I have a book problem. I know you're aware of my postscript problem (and it's comforting that you care), but it's nothing compared to my book problem. In short, too many years of buying books and not enough reading them. Purchasing and playing with books new and old is an instant, dopamine-unleashing pleasure, I'm sure you know it well. But as Warren Zevon observed in the documentary made in the final months of his life, "When we buy books, we think we're buying the time to read them." My life over the past ten years has been so hectic and unconducive to reading that the "books I've been meaning to get to" have become uncomfortably disproportionate to the "books I acquire compulsively." So I decided in Croatia that I'm going to read 100 of my own books before making another purchase. And not just any 100 books, but ones with which I have unfinished business. Books I started but was too busy to stick with; books I've been circling, flirting with; or books I've neglected for so long that my promises to them have lost all value; then there are the books I almost feel I have read - by sheer osmosis - but which I never actually have; books that were given to me; books I've been long intimidated by; books that've taunted me from the shelves, and whose taunts have grown more brazen as the years go by.
So I made a list of 100 such books, ranging from Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian (I've owned my copy sixteen years, and reread many of his titles, but never for some reason the one that's been recommended to me the most) to Geoff Berner's Festival Man (which is ridiculous - I've begun it several times, I'm a huge fan, and it's a hilarious read!). My list includes daunting tomes like T.E. Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (I've read the first 100 pages at least three times and practically know the opening paragraph by heart: "Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances." How's that for a first line?) and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (been looking at it for twenty years now). Gifts which I owe it both to myself and the gifter to read, like John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire, Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers, or James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Classics like Bronte's Wuthering Heights (I didn't read it in high school and my english teacher insisted that I keep the Georgetown District High School copy - which I still have - til I was ready for it), A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, Steinbeck's East of Eden. Joyce's Dubliners. Authors whose books I've barely touched or never opened at all: Pat Barker, Annie Dillard, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Zadie Smith, Virginia Woolf. And on and on. There are some rules: rereads don't count. Nor do books that've been loaned to me, or that belong to my girlfriend. To be counted in the countdown, they have to be my books. The order will dictate itself, and I'm sure there will be surprises - and detours that distract me from my mission - but no purchasing another book until I've checked off 100 of my own.
I'm giving myself 3 years, distractions and detours considered, and I'm going to post a brief report on each of the 100 as I read them. The first book of my 100 is John Le Carré's latest. Read on, and feel free, if inspired, to share about books you yourself are reading.