‘No Book Panic Syndrome’ Is a Novel Problem

Do you occasionally suffer from NBPS? Yes, I’m talking about No Book Panic Syndrome.

Let me explain. You’re a literature lover, and you’ve finished all the not-read novels in your home. You need to go to the library or bookstore, but you can’t get there quite yet — maybe the next day. Or you’ve ordered a title or two online, and it won’t be arriving in the mail until, say, the weekend. And (this is important!) you read books the old-fashioned way, not on a Kindle.

What to do? You can of course click on some free short stories online, and read them there. But you crave print.

I suffered from NBPS this past week. On Tuesday, I finished Louise Penny’s excellent mystery How the Light Gets In — mostly set in a small Canadian town filled with memorable characters. Two other library books I borrowed in August — Octavia Butler’s sci-fi novel Parable of the Sower and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher adventure Night School — had already been read, admired, and put aside. But I couldn’t get to the library until Thursday because of chores and car availability.

(Yes, Car Availability would make a great name for a rock band.)

Why not go a couple days without reading, I asked myself? Yeah, right, I answered — ain’t happening.

Perusing the back of cereal boxes was not a tempting option, and I had already read too much about Hurricane Irma and What a Pain Donald Trump in the print and online New York Times. So, although I’ve promised myself the past few years not to reread books I own (too many never-tried novels and authors out there), I was desperate enough to start scanning my living-room shelves. There I spotted Ray Bradbury’s R Is For Rocket, a yellowing paperback collection of 17 short stories I hadn’t read since I was a teen. Just 184 pages — the perfect length for a bridge to that Thursday library visit.

And what evocative, exquisitely written tales — about kids (as well as adults) longing to travel in space, and the occasional pitfalls of doing so; about a huge, ancient sea creature falling in love with a lighthouse and foghorn; and the classic “A Sound of Thunder” that depicts how the killing of a tiny butterfly during a trip back in time revises the present the travelers return to just enough to have a nightmarish result.

After Bradbury filled that two-day gap, I found reinforcements on Thursday when my library visit got me Fannie Flagg’s The Whole Town’s Talking, Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales, Larry McMurtry’s The Last Kind Words Saloon, and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I’ll undoubtedly mention all those fictional works in future posts.

What do you do when you temporarily have no book you want to read? Do you reread something? Do extra non-reading things? Sob uncontrollably?  🙂

Or maybe the crying will happen when I get to the above-mentioned John Green novel…

I’ll end today’s post with this video of a 2017 U2 song called “The Little Things That Give You Away.” Such as suffering from No Book Panic Syndrome…  🙂

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece, about a way-way-too-big project that became way too big, is here.

97 thoughts on “‘No Book Panic Syndrome’ Is a Novel Problem

  1. When I don’t read, I write. Chat, laugh, play volleyball, daydream on love and affection… Thank you for following my story. I hope to get some feedback and ideas from you. xx

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  2. That no-books syndrome is, in a way, what drove me some weeks ago to open a 2004 unread Christmas book from one of my sisters: “Wakefield,” by Andrei Codrescu, the former NPR commentator. Fascinating fiction read. I, who reads little fiction, recommend it.

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  3. Hi Dave, I am late as you have moved on to a new topic.
    My panic is of diffent nature as my life has become a total chaos. I am sitting two dogs while my Son and DiL have gone to Berlin for his 11th marathon run. They are so gentle but needy. My Pomchi and 2 Cavalier King Charles spaniel s are on my bed.one on my head etc. Then some leak in bathroom waiting for the maintenance man plus etc etc
    My stress is 5 books piled up from the library.one The Windfall is half read which I am loving. When they are due I have to return them..which I don’t want to 😦

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      • It is too now but I shall try, you would also love it, different from Lahiri s but Diksha Basu is a powerful writer and there is no boring moment. All I could do is read a page here and there . Plus lack,of sleep is exhausting. Now how huffington puffington sleeps again for12 hrs ? 🙂

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  4. Dave, since Ray Bradbury came up today and last week as well, I just thought I’d mention that my sister called me today, and she and a group of her friends attend a play (matinee) once a month at a theater in Wilmington, DE. The play that they saw yesterday was based on Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” as a musical no less! She actually raved about it, and said it was like seeing a Broadway show, of which she’s seen quite a few (though nowhere near as many as I have). So she’s going to see if she can get us tickets for sometime in October. I think my head’s about to explode, what with jhNY’s story of a board game based on Gettysburg, and now a musical of a Bradbury novel! What can possibly be next? Although I must mention that I discovered the other day that my small community of Kennett Square actually has a symphony — I think the executive director we met while walking around said it’s the smallest town in the country with an actual symphony. Goodness, what will be next!

