What happens when you receive $350 in various bookstore gift certificates for Christmas and you use them all at once--whether in person at the store or online--and all of the purchased books start arriving at your apartment to be piled on top of books bought during a comparatively modest November birthday spree and added to a trickle of books that have come in for review? It's a problem. And not just a problem of what to do with such a growing To Be Read stack (or better put, how to keep my wife okay with a stack of books that can't be shelved until I finish them), but the dilemma really then becomes more about which books to read first.
In the beginning, I thought it would be easy. A few books had been highly recommended, others I'd been meaning to get around to for some time, so I thought I would start with those. But as books kept coming in, more and more of them wanted to go to the top of the pile.
I wish I had a good answer, that I decided to come up with a reliable methodology for my reading choices, but now that I've made a decent-sized dent in the pile, I look back and realize that my decisions were made in a manner typical of most of my mind-making ways: spontaneously. Or were they?
For instance, I spent the first part of the month reading short stories. I guess I believed that a new year with all of its chaos of back to work and back to a schedule after two weeks off meant that I needed to ease in to the reading list in bits and fragments. Once I started on the short story collections, I stuck with them. Until...
I picked out one of the novels. No real reason, just one that happened to be on top of the pile and one that seemed to fit the mood that I happened to be in. And then I read another novel. Why? I couldn't tell you.
There's only one thing I can see driving at least part of the decision making at this point: William T. Vollmann's Europe Central and its size. It's not that I don't want to read it--I really am a Vollmann fan, really--but I need to find the right time. No, it's not Infinite Jestian, it shouldn't be something to avoid until I force myself to read it. It's more that I want to make sure that I won't tackle it in fits and starts and therefore diminish what I might otherwise take away from a work that I've been told is quality Vollmann. I'll get around to it soon, hopefully before the baby comes or it might be doomed to the TBR stack until 2008.
So, based on what I've just written, I'm going to try to come up with a working methodology for future TBR stacks. This draft takes into account what I believe to be the factors that lead to my choosing a book from the stack, the most important listed first:
Overlooked/Intended: Have I been meaning to read the book for a while? If so, how long?
Recommended: Has the book been recommended by a trusted source, be it friend, blog, review?
Promised: Did I offer to review the book?
Interest: Have I read other works by the author? Have the jacket blurbs/description brought it to my attention?
Relevance: Does the book's theme--at least what I know about it--fit my prevailing mood?
Length/Type: Does the book's page count work with my current schedule? Is it a collection of stories/essays (good for the short-attention span periods)? Is it Europe Central [I kid]?
Random: Do I just close my eyes and pick one?
Please, feel free to help me out with this.