Down the TBR Hole #32

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

My TBR has grown a bit in recent weeks, thanks to me joining an independent-author book club (more on that later!) and many excellent book lists going around for marginalized groups.

It’s a bit late this month, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get done: time to nitpick my TBR and see what can get cut!

#1 – The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, by Esther Perel

I saw someone in my Tumblr circle mention this and thought it sounded interesting, not so much in a “maybe cheating isn’t so bad” way but a “we don’t talk about this much in any nuanced way in society” kind of way. And though my personal stance on infidelity is about as hard-nosed as there is, and I don’t think this book would change my mind about that, it could still be interesting. On the other hand, the reviews point to lots of anecdotes, little data, and sweeping generalizations about other cultures. Pass.

#2 – The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson

I clearly remember reading The Lottery in middle school, and as an adult I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read more by Jackson. This seems like an excellent next read (though I’m pretty sure I have more of her works on the TBR somewhere–I think I already okayed The Haunting of Hill House to stay on my TBR, and if I haven’t, when I get to it, I likely will.

So, yeah, this stays.

#3-10 – Dark Academia List Recs, various authors

The next few books all come from an unusual book rec list I saw exactly once and haven’t spied since: “female-written dark academia books that aren’t The Secret History.” I had read TSH and loved it, so I dug through the list and put everything that sounded even vaguely interesting on my TBR.

But in the years since, I’ve grown less interested in “dark academia” as a genre/aesthetic due to criticisms of both its general whiteness and lack of inclusion of other cultures, and the view from actual academia that it romanticizes their work/lifestyle in unhealthy ways while ignoring its difficulties and, you know, the actual work they do.

So with that in mind, I’m approaching this as “would I still want to read this book if I had heard about it from another source? can it stand on its own without the association?”

#3: The Chinese Garden, by Rosemary Manning — Queer boarding school story set in the 1920s, written in the 1960s? That’s enough of a hook on its own, this stays.

#4: Miss Pym Disposes, by Josephine Tey — A 1940s murder mystery set at a college. Nope, I’m good, thanks.

#5: Olivia, by Dorothy Strachey — More queer boarding schools! This one is touted as “a classic of lesbian fiction,” so yeah, I’m still interested.

#6: Regiment of Women, by Clemence Dane — An illicit lesbian affair between two teachers at a finishing school, which is undoubtedly why it made its way onto my TBR. But the blurb is almost nothing to go on, and many of the few reviews discuss how this comes across as anti-homosexuality, while others claim its portrayal of the “evil” lesbian is worthwhile because it displays far more nuance than the heterosexual ending the heroine gets. It sounds challenging and complicated, and if my goal were to deeply study portrayals of queerness through history, I’d want to read this even though it sounds like I wouldn’t enjoy it. But my TBR is (mostly) about reading for pleasure, so this goes.

#7: The Small Room, by May Sarton

Apparently the entire point of this novel is the view of college life as a pristine, privileged bubble of learning, and the dark part is when scandal strikes. Maybe it would still be interesting, but it doesn’t appear to have anything else to offer. It goes too.

#8: Frost in May, by Antonia White

Semi-autobiographical fiction, written in the 1930s, about a young girl sent to a convent when her parent converts to Catholicism. So not my thing.

#9 – The Getting of Wisdom, by Henry Handel Richardson

A coming-of-age, “how do I fit in” story of an Australian country girl going off to a city private school. And it was published in 1910. The big draw seems to be the timelessness of the story–many reviewers commented that the struggles of the main character could have happened much the same way a hundred years later. But I’m not specifically in the market for these stories, especially after my last bildungsroman read was actually painful. Almost made it, but I’ll pass.

#10 Miss Timmin’s School for Girls, by Nayana Currimbhoy

Remember how at the top I said part of the problem with dark academia is its whiteness? Well, here we’ve got a boarding school novel set in India and written by an Indian author. That makes me inclined to keep it as part of broadening my horizons. Problem is, the reviews overall aren’t great, and some specifically challenge its presentation of the queer elements of the story, which doesn’t give me high hopes. I think, coupled with me wanting to shed the aesthetic as much as possible, this should probably go too. Plus it’s a mystery at heart, one of my least favorite genres.

I cut 7/10 this month, and it definitely felt good–these were mostly impulsive additions that I probably never would have gotten to, anyway. As always, if you’ve read any of these and have opinions to share, let me know in the comments!

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