David Abrams is the author of Fobbit, a comedy about the Iraq War (Grove/Atlantic) which Publishers Weekly called “an instant classic” and named a Top 10 Pick for Literary Fiction in Fall 2012. It is also an Indie Next pick and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. His short stories have appeared in Esquire, Narrative, Salamander, Connecticut Review, The Greensboro Review, The Missouri Review, The North Dakota Review and many other publications. He earned a BA in English from the University of Oregon and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He retired from active-duty after serving in the U.S. Army for 20 years, a career which took him to Alaska, Texas, Georgia, the Pentagon, and Iraq. He now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife. You can learn more about David on his blog, The Quivering Pen, and on his website.
The nightstand next to my bed is a squat, sturdy pine cabinet, an antique my wife and I picked up at an estate sale here in Butte, Montana. It’s a solid piece of fine-crafted furniture—like most cabinets of its kind manufactured before 1940, it was built to last. However, if I were to put all my “nightstand books” on it, I’m afraid that cabinet would collapse to splinters and dust in a matter of seconds.
The number of books that catch my eye grows exponentially on a daily basis. (Would all you great writers out there just please call a collective hiatus for a year and let us poor readers catch up?!) In years past, I did let the TBR pile accumulate on the nightstand, and then when the tower got too tall and wobbly, I moved it to my desk where it became a fortress circumferencing my computer, and then, so as not to be the kind of writer who is talked about in the tabloids when he’s KILLED IN AN AVALANCHE OF BOOKS, I moved the TBR stacks (now plural) to the 10-foot wooden bar curving like a liquor-stained J in our basement, and then when that became—
Well, you get the picture. I was like Captain Kirk in Star Trek, beleaguered not by Tribbles but by trade paperbacks. Though, I was sad to see them go, I had to put the physical members of the TBR tribe back on the alphabetical and classified bookshelves lining the walls of my basement. And that’s when I created a virtual list of must-reads. I called it “Mount NeverRest” and broke it into three altitudes of how soon I planned to get to a particular title: Base Camp, Treeline, and Summit. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Suddenly every book was important and needed to be read immediately. It wasn’t long before the peak of Mount NeverRest got so crowded, perfectly good books were getting elbowed off, plummeting to their deaths in a flutter of pages and a sad, fading scream. To give some perspective: even after judicious and stern pruning of the list, there are still 120 books above the Treeline.
I haven’t even mentioned my Kindle. The device solves the immediate storage problem of physical books, but even that is starting to bulge at its electronic seams. Soon, there will be nowhere else for new books to go.
I should have started all this by saying, “I’m a slow reader.” That’s a problem. Especially when followed by, “I’m a hoarder.”
Nonetheless, I have come to grips with the various piles, the book-a-lanche on my desk, the overcrowded Mount NeverRest, the splintered nightstand. I have decided to take it one book at a time.
Right now, that book is The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Since the title of my debut novel is a slang-y nod to Tolkien’s classic, I figured it was about time I read it. So far, I’m happy to be embarked on this adventure with Bilbo Baggins.
Other titles currently waving flags at me from the summit of my virtual Mount NeverRest, hoping they’ll be picked next: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith, The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau, Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara, Stray Decorum by George Singleton, Little Century by Anna Keesey, and A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. Hang on, I’m coming! I’m reading as fast as I can!