What’s 746 books all about then?

417522_10151020332211589_1679697183_nMy name is Cathy. I am a 40-something mother of 7 year old twins who loves buying books.

I am addicted to buying books of all types; real proper books, second hand books, borrowed books, books for Kindle, books for iPad….
In 2013 I realised this madness could not continue, so I set myself a challenge. I counted all the unread books in my house and it came to 746.

It was frightening.

What was even more frightening is that I didn’t count the unread books that are packed away in boxes in the attic and have been since we moved house, 17 YEARS AGO. Nor did I count the books that belonged to my father that have been in storage for the last 4 YEARS. Plus, I didn’t factor in books of my husband’s that I’ve been meaning to read as well. But 746 books was what I had to hand, and 746 was where I started.

In the last year preceeding my challenge, I read 36 books. Continuing at this, let’s face it, not very inspiring rate, meant that it would take me 20.72 years to read everything I have in the house. I’ll be 63. Bloody hell.

So, I decided to stop. Since that day I haven’t bought myself any books. I do allow myself bookish gifts, publisher’s ARCs and the occasional library trip, but I have stopped buying and am reading and reviewing from my mountainous TBR pile!

I am also passionate about Irish Literature and host the annual Reading Ireland Month in March. Click on the Irish Literature section to see news and reviews about the exciting work coming from Ireland. Each month I focus on a writer from Northern Ireland and you can check those reviews out in my Northern Exposure series.

I work full time as the Arts Programmer at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy where my compulsive reading is seen as a transferable skill! I review theatre for the Irish entertainment website No More Workhorse and have taken part in the Belfast Book Festival, Dalkey Book Festival and Jaipur Literature Festival in India.

You can follow my progress on Twitter @cathy746books or email me at cmac2708@yahoo.co.uk

267 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Hi Cathy,
    As you will know from my blog, my novel ‘Ignoring Gravity’ is due to be published in September 2014 by BNBS Books. I’ve finally got the ms back from the copy-editor and wondered if you would like to review it on your blog? As it is an advance copy it is only available as pdf at this stage.
    Let me know what you think.
    Kind regards


  2. Not sure how I stumbled upon your blog, but I love the idea behind it. (Not sure I have 746 unread books on my shelves, but there is definitely a large, years-old stash of books that have yet to be read!) Look forward to following along…


  3. Hi Cathy: Thanks for visiting and following Bookshelf, a blog dedicated to bibliophiles like yourself. Truly, if you have passionate curiosity then you can never have enough books! And for any serious collector, the books that you plan to read are just as important as the books you have read because they reflect your interests, your curiosity about the humanity and the world. Cheers, Alex


  4. Just stumbled upon your blog. Wow — that’s quite a challenge. I know I could not resist any new releases but I applaud your determination and look forward to watching the progress.


  5. I couldn’t do it. I get so distracted that even if I’m reading off a list, I’m like “ooh, that book looks shiny!” and pretty soon my structured reading is completely derailed. I have a whole binder of book lists, all partially completed. Good luck – can’t wait to see your progress!


  6. Thank you for following my blog! I sympathize completely. I now have full basement wall covered in books and I never have enough. lol. Plus I remember my mom giving me the thrilling job one summer of cataloguing or library at home (some 1200 books) I spent more time reading than actually cataloguing.


  7. I came here wondering why 746 books? Well, I have my answer. I also have a backlog of books I own, but nothing like you have. I’m eating my way through my backlog, and I said I won’t buy anymore until after my family has moved back to Canada. I don’t need extra books to carry back to Canada that I won’t read here in Japan. Anyway, I’m following to see how you do.


  8. Thank for stopping by and reading my blog. It is sooo hard just to read what you own because another literary treat is always at the library or bookstore. Don’t feel rushed to complete the task. I will now continue reading Luminaries and have added one of Alice Munro’s short story collections to my list. Also need to get back to the Alexander Hamilton biography which was from my own unread collection.Enjoy!


  9. Hi Cathy, I had a sneaky and subversive thought……..as you clearly look at what other bookie bloggers are reading ……has temptation not made you ADD to that fearsome but slowly diminishing book mountain!


  10. You’ve set yourself quite a task there! I think that reading 36 books in a year is a good rate, by the way, especially given that you are a busy mother. I think that you can whip through these 746 books much faster than you think. Give each one the three-chapter test and if it hasn’t sucked you in by then, give it to charity and move on to the next.

    I have the same… er… problem as you: I am a compulsive book buyer and always have been. I’m more discerning since I bought my Kindle because of the “Look inside” free sample feature where you can read about three chapters before actually buying it.

    Two years ago my actual book collection was over 1040 when I found a nest of termites in my cottage – they had eaten through 24 books before I discovered them. I had to temporarily move house for the first time in eleven years, so I got very efficient with the unread books and took almost 100 of them to the SPCA. My reasoning was that I was giving others the chance to read something that I knew I never would. I did keep a few back though…

    …but two years later I still haven’t read them because there’s always something more exciting to download onto my Kindle. Maybe it’s time for another clean-up. Good luck with your task – I look forward to reading about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by Susan, Most of my books are actually Kindle/ iPad so space isn’t as much the issue as time! I realised if I kept buying at the rate I was, I would continue to buy a vast amount of books that I would never get to read and that just seems pointless for so many reasons!


  11. I like the story of the termites eating through your books. I’m compulsive about buying books too and I’m afraid I have so many interests that is my excuse for buying a wide range of books from poetry, novels, SF, classics, music, walking, yoga, Buddhism, non fiction – I’m doing an online course about Hamlet so, you’ve guessed it, I’m into Shakespeare. I hope reincarnation is a reality as I need ten lifetimes at least to get through this lot!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh if I only had 746 unread books! And if I could even stop buying for a month. At the moment I have an eye injury and can’t read for a few weeks but it hasn’t stopped me buying books. I must try harder.. Good luck with the challenge.


  13. Hi Cathy: Thanks for your support of Bookshelf. At 746, you have a great start. I share your malady; my personal library exceeds 6,000 books. The demise of the indy bookstore has been the toughest thing to witness. Through the years, I have met so many wonderful booksellers, the “gently mad” as Nicholas Basbanes would call them, who have made the journey so fulfilling and rewarding on so many levels. Somehow, all these books become your children — each has a story to tell, and each has a story behind how you acquired them. Cherish your gentle madness. 🙂
    Cheers, Alex


  14. I have ABSOLUTELY put buying books on hold. I have so many (not as many as you, though, haha!) that I need to get through. For one birthday, my husband took me to a used book store and was like, “Go nuts!” So, it got worse. I’ve also realized that a LOT of books I love from small presses are not appearing in my library, which is cool! What is your policy on getting rid of books? Have you heard of The Free Little Library? Google it–I have a couple near my house, and I feel good about letting go of books I won’t read again that way.


      • Me, too, but then I realized that these neighborhood leave a book/take a book boxes might make a big difference to someone who can’t get to the library because they have limited means or no vehicle. I also feel weird about the way books pile up at Goodwill. They just seem dusty and sad.


    • This is very subjective Brian, but I would recommend Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane; Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. All modern classics.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Words And Peace

Book reviews and good books for you to read

Books to Pen

Creative Writing

Years of Reading Selfishly

Life is too short to read books you don't love

Rosepoint Publishing

Blogger-Book Blogger–Book Reviews of Bestsellers & Indie Authors

Cath Humphris

A writer and her reading.


Moonshine & Metaphysics


Book reviews, author interviews, music reviews. A revue of reviews!


What I've been reading

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: