Reading plans

Sample Sunday: On Students, Activists and Authors

From the 280+ owned-but-unread books on my bookshelves, I’m choosing three whose titles begin with the letter I. Unusually I’ve decided all three have earned their right to remain.

If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Jon McGregor so there’s not really much doubt that I want to keep this book about student life in a northern English city. It was his debut novel, nominated for the 2002 Booker Prize and was the winner of both the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award in 2003.  I must be keen to read it because I seem to have two copies.

The Verdict: Keep.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirst Ali

This is the author’s life story, tracing her childhood in Somali and her flight to Holland at the age of 20 where she claimed refugee status to escape an arranged and marriage. She relinquished Islam, became a Dutch citizen and a member of Parliament. As a result of her outspoken criticism of the oppression of Muslim women, she needed police protection.

The Verdict: I’m tempted to keep.

Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco

The 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize panel of judges described this as”brilliantly conceived and stylishly executed . . .It is also ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humour”

It begins with the death of an eminent Philippine author. His student sets out to investigate his death and the disappearance of the only manuscript of his final book. I’m intrigued to learn that this isn’t a straight forward mystery tale. Instead, the blurb tells me it is “a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing 150 years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves.”

The Verdict: Keep. It’s the historical aspect that interests me most

Sample Sunday is when I take a look at all the unread books on my shelves and decide which to keep and which to let free. The goal isn’t to shrink the TBR as such, but rather it’s about making sure my shelves have only books I do want to read. What do you think of the decisions I’ve reached? If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.


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

12 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: On Students, Activists and Authors

  • This is a good exercise. I’ve basically but a shelf life on the books in my TBR bookcase. If I haven’t read them in five years, they have to go. I keep buying books and there is just so much space in the house. It’s a bit ruthless each January, but it keeps the stacks under control.

    • What a good idea to have that dedicated shelf. I’m so guilty of putting books back on the shelf, meaning to read them but never getting around to doing it. Of course I would have to be very disciplined and not cheat when the 5 year deadline loomed

    • That’s the thing isn’t it – I keep them but it could be months (years?) before I actually get to read them

  • Anita’s Ghosh seems to be lingering in the undergrowth, with a paragraph describing The Hungry Tide under the Hirsan Ali heading, presumably from your last Sunday blogpost. I recognise the description because it’s on my ‘possibles’ list for 20 Books of Summer.

  • Interestingly, I too have had that particular Jon McGregor on my shelves since forever. If you can move it off the TBR shelf to the ‘I’m just about to read it’ one, then so can I!

    • My ‘I’m just about to read it’ shelf is looking very very full right now….

  • Liliane Ruyters

    Hirst Ali: ambitious, not a likeable person, one that speaks her mind not caring about the outcome. Several sizes too big for my little and small-minded country, she put the finger on all our flaws. Wonder what you’ll think about Infidel and her.

    • Interesting to get your perspective. It’s often the case isn’t it that people who speak up can come across as being insensitive


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