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    • Wow, what a nice bunch of news, Kat Lib! That Bradbury musical sounds GREAT — and wonderful to have a symphony in a relatively small town! In the age of Trump, as you know, we all need to appreciate the positive things when we can.

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      • On another more somber note, I just took some time to call my Republican Representative and Senator in order to let them know how distressed I am about this horrific new healthcare bill that they are now working on (in the space of about two weeks, if that!). I’d already sent both of them emails, but felt I should also call, since who knows how long it will be before they see emails. I was somewhat gratified that although I got through to a staffer in my Rep’s office, I was thrown into voicemail at Senator Toomey’s office, as I hope that means that he is being inundated with calls from people like me who are calling to voice their concerns and displeasure over this very ugly bill. I always mentioned that I worked for a major healthcare insurer for 20 years so I know a bit about how the system works. Hope this helps the cause!

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  5. Hi Dave,

    Even with a Kindle, this is something that I’ve suffered. I guess there are lots of different manifestations of NBPS. As you so well described, it can include craving a new print book. And as Bobess said, it can mean having too many books, and therefore having no excitement about a particular book. It can mean not having the right book (at work the other day, I was looking forward to reading the last chapter of a particular novel, only to find that I’d picked up the wrong book 😦 ), or being stuck temporarily without a book. Is there anything worse than waiting for a pizza only to find you left your book at home? It can also mean the hangover period between a great book, and not quite knowing what to read next. I have been guilty of re-reads and going off my list when I’m just not sure what I feel like. But it has been worth forcing myself back to my TBR list and discovering great authors like Ray Bradbury. It sounds like he was a great cure for your recent NBPS.

    I don’t often say this, but “The Fault in Our Stars” is something that I’ve seen, but not yet read. I loved every minute of it, and I hope you enjoy the novel as much as I did the movie 🙂

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    • Sue, an interesting and wide-ranging list of NBPS manifestations! Thank you! I can definitely see that you read not only the blog post but all the (excellent) comments. 🙂

      “Is there anything worse than waiting for a pizza only to find you left your book at home?” — I totally hear you! Or waiting on a post-office line or somewhere else without a book. 😦

      Great that “The Fault in Our Stars” movie was very worth seeing! I’m looking forward to starting the book, hopefully by the end of this month.

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      • Yes! Waiting anywhere without a book is sheer torture. So much so that I’ve started carrying an anthology of local short stories in my glove box – just in case!

        To you and Kat Lib – I didn’t mean to watch “TFIOS”, and I wasn’t expecting much. Just a silly YA Sunday night flick, but I sobbed from the opening to the closing credits. It was just beautiful. I must put John Green on my TBR list, because no doubt, the books are better than the films.

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        • Great idea to always have that short-story anthology, Sue! (Also, I love the word difference in “glove box” vs. the U.S. version: “glove compartment.”)

          Hmm…I wonder if I should move “The Fault in Our Stars” up in my reading queue? I was about to start one other novel first…

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          • I can’t comment on the book, Dave, but the movie was surprisingly enjoyable. Though that could be because I went in with no expectation.

            I’m familiar with the term ‘glove compartment’, but figured even if I didn’t Americanise it, you’d know what I meant 🙂

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            • Expectations, or lack of, mean a lot!

              I was definitely familiar with the term “glove box,” Sue, and like it a lot! But I’ve never put gloves in that box or compartment; there are coat pockets for that. 🙂

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              • My bet: that term and its American equivalent, goes all the way back to the earliest days of the automobile, when steering was a more muscular activity, maybe back before windshields!

                (I once owned a Wanamaker driving costume of shantung silk from that era bygone, and its several layers and complete coverage led me to conclude the whole outfit was a way of covering one’s clothes beneath, so as to not alight from the running board covered with dirt and road grit.)

