Everyone’s got one.

That secret pile of novels, so very well regarded by the literary world, sitting in a dark corner of their house, sadly neglected despite assurances by so many others that “you’ve got to read them!” It’s a secret Pile ‘o Shame that haunts readers, always calling out longingly to be conquered but always growing bigger.

There’re simply too many novels out there (even if you only count the ones worth reading) for anyone to tackle all of them, and so the pile grows bigger. It’s so shameful that many readers hide it, boastfully playing on Internet message boards and blogs, pretending they’ve read them, or at the very least have given them a meaningful glance – catch them in their lie and they’re quick to exit the conversation.

I thought it would be fun to come out of the closet with my Pile o’ Shame every once in a while, crucifying myself before the masses by laying bare the gaps in my knowledge of the genre. I’ll explain a little of why I haven’t read them before – whether it’s ignorance, taste, fear or otherwise – all in hopes that someone will come along and convince me exactly why a particular novel or series deserves to be the next wiped off my Pile o’ Shame.

So, let’s get this started.

The Pile – Round One

Richard Morgan’s Whole Damn Library
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Yeah, I know, eh? I’ve gone on at length about my frothing desire for Morgan’s upcoming Fantasy novel, The Steel Remains, and yet I’ve never read anything by the man. A lot of the hype, at least for me, was fueled by the early reviews/previews from Joe Abercrombie and The Genre Files, both of whom had nothing but glowing words for the novel.

My wheelhouse, as made evident by A Dribble of Ink, is Fantasy, and so that, as silly as it may be, is probably the basic reason behind the lack of Richard Morgan in my life. Everything I’ve heard about his novels seems right up my alley: gritty and violent, a charismatic protagonist, and eerily realistic future setting.

This is probably the series I’m most likely to tackle in the near future. I’ve got Altered Carbon sitting beside my bed and it will likely be read just as soon as I’m done with Greg Keyes’ The Born Queen, if not before.

The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker
The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker
I’ll admit that this one hasn’t been started merely out of fear. It just looks so dense, obtuse and difficult. I’ve got the three trade paperbacks sitting on my bookshelf, looking all pretty and menacing, and I’ve just never been able to work up the courage to jump in.

This is partly due to the fact that I read for enjoyment and Bakker’s works just seem like so much work. I don’t begrudge people who enjoy this, in fact a little part of me envies them, but I tend towards works that don’t force me to fight the prose and the story to enjoy them. That all being said, I often find works like that very rewarding when I do finish them, and that’s why Bakker has stayed on my Pile ‘o Shame and not just been relegated to the never-gonna-be-read closet.

I’m expecting to get a review copy of Neuropath sometime soon and that, along with my upcoming interview with Bakker, will hopefully get the ball rolling and help me become a confident enough reader to pick up Prince of Nothing.

The Monarchies of God by Paul Kearney
Hawkwood's Voyage by Paul Kearney
Now here’s a series that I can explain without much shame. I’ve been aware of Kearney’s work for a couple of years now and have tried hard to lay my hands on copies of the novels. I’d scour every used bookstore I came across and slowly managed to acquire a few of the five novels.

Then I caught wind of the upcoming Omnibus…

Now the plan’s to read the Omnibus the second it arrives on store shelves. Like Morgan’s novels, everything I hear about The Monarchies of God leads me to believe that it will be the exact type of Fantasy I’ve grown to love so much over the years. Kearney’s upcoming novel, The Ten Thousand , being released this fall by Solaris, also sounds interesting and I’ll hopefully be able to get my hands on that.

Reading Kearney has been a long time coming for me, something always seemed to get in the way, but I’m hoping that once I get to it, I won’t have regrets.

Alright, so there you go, three series I’m mightily ashamed to admit never to reading. It stretches much farther, and I’ll probably return with another article like this in the future; but, for the meantime, you can berate me, tell me why I’m a fool for missing out, or why I continue to stay far away. While you’re at it, why notlet me know what happens to be in your Pile ‘o Shame.

  • J.Cormier March 27, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Next let’s see the other pile o’shame…fantasy guilty pleasures. The ones you love to read but don’t necessarily love to tell anyone about.

  • Tia March 28, 2008 at 7:58 am

    My pile of shame would include many of the great debuts that came out last year, such as The Blade Itself and The Name of the Wind. They are both books that I hope to read eventually, but . . . I really have no excuse.

