Tag Archives: TBR

Books Read from TBR pile in Q1 2017

At the end of last year I decided to seriously tackle the physical pile of books that I had at home. Some books, such as The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa or The Spire by Wiliam Golding I had been meaning to read for years. These days I also have many similar books on my kindle and then there are many that I have wanted to read for years but don’t actually own. Well, this all sounds familiar to anyone that enjoys reading so I wont bang on about it but I felt it was time to actually do something about it. At the end of my first post of 2017 I included a photo of (most of) the physical books that I currently have at home (I started to discover more after I had taken the photo) and so I thought I’d just have a quick update on my progress. Although I started on this in December last year because I joined the GoodReads Group – Mount TBR 2017 challenge I will only include those books read in 2017. For the record I read Collette’s The Pure and the Impure and Theodor Storm’s Paul the Puppeteer in December which are missing from this list. Anyway here’s a list and photo of those read in the first quarter of 2017:

1. The Immoralist by André Gide
2. Betrayal by Marquis de Sade
3. The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.
4. 88 More Stories by Guy de Maupassant
5. Something to Declare by Julian Barnes
6. Three Plays by August Strindberg
7. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
8. Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler
9. Vienna 1900: Games With Love And Death by Arthur Schnitzler
10. Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill
11. Don’t Know Much about History: Everything You Need to Know about American History But Never Learned by Kenneth C. Davis

Physical books read from TBR pile in first quarter of 2017

The pile on the left hand side are those I’m currently reading; the Nigel Slater book is one I’m just going to read as the year progresses as it’s in a diary format. Since taking the photo I have also started reading Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus which I’m enjoying and is from the TBR pile. I have committed to read twenty-four books in the GoodReads group but at this rate I could probably read near forty by the end of the year. But this is one of the issues I have with setting a number on the books I’m going to read, and is why I usually avoid doing so, and that is that the temptation is to concentrate on shorter and/or easier books just to get the numbers up. You can see from the photograph that I have largely concentrated on shorter volumes so far so I’ve probably been a bit guilty of that myself.

My reading in March has been disrupted by an illness followed by an A&E visit which wasn’t much fun and which I’m still partially recovering from. But the book I was reading when I fell ill was Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing, a book that I first read about on someone’s blog a year or so ago, and one that I felt I just had to read during this challenge as it is supposedly about Susan Hill’s attempt to read only books that she already owns. Although it was an interesting enough read I thought she veered off most of the time to just talk about the books she owned and the famous authors that she’d bumped into throughout her life. The blurb on the back says that she was to ’embark on a year-long voyage through her books, in order to get to know her own collection again.’ I took that to mean that she was doing what I was doing and reading books from her collection but what she is doing is rummaging through her collection to see what she has and what memories it evokes. This is why I initially found the list at the end of the book a bit confusing as it is not a list of the books that she read throughout the year but are those she would take with her on a desert island—strangely enough most of them are British authors with the occasional American thrown in for good measure; the only translated books were The Bible, The Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Now, I’m not critical of the choice, just surprised as my list (if it existed) would have a lot of French, German, Russian etc. authors.

It’s probably not worth me trying to predict the ones that I will read in the rest of the year as I usually have to go with what I feel like at that moment but I would like to finally read The Spire and I would like to continue my reading of the Clochemerle books by Gabriel Chevallier. I also have more H.E. Bates books to read and I keep picking up, but not starting, Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual.

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Filed under Fiction, Hill, Susan, Non-fiction

Bits & Pieces (Dec 2016)

Well first I would like to wish a Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that everyone is looking forward to some fun reading in 2017. I don’t feel like writing a retrospective of the books I read in 2016 but I thought that I would have a bit of a roundup of those I read in December. Since finishing German Literature Month (GLM) in November I haven’t posted too often but I have been reading, honest.

My Big Reading Task of 2016 was Anthony Powell’s twelve volume Dance to the Music of Time which I sort of ‘fell into’ really at the last minute as I read along with a GoodReads group; even when I started I wasn’t too sure if I’d stay to the end as I had intended in being free of any ‘Big Read Challenges’ for the year but I was soon hooked. I didn’t blog too much on the series as I found it a bit awkward to write Powell_Dance-04posts for separate books in the series where a knowledge of the characters’ antics in the previous volumes was really necessary. Each review would only have been of interest, I felt, to someone who was reading the same volumes at the same time as me. So, at one volume a month I got to the last volume, Hearing Secret Harmonies, in December; I was a little wary of this volume as I’d read quite a few negative comments on it but I found it to be one of my favourites of the series. It jumped forward to the early 1970s and almost brought events up to date as it was written in 1975. One of the joys of reading ‘Dance’ was that there were a whole host of characters, some of which appeared throughout the series, whilst others appeared and faded away. In later volumes we had X Trapnel who was based on the novelist Julian MacLaren-Ross and in this last volume we get the Manson-like hippy leader, Scorpio Murtlock, and the bizarre scenario of Widmerpool trying to join and take over the cult. It did seem a bit of an odd direction to take but I felt that Powell handled it brilliantly. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t read ‘Dance’ to consider reading it, although it’s twelve volumes it’s not as daunting as that sounds and each volume was a breeze to read.

