July 11, 2006

Little Spaces I Inhabit: My Obsessive Book Buying

Lately, it seems as though I've traded lots of email about my mad book-buying habits. It's time that I come clean with you guys and reveal myself as the true obsessive compulsive guy I am. Like Superman's quick phone-booth changes, although my cape has a big "OCD" on it and I refuse to wear tights. How bad could it possibly be, you ask? Well, you remember my 3,700 CDs, right? When I do something, I do it big. I give you my unread book collection.


Yes, you heard me right - unread. When I'm in a bookstore and see something I'm interested in, I pick it up. There are more book cases (and boxes) in the basement chock full of books I have read. But very few of these spines have been cracked. I've provided a little detail in two other shots (here and here).

Surely I'm not alone, right? Okay, okay. Maybe you're not obsessed with books or music but you've got to have something! What is it?

(Oh, while I've got you here, check out my Independence Day and cemetary sets - totally unrelated, I assure you.)

Posted by Chris at July 11, 2006 06:59 AM

I bow to you.

That looks like my read pile. My to read pile is onlyh about one half of one of your bookshelves. If I bought all the books on my Amazon wishlist, it still wouldnt match your stash.

Posted by: Lisa at July 11, 2006 07:21 AM

I seethe with mad jealousy to see your bookshelves full of unread books. I read upwards of three books a week and am constantly trying to keep a stockpile of worthy candidates in the queue. This creates quite a clutter in ye olde apartment. Any good non-fic recs for this gal? Or fiction? (I like Deaver, too.)

Posted by: Nicole at July 11, 2006 07:22 AM

That is the COOLEST home library ever! Now you just need a ladder on a track that goes around the course of the shelves, oh, and a nice fireplace would make it a really cozy reading nook!

Posted by: Dolly at July 11, 2006 07:26 AM

Ok, I feel a lot better about my book-buying.

I've recently started searching the local library catalogue for my Amazon wishlist titles and so far I've knocked a few off that haven't lived up to my expectations.

Loving all your bookshelves though. You should seek out 'Living with book' by Alan Power(s?), it's full of photos of other people's lovely bookshelves and libraries.

Posted by: Katherine at July 11, 2006 07:42 AM

umm . . . I'm a voracious reader too, but this is definately OCD. Do you ever go through the unread shelves and read something from it? Do you ever decide that you really don't want to read one of the ureads anymore and get rid of it? Not that I'm judging. I buy craft supplies I never use, although I am learning to curb the impulse.

Posted by: Meredith at July 11, 2006 07:52 AM

I thought my unread book collection was large at eight books. You, however, have me beat.

James and I both buy pens like it's going out of style. We have more pens than we know what to do with. The obsession is insane.

Posted by: Emily at July 11, 2006 07:59 AM

My name is Kristen and I am a book-addict (just as bad as you, I place an order a week from Barnes and Noble; the pick up counter knows me by face and name)...and a shoe addict (I have 34 pairs of black shoes alone)...and a handbag addict (I have 5 black Coach bags--"...and why?" I ask myself regularly)...and an icecream addict (MUST have 2 1/2 gallons of ice cream and a box of Dove bars in the freezer AT ALL TIMES).

And yes, take medicine for my OCD--but that's mostly for my "issues" with numbers.

I am a freak, but I'm well-read,I dress immaculately, and I'm fat through the mid-section.

Posted by: kristen at July 11, 2006 08:01 AM

Okay- so I am going to show your unread books collection to my husband... so he can stop giving me a hard time about mine, which is just a speck of a collection when compared to yours....

Posted by: Stephanie at July 11, 2006 08:01 AM

I read a lot too, and I have an assortment of read and unread books, probably not as many as you, but certainly lots more than average. I would be very upset if there weren't any "unread" books around. What if I needed something to read at 3AM?

We have a large set of bookshelves in one of our bedrooms that we refer to as the office. And then there's the newest unreads in the den on an equally large set of bookshelves.