  • Chris (The Book Swede) March 28, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Oh dear, your pile o’shame is much the same as mine, except mine’s not even good enough to have the Morgan or the Kearney!

    I’d like them, but I know they’d just join the pile, so I’m holding off for a while. I also am scared of the Bakker! There is so much good stuff out there, I’m just starting anywhere, and I’ll never complete it … I can try, though!

    Must also start the Keyes series :) For a while, Neil Gaiman was on my PoS; I’m so glad I got around to reading them, though.

    Do you mind if I do my own Pile o’Shame and link back to you? I think you’ve just created a meme! ;)

  • aidan March 28, 2008 at 8:45 am

    J. Cormier,
    I like the way you think! Maybe I will try to throw something like that together.

    You owe it to yourself to give Rothfuss a try, he still counts as a debut author, right? It might be too late for Abercrombie, though…

    In my opinion, Keyes is the most criminally underread writer of Epic Fantasy. It baffles me that the guy doesn’t sell numbers of novels similar to Tad Williams and Robin Hobb. Get on it!

    I’d love to see you (and others) put together their own Pile o’ Shame! The more the merrier, as they say.

  • Kevin March 28, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    SO many books so little time. I am managing to keep up with a fair number of the recent releases but can’t seem to get to some of the older titles such as Feist’s Magician. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Black Man were great but the other releases were just ok. Steel Remains though is high on the list once it comes out. I think my TBR pile numbers in the hundreds so don’t feel so bad. eBay and Amazon Market Place are too blame for me being so far behind…

  • J.G.Thomas March 28, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Great idea for a post, Aidan. So great in fact, that I thought I’d join in the fun and post the first part of my own Pile o’ Shame on Speculative Horizons: http://speculativehorizons.blogspot.com/2008/03/pile-o-shame.html

    Incidentally, I’m not sure I agree with the assertion that Joe Abercrombie had “nothing but glowing words” regarding Morgan’s The Steel Remains. While he generally appeared to like the novel, there were a few aspects he admitted he wasn’t keen on. His review definitely wet my appetite though.

  • Larry March 28, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Well, let’s see – I’ve received/bought over 60 books so far this year and I still have about half of those left to read. I’m not ashamed one bit, as I read when I have the time, both at work and at home. None of the unread books have been waiting more than a couple of months to be read and since there aren’t any notables that I’ve refrained from reading, I guess I’m just responding to sound contrary :P

  • Dark Wolf March 29, 2008 at 2:27 am

    I heard once that a library isn’t meant to be read in full. Well I don’t totally agree with this, but my library is far from being read. And the unread pile is growing. But I hope that one day I will proudly say that I finished my library (and buy some more books :)).

  • Chris (The Book Swede) March 29, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Just posted mine :D

    Quite good for (loud groan…) finding new books, this idea of yours, Aidan! ;) J.G’s list has me even more ashamed for never having attempted to get hold of some on his list!

    Cheers for your comment on my Bloodheir review, btw. I should point out though, that while I enjoyed it, I still, overall, preferred Winterbirth. And congrats on being on the blurb!


  • Adam March 29, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Excellent topic! Considering the thousands of volumes in my library, less than a 1/3 of which have been read, my pile-o-shame is looooooooooong.

    But from a fantasy standpoint, a bit shorter. Sadly, I haven’t tackled many newer authors at all…Abercrombie (though I browsed him recently and his books look fascinating), Kearney, Bakker. There is enough older fantasy that I haven’t read that I’m usually a few years behind the curve of new releases.

    My fantasy pile-o-shame includes Gaiman’s Anansi Boys (read the rest of Gaiman’s), a whole pile of books by Glen Cook (whom I’ve never read), and books 3-8 of King’s Dark Tower series.

    My real pile-o-shame is on my classics shelf, where War & Peace has awaited some attention for years and collects only dust, despite the fact that I love Tolstoy. Or the miserable plight of Great Expectations. Ah well. Some day….

  • […] yet another book site: A Dribble of Ink, has posted a cute thing called:  Pile […]

  • Sara J. March 30, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Hey Aidan, thanks for a great topic! It’s far more interesting to talk about what we want to read sometimes than what we have read. The beginnings of my shame are out to air as well here.

