unread books

The possession of a book becomes a substitute for reading it.

-- Anthony Burgess

I have a growing problem ... this is 3 out of the 16 shelves of my unread book pile, as of 7th March 1996. I buy faster than I read. (We both do. So much so, we've since built a bigger house.) And it's a stack: I tend to read the ones I've bought most recently. Some of those books have been there a long time.

Andrew Plotkin : No, no offers please. My to-read stack is still overflowing. And unlike some of you nutcases, I actually expect to reduce it to near zero.

Michael Kozlowski : The only difference between us and you is that you're still clinging to your delusions.

-- rec.arts.sf.written, 1999

Gary Weiner : When my to-read pile shrinks some...

Kevin Maroney : Do they do that?

William December Starr : Once they attain sufficient mass for gravitational collapse to take place, yes.

-- rec.arts.sf.written, 2000

Books you've bought and shelved but not yet read emit a gentle, beneficial radiation, and when you finally do read them they're almost old friends.

-- Teresa Nielsen Hayden, rec.arts.sf.fandom, Jan 2001

For some advice on bookshelf building, Up the Walls of the World isn't as helpful as it might have been, whereas book-eating bookshelves helps a bit. It's obviously a common problem:

The question of economy, for those who from necessity or choice consider it at all, is a very serious one. It has been a fashion to make bookcases highly ornamental. Now books want for and in themselves no ornament at all. They are themselves the ornament. Just as shops need no ornament, and no one will think of or care for any structural ornament, if the goods are tastefully disposed in the shop-window. The man who looks for society in his books will readily perceive that, in proportion as the face of his bookcase is occupied by ornament, he loses that society; and conversely, the more that face approximates to a sheet of bookbacks, the more of that society he will enjoy. And so it is that three great advantages come hand in hand, and, as will be seen, reach their maximum together: the sociability of books, minimum of cost in providing for them, and ease of access to them.

In order to attain these advantages, two conditions are fundamental. First, the shelves must, as a rule, be fixed; secondly, the cases, or a large part of them, should have their side against the wall, and thus, projecting into the room for a convenient distance, they should be of twice the depth needed for a single line of books, and should hold two lines, one facing each way. Twelve inches is a fair and liberal depth for two rows of octavos. The books are thus thrown into stalls, but stalls after the manner of a stable, or of an old-fashioned coffee-room; not after the manner of a bookstall, which, as times go, is no stall at all, but simply a flat space made by putting some scraps of boarding together, and covering them with books.

-- William Gladstone, On Books and The Housing of Them