My Bookshelf is Particularly Well-Traveled

There is a downfall to being a writing student and studying abroad, particularly across an ocean, and working with several very successful authors. (I know, it’s astounding. How could there possibly be a downside?) But the downside is this: you are very low on disposable income, you spend every penny you can on books by these talented authors…and then you have to figure out a way to get them back home to your own country without paying absurd amounts in shipping fees or paying for an extra bag on the plane.

Plane costs, man. I tell ya.

Somehow I managed, on two separate occasions, to bring back decent quantities of books from my Irish residencies, and I’m quite pleased to have them. I have a good shelf or two devoted to the books I got during my time at Carlow, and it makes me smile each time I see them. Good memories and all.

However, a good chunk of my TBR is still devoted to all those books. Some of them I’ve had for three years now, and still never read. I think I’ve actually gotten to…one? One and a half? (I bought Alex Mindt’s book while he was speaking to us, but had to get it online and thus didn’t receive it until after the residency – and had him sign it at the NEXT residency. I am determined, if nothing else.) I was very excited about each and every one of these books when I bought them. They all sounded interesting, educational/useful, or both. And yet, they sit on my shelf, unread.

The books from my Pittsburgh residencies I can almost allow more. These are US writers, who sell books here in the States, and I probably could have picked them up anywhere. In fact, I bought several of Stewart O’Nan’s books after the fact off of Amazon. No big deal.

The Irish authors, however. These are books that most of my colleagues here in the US may never have heard of. These are authors who have reached across the Atlantic and grabbed at my heart and said “my words will speak to you; here is my book” and I have left them to gather dust on my bookshelves.


A quick glance at my bookshelf shows me less books than I remember, but why do I have any unread? Why didn’t I dive into these books immediately off the plane—or ON the plane for that matter? Can I really hide behind the excuse that I had books to read for my homework, other books which my mentors had assigned me, and somehow this left me with no time to read the other books? Absolutely not. I had four (FOUR) books a semester. A SEMESTER. Let me repeat this with all the emphasis it deserves. FOUR BOOKS A SEMESTER. There is literally no reason why I couldn’t have read more than that. I’ve read probably three times that this year so far, and it’s only the beginning of March. Yet Goodreads shows me that my reading habits were atrocious up until probably the middle/end of last year. Why?

The short answer is I’m not sure. The longer answer is that for much of my life, anything that takes me a good chunk of time and I can’t be doing anything else during it is something that I avoided doing. I like having several things happening at once. I listen to music while I write. (Ironically, not right now, but I’ll change that…right…now. …okay, now music is playing. I had it off to edit a video and didn’t turn it on. Editing videos = another thing I delay more than I should.) When I was a child, I hated to shower because I couldn’t be doing anything else while in there. (This didn’t keep me from trying to read in the shower. I apologize retroactively for wasting so much hot water in my younger years.) I have trouble sitting still for movies I’ve seen before, even if I wanted to watch it at first. (Sometimes even movies I haven’t seen and really want to. I don’t know how I do it in theatres. Probably because I’ve taken everything to distract me away.)

So of course, reading isn’t something I can multi-task during. I have to listen to instrumental music because I’ll get sucked into the words of the music rather than the books. Think of all the things I could be doing instead! I’ve got so many things to do! (This is why I don’t like going to sleep as well.) What am I actually going to do? Sit on YouTube and watch Let’s Play videos. But I’ve so thoroughly convinced myself that by not doing these other things which would be productive, I can do other productive things…and then waste hours by mindlessly watching Mark/Jack/Arin and Danny shriek at the screen.

Now that I’ve put my finger on it, I’m working on changing it. The benefit of being on time with my videos is that while they’re uploading, I can’t do much else on the Internet because the uploading is slowing everything else done. (Guess what’s happening behind my word processing window right now?) Usually I’ll read during those moments. I try to take a period of time each day off to read. It’s working nicely, and I’m trying to keep up.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally get through some of these books read before 2017.


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