There was an article on the radio this morning about procrastination. I’m afraid I was in the middle of getting breakfast and so didn’t hear what had brought this topic to the fore but I did hear someone talking about putting together to-do lists and allowing things that they really didn’t want to tackle to slip down to the bottom of an ever growing catalogue of tasks that they were not getting round to dealing with.
I am actually pretty good at addressing things that need doing around the house as soon as they arise. I suspect that this has something to do with my Aspergers. I am only really comfortable when I know that everything is in its place and functioning properly. Nothing annoys me more than to be thwarted in my attempts to ensure that this is the case than incompetent companies who promise one thing and then do either something entirely different or, more often, nothing at all. And yes, my current electricity suppliers I am looking straight at you. However, adding yet another book to my ‘to be read as soon as I can get a copy’ list this morning, I realised that I am not so well disciplined when it comes to reading.
I have kept lists like this for as long as I can remember. Every now and then they become so long and so unruly that I simply abandon them and start again from scratch. The current one, I note, dates back to the spring of 2014. Because nearly all my books these days come from the library, there are two main reasons why individual titles slide further and further down the list. The first was epitomised this morning. I read a review of a debut crime novel that seemed exactly my type of read. However, when I interrogated the catalogues of both local library authorities neither of them had ordered a copy. This is perfectly understandable given that this is a new author and that the book isn’t actually published until the beginning of September. Of course they are going to wait and see how it is received before splashing out their limited resources. When I was in their position I would have done the same. But, how long will I go on remembering to check and see if they have bought a copy? You used to be able to ask for books that you wanted to see on their shelves to be acquired, but as money has become ever tighter, this is a service that is no longer available. As we get further and further away from the date of publication and more and more novels take my eye, this book will sink ever deeper into the lists and I will probably never get round to reading it.
The second reason that books tend to disappear into the depths of the tbr list is almost the opposite of the first. These are books that are not only bought by the library but are ordered weeks, sometimes months in advance of publication because they are by established and popular writers. As soon as they appear on the catalogue I put in my reservation just so that I won’t find myself at position 40 something in the waiting list for the one or two copies they have been able to afford. What inevitably then happens is that just like the buses on certain well known routes, half a dozen of them turn up at the same time and are then vying for my attention along with all the other material I am reading for book groups and courses. Automatically I cherry pick the ones that I am most desperate to read and at least two or three will have to be returned to the library unread. Not only is this frustrating for me but it means I have books on my shelves that other readers could be enjoying. This is not an example of what is commonly known as ‘best practice’. Some of these I will reserve again, but others slip through the net and down to the bottom of that notorious tbr list. When I look back to 2014 I see that there is a Julian Barnes, a John Le Carré, a Sue Gee, an Andrew Taylor, just to name a few, languishing at the very bottom of what is a disgracefully long catalogue of titles.
There is no practical answer to this, I know. I can never hope to read all the books I want to and these titles haven’t really sunk to the bottom of the list because I have been putting them off, although I suspect they are the ones that I was least anxious to read. I notice there is no Peter Robinson, no Kate Atkinson, no Elizabeth Strout on the list. There will always be some books that I will, abandoning all others, read as soon as they come through the door. However, while there may be no practical, or even impractical answer to the problem, perhaps you have found a better way of dealing with your back catalogue of must reads. If so, I would be really pleased to hear about it.