On Simplicity

May 10, 2008

Creating a Reading Inspiration Wall

Filed under: House & Home — Serendipity @ 5:00 am

I’ve admitted before to being a victim of raging BookLust. I’ve always been a reader, the kind of person who brings gigantic reinforced tote bags to library book sales. But having books and reading books are really two different animals. There are books I’ve had for over a decade that I haven’t read, don’t plan on reading, but refuse to get rid of because, you know, someday I might get the urge to try it.

The problem that goes along with BookLust is that it grows a fearful, disgusting, downright terrifying monster: the “to-read” pile. This pile starts off small and friendly, like a good friend who always has a perfect suggestion for your next read. Finished The Lovely Bones? Dive right into Possession–it’s the top one on the pile. Thanks, To-Read Pile–you just saved me from having to slog through the boxes of books in the closet or trekking to the library.

But then, something happens. The pile grows. And it gets greedy for your time. It breeds new baby books that magically turn into 1,000 page epics. (I’m talking to you, Lonesome Dove.) It starts to threaten you. “Read me. Read me now. Read faster. Read longer. Aren’t you done yet? Hurry up!” **If you keep any Stephen King in the Pile, it may even start swinging an axe or dangerously sharpened bookmark at you.** The pile calls out during your free until you can barely look at without turning red and storming out of the room in a guilty rush.

This is no way to enjoy a book. So, I ditched my reading pile and created an inspiration wall. It could in a closet or on the floor. Mine happens to be the bookcase in the spare bedroom, so I only see it when I make the effort to go in there. To create the inspiration wall, I go through my total collection and pick out books that I’m really excited to read. I also pick out some books that I just adore. I pick out some books that I learned interesting things from. I mix ’em all up like a literary stew and place them on the shelves.

Personally, I like to make the stacks look nice and artful. I like to leave a lot of empty space. (The full shelves would be just as bad as the dreaded Pile!) I like to make sure that the genres are all mixed up so that I don’t start ignoring one part and losing the gem in the middle.

Whenever I need something new to read and I don’t have a new title in mind, I visit the inspiration wall. There are lots of choices, but no pressure to pick a certain title. Even if something new doesn’t catch my eye, I can find a favorite to reread. Just sitting and looking at the bookcase fills me with a sense of excitement and peace.

To keep the system working, I rotate books in and out, usually when I get a new load of books from a book sale. Consider it merchandising for yourself. If interesting, attractive layouts can get retail stores to make you buy stuff, why not use the same techniques to keep you interested in the stuff you already have?

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