It's generally known among my close associates that I loathe my stacks. Part of this is because I make many decisions by feeling. That means that when I decide I want to read something, it's best that I read it then. I am not unlike the fickle public consciousness in that way. There is a zeitgeist for everything. So when I have to turn to my stacks for a book to read, most of which I acquired between six months to three years ago on impulse, I'm not particularly happy about it.
Bargain Books: Being both cheap and a hardcover fanatic is a problem. I adore hardcover books, so when I'm in Barnes and Noble, and I see a book by an author I've been meaning to get to (or sometimes not) in hardcover for something like six dollars? I get more excited than I have any right to. Mercifully, the last time I went to Barnes and Noble I managed to avoid buying Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke and Don Delillo's Falling Man. Barely.
Out of the 17 novels/collections in my stacks, a whopping 7 of them are bargain books.
Assigned Reading: You get assigned a fair amount of reading as a writing student, and rightfully so. Sometimes it gets near impossible to keep up, or only part of a book is assigned to you. Sometimes your professor changes the syllabus mid-quarter (Thanks, Stephen Geller. I'm totally going to read this $50+ volume of English Renaissance Drama that doesn't include Shakespeare). But we were talking about prose.
Assigned reading accounts for 3 more of the books. That accounts for 10.
Remnants of Reading Past: I'm a big believer in documentation, organization, and the like. So when I decided to start reading more in March 2008, I decided I would do it with a clean slate. Effectively, I considered any book I'd read before then as "unread". Like resetting your play count on itunes. Many of my old books were put aside without any problem: Every mass market edition I own can be explained. If it can be helped, they won't be entering my shelf. However, I owned a few suitable (some even nice) editions from previous false-starts. So books like Agee's A Death In The Family, Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, among others, were folded into the mix.
Old Books account for another 3. That makes 13.
Unwelcoming Receptions: I'm very touchee when I start a book. An author can be difficult once I've gotten through the door, but If I'm met with a cold glass of water to the face on the welcome mat, I won't be walking in. It inevitably comes to be that some books I buy on impulse fail to engage me long enough to commit. This doesn't mean their bad. Actually, they tend to be classics or at least well-regarded.
Another 3 books are accounted for here. That's 16.
The Last One: If this deserves it's own section or not, I'm not sure, but it's uniquely classifiable, so I thought I'd just do it. It's an old book, an unwelcoming reception, and a book I had once intended on using for the basis (in an "inspired by" kind of way) of something I wanted to write. This book would be Margaret Yourcener's Memoirs of Hadrian.
So that, dear friends, is how you build a stack of books you have no interest in reading.