An Open Apology to Books

Books Geek Culture


Dear Books,

The reason I’ve gathered you all here today is, well, because there’s not really anywhere else to put you at the moment. I know you’d all love to be on my bookshelves, categorized and alpha by author, and that’s the plan. But you should also know that there actually isn’t room, and some of you are going to be leaving—voted off the island, so to speak. But don’t worry: chances are you’ll end up in a nice home somewhere—in a used bookstore, or perhaps at the library, or even at my kids’ school library.

The thing is, I know how difficult it was for you to get all the way here—first, the hard work for authors and illustrators and designers to bring you into the world, and then maybe you were shopped around by an agent, and finally somebody picked YOU and put you in their fall catalog and a PR agent looked me up and sent you to me, hoping that I would read you and talk about you and help sell millions of copies of you. And instead, here you are, sitting on the floor of my den, probably resentful of that shiny flatscreen TV that’s taking up so much space on the shelves. (Just between you and me, though, that TV doesn’t get a lot of my attention, either. Can’t say the same for the iPad, though.)

Believe me, I’d love to sit down with nothing to do but sit and read for a week straight. Some of you have come highly recommended—maybe I know your parents or siblings, maybe I’ve skimmed a few pages and decided you were worth having around. But I started to realize I have a problem when the pressing question shifted from “How will I read all these books?” to “Where will I put all these books?” The shelves we added over the summer are already full, and still more of you keep arriving.

Sure, I’ve invited many of you myself, but you seem to bring along a lot of friends, and they seem so friendly and interesting that I can’t bear to kick them out. There’s always room for more, I tell myself, but I think you’ll agree I might have been mistaken. You’re right—maybe if you were digital books, I wouldn’t have this problem, but you really wouldn’t be any more likely to be read. In fact, probably less likely, because I’d open my iPad to read a book and—oh, is it my turn in Carcassonne? I wonder if I have any email? Hey, let’s play just a few minutes of Infinity Blade 3. Oh, what do you know, it’s past bedtime.

Some of you have been sitting there for a long time—a couple years, actually. I feel embarrassed every time I see you, like a friend on Facebook whom I haven’t really interacted with for a long time but don’t dislike enough to unfriend. I’m keeping you around because I really do plan on reading you. Someday. Soon. Hang on, there’s the doorbell—I think it may be some more of your friends arriving.

Anyway, as I was saying, I hope you don’t mind hanging out here on the floor for a little bit longer. I promise I’ll find a better place for you before my baby starts crawling and gets curious; I know how you hate having your pages torn or chewed on. But you have to admit, it’s nicer than being packed up in boxes, right? At least here you can catch my eye from time to time; you get a chance to convince me to look deeper.

And I agree: I should probably stop collecting more books until I’ve spent some time with those of you who are already here, who have been waiting patiently for my attention. I hear you. I should stop looking for more to read when there’s plenty right here. Um, did I mention I’m at Wordstock this weekend? You may have a few friends joining you shortly.

Your unreliable friend,


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6 thoughts on “An Open Apology to Books

  1. I feel your pain, Jonathan, but I think you’ve got it worse. There are the books I request from the publishers (to possibly review), the books I buy on my own whim, and then the books I receive from publishers that I didn’t ask for but they pub is hoping I might like and review. I’ve actually discovered a few gems and new authors with that last method, but typically the books that come in unrequested get moved to the bottom of the pile. Requested books get shuffled to the top, and even then I sometimes cheat when a favorite author releases a title… it goes straight to the top.

    The worst thing that happens to me is a requested book just doesn’t grab my attention. This happens a lot, especially with short story collections. I feel guilty because I know I should review the book, but if it really doesn’t grab me within the first 5-6 chapters, I usually drop it.

    Earlier this year I managed to finish my reading stack of requested books, but once again I’ve gotten myself about 5-6 books deep again and an unrequested book just arrived last week that has grabbed me by the throat and got bumped to the top. It happens.

    1. See, I wish the unrequested books were easier for me to weed out. I went through a big stack, reading the first few pages of each to see if they made me want to continue–thinking that at least I could dump about half of them. I only ended up nixing two or three. I’m just a sucker for books.

  2. Why do we not yet have our cyberpunk biosofts to insert into our heads so we can immediately have access to all these books’ content? Someone invent this so I can sign up!

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