Guilt By Association With A Book

Dirty dishes in the sink, a full dishwasher, a pile of dirty laundry, an unmade bed, and a mother in
Florida I haven’t called all week. You would think these would be sufficient to make one feel guilty about sitting around reading and commenting on blogs, watching TV, and drinking coffee.


Wrong. This morning I am suffering Bookshelf Guilt. How did this happen you might ask and what exactly is Bookshelf Guilt anyway?!

First, lets define the word guilt as “an awareness of having done wrong, accompanied by feelings of shame and regret.”

Well, you might ask, “IN2L, how could you have done anything wrong, what could make you feel shame and regret? Especially some thing that could possibly have to do with a book shelf!”

Last night at a friend’s we were escorted to the master bedroom as part of a tour of the house. Glancing around I noticed a book on the bed stand “THE AUDACITY OF HOPE”, by Barack Obama. A book with a serious title and a serious author. “Ooh, I probably should be reading that book”, I thought to myself.

The minute you say should, up pops guilt.                                    

What would my friends see if they looked at my bed stand? Well, a Dave Barry book (real deep discussion of what happens when hospital patients catch on fire), a Stephen King novel, and a Terry Pratchett book. Deep reading intended to encourage deep thoughts, not! The guilt and shame are building now.

To remedy the feelings of guilt I went to survey my bookshelf to see what I should be reading. There they were, all those previous should’s staring back at me, those books I bought because I should read them some day.


There was the group of self-help books written by Drs., PHds and hucksters like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Phil, James Belasco PHD, Zig Ziglar and Og Mandino. Naw, I don’t need that kind of guilt, I’m good at guilting myself without their help.



 How about the old diet, I could use to lose a few pounds? There on the shelf stand Drs. Phil, Sears and Atkins all with their special brand of guilt! Not this week.


 If you choose to ignore history, you choose to repeat it, right? Who am I kidding, what can I do to stop the fall of democracy by reading a book on the Rise and Fall of the
Roman Empire?


Just to toss some salt in the wound, there in the drawer of my bedstand is the list of the books I should have but never got around to reading. The wonderful people from Random House felt obliged to guilt all of us by publishing a list of the all-time best books of the 20th century.

My copy of the list has about 30% checked off as already read. Even the readers’ list, published to make lesser beings feel better about ourselves is only about 40% checked off.

I guess I will just have to live with my guilt for now. Maybe I will get a copy of Obama’s book and leave it by my bed just to make future guests feel guilty about what they fall asleep reading.


What are the best books on your shelf you have never gotten around to reading?


~ by in2l on January 28, 2007.

5 Responses to “Guilt By Association With A Book”

  1. Sorry, but my mind just doesn’t work like that. I read for pleasure. Period. Books rarely make my shelf unless I really want to read them, and if I lose interest, then I give them or trade them away.

    Too bad for the book selling business then. I am getting better at this, if I am not certain about a book I will get it out of the library. If it looks good than I will buy it.

  2. i wouldn’t call them the best, but i have yet to force myself to read the phantom of the opera, robinson crusoe, and sophie’s world.

    oh how can i forger my tome of the lord of the rings trilogy.

    some day, some day!

  3. Oh this is funny. I am trying to train myself away from self-help and move into novel reading again after a long hiatus. Elizabeth Berg I have discovered writes in a lushly descriptive way while inserting poignant bits of wisdom into her fiction. Much more satisfying than “shelf-help”!

    My favorite for wisdom embedded in novels has to be Tom Robbins. I will have to check out Elizabeth Berg. Funny though, since writing this blog I have begun reading a very serious book on religion and politics – The Left Hand of God by Rabbi Michael Lerner. But then there is still the Dave Barry book to reach for when I need a break from the serious stuff.

  4. thats a great pile of washing up you have there.

    I recently made a committment to keeping up with the dishes better. I think it is working so far, the pile only occassionally reaches the top of the sink now.

  5. Wow. Well, here’s my dilemma. My husband fills the bookshelves with “should reads” and doesn’t really read much at all. We have books in all catagories…his are on mediation, leadership, physics and god knows. I tend to buy novels and poetry books and books on writing and writers–and, I righteously proclaim, I READ them! I also read the “shoulds” because I have a certain loyalty to treating books well…then I give “book reports” or read aloud to him my favorite passages. I’m getting a little nervous because our house is not all that big and books are becoming the dominant furnishing…Help!
    PS I’m enjoying your blog and found you through NH…

    I used to be a library book reader, most of my life from a young age. At a certain point I started buying instead of borrowing, or I was given books (talk about a “should”)! We are fortunate that our basement is outfitted with a ton of shelving otherwise we would be overloaded. I can only say, keep the good ones and sell or donate the rest. Books are best when they are in circulation.

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