This installment focuses exclusively on my TBR shelf, because I recently noticed that I’d added a lot of new books. Blame all the “Books I’m Excited for in 2019” posts, blame my extra free time to scroll through Goodreads and notice all the books I haven’t read yet — but whatever the reason, I had 799 books on my TBR. And considering my resolution was to not surpass 800, this post is coming just in time.
As a heads up, I’ve decided to tackle a whopping 15 books in this installment, because clearly drastic action is needed to keep my TBR under control.
Lia @ Lost in a Story is the creator of Down the TBR Hole (and the header graphic above). Here’s the process:
- Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
- Order by ascending date added.
- Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
- Read the synopses of the books.
- Decide: should it stay or go?
(You can click on the cover images below to see each book’s Goodreads page.)
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.
Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives …
It’s about friendship between two boys (which I really value in the face of toxic masculinity) and mental health, and the reviews are glowing. Of course, none of that made The Wicker King less of a disappointment for me. But I’m still fundamentally optimistic (and hoping really really hard that this one is actually good), so it stays. ✔
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
When FBI agents knocked on her door to investigate a ten-year-old crime, Piper Kerman barely resembled the reckless young woman she was shortly after graduating Smith College.
Happily ensconced in a New York City apartment, with a promising career and an attentive boyfriend, she was suddenly forced to reckon with the consequences of her very brief, very careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking a decade earlier.
Following a plea deal, she spent 15 months at “Club Fed”, the infamous women’s correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, where she not only gained a unique perspective on the criminal justice system, but also met a surprising and varied community of women living under exceptional circumstances.
I have not seen the Netflix show, nor do I plan to in the near future given all the drama. And a lot of the reviews warn about the unexamined privilege and poor writing … yikes. It goes. ✖
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space.
It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time Ghosts.
Here, a Time Patrol works to preserve historical events – but unknown rogue time-travellers are plotting to take control and are stealing the wards that protect the city. If they succeed, Time City and History as we know it will both be destroyed.
Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can help to save their home – for, astonishingly, she appears as a Time Ghost herself in a forgotten part of the city. But how can she possibly know what to do, when the important event hasn’t even happened yet?!
I love Howl’s Moving Castle (both the trilogy and the Ghibli movie), but Fire and Hemlock and Charmed Life were honestly pretty disappointing. Still, I’m trying to balance out all the high-fantasy on my TBR with sci-fi, and I love time travel stories. It stays. ✔
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
If Antoinette Cosway, a spirited Creole heiress, could have foreseen the terrible future that awaited her, she would not have married the young Englishman. Initially drawn to her beauty and sensuality, he becomes increasingly frustrated by his inability to reach into her soul. He forces Anoinette to conform to his rigid Victorian ideals, unaware that in taking away her identity he is destroying a part of himself as well as pushing her towards madness.
Well, I love retellings, especially alternate-POV retellings, and I love Jane Eyre. And I’ve heard so much about this book over the years — good, bad, and ambivalent — and I can never resist the curiosity that mix creates. It stays. ✔
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
BOY Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman — craftsman, widower, and father of Snow. SNOW is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished — exactly the sort of little girl Boy never was, and Boy is utterly beguiled by her. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that’s simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow’s sister, Bird. When BIRD is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart. Sparkling with wit and vibrancy, Boy, Snow, Bird is a deeply moving novel about three women and the strange connection between them.
I actually remember that this book is on my TBR, if not why, and every year or so I check again to see if my library’s picked up a copy. (The answer’s still no.) But for some reason I am disproportionately invested in reading this? So it stays. ✔
Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc.
Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation. As the seniors continue to pop like balloons and the national eye turns to Mara’s suburban New Jersey hometown, the FBI rolls in and the search for a reason is on.
Whip-smart and blunt, Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it while trying to make it to graduation in one piece. It’s an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard from the President of the United States.
No one seems to be talking about this book much, but I’m still intrigued. Also, I’m going through kind of a nostalgic phase, and senior year of high school was A Time. It stays. ✔
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
It starts with whispers.
Then someone picks up a stone.
Finally, the fires begin.
When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . .
Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.
But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.
