I sometimes fear that if I don’t buy a book, I’ll forget about it and it will be lost in the great chasm of time and space. That even if I add it to my Want-To-Read shelf on Goodreads, it will fall into the depths, never to be seen again (which is a possibility; I have over 5,000 books on there). But really, how much do I remember about the books I already own, across three different formats and nearly ten different platforms? How many times do I see a book on social media and wander over to Amazon to buy it on Kindle, only to discover I had already bought it (sometimes years ago, sometimes only days before)? How many times do I grab a book from the library, only to discover I already have my own copy of either an advanced reader copy (ARC) or even one that I might have purchased in a different format?
This year, I’m taking that same energy that I have for new books to rediscover the ones I own.
I have written many times about how many books I own. How many books I then proceed to borrow from the library and get from Kindle Unlimited. (P.S. I’m back on that KU train. Couldn’t stay away.)
You don’t need to read those articles to understand that…it’s a lot. A lot a lot.
And I was feeling those numbers in late fall of 2022. I feel those numbers regularly, but I was sort of despairing about the obvious proof that I would never read all the books I wanted to. I was also in a horrible slump and hadn’t finished a book in a ridiculous amount of time, which for me could have been a few days or a couple of weeks. No books were going out, but plenty were coming in — whether they were retail therapy or review copies sent from publishers. I was starting to feel the pressure, but I couldn’t break myself out of it.
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And then there was a serendipitous email from Suzanne of Love in Panels: Shop Your Shelves BINGO.
Y’all, I have never opened an email so fast.
Inside, I was delighted to find an actionable plan: from then until the end of the year, participants would only read books in their possession, and could apply them to the prompts set up on a prettily designed Bingo board of 25 squares (24 prompts, plus one free square). You could play for Bingo (five in a row) or play for Blackout (cover the board), or you could just do your darnedest to meet those prompts and cry as you added yet another book to a scattered spot that wouldn’t bring you anywhere close to five in a row.
This is the BINGO card for the current (January–March 2023) quarter, which has different prompts than the original November–December 2022 one. Image c/o Love In Panels
Obviously, reading your own damn books is nothing close to an original idea. I even participated in an annual challenge once upon a time literally called Read My Own Damn Books. I’ve put myself on book buying bans. I still intend to do other things like #ReadWhatYouGot and the like. I’ve done all of this before. But for some reason Shop Your Shelves Bingo really lit something inside me that other attempts haven’t done.
And so when Suzanne announced that she would be continuing it as a quarterly challenge, my heart leapt. Even before that announcement, I knew I wanted to do my own version of shopping my shelves in 2023, and this just makes it even better.
Twenty-four squares over the course of three months isn’t much, so I’ll obviously be reading more than what’s prompted for in the challenge. But I will be using the philosophy of the Shop Your Shelves challenge for all of my reading, meaning I won’t be reading anything that came into my possession during the quarter — whether I bought it, received it from a publisher, borrowed it from the library, or acquired it in some other way — during that same quarter. This means I won’t beat myself up if I end up buying a few things. I’ll just read them later. (Which is sort of how I ended up in my current predicament, so maybe that’s not the best way to go about things? I dunno.) And if I do need to get something for work or a book club or something else, ah well. As long as the majority of what I’m reading comes from the Pryde Household TBRoom.
There are all kinds of reasons someone might decide to use their home library as a bookstore. Historically, I’ve gone on book buying bans to try to save myself some money, and done extensive weeding projects to save myself some space. But this endeavor, while hopefully helping me to do both, is mostly to save myself some peace of mind.
I know I’ll never be able to catch up, not even if I suddenly became independently wealthy and could afford to sit around and read books all day every day. But maybe I can give myself some breathing room.