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Poet's Perspective

Any serious reader will have a TBR pile. That is Twitter parlance for ‘to be read.’ One of those anacronyms that keep invading our lives and leave us either scratching

our heads or reaching for Google (other search engines are available).

A pile of books waiting for your attention is a given for enthusiastic readers. The number in the queue is dependent on a few factors. In a recent Twitter discussion about TBRs someone said they had 300 books lined up. I thought that was absurd until another added that they had a thousand! I take that with a large pinch of salt. Where do you even keep a thousand unread books, assuming you have significantly more than that which have been read? It is a questionable claim and seems nothing more than online literary muscle flexing.


Of course, it is inevitable that we will always have books waiting to be read. There will be the new one we have just bought by our favourite author, those recommended ‘must reads’ by friends or titles people are raving about online. Others get added when newspapers run their favourite end-of-year piece about the 100 most popular books of all time. And you realise you haven’t so much as glanced at most of them.

There are just many traps waiting for the wary and unwary alike. The biggest of all is the visit to town where passing a bookshop is an impossibility. And you arrive home with two or three more to be added to the TBR pile.


Keeping this under control can only be done by reading. I realise we all have different time pressures but being retired from work – but not from life, a critical point – means we are now masters of our own time and can fit reading books on the schedule. So, I tend to read in the morning before breakfast and at some point, during the afternoon if I’m at home. Oh, and I usually have two books on the go.

So, the question you are no doubt pondering over is how long is my TBR list? Well nowhere near a thousand and not even holding a candle to 300. It is sixteen. And that is manageable. I cannot imagine the hoops you need to go through to try and decide which book to read next when you have 300 scattered at your feet.


Mine range from Philip K Dick’s Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep? on which the film Blade Runner was based, through The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage, to Lawrence Durrell’s The Black Book which was so outrageous when written in 1936 that it was 24 years before it was even available in England and America!

The French, of course, had no problem in publishing the work! I’ll leave you to check out that title.


Born in North Wales, poet & writer Paul Mortimer has lived in Tiverton for 13 years. His first poetry collection, Fault Line, was published by Lapwing in 2015, followed by Wind Voices from the same publishing house in 2019. He has appeared at several literary festivals and headlined at a number of poetry events in recent years.



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