I’ve been meaning to give Terry Pratchett a try since middle school. You had me at “witches.” (Especially since I hear you can read these books out of order.) It stays. ✔
A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer
In a world where males are rarely born, they’ve become a commodity-traded and sold like property. Jerin Whistler has come of age for marriage and his handsome features have come to the attention of the royal princesses. But such attentions can be dangerous-especially as Jerin uncovers the dark mysteries the royal family is hiding.
This actually got on my radar by being the basis for a Bellarke fic by Chash. (I was going to link the specific fic, but I can’t remember the title and Chash has posted over 500 fics for The 100.) Oh, and while I’m linking lots of non bookish things, it also reminds me of this Anna Akana short. But back to the book: it’s a fascinating concept, and it stays. ✔
The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida
Growing up in California, Yoshi knew her family looked different from their neighbors. Still, she felt like an American. But everything changed when America went to war against Japan. Along with all the other Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, Yoshi’s family were rounded up and imprisoned in a crowded. badly built camp in the desert because they “looked like the enemy.” Yoshiko Uchida grew up to be an award-winning author. This memoir of her childhood gives a personal account of a shameful episode in American history.
My first Yoshiko Uchida book was Journey to Topaz in fifth(?) grade, and while it wasn’t easy reading about Japanese internment, we read some of her other work and I fell in love. I’m always searching for good Asian-American representation, plus I have a weakness for memoirs. It stays. ✔
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child.
The Devil Wears Prada gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about “The Boss from Hell.” Narrated in Andrea’s smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda’s children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day—and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous, however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.
I won’t say that I adore the movie, but it’s lots of fun to watch. However, the top reviews are pretty negative (though there are also plenty of people who loved it), dissatisfied with a lack of depth, and I do feel like I already know this story pretty well. It goes. ✖
Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin
In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It’s an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from established and rising authors to confront the age-old question: how do creative people make money?
Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with any of the alleged big-name contributors; I’ve heard of most of them but haven’t read much, if any, of their works. Anthologies are a little iffy, but I think this is a topic I’m really interested in, and one that can only benefit from a diversity of voices. It stays. ✔
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.
A recommendation from my AP Lang teacher, who introduced our class to a variety of philosophical readings and films. I’ve also heard a lot about this book from the Goodreads community in general, and I’m fascinated by the premise. It stays. ✔
The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues… At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them. Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one’s ever asked them before.
Not to start a sociopolitical flame war, but to be quite honest I’m personally kind of over vagina-centered feminism: the crass language that tends to be used, the reduction of complex beliefs and behaviors to biology, the exclusion of trans women. And while I understand the argument for decreasing stigma surrounding female biology and desire, sometimes I think it goes too far too soon. Not reading this book doesn’t invalidate my views on intersectionality (oops, that was a lot of negatives, but you get what I mean), and the thought of reading this book really doesn’t spark joy, or even much interest anymore. It goes. ✖
Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course by Gordon Ramsay
The ultimate reference bible, this book is about giving home cooks the desire, confidence and inspiration to hit the stoves and get cooking. Gordon will share all sorts of useful tricks and tips from his years as a professional chef, making this the only cookery course you’ll ever need.
I’m finally moving out of the school dorms and getting off the university meal plan starting this summer, and apparently part of adulting is being able to feed yourself. Also, I’ve seen a lot of MasterChef Junior and the tutorials on his YouTube channel, so I know I like his style. It stays. ✔
The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More by Michelle McGagh
Personal finance journalist, Michelle McGagh, takes on a challenge to not spend money for a whole year in an engaging narrative that combines personal experience with accessible advice on money so you can learn to spend less and live more.
Michelle McGagh has been writing about money for over a decade but she was spending with abandon and ignoring bank statements. Just because she wasn’t in serious debt, apart from her massive London mortgage, she thought she was in control. She wasn’t.
Michelle’s took a radical approach and set herself a challenge to not spend anything for an entire year. She paid her bills and she has a minimal budget for her weekly groceries but otherwise Michelle spent no money at all.
She found creative ways to live have a social life and to travel for free. She has saved money but more importantly she is happier. Her relationship with money, with things, with time, with others has changed for the better.
According to the reviews this book is very limited in scope to basic tips, tricks that only work for middle-class Londoners like the author, and a very specific personal experience. It goes. ✖
The Total: 11 stay | 4 go 😅
If you’ve read any of the books on this list, I’d love to know if you agree with my decision to keep/remove them! And, just out of curiosity, how many books are on your TBR?