Here’s a photo of my TBR shelves in case you’d like a nosey.
I always enjoy seeing other people’s bookshelves, so thought I’d let you guys into my inner sanctum sanctorum!
You’re welcome. 🙂
Here’s a photo of my TBR shelves in case you’d like a nosey.
I always enjoy seeing other people’s bookshelves, so thought I’d let you guys into my inner sanctum sanctorum!
You’re welcome. 🙂
Strolling around the blogosphere seeing what’s going on, I read Thomas’ great blog at Hogglestock, and saw that he had a complete re-org of his library shelves (and he really does have a dedicated library room. #SeriousReader.)
Seeing the photos of him messing around with his book collection made me want to at least catalogue what titles are in my own TBR pile, thinking that if I had a better idea of what books I actually owned, it would actually lead to an increased likelihood of me reading them (in theory).
Plus – like a lot of book-y people, I love lists.
So, I opened up an Excel sheet and got to work. With the leg in plaster, I couldn’t pull all the books off the shelf (a la Thomas), so I ended taking photos with my camera of each shelf, and then moved to another room to type up the info, using the photos as reference for adding to the Excel sheet. It worked out really well, and although it’s not the same as physically taking books off the shelf and physically handling them, it came close enough for me.
(I’m still going to remove all the books from my bookshelves at some point, but that can happen only when this cast is removed. Not too long now… One more month to go.)
Reading about other people’s TBR piles, I became very curious about what exactly my own stash was holding, and I dug in. The end results were pretty interesting (to me, at least), and the numbers weren’t as bad as I had thought. (Everything is relative though.)
My total of TBR (both fiction and NF) is 399. (Let’s say 400 in case I missed a title here or there.)
This is divided up into two main categories:
I am quite surprised about the number of fiction books that I have. I would have sworn that I had less than that, but you can’t fight numbers, can you?
With the NF, I seem to have a penchant for buying books concerned with history (mostly Victorian), but some other historical pieces slip through the net at times (e.g. social history, early American life etc.), social justice [esp. in the last year or so], travel, well-written biographies and autobiographies, and then the always-popular books-about-books.
That said, there are some rather random (but still interesting) one-off topics in there:
And the list just continues. I’m very glad that I took the time to do this project as it’s opened my eyes to the books I already own, all of which I’d like to read. (Except one or two odd titles that are going to the FoL Library Sale forthwith. I have no idea how they slipped through the defensive team, but there you go… Can’t win them all.)
One of the major benefits of working for a large state-run university happens between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and consists of one solid week when the university shuts down for the holidays. I imagine the Police et al. are still there, but for us worker bees, we have a whole week plus two weekends off. It’s glorious, and one of the best presents that the university can give to us. And that time is now, my friends.
So – have I been using my free time wisely and crossing pesky things off my To-Do list? HA.
Shall we see just what I’ve been doing the last few days?
My ankle is still encased in a plaster cast and so I’m cruising around on this knee-scooter thing. On a nice smooth surface (such as in the university library), it’s really fun to see how fast you can go. It’s fun until you hit the edge of a carpet which then catapults you over the handle bars and gives you bruised knees, a black eye, and breaks your glasses. Not only that, undignified as it was, but it also took three kind people to help me off the floor as I can’t put any weight on that surgery ankle. Needless to say, I have kept to a more sensible speed since then, but it was fun while it lasted. 🙂
It’s been freakishly cold here since Christmas, and so of course, the (mostly outside) cats have been sneaking inside for a nice warm snooze in the evenings. The temps got down to 24 degrees the other night (when 32 is freezing), and who can say no to three small furry faces looking up at you on the door step? Plus there was a dusting of snow the other day…
I caught some of the great Christmas sales for the community stockings that I put together each year. (Total fun to do, and if you time your shopping just right for the sales, you can get some good stuff without breaking the bank.)
Saw the new Star Wars movie, caught up with some friends, and am generally not doing much which is just what we need to get ready for the new year.
I’m working on a Best of… book post, catching up with the book stats and showing off my new acquisitions, so expect those soon, and in the meantime, I’m just diving into Emily Eden’s books, The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House (Virago imprint, 1859/60). It’s very forward thinking for being written more than a hundred years ago, and Eden has been compared with Austen et al., so looking forward to the read.