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                  • Gave it to a female singer I worked with. It was, besides having little practical use, a female’s driving costume– originally, a clothing designer had given it to me, after studying it for inspiration, knowing I could be counted on to take in old things…she had found it in an antique store, and for cheap. It even had tiny lead weights in the bottom hem of the coat portion so that it would hang correctly when its wearer was standing….

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                  • I really should add that such gloves were sturdy leather things that flared at the wrist and went nearly up to the elbow, which means they’d get in the way of my Reacher tattoo, should I get one after all.

                    Guess that’s why I’m a pedestrian.

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    • Hi Sue, although I wanted to see the movie of TFIOS, I didn’t want it to color my feelings for the book, which were so intense I didn’t want to be disappointed. Glad to see that you’ve discovered Ray Bradbury, one of my all time favorite authors!

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      • See above re “TFIOS” 🙂

        I’ve discovered so many authors and novels just because they’re on a list. In particular, I’m slowly making my way through a BBC list of 100 books. I’m not really sure what the list is (it hit my Facebook Feed as ‘most people have only read 6 of these books’, or something similar) but I’ve discovered some wonderful classics. And some truly great novels like “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” which I had never even heard of. There’s been some duds in there, but nothing that I regret reading.

        I also have a collection of short horror / mystery stories that includes the Ray Bradbury story you mentioned. I forgot that I wanted to re-read that last night. I might also have to start tattooing things to my forearms!

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        • ” I might also have to start tattooing things to my forearms!”

          Maybe this how things go viral on the interwebs, though I guess I’d need a few more adherents than you alone…

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        • Sue, I’ve also found lists helpful in finding books to read (“The Top 100 Novels of All Time” and such).

          “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” which I read after you of course recommended it, is a terrific/haunting novel. Two adjectives that can also be used to describe most of Ray Bradbury’s work…

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    • M.B., as a former The Weather Channel fanatic (I’m still miffed at Verizon for dropping it, although I do catch some things on-line), I was interested in going to your blog and reading your bio. So, also as a History major, as well as a Civil War buff, I read your very sad, yet moving account of The Bloody Angle. That was never one of the major battles that I often thought of; my main focus was always Gettysburg, so thank you for bringing this back to my attention.

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      • You are most welcome. Thank you also for your visit! I would say my biggest area of expertise is WWII, but the Civil War has definitely claimed its place in my heart. I am also familiar with Gettysburg, and visited there last year. If you’d like, there are pictures in my photo gallery of that visit. Hope you enjoy!

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        • I brought out my textbook I had from 1969, when I took a class on the Civil War, and there wasn’t any mention there that I could find of The Bloody Angle, so I think it must be part of the Wilderness Campaign of 1864. Does that sound right to you? My interest in Gettysburg has much to do with how important it was for Northern side, but also because I’ve lived near there for many years, off and on, so that I’ve visited it perhaps 4 times — but I look forward to seeing your photos! Thanks, M.B.!

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          • When I turned 11, a professor pal of my father’s, Stanley Souval, bought me a board game produced by Avalon Hill titled Gettysburg, which was, at the time, among the more realistic of all such games, and could be played as it was actually fought, though I greatly preferred to play spontaneously. Even then, units, even scouting parties, entered the battle as they actually had done– Pegram’s artillery, say, appearing at the time and on the road they actually traveled down. Stanley was a NYC native, and like my father, a historian, and I think he bought it for me in part to show me, son of the South, the unlikelihood of the Confederacy prevailing in that battle, and by extrapolation, the Civil War. We played together a few times, and I always took the Confederates, and I always lost. Studying the game a while, I determined that the Confederacy had but the slimmest chance of victory, and only if they managed to drive the few Union advance scouts from the field and then proceeded to take every position of advantage before more Union troops arrived.

            But I think the game in some modern iteration may yet be available for purchase. It was, when I was a buff of such stuff, a real education in a box. Its story in wikipedia is below:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettysburg_(game)

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            • jhNY, who’d have thought there was an actual board game of Gettysburg, very interesting! As I mentioned before in my comments, I’ve seen the diorama they have of the entire 3-day battle and every time I see it, I end up with tears in my eyes. It’s also moving to stand on the ground where Lincoln gave his very famous address (oh, to have a president who could actually write and give such a inspiring speech as opposed to who we have today!).

