TBR list

Sample Sunday: 3 Bargain Shop Buys

My Sample Sunday spotlight this week is turned on three books on my TBR shelves that I bought in charity shops or bargain book shops. They still all bear their price stickers…..

As a reminder, Sample Sunday is where I look at all the books I own but have yet to read, and decide which I should part company with and which I should keep.

My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru

I bought this in a discount book shop in Michigan during one of my frequent work trips. I knew the name of Hari Kunzru as one of Granta’s “Best of Young British Novelists” , chosen in the same year the accolade was awarded to Zadie Smith and Monica Ali. When I saw this priced at $2 it seemed too good to miss the opportunity to experience a “new British talent”.

Here’s the synopsis from the back cover:

Chris Carver is living a lie. His wife, their teenage daughter and everyone in their circle know him as Michael Frame, suburban dad. They have no idea that as a radical student in the sixties he briefly became a terrorist – protestin the Vietnam War by setting bombs around London. And then one day a ghost from his past turns up on his doorstep, forcing Chris on the run …

I’ve read a few pages from the beginning of the book which takes place on Chris/Michael’s 50th birthday. While his family are out collecting stuff for his party, he hurriedly packs his clothes and passport and drives off in his car. Clearly the narrative is going to wind back to a surprise encounter with a person from his past.

I notice from the author’s explanation that the book is loosely based on some revolutionary underground movements active in London in the 1970s. It’s a topic I don’t know much about but I’m interested enough to keep this on the shelves.

The Verdict: Keep

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

A charity shop purchase made the year after I read (and loved) her novel Bel Canto (the link takes you to my review). I don’t know anything about the book other than it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2012.

Here’s the synopsis from the back cover:

Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. But Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery – especially from her investors. When Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher is sent to investigate, a curt letter reporting his death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and former student of Dr Swenson, must retrace her friends perilous steps and uncover the secrets hidden among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.

It sounds promising; I’m drawn by the idea of a quest and the culture clash in the rainforest. I just hope that anacondas don’t make much of an appearance since I have an aversion to snakes…

The Verdict: Keep

Bad Dirt by Annie Proux

The cheapest book of the three, it’s also the one where I’m struggling to understand why I wanted to add it to my bookshelves. I’ve only ever read The Shipping News by her and while I enjoyed it at the time, it didn’t leave me feeling I was keen to read anything else she has written.

It’s a book apparently set in a community in Wyoming, where she has made her home. I clearly bought it thinking it was a novel but it wasn’t until the very end of the back cover blurb that I now see its a collection of short stories.

They are about a set of characters who live in “an isolated expanse of wasters and dreamers where the inhabitants say there’s no place like home. Where men grow bears competitively and where Bible classes wonder ‘What kind of furniture would Jesus pick?”

It sounds as if it could too easily veer towards caricature for my taste. Plus, since I am not a fan of short stories at all, I know it not one for me. I don’t feel too bad about letting this one go – it cost me all of £1.

The Verdict: Abandon

So that’s one fewer book on the TBR shelves again this week. Thanks to everyone who weighed in last week on my question about whether to keep The Accidental by Ali Smith – you persuaded me to let it remain for now.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

13 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: 3 Bargain Shop Buys

  • There’s no accounting for taste but abandoning Annie Proulx? Her short stories are brilliant.

    I’ve never heard of the first one and never read Patchett, although I’ve her name on many blogs.

    Happy reading! That’s all that matters.

    PS: on another note: how can a book be sold for £1? What a disdain for the author’s work to sell it that cheap.

    • I’m really only abandoning Proux because its short stories – I just never get on with them.
      As for the price, I think its a case that some booksellers/publishers just offload books that are not selling and they prefer to get something for them rather than nothing. It may be that they were coming out with a new edition?

  • Proulx is very well known for her book The Stone Diaries which is supposed to be one of her best but I don’t have it nor have I read it. State of Wonder is my only experience with Ann Patchett and I could not put it down. It is an adventure like no other. You must read it. So many twists and turns in it.

    • I wish I could say I’ll be reading the Patcett soon but I have a fair number of review committments to get through first…..

  • I thought Shipping News was ok, and I liked the Movie of Brokeback Mountain, but in the back of my mind is that there was some controversy about a memoir by Proulx set in mountain country. Still, I’d probably try this book just to see for myself.

    • if it was a novel I might be tempted to give it a go, but short stories are just not my thing at all

  • Again, authors I haven’t read! Mind you, I’m guilty of picking up books in charity shops on a whim and then abandoning them – perhaps I should have a good clear out of the TBR too…

    • I think I went through a period where I just snaffled anything in charity shops that was not the usual run of the mill blockbuster stuff. I didn’t really stop to think what I was buying…

  • I loved State of Wonder, but then I’m an avowed Patchett fan. I wouldn’t just keep this, I would read it immediately.

    • If only I could, but I have some books I’ve agreed to review and they are due soon


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