Hope your holidays and Christmas/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Hanukah et al. have been fun for you and yours. I’m off to catch up on some of my blog reading….
As a public service to you (and a rather fun thing for me to do at the same time), I thought I’d gather some of the titles that I’ve read over the years and that seem to have a summer kind of feel…
Just seeing these titles brings up memories of outside fun in the sun and reading inside in the cool, so perhaps you may like some of them for your reading choices this season. (The list is in completely random order, btw…)
I’m not sure that some of these would qualify for the traditional “Beach Read” definition, but they’re enjoyable all the same. (I’d read them on the beach, but perhaps I’m weird!)
And, naturally, I’d love to hear your suggestions (even if your summer isn’t here yet).
Books with a child’s perspective (and sometimes coming-of-age narratives) would also make up quite a few of my recommendations. (Who can forget those days of summer when you’re a kid [if you’re a lucky kid])?
So, to start off, I thought I would begin the list with some more traditional summer-focused (perhaps “summer-feel”) books.
Since I’m in America, I’ll start off with Twain’s two great summer books, Tom Sawyer (1876) and Huckleberry Finn (1884). Sure, there are “teachable” moments in each of them, but these just remind me of childhood in some ways. (Admittedly, my childhood was nothing like them as I grew up in Bedford, England, but they’re still good to read. Our town did have a lovely river though… )
Oh, and don’t forget the adorable Anne of Green Gables who will charm your socks off.
A more English-y summer selection could be, let’s say, Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908) (which I adore) but which has no blog post (pre-blog). Hmm. May have to reread this little gem again over the next few hot months…. It’s as close to perfect a gentle summer read as anything you’ll find.
For a more caper-ish approach to English summer, try Just William – Richmal Compton (1922), which has some really funny scenes in it regarding its titular character, William, and some of his adventures… (Plus there is a series of books about him… Lots of summer reading ahead!) Compton also wrote some more adult fiction which others have raved about, so you could check that back-list… Good caper novels are also some of those by John Buchan (who wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps et al.)
If you’re more interested in the gently humorous adventures of a particular young bear, then you can’t go wrong with the the Paddington Bear Series as they are set in mostly sunny summers (despite being in England ). Yes, they’re children’s lit, but they are so sweet, and sometimes when it’s 114 degrees outside (as it was the other day), you just want gentle and sweet…
If you’d rather have an arachnid as the star, don’t forget about E. B. White’s delightful (and rather poignant) Charlotte’s Web (1952). Sidenote: E.B. White also has several books of well-mannered and pretty gentle essays that are perfect to read on a lovely summer day in a hammock, for example. Try this one for starters: Essays of E. B. White (1977). Reading it is like having a great cup of tea (or glass of iced tea) with an interesting and funny conversationalist.
Ray Bradbury has a couple of strong contenders in this category, Dandelion Wine (1957) being my favorite. (He also has a sequel of sorts, Farewell Summer (2006), and it’s almost as good as that first one, but then it gets all weird in the last chapter without explanation, so perhaps a more muted endorsement there.) If you’d like something more challenging, check out Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for a good spec fiction type of read. (Haven’t read his other sci fi titles, but I expect that they are pretty good.)
From English soil, I’d suggest Winifred Foley’s trilogy that starts off with A Child in the Forest (1974), an autobiographical book of Foley’s childhood of living in a loving but poor family in the forest in Gloucestershire. Marvelous commentary on her life, with some really good and very witty pieces in there as well.
Along those same lines (but with a very different British childhood experience), check out this title, From Middle England: A Memory of the Thirties by Philip Oakes (1980) which is another very witty childhood recollection, this time of growing up in an English boarding school.
(Other boarding school stories which are not very demanding reading but would still be fun include Mallory Towers series from Enid Blyton…)
Oh, almost forgot this one: The Railway Children – Edith Nesbitt (1906). (Lots of jolly hockey sticks, how dashing, old thing, perhaps a midnight feast or two, and lashings of ginger beer…)
For a great summer read, you certainly can’t go wrong with Laurie Lee’s classic, Cider with Rosie (1959) (pre-blog) followed up with its sequel of sorts, As I Walked out one Midsummer Morning (1969).
