Friday, May 05, 2006

Obsessive Book Hoarding

My name is Patti O'Shea and I'm an Obsessive Book Hoarder (OBH).

It started innocently enough. I bought a few more books than I had time to read--no big deal--I'd get to those three eventually. But before too long, my To Be Read (TBR) pile swelled to a dozen. Still manageable and everyone has books on hand to read, right?

I found out the answer to that was no. My friends were shocked when I casually mentioned I had unread books. I brought it up with a few other people because I was sure I was normal. It turned out that I wasn't. The incredulous looks, the shocked comments were all it took for me to go underground about my twelve books. After all, it was embarrassing to be the only one who bought more books than she read.

Then I bought a new computer that had Prodigy Classic software on it. I joined, and browsed the communities--and I found other romance readers. Better yet, TBR piles were ordinary, casually discussed as if everyone had one! I knew I'd found a home.

Then came the recommendations. Authors I just had to try. Topics like "Favorite First Line" and "Only Three." (The premise being that you could only pick three books to keep and you'd lose the rest. Which three would you pick?) I found more intriguing books and bought them. This is when I discovered Linda Howard and Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz and went in search of their backlists.

And the TBR pile swelled.

There were authors on the romance board. I had to try their books, right? They were online friends. So I read Rachel Lee (aka Sue Civil Brown) and fell in love with her Conard County books. And Leanne Banks and her Pendleton Brothers series. Donna Kauffman, Anne Stuart, Barbara Bretton and a legion of others. The list of authors read like a who's who of romance and I tried almost all of them.

And the TBR pile swelled.

Because I was trying so many new authors and loving them, and because an OBH must have every book a must-buy author has ever written, I began a list of Out of Print titles I had to have. I began spending my Saturdays hitting thrift stores, used book stores and library sales in pursuit of these hard-to-find gems. I was wildly successful--even finding Nora Roberts's Promise Me Tomorrow, Anne Stuart's The Demon Count and Linda Howard's then unavailable Mackenzie's Mountain. While I was looking for specific books, I'd find others that looked interesting and buy them too. I was in heaven!

And since I was spending so much time looking for books, I didn't have as much time to read them, so the TBR pile swelled even further.

The women on Prodigy Classic supported me in my addiction. Heck, they shared my addiction. We'd talk about the size of our TBR mountains with great pride. We were OBH and damn proud of it.

I started devoting more time to writing--something I'd dabbled in from the age of fourteen. Prodigy Classic had great help for aspiring authors from some very big names. Jennifer Greene organized online workshops for us, led discussions and I learned a lot! Even if I only lurked, never admitting to anyone that I was writing.

And because I was writing, I didn't have as much time to read, and the TBR pile grew even further.

I started going to writers's conferences where free books were rife. I shipped three boxes of books home from my first RWA National. Do I need to mention how fast the TBR pile was growing at this point?

Actually, the word pile is a misnomer. Even the word mountain doesn't quite work. My TBR books fill a floor to ceiling bookcase. I have them stacked double. They've overflowed beyond that space.

I own more than 5,000 fiction books. I've read more than 4,000 of them. That means my TBR list is around 1000 books long. I'm admitting it in public for the first time since Prodigy Classic closed up shop.

Are there any other Obsessive Book Hoarders out there? Anyone else brave enough to share the size of their TBR pile?

And are there any other former Prodigy Classic members out there? If so, please post, I'd love to hear from you and talk about the good old days. :-)

Patti O'Shea
Eternal Nights - Aug 2006
Through a Crimson Veil - Oct 2005


Amme said...

Oh, this sounds so familar! I haven't counted how many books I own although the number is most definitely in the thousands.

My TBR pile is scattered across a couple different places as hardcovers tend to end up on the bookshelves before I have a change to read them. I'll guesstimate and say I probably have about 500 TBR books. I'd have more if money permitted it. Instead -- I've been going to the library and getting out books to read. So, in addition to the TBR pile that I own, I tend to have at least 10 or 15 books piled up from the library as well.

Colleen Thompson said...

I can definitely relate. I've become sort of a neighborhood lending library, but just lately, I've been telling people they're welcome to borrow -- as long as they don't return. If all of my loaners every came back at the same time, I'd have to build an addition onto the house!

JoAnn Ross said...

I have a similar, but slightly different problem. I actually read all -- well, most -- of the books I buy. But then I can't get rid of them. Our attic is honestly large enough to play a regulation basketball game in. We built shelves all along the walls. Three shelves, with about two feet height distance between each one. They're all filled. The floor is filled with boxes of my books, many still unopened. (I get 100 copies, usually don't enter contests or have contests, so I don't really need that many, but hey, if they're going to give them to me, who am I to say no? Besides, I've run out of old books before and had to buy them used, so I tell myself this prevents that.) But I digress. . .