After my reading for GLM I felt like reading something a bit ‘lighter’ and turned to an old favourite author of mine from the late ’80s, Martin Millar. He had a new book out called Kink Me Honey and where his previous book called The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies which was set in Ancient millar_kink-me-honey_amazonGreece hadn’t really appealed to me that much, this one did. Most of Millar’s books that I’d read had an urban setting and usually revolved around some kind of subculture, such as punks, travellers, etc. Kink Me Honey centres around an S&M club in London and whilst it is funny it is pretty raunchy as well. The book contains what are supposed to be posts and comments to the club’s website and through these we get a lot of subplots and diversions from the main plot; initially I thought that this part of the novel was a bit of a gimmick but I soon realised that Millar was using it to good effect by enabling him to poke fun at the way our online lives play out. Part of the humour is in the way that the cast of characters act just as they would in any other organisation or club and so there are feuds, bitching, funding problems, organisational problems, character clashes etc. Even though I finished it a month ago I still hope to write a longer review on it so I’ll not comment any further for now.

Theodor Storm is an author I only discovered from being a part of GLM and I had hoped to read another volume of his short stories/novellas for this year’s GLM but I ran out of time. Paul the Puppeteer and other Short Fiction consists of the three novellas all translated by Denis Jackson: The Village on the Moor, Paul the storm_paul-puppeteer-fcx-700pxPuppeteer and Renate. The title story is the best of the three as it is more immediate than the others; the main story is told to the narrator by the elderly Paul Paulsen and is basically a love story, even though it’s not really apparent until late on in the story. Paul is destined to become a master craftsman but he is fascinated with the puppetry of a travelling puppeteer and his daughter, Lisei. The puppeteers have to move on and Paul loses contact with them only to be reacquainted with them when he is older at a time when the elderly puppeteer has been falsely imprisoned for theft. The puppeteers are hounded by the authorities as if they’re vagrants and their form of entertainment is now falling out of fashion. It’s a sad, beautiful and uplifting story told in Storm’s unsentimental way. Renate takes place in the early eighteenth century and centres around the love of a Lutheran pastor for a girl who is subsequently accused of being a witch. As is usual with Storm the story is revealed from several incomplete sources. I feel that this one would benefit from another read.

I felt that overall my reading went quite well in 2016. Along with Powell’s ‘Dance’ I tackled Orlando Figes’s book on the Russian revolution, A People’s Tragedy. My GoodReads summary of the year (which can be viewed here if you’re interested in the details) shows that I read 45 books or 14,949 pages, which is paltry compared to some people but I’m quite happy with it. If I worried about such things I may mention that the Powell books only counted as four, rather than twelve, as I read them in the omnibus editions.

And so on to 2017! I have few plans for this year other than to read as many books as I can that I already own as the number of physical books that I now own is starting to be unmanageable. I’m not going to try to quantify what I intend to get through as I will undoubtedly be diverted from this task throughout the year but I shall chip away at the pile. Here is a photo of what I have to get through…and there are quite a few on my kindle as well…

Physical TBR pile as of January 2017

Physical TBR pile as of January 2017

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Filed under Fiction, Millar, Martin, Powell, Anthony, Storm, Theodor

Reading Methods

Like most readers I’ve got a TBR list a mile long but I’ve recently noticed something about my reading methods that is slightly disturbing; I have an ‘ordered’ ‘To-read’ shelf on GoodReads and I’ve noticed that the top five books, the ones that I am supposedly most eager to read, has stayed static for weeks, months maybe. Now, I really want to read these books but others come to my attention such as a book I spot in a library/bookshop or a Book Group decides to read something I also want to read which results in this interloper leapfrogging my TBR list and into pole position. For example Lampedusa’s The Leopard has been sitting in the top five for ages.

My physical TBR pile. I've added a few since the photo was taken. Of course I also have an e-TBR pile and a 'library-TBR' pile and a 'To Buy' pile and and...

My physical TBR pile. I’ve added a few since the photo was taken. Of course I also have an e-TBR pile and a ‘library-TBR’ pile and a ‘To Buy’ pile and and…

Now, last year I read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time with a GoodReads group and I followed a schedule quite strictly, only deviating from the schedule occasionally. Before I started I wondered if I would be able to keep to such a tight reading regime, but I did, and I actually quite liked it. So, I’ve been wondering lately whether there is any sense in devising a reading plan for a period, say six months, and keeping to it; I mean I would have to include a bit of ‘wriggle room’ but it would be a schedule nonetheless.

My immediate objection to this approach was that I wouldn’t be able to read something if I just wasn’t in the mood for it; after all if I felt like reading some dry-as-dust non-fiction (and sometimes I do) then it would be no good having P.G. Wodehouse scheduled. But, it would surely be easy to plan around this by having, say, two quite different books scheduled to be read at the same time so that I could oscillate between them as the daily mood required. The most difficult thing would be saying ‘no’ to the new enticing book that comes along to distract me from the Grand Plan.

So, I’m interested to know how others plan their reading; do you devise a schedule as I’m suggesting here or do you just decide from book to book? Or is it more like my current method, consisting of a vague intention to read specific books? If you do have a schedule how easy is it to keep to it? And does reading to a tight schedule become boring? This would probably be my greatest concern, that reading to a strict plan would soon become a chore.

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