              Btw, Dave, can you please change my comment where I mentioned the Wilderness campaign of 1964 to 1864. Yikes!

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              • Are you aware that in recent years, a photograph has come to light, which though taken from about as far away as possible, nonetheless contains Lincoln. Can’t really see him well, even after touch-up and blow-up, but it’s Lincoln, and I think, the only photographic image of the day of the speech.

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                • I remember seeing that! Amazing!

                  I also recall seeing a photo (I hope I’m remembering right) of Lincoln’s funeral procession in New York City and, in the photo’s distance, a window in which Theodore Roosevelt as a boy is watching the procession.

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                  • You are remembering it as it is! He and his brother are visible.

                    Then there’s young Hitler in the excited crowd attending the proclamation of war in Vienna after the assassination in Sarajevo that sparked WWI. It’s been famous for years, but recently, some doubts have crept into the conversation, and there are those now who believe it is but a clever fake.

                    Then there’s John Wilkes Booth, visible in a photograph of the crowd attending Lincoln’s second inaugural. The contents of Lincoln’s speech settled matters for white supremacist Booth, who resolved to assassinate him then– if I remember right.

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                    • Fascinating, jhNY! Thanks for those last two examples, which I hadn’t been aware of. I wonder if John Wilkes Booth, like the also-racist Andrew Jackson, is one of Trump’s heroes. 😦

                      Then there are more-minor historical intersections — such as a young Bill Clinton shaking JFK’s hand and, outside of politics, U2’s Bono (pre-fame) meeting The Clash’s Joe Strummer in a New York City elevator. No photo of the latter, as far as I know.

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                  • Thread’s maxed, so I’ll reply to your latest here.

                    A little-known historical fact: JW Booth’s father, Junius Brutus Booth,once wrote a letter threatening the life of Andrew Jackson– stabbing, i think, was his proposed method, which still exists, and was researched and confirmed as authentic on an episode of PBS’ History Detectives. Can’t recall the subject of his upset…

                    John Wilkes Booth was, such as one could be then, a matinee idol, who, like actors now, and like his actor father before him, had an outsized regard for his own opinions and conclusions, and seemed, like many before and after him, to take politics and national affairs personally, and passionately, and murderously. It’s really that last word that sets him apart from the field….

                    An aside: I have, over the course of my readings over a lifetime come to believe that Booth was a willing espionage agent of the Confederacy. It is known he met with agents of that government in Canada. I don’t think his connections to the Confederacy were adequately inspected by the authorities before or after the assassination.

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                    • Wow! Like father, like son — with the son actually doing the deed. And of course Lincoln was a more admirable man than the also-quite-famous Andrew Jackson.

                      Booth being an espionage agent for the Confederacy sounds quite plausible. As for that not being adequately investigated, well, the Confederacy was not treated as harshly as it could have been in various instances — with the federal government allowing Reconstruction to end being Exhibit A. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that there were also plenty of dyed-in-the-wool racists in the North.

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              • I’m inserting this comment here, because the thread was getting so long and unreadable (to me!), but I wanted to mention that the most searing image I have from that time was one I saw when a young teen in Reader’s Digest, of all places, but it was a photo showing those who were hanged for Lincoln’s assassination, which included a woman, Mary Surratt, and just seeing one of the bodies wearing a dress affected me a lot. She was apparently the first woman to ever be executed, and while I have no insight on whether she was guilty or not, she swore she wasn’t, but I’ve an aversion to capital punishment that continues to this day.

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                • After seeing your comment, Kat Lib, I looked at the photos — definitely grisly. I’m totally against capital punishment, too, even for people 100% guilty of murder or conspiring to murder (as the hanged Mary Surratt and the three hanged men may or may not have been).

                  BTW, as you might know, Surratt was an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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  6. I seem to having the same problem as bobess48, so here’s the comment:

    Hi Dave, this is a subject near and dear to my heart, mainly because I’ve so many books to be read someday that I think I’ve got enough to last me for the rest of my life, as others have said. But there’s the next one or two that come out and seems to call out “Buy Me! Buy Me!” which I find it impossible to resist. 🙂 We’re going to the library tomorrow to re-register memberships as mine expired after I moved here. The only time I’ve been to the local library was for a political meeting, and I was perturbed because they had no handicapped access to some of the floors. I’ve heard that they are going to be building a new library down the street from the existing one, and I feel confident it will be easier access for people, as vehicles.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Louise Penny novel, but I must admit I haven’t got around to reading her last book yet, “Glass Houses.” I think I related to you last week that I’ve been spending most of my time on music and art projects. I was, however, last night spurred by your comments about Ray Bradbury to pull out a volume of 100 of his stories and read the first couple of stories. The first one is “The Whole Town’s Sleeping,” which had one of the most chilling endings (only one sentence) that I’ve ever read. What a master of storytelling, along with his exquisite prose writing!

