February 10, 2005


Brian Thomas

I have 4 shelves at the moment. I generally start a couple of new books at once and pursue the one that grabs my attention the most. After reading the favorite, I see if the others pan out. If not, I take them out of the queue and put them in the "take to the used bookstore" pile and repeat the process.

Some books sit in the pile for a long, long time. I will try to start them and realize that it's just the wrong time. They go back in the TBR pile if I think it is something I "should" read, like "The Modern Mind" or "Guns, Germs and Steel" and I will likely pick them up again in the future. "The Modern Mind" has been in my pile for 3 years now. Someday...


I use the mobile MX missle logistical construct. A box in the car is transferred into a closet in the house, once the box in the car starts to overflow. When the books in the closet have overwhelmed the shoe collection, they are transferred to the basement, by the dryer. When the wife comes upon these lint coverd tomes, they are cleaned up and placed, in a neat stack by my bedside. When the pile threatnes to topple on me while I'm sleeping and dreaming of the next book acquisition, it is halved, placed into a box, and donated to the local library.
As long as the TBR piles are moving, I'm safe. If the library shuts down, as it's threatened to since the piles of TBR books require more servicing than the library can deal with, I'm a dead man.


Unless I get a new book and really need to read it right away, I shelf the books in with the old ones. If I plan on reading it right away I have a small desk-top shelf thing (it's about 2 feet wide with one moveable bookend side) within which goes the next book on the schedule.

I also have a tendency to go around my shelf pulling out books I plan on reading soon, so that they stick out from the shelf. After a while of looking at those books sticking out, I either start reading them or push them back flush with the other books.


Dan, this is just confirming -- you need to start a proper blog.

Anyway, I plan in theory, in checking out books or adding them to the list or buying them... but I almost never actually know what I'm going to read after the book I'm reading now. I may think I know. I may be fairly certain, actually. But it hardly ever turns out I'm right. I rely on a sort of dousing system, where I walk through the house and look at the books laying around or on the shelves and something will select itself. Something ends up in hand. Sometimes it goes back and the process starts again. So it goes.


I have been banned by my convivant (who has her own piles) from buying new books for an undetermined time. We have a small house and are forever trying to obtain smaller and smaller furnishings. We have TBR piles on the coffee table, an end table, on the floor nearby end table, on the piano's bench, on a stool near the front door, along the floor at the top of the stairs (a sort of built in shelf), on my office desk, on her office desk, in various bookshelves, on the ottoman in her office, in boxes both at home and in a storage unit, on a nightstand next to the bed, on a cabinet in the bathroom. It's gotten ridiculous, and we're not getting books sent to us. These are the things we get interested in and purchase. I'm' going broke and running out of space. So a moratorium has been instated, but neither of us have been following it. New short story collections happen to pop out of my bag when I come home from work, eliciting a scowl -- "You bought more books didn't you?!?" And still, I keep hitting up the library as if I didn't have enough to read at home. How will I ever read all the books I want to?

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  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


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