A blog for everything bookish

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A Commitment to #TBR20

I mentioned #TBR20 in my 2015 Reading Ambitions blog, and since then the movement (started by blogger Eva Stalker) has been gaining steam and national attention, including multiple references on the Guardian website. Eva has compiled an excellent list of all the people taking part which includes pictures of people’s TBR piles which is worth a view here 

For myself, I had planned to pick my TBRs as I went along, I certainly have a large enough selection to choose from (I could probably choose a TBR100 without much effort). I started my initiative in December, and so far I’ve already read 10 of my TBR20. This has led to a number of soul-searching thoughts including ‘am I cheating?’, ‘am I making this too easy on myself?’, ‘am I really committed?’ and being honest I have to say that there may have been a slight degree of making the challenge easy (the selection  of a Moomins book condemns me, I think). So in typical me fashion I think that maybe I need to make this more of a challenge. I am pretty desperate to buy a book right now. There’s one particular book I really, really want to own (not just read, own (aka ‘covet’) ) which is this oneI have some book tokens burning a hole in my pocket, I have Waterstone's points and am one stamp off a £10 voucher. I have the means to buy a book, I have the desire (when don’t I?), but I also have this commitment to try to slow my buying speed and I think it would do me the power of good to break my habit of impulse book buying. It would certainly do some good for my bulging shelves and my empty bank balance. So in the true spirit of New Year in which we self punish for the excesses of Christmas, I am going to make my challenge a little bit harder. Here is my challenge:

I’m going to select the final 10 of my #TBR20 list.

Yes, I admit, it doesn’t sound too groundbreaking, but there’s a sting in the tail. You see, I find it very difficult to stick to a reading list and I’m one of those readers who slips from book to book through a curiosity algorithm that would defy the most advanced mathematician. Since I’ve committed to reading Virginia Woolf, I have largely managed to stick to the plan but I have had breaks to read other books (How to be Both, Lila, the Ancillary series) so haven’t stuck to the plan entirely rigidly. So my deal with myself is this: I will select the last 10 of my TBR list and whilst I am permitted to read other books, books from my collection or books from the library, I am forbidden from buying  another book until I have finished those 10. That means I can have read 20 or even 30 books that I already own or have loaned, but until all those chosen titles have been read the book token stays in my pocket. My reward for successful completion of this project is the purchase of that lovely Tove Jansson biography (and maybe Hermione Lee’s book about Virginia Woolf). I think that cuts a fair deal.

So onto the selection. Again, not making to want it too easy on myself (I have whizzed through my first 10 at breakneck speed thanks, in part, to a Christmas break during which we had no phone or broadband connection courtesy of some clumsy-fingered BT engineer), I have tried to select a challenging array of books to comprise my last ten. Here is my selection.

To explain: the pile on the left represents the books I’ve already read (missing Lila, which I had to return to the library). In my ‘to read’ pile, each of the books falls into one or more of the following categories:

1. It’s a Virginia Woolf book – my commitment to finish reading all of Virginia Woolf’s fiction continues and these final two may comprise, bizarrely, the most ‘easy’ of my choices.

2. It’s a book that a friend bought for me and I haven’t yet got around to reading it – because guilt. This would include the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks which looks like exactly my kind of book, but it’s quite long and daunting and sciency so I keep putting it off. Which leads to category 3.

3. It’s a book I’ve been avoiding for one reason or another. This explains most of the pile. All of those books are books that I have desired to read and have then put off reading because: 1) they’re long, 2) they’re complex, 3) I was in the ‘wrong frame of mind’, 4) they were written by a man. So it’s about time I got around to them. They’ve been hanging around in my collection so long, their characters may have aged or died.

4. It’s a book I bought for a bizarre reason – like Caramelo, which I bought because the cover is so strangely awful (yet compelling) I had to have it in my collection (true fact).

5. My daughter chose it – excited by my prowling around the library, my daughter asked if she could pick a book to add to the pile, then she picked 2. This explains why my TBR10 is actually 11.

I think this is a challenge I can do (I am trying to expunge from my memory the failure iro Proust). Perhaps with a little help from my co-TBRers, it’ll keep me honest and on the path to success. Wish me luck!

In case you can't read the titles the books are:
Read pile: The Waves (Virginia Woolf), Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal (Jeanette Winterson), Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie), Ancillary Sword (Ann Leckie), Good Morning, Midnight (Jean Rhys), The Years (Virginia Woolf), A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Rebecca Solnit), Moominland Midwinter (Tove Jansson), Full Tilt (Dervla Murphy)
To Read pile: The Ramayana (unknown, but probably a bloke), Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn), Caramelo (Sandra Cisneros), Americanah (the excellent Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), School for Love (Oivia Manning), Behindlings (Nicola Barker), The Mill on the Floss (George Eliot), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot), The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell), Between the Acts (Virginia Woolf), Flush (Virginia Woolf).