Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Books for the TBR Challenge

First of all, I have to let you know that there is a difference between my TBR tome, which has countless numbers of unread books written down in both electronic and non-electronic formats (an interesting "tome" indeed) and the shelves in our home, which contain countless numbers of unread books. My goal when I came up with this challenge was not to worry about the books on shelves, just to pore through everything and choose 20 books that I've been meaning to read and have yet to get around to reading. I planned to check those I didn't have out of the library. Nevertheless, it turns out that in browsing my lists and shelves, I ended up with 20 books that we do own. That means I will not be dependent on the library, which is nice (not that there is anything wrong with being dependent on a library).

Anyway, here is my list. I, like Dorr, am choosing these for now with the idea that, if I feel like it, I can make substitutions later. We'll see how it goes. If I manage to get through twenty books and enjoy the process, this might turn out to be a yearly event for me.

1. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
I actually have two Diane Ackerman's I've been meaning to read forever. The other one is The Moon By Whale Light. I chose this one, for now, because I'm more in the mood for it. That might change, however, so don't be surprised if I end up reading The Moon By Whale Light instead.

2. Brookland by Emily Barton
Should be pretty obvious why this one is on the list, especially for those of you who have been following me for three years and were there when I wrote one of those early posts about how I really do need to read one of her books.

3. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
Despite the fact I did not like Friends and Relations when I read it, I did promise myself I would give Elizabeth Bowen another go. A long-time friend of mine discovered Bowen this year and has been raving about her, so I decided this would be a good time for that "another go." But that's it. If I don't like this one, sorry, but I'm not trying anymore of hers.

4. A Window Over the Sink by Peg Bracken
I love Peg Bracken whose mid-twentieth-century books have such sensible titles as The I Hate to Cook Book and The I Hate to Housekeep Book (and are full of the sorts of recipes that people in that era ate). I bought this memoir a number of years ago, sure it would be delightful. So sure, I guess, that I decided I didn't need to read it to prove it so. Time for some proof…

5. Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin
I loved both of Colwin's books about cooking, but I've never read any of her fiction. This one is killing two birds with one stone: not only is it in this challenge, but it is also helping me keep up my goal of reading more short story collections.

6. The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany
A friend of mine has been pushing this book on me practically since the year we met, which was 2001, and Ms. Musings has recommended it to me, too. I finally found a copy at our library book sale last year, which was my first step towards reading it, but I keep choosing others over it, for some reason.

7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
I know, I know. Can you believe I haven't read it yet? And now everyone is raving about her newest one…

8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
I have yet to read a blog post that does not rave about this book. I picked it up at the 2009 library book sale, so it's a relatively recent purchase. It does sound like it's going to be brilliant, so I hope my expectations aren't so high that it can't deliver.

9. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
You can't attend seminary vicariously and not be aware of this book. People raved about this one while Bob was at Union. I think the first blog post I read about it was Dorr's. Bob read it in the fall of 2008, and I've been promising him ever since that I'd read it.

10. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
I am quite sure that this one has been in the TBR tome since before I even began to write the tome's first chapter. I think it was in the prequel. Anyway, that should be explanation enough as to why it's in the challenge.

11. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
I love Anne Lamott. It's been a while since I read anything by her. So this one is on the list as a "guaranteed to like" choice.

12. The Giant O'Brien by Hilary Mantel
Yet another author I've been promising a "second chance," because the first one was pretty disastrous. So many bloggers rave about her, though, that I can't help feel I must have missed something. We'll see. This one is short, so if it's really dreadful, I'll practically be done with it by the time I hit page 30 and might find myself finishing it, regardless.

13. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
McEwan had already had his two chances (Enduring Love, which was okay enough, despite its slapped-together ending, to lead me to Atonement, which I pretty much hated, although he did manage to drag me in enough that I wanted to find out what happened and so finished it). I'd decided he'd get no more of my time. I'd written him off as one of those "darlings of the literati" who shouldn't be. Then Hobs read this one, wrote about it, and I changed my tune. So, I'm giving McEwan one more go, but that's it. Really.

14. Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham
This might be a re-read. I went through a Maugham phase in my late teens, and I can't remember what I have and haven't read. I love Maugham. I have no doubt I will love this one (especially since it comes highly recommended by Litlove as a comfort read). I think a dreary day in February, when it should be snowing and is raining instead, after making a pot of tea and some brownies (or maybe it should just be ale and cake, although I prefer sherry with my cake, if we're choosing something alcoholic) might be perfect for this one. Okay, I've just made myself want to race off to the Amish bakery for some cake and to the liquor store for some sherry.

15. Still Life by Louise Penny
This one is in the most recent chapter of the TBR tome. I found out about Louise Penny from Susan over at You Can Never Have Too Many Books and decided I need to give her a read.

16. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart
I took this one from my parents' collections a number of years ago. It's the one on this list that I know I will absolutely read, because after deciding it ought to be a part of the challenge, I was asked to choose the next book for the CT mystery book discussion and chose this one.

17. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
I've never read any Roth. My friend Bob piqued my interest more than any reviewers have ever been able to pique it when it comes to reading him, so I put this one on my list, then bought it, but have yet to read it.

18. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Because, although I'm not as ga-ga over him as some, I do like Harry Potter, and really, I ought to get through the series sometime before he turns 50, oughtn't I? A lot of people I know say this is their favorite, so I'm looking forward to it.

19. In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike
2009 was supposed to be my year of John Updike (another author I'd never read and also highly recommended by the likes of the-friend-not-husband Bob and Hobs). I read exactly one book of poetry and one short story. However, I did buy three of his books. This is the one that is most striking my fancy at the moment, but again, might be exchanged for either Roger's Version or Marry Me.

20. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
This is another one Hobs (boy, he seems to have a lot of influence over me) raved about, so it tentatively went into the TBR tome. Then Ms. Musings also raved about it, and it made it permanently into the TBR tome. Bob bought it for me last Christmas. Really, it's about time I read it.

There you have it. I have anal-retentively arranged this list alphabetically by author's last name. However, I can tell you that the reader in me is saying, "Screw the anal-retentive nature. I am going to read these in any order I please, as the mood strikes me."

I hope others of you are planning on sharing your lists today (or this week, or whenever). Oh, and yes, yesterday, my last day of getting to purchase books before these are all read, I visited One World Classics and purchased three books (I'll let you know what they are if I ever read them).


litlove said...

I really want to read In the Beauty of Lilies and Bel Canto, so may well join in with you on those. And I also very much enjoyed On Chesil Beach - oh AND I am a huge fan of Laurie Colwin's fiction. That's a great list you have there, Emily, and I am looking forward to all your reviews!

Anonymous said...

I'm also looking forward to your reviews. I didn't make a list because I've never read books on any list I've come up with. But I did read The I Hate to Cook Book a gazillion years ago and still make the chocolate cake from it.

J.S. Peyton said...

I read "Bel Canto" years ago and it virtually broke my heart. It was good and I couldn't stop thinking about it for days.

I read "Gilead" in 2005 and it was easily the best thing I'd read that year - and I'm not even religious! :)

Stefanie said...

Nice list! I was going to post mine yesterday but was feeling a bit panicked about working on my final project for school so opted not to blog but to work on my paper instead. Tonight, though. there will be a list posted and a photo :)

Rebecca H. said...

Very nice list! A number of those books I've enjoyed myself, and a number I want to read, so I'm looking forward to reading your reviews of them. Now that I think about it, that was a part of the challenge, right? To post reviews? That's good -- that means lots of reviews will be forthcoming here!

ZoesMom said...

I'm already breaking the rules because I haven't created my list yet. Oy! I will get to work on that, but I need an extension on the buying deadline and the list deadline. :-)

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, ooo, I hope you do read those two. It will be interesting to get our different takes on them.

Lilian, it's always so much fun to find someone else who's read Peg Bracken. Most people have no clue who she is (definitely not a candidate for that list of "20th-century authors people will still be reading and studying 100 years from now).

JSP, well, that's two more great recommendations for those two books, so I'm very glad I decided to put them on the list.

Stef, I look forward to your post, then (and how high-tech with a photo and everything. Oh yeah, that's right, you ARE high-tech!).

Dorr, yes, if I manage to complete the challenge (less of a huge "if" than it normally is with challenges, since I must do so in order to buy books freely again according to my self-imposed rule), yes, you will see posts on each and every one of these titles here.