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    • Very true, Kat Lib, that some new books HAVE to be read (for me, any new Atwood novel, Kingsolver novel, Jack Reacher novel, etc.) even as we already have tons of titles waiting in to-be-read limbo.

      Louise Penny is great! One of those mystery writers who’s entertaining AND literary — like P.D. James and Dorothy Sayers. I was totally engrossed with “How the Light Gets In,” even though I was first reading Penny’s Inspector Gamache series several books in. Thanks again for recommending that series!

      As we know but not everyone knows, Bradbury is not only a terrific sci-fi writer, but a terrific writer in general.

      A shame for any library not to be totally accessible. I realize some are in very old buildings, but an elevator could be retrofitted somewhere.

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      • I was talking to my best friend last night, and she had heard first from another of her friends about Louise Penny. She’s read a few of the Gamache series and made the statement that she wants to live in Three Pines — the same thing I said to my sister when I first starting reading Penny’s novels. Which is quite unusual for someone who hates cold and snow as much as I! My favorite secondary character is Ruth Zardo. How can’t you not love an old foul-mouthed poet who loves her pet duck, Rosa? I can picture myself in a small town with such diverse characters sitting by the fire in the B&B. Sounds utopian to me!

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        • Yes, Three Pines sounds VERY appealing despite the weather. And surprisingly diverse, as you know — gay couple, black woman, and so on. Plus Ruth and her duck. A really poignant scene in “How the Light Gets In” when Ruth (temporarily) gives away Rosa to try to get Gamache’s former assistant to act humane again.

          But it would be hard to write a blog or comment under a blog in Three Pines. No Internet access…

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          • Ha! I didn’t really think about that aspect of life in Three Pines, so yes, I’d be bereft if I couldn’t read or comment on your wonderful blog every week! I always look forward to Sunday nights, just waiting for your latest column to appear, and even if I don’t have anything to say right off the top of my head, then it comes to me while I’m falling asleep or waking up in the morning. So, as I’ve said many times — thank you!

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            • You’re welcome, and thank YOU, Kat Lib! I suppose, as was done in “How the Light Gets In,” we could get some Internet access by carrying a satellite dish up an icy/snowy tree and then running a cable… 🙂

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              • Well, Dave, I have to say that it wouldn’t be me carrying anything up a tree (snowy/icy or whatever) because I have such a fear of heights. It’s interesting to me that all of my siblings have this same dire dread of heights, and I often ask when we’re all together, did our parents dangle us out of the 2nd bedroom windows if we were bad? 🙂 Which, if you knew our parents, was patently absurd and quite amusing, but it’s another one of those life mysteries that I’ll never understand.

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                • Ha, Kat Lib! If your parents did any dangling of kids out of windows, hopefully it was from first-floor ones with a half-inch drop to the ground.

                  But sorry about your and your siblings fear of heights. (Hopefully not “Wuthering Heights.” 🙂 ) That tree-climbing scenario in Louise Penny’s book was indeed rather scary.

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  7. I am re-reading books on my bookshelf then giving some away. Less is more. Unless its a special book, I can donate. Right now I am re-reading an Elizabeth Strout book called “Amy and Isabelle.” A bit depressing but real good read about a dysfunctional mother and daughter-heck what family does not have some type of dysfunction! Came out nearly 20 years ago, I read a year or so after, it was Oprah book club pick, time flies.

    I also want to re-read, on my bookshelf “Shipping News” by Anne Proulx but can see myself keeping that book, its excellent, won Pulitzer prize.

    I like to re-read books from my shelf as am not harried to get back to library to return, can read at my leisure.

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    • Rereading some of your books and then giving some away is a really nice idea, Michele.

