Any book junkie knows what a tbr pile or list is – and has one. Books go on mine and come off – some read and some unread. But I also have a ntbr list. That’s Never To Be Read (odds are). For instance, I have a 2-volume Random House set (Lifetime Library) of Remembrance Of Things Past. The Lifetime Library RH imprint must mean it may take you a lifetime to get around to reading it. Each volume is well over 1,000 pages. And we’re not talking NYTimes Large Print editions here, see? All seven Proust books in two volumes. I’ve picked it up from time to time and browsed through Swann’s Way. That’s about as far as I’ve ever gotten. And I bought the set sometime in the ’60’s. I’ve had the freakin’ thing for 50-years! It’s a slow dance.
I got slightly further in The Tale of Genji. This was the beautiful Viking Boxed set from about 2001. I got it into my head that I was going to read a book a day. Or was that a book a week (there are 54)? And I did start it, but one thing or another….Just leafing through it now, I have the urge to try again.
Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities is another 2-volume monster clocked at 1700+ pages. This one I have not actually bought. But I’ve eyed it several times in book stores over the years. My self-restraint is amazing!
That’s three. Or six, I guess, depending on how you count ’em. Now add this new one from Harvard University Press (1128 pages): A New Literary History of America, edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors. Almost a lightweight by ntbr standards.
Recap: Minimum to make the ntbr list? 2 volumes and or 1,000 + pages, whichever comes first. Weight? 5#’s or more (enough for light one-arm curls).
The ntbr pile just proves that books are like food. Some are like cotton candy, sweet and forgettable. Some are difficult to digest and leave a lump in your tummy, like Sunday pancakes. And some are, pretty, sumptuous and classic and prove the old saw that your eyes can be bigger than your stomach.