For an American perspective of growing up, perhaps you’d like the play, Brighton Beach Memoirs (Neil Simon (1984), which details the childhood of a funny young man as he navigates those teenaged years on the East Coast during the 40’s… 🙂
(That reminds me: if your community has any local plays, serious or otherwise, they can be really fun to attend and it’s great to see (probably) local volunteers acting their hearts out. Just go with a generous spirit… 🙂 )
Moving into a slightly older age group with the characters’ lives, I’d suggest Seventeen – Booth Tarkington (1914) which covers a gently humorous approach to the tragedies and fragile joys of having your first love. (This is a U.S. book, but the feelings are universal.)
For a complete change of pace but still linking with the topic of coming-of-age/young people, I rather think that Lucy Knisley’s graphic novels have a summer-y feel to them: Displacement and French Milk seem warm-weather to me… Or what about An Age of License: A Travelogue or even her first book Relish?
This leads me to funny (or what I think are funny) books. Have a try at some of these if you’d like to have a good laugh (assuming you have a similar sense of humor as I do):
The Jerome book is in a diary format with short entries, and if you’re in the mood for some good and pretty funny epistolary (journal/letter format) reading, I can suggest the absolutely gorgeous read, Letters from New York – Helene Hanff (1992).
More diary joy resides in The Country Diaries: A Year in the British Countryside (Alan Taylor (ed.) (2009)) which, just as it says on the tin, covers a whole calendar year of real diary entries about rural living in England from people through history up to the present. An excellent read, and great for picking and putting down, should the summer temperatures affect your concentration…
(You could also try The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diaries edited by Irene and Alan Taylor. More of the same except broader in scope — a much longer read from a wider selection of sources…)
And Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader (2007) had me nodding with agreement as he talks about how the Queen of England discovers the joy of reading… 🙂
Some other authors with lots of titles that don’t particularly need to be read in order (because – summer!) and that are just plain good and perfect for hot days:
And then don’t rule out the older titles for they also can be great. For example, the long novella/short novel, Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton 1911) is a great read packed with lots of things to think about during and post-reading.
Christopher Morley is a US author, but if you’ve not heard of him, never fear. He’s available on Project Gutenberg and elsewhere, and for just a plain good read of a book about the joys of books and reading, look no further than Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop . *Perfect* for bookie people, these may very well bring tears to your eyes as they are so gorgeous…
English author, T. H. White, is more known for writing about King Arthur and his men, but he does have a gorgeous and poignant back list title called Farewell Victoria (1933) which is a novel following the life of an older character who is struggling to keep up with the process of time at the turn of the twentieth century. (He wasn’t the only one, naturally, as there were/are whole generations with the same struggle.)
I’ll make a break here, but watch out for the non-fiction-heavy book list of suggested summer reading coming soon.
In the meantime, what are your recommendations for some hot weather reading?
ETA: I’ve just noticed that this list of recommendations has very few POC authors or topics in this. I’ll get that addressed soon as there’s a ton of good reads in that category as well…
So minor thought here: did the author’s mum and dad mean to leave the “n” in the middle of his name? Or is this a name that is specific to an geographic area? Personally, I would blame it on poor handwriting for the birth certificate….. 🙂
A glorious and exuberant tour of a life steeped in books, Michael Dirda’s Browsings is a balm for the literary soul. Enough of such hyperbole, I say. But this was a good book, and Dirda is like having a very literate friend who seems to have read just about everything. Any time you read some Dirda, your TBR list is going to lengthen with books and authors who you didn’t even know existed.
Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize winning book review columnist who has written for a lot of elite pubs (including WaPo and NYT). He has a Ph.D. in comparative literature (including Mediaeval poetry) and yet writes in an inclusive yet scholarly manner. Not having an enormous background in Mediaeval poetry (and similar), I must own up to not being familiar with about half of the titles that he writes about, but he writes about these books in such an accessible way that you don’t mind. I think this is quite an achievement – that someone with such an academic background can make poets of the Middle Ages seem appealing is not for the faint-hearted.
