Though someone with a limited view of the world might call it procrastination, I have elected to begin the long process of organizing my library. This is kind of a weird project to take on right now seeing as I have a complete manuscript on my hard drive, give or take a few chapters. This manuscript needs to be completely revised: front to back. However, I see the inventory of my book collection as part of the writing process.
Approximately ten years ago, I went back to school with some vague notion of trying things on for size. I enjoyed playing MMOs and had the idea of becoming a programmer. A business project I was involved in started to wind down, and I found that school was fun. Long story short, I did not have the math skills to be a programmer but did reasonably well in English courses. Soon, I discovered that the process of reading books and then writing about them was not only fun but an academic discipline. While excited about becoming an English major, I felt embarrassed by the gaps in my reading. Right away, I set about reading things that other people thought were important along with things that were fun.
This has evolved into my current strategy of setting aside three books to be read: fiction, theory, and nonfiction. Out of the fiction books, I try to throw a classic in the mix every now and then. Like, I am reading Delillo’s Underworld right now and have a copy of Paradise Lost on the way. The whole theory/nonfiction thing is really a blurry line – The Federalist Papers is my next theory read, and some kind of historical account will be consumed in the name of ‘nonfiction.’ Anyway, the point is that I read things besides fiction to help provide significant details in my own work: philosophy, essays, etc.
The strategy itself, as well as my expanding library, grew directly out of my experience of going back to school. While pursuing a degree, I was required to read for courses but made it a goal to be sure to read outside of class in order to catch up. Now, I am not reading to please anyone else besides myself. I like the feeling of getting through something really difficult or understanding someone’s argument. School provided me with some of the tools to become a more engaged reader, and I continue to learn how to read slower and more carefully. In addition, the more I learn about syntax and constructing stories, the more I learn from the books I now read and reread. On that point, I would say that is one of the things I am looking forward to in the indexing process. Cutting back on purchases would be smart as there are a number of things that warrant rereading and a whole slew of titles I have not yet glanced at.
So yes, I have novels to write and literature to read, but not knowing what’s in my collection, or where it’s at, is really getting on my nerves. Cataloging what I have, and where it entered my life, will both allow me to chart my current progress as well as expose the massive gaps that remain. After all, there are a lot of books to read.