On book piles and book shortages


Last weekend I went to grab a new book to read, and realised that not only has my pile of books next to my bedside table not gotten any lower (due to the hustle and bustle of preparing for the Adelaide Fringe – finding enough time to sleep, let alone read a couple of chapters before bed, was hard) but since I returned from Europe in the beginning of January, it hasn’t really gotten any higher either. I haven’t bought or borrowed any books since the week I got back to Adelaide. This, I realised, was simply appalling, and I couldn’t let it continue any longer. First thing I did was make my way to the Oxfam Books where I had collected a whole lot of books for the Adelaide Fringe Parade, and buy a couple of books – one was ‘The View From Saturday’, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and one was ‘The Coral Island’, which was such a lovely little cloth bound edition that I just couldn’t resist. A few days later I went to the library, and borrowed the 5th book in the Series of Unfortunate events, and ‘Nicholas’, which is fairly recent translation of a classic French children’s book, which I remember reading for class when I lived in France. Thank goodness, my pile had grown from a measly one book.

A lot of people I know have a bedside pile. I never used to – I am a pretty fast reader, and I generally bought a book, read it, and then bought another book. If I didn’t have time to go buy or borrow something, I would reread something. In fact, my bedside pile was a pile of books I had read, but couldn’t find space for in the bookcase. But somehow I have morphed into this person who never has anything but a cluttered bedside table, spattered with books in little mini piles – books I’ve bought to read that are on the 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up, books I’ve borrowed from the library, and books that aren’t on the list, but that I want to read anyway. (I say piles, but who am I kidding? They are really just chaos. And I still have a pile by my bed of books that I’ve finished; it’s only when it’s ready to topple over or Ben objects that I pull myself together and decide to actually put them away on a bookshelf.)

I now find it hard to limit myself to buying one book too. I don’t get to bookshops as often as I’d like, so I almost feel obliged to buy more than one – I’m like those people who buy lots of tinned food in case the world ends – I never know when I’m going to run out of books. It’s become a very unhealthy obsession – I need a pile of books for no other reason than to know that if I am to come to that metaphorical drought, there won’t be a book shortage.

Do you have a pile of books? Or can you limit yourself to just having one book by your bed? And how do you choose from your pile? When you bought the book? Its cover? How you feel at the time? Lucky dip?

Reading intrigues me, but how people interact with books outside of reading interests me too. So I’d love to hear how books have wriggled their way onto (or beside, or overflowing) your bedside table.



  1. The Coral Island is so underrated, the first half of that book is brilliant. Books got onto my bedside table because everywhere else in my room is full up with books and magazines and even that is getting to full. Still it makes me happy.

  2. Do you have a pile of books?
    Yes, I’m afraid I do, and no, I can’t limit myself to just having one book by my bed!
    And how do you choose from your pile? When you bought the book? Its cover? How you feel at the time? Lucky dip?
    How I feel at the time, which is a sort of Lucky Dip. It can be YA fantasy or SF, a classic or a popular science book, a literary novel by A S Byatt or a study in art history, a collection of short stories (I’m currently reading Ursula Le Guin’s A Fisherman of the Inland Sea) or a re-read of a title I want to review.
    Rarely based on when I bought the book, unless it’s a title I can’t wait to read, having just pounced on it in a shop. Never by its cover (whether paperback or hardback is immaterial to me).

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