Time to Battle the Bookshelf

I’ve decided to set myself a new challenge. A new reading challenge, to be precise.

I’m already doing the Goodreads Challenge, and doing it well, why am I throwing some more drama into the mix?! – is what I should be saying to myself. Instead, I’m clapping my hands with glee at the thought of a new trial of my dedication and reading abilities.

Those feelings will probably go away pretty swiftly once I realise what I’ve let myself in for.

So what is this new challenge?

I’m calling it – Battle the Bookshelf.


Despite living in our house for a year now, my husband and I only recently got round to getting actual bookshelves for our spare room (and only then because they were a Christmas present from my mum). Until then, we’d had our most beautiful, precious books out on display on the dresser in the living room – signed copies, predominantly, including my prized signed Robert Galbraith. If you don’t know why that’s so special, we can’t be friends.

Other than that, though, our books were stacked in untidy piles all over our ‘study’, aka spare room, aka junk room, aka pigsty. I rescued my favourites and turned a weird ledge in our bedroom into my own personal bookshelf, but everything else was just piled up and pretty much ignored.

Then we finally got our shelves, and as I put things away, I realised something quite shameful about our collection.

There was a hell of a lot of books on there that I hadn’t read.

I’m not even talking about the wrestling biographies and hefty tomes about racing drivers belonging to my husband; things I have no interest in ever reading. I’m talking about books I bought myself, books I do have an interest in, but have never picked up. Books I started reading with joy then got distracted by something even more joyous. Books I couldn’t bear to put in the charity shop boxes when we moved house, but then shelved. Apparently, forever.

Well, forever is no longer!

I have made a pact with myself – and told people about it, so I can’t go back on it. I am not allowed to buy any more books until I have read every unread book on my shelves.

Let that sink in.

No Waterstones. No clearance section of WH Smith. No sneaky trips to the Oxfam bookshop.

I’m even putting myself on a library ban.

If I don’t already own it, it’s not to be touched.

There are a few conditions to this. A couple of my all-time favourite authors are due to release new books this year – off the top of my head, Vivian Shaw and Rainbow Rowell. I am allowing myself to get those, because I know I will be driven mad if they come out before I’ve finished my TBR pile. If anybody fancies buying me a book, unprompted, as a definite present, I can read that (I am categorically not allowed to stand next to someone in Waterstones chanting “buy it buy it buy it”). Also, I am not including Kindle books in my title, because I’ve bought so many on cheap daily deals and offers, I’d not be buying a new book for years if I stuck to that. However, I am allowed to read them if I’ve already bought them, of course, just like I am also allowed to reread other books if I need a break from The Stack.

Because holy Jesus, is it a stack.


That’s thirty-two books, right there. There are a few there that I’ve technically started reading, as documented on my Goodreads Challenge – that’ll be Bloody Brilliant Women, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, and The Name of the Wind (sorry Lee). I’ve started them all, but like I said before, I’ve got distracted by other things and they’ve been abandoned. I promise I’ll get back to them. Promise.

A few, like The Librarian and Fire and Fury, were Christmas presents. There’s a small collection that I picked up in Waterstones just because they were in the buy one, get one half price deal (The 5th Wave and Old Baggage). Others I couldn’t resist in the charity shop because they seemed like such a good deal, but have gone untouched – that’ll be Lady Midnight and The Historian.

Some of them, like Are You Dave Gorman? and Mort, are books I didn’t technically need to add to the list, seeing as they belong to my husband. But I’ve been seeing them sitting there and meaning to give them a go them for years, so I’ve chucked them onto the pile too.

And there’s a few in there that I rescued from my nan’s bungalow after she died, because otherwise they were headed for the bin or the charity shop, and I thought I might have an interest in them. Me Before You, and Oh Dear Silvia fall into that category.

There’s all kinds of books on there. Fiction, non-fiction, biography, politics, fantasy, romantic fiction, speculative fiction. Sequels, new beginnings, authors I’ve never heard of, authors I love, authors I know I already dislike.  Travel writing, bestsellers, pulp fiction, feminism. There’s even a bloody JK Rowling in there, would you believe it?

When I decided I’d be doing this challenge, I got a bit overexcited. I’d been all set for a night on the computer in front of The Sims, but instead I catalogued my list and flopped onto a duvet (because yes, our winter duvet has been relegated to the spare room floor because our house is roughly the same temperature as the inside of a furnace) and started to read.

Within forty-eight hours I’d finished my first book of the thirty-two – Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love, which I’d received for Christmas. All I’d needed was that little push, the sense of competition: even if it’s only competition against myself.


I’ve made a good start. At the rate I’m going at the moment, I’m thinking four months might crack The Stack. Hopefully, as well, this challenge is going to beef up my brainpower, and help me find some new favourites. It goes hand in hand with my Goodreads Challenge – the desire to make my brain do a little bit of work and stop rereading the same ten books over and over again. And it might save me a little bit of money, too, if I’m not sneaking into Waterstones every other day and stroking spines until something falls into my hands and I buy it.

Though the spine-stroking might happen anyway.

Wish me luck! Because this is a challenge that might hurt…

Let’s Battle the Bookshelf!

Battle The Bookshelf: The List

  • Old Baggage – Lissa Evans
  • Oh Dear Silvia – Dawn French
  • Mr Darcy’s Daughters – Elizabeth Aston
  • The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
  • How to Stop Time – Matt Haig
  • Mort – Terry Pratchett
  • Are You Dave Gorman? – Dave Gorman
  • Moominpappa At Sea – Tove Jansson
  • The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Iris and Ruby – Rosie Thomas
  • Everything I Know About Love – Dolly Alderton
  • The Observations – Jane Harris
  • The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey
  • Hollow City – Ransom Riggs
  • No Is Not Enough – Naomi Klein
  • The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling
  • Next – Michael Crichton
  • The House of Flowers – Charlotte Bingham
  • On the Slow Train – Michael Williams
  • Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
  • Blackpool Highflyer – Andrew Martin
  • The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
  • The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
  • The Hourglass Factory – Lucy Ribchester
  • Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare
  • Alice – Christina Henry
  • A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness
  • Rotherweird – Andrew Caldecott
  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs – Steve Brusatte
  • Bloody Brilliant Women – Cathy Newman
  • The Librarian – Salley Vickers
  • Fire and Fury – Michael Wolff

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