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My Strategic Book Reserve - Banking Unread Books from Favorite Authors

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2019

When I wrote this post last week about Erik Larson’s new book The Splendid and the Vile, I said I was going to buy and read it the second it comes out. But then I realized that Larson has written several books that I am fully aware of but have not read, including 2015’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. What gives? Why am I not rushing out for that one?

I do this with other favorite authors and books series as well. I’ve read some deep cuts from the archives of David Foster Wallace — stuff he wrote in college & grad school — and Infinite Jest twice but I haven’t read a couple of his collections or his posthumous The Pale King. Books 1 & 2 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle deeply resonated with me but I can’t quite bring myself to start on the third volume. I burned through stuff from Hilary Mantel and Elena Ferrante, yet I didn’t immediately seek out other books that they’d written. Richard Rhodes too…there are many examples.

Part of it is that I’m a restless and then forgetful reader. Even after finishing an amazing book, I often want to switch gears to something different and then I fail to return to something else by the amazing book’s author. But mainly I do this on purpose. I like the feeling of looking forward to a sure thing, the comfort of a story I haven’t heard but I know will be good. We’re awash in highly acclaimed stories these days — there are hundreds of books published this year alone worth reading — but writers whose stories are particularly resonant to me are still a precious resource, worth saving for when I need a sure-thing read.