Down the TBR Hole #38

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 owned-and-unread book total is now just over 160, but my overall TBR is still 471. Let’s see what I can do about that today.

#1 – The Astonishing Color of After, by Emily X.R. Pan

Magical realism in YA? Not something I’ve really encountered before. While I often don’t care for the classic works in the genre, I’m not opposed to it in theory, I just think there’s a certain well-regarded author who needed to stop including so much pedophilia in his works.

Anyway. This apparently takes a soul-searching look at depression and the aftermath of suicide in a family, and though I’m not leaping to read those sorts of books right now, this sounds like it deserves to keep its spot on my TBR.

Only a few people I know have read this, but they all think highly of it, so that’s a good sign.

#2 – The Summer of Jordi Pérez, by Amy Spalding

I keep saying I need to read more queer fiction, especially lighthearted books, especially romances. And it keeps being true. While good bisexual representation continues to be difficult to find in the wild and I’d like to see more of it, I’m down with any solid wlw stories.

A close friend whose opinion often aligns with mine loves this book, and said lovely things about it not just in regards to the romance in it, but the friendships as well. Good friendships are also startlingly hard to find in fiction sometimes!

This can stay. I should start a separate list of things available through the library as audiobooks, so I can listen while I’m crafting, and put this right at the top of it.

#3 + #4 – Behind the Scenes and Under the Lights, by Dahlia Adler

I found Under the Lights on the same wlw-romance rec list I got Jordi from, up above. When I saw that it was second in a series, I added the first book, too. I’ll be honest, though, I don’t remember that much about either one of them, and that’s why I’m doing this extended TBR exercise in the first place.

They sound like fun, still. Teen Hollywood angst and love and figuring yourself out. And it’s a quick little two-book series, so they can both stay. If I read the first one and don’t like it, well, then I’ll axe the second, but otherwise I look forward to these two!

#5 – White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Rogin DiAngelo

Hoooo, boy. I’ve had this on my TBR since 2018, when it first came to my attention, but I’d mostly forgotten about it until the events of 2020 pushed nonfiction on anti-racism into a more prominent space in my life and my reading.

This has always appeared to be a divisive book for a number of reasons, but the strongest impression I get of it is that it’s a book by a white author meant to be read by white people, and among those white people it’s still divisive because some of the readers feel they’re being talked down to and others think it’s brilliant and still others dismiss this as corporate sensitivity-training nonsense that doesn’t really address the actual issues.

See, this book is such a conversation piece that I already know all that and I haven’t even read it. I doubt I’m going to now. I have many (many) other books on my anti-racism reading list that aren’t so controversial in whether they should even be included in the conversation (which many people think this book should not be.) I think I would rather tackle those.

#6 – Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver

Ugh. When I discovered Kingsolver several years ago, first with Prodigal Summer and then The Poisonwood Bible, I thought I had found a new favorite author, that I might actually like at least a little of the modern “literary” landscape.

Since then I have plodded my way through most of her back catalog and been generally disappointed, even to the point of DNF’ing two of her novels.

I put this on my list when it was released simply on the strength of the author, but since then I have revised my feelings towards her work. And the incredibly brief skim I did of others’ reviews showed me far too many instances of the word “tedious” and the phrase “could not finish.”

This goes, even if it makes me sad to cut it.

#7 – This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel

A book about a family with a child who knows they are transgender from a young age, and what they do to make life work for them. I need to be reading more trans books–I keep saying it and it keeps being true–so this gets to stay, even if I have some mild concerns about the actual quality of it based on what various reviews are saying.

Even if this isn’t perfect, it’s offering me a perspective I haven’t seen before, because basically all of the works I’ve read with trans characters have been YA focused on the experience of those trans characters, or romances with trans side characters who fall somewhere on the spectrum from “just there to exist” to “their trans identities are briefly important to the story but not much.” So I’d like to read a more family-oriented tale like this one.

#8 – Vita Nostra, by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko

This came from a list of modern Russian and Eastern European fiction that I pulled several titles from–one being The Night Watch, which I was not particularly impressed with, and also The Slynx, which I own but haven’t read yet. But it’s not this book’s fault I didn’t like something else I read from the same list. (Also the titles from the remainder of this post came from that same list.)

So, dark fantasy with academic aspects, highly-regarded, incredibly well-reviewed, and bonus: available as both an ebook and audiobook on Hoopla.

What’s not to like? Sure, I might be just as disappointed when I do read it, but the story still sounds interesting and it’s readily available to me.

This stays.

#9 – Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

Classic Polish science fiction, though I see some Polish reviewers object to using such an American concept of the genre to define it, saying it overlooks the philosophical value of the work.

I think classic sci-fi at its best is often deeply philosophical, and I’m encouraged by the Goodreads “readers also enjoyed” lineup, which includes Clarke’s Childhood’s End, a surprise 5-star read of 2020 for me.

My success rate with old sci-fi is spotty, because for every fantastic novel there’s generally four or five middling or terrible ones, but as I haven’t had the book spoiled for me by the movie–either of them, as I didn’t know there was even one, let alone two adaptations–I think this could still be a valuable read, though of course I’m prepared to be underwhelmed, as I am with any “classic.” This can stay.

#10 – The Encyclopedia of the Dead, by Danilo Kiš

Whatever made me pull this off the list for my TBR, whatever intrigued me, I’m not seeing it now upon reexamination. Sometimes I do get overeager when pillaging rec lists for future reading.

Or maybe I’m just tired of short story anthologies. I’m a novel reader. I will read novellas–they can be hard to avoid in my preferred genre, romance–but short stories are something I fell like I’ve mostly left behind in my high school English classes and college creative writing seminars. It isn’t that I think the format is inherently bad or without value–obviously it’s not–but I generally want more meat on a story’s bones than it will give me.

None of the one-sentence blurbs for any individual story are grabbing me, so this can safely go.

I cut 3/10 again this month, slow but steady progress. As usual, if you have a different opinion about any of these, good or bad, and want to talk it out, that comment section down there is waiting for your input!

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