I also have two large walk in closets in my master bedroom. I built shelves above clothes rods, so now there are books stacked all the way up to the 9" ceiling. I have paperback shelf hangers on the inside of the doors to the attic, and both those closets. My cedar trunk at the end of the bed is filled with books. My bedside table is actually a round revolving bookcase I skirted. This is where the read in bed books are supposed to belong, but more always get piled on top. And now, since they seem to breed like minks, I'm also starting to be surrounded by boxes of books on my office floor.

The funny -- odd, not haha -- thing is that when we moved here from AZ, I brought about 1,000 books with me. (That doesn't count my own.) And gave away about 8,000 to the visiting nurses booksale in Phoenix. Now here I am again. Did I mention they breed like minks? It can't have anything to do with the fact that I read 3-4 books a week. And, heaven help us, we've both been buying more and more hardcovers the past couple years. Which take up a LOT more room.

And this doesn't address my other obsession. . . scrapbook paper and cardstock, which are starting to fight the books for space. I swear, it's like living with Tribbles!

The funny thing is, I am so not a hoarder. In fact, I'm one of those people who, except for Christmas stuff, if it hasn't been used in six months, it's out the door. But books and paper. . . well, they're an entirely different story.

Oh, and I have Nora's Promise Me Tomorrow, as well. Which I bought new when it first came out. :D

Patti O'Shea said...


I used to have a TBR pile of library books too. :-)

The only reason I know how many books I have is that I created a database in Works and faithfully catalog the location and status of each book I buy. I'd never find anything if I didn't. Of course, many of the boxes are inaccessible because there are so many other boxes on top of them. :-)

I'm glad I'm not alone! Thanks for posting!


Patti O'Shea said...


Wow, you loan your books? I used to, but I had a couple come back damaged and I'm very careful with mine, even buying the most perfect copy of the title at the bookstore. You're a braver woman than I am--especially to tell people to keep the books.


Patti O'Shea said...


I can't get rid of books either--read or unread. I did it once and wound up going back to the used bookstore and buying some of them back. In fact, I think some of them were my own copies. :-(

You've got me beat, hands down, on sheer total of books! Before I started writing, I used to read a book a day, but even at that pace, I don't come close.

Ooh! A fellow scrapbooker! Um, I share the paper addiction. You should see my spare bedroom. :-)


JoAnn Ross said...

The problem with paper is that when you see something wonderful, you have to buy it because it won't always be available. And who knows when you just might need paper with dog bones on it? LOL

I also thought making cards would be less expensive than buying them. But I do love those 3-D embellishments. Tomorrow's national scrapbooking day. I only know this because all the websites I buy from sent me special email offers and invitations to their day-long parties. Geez, it's like them popping the top on a magnum bottle of champagne in front of an alcoholic! :D

Ann Roth said...

Unlike Colleen, I can't loan my books. Tried that and didn't get some back. So like JoAnn, I horde some. Not all, though. I give plenty away. Yet they continue to accumulate and grow like fertile bunnies

We have this closet outside one of the bathrooms that should be for linens... but it's filled with books! My husband reads as much as I do, and we have more than a few bookcases in our house, all stuffed with books. We have so many books that we're building two more bookcases to accommodate them. Still, I'm saving that closet because I know I'll need it again soon.

Ann Roth said...

Unlike Colleen, I can't loan my books. Tried that and didn't get some back. So like JoAnn, I horde some. Not all, though. I give plenty away. Yet they continue to accumulate and grow like fertile bunnies

We have this closet outside one of the bathrooms that should be for linens... but it's filled with books! My husband reads as much as I do, and we have more than a few bookcases in our house, all stuffed with books. We have so many books that we're building two more bookcases to accommodate them. Still, I'm saving that closet because I know I'll need it again soon.

Patti O'Shea said...


I found this scrapbook site that reviews products and they had the coolest pack of paper I've ever seen reviewed there. I figured the paper had only come out about 6 months earlier, so I should have no problem getting some. I checked everywhere, even the manufacturer's website. That paper was out of print. Prices on eBay were way more than I was willing to pay. That drove home the importance of picking up cute scrapbook stuff when I see it. :-)


Patti O'Shea said...


I'm trying to get my dad to build me a few bookcases for the basement of my new house. I definitely need them and would love to get some of the books out of boxes. My keeper bookcase got pruned down and pruned down because of space issues until only the books I reread with some frequency remained. Some of the decisions weren't easy either! I envy you your new bookcases!


JoAnn Ross said...

I used to have all my office walls with floor to ceiling bookcases. They were, natch, loaded. Then, when we went to sell our Phoenix house, we took all of them out but two and I was AMAZED at how much it brightened up the room.

So, when we moved here, I only allowed myself two 6' tall bookcases in my office. Since they're right behind my chair, that's where I keep all the books and magazines and maps I need to have while I'm writing my books. Then, when I finish one, I'll take those books up to the attic, and replace them with ones for my next book. I do have bookcases in the attic as well as the shelves for subjects I use a lot -- such as Southern and Irish locations, which makes the switching out a lot easier.

