Sunday, February 26, 2006

Into the Reading Process: Book Piles

The books I intend to read, or think I might read, are distributed into four piles.

The first pile is small, it consists of the books I am currently reading. It is composed of two to three books. There is always a novel and a non-fiction work, which are occasionally supplemented with a collection of short stories. It may take a month to six weeks to finish the short stories because I only read them, a couple of stories at a time, between novels.

The second pile—books to be read immediately—is made up of two stacks of about five books each. One stack is fiction. The other non-fiction. When all the fiction has been read I start a new stack. I do the same with non-fiction. These short stacks are made up of both current releases and older books. For example, the current stack of fiction was comprised of George Pelecanos’ The Big Blowdown, The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais, The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, T. Jefferson Parker’s California Girl, The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, Louise Erdrich’s Tracks and The Music of Chance written by Paul Auster in 1990.

Actually, The Two Minute Rule was not part of the original stack, but when it arrived, late this week, it went to the top of the pile. That’s what I’m reading now. The Big Blowdown and Tracks were finished this past week.

The third pile is books I’ve recently purchased. Most of these books will find their way into the second pile, those books I plan to read immediately. Some, through neglect or lack of interest, will slip into the fourth pile—books I plan to get around to reading some day.

Books in this fourth pile can be promoted immediately into pile two. Some sit on the shelf for months. Three works by Patrick O’Brian are there. Two by Amy Tan. Gordon Parks is represented. Rick Bass. T.C. Boyle, John Lawton and Richard Ford.

There’s rarely uncertainty about what I will read next. A current release will grab my attention. Certain authors always go directly to the short list—Michael Connelly, Richard Russo, Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy, Ian Rankin. Non-fiction is usually a current release like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals or At Canaan’s Edge by Taylor Branch. Non-fiction selections tend to be histories or biographies with the occasional memoir tossed in.

Friends will make suggestions. I almost always try to read a book if a friend asks. Such concessions always have mixed results, but for every The Time Traveler’s Wife, there is a The Zanzibar Chest.

1 comment:

  1. Arrgghh!!

    I have 3 bookshelves full of "to be read's." The problem is that I am making negative progress, for while I read a fair number of books each year, the vast majority of them (at least for the last 5 years *sigh*) have been required reading for classes. And to add to this negative progress, I am continually purchasing books for which I have no time to read. Thus, my "to be read" pile becomes increasingly unmanagable even while my thirst for "new" books remains unsated.

    Perhaps some day...