Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t Read

Beloved readers: it’s bad to have book ADD. I’m on about a dozen publisher and upcoming book mailing lists (Buzzfeed, NetGalley, Kirkus, Electric Lit, Signature) so I get the word on books that are coming out months before they hit the stores. I’m also constantly in the library, looking, searching. The books I don’t pick up on my visits there I often add to my TBR pile to come back and get at a later time. Then there are the books that you come across on your Goodreads recommendations late at night, thinking: damn that sounds interesting, so I add those too. Before you know it, you’re like me and you’ve got 609 books in your queue list. I am also no respecter of order–if I really like a book I read it right then, forget the books in the back that have been stuck there, waiting for years to be read.

So this Tuesday, I’m giving ya’ll a glimpse into the books that have been in my TBR pile the longest. I’ve been on Goodreads since 2008, so we can assume that they’ve been there for at least 10 years (or longer, depending on if the actual copy is sitting on my shelf at home).

  1. Midwives, Chris Bohjalian
  2. The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat
  3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  4. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
  5. The Age of Shiva, Manil Suri
  6. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi
  7. Dessa Rose, Sherley Anne Williams
  8. All Over Creation, Ruth L. Ozeki
  9. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
  10. You Remind Me of Me, Dan Chaon

And btw, add me on Goodreads, beloveds. Till next time…

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Book Q & A Monday, Part 4

A book that made you cry?

Jesus…so many. If I had to name one from recent memory, however, it would be A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I reviewed it here a while back but was still in a “good book” haze when I tried to write about it a couple hours later and couldn’t think of a thoughtful way to put how I felt about it into words. One day I will write a thoughtful review on it, but man…lemme tell you…that book, if you ever care to delve into it, is deep. It is about the innermost thoughts of a child whose mother is dying of cancer, thus he invents a ‘monster’ to deal with his grief. It is a YA book, but honestly I think it is for anyone who has ever lost someone and does not know how to begin to deal with their feelings about it. Its one of the most honest books on a subject that I’ve ever read in my life.

Most overrated book?

The Twilight series. I only read the first book, Twilight. It was so god-awful that I threw it into the trash when I finished it. Fished it out 30 minutes later and drove up to Goodwill and threw it in a donation bin. When they asked if I wanted a tax credit, I told them ‘nope’ and drove away. I would have left it in the trash had it not been for my overwhelming need to keep books in circulation, no matter what the subject matter is.

Most thought provoking book?

Another doozy here because there’s been so many. In recent years, however, I read and really thought that There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz was quite profound. Even though it was written in 1991, it is still timely and relevant, especially because when it comes to poverty and hopelessness in inner cities because not much has changed in 30 years. It is a work of nonfiction about a single mother of 8 children living in a housing project in Chicago. The book follows the family for 2 years as LaJoe deals with raising her 5 youngest children in one of the worst neighborhoods you can imagine–horrifying living conditions, crime, poverty, gangs, drugs, snipers on rooftops, bullets that fly through walls, etc. It is a tragedy, but there is something hopeful about the ending.  Very thought provoking.

Favorite classical author?

I’m really into Shakespeare–his sonnets and his plays. I also love Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, Henry David Thoreau.

Favorite classical work?

Hamlet. I read it in high school and I’ve loved it ever since. I can quote some of those lines over and over and never get tired of them because they’re so damn beautiful. I even found a recording of it and taped it to my belly when I was pregnant with my son and played it before I went to bed, every night until I delivered him. Strangely, he never would kick me during those times (a sign from above that he actually liked it–ha!).

Book Q & A Monday, Part 3

I’m backkkk…

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Drink, yes. Eat, no. Perhaps it’s because the coordination it requires to chew and read simultaneously is simply not there for me. But I generally don’t eat and read at the same time.

Do you read, chat, listen to tv while reading?

I do listen to music. Usually it’s something mellow like NIN (ok, Nine Inch Nails is far from mellow!) but there are some tracks NIN has that go well with reading. I also listen to classical, Lana del Rey, Radiohead, Bjork, tons of other bands while reading I won’t list here because there would be too many to name. I typically don’t talk to people while reading, and even though TV may be on in the background, I’m usually not watching it during that time.

