Thursday, September 29, 2011


So, I spend a lot of time with bookish types.  Today alone, I had three separate friends comment that they:
  • Had more than 100 books in their TBR pile
  • Were no longer allowing themselves to bring books into their home
  • Would never get through their TBR books
And I thought to myself: Lightweights!  Let me introduce you to the concept of BABLE...

BABLE = Books Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy

The photograph above is my apartment.  Most walls are lined with bookshelves.  Books fill every inch of space, often two deep, and are stacked above the top shelf and sort of wedged in against the ceiling.  (I'm hoping the wedging will save me in an earthquake.)  There are 26 piles of books on the floor in front of the bookshelves waiting to be shelved.  There are a couple hundred cookbooks above the kitchen cabinets that can be accessed by step stool.  Non-fiction is stacked above the armoire and, again, wedged against the ceiling.  Overflow is stacked on the floor beside.  I have stacks of books in piles waiting to be given away through a variety of channels, and I give them away by the dozens--because you guys have seen Mailbox Monday.  There are new books arriving daily.  They just come at this point.  I buy a handful, but mostly they just show up.  Thank goodness many of them are no longer physical books!

Did I mention that I live in a small, urban studio apartment?  But it's not all bad...  For starters, BOOKS!  It's awesome; it's like living in a bookstore.  Very much like living in a bookstore, in that that I don't always know what's on the shelves.  I have been known to read an intriguing book review and think to myself, I need to read that book.  Then the first thing I do is check the shelves.  There have been several occasions when I've found the very book I seeked.  Also, no matter the mood I'm in or the subject I seek, I've got just the right book on hand.  Plus, when you finally get around to reading a book that's been on the TBR shelf for, uh, decades, well that's a great feeling!

I truthfully don't know how many unread books I have in my apartment.  Certainly it's more than 1,000.  So, we return to the concept of BABLE.  On average, I read between 50 and 100 books a year.  This year I'll read more for the first time in recorded memory.  Perhaps I'll be able to do 100+ every year moving forward.  Still, I'm clearly flirting with BABLE.  I am approaching an event horizon.  (Per Wikipedia: In general relativity, an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman's terms it is defined as "the point of no return" i.e. the point at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible.)

If this is my worst problem, I can live with it.  I dream of one day living in an apartment with a spare room--a library.  For now, I'll just keep reading.

What about you?  Where are you on the BABLE continuum?


  1. Ah, the sight of books just make me sigh! My husband bought me real library shelves 4 years ago for our anniversary. They are 8 feet tall, 17 feet long. I could shelve mass markets two deep with a little room in the front for more. They were full 2 hours after I got them, with more on other bookshelves and stacks on the floor. Oh, well. We could have a worse vice! :)

  2. Too funny! I track my tbr pile on LibraryThing and was thinking it was time to purge - surely there are some I don't really intend to read, or seemed like a good idea at the time, but if I really think about it, probably wouldn't enjoy, especially the headier non-fiction types...But. I can't seem to part with the books. They are everywhere, just like yours.
    I love the BABLE concept, and I think I may be there. I haven't put all my kindle reads on my LT database, so my 7 year backlog is really much worse than that. Plus there are the intended rereads of beloved books that push me out to the decade mark.
    Let's hope I'm not at the event horizon yet - but I must be close. At lease we know we are not alone.
    The LT early reviewer program has kept me reshuffling that tbr pile for years now, but I am not complaining. I'm waiting for And So it Goes, Kurt Vonnegut : A life so I won't complain about the size of my piles. I'll leave that for my husband to do!
    Happy reading.

  3. D'oh! I forgot the hundreds of Kindle books! It's hopeless.

    It's good to hear from you, Mel. A word of advice from one who knows--don't purge books you love. You'll just spend the next several years purchasing them again. For me, my books become a part of who I am. I'm not proud of every book on my shelves, but collectively they form a picture of me. When you visit someone's house for the first time, don't you check out their bookshelves first? You can't purge who you are.

    You can, however, get rid of those old Mary Higgins Clack paperbacks from the 70's, LOL.

  4. Mary Higgins Clark. Freudian slip. ;-)

  5. Currently I have 879 books on my Shelfari virtual "I Plan to Read" shelf. Most of my owned books are on there (in an extremely out-of-character fit of organization I spent several evenings putting them on there, hoping it would keep me from buying books I already own), but I do have a small stack on the floor specifically because they have yet to be added (trying to keep up a good thing). Unfortunately, I have yet to do the same with my Nook books, but I do not really have very many of them.

    Like you, Susan, I read between 50-100 books a year (less since I joined Shelfari and began my blog, as now some of my reading time is eaten up with these pursuits-ironic!), so I have a hopeless backlog, and it grows on a daily basis (eg: Night Circus)!

    Sadly, I do not own very many books. Your shelves are a thing of beauty to me! Until two years ago we moved every few years. But now we are settled in our retirement home and I buy more than I used to. Mostly, at the moment, those are homeschooling books, though.