“None of us, of course, will ever read all the books we’d like, but we can still make a stab at it. Why deny yourself all that pleasure? So look around tonight or this weekend, see what catches your fancy on the bookshelf, at the library, or in the bookstore; maybe try something a little unusual, a little different, and then don’t stop. Do it again, with a new book or an old author the following week. Go on – be bold, be insatiable, be restlessly unashamedly promiscuous…”
This book is a collection of a year’s worth of book review columns that Dirda had put together for The American Scholar, and ranges across every kind of book there is. Having a Ph.D. from Cornell, Dirda has taught literature at the university level, including one about the “Boy’s Own” kind of adventure books from 1860-1930, a few of which look appealing. (To see the type of books that he suggests for interested readers, see my review of The 39 Steps by John Buchan  here.)
I may be going overboard in my gushing his praise, but I loved this read and I think you may as well. Don’t be put off if you’re not well grounded in long-forgotten esoteric titles – this will be happy hunting ground for you, I promise. Enjoy!
With the holidays being more and more over, and with my break from work coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking about resuming normal life and all those routines. However, my break’s not over just yet, so I thought I’d chat a bit about what exactly I’ve been doing to fill those two holiday weeks.
First, it’s been a fabulous time. We haven’t done anything that sounds very spectacular, but we have been having a lovely down-time to just “be”, and that’s been invaluable. You’d think that with all that time off, I would have filled it with reading, but I was much more drawn in to doing anything BUT reading, and so that is what I did in the end. Just bumbled around and caught up and slept in and went out to see old and new friends.
And in between, there was a book here and there, and a professional massage or two, and putting the Christmas tree up (and taking it down), and all those little things in between that make life fun.
This area of the Texas Panhandle where I live is (in)famous for its extreme weather throughout the year, and as part of that, we’ve just had a huge ice storm followed by some snow (and now freezing rain) which has considerably slowed down the world where we are (in a good way), and so since I’m not overflowing with recent books-read reviews, I thought I’d just chit-chat…
With this big cold front coming through, it’s been the ideal time to put flannel sheets on the bed. (I know – who would think old-fashioned flannel sheets would merit some blog post space? But they do.) It’s not too often that we get the chance to put flannels on the bed, and so when we do, it’s always a treat and even more so when it’s very cold outside. (Really cold weather runs about 1 week/year on average here in our area, so it’s a pretty big thing for us to have cold temps that last more than a day. Aaah. Those little things in life, right?) So sleeping and reading in bed has been a favorite choice this week as it’s such a snuggly warm and soft cocoon in which to be… What bliss.
Along with the cold and the flannels, I’ve managed to hit some of the after-Christmas sales and picked up 90% of the contents for the kids’ stockings for next Christmas. (I don’t mean to brag, but merely to say that I help out the Salvation Army each year with their kid Christmas stockings which they distribute to kids who may not have much holiday spirit in their homes. The more I can save, the better their Christmas stockings and the more kids that I can help. It’s such a fun project, but it’s very under-publicized here and I wish more people knew about it.) Along with my office friends, we handed over seven VERY stuffed stockings this year – such fun for us and such fun for the kids to open (I hope)!
Since I haven’t been reading that much during the break, how have I filled my time? Watching movies for some of it. I watched a version of Wharton’s House of Mirth (which is considerably darker and more depressing than my read of the book was), and then a BBC film adaptation of The Duchess about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which was really intriguing and now I wonder how much was true. True or not, she seemed to be a fascinating character of the time.
I listened to the podcast, Serial, which started off great but then peetered out somewhat. (However, millions of people may disagree with me on this, but it might be because I happen to be married to a homicide detective and so I’m more familiar with this type of situation and hear lots of stories from DH.) Still good though. While doing some house projects (well, one), I listened to a wide selection of podcasts from TED, and during coffee breaks, I caught up with some of my magazine reading.
So, although my break sounds a little quiet, it was super fun and had a great mix of seeing lots of friends and catching up with solitude. It has really recharged me, and I’m hoping to jump back into the books and work as the year progresses. No new year resolutions for me, really. I just try to view each day as a fresh start and go on from there. (Don’t I sound like a person who’s perfect? I’m not really…)
The only big reading goal that I have is to stay the course of reading good books and keep choosing more titles from the TBR pile. 🙂