When my husband and I were first getting to know each other, I told him – only a little jokingly – that the only things I really spend money on are yarn and books. At the time, I think he found it charming. “Oh!” he said to himself, “Isn’t she low maintenance!” Our first home had a strange closet at the base of a flight of stairs which he converted to “my library,” building in shelves both tall and deep, for all my many tomes.

Over the years, his reaction when I bring home a new book has become less aren’t-you-a-cute-reader-let-me-pinch-your-cheek and more I’m-rolling-my-eyes-don’t-let-me-see-where-you’re-going-to-try-to-fit-it. The library is full, as are the hidden shelves in the china hutch and every square inch of my bedside table. I have lately had a distracting feeling that the list of Books I’ve Been Meaning To Get To is becoming unmanageable in the back of my mind; I picture the list creeping like ivy, with tendrils reaching into corners I can’t see. So today, I took a notion to corral them on a Pinterest board to help me browse. An hour later, I had dusty hands, a dazed look, and sixty-three lonely, unread books around me.

(Some are on my iPad, where they take up less physical space but cause the same amount of what-am-I-forgetting anxiety.)

I am now on both book-buying probation (my Books I Own But Haven’t Read board is already 25% longer than my Book Wish List board anyway) and a mission to finish them all. There’s a piece of good news already – as I look at the pile, I remember how I acquired / why I bought them all, and I still want to read them. I think freeing up the space they take up this is going to do two big things for me (in addition, obviously, to making me sage and full of quotes). I spend a lot of time scolding myself in bookstores, and this will eliminate the guilt and exasperation I feel with myself every time I want a new book. And giving away books – finding just the right friend who would love a story or idea like I did – is one of my very favorite things. If I’m lucky, I get to do that sixty-three times. It doesn’t feel like a chore when I think about it in those terms.

After re-shelving (and whispering an apology and a promise to see them again soon), I prioritized the first five books, one of which I think I’ll finish today. Here’s the full list – wish me luck.

The Classics (or, A Small Indictment of My Literary Education)

The Bridge Over the River Kwai – Pierre Boulle

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo

A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man – James Joyce

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

The Betrothed – Alessandro Manzoni

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

Hamlet – William Shakespeare

Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville

The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

Business! (or, Consultant Cocktail Party Talk)

Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It – Peter Cappelli

The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton M. Christensen

Wharton on Managing Emerging Technologies – George S. Day and Paul J. Shoemaker

Why We Should Trust Global Entrepreneurs – Xavier Fontanet

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success – Adam M. Grant

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers –

Geoffrey A. Moore

Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work – Leslie A. Perlow

To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – Daniel H. Pink

The Leader’s Checklist – Michael Useem

For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business – Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter

Moving Fiction

Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card 

The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers

An Echo in the Bone – Diana Gabaldon

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

The Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis 

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

True Grit – Charles Portis

Slow Learner – Thomas Pynchon

Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinsone

Ishmael – Daniel Quinn

Killer Angels – Michael Shaara

Oil! – Upton Sinclair

Kristin Lavransdatter – Sigrid Undset

Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese 

The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls

Half-Broke Horses – Jeanette Walls

Enriching Non-Fiction

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas – Maya Angelou

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle – The Countess of Carnavon

Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything – Joshua Foer

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl 

Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships – Daniel Goleman

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion – Jonathan Haidt

A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking

How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything In It – Arthur Herman

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life – Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver

Assholes: A Theory – Aaron James 

The Johnstown Flood: The Incredible Story Behind The Most Devastating “Natural” Disaster America Has Ever Known – David McCullough

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex – Nathaniel Philbrick

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – Michael Pollan

Emily Post’s Advice for Every Dining Occasion – Elizabeth Post 

No Apology: Believe in America – Mitt Romney

Cleopatra: A Life – Stacy Schiff

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