The goal was not only to brighten up my office, but also to help keep it neater. Which -- hahaha -- didn't work as well as I would've liked. (Anyone surprised by that?) But it does make it easier just to grab a research book I need at any moment.

And yes, Patti, it's wicked how quickly paper goes out of print. The evil plan, of course, is to train us to buy it right away. I have, btw, started making greeting cards of my book covers to send out with contest books. Readers really seem to enjoy those. And best yet, it lets me take some of my scrap purchases off my taxes. ;-)

JoAnn :)

Nancy Herkness said...

My husband just laughs when I buy another book. One of these days the TBR pile on my bedside table (which has taken over the space UNDER my bedside table as well) is just going to fall over on top of me as I sleep and I will die either of a concussion or suffocation.

But I'm a "mood" reader: I read different kinds of literature depending on the mood I'm in. So I like to have just the right book for every emotional color handy at all times. Did I mention that I'm a Gemini so I have a lot of moods?

The one thing I'm ruthless about is giving away books I won't read again. However, my bookcases are still double stacked on every shelf. And don't touch my Georgette Heyers or my Dick Francises; I no longer loan those out ever to anyone because I've had to buy too many replacement copies and some of them are hard to get.

Patti, I give you credit for having the nerve to actually COUNT your TBR pile. I don't wanna know about mine.

Patti O'Shea said...


I just moved into a new house and I'm doing the same thing you are--going from an office with bookcases on all walls to having just two 6 foot bookcases behind me. My research books aren't organized yet (I've got two June deadlines) and I don't have an easily accessible attic, so my plan is to put all my books in the basement.

And the scrapbook companies have me well trained. I don't know where to put all the paper I have. That sounds like a really cute idea--making cards out of your book covers. I've never tried making cards yet, though. I'm scared I'll make a huge mess.


Patti O'Shea said...


I tend to be obsessive. I have all my books databased. I have all the boxes that I store my books in labeled with a number so that I can catalog that and find the book I want quickly. It's a great theory, but since I have so many boxes of books piled on top of each other, it's not so good in practice.

I need to develop some of your ruthlessness about getting rid of books I'll never reread. Moving 5000 books to my new house was a chore--I kept asking myself, why did I buy so many books? :-)

Reading by mood sounds good to me!


JoAnn Ross said...

Patti -- Cards are easy and there are all these kits, such as ones from Hot off the Press that make it even easier, plus you can use your paper, as well. And they're great for scraps! As for the cards I send to readers, I scan the cover, and print it on the outside of a plain white avery card, print the back cover copy on the left inside, then use my deckle scissors to make a ragged edge on the front that I ink with the main color of the cover because it finishes it off and looks less manufactured. (I used red for Blaze, a deep teal blue for Impulse.) Then I can just write a quick note on the inside right side. Occasionally, if I have time, I'll print the cover pic on glossy photo paper, then mount it on the front on deckle edged vellum, with a bit of cardstock beneath it to make it three-dimensional.

As for the attic, I'm lucky there. It's a full walk-up attic with a way high ceiling that was designed to be a third floor (which means the floors are strong enough to hold all those books!), and the door to it is in my office --which was designed to be the bonus/rec room -- so it's not that difficult to run up and fetch stuff. It's also where I keep all my Fedex boxes and envelopes and boxes of printer paper.

Good luck with those deadlines. And the unpacking. You moved 5,000 books? Wow! Was this a long move where you had to pay a moving company by the pound?

MaryF said...

Me, me! I got into the expensive habit last year of reading a review or recommendation on a blog, and hopping over to Amazon to buy it. Have I read all those books? Are you kidding? Then there are the books from people I know, and people I've met online, and I just can't keep up!

Patti O'Shea said...


Thanks for the instructions on how you do your covers as cards! I'm going to save this and give it a try. But I think I'll start with card kits since you say those are easier. :-)

Fortunately, no, my move was just down the street, so I hauled the boxes myself. Definitely made OBH seem like a huge problem. :-)

Thanks again!

Patti O'Shea said...


Always glad to have another OBH on board! And I hear you on the being unable to keep up thing. That's what happened to me and the TBR snowballed! =8-O


Twisted Lady Writer said...

In my house I use three rooms for my books, they are all a reasonable size, in each room there are bookshelves, units etc in every nook and cranny there is a book. I have long passageways in my house... with bookshelves...

I must buy at least one book a day, the age range doesn't count -- I have kids, so I buy many childrens' books too -- but, the kids are not allowed to touch the books. They have their own in their rooms. I have many collections of childrens' books, Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter etc -- not one book has been opened. My children have more or less the same childrens' books as me, so they don't need to touch mine.

I allowed a family member to lend one of my books, it came back with the spine creased and pages bent... to put it nicely, I was not a happy person.

My husband thinks I have some kind of disorder.

I do read some of my books.

I also buy second hand books, I treat these ones the same, even if they have stains on the covers, a broken spine...

They don't understand... maybe I am disturbed...