past lives

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

I was flipping through my (unholy) Kindle library tonight.

(And I mean's out of control.  An embarrassment of riches, yes, but almost unseemly in its volume.)

I'm one of those people who, when I get interested in something, I tend to want to read about it.  I buy all the books.

It'd be okay if I just bought, say, one book and read that book, learned more about whatever it is I'm interested in, and then bought more books to deepen said knowledge.  But I don't do that.  I don't buy one book.  I buy ten books, somehow forgetting every time that much of nonfiction is repetition of the same basic concepts, and much of genre fiction starts to kind of sound the same after a while.  (i.e.  You read one cozy mystery set in a small bakery, it's cute and fun. You read thirty of them and all of a sudden, you kinda don't even want croissants anymore.)

Moreover, I had the not-even-remotely-surprising re-revelation that my interests change over time.

Duh.  Right?

In 2013, I was really into my first garden.  I was thrilled to see tiny seeds that I put in the ground turn into actual food.  Despite the fact that human beings have been doing this since, roughly, the BEGINNING OF TIME, it was like some kind of wizardry to me.

(To be fair, it still is.  I really want a container garden this year, if I can.)


This translated into my acquisition of roughly four billion, six hundred and twenty-four million and ninety seven books about gardening, garden design, growing things, making garden accessories, what garden tools I need, and homesteading stuff out the wah-zoo.  If it was a cheap or free ebook (and trust me, there are a lot of cheap or free ebooks on the subject) or a book that seemed to have good information, I piled them into my Kindle library like I was going to plant it and make Jack's beanstalk to the Land of Gardening Nirvana.

But here's the thing:

The next year (and trust me, I couldn't read all I'd bought in a year, much less catch up on the FIVE BILLION BLOGS I subscribed to about the topic...), we had to move.  And a tornado ate our new house.  A garden was about the last thing on my mind, right behind where are we going to put all our stuff...?...Oh, wait...WE HAVE NO STUFF.  Where are we going to get more stuff?

It's now 2018, and we live in a place where we can have a garden, but I have no idea how to even start it, since we're in a vastly different climate than the one we were in before.  I'd literally have to toss out everything I know and get a whole new crop of books, because the challenges here are way different than the ones in the midwest.  (Water?  From the sky?  Too much, what?  And why are those banana slugs the size of a New York subway?)

Which means, long story short(er):

All those books I amassed for midwest gardening are kind of not relevant now.  And because it's a topic I've not really delved back into in order to educate myself, I'm just not all that interested in reading a bunch of gardening memoirs and practical how-tos and stuff that isn't really applicable to any future efforts where I am now.

Which is why I'm sitting here tonight thinking about my buying habits.

Looking through my long list of owned ebooks is kind of like taking a long, meandering walk through my past.  It's full of my past interests.  Things that sounded interesting at the time, but have been outgrown or outlived.

Had I bought just, y'know, one book on each of those subjects, and actually read it at the time of my interest, I'd be ahead of the game, even.  Less money spent, less guilt, less of a giant wall of unread ebooks on my Kindle app.

Moreover, I figured out that it's a self-perpetuating cycle, of sorts.  Because I look at that list and feel guilty, I want to read all the old stuff before I dig into newer (more relevant) additions.  Which means I'm buying things I'm not reading, about the topics I'm interested in now, but won't get to them until much, much later....which means a bigger chance that I won't be into whatever it's about by the time I get there.  But I'll want to read it anyway, because I bought it and thought it was interesting when I did, which will delay the reading of things I'm buying then.

::makes Circle of Life hand gestures here::

I think I need a book-buying hiatus.

I'd say it's to catch up, but honestly, I'm going to be dead before I get through this whole list.  (I read more than 300 books in 2017, according to Goodreads.  Even IF I could keep up that level of consumption, which I probably can't, for good reason -- we're talking probably six or seven years of reading, not including my audiobook collection, which is about 800 hours of listening, Kindle Unlimited books, which I should just cancel butbutbut..., library reading and library SALE reading, which is insane, and the 80-some-odd physical books from last year's library sale.*)

*I know.  I have a problem.

I also know that, for me, that's probably unrealistic, because I literally short-circuit when I see a book sale.  There are audible squealing sounds.  Possibly convulsions of glee.

So I'm going to try, instead, to buy one book and read one book.

Per topic, I mean.

If I get interested in a new genre or new topic, I'm giving myself one book.  I'm giving myself permission to read it, guilt-free, and decide from there if I need more info/more entertainment.  If I want another book on that topic, I need to read some of the backlist (maybe two books?) that's still relevant to me, and THEN buy another ONE....and READ IT.

I'm also giving myself blanket permission to DNF anything irrelevant to my current life.  It's the only way I'm going to be able to get through this backlist with any kind of reasonable timeframe.  If it no longer applies, or if I don't want to do that thing, or if I kind of want that cozy mystery heroine to burn down her bakery and go open a reptile shop instead....I have permission to put it in the "did not finish" pile and forget about it without guilt.  There is no point in wasting five hours on a book that annoys me or was relevant in 2008.

I'm nostalgic, but I try not to live in the past.

There's no point in reading in the past, then, either.


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