Sample Sunday : The Unread Americans

Jeffrey Eugenides, Jennifer Egan and The Cirlce

I’m moving onto the letter E in my trawl of the unread books on my shelves. I’ve picked out three books by authors whose surnames begin with E, trying to decide which to keep, and which to ditch. By coincidence these all happen to be by American authors.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

This is the 1993 debut novel by Eugenides who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with a later novel called Middlesex. I’ve never read any of his work and don’t have any other work by him on my shelves. I think I have The Virgin Suicides only because of a suggestion from my niece but it’s just as feasible that I bought it because it’s set in Michigan, a state I got to know very well through numerous business trips.

The novel, set during the 1970s, focuses on the lives of the five Lisbon sisters each of whom kills herself. The novel is written  from the perspective of an anonymous group of teenage boys who all knew the girls and are trying to understand what caused them to take their own lives.

I’m very undecided about this one. I know it was highly acclaimed when it was published but the subject matters sounds rather grim.

The Verdict: Undecided. I need help with this one.

A Visit By The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I bought this at a library sale in 2012 and noticed it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the previous year. I’d read Jennifer Egan’s debut novel Look At Me which was interesting but laboured rather under the weight of her message. This later novel doesn’t sound my kind of book because it’s a set of thirteen interrelated stories and has a large set of characters connected only by their association with a record company executive. The synopsis indicates they are (mainly) a self-destructive bunch of people whose lives take them in unforeseen, and sometimes unusual, directions.

The Verdict: Ditch. This isn’t calling to me at all.

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Another book which falls into a genre that seldom features in my reading: dystopian fiction. I have it purely because it was selected by a book club that I stopped attending before we had the meeting to discuss Eggers’ novel. It’s set within a powerful internet company “The Circle” that initially appears to have an admirable paternalistic attitude to its employees but over time becomes more sinister. It’s a tale told through one of their workers who becomes unsettled by some of the new technologies the company is developing which have far reaching implications for privacy.

The Verdict: Ditch. Though the issue of privacy is an interesting one. I’ve seen a film adaptation (mediocre) so I already know how the plot pans out. If you know that right at the start, there doesn’t seem much point now in reading the book.

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 : The Unread Americans

  • buriedinprint

    There are good arguments for all of these writers/titles, but when I think of books that you’ve mentioned having loved, none of these seems to fit with that group. When I heard Eugenides interviewed a couple of years ago, he mentioned that he wrote TVS before he had children and he couldn’t imagine writing that book now (it’s got a disturbing side to it–perhaps not evident in the summary). My hunch would be that you’d enjoy his Middlesex more, if you are ever in the mood for a family saga set in America (mostly). This is a great idea to get one looking more closely at the shelves though…after a time you forget that books can come off of them and make their way to other eager readers.

  • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Goon Squad and Virgin Suicides are both on my shelf, too! I reckon keep Virgin Suicides, grim though it may be I really want to hear your thoughts 😉

  • Loved The Virgin Suicides – it’s written in first person plural from the onlookers point of view – quite innovative – Keep! The Circle is meant to be a perfect thriller, I’m keeping my copy on my shelves. Likewise the Egan – I’d keep all three!

  • I don’t normally comment on Sample Saturdays – because I nearly always haven’t read the books being discussed. But I have read The Virgin Suicides (and Middlesex) and my memory is that they were worth reading. And The Circle sounds right up my street – though I have another Eggers in my TBR which I don’t seem to be getting any closer to reading.

    • Seems that Virgin Suicides is definitely one to keep. The premise of The Circle was indeed a good one – my problem was that having seen the film I know what that organisation is really like and so it kind of undermines the suspense aspect

  • I am interested in the Virgin Suicides but I grew up in Michigan and am simply curious. I am not drawn to the other two either. 🐧🦩

  • I agree…once you’ve seen the movie, the book loses some of its appeal. That happened to me with The Zookeeper’s Wife.

    • It’s something I rarely do – watched the film without even realising it was based on a book I had.

  • I read all three and would vote to keep all three. Eggers has written some bad stuff lately, but ‘The Circle’, written in 2013, was one of the best about our Internet lives today.

    • i don’t know his work at all .. If I hadn’t already seen the film I would have been tempted just by the topic.

  • I shan’t a lot of help here, but if it was me I would potentially ditch all three. I read and liked The Virgin Suicides when it first came out but that’s a long time ago and I suspect my viewpoint would be very different!

    • That book seems to be getting more votes for it to be rescued….


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