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Sample Sunday : The Unread Americans

Sample Sunday is an opportunity to check all the books on my shelves and decide what to keep

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.

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