      “Amy and Isabelle” sounds excellent, albeit not exactly uplifting. I’ve read one Elizabeth Strout novel — “Olive Kitteridge.” Definitely memorable, with a rather acerbic title character. Actually, more a collection of short stories in novel form — and, as with the Annie Proulx book you mentioned, it won a Pulitzer.

      Library due dates can be a bit stressful sometimes, but those deadlines do often spur me to read faster. 🙂

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  8. I have had this happen but didn’t have a name for it, Dave. I do read kindle books, so that is my salvation. I try to find a free one or download an ebook from the library. But I have been getting away from reading so much kindle as I’ve missed reading a ‘real book.’ When my work schedule changes to part time I’m planning more trips to the library. I just ready Fanny Flagg’s The Whole Town’s Talking. You will like it! Quite unique. Glad you found something you enjoyed re-reading in your book shelf. I wouldn’t want you to need emergency psychiatric care!

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    • Thank you, Shallow Reflections! I guess the syndrome I discussed could have various names, including “HELP!” (“Heartbreakingly Experiencing Literature Paucity!”).

      Yes, Kindle books come in handy at a time like that. And I’m definitely also a fan of print books, even as I (and many other people) do most things digitally now.

      Hope your work schedule becomes part-time soon!

      I’m now almost halfway through “The Whole Town’s Talking,” and it is indeed an enjoyable novel. As always with Ms. Flagg, funny and moving and comforting, but not totally escapist. Great to see many of her characters again, whether they’re existing as live people or dead people!

      Ha! To conclude, I’ll try to avoid “Needs Emergency Psychiatric Care Syndrome.” 🙂

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  9. Comment did not show up after I changed password–this is here to make this a new comment.

    Original comment:

    NBPS is a syndrome I can’t recall ever experiencing? Coming from a family with incurable book collectors among the relatives I developed the polar opposite syndrome–TMBTR (Too Many Books to Read) due to the fact that by the time I was fifteen I had already acquired too many books to read in a lifetime and, even though I now work in a library, I never developed the habit in my youth of regularly visiting the library to borrow books to read. I tell you, that book buying compulsion is strong in my bloodline–I’ve spent half a lifetime trying to get rid of it. The end result is similar. I have all these books to read but don’t feel a magnetic attraction to any of them in my current state of mine, rendering me adrift and bookless. This only happens momentarily now because with all the online reading stimuli–I try to avoid overdosing on all the disgusting news to find something interesting and life-affirming i.e. something to do with books, music or film–I don’t have a shortage of some stimuli at any given time. Although I’ve unloaded over half of what I owned six years ago the books in my apartment are still too many to fill five lifetimes and, unfortunately, I’m not a fast reader and the online world has consistently provided me with too many distractions to concentrate for long periods of time as I once did.

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    • Thanks, bobess48, for your interesting take on this! It does sound like you always have not-yet-read fiction just inches away — a wonderful, albeit cluttered, thing. And I hear you about how reading the news (especially in this crazy time of Trump) can pull us too much from good novels that are a lot healthier for our psyches — even if those books might have unhappy endings.

      “TMBTR (Too Many Books to Read)” — a VERY real syndrome indeed for most literature lovers!

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  10. I’ve had that feeling, but it is usually on a vacation or traveling somewhere. I’d like to say that there’s nothing unread on my shelves, but I can’t. There’d always be something to read. I know exactly what you mean, though. You catch yourself reading the back of a Cremora package, like a junkie needing a fix, any fix.

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    • Yes! I’ve experienced that on vacation, too, when I’ve finished the books I brought along. (I don’t have a Kindle.)

      Loved your last line — it is indeed a denied craving when one doesn’t have a good novel available for a short period of time.

      Thanks for the excellent comment, BJ!

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      • There was an Odd Couple episode in which Felix and Oscar wind up in a kind of monastic retreat, cut off from the distractions of the workaday modern world. Oscar, at bedtime, is so desperate for something to read so as to ease himself into sleep that he seizes a nearby toothpaste tube and reads what happens to be printed there.

