How the wait list at the library complicates reading

I wrote this several weeks ago and neglected to post it — partially because I wasn’t sure it would be of general interest. But why not? Since the books have all been returned by now, I’ve added a few remarks in brackets. I’ve subsequently reduced my hold list to spend more time with books I already have on hand. But why doesn’t it surprise me that the top four books on the list are all expected to be available soon?

I checked out “Plot Against America” by Philip Roth because a selection for my book club and “Food52 Genius Recipes” for jollies.


One of the great joys of retiring for me is having the time to read at length, widely, for fun, for learning — basically reading all the books I’d put off, plus new wonders, and good trash. I’ve found I have two major self-imposed constraints that are interfering with my ability to choose what I’m going to read next. I’ll just talk about one of them in this post.

I usually keep my 15-book hold list at the NY Public Library full of ebooks or audiobooks that sound interesting, but that I don’t want to buy. Many of these have wait periods that are more than six months when added — then, suddenly, the book is ready, and needs to be returned in just 21 days. As I’m usually already reading other books at the same time, that deadline requires me to put them ahead of those books and (sometimes) to literally schedule time to finish the books before they’re due. Moreover, karma often decides that several of them are available at one time.

Currently, I have the following checked out [all of these taken out and returned:

  • “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik (Kindle format) — recommended by a friend — enjoying it and almost done [Definitely a good read. Searching out other books by this author.[
  • “The Late Show” by Michael Connelly (audiobook) — the first Renee Ballard book — not available from the NYPL in ebook — audiobooks can be great, but they definitely take more time [This book was not particularly good. Am not sure whether it’s the character or the plots — was unable to finish it.]
  • “The World As It Is” by Ben Rhodes (Kindle format) — just recommended by President Obama and was available to read now — given the lack of a wait list, I will return it unread for later if I don’t finish it [Returned unread. Other items appealed more.]
  • “Love and Ruin” by Paula McLain (Kindle format) — finished, but keeping it until the book club meeting this Friday for which I read it — it’s about Martha Gellhorn, so (of course) I want to read some of her dispatches and articles, but when? [am reading Ms. Gellhorn’s dispatch’s in small pieces, as reported — no rush.]

I should stop adding to my hold list, but all of these are items I want to at least check. All are ebooks unless marked audio. I do manipulate the list by cancelling and reinstating holds to even out receipt where possible.

[The first three I’ve taken out and already returned.]

  • “Us Against You” by Fredrik Bachman — I found his last book disappointing at the end but mostly his books are simply wonderful — available soon [This in no way matched “Beartown.”]
  • “China Rich Girlfriend” by Kevin Kwan — read the first book, testing the second –also in two weeks [Sometimes one book by an author is enough]
  • “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens — five weeks [Audiobook’s narrator’s accent off-putting. Will wait until I can catch it in print.]

[I removed three others that were on the list — another Renee Ballard by Michael Connelly, “The Milkman” because my interest waned, and “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” (short stories) by Denis Johnson that I bought. What follows is my current hold list — shorter and more focused but about to (again) arrive in a clump.]

  • “Waiting for Eden” by Elliot Ackerman — five weeks [available soon]
  • “The Friend” by Sigrid Nunez — winner of the 2018 National Book Award — also five weeks [available soon]
  • “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple — [recent addition, available soon]
  • “Indian Givers” by Jack Weatherford — [new addition, available in two weeks]
  • “There, There” by Tommy Orange — extended to seven weeks by cancelling and replacing the hold [now three weeks]
  • “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor (audio) — increased from five to 11 weeks with the same maneuver [back down to five weeks]
  • “The Great Believers” by Rebecca Makkai (audio) — 12 weeks [down to seven weeks]
  • “Fire and Blood” by George R.R. Martin (28 hours of audio read by Simon Vance) — was due to receive it shortly so I dropped the hold and put it on again to delay receipt — at least six months — note: Martin’s books are absolutely Wonderful in audio if you have the time to devote to them [now 22 weeks]

On the side, I’m racing thru later books in the Ilona Andrews fantasy series featuring Kate Daniels. Well written fantasy and a great escape.

Any and all thoughts appreciated about how to better manage this self-imposed flood of good reading or just commentary on what I read. Note: And yes, I do read most of my library or purchased books or listen to them right to the end. Reading’s far from the only thing I do but it gets hours of each day’s time.






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