TBR pile and decided it was to time to get rid of the titles that have completel lost their allure for me and stop kidding myself that I was ever going to read them.