        I know the feeling, though, like bobess48, I am surrounded by books, literally, in my tiny apartment. As a boy, I had another sort of problem: being surrounded by books not in English, though my father was sufficiently eclectic and opportunistic as a book-buyer that occasionally he did pick up something I could read in my native tongue. Among those items: veterinary treatises on the care of horses, how to make spirits of all kinds (I recall isenglass was a featured ingredient) for commercial purposes, a biography of Robert Walpole, two editions of the Confederate Manual of Arms (1861, 2, I think– after that, I figure everybody was just trying not to get shot, and had no time or inclination for learning the recommended height for grass around tents. Especially as they often had no tents. The woodcuts of field surgery in the back, nearly all of which featured a wee bit o’ the old amputation, sucked whatever romance for the Lost Cause that might have been building up in the reader as he perused descriptions of sleeve braid and approved hats for officers. I should know.), and my favorite, “The Wind That Swept Mexico”– a book of photographs, captioned in English, taken, mostly by news services, during the Mexican Revolution. My grandfather had been a very active participant, and I liked to imagine him under one of the the big hats in the photos of crowds.

        Actually, it was my curiosity to have more to do with old things that drove me to seek out whatever was in English among the various volumes shelved and piled throughout the house. Even looking over the volumes in Spanish,I enjoyed opening the covers, smelling the old rag paper still white after so many years, and seeing the brilliant marbled endpapers, and loved holding something manmade older than anyone alive in my hands.

        My mother made sure all the childhood classics got a hearing; she read to my sister and I till we were eight and ten, or thereabouts. I am visiting her this week– tomorrow, while my brother, who lives with her in Nashville, takes his annual vacation. I’m trying to pick my reading material here, so I won’t have to depend on what she may have lying about. Not much of a fiction reader anymore, my mother, and me, I read little else…but I’d probably read a biography of just about anybody before I’d resort to a toothpaste tube.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was an “Odd Couple” watcher back in the day (not sure if that was when the series originally aired or when it was in often-aired reruns) and I must have seen that toothpaste scene. I can just imagine Oscar (Jack Klugman) acting the heck out of that situation.

          And thanks, jhNY, for all those interesting memories and thoughts about family, piles of books, language, and much more.

          I’m assuming you’ll bring at least one Jack Reacher novel on the plane to Nashville? 🙂

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          • If it’s for sale @ the airport tomorrow, I’m buying “Night School”– hope, given all the weather offshore, that I’m not finished with it before I land, or worse, depart….

            I’ve got b/u tho. “Devil With a Blue Dress” and a ww2 thriller– and I’m also reading Shusaku Endo’s “The Samurai”, a fiction based on a real mission by Japanese envoys to Mexico in the 17th century.

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            • Sounds good! As I think I mentioned before, “Night School” is one of the better Reacher books. Lee Child hasn’t lost his touch after two decades of about 20 novels.

              And Walter Mosley’s “Devil With a Blue Dress” is excellent — very atmospheric, good mystery, and the protagonist’s wrestling with racism in 1940s Los Angeles is (unfortunately) very relevant to today.

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              • The joke that I always fall for is on me again. Got to the airport with a few minutes to kill, spotted “Night School” and bought it without looking at it hard, only to realize, at the gate, that I read it last time I traveled by air, in June. Sheesh.

                Since Reacher titles seem interchangeable, at least to me, I’ve got to develop a system to memorize them, or I would if I only had a memory. Since I don’t, at least where Reachers are concerned, I’m considering something I know would work, but at the cost of redecorating the temple that is my body: tattooing each consumed title on my forearm, where, by a simple rolling up of the sleeve I might look down the list and know what I’ve already read. Given the prolific output of Lee Child, at some point I might have to dedicate both forearms to my goal, but for now, one is enough if I get the tattoo artiste to write real teensy.

                Liked by 1 person

  11. Ah, so that’s what it’s called! Yes, I’ve experienced that, often flicking through piles of magazines and casting my eyes over the bookcases to see if something catches my attention … but it doesn’t so I go about in a subdued mood until I get my hands on another cracking book. It’s almost as bad as the CttEoaGB syndrome (coming to the end of a good book). I’ve read The Fault in Our Stars and can highly recommend it – heartwarming and moving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said and wittily said, ellem63! Thank you! I enjoyed the “CttEoaGB syndrome” phrase you coined, though I don’t enjoy coming to the end of a good novel, either. And I totally hear you that flipping through magazines just doesn’t replace reading an excellent work of fiction.

