TBR Plans and Feeling Overwhelmed

Do you ever look around at your TBR pile and think ‘Help!’? A couple of weeks ago I counted how many books I own that I haven’t read yet. The number came to 185. Let’s consider that number for a second. In 2016 and 2017 I read around 60 books per year – so if I keep that rate up it’ll take me at least another 3 years to get through my current TBR – and that’s without buying any new books!

At the start of April I went to York for a small holiday. I took one book with me for the trip and came back with ten new ones. I didn’t even manage to finish the book I’d taken on holiday, let alone start any that I’d bought whilst I was there.

It makes me sad that these books that I was so excited to read when I bought them are just gathering dust, unread. Some of the books I’ve had on my shelves for eight years. That’s too long. It’s quite clear that part of the problem is I buy books quicker than I can read them (not hard when you work in a bookshop and can’t resist a charity or second hand bookshop whenever you pass one).

Okay so what am I going to do about this situation? I would really like to get round to the books I own, but not buying any more is not going to be an option – that’ll just make me sad. Perhaps I should just get rid of all of my books and start afresh? No, that idea’s horrible. I will be looking over the books I own frequently and asking myself whether I really want them but I won’t be getting rid of them all just to have a zero TBR. That’s just not my jam.

I do, however, have a game plan. Project TBR please step forward.

  1. I can still buy books but I’ll only be allowing myself to buy 1 book for every 10 that I read from my TBR. That way I’ll still be able to buy books every 2 months or so, and hopefully it’ll make me a bit more conscious of what I’m buying and it’ll get me reading the books I already own. I do have one exception to that rule and that is poetry and graphic novels (poetry especially) but I have to try to finish them within 48 hours of purchase (so strict!)
  2. I can DNF and get rid of my books as much as I want free of guilt. It doesn’t matter if I’ve read half of the book, one chapter or none of it – I can get rid of it I’m not enjoying it or I don’t think I’m interested in it anymore.
  3. Avoid bookshops (Oxfam charity shops in particular – one of my biggest weaknesses) at all costs. They’re just too tempting. Kind of hard considering I work in a bookshop, but we’ll gloss over that.

Of course this is the plan, it might all become too depressing to be this strict with myself, and I might give up. I’m so used to buying books regularly that I think it’s going to be very hard to try and break that habit. I’m not going to put pressure on myself, if I’m not enjoying it or it’s making me unhappy I’ll stop. We shall see how it goes!

If you would like to see all of the books on my TBR  and my progress (regulary updated, they will be disappearing as I read or get rid of them) this is the link: TBR. It will be a permanent fixture on my blog.

That’s all for now! Happy Reading!

Lucy

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March Wrap Up & Spotlight

March was a very satisfying reading month for me – I read predominantly 4 or 5 star reads (with one DNF & one 3 star read).

Here’s what I read in March 2018:

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (popular science), A Scattering by Christopher Reid (poetry), Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (modern classic), The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA), The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (graphic novel), Between the World and Me (memoir/american history/politics) & Bark (short stories).

Honourable Mentions

It’s so hard to pick only 2 in this section this month as I basically want to recommend everything! Nevertheless, here are my honourable mentions for March.

First up is A Scattering by Christopher Reid, a poetry collection documenting the death of the poet’s wife and his subsequent grief. I found out about this on the radio 4 programme A Good Read, which I’d highly recommend to everyone by the way (you can listen to it online, via podcast or on radio 4 on Tuesdays between half 4 and 5). I love A Good Read. It’s presented by Harriet Gilbert and each episode has two guests. All three people suggest a book on the programme and they spend about ten minutes on each book discussing it. On this particular episode Harriet recommended A Scattering and all three guests loved it (a rare occurrence on A Good Read).

Intrigued, I read it one morning  and adored it. Given the subject matter, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that these poems are heartbreaking. The collection is split in to four parts, the first is set in Crete whilst his wife is ill, the second his wife is in a hospice just before she dies and the third and fourth detail the aftermath of her death. This is an extremely moving, devastating collection that details so faultlessly what it is to lose someone.


Next up is Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. I’ve never read any James Baldwin before and I fell in love with this. It’s a very slight book, and completely not what I was expecting. James Baldwin was a black American gay man, a novelist and non fiction writer, he often wrote about race relations in America. I knew that this novel was a classic in LGBTQ literature but I had no idea that the main characters are all white, so that was a surprise for me as I assumed that there would be people of colour as Baldwin was such a prolific race relations writer. The novel documents the tragic relationship of David, an American, and Giovanni, an Italian, both living in Paris. When the novel opens David is engaged to a woman, and is clearly repressing his sexuality. The woman in question, Hella, is travelling at the start of the novel and is absent. When she comes back David makes a terrible decision leading to the tragic downfall of Giovanni. It’s an extremely well written book, and is full of acute observations of repressed sexuality.

Spotlight
This month’s spotlight is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

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This book looks at the life of Henrietta Lacks a woman who died in the 50s of cancer when she was only 31. Whilst she was in hospital a doctor took some of her cancer cells (without her or her family’s knowledge!) and grew them in culture and the cells are still alive today. Henrietta was a black woman and though her cells (known as HeLa) have helped with a lot of cancer research, the woman behind the cells was largely unknown. This book spans a lot of non-fiction genres, which is perhaps why I found it so fascinating. It’s popular science but has a real human interest story at its heart. Issues of medical ethics as well as race relations are intertwined with the science behind Henrietta’s invaluable cells. An utterly absorbing read that I urge everyone to pick up.

