The ‘To Read’ Pile

By - February 5, 2006 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

In discussing great works of literature (ok, ok, humorous travel lit) with Sal, my counterpart on Expatica Spain, I got to thinking about my overwhelming ‘to read’ pile.

I have always been a voracious reader, a gift I thank both of my avid-reader parents for. My weekly trip to the library with my mom, as a child, was as good as going to the zoo (well almost as good and definitely much more frequent.) So it’s no surprise that as an adult you can often find me with a nose stuck in a book.

I have many favorite reads, from the downright trashy (yes, I’ve been known to succumb to a trashy romance, a bottle of red, a box of Belgian chocolates and a steaming hot, bubble-filled tub… once in a while) to works of literary genius (my first year of uni was spent in a four credit class called the Foundation Year Program which began with The Epic of Gilgamesh and continued with Dante, Hegel, Nietzsche and the like.)

What I read is really dependent on my mood. I make no secret of my Potter passion, I love a good mystery (a habit I blame on my mother), and of course I love my travel books.

Books, like travel, are an addiction for me. I was lucky enough to find a hubby who shares both of these loves. The problem comes from our pack-rat-like tendencies. Before we moved, our library was our pride and joy. The more we read, the more we acquired. One bookcase turned into six and suddenly we were swimming in books.

This one is for Di – Cliché and all.

When we moved from an apartment to our house, the movers were ready to murder us. Our entire walk-in storage room was filled with boxes, floor to ceiling and 90% of them contained books.

When the time came to move to Belgium, we had to bid farewell to our babies. We gladly sold off our furniture, said goodbye to our beloved Subaru, and even sold our first house. None of this was as painful as saying goodbye to our books. We crated loads of boxes to just about every used bookstore in Halifax, and still ended up sending a huge pile off to auction.

Even though we came overseas with only four trunks and six crates, the majority of what we brought with us was books and with the exception of a few reference books, (Andrew’s computer books and my Photography, travel guides and cookbooks) all were as of yet, unread. Five of the six crates were books; books were stashed in each of the trunks; and we had books in every suitcase and carry-on that came on the plane with us. So our new life in Belgium began with no furniture but a whole stack of books in the ‘to read’ pile.

No matter how much I read, the pile doesn’t shrink. Bookstores are like crack houses to me – I can rarely leave without a hit. Used bookstores are even worse – Half the price equals twice as many books.

I’ve read more in the past year abroad than I ever had time for at home, and still, no dent in the pile. My return to Canada saw me hauling back over 40 second hand paperbacks. My mom even has list she’s been gathering for me and will haul to Brussels in the spring.

I could read for twelve hours a day, every day of the week, and I’m convinced that pile wouldn’t shrink an inch.

But I guess it could be worse than having a precarious pile of paperbacks begging for perusal… there could be no books at all.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by Alison

    Alison February 5, 2006 at 22:48

    One thing I hate doing is starting a book before another is finished. I hate not finishing books – even if it pains me to read another page I usually always slog through. I think there’s only been half a dozen or so I just couldn’t bare to read. While I can multi-task doing just about anything else, reading must be done one book at a time 🙂

  2. Comment by christina

    christina February 5, 2006 at 22:37

    Ahh, the books. I don’t find that much time to read these days, but I still have a pile of books as big as a house beside my bed just waiting for the right moment. Actually, some of them have actually been read, but only half-way. I have a terrible tendency to just set a book aside (or lose it all together for a while, for I am a piler, not a filer) and start another one, not giving the first one a second thought until months later.
    Thanks for visiting my blog today! – I’ve also put you on my blog roll. As for the Gilmore Girls – I only became addicted after they started showing them on German TV in the mornings and afternoons. Before that I had no clue what all the fuss was about.

  3. Comment by Mom

    Mom February 5, 2006 at 23:56

    So maybe I should stop scouring the used bookstores for all those books on your list. Is this precarious pile of books going to be our room when we visit? Should I pack my hardhat?

  4. Comment by Alison

    Alison February 6, 2006 at 09:48

    Nope, you’re safe. They are all in the bookcase… you know, the one that we bought before we bought a sofa. And there’s still room in it so scour away! 🙂

  5. Comment by Alison

    Alison February 7, 2006 at 22:58

    It is indeed a humanitarian service… It would be truely inhumane if I had to pay full price for English books in Brussels 🙂 Besides I’m giving her the grand tour of Europe… all I ask is a suitcase full of paperbacks in return 🙂

  6. Comment by Sal DeTraglia

    Sal DeTraglia February 7, 2006 at 21:15

    Ha! Not my mom, but one of my co-workers in the US scours used book stores for me. That’s how I got my first Tim Moore book (“Continental Drifter” aka “The Grand Tour”).
    You’re providing a great humanitarian service, Alison’s Mom.

  7. Comment by Miss Jay

    Miss Jay February 8, 2006 at 18:25

    I am definitely the same way…but really, it is the best addiction to have.

  8. Comment by HumanityCritic

    HumanityCritic February 14, 2006 at 10:44

    Just passing through, I’m digging the blog by the way.

  9. Comment by Di

    Di February 16, 2006 at 13:15

    Darlink Monster
    I explained why I liked that one …

  10. Comment by expatraveler

    expatraveler February 20, 2006 at 04:22

    I found the best used book stores in Basel. I was a finatic for reading back in 2002 and 2003. I was hooked and reading a lot! It was an awesome stream of entertainment.
    But then I came back to Canada where books are twice as expensive in Vancouver than the States or Europe for that matter, that really I try to read online only. However, I did see this used book store which thanks to you, I know I need to check out this week.

  11. Pingback: The Plantin-Moretus Printing Museum, Antwerp | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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