Book Triage

I feel like I have more books staring at me than ever before. I could blame free library reservations and a trip to Wigtown, but there’s one more major reason for the books stacking up: an utter lack of restraint when it comes to requesting or accepting books for review. I’ve had loads of books coming through the door in the past month or so. Some were offered to me by authors or publishers via Goodreads, Twitter or my blog’s contact form. Others I sent e-mails to request after I saw tempting reviews in the Guardian or previews on Susan’s blog.

Of course I want to read all of these books. I really want to read most of them. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of requesting, borrowing or buying them. But even so, there’s only so much time. It’s not just a simple matter of picking up the book(s) from the stack that I most feel like reading at a given moment anymore. No, it’s become a triage process whereby I have to assess them by order of urgency.

So, what are my priorities? Here’s a baker’s dozen, in photos.

 

  1. Wellcome Book Prize shortlist reading. I’m on the last of six now; this is for the blog tour coming up next week.

  1. Library books that are due in early May and requested after me.

  1. Books I’ve requested for a blog review, in release date order. I feel so behind that you can expect some doubled-up reviews or mini-reviews in roundup form.

  1. Books I’ve agreed to review for another outlet, even if that’s just Goodreads.

  1. My first-ever buddy read: Small Island with Buried in Print and Consumed by Ink, arranged months ago. Join us!

  1. Month- or season-specific reads.

  1. Public library books with no current renewal issues.

  1. Booker Prize winners for the 50th anniversary this summer – I’ll at least review the Coetzee for Shiny New Books, and perhaps a few more on the blog if I get the time.

  1. Three more Iris Murdoch novels to read as part of Liz’s #IMReadalong later on in the year, starting in June.

  1. Bibliotherapy prescriptions.

  1. Books I’ve set aside temporarily, generally because I have enthusiastically started too many at once and had to put some down to pick up more time-sensitive review books. Many of these I was enjoying very much and could see turning out to be 4- or even 5-star reads (especially Brooks, Frame and Matthiessen); others I might end up abandoning.

  1. University library books, which can be renewed pretty much indefinitely.

  1. Every other book I own, even if I had it eyed up for a particular challenge. My vague resolution to read lots of travel books and biographies has pretty much gone by the wayside so far. I also have barely managed a single classic. Sigh! There’s still two-thirds of the year left, but I certainly won’t be managing the one a month from these genres that I proposed.

What’s your book triage situation like?

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48 thoughts on “Book Triage

  1. Okay, you’re a bit worse off than I am, but I still feel like I’m drowning: there’s no way I’m going to finish the Women’s Prize longlist in time for the shadow panel’s shortlist meeting (three unread books to go, none of them sourced, and the meeting is on Saturday), plus twenty-one proofs being released between now and October, plus four books which I bought independently and would like to read at some point, plus the proofs that will inevitably find their way into my hands in future…

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    1. Ha ha! I don’t envy you guys having to read the entire longlist for the shadow panel. I decided my Wellcome shadow panel would only be for the shortlist, because six possibly weighty science-y books is quite enough! I’ve lost track of which three you’re still after. Have you checked any libraries local to where you live and work? If worse comes to worst you can always opine on books you haven’t read 😉 Easy enough to do nowadays what with reviews, friends’ Goodreads responses, and “see inside” extracts.

      That is a whole lot of proofs, though! I’ve cannily/greedily started requesting books closer to the release date, or even after it, to get finished copies.

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      1. I figure that, from what I’ve read from other reviewers, none of the three I’ve missed will substantially change my feelings about what I’d like on the shortlist.

        I quite like having a bit of lead time, although I try to read the books as close to their release dates as possible. (Operative phrase being “as possible” – I’m currently in a tranche of 5 April releases…)

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    2. What is it with all those zillions of 5 April and 3 May releases?! I used to try to read books really early from NetGalley and Edelweiss, but I can’t often summon the motivation and don’t particularly see the point.

      (Just saw your post about your ideal Women’s Prize shortlist. I’ll leave my comments over there.)

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      1. It’s like a spring version of Super Thursday! I don’t know – I assume the release dates have been calculated to generate maximum coverage before people start buying holiday reading…

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  2. Ha – you have caught my zeitgeist certainly! At the moment I have a week of anxiety and a scary month …

    Two books to read for Karen and SImon’s 1977 club – Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve which is not a book for mealtimes and is apparently chock-full of rape, which I had managed to forget, and Diana Wynne Jones’ Charmed Life which is denser than I remembered and is leading me into a project where I locate all the children’s books that got peed on by a long-gone cat in the 90s and I thought they were Ok and they don’t exactly smell but …

    One NetGalley book to read that is published TOMORROW (The Lido) and I was doing so well

    Running the Smoke which is 26 tales of running the London marathon that I wanted to read before spectating and supporting friends at the marathon (I think I’ll take it with me for the train journey so that’s OK).

    Several NetGalley and one for Shiny that are published early May which is COMING UP. However, I’m doing Dewey’s Readathon, aren’t I 28-29 Apr, which should help.

    I love that you have a set of manky-cover-image Murdochs. I love that edition (but to collect it would be madness). I think you’ll enjoy The Nice and the Good the most, and The Italian Girl is a short one!

