09 January 2010

TBR Challenge

How many books did you bring?, my husband asked the other day.

Eight, I replied. I didn't need to look up to know the expression on his face. I packed eight. This, I said holding up the book in my hands, is the longest and I'm reading it first.

A few months earlier, during the long, hot, dog-days of a boring summer -- the sort of boredom that only occurs when stranded sans car at one's parents' home during the university's summer break when no friends are in town -- my son said, pointing to an overflowing bookcase:

I'm bored. Would you recommend any of these books? You know, for me?

I don't know if you'd like any of those books. I haven't read any of them. There are lots in that bookcase you might like. But this bookcase, it's my TBR pile.

None? he said, astonished by the bibliographic largess in the corner of my living room.  Is there a meeting for that?

Then, sometime later, Emily created her TBR challenge, validation that I am not alone in my hording of unread books.   Despite the four bookstore gift cards in my wallet calling my name repeatedly, cards presented by well-meaning gift givers who certainly did not have prior insight into the towering piles of unread volumes in every room of my house, I have decided to participate and read 20 books before I purchase another new book. 

As the first of December, the start date for Em's challenge approached, I tried to choose 20 unread books, but soon I had more than the 20 required. I tried to organize into categories - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama; contemporary, classic; topical categories like theology/philosophy, politics, ecology, art. The stacks grew and diminished as I tried to strike a balance. Finally, I gave up, leaving a pile of about 30 books on the floor, immediately in front of the bookcase. There they remained until last week when I hurriedly packed for a two-week vacation. Those that I chose were selected on a basis of weight and page length, after I estimated that I could read about 600 -700 pages a week.

Here is what I chose:
Abraham, Bruce Feiler
A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, John Muir
The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare
In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
The Gathering, Anne Enright
Grace (Eventually), Anne Lamott
Case Histories, Kate Atkinson
Arthur and George, Julian Barnes
The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan

In Our Time is a re-read; The Omnivore's Dilemma is the lengthiest of the bunch and one that I should finish today or tomorrow.

My first book for this challenge, Florence of Arabia, Christopher Buckley, never made it to the plane as I finished it shortly before we left for the airport.

If you have grave concerns that I cannot count, I confess that eight was something of a ballpark estimate. Two of the books were in my computer bag, though I had intended them for this challenge. The two Shakespeare plays, I considered as one book, although by that logic, I should include the others in the set in my bookcase as part of one work, but I don't think that I will.

What about the other books to complete this challenge? Let's see how far I progress with these. It's been a cold and windy week in a beach condo not meant for near freezing weather. I've seen all of the movies I care to see right now, so it looks like there may be quite a bit of reading in the next six days, in between occasional daydreaming bouts of looking at the grey seas, and short walks along the windy shore.


Dorothy W. said...

Enjoy your vacation! Disappearing for a couple of weeks with lots of time to read sounds great. I'm very curious what you think of Case Histories if you end up getting to that one.

Emily Barton said...

Hope you've enjoyed all your reading. I did the same up in Maine for a week (where it was supposed to be cold -- and snowy -- and was !)