Friday Fragments: TBR Trouble and Happy Reading

Well That Was Exciting!

So thanks to my last post, we had a couple of days where the blog was waaaaay busier than usual. Sunita has a round-up of this and other “mansplaining” incidents of the week. About that. In my academic world, the goal of an argument is not necessarily to “win” (there’s no one right way to interpret a text) but to make a persuasive case for your point of view. So I value conversation with people who disagree with me. However, I prefer they acknowledge that I have a different perspective for a reason (and maybe even concede a few points), especially when I grant them the same courtesy. I do think gender has something to do with this, though I know plenty of men who are capable of differing from me without mansplaining or condescending.

I tried to crowd-source super boring blog topics on Twitter to help me slip back into obscurity, but all I can say about plastic/contact paper covers for books is “I hates them.” So instead, a few words about what I’m reading–and what I’m not. 

TBR Trouble

I’ve mentioned before that my TBR is so big that it creates anxiety: I have so much I “should” read that sometimes it’s hard to read anything. A while back I decided I needed to stop buying books and make a dent in the TBR pile instead. And I feel as if I followed that resolve. I don’t head over to Harlequin’s e-bookstore each month when they release new titles, and snap up 4 or 5 that look interesting. I don’t make a list of the books I want for the month and go to Kobo or other e-bookstores to pick up several at a time. I am spending less on books.

However. I check out Dear Author’s daily deal posts and have picked up several bargains. The iPad + Kindle app are dangerous. I think I barely even register that I am adding these books, it’s so easy to do. Killing time one day, I picked up some books at my favorite indie bookstore. Then I decided to check out the used bookstore near work. I acquired two Mary Stewart books, two by Betty Neels, and the first of Laura Griffin’s Tracers series. Oops. Then there’s the library, which is free, but still keeps me out of the TBR pile.

The thing is, as many of you know, books can go “stale” in the TBR pile/file. There are books in there I really wanted to read, but somehow as I browse my shelves or scroll through my reader’s menu, none seem just right. It’s easier to grab a new one. I think I need to create some kind of challenge for myself so that I’ll be forced to choose. Or just a coin flip. Any ideas?

Happy Reading

I’ve been in kind of a reading slump, or just easily distracted, for a while. This may be part of my TBR problem. I don’t want to ruin a good book because I’m not in the mood. But in the last week, I’ve read or listened to several library books that I really enjoyed. Books that engrossed me, that I couldn’t put down, that I stayed up too late reading.

Rachel Hartman, Seraphina (read by Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre) I can see why this fantasy is marketed as YA–it’s a coming of age story, in part. But it’s also got a sophisticated political plot that would appeal to many adult fantasy readers. It reminded me of Megan Whelan Turner or Kristin Cashore in the richness of its invention. There are dragons, which I love, and they are both the familiar dragons of high fantasy and completely original. Here’s the Goodreads friend review that sold me. This was great to listen to (Williams is a good narrator, though her character voices weren’t that distinguishable), but I also felt I missed out, because the writing is lovely and there were passages I wanted to linger over. I look forward to more.

Marion Chesney, Lady Fortescue Steps Out (Poor Relations #1) (read by Davina Porter) I’d previously listened to Chesney’s Edwardian mysteries featuring Lady Rose, also read by Porter, and really enjoyed them. This is a frothy Regency comedy of manners, about a group of “poor relations” who band together to find independence, financial security, and companionship. They start a highly successful hotel, to the horror of their relatives. It’s very funny, but the characters’ desire for self-respect and meaningful lives keeps it from being pure fluff. The romance subplot is predictable but nonetheless enjoyable. My library doesn’t have more of the series (there are six in all), but I see they are on e-book. Hmm. . . perhaps I’ll wait and see if they get more audio. Very relaxing bedtime listening.

Catherine McKenzie, Arranged This was in a Dear Author deals post a week or so ago, but not as cheap in Canada (ironically, as the author’s Canadian). My library had it, though. I guess you’d call it chick lit: young single protagonist, check; unlucky in love, check; first-person narration, check; funny, check. Aside from romance, though, Anne is more competent and less the butt of the plot’s jokes than many chick lit heroines, and the plot is highly unusual: Anne decides to try an arranged marriage with a stranger found by an agency. That concept is pretty implausible, and the twist in the final third is more implausible still. But I pretty much ignored the holes, and found this a real page-turner. It’s light, but thoughtful about love. The middle section, is especially good, with a more charming and realistic depiction of falling in love than many romance novels I read. I liked the basic way the relationship was resolved, but the final third (it’s in three roughly equal sections) was a bit of a let-down. A lot was hand-waved away, including the amount Anne drinks, or too easily resolved, and I felt the novel missed a shot at being the more thoughtful, serious and moving book it almost was. It was still awfully good, though, and I think I’ll check out more McKenzie.

The only problem is, I’m not sure what to read next, and I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed after this great run.

