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Inside my TBR: the good, the bad and the downright ugly

This post was inspired by the stroll taken through their TBRs by FictionFan and  Books Please.

The definition…

All the books in my  TBR stack are ones I own but haven’t yet read. They’re all recorded on a spreadsheet which lists when they were bought/acquired, the author’s country of origin and a category (classic, translated, crime etc). At one time my TBR included books I wanted to read but the list quickly became huge and I panicked so I now just put those into a Goodreads wishlist.

The current total…

I wasn’t doing too badly but it then went haywire in May (combination of a buying splurge, a birthday and some advance copies passed on by other bloggers – yes they are to blame! ). It now stands at 314 which is up 12 higher the end of 2018 total. That’s not supposed to happen….

The target…

I don’t have one. It would be pleasant to think I could make significant progress and get it down to around 270 by end of the year but I doubt that’s going to happen.  I’m trying to exercise some restraint (you might not believe it but it’s true) by avoiding NetGalley – I know if I look I will end up clicking. That way madness lies.

The breakdown…

I hadn’t realised I have so many non factual books on my shelves. They’re a mix of history (I have a few by Mary Beard), health related and memoirs. A lot of the books in translation are ones I acquired when I started my quest of reading more broadly around the world. I’m slowly making my way through them.

Booker Prize related               6 (two winners, 1 shortlisted and 3 longlisted)
Children’s fiction                     2
Classics                                    39
Crime/thriller .                       19
Fiction                                    164
Non fiction .                            27
Short story collections .          6
Fiction in translation .          40
Welsh authors                        13

The format…

Paper dominates in my house. Though I found an electronic reader a saviour when I was travelling a lot for work, now I’m retired I don’t have to worry about lugging heavy books around with me. There are 40 books on my e reader. They’re a mixture of classics from Gutenburg , Net Galley editions and some bargains I bought from that big company named after a river.

The oldest book…

To the Lighthouse

According to my spreadsheet the book I’ve had the longest is To the Lighthouse. But that’s misleading because I bought it in 1975 and have read it twice. I think I kept it on the list because I meant to read it again at some point.  It shouldn’t really be there.

Next in line is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (a Booker prize shortlisted title).

never let me go

My record says I acquired it in 2010. I say “I” but actually it was a book I bought for my husband. He didn’t care for it but I rescued it from the ‘donate to charity shop’ pile. Now I’m thinking: do I still want to read this? It’s dystopian fiction which I haven’t read much of in the past but maybe this could be the book that helps get me more interested in that genre.

After that comes James Kelman’s How Late it Was, How Late (what an apt title for book that’s been waiting eight years for me to get around to reading). It’s on the list because it’s part of my Booker Prize project. I did actually begin reading it and then put aside. I WILL read it this year……

The newest book (s)…

Today’s purchases were:

West by Carys Davies: a novella about early pioneers in America. I bought it for two reasons. Reason One, I loved her earlier work The Redemption of Galen Pike.  Reason Two, she hails from Wales though sadly has moved home to Scotland.

Normal People by Sally Rooney. The accolades keep pouring in for this second novel by the Irish author. I’m curious whether it lives up to all those awards for which it’s been nominated.

The review copies…

Currently this stands at nine unread review copies. Sounds impressive doesn’t it? Unfortunately most of these are about three years old. They were the result of getting over excited on Net Galley and not paying enough attention to the book description before putting in my request. Lesson learned. Now I only request review copies or accept them if I am very certain I’ll be able to read them in a reasonable time frame.

The 200th book on the list…

The 200th book is in fact one of those old Net Galley review copies.  A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee is the first in his series set in 1919 British ruled Calcutta featuring a former Scotland Yard detective. I learned today he’ll be  doing an author event in a local bookshop this September so I should really try to read this before that date.

The books I most want to read 

I’ve put 15 titles from my TBR onto the list for 20BooksofSummer so that’s going to be my focus for the next few months. I’d also like to get to these three books soonish.


Now you’ve been introduced to the darkest secrets of my TBR, how about pulling back the curtains on your stash of unread books?

The oldies in my bookshelves

I don’t normally join in with Top Ten Tuesday but this week’s topic happened to coincide with one of my periodic reviews of my TBR. So I give you my list of 10 Books That Have Been On My Shelf (Or TBR) From Before I Started Blogging and Still Have Not Got Around to Reading.