    My husband complains about book piles...I think I will show him your picture and post. Then he will see that I am not as sick as I could very happily be!

  6. I got addicted to bookbag sales a few years ago, and as a result of attending them over the period of one summer, I have well over 1k unread books in my possession. Most of them I have boxed up in my storage unit because I found myself periodically approaching that weird emotional state that borders joy and overwhelmed hysteria when they were piled all around. Now, I keep my (has to pause and mentally count them) 6 bookshelves and the bottom of my linen closet full, and occasionally "restock" from the storage unit when space becomes available. With the exception of a few, all of the books are donated as soon as I'm done with them, so that helps me justify keeping things indefinitely. Kinda.

    I just, finally, bought a Kindle when the new ones were announced. It arrives mid-November. Good God, what was I thinking?

  7. Penny,

    I forgot to express my crazy jealosy over not only your library shelves--What a gem of a husband!--but also that you have the space to house them.


    I'm so glad I can serve as a cautionary tale for you, LOL.


    The Kindle is the most awesome invention ever! I mean, I'll be buying a first edition hardback of every novel John Irving ever writes--but do I EVER need a physical copy of a Dean Koontz novel in my home ever again? No! Plus, there's the added benefit of no one being able to tell that I'm actually reading a Dean Koontz novel. (BTW, I've only read one Koontz novel in the past five years, just to be clear.)

    There are 654 books in my Kindle. (Most are freebies or free review copies.) Do you know what that means? Those are 654 books that AREN'T in my apartment. Enjoy your new Kindle!

  8. My TBR shelf is mostly virtual, but this still made me laugh. Enjoy all of your books, and I hope you do get your library someday!

  9. Since I moved, I have all my books in three small bookcases. I gave my niece at least a dozen boxes full of books for her children's school's annual book sale. She said they were devoured. I've bought just a couple of real books since June, trying to limit my purchases to ebooks for my iPad. (I can read almost any format on it. I'm not sure this is a good thing.) I did remind myself the other day that if I needed more book space, I could always buy a new tall bookshelf to replace one of the little ones. I'm now a confirmed library user, and just finished reading The Twelfth Enchantment and have Ready Player One on deck. The deadlines for finishing these books is killing me. Hahahahaha.

    You do remember my vision of being unable to get into your apartment because the books had taken over and squeezed you out, don't you?

  10. Lol, apparently I was one of the people who inspired this BABLE post (I'm honored), and I must say I'm not in your league. I probably have 100 unread books in my house that I seriously intend to or want to read. And probably another 15 unread on my Kindle. I only read about 30 books on average per year. So I could conceivably read all my books in four years if I simply refused to buy, borrow, or obtain any more. You on the other hand . . .your best case is 10 years, and it sounds like your book inflow is greater (free stuff definitely accumulates at a faster rate, I've found). So now, I'm feeling better. A little. Great blog post, Susan!!!!

  11. I love it! One of your best posts yet that really hits home. My collection is small compared to yours--only 200-300 unread physically in the house. Now I don't feel so apologetic about the 9 stacks on the floor of the bedroom, plus those stuffed in the night stands, the box on the closet floor and the two boxes in the basement. But there is also the notebook in my purse that has a list running 30 pages long that doesn't include the ones in the house. Definitely BABLE!!! Thanks for the wonderful post here and on Play Book Tag in Shelfari.

  12. OH!! Smart thinking, stacking books horizontally on top of the vertical ones!! Why didn't I think of that?

  13. Hi Susan,
    Thanks for sharing the photo! Now I'm really curious to see your place.

    As you know, I recently moved and I have to say that books were the bulk of my things to move - I want to say I have around 230 books. Now that I've moved to a smaller space, I had to creatively stack my books in a way that would fit 2 bookshelves (one of three tiers and the other of 5). Where as before I used to use 5 bookshelves. I have to say I'm more motivated to read these books at my house, now that I've physically had to bring them along with me.

    I'm not a kindle convert, so I do take a physical book around with me and I hope that encourages me picking books from bookshelves.

    Instead of the kindle though, I am a library regular and I do tend to prioritize my library reading because I have to hand them back. Also, when friends lend me or give me books, I prioritize those. Also, I have my own book club, which I have normally chosen a book from my bookshelf to read, but occassionally, it won't be. So... all this to say that the reading process of my bookshelves is slow.

    I can't wait to actually have one row of books that are ones that I've read and have loved, instead of part of my TBR list.

    Happy Reading!

  14. I think if I lived in a cave with my current book collection and didn't leave for three years, I might be able to finish it all :)

  15. I can't believe that out of all the content I've posted on this blog, that this little thing I dashed off in 5 minutes has struck such a chord, LOL. You're all just horrified, aren't you?

    Anyway, I love hearing about your own BABLE and pre-BABLE issues!

  16. Perhaps pay a woodworker to make you some custom cases