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Friday, December 19, 2014

An Open Letter to All of the Unread Books on My Shelf

It started, as most deep-ish thoughts do, with an

assignment: compile a list of your top books in 2014.

Notta problem.

As an undercover book addict (okay, maybe not so undercover) and as a post-graduate human no longer bound to the dreary confines of assigned reading from a syllabus, I've added a few fictional titles to my library. Scads from Amazon (bless it). Even more from my weekly coffee/reading dates with the fiance at Barnes & Noble.

After we'd been dating for about a year he (albeit, kindly) suggested that I should read some of the other books I'd purchased before I bought any more. Forgiveness is a strange and powerful thing: I purchased two books that day.

As I glanced at my shelf, I realized there were a bunch of books I bought this year that I started and never finished. Many of these I got pretty far along in. I'm a project hound. I love to finish what I start, especially when it comes to books.

If I don't I carry around this agitated, gnawing feeling. It's like mentally being unable to twist open a jar of jelly.

Back to the books: I got them because the author had a lot of Twitter followers. Or because their marketing campaign herded a lot of word-of-mouth. Or because, let's be honest, the front cover had imagery that appealed to my demographic.

But as I tried to collect a few to add to a list for my freelance editor I was stumped at some of the titles I'd collected this year. Other than my bank account and shelf space, what was it exactly that they impacted?

And then I realized: these books I collected over the year had succeeded in gaining a few dollars. A few blips of Amazon reviews. A few eyeballs to pages.

But in the end they weren't worth finishing.

I'd stopped reading them because they weren't good.

The comparison race is similar, don't you think?

In life, there are so many books on the shelves. So many pictures of vibrant authors with their fists pressed elegantly at the tip of their chin. But just because an individual has succeeded in gaining a formidable platform and convincing an agent to represent them does not necessarily mean their words start a movement.

It doesn't mean that their words are making a difference.

Most of the words that have impacted me this year have been from unpublished manuscripts. They've been written by talented women who have somehow captured the heart and soul of a character.

This is not to say that I did not weave my eyes through some delicious prose this year. Rainbow Rowell's the Attachments being the latest treat. They're the type of books that make you close the back cover and run your hand over the binding. Those words are a part of you now. That story is something that you've walked through.

There's a difference, it seems, between writing a book and writing what matters. My unread books taught me that appearances are vain. What good is a book that you can't squeeze your mind into finishing?

Life is the same way. Just because a woman appears to have her binding in order doesn't necessarily mean the pages beneath it are anything worth reading. Just because she has the Facebook friends and glamorous pictures doesn't always equate to having her soul fulfilled.

Some people accomplish both. They really do. Others only seem to.

This year I learned that I want to have more than just a book on a shelf. I want to have a book worth reading. Worth finishing one day. I'd like to be the sort of writer/person who is who she is beyond appearances. Who completes what she starts. Who is genuine from start to finish, from introduction to index.

I'd like to live my whole life, the whole mess of it, worth 


photo credit: dbtelford via photopin cc

photo credit: Gemma Garner via photopin cc

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