ZM, rules are meant to be broken, right? Besides, I'd much rather have been enjoying that fun drive from CT to TX and Thanksgiving of yours than worrying about creating book lists (despite the fact creating book lists is a great passion of mine).

Susan said...

ahem. *clears throat* do you have any books on your list that YOU want to read? Like, just books you've been putting off but that you know you're going to love??? It's a very interesting list, but your comments made me want to run and pick up any book by any author that I like!!!! So, maybe you could have a reserve list of: 'books by authors I like but just haven't read yet that I own',that would also fill the mandate of this challenge. You know, a list that makes you all happy inside. Ok you have Peg Bracken on there, who I read too a long time ago before I had a family and she made me laugh!! This sounds like a to-do list! kind of like housekeeping!

I don't mean to be heartless - I'm thrilled you mentioned me and Louise Penny, she really is a good mystery writer!! and I do keep picking up Bel Canto and then wondering if it's another boring literary book that has no story to it, just pretty writing.....and I'm scared to read the new Barbara Kingsolver because I couldn't even face the African religious one by her (see? I've blocked out the title), even though I love her earlier books! Have you read Annie Lamott's Bird By Bird? It could be a substitute (and a fun one, about writing!!) for the faith one by her....

Anyway, I just couldn't see any real thrill in your list, no real anticipation, and I thought maybe if you throw in a couple of ones you are delighted to be finally reading, it might make it more fun for you. then again, if you were me, I'd read those ones first and be left with the same list of books that other people loved,but I'm not sure about....!

Heather said...

I'm still working on my list. Sigh. So far I've whittled it down to 30 and I promise to post a list next week (with perhaps 5 backups).

Emily Barton said...

Susan, huh. You've got me thinking. It's interesting that the way I wrote about them made them come across as a to-do list, because I actually am VERY thrilled about this list. With the exception of the Mantel and the McEwan (and maybe the Bowen, although I have been assured I'll like that one by someone who has never steered me wrong), I can't wait to read all of these books and have already begun to do so. Actually, even the McEwan and Mantel I'm looking forward to just out of curiosity (and they are both very short). Oh, and I've read Bird by Bird, as well as Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (for some reason, I read that before reading the first) and absolutely loved both of them, so I know I'll love Traveling Mercies. She's a great and funny writer, and her "thoughts on faith" very much reflect many of my own "thoughts on faith."

Heather, can't wait to see your list once you've got the time to whittle it down (or maybe you should just have 30?).

Heather said...

30 might be good. LOL I've got it down to 25 (actually 24 because on the weekend I accidently started reading one of them and finished it!) LOL

Heather said...

oh! can we have one that we've started but haven't finished and really need to go back and begin again because they've been packed since July and you've just uncovered them?

Courtney said...

What a freaking fantastic list! You *almost* are convicing me to join your challenge but since I am already in the "From the Stacks" challenge which is similar, and since I totally annally retentively planned how to complete that challenge, I am trying to stick to my guns. I will be reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for that challenge, though. And I am aching to read Kingsolver's latest.

Emily Barton said...

Heathe, ah, someone else who "accidentally" read a book while composing her list for this challenge. I did the same thing! And you absolutely can have one you started and need to get back to.

Court, glad you like the list. No need to take on another challenge. Just live this one vicariously through me.

Anne Camille said...

I selected 20 books for this challenge the other day, then realized that the pile actually contained 22 books. And then I reread your list and forgot that I also wanted to read Traveling Mercies (which has been sitting on my desk for lunchtime reading for a few months, but has yet to be opened) and Edgar Sawtelle. So that's 24. And then there was another book on someone else's list. And another book by Anne Lamotte. So I have at least 25. And I just started a book I've had for a few years. 26! And what to do with the 4 gift cards I have to B&N and Borders? Here's to a great year of reading, whether new books, old books, recently acquired, or gathering dust on the shelves.

Melwyk said...

I've finally put up my list, and I'm having the same difficulties...I have at least 30 books I now want to read off my shelves. I've listed about 20 with a few backups - and am trying to finish off my library books in the next couple of days so I can jump right in on this list on January 1st! Looking forward to the challenge. :)