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 want-to-read shelf is currently at 571 books. I scrolled through old posts to see how that stacked up to the last time I mentioned a number, and it’s nine books higher than two months ago, despite all the things I’ve read or cut since then! Did I really add so many books recently? Apparently so.
Time to take an ax to the list again.
#1 – The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
This stays, I don’t feel conflicted at all about keeping it. Even if I weren’t committed to broadening my reading horizons in general, this is a classic of black literature that’s been hanging around the fringes of my awareness forever, and I should really just get on with it already.
Unfortunately, it might be a while yet because Hoopla doesn’t have it and I’d rather not go to my physical library at the moment (they’re doing curbside appointments, but I have so much already at home to read.) It’ll keep.
#2 – If the Fates Allow, edited by Annie Harper
I have (finally) cleaned all my Christmas-themed romances out of my owned collection of books, but apparently not out of my TBR. I hadn’t thought I’d added any others because the Magic of ChristmasTM has worn thin for me.
Before I remembered that this was an LGBTQ anthology, my instinct was to cut it because of holiday exhaustion, but it is queer, and it’s entirely new-to-me authors, so there’s potential to find someone whose works I can enjoy and support. It stays.
#3 – Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
I’m always hesitant about venerated classics, because for every Jane Eyre and My Antonia, there’s a Great Gatsby and Women in Love. I adore them, or I hate them.
This particular work intrigues me because most male-authored classics can’t conceivably be labeled “romance,” and yet here this one is, getting it done. Others’ reviews aren’t helpful because, like most classics, there are too many in both the love and hate camps to go by numbers, and any given aspect of the book is both praised and criticized.
But it’s easily available at no cost to me, so there’s no harm in keeping it on the list just because I’m curious about a classic “romance” written by a man. I’ll get to it when I get to it, but it can stay.
#4 – Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers, by Taisia Kitaiskaia
This was a surprise when I read its blurb again–or possibly for the first time? I don’t remember the source where I found this, but I had a different impression of what the work was. I added it because I thought it was an anthology of witchy content by female authors of various levels of fame, but it’s more like a collection of miniature biographies with illustrations and vignettes, rather than short stories or excerpts of longer works. Not what I wanted: it goes.
#5 – The Gift of Fear: Survival Signs that Protect us from Violence, by Gavin de Becker
Again, I don’t remember the source, but on the surface this certainly sounded interesting to me. Enough to make it past my “I don’t read much nonfiction anymore” filter, and honestly enough that I do still want to read it.
However, the middling-to-poor reviews all throw red flags for things I’d rather avoid in my nonfiction: repetition, lack of data or other evidence in favor of anecdotes, and a certain “Thank you, Captain Obvious”-ness. I’ll pass. I can probably find a better work on the subject at some point.
#6 – Forevermore, by Kristen Callihan
So…I’m not sure how I managed to put the last book in a series on my list. Even if that was the specific one recommended to me, usually I would see that it’s not the series opener and add #1 instead (if it sounded good.) I’ve had poor luck jumping into paranormal romance series in the middle, because unlike many other romance subgenres, they tend to build on each other with world-building and plot elements, even if they don’t follow the same protagonists throughout (like, say, the Kate Daniels series.)
I see why this intrigued me–it’s paranormal, sure, but it’s also shelved by users on Goodreads as historical, steampunk, and with angels, demons, and magic. That makes it pretty unique in my experience with paranormal, which has all been solidly contemporary.
So, doing what I should have done in the first place, would I read the series opener, Firelight? Ummm…that looks like a no. The blurb sounds okayish but the critical reviews include things like pointless withholding of information and special snowflake protagonist and insta-lust instead of developed attraction and actual love. So this gets cut and does not get replaced with the novel that should have been on the list to begin with.
#7 – The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson
I know the short version of this story, thanks to the YouTube series Extra History. It was intriguing enough that I want to know more.
There are lots of positive reviews, a few middling, and very few poor. The middling ones aren’t throwing any flags that would turn me off a nonfiction title (like The Gift of Fear above) and everyone pretty much covers the basic content warning of “this is about a gross disease so maybe don’t read it if you’re squeamish.” I can handle that. Maybe not right now, but eventually. It can stay.
#8 – Blindness, by José Saramago
This is on my list because I saw the movie, which I felt was good enough that I wanted it to be better. The opening and ending were clunky and strange, but the bulk of it in the middle was a fascinating portrait of a microcosmic society created under stress and falling apart under its own weight.
I’m perfectly aware that my track record with modern award-winning fiction is spotty at best, but I want to know if the book will give me what the movie failed to deliver to my satisfaction. This stays.
#9 – Split, by Swati Avasthi
Another book where I have no idea where I came across it. It’s ten years old and not terribly popular in terms of readership size; but judging by the reviews, that readership loves it dearly.
I’m on board for the concept: so much fiction about domestic abuse concentrates on getting the victim away from their abuser. This follows the story of what happens after that. What does become of a teenage boy who leaves an abusive home? How does he move on? I like stories that approach familiar/overdone topics from new angles, so even if some of the more critical reviews have me concerned about the style or pacing, I think what I can gain from this as a writer trumps what might disappoint me as a reader. Time will tell, because this stays.
#10 + #11 – Wishful Drinking and Postcards from the Edge, by Carrie Fisher
Okay, I’ll admit it, I added both of these to the list about a year after Fisher’s death, which hit me harder than most other celebrities’ passings but wasn’t devastating. I was feeling nostalgic for her and her awesomeness.
But looking more deeply at the works themselves, I think this might be a case of “don’t meet your heroes.” I admire a lot of things Space Mom did and stood for, but I get the impression that her writing is just not that great, whether it’s memoir or fiction. I’m mostly over my celebrity-memoir phase anyway, there have been a few standouts for me but I mostly find them disappointing. These will go, but not because I don’t love Carrie Fisher. I do.
Okay, this month I cut five of eleven books, not bad, not bad. Overall, that brings me to book #173 on the master list. I did a little math to subtract how many of those I own (which I stopped considering for chopping quite some time ago.) There are 338 unowned books on my TBR, which means I’m just over halfway through! That feels like good news, except that my first DtTBR post was in July 2017, so I’ve been doing this for three years to get this far. I have considered doing more books per post (I already bumped it from five to ten and stopped including the books’ blurbs to make room) but a) these take a long time to put together compared to most of my other posts, and b) ten books makes for a long post already anyway. The other option is to do them more often, but a) my “writing” blog is already skewed heavily towards reading because of my weekly book review posts, and b) I try to limit “series” posts like this to once a month each so I’m not flooding anyone’s feed with repetitive content.
So I guess I’ll still be at this in three years. Except I’ll have added more books by then!