Is there a certain spot you prefer for reading?

Hmm,not really. I read on my couch at home, at the library at school, at my desk at work. I am a bed reader–I sit on my bed and read, or lie under my covers and read until sleep sadly overtakes me. I know, I know. Zzzz…

Bookmark or scrap of paper?

I have to have a bookmark. I hate scraps of paper stuck in pages and dog-eared books. Now I will dog-ear a book if nothing is available, but I’ll always make a note to go back and mark it with a bookmark at my earliest convenience and gently ‘flatten’ back out the fold like I found it. I have hundreds of bookmarks I’ve collected over the years from libraries, reading programs, vendors at school conferences, etc. Whenever I see a display with them at a library or something I’ll usually go by and swipe a handful, place it in my bag, and then casually act as if I did nothing wrong.

Do you highlight or write in your books?

With nonfiction books I read for school–yes. It’s just easier for me to digest the information and retain it that way. I highlight in those books, I also write notes in the margins because these are ones that I will usually keep and never get rid of. I never write in fiction books, even if I buy them. Something about my fiction must remain pristine, just in case I want to give it away to someone or sell it used to get credit for a new book.

Another semester begins…

Class begins for me on Monday. And this isn’t even all of my required text books for this semester, I still have 5 more I need to locate, somehow. My classes are all pretty reading-intensive this time around (Research and Stats, Power, Privilege, & Education, and Literacy and Public Policy).

I always tell people who would like to work toward a PhD that they’ll be writing most of the time, however, reading (especially writing about what you’re reading) is a close second place. Professors don’t want to hear about what you read but rather, YOUR ideas on what you read. Fortunately I always look forward this process in my classes, I have yet to get bored.

Ode to Unfinished Books

The other day I happened to stumble upon an article in The Atlantic in which the author maintains that if you start a book, you must, by all means, finish it. She goes on to chide those (like myself) who are so uninspired after 50 pages that we give up on reading the book altogether:

To drop a novel after a few chapters is, then, to disregard what makes it a formal work of art rather than a heap of papers that reside in a desk drawer. Today, books and authors need all the help they can get; if you care about literature as an artistic endeavor and the people who create it, then you should do so fully. If you consider yourself a literary person, you shouldn’t just embrace the intellectual cachet that starting books gives you. 

I completely disagree with this. If you are reading for pleasure (reading that is completely outside of a class assignment, and I’ll assume that you are) then the reading experience should be, in some way, pleasurable to you. If you aren’t having fun, you shouldn’t be reading it. 

When I was younger I used to follow this policy, finishing every single book I picked up whether I wanted to or not. Then I stopped my nightly ritual of pleasure reading for over a year, because it just became another tedious chore. After slogging my way through many an unimpressive chick lit novel, I began to ask myself: why am I doing this? To prove something to myself? There is nothing I have to prove to myself as a reader, I do this activity simply because I want to. If the reading experience isn’t entertaining for you, as in, inspiring your life, or doesn’t prompt you to put your pencil to paper in any kind of thoughtful response–then why waste your time on books you don’t like? Books are like people, and life is far too short for crap.

There are plenty of reasons I’ve abandoned my intentions of finishing a book. Bad writing is one. Uninspiring character narration (think: Ferris Bueller’s history teacher), slow plot development is another. No plot at all, or gaping plot holes. Plot twists that lack any credibility and refuse to allow me to suspend disbelief. Too much going on in the plot, or a plot with too many “blank” spaces. If I have to read a paragraph three and four times to “get” it, reading it will get old really quick. Sometimes I can’t finish a book because the character’s behavior is so objectionable that I simply do not care to muck my brain up to read it any further. Sapphire’s novel The Kid comes to mind here, if anyone cares to read 300+ pages of graphic descriptions of rape scenes and the thoughts of an adolescent sex offender, please be my guest…

We all know some books start off slow, then pick up steam later in the reading. While this may be true, if the “steam” doesn’t begin in the first 50-75 pages, I reserve the right to put it down. I’ve left many books unfinished in my lifetime and before I leave this earth I’m sure I will leave many more in this fashion. It’s fine. I owe no one any apologies for my act and you don’t owe anyone (or yourself) any apologies, either.