That’s all for my March Wrap Up. Happy reading!

Lucy

February Wrap Up & Spotlight

February was a really good month for me, in terms of reading enjoyment. I read 6 books, half of which were 5 star reads.

I participated in Lauren And The Books Femmeuary challenge of reading only books by women or about women for the whole of February. What a brilliant idea from Lauren! I had such a blast choosing the books I wanted to read and then working my way through them. Unfortunately I didn’t get through all of the ones I picked at the start of February (9 books) but I had such a lovely time with the ones I did read, and I can’t wait to get round to the remaining 3 that were on my list!

Here’s what I read in February 2018.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (memoir), The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (fiction), Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest (poetry), The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (short stories), Pachinko (fiction) & The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark (modern classic).

Honourable Mentions

Again, like last month, I have 2 books in the honourable mentions section. These books blew my mind. I gave both of them 5 stars on Goodreads.

First up is The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I can’t believe I’ve never read any Joan Didion before, she writes so clearly and so beautifully. This is a very sad memoir, detailing the year of Didion’s life after her husband died unexpectedly whilst her grown-up daughter was extremely ill in hospital. Make no bones about it, this book is harrowing, but it’s one of those books that makes you think of life differently. Similarly to Paul Kalanthi’s When Breath Becomes Air or Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, it alters your perspective on things. Highly recommend.

 

Next up is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a long historical novel that follows one family down generations as they move from Korea to Japan, and examines the discrimination they face. I admit I knew nothing of this part of history before reading Pachinko, nothing of the complex relationship between those two countries. I found it utterly fascinating, and really want to know more now!
One of the many reasons I loved this book is the family saga element. Lee moves from one generation to the next so seamlessly – part of the reason perhaps is how much time she spends with each generation, allowing us to get to know and love the characters before moving on to the next. This novel is vivid and completely immersive. I loved it so much.

Spotlight

This month I’d like to spotlight The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

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To begin with, I should probably point out that I adore Lahiri’s writing style. Honestly that woman could write a shopping list and I’d be on board. Sheer perfection.
Similarly to Pachinko, The Namesake is a family saga. It follows a young Indian couple, Ashoke and Ashima, who get an arranged marriage and move to America. It then follows their lives as Indian immigrants and their children’s lives as they settle in America. What Lahiri does so brilliantly is show the culture clash between the Indian parents and their Indian American children – the novel is a brilliant examination of that, as well as our ideas of identity. Also, for me, the characters are so rounded and truly feel like living, breathing people. Would highly recommend picking this one up!

That’s all for my February Wrap Up. Happy reading!

Lucy

January Wrap Up & Spotlight

So I’m finally getting round to my January reading Wrap Up. Very late I know. My February Wrap Up will not be as tardy I promise (maybe).

In January I managed to read (or finish, at least) 8 books. One of my personal reading goals this year is to keep my reading varied, so I’m aiming to read more poetry, more plays, more classics & more short story collections along with what I normally reach for (contemporary fiction with the odd non-fiction thrown in.)

So without further ado, here is what I read in January 2018.

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From bottom to top: Another Time by W. H. Auden (poetry), Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis (non-fiction – economics), The American Lover by Rose Tremain (short stories), The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (historical fiction), The Accidental by Ali Smith (fiction), Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (fiction), The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (classic) & Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind (modern classic).

Before I get to the book I’d like to spotlight, I’d first like to highlight these 2 honourable mentions. I gave both of these books 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

First up, there’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first – the cover and marketing makes it seem like it should belong to the romance genre, something I don’t tend to go for – but it’s a lot darker than that. It follows the life of Eleanor Oliphant a young woman who’s recently turned 30, who does the same thing day in day out – she eats the same thing for lunch and dinner every day, has an alcohol problem and doesn’t speak to anyone from the moment she gets home on a Friday night to the following Monday morning. Then one day when she’s taking a walk with a new colleague she witnesses an elderly man take a fall, and her life begins to change as she allows people in to her world. Really, I think, this novel is about loneliness. It deals with mental health issues, trauma and the difficulties of navigating friendships – all heavy topics that Honeyman juxtaposes effortlessly with lightness and humour. A very funny novel, with a lot of heart.

Next up is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I’ve actually been reading this since November – it has taken me a while but it was so worth it. This classic is long but don’t let that put you off. This book has so many twists and turns – you can really tell it was written as part of a serial – things just keep happening! It’s told from different perspectives – a device never seen before according to Wilkie Collins! It starts off from Walter Hartright’s perspective when he sees a young woman, lost,  dressed all in white asking for his help. He obliges, helping her get into a cab only to discover that she’s escaped from an insane asylum. Things just get weirder from hereon in. It’s a classic gothic mystery with bizarre characters that you’ll love and love to hate (Count Fosco, I’m looking at you). Would highly recommend.

January Spotlight

The book I’d like to highlight out of all the things I’ve read this month and the one that I’d really urge everyone to pick up is The American Lover by Rose Tremain. book5.JPG

You know when you read an author for the first time and you just think, wait, where have they been all my reading life? Suddenly you have a strong desire to read everything they’ve ever written. I picked this up last year sometime in a charity shop, and it’s been lurking on my shelf for a while, waiting to be picked up. I’m so glad I did. This is a glorious short story collection. It has stories that make you cry with rich, fully realised characters and intertextuality (something I love! Anybody who’s a fan of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca will get a kick out of one particular story). Each story felt so complete and perfect. I would highly recommend this collection. Please read it. 5 out of 5 stars.