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    1. April into early May seems a particularly busy time for prize lists and new releases, for some reason. I’m a bit alarmed at having four review books all with a 3 May pub. date. I certainly can’t review them all that day, not even that week. Isn’t it silly the obligations we place on ourselves?! For the most part I hugely enjoy everything I undertake for the blog, but if I don’t perhaps I should give myself permission to jettison some projects.

      Those Murdoch covers truly are hideous. I got a job lot of six, I think, in Oxfam Books some years back. Depending on how much I like these (whether I want to keep them in case I’d read or refer to them again), I’d be glad to send them to you for your collection!

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  3. Ummm . Beck … ummm : maybe you need to cut up your library cards & attack the backlog? Even if you’re a speed reader of note, how on earth are you going to catch up ?
    Mission Impossible I’d say. Keep us posted!

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    1. The library books don’t strike me as a problem at all: if I don’t get to them this time around, I can always return them and get them out another time, which helpfully inflates the library’s user statistics!

      It’s the ones where there’s a review obligation — where I requested the book specifically for a blog review — that I do feel the pressure. I’m currently reading five of the review books pictured in #3 and will probably finish two of them today. Might start another three or four of the pictured books today as well. (I’m usually reading 15-20 books at any one time, which allows me to make progress in a bunch at once rather than getting stuck on one or two.)

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      1. Yikes! you obviously took top honours in a speed reading course early in your life! When I was younger I would 3 or 4 books concurrently, but 15 – 20 ?? I can’t decide whether I’m impressed, depressed or appalled! Or possibly just jealous. Just ignore me.

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    2. Up until maybe five years ago I would only read two books at a time, one fiction and one nonfiction. But once I went freelance and started working from home on book reviews, I kept upping the total. I’m sure there’s something to be said for being more single-minded in one’s focus on a couple of books, but I find that I’m easily distracted and bored and generally want to move on to another book after 30-40 pages. I keep track of all my current reading by keeping notepaper inside the front cover of each book and putting Post-it flags on the passages I want to revisit.

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      1. Okay, so that’s how you do it! I presume you have read the marvellous ‘Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch? a book a day for a year! loved the book. But my brain wo9uld explode on a book a day diet.

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    3. Yes, I’ve read that one. I couldn’t do what she did either: she made it through a 300-page book per day in about four hours! My reading rate is actually not that fast at all. No more than 50 pages/hour, I should think, whereas hers was more like 70. It’s just that I spend so much of the average day reading.

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  4. My situation is just as dire as yours although I don’t have as much library book pressure as you do! Having just finished Stella Prize shortlist reading, I’m spending a few weeks free-range reading and choosing on a whim (ARCs, loans and reading challenges be damned).

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  5. Blimey! I’m feeling a tad guilty now although I have begun to read and recommend more novellas if that helps. You do have some goodies in your various triage piles, though, and such formidable organisational skills are bound to help.

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    1. It seems to be a common blogger experience! This exercise was to help myself see clearly what needed to be read in what time frame, and to separate commitments from wishes. I’ll look back at it over the next month or so as I plan my reading.

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  6. Love it when you write these sort of blogs.
    Whatever you do, don’t miss reading The Wood by John Lewis Stempelh (item 2). It’s my book of the year so far. Not surprised it has library reservations on it.

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  7. Haha! I have the same kind of system, but with fewer urgent piles – only urgent in the sense that I *want* to read them right away. And not as many different library piles – only renewable and un-renewable. I always enjoy looking at your book pictures!
    I’m really looking forward to our readalong! I will do my best to keep up. 🙂

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  8. Now I feel better about my own stack of books and library holds situation, ha ha!
    I’m tempted by the Buddy Read with BIP and Naomi, but right now I just can’t take on another “book project.” I do intend to read that novel someday, though! I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts, and theirs.

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      1. Awesome! I pretty much never pick up a thriller, but my mom recommended this after her book club read it, and I liked the sound of the Hitchcock vibe. I watched most of Hitchcock’s movies while I was in high school.

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  9. Well now I am feeling a whole lot better about my own stack. I stopped requesting books about a year ago because I felt so guilty I wasn’t getting around to reading them. My Netgalley list of unread books got out of control….. now I no longer take long flights for work I don’t need to take an ereader with me so keep forgetting these books even exist

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    1. I was feeling a little overwhelmed, which is why I undertook this exercise to help myself see everything clearly.

      Out of all the books pictured, there’s only one I might be reviewing for pay. The rest are for fun!

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  10. This is a great post. You have me chuckling quietly here. Oh, the pressure book lovers feel – especially you ‘proper’ book bloggers! I thought I was unusual in preferring to have 4 or 5 books on the go (for pleasure). The thought of 15 to 20 at any one time AND with the intention of reviewing quite a few of them has me wanting to go and lie down in a dark room! 😀 I am filled with admiration.

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  11. I share your pain! My book triaging is not very well arranged. I tend to have the next couple of books I ‘must’ read beside me, and then the top shelf of my bedside bookcase is full with stacks on top of them too of review copies. I prioritse Shiny reviews and Book prize related fare, but desperately try to fit in books from my TBR in between – like those for Ali’s Muriel Spark celebration, and Simon/Karen’s 1977 Club and my whim reading choices – but fitting the latter in is difficult.

    As for my review backlog…

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