For the past couple years, I’ve been engaged in a project to get through my shelves of unread books. Some of them I’m reading, some I’m skimming, some I’m glancing at and immediately putting on the giveaway list.

At this point, I’m down to fewer than 150 unread mass-market paperbacks. My progress has slowed considerably over time, and it might take me a couple more years to get through those, but I was making progress.

But I’ve gotten through only 30 MMPBs since last October. And that’s partly because this year a couple of things have intervened:

First, in February, I started reading (or in some cases re-reading) Joanna Russ’s work. I got through all of her published short fiction that I know of, but it took me most of the month. It was very much worth it—some of it was among my favorite fiction that I’ve read in the past couple years—but it meant putting the main unread-books project on hold for a while.

(In May, I read two of her novels that I hadn’t read before (and re-read The Female Man). But those two novels were on my unread-books shelf, so that counted toward the big project.)

And second, in June I read or skimmed all of the nominated works in the Hugo fiction categories. Which on the one hand I’m glad to have done; I don’t usually get through the short fiction until the last minute, and I used to not read the novels at all. But on the other hand, it’s meant that for the past month, I’ve read almost nothing but what’s on the ballot.

I’ve now also read or skimmed everything nominated for the WSFS YA award, and am starting in on samples of Campbell nominees’ work. It’s conceivable I might even read some of the nominated nonfiction before the deadline, though fairly unlikely.

But all of this has added up to feeling like I’ve been reading a lot but still not making any progress on my unread-books project.

So the other day, I set aside the Hugo-and-related-awards reading for a bit, and settled in to read something from the unread shelves. Such as maybe one of the four or so mass-market paperbacks that I’ve started in the past few months but haven’t finished. But what popped to the top of the stack ended up being this massive hardcover William Tenn collection.

That’s because I have even more unread hardcovers and trade paperbacks than unread mass-market paperbacks. I’m mostly focusing on the MMPBs at this point, but every now and then I divert temporarily into the larger books. And in this case, a little bit of bookshelf-rearranging meant that if I removed the Tenn book from the unread-oversize-hardcovers shelf, I could add several other books that’ve been sitting in a stack on my floor, waiting for there to be a better place for them.

It helps that I’m not loving the Tenn stories. I’m a little sad about that, because I used to like his work quite a bit, and because the Afterwords mostly give me the impression that he was someone I’d have liked personally; but it does mean that I can likely skim the whole 600-page book in a couple of days, which may mean I can finally get back to the main MMPB project. We’ll see.

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