“Many of us look upon our TBR piles with feelings of shame. Here are books and films that we know are worthy of our time and yet we somehow manage to find other things more demanding of our attention. Of course, the real source of our shame lies in the fact that we realise that we are not actually the kind of person who does care enough about Russian literature to read Anna Karenina or Oblomov. We may aspire to be that person but in truth, that is not who we are and these books serve as a very physical reminder of the fact that the self we have is not the self we would like. However, the more I think about it the more I think that these feelings of shame and disappointment are misplaced.
“There is no way of telling what kind of person you will be next week, next month or next year. When you bought those books you never got round to reading you were the kind of person who was happy to spend a little bit of money for the short term pleasure of being the kind of person who owned those books. However, because there is no way of telling where your future interests may lie, tomorrow may well see you circling back towards those books. You could become the kind of person who reads and understands Dostoyevsky. You could become the kind of person who becomes an internationally renowned scholar of scandalous dinner parties. You could become any of these people and because you happen to own all the books, those identities are just that little bit easier to assume.
“Many left-leaning thinkers pour scorn on consumerism as a hollow experience but my view of consumerism is that life is short and people need to take pleasure wherever they can find it. The great god Pan is dead and so is Baby Jesus and if owning a load of DVD box sets gives you joy then you should not feel any shame or regret about being that person because being the person who owns books he hasn’t read is far more rewarding than being the person who owns no books at all.”
-Jonathan McCalmont on Ruthless Culture
While I have my doubts about the value of consumption as an activity, I couldn’t agree more with McCalmont’s assessment of the value of the to-be-read pile. Even if it turns out to be a to-never-be-read pile. What do you think?