10oldiesjpg

A selection of the books that have been waiting for years for me to read

In no particular order:

  1. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Yes I’m ashamed to admit I have yet to read this classic in its entirety – just read bits and pieces as needed for essays. Oops.
  2. Armdale by Wilkie Collins. Exactly when this book came into my house I am not sure.  It was at least 17 years ago  since it was in the boxes when when we moved into our current house that long ago. Indeed it is a rather old looking paperback though not so old that the pages are yellow. I might even have read it but if I did then it left no impression on me.  It is however not the oldest book on my shelves.
  3. Can Forgive Her by Anthony Trollope. I read the first two in the Barchester Chronicles (The Warden and Barchester Towers) and loved them. The plan was to read the whole series and then move onto the Palliser series of which Can You Forgive Her is the first title but I never got beyond Barchester Towers. My copy of Can You Forgive Her is dated 1996 so you can see how long ago I dreamed up that plan. I will get around to it sometime soon….possibly
  4. Even then the Trollope is not the oldest on the shelf. That dubious honour goes to The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. My copy was printed in 1986 – yep it’s been with me for 30 years and has never been opened since there isn’t any sign of a crease on the spine. I started reading an e version of this about two years ago but lost interest.
  5. George Eliot – The Last Victorian by Kathryn Hughes. I love Eliot’s work and bought this rather fat book as a way of getting to know Eliot the person. It’s been on the shelf now for longer than 5 years and I haven’t even opened it.
  6. A Parisian Affair and other stories by Guy du Maupassant: I made this a special request one Christmas having heard that Maupassant was a master of the short story format. I must have been in one of my “I need to read more short stories’ periods; none of which have proved successful.
  7. Virginia Woolf An Inner Life by Julia Briggs: There is a definite pattern emerging here with many of the books that are stuck at the back of the shelves falling into the category of literary biographies. Maybe I thought that I would seem very learned and intelligent by reading these…..
  8. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. About 10 years ago  some work colleagues recommended this breakthrough work on climate change and chemical pollution. I wasn’t looking forward to it, expecting it would be rather ‘worthy’ and stuffed full of facts which would make it less readable. But the introductory pages  were a revelation because Carson was clearly someone who understood rhythm and meter and imagery. It was a very poetic form of prose that I loved. But clearly not enough to read any further because there the book sits on the shelf unread all these years later.
  9. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe. This 1794 novel is satirised in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I’d never read it but thought it would be interesting to see exactly some of the form and conventions of the Gothic novel that she was ridiculing. It’s a fat novel where not a lot seems to happen for a very long time other than the heroine goes wandering around some mountainous region of France. I kept waiting for the ‘horror’ element to kick in. My copy still has my bookmark showing that I read about half of it. Will I ever go back to read the remaining section? Hm, not entirely sure about that.
  10. Pamela by Samuel Richardson. This one belongs to an era when I was trying to fill in some gaps from my reading of the early British novel. Pamela, published in 1740, was the best-seller of its time. The reading public obviously had more patience and tolerance than I did because I’ve not got much further than page 50. As with Radcliffe, will I feel its good for my soul to read this or that life it too short to spend on books I am not enjoying?

 

Gold star TBR

Gold-StarRemember when you got awarded a gold star by the teacher when you’d achieved something special? You’d run home to boast about this with the hope of another reward (chocolates and sweets being the favourite of course) for being such a star pupil?

Though I can still run (sadly my skipping skills are depleted to zero), I no longer feel the need to rush to my mother for a pat on the head. But the hope that someone will recognise – and acknowledge – an achievement never goes away does it? We all love to be appreciated and praised.

So I am awarding myself a star for effort for my progress in bringing some degree of control to my pile of 160+ unread books. Not quite gold star standard but maybe I merit a silver.

At the start of the year I joined the Triple Dog Dare where the plan was to read only books from the TBR for the first three months of 2016. It was a kick up the rear end and it worked so well I’ve continued with the habit long after the dare came to an end. So as a result, of the 25 books I’ve read so far this year , 18 have come from my TBR. The rest were all books I had agreed to review. It hasn’t been particularly hard to read what I already have – I’m not exactly short of choices so whatever my mood there’s always something suitable.  It’s meant I’ve tackled a few of the Booker winner titles that I’ve been putting off for some time like Rites of Passage by William Golding and Anita Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.

Now before you begin awarding me a halo I should confess that the overall size of the TBR hasn’t been reduced. It’s gone up in fact because I adopted the principle that even while I am working my way through the TBR backlog, I can still buy any number of new books.  I just shouldn’t read them in preference to the ones I already have. And of course I have been buying.  I started 2016 with 166 ‘real’ books and a stack of e-books. I’m now at 169 books and thats without a few that I’ve just been ordering   . If only i could a) stop buying books b)stop requesting them from Net Galley and c) stop ordering them from the library then I’d be in really good shape and would definitely deserve the gold start. But that would be terribly dull…..

 

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