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13 Responses to Friday Fragments: TBR Trouble and Happy Reading

  1. anna cowan says:

    It’s so weird but true that books go stale. I forced myself to delve into the TBR pile recently and came out with a KA Mitchell I’d picked up for free. The first few pages were so ridiculous I almost DNFd is and never went back – but I stuck with it and ended up buying another six of her titles in one week, or something ridiculous like that. I got totally hooked and, yes, side-tracked from my TBR pile once again, but it was so worth diving in and opening up one of those stale titles.

  2. mezzak says:

    DA’s daily deals have me buying books I don’t need given my enormous TBR even if I normally can’t access the savings here in Oz. But it is about that feeling of a book not being quite right (in the Goldilocks sense) for how I feel now that has me often scrolling past a TBR title and then buying something new. Also, sometimes I do buy and read stuff to connect with what is going in the great conversation about books on the blogs/twitter I follow which also takes me away from the TBR.

    I have Seraphina in my paper TBR so I will bring it forward

  3. VacuousMinx says:

    I am so glad you’re enjoying the Marion Chesney books! I’ve just come back to audiobooks after years away and I started with Richard Armitage reading Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage. He does have a terrific voice, and unlike other readers (listeners?) I’m not put off by his intepretation of the female characters’ dialogue. Two of my favorite audiobook series are mysteries by Simon Brett, where he does his own narration, and he approaches women in much the same way, so I’m used to it.

    Books do go stale in my TBR pile. On the other hand, sometimes they un-stale themselves and I enjoy them very much when I get to them.

  4. willaful says:

    I can’t remember if this was something I heard in library school or my own theory, but what I believe is that every time you look at a book and decide “no, I don’t want to read that” it leaves a little miasma of rejection about that book. The more often it happens, the staler the book becomes. I try to keep most of my books out of sight, which helps somewhat, but even looking at my TBR lists or calibre can help stale them.

    I fight TBR anxiety constantly. I’ve been pretty successful at resisting sales lately, but there’s always new books at the library, and of course free is harder to resist. I try to remember that I can always return them and check them out another time.

  5. I fight stale TBR in different ways, but the most successful for me has been to force myself to read my way through my Kindle alphabetically. Most of the time I get only to L or M and get sidetracked by something someone has buttonholed me on, or perhaps the latest by a favorite author, or something else shiny, but alpha through the list works as well as anything else. Mostly. At least some of the time. I’ve had some pleasant surprises with this system, and I like the feeling of being orderly and clearing as I go.

    Too much to read: what a luxury!

    • willaful says:

      Truly, a First World Problem. (Along with having trouble keeping track of my ereaders. 😉 ) Seriously, someone needs to invent an ereader rack.

      I’ve done something similar — read my PBS tbr in date added order. It was excellent for getting rid of stuff I really was no longer interested in. However, I’ve been sidelined in the last year or so by netGalley books, which generally have to take precedence.

  6. Barb in Maryland says:

    Ahhh–the dreaded TBR stack. Mine is pathetically small by most standards and yet it still causes me anxiety. I have learned over the years to avoid impulse buying. I used to joke that I worked for Waldenbooks for 3 years before I actually made any money! (That lovely employee discount, sigh!!). Being on a very limited budget now also helps curb the book=buy impulse ! I make good use of the library for all those ‘oooo, this looks interesting’ books. By the time I pick it up from the library and read the first so many pages I can usually return it without any need to finish it.
    Re; Stale–for me, once a book has sat around long enough to be stale, it’s a goner and its absence is rarely regretted. Ditto books from the library–once returned a book is rarely re-borrowed.

    Everyone has their own way of tackling a TBR–I have found that not adding to it is the only sure-fire way for me to cope. That said, I have to agree with ‘MeanOldFatBat’–too much to read is a luxury!

    • willaful says:

      I totally agree — not getting the book in the first place is so much easier for me than letting it go once I have it! I used to buy *any* romance found at the library sale and built up a mighty collection of junk, and the work it’s been to trim it back down… oy! Now I avoid buying anything there unless it was on my wishlist or is by a favorite author and I know I can’t get it at the library.

  7. coffee2words says:

    Try reading a rainbow, I wrote a post on it a few weeks back. It helped me read 12 books I pribably wouldn’t have gotten around to for ages!!

  8. You might like my recent post about my resolutions on my TBR pile: http://www.charleneoldham.com

  9. Liz Mc2 says:

    Thanks for some great TBR suggestions! I might give some of these a try. And it’s always comforting to know you’re not alone with a problem.

  10. LVLMLeah says:

    A few weeks ago a took a 4 shopping bags worth of paper books to Half Price Books to sell. Almost ALL of them were books on my TBR pile that no longer interested me. Many of them brand new. Of course, the ebooks in my TBR will still be there. But I never look at them. So sad.

    It’s not easy to do something like that though. It feels kind of like giving up realizing those books that I had to have at one time, turned me on to read at one time, no longer interest me and I know never will again.

  11. kaetrin says:

    My TBR is ridiculous and getting ridiculous-er. What makes a “stale” book especially sad is that so often I have 10 or 20 books I want to be reading “right now” but, given that I can’t absorb them through my skin like some sort of book patch, I can’t do that. And, inevitably, some of those “can’t wait to read” books of today become the “stale” books of next week or next month. I plan on reading them then I get them, I swear I do!

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