You may have noticed the earth-shattering silence here on Book Barmy.

I’ve fallen victim to a big procrastination funk.  You may surmise it’s because of the holidays, which is part of it ~~ I have many festive things to do, along with those pesky everyday chores

But, suddenly Book Barmy has become one of those chores.

I have no good reason, no good excuse why I haven’t blogged.  It’s not due to a lack of reading. I’ve read some books and enjoyed them –  they’re stacked right here next to me — but somehow I just don’t have it in me to write about them.

To quote a fellow blogger (Vanessa),  going through the same thing right now:

 The cold hard truth is that I just didn’t feel like writing.  I had no ideas, no drive, no inspiration — blogging almost started to feel like a form of punishment.  So I stopped.

I don’t want Book Barmy to become either a chore or a burden, so I will be taking a small break…just to get my mojo back.

I’m still reading – that will never change.

Here’s evidence — a collection of Christmas books I’ll be reading in the next few weeks.

But for now, I’m going to take a little break.

I appreciate your patience and understanding.

I’ll be back soon…

Big Book Sale Update

Back for a moment to tell you about the Friends of the San Francisco Library Big Book Sale.  It was the largest and most successful ever.  The sale set a new record and made over $300,000!   And all of it goes to support the San Francisco Public Library and its programs.

Some photos to show the enormity of the event.  And if you’re more of a math person:   $300,000 with nothing priced more than $4. That’s a lot of books, records, and CD’s.

In case you were wondering –it wasn’t all me. I bought merely five books.

Full Stop

Stop all my other reading.

Stop watching television.

Stop everything.

Look what arrived in my mailbox today!

An advanced readers copy of Louise Penny’s latest mystery

Many (many) thanks to Minotaur/St. Martins press.

Kingdom of the Blind will be published on November 27th.


Once again, Book Barmy advice —  circle November 27th on your calendar, set those reminders on your phones, drop everything and get thee to your local independent bookstore — and purchase your own copy.


Meanwhile, I’m all prepped:

Hot tea in thermos — check

Comfy clothes on — check

Cancelled anything not urgent — check

Stretching videos for reading breaks* — check

Folder of restaurant delivery menus — check

Bye for now.  See ya.

I’m not available for anything or anyone for a few days.



* This PBS stretching series is a new discovery.  Husband and I have 40 or so saved on our DVR and while they seem deceptively simple, they are wonderful for posture (mine is terrible) and joint pain.  Miranda is 60+, a former ballet dancer, and her movements/stretches really have improved my posture, muscle tone, and flexibility.  Husband no longer has to wear an ankle brace to play tennis. Check your local PBS station (they’re on @ 7:30 AM out here).  Highly recommended. Don’t feel bad if you can’t make it all the way through the first time – takes some build-up.



Required Reading

After my last post, a Book Barmy follower sent me the following essay from the NY Times Book Review.   A must read for any book lover and those who love them (talking to you Husband).  At the very least, scroll down to the last paragraph – my favorite bit.

By Kevin Mims

I own far more books than I could possibly read over the course of my remaining life, yet every month I add a few dozen more to my shelves. For years I felt guilty about this situation, until I read an article by Jessica Stillman on the website of the magazine Inc. titled “Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You’ll Ever Have Time to Read.” Stillman argued that a personal library too big to get through in a lifetime “isn’t a sign of failure or ignorance,” but rather “a badge of honor.” Her argument was a variation on a theme put forth by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 best seller “The Black Swan,” a book about the outsize impact on our lives of large, unpredictable events. In essence, Taleb claims that although people tend to place a higher value on the things they know than on the things they don’t know, it is the things we don’t know, and therefore can’t see coming, that tend to shape our world most dramatically.

A person’s library is often a symbolic representation of his or her mind. A man who has quit expanding his personal library may have reached the point where he thinks he knows all he needs to and that what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. He has no desire to keep growing intellectually. The man with an ever-expanding library understands the importance of remaining curious, open to new ideas and voices.

Taleb argues that a personal library “should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

I don’t really like Taleb’s term “antilibrary.” A library is a collection of books, many of which remain unread for long periods of time. I don’t see how that differs from an antilibrary. A better term for what he’s talking about might be tsundoku, a Japanese word for a stack of books that you have purchased but not yet read. My personal library is about one-tenth books I have read and nine-tenths tsundoku. I probably own about 3,000 books. But many of those books are anthologies or compilations that contain multiple books within them. I own a lot of Library of America volumes, a series that publishes the complete novels of authors like Dashiell Hammett and Nathanael West as a single book. Thus, my 3,000-book library probably holds more than 6,000 works. Once I have read a book, I often give it away or trade it in at a used-book store. As a result, my tsundoku is ever expanding while the number of books in my house that I have read remains fairly constant at a few hundred.

In truth, however, the tsundoku fails to describe much of my library. I own a lot of story collections, poetry anthologies and books of essays, which I bought knowing I would probably not read every entry. People like Taleb, Stillman and whoever coined the word tsundoku seem to recognize only two categories of book: the read and the unread. But every book lover knows there is a third category that falls somewhere between the other two: the partially read book. Just about every title on a book lover’s reference shelves, for instance, falls into this category. No one reads the American Heritage Dictionary or Roget’s Thesaurus from cover to cover. One of my favorite books is John Sutherland’s “The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction.” It’s a fascinating, witty and very opinionated survey of Victorian England’s novels and novelists, from the famous (Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray) to the justifiably forgotten (Sutherland describes the novels of Tom Gallon as “sub-Dickensian fiction of sentiment and lowlife in London, typically written in an elliptical, rather graceless style”). I’ve owned the book for 20 years and derived great enjoyment from it, but I doubt I’ll ever manage to read every word of it or of dozens of other reference books on my shelves.

Nor do I typically read biographies all the way through. Biographers have a tendency to shoehorn every last tidbit of information they can into their books. I don’t really care about the marks that Ogden Nash received on his third-grade report card or how many trunks of clothing Edith Wharton had shipped across the Atlantic when she moved to France. There are probably hundreds of biographies in my personal library. I have read parts of most of them but I have read very few in their entirety. The same is true of collections of letters. Whenever I finish reading a work of fiction by, say, Willa Cather, I’ll be inspired to pull out the massive tome “The Selected Letters of Willa Cather” and try to get the measure of what the author was like when she was “off duty.”

These cannot be counted as books I have read, but nor can they be labeled tsundoku. Like much of my library, they live in the twilight zone of the partially read. Taleb argues that “read books are far less valuable than unread ones,” because unread ones can teach you things you don’t yet know. I don’t really agree with him. I think it’s a good idea to keep your shelves stocked both with books you’ve read and books you haven’t. But just as important is that third category of book: those you haven’t read all of and may never get around to finishing.

The sight of a book you’ve read can remind you of the many things you’ve already learned. The sight of a book you haven’t read can remind you that there are many things you’ve yet to learn. And the sight of a partially read book can remind you that reading is an activity that you hope never to come to the end of.

Perhaps the Japanese have a word for that.


Kevin Mims lives in Sacramento and works at the Avid Reader bookstore, where he has partially read much of the inventory.


The ongoing conversation in our house  ~~


A Halloween Booooooook Sale…

It’s that time again…the

The Big — Really Big —  Book Sale

The iconic annual tradition here in San Francisco.

This Friends of the SF Public Library sale is the largest used book sale in the West and attracts book lovers from around the nation.  Over 500,000 books and media with nothing priced over $4. You know you’re in trouble when they give you a shopping cart as you enter the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason

Pretty amazing.  Come and see for yourself.  Dates above.

No question, I’ll be there —  both volunteering and shopping.