Keep up the good work.


Posted by: cas at July 11, 2006 08:04 AM

hmmm. i've never thought about separating my books into read/unread piles. However, it might be a useful trick. I too will compulsively buy books, usually two or more at a time, and then watch them sit there on my shelves collecting dust. But I love them so anyway...

Posted by: suze at July 11, 2006 08:06 AM


I read alot. ALOT. Anything and everything. But really, Chris, hasn't anyone ever told you that books are free at the library? :) And pretty darn cheap at the used book store...

Some friends and I have a group that passes books around. We'll pick them up here and there, read them, and pass them on. I read things that way that I might never have chosen otherwise. Actually, that's where I got that "Kill Me" I was telling you about yesterday.

Posted by: Alissa at July 11, 2006 08:14 AM

That's, um, a little scary.

Posted by: Alison at July 11, 2006 08:16 AM

What are the hours of the Rude Library and do you offer beverages while we read?

Posted by: Wicked H at July 11, 2006 08:25 AM

I'm a little OCD about my pictures. I get professional pictures taken of my kids constantly. I don't really pass them out to family or anything, because who wants to change picture frames every month? I just buy them for myself mostly, and have albums full. And I take pictures myself constantly. I never print them, they just sit on disks so I can look at them often.

Posted by: ktjrdn at July 11, 2006 08:32 AM

Wow. Am jealous. I am no longer allowed to buy books on a regular basis (so decreed my husband - he's forbidden to buy video games on a regular basis though so it's fair) so I have been relegated to the library, where I am going through their collection at an amazing speed.

Mostly, though, I'm jealous of the book cases. I only have two small ones and they're bursting with books, in need of some relief. I've been told I can get bigger bookcases when we buy a house, and I can't wait.

Posted by: Jessie at July 11, 2006 08:48 AM

I am sooooooo glad I'm not the only one. A collection that not only rivals - but surpasses my own! YAY!!!

Posted by: Jenny at July 11, 2006 08:48 AM

Are you crazy? In a good way of course? I have at least 8 shelves of books but most of them I have read. I love the idea of books as much as books themselves. You really should do a list of ones you might sell. You might have a lot of takers here in blog land!

Posted by: Michelle at July 11, 2006 08:58 AM

The only difference between our book collections is that I've not finished buying my bookshelves yet, so mine are just stacked up along side the existing bookshelves.

Posted by: amber at July 11, 2006 08:59 AM

i have a lot of unread books, but... not. that. many.

when you eventually read 'a million little lies' you will be like,

Posted by: denise at July 11, 2006 08:59 AM

I feel waaaaaaay better about my one measly -- okay, two measly shelves of unread books that I keep meaning to get to, despite continuing to occasionally buy more. Finances hold my tendencies in check more than anything else, I think. Still, I am quite envious of your collection -- and your storage space. It's a really good thing the White Trash Neighbors are moving, 'cause moving all YOUR stuff would seriously suck.

Posted by: shelley at July 11, 2006 09:20 AM

Wow. I've never heard of anyone having an "unread" book collection.

Maybe it's because I'm a librarian.

Although not reading them really keeps them lookin' nice!

Posted by: Liz at July 11, 2006 09:25 AM

I have one bookshelf like that of "to read." So yeah, you beat me. Damn.

Posted by: Heather at July 11, 2006 09:27 AM

Amazing library but I am a little annoyed becasue I could not browse through the titles.

Posted by: Bill at July 11, 2006 09:44 AM

I'm with you, dude. I spend so much money on books that I now have my bi-weekly packages from Amazon delivered to my office so my wife doesn't see them and get mad at me. It's ok. I have a feeling she's doing the same thing with handbags.

Posted by: MetroDad at July 11, 2006 09:45 AM

I am soooo jealous of your ample supply of reading material!!!
I probably have half that amount of read books lying about in various boxes - haven't done a sweep and donate to the library lately.

Posted by: Traci at July 11, 2006 09:45 AM

I love buying books and have a few boxes of ones I've read and couldn't part with packed away up in my parent's attic. This weekend our library is having a huge summer book sale. I always find something good!

Posted by: Milly at July 11, 2006 09:48 AM

Only thing worse than one bibliophile is two of them, living together, in a very small apartment. I understand your collection completely.

Posted by: ari at July 11, 2006 10:09 AM

I can't read as much as I did (vision) but I used to haunt the used book store and the library sales.

I'm not the packrat in the family though. That would be my husband. I go through the shelves at least once a year and eliminate. If I think I'll never read it again, it goes. If I think I'll never read it, it goes.

I need to do that with the girls' collection. It's overflowing and people keep giving me more. The school gives me their discards. Some are good but the word "discard" was coined for a reason.

I'll pass them on so someone else can have the fun of going through them all.

Posted by: ann adams at July 11, 2006 10:09 AM

A couple years ago I was uncontrollable at a library's used book store. I would spend like $75 (each week) and walk away with grocery bags full of treasures. My secret to control now - the library. Most of the books I own are also unread, but I've heard that's healthy, that they stand as a motivation to keep you reading.

Posted by: Sijbrich at July 11, 2006 10:24 AM

Wow... and I thought Hubby had lots of books. My book colletion is no where near that... yet.

Great photos of the cemetary. I love old cemetaries. My best friend and I used to stop at them as were were just driving past. Always makes me wonder about the lives of those buried there.

Oh... I noticed the packing material for selling books, and I didn't read the comments to see if anyone mentioned this, but you should check out bookcrossing.com. It's a pretty cool site...

Posted by: Karen at July 11, 2006 10:27 AM

oh my god...i challenge you.

i'm obsessed with buying books. i have shelf upon shelf of "to-read" books. books that i planned to read until i saw something i wanted to read first at the store. it's sickening. also, every time my mother comes to visit me, she brings me about a dozen or so books that i want to read.

Posted by: ali at July 11, 2006 10:42 AM

Holy crap, and I thought that my "to read" stash was large! I've only got one bookcase filled with unread books.

However, I understand the obsession. I had to make a promise to myself to stop buying every interesting book in sight - now, every time I go to the bookstore, I just bring home one or two interesting books to add to the unread collection.

Posted by: Jen at July 11, 2006 10:52 AM

My question always, for fast readers such as yourself, is: How much do you retain from the books you read? Can you pick up a book you read 10 years ago and tell me all about it?

I don't read a lot of books. Honestly, if I can squeeze in time for two novels a year, I'm happy. But the books I read, I really soak in. I can tell you every bit of a Stephen King book I picked up in the 8th grade, or the first Patricia Cornwell mystery I devoured back in college. The colors, feelings, detailed descriptions of scenes, etc. Is it the same for you?

Posted by: Brad at July 11, 2006 10:53 AM

Wow. Yeah, I'd jump on the bandwagon and suggest a visit to the library, rather than a new purchase, except you've already got... what... at least a month's worth of reading material there.

I'm totally envious of your bookshelves, by the way. I just bought two more folding ones over the weekend, to stack on top of our existing ones. They lack that library-like sturdiness, but at least they're easy to move.

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at July 11, 2006 11:24 AM

my little ponies. and pretty journals that i never write in.

Posted by: brianna at July 11, 2006 11:56 AM

I have a little of those same OCD tendencies with books and CDs, but not nearly as many as you! My god - you need help! Though a shelf full of books, read or not, certainly looks pretty.

Posted by: Jen at July 11, 2006 12:09 PM

I heart your bookshelves too...I buy almost as many books... they go and live in many corners and random stashes around the house. I just bought a small cookcase for the living room but it is really just a placeholder for new purchases and sort of decoration. oy.

Posted by: Sue at July 11, 2006 12:19 PM

I have lots of books I haven't read, too...I'm a bit of a book hoarder. But I don't have as many unread books as you. ;)

I love the purple crayons. And the cemetary set.