  • aidan March 30, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Doesn’t it seem like the buying stream never ends? Despite this Pile o’ Shame I’m publicly divulging, it didn’t stop me from picking up Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and James Blaylock’s Lord Kelvin’s Machine today!

    Heh, my comments about The Steel Remains were mostly for dramatic effect… glad to be called out on it!

    As for your own pile, I was looking at some Leiber today in a used bookstore, but just didn’t even know where to begin.

    Glad to see you stopping by, even if it is to be contrary. Isn’t that what you do best?

    This article was actually inspired by this quote in your open letter to reviewers, “Some people online and in my personal life have this mistaken belief that I am well-read. I am not. While it is true that I have read thousands of books from dozens of time periods, nationalities, genres, and so forth, I have explored just enough to know that I barely have scratched the surface.” So I owe you one.

    Dark Wolf,
    A fully read library would be a depressing thing, wouldn’t it?

    You gotta do yourself a favour and get to Keyes, Kay and Abercrombie. Hell, Joe probably lives just down the street from you.

    As for Bloodheir, what mostly got me excited was what you had to say about Aeglyss. He was my favourite part of Winterbirth and your review reminded me of that. I’m curious to see where Ruckley takes him.

    My pile of unread classics would reach to the moon. I’d rather not admit to that though…

    King’s Dark Tower series is terrific, especially the fourth and seventh novels. It’s got one of the most perfect endings to any piece of literature I’ve laid my hands on.

    All I’ve got to say is Miéville’s near the top of my pile, also and A Song of Ice and Fire is better than you remember.

  • heather (errantdreams) April 1, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I’m no good at ‘should.’ The moment that word enters the equation, my pig-headedness gene (inherited in double-dose form from BOTH parents) kicks in and I balk. So I have no pile of shame—just the occasional twinge feeling of, ‘oh yeah, I’m supposed to have read that classic. Oh well.’

  • aidan April 2, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    You have no idea how envious I am of you, Heather! I’m a pretty stubborn lad myself (being Irish will do that to ye…), but I’ve always got that tickle in the back of my mind when someone tells me I “have to read it.”

  • Incubus Jax April 2, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Let’s see…

    I have Salvatore’s latest Drizzt book, The Orc King; I started it but put it down for something… Name of the Wind I think. Either way, I need to finish it. The Chronicles of Narnia. Wow, I’ve had that one for two years now. Skin by Ted Dekker, The Dark Tower series (I’ve only read the Gunslinger), Before They Are Hanged, by Joe Abercrombie, but I guess that doesn’t count cause I’m not done with The Blade Itself. Ysable by Guy Gavriel Kay – I love his stuff. The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn.

    I’m sure there are others, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.

    Oh yeah, Chapters 8 and 9 of Analysis and Design Methods, Seventh Edition, but that’s for school, so I’m allowed to put that off right? ;)


  • […] while I was searching I discovered this gem of a site and blog dedicated to SF/F fans called A Dribble of Ink Aidan Moher. On it, Aidan wrote a great article about the piles o’ books that lie around our […]

  • Sean April 8, 2008 at 10:19 am

    I started The Darkness That Comes Before but didn’t finish it. A combination of it being very deep and me being distracted at the time. I almost got the copy of Hawkwood’s Voyage at my local used book store the other day but didn’t. I will look for the omnibus. I have a Pile o’Shame as well which currently includes Anne McCaffery (never read any of her stuff believe it or not), Engines of God by Jack McDevitt and a host of books by Robin Hobb. So, you definitely have company.

  • […] I looked forward to Mass Effect for years before its launch last november. Then it finally came out for the Xbox 360… and literally the next day our daughter was born. Fatherhood took scary & wonderful precedence, and the game ended up in my Pile O’Shame. […]

  • […] got to admit, Patricia Bray’s The First Betrayal was one of the books on my pile o’ shame ever since my dad–also a fan of SF/F–insisted I borrow his copy. He rarely ever […]

  • […] first edition of Pile O’ Shame was well received, even spurring a few other blogs to follow the trend and post their own Pile […]

  • Mikki August 11, 2008 at 7:10 am

    You guys shouldn’t all be so scared of Bakker. The world is a bit complex, but its a VERY enjoyable read, and far easier than Gene Wolfe for instance (that I love – read it).

  • […] works of Ian McDonald have long been on my Pile o’ Shame, among those books I know I should read but have slipped off my radar for one reason or another. […]