      And it’s nice to hear that “The Fault in Our Stars” will be a great (albeit sad) read.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ellem63, I agree with you about “The Fault in Our Stars” and look forward to Dave’s comments about it. I was definitely “sobbing uncontrollably” reading the book for both times read it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kat Lib, since you recommended “The Fault in Our Stars” a couple (?) years ago, I can’t count the number of times I looked for it in my local library’s YA section before finally spotting it there last week. Constantly taken out before I lucked out.

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    • Loved this, Dave! I ran out of books once when we were camping, and the RV park office had a “take one, leave one shelf.” I picked up John Grisham’s “King of Torts,” which I MUST have read about 20 years ago or so when it was published. Guess what? At a certain age everything old is new again!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Cathy! Nice that the RV park office had reading reinforcements! John Grisham is an excellent author to read — or reread. “The Client,” “The Firm”…intense legal thrillers!

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        • Yes, Cathy and jhNY, the brain can’t seem to retain everything after a number of years. Thanks for seriocomically expressing that! Under a post of this “no book panic” column on Facebook the other day, I mentioned that this week’s column was originally going to be about authors with title characters of the opposite gender (Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome,” etc.). After writing several paragraphs, I realized I had already covered that topic for this blog three years ago. 🙂

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          • I began a list of all the books I’d read back in 1978, two years after I finished college. I had heard somewhere that Kurt Vonnegut would keep a list of all the books he’d read so I thought it was a cool and useful idea. Probably a few other well-known writers followed the same practice, but I, in my naivete, thought at the young age of 22, that I would one day be one of those well-known writers so it was part of my process of preparing for that illustrious future which, unfortunately, included no actual body of notable fiction. Anyway, I always started it in the front inside tab in those early spiral notebooks which later evolved into the front inner cover of the Moleskine notebooks I’ve used for about 15 years now. About ten years ago, long after I owned a PC or laptop and was now using MS Word, I dug up all those journals back to 1978 and began typing the titles into a Word file titled ‘Comprehensive List of Books Read since 1978’. Ever since then, when I finish a book I’ll record it in my journal first, then type it into that ‘Comprehensive List’ documents. In the early years I didn’t record month or date completed. They were all just under the year. In 1991, I began a similar list of Movies Seen, although that one is significantly longer so I’ve never created a massive Word file for all of those, having to rely on the old journals if I really want to refer back to something I may have seen in June of 1995. With the movie list, I recorded the month or day so that I also started doing that with the book list. So for the last 10 years at least I have the exact date for finishing each book. I only include complete books that I’ve read, not something I started but put aside for one reason or another. For the last few years, since about 2008, I have been a member of Goodreads as well, so I have another cross reference for dates of completion there as well. I also copy and paste all of my book reviews in there as well as putting them on Amazon. I highly recommend Goodreads to anyone who is concerned about keeping up with what they’ve read. It’s easier than keeping the journal list. You just look up the book, bring it up, click on ‘Write a review’, even if you don’t intend to write one. When that page appears for the review, just go to the bottom of the screen and type in the date you finished reading the book. Then, when you click on the ‘My Books’ tab, you can see all the books you entered pretty much in backwards chronological order based on the date you finished reading the book.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Great/long-running system(s) you have, bobess48!

              Wish I was as organized in you when it comes to tracking books I’ve read. Since about 2000, I’ve written down the title of every book I’ve finished, but haven’t mentioned the month or even the year. First novel on my list: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

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              • Goodreads is easy and free. Just sign in to create an account, look up titles, and mark them with a ‘read’ status. You don’t even have to put in a date finished if you don’t want to, but they will be forever (as long as you’re on Goodreads) in your ‘My Books’ file, complete with thumbnail sketches of the covers.

                Liked by 1 person

                • A great idea, bobess48, but I just feel “onlined-out.” This blog, my now-Web-only humor column, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, my daughter’s school notices (virtually all online), etc. I enjoy it all, but, given that my eyes are on a screen 10-15 hours a day, it feels nice to write down books read in longhand. 🙂

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            • I can also highly recommend Goodreads. It’s great to keep track of the books you’ve read, as well as the books you want to read. You can enter your own notes, or public reviews (I’ve had to add some new books to my TBR because of Bobess’s Goodreads reviews!) But I can also understand wanting to keep book lists in a more real, non electronic way. The tattoos may be taking it a bit far…

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