Posted by: mamatulip at July 11, 2006 12:32 PM

I'm totally with you on the book thing, honey. I'm that bad too. I can't help it! Books are amazing (some of them, anyway).

Posted by: Queen of Ass at July 11, 2006 12:35 PM

Awesome! As a person who buys many books (months or years before I actually read them), I salute you.

Posted by: wordgirl at July 11, 2006 01:18 PM

It is so nice to know that there are people like me out there. just this weekend I was feeling guilty about the number of books I buy, particularly when I have my own large stash of unread books. I will eventually read them. I'm just not in the mood for any of them at this very moment. And so I head to the book store for more.

Posted by: bad penguin at July 11, 2006 01:27 PM

Wow, you're worse than we are. Of course, that might only be because we lived in a tiny apartment before and didn't have *room* for all our books, so we kept giving them to the library or to other people we know. Now that we own a house...well, let's just say that you might have some competition in the future, muhahaha!

(Okay, maybe not. We're trying to cut down on the book buying. Sad.)

Posted by: Spring at July 11, 2006 01:30 PM

I haven't read anything but a school book in four years.

But I am collecting "things to read when chantel is done with her education"

But, I have beautiful shoes I buy but won't wear because I don't want to mess them up.

Nice eh?

Posted by: chantel at July 11, 2006 01:33 PM

I have huge bookshelfs like that full of books I have yet to read. Maybe not as big, but still pretty big. There is a used bookstore by me that has certain areas on sale for 50 cents. You look at them and you just can't go wrong.

When I move though I'm trying to figure out where they are all going to go.

Posted by: ash at July 11, 2006 01:37 PM

I don't think a person can ever own too many books...that's entirely my parents' fault, but I love them for that.

However, there are two things I had to put a long-term ban on buying: picture frames and stationery...because there's only so much shelf space you can allot to pictures (especially with all those books!), and sadly, there are too few opportunities to write real letters to anymore.


Posted by: Lee at July 11, 2006 02:07 PM

My unread pile is a bit smaller, but occupies at least a shelf of my bookcase. :) Not to mention that my Amazon list is HUGE. :)

Posted by: Laura at July 11, 2006 02:09 PM

It must be contagious because in the last few years I am becoming guilty of this same obsession. The urge to purchase, that feeling of euphoria upon ownership, then the setting down in the house and never opening again.

Posted by: Debbie at July 11, 2006 02:35 PM

That's so funny that you posted pictures of your bookshelves - I was thinking of doing the same thing today!! No kidding! I love seeing whats on other people shelves, books are a complete obsession for me.

Posted by: Kestrel at July 11, 2006 02:42 PM

that is the most beautiful thing i have ever seen.

Posted by: jodi at July 11, 2006 04:36 PM

Somewhere in that mess I'm betting there's a self-help book that cures obsession. I pray that you find it.

P.S. Send it to me when you're done.

Posted by: Kevin at July 11, 2006 04:40 PM

I'm pretty much the same way, just not to the same degree (yet). The books I haven't read constitute probably just under half of all the books I own. That doesn't sound so bad, except when you consider that I've only been buying books for myself for a few years now.

Posted by: Gavin at July 11, 2006 04:54 PM

The idea of that many unread books in my home makes me salivate a litte. I am constantly running out of books to read, which is actually kind of ridiculous. I work three blocks from two of my favorite locally owned bookstores, one new and one used.

Posted by: Melissa at July 11, 2006 05:16 PM

i have the EXACT same book addiction. i have no idea how many books i own that i haven't yet read... and i go to B&N just to smell the books. mmmmmmmmm.

Posted by: Noelle at July 11, 2006 06:27 PM


I have like 12 books on my nightstand and that seems to be taking forever to get through. But that is a molehill compared to this mountain.

A fine collection!

Posted by: Janet at July 11, 2006 06:49 PM

I'm so glad there are people like me out there. I've started stacking books two deep on my bookshelves because there just isn't enough room.

Posted by: hannah at July 11, 2006 07:27 PM

I was going to suggest you give those books away to a charity, but since you haven't read most of them yet...damn, man.

Posted by: Beth in StL at July 11, 2006 07:33 PM

Um, can I schedule a little visit to your book store? I see a few titles I wouldn't mind reading... and then, of course, returning... so that they'll be there when you get around to them. I'm SURE your prices have got to be better than Amazon.com's or Border's!

Posted by: ironic1 at July 11, 2006 08:00 PM

You are the biggest unreader I have seen.

Posted by: Dennis at July 11, 2006 08:12 PM

You might want to have that OCD problem looked at. Although, now I really want to be your best friend. I adore books. I tend to pick them up and walk around with them and then put them back down, knowing my days of reading everything are far in the future.

Posted by: Melissa at July 11, 2006 08:40 PM

Sir, it's the literary police.
Please back away from the books.
Do it slowly and no one gets hurt.

Well, except maybe a paper cut.

Dude, seriously -- how does Beth deal with this? ;)

Posted by: Pammer at July 11, 2006 09:01 PM

Get thee to a LIBRARY. It may save your sanity, marriage and life. Plus, it gives you a reading deadline.

Posted by: Sphincter at July 11, 2006 09:37 PM

Multiply by 2 and that about matches my total UNREAD collection. And it keeps growing kinda. And then I get in a groove and read a good 5 or so over a weekend, that are dutifully replaced by Monday on a trip the the bookstore.

But I have an excuse. I call myself a writer. It's called supporting the system I guess.

Posted by: Bethany at July 11, 2006 10:45 PM

I'm totally in the same boat. We have TONS of books--and very little space. Since I worked at a very prominent childrens publishing company, I have TONS of children's books. The shelves in our nursery are overflowing....And, since I was a grad student for years in English Literature...need I say more. I love, books, though. LOVE EM. I wish I had more time to read....

Posted by: haley-o at July 11, 2006 11:36 PM

Oh yeah. Now I KNOW we have the same sickness. But yours? Far more orderly than mine. Kudos, man. Thanks for the brilliant details.

Posted by: Keri at July 12, 2006 12:01 AM

I don't have anything really to say about all the books, that pretty much left me speechless. But you know I'm all about the pictures...loved all the shots. Even if the cemetary ones freaked me out! That one you posted yesterday was quite awesome.

Posted by: Kate at July 12, 2006 12:35 AM

You could open a used book/cd store and put Mia through college with the money. heehee

Posted by: Lisa B at July 12, 2006 12:42 AM

This? Is what my house would look like if only I had the disposable income necessary. Sadly, I do not. Which actually is probably a good thing, since it would be a real pain to pack all those books up and move them overseas!

On the plus side, I should have easy access to Iain Banks over there. He's one of my favorites as well.

Posted by: Kerry at July 12, 2006 06:06 PM

I have a huge unread book collection but you are definite OCD because I don't have them seperated from what I have read.

However I often drool over a photo on flickr of someone's collection sorted via color. It's so beautiful it makes me feel peaceful.

I do have a question for you....the best way to pose it is to share this entry with you


How do you treat your books?

Posted by: PoeticaL at July 12, 2006 07:52 PM

I obsessivly buy books too. I wanted to tell you (after reading your last post) that there is a good book about a man who buys a contract from an exclusive company that kills you and arranges to make it look like an accident after certain things have happened in your life.
They dont warn you or anything, you just sign an exhaustive In Case Of form and then dont worry about it again.
Of course something goes wrong...
If only I could remember the book it would be a much better comment. But at least it ties in with your last two posts.

Posted by: That Girl at July 14, 2006 10:15 AM

I'm late, but I'll admit that I'm obsessed with buying blank books and journals. I can't help it, there's just something about the smell and the pages that makes me HAVE to have it.

Posted by: Sarah at July 14, 2006 11:11 AM