Mount TBR Checkpoint 1

Bookshop interior, Brecon, Powys

A post in which I have very little to say except to largely repeat myself

Bev Hankins over at My Reader’s Block set a challenge for readers to tackle their historic pile of unread books, and now it’s time to clock in at the first checkpoint. She’s laid out a loose framework to measure progress by means of questions and tasks.


1. Tell us how far you’ve made it up your mountain. 

As I’ve already mentioned I completed seven books in the first third of 2017. If I continue at this rate I’ll have finished twenty-eight books by year’s end. So I’m way over target to reach Pike’s Peak (twelve books from your to-be-read pile, my initial goal) and comfortably within range of Mount Blanc (24 books from your TBR pile). Here’s how far I’ve got, including titles reviewed:

1. Alison Croggan: The Bone Queen
2. A S Byatt: Angels and Insects
3. Donna Leon: The Jewels of Paradise
4. J K Rowling: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:
the original screenplay

5. Fflur Dafydd: The White Trail
6. Steve Silberman: NeuroTribes
7. Timothy Husband: “Creating the Cloisters”

2. Who has been your favorite character so far? And why?

I expected it to be Newt Scamander in J K Rowling’s screenplay for Fantastic Beasts, but it turns out that I found him too much of an enigma. Maybe it required an actor of the calibre of Eddie Redmayne to bring him to life, but I’ll only know when I’ve seen the film. Then I thought it might be tortured Selmana in Alison Croggan’s fantasy The Bone Queen; but in the end I plumped for Donna Leon’s heroine Caterina Pellegrini in The Jewels of Paradise. My decision was predicated on two things — here was a smart yet complex person I wouldn’t mind meeting, a woman who also loved research, books, Venice and mysteries. What’s not to like?

3. Have any of the books you read surprised you?

I think I have two answers here. Steve Silberman’s overview of the history of autism surprised me because it demonstrated how recent has been both the recognition and general acceptance of the condition among the neurotypical population. Silberman’s detailed discussion was essential in underlining how convoluted the path was in exploring the sheer range of the spectrum, how much prejudice attended those on the spectrum and how much progress has been made in such a relatively short time.

The other surprise was Fleur Dafydd’s The White Trail. I felt there was much to admire in this updating of an ancient myth to a modern magic realism novel but to me it was oddly uneven and ill thought-out, the magic too often scarcely gelling with the realistic aspects. I’d have welcomed the discipline of a ruthless editor to give this direction and to make the protagonists more sympathetic. The surprise was that this had been published in a form which suggested an early draft rather than a final version.


And how am I getting on with the next stage beyond the foothills of Base Camp? Currently I’m two-thirds of the way through Jane Austen’s Emma, and what a treat this has been, entirely worthy of the forthright recommendations showered on me since I belatedly started on my voyage round her works. I’ve found Austen’s deft and confident touch both delightful and enlightening, and can’t wait to share my thoughts on it when the time comes.

Among the titles in my ancient pile of acquired but so far unread books is another of Joan Aiken’s collection of spooky stories, A Bundle of Nerves: I’m several stories into this gently disintegrating paperback, which I’ll hopefully get to the end of before it quietly gives up the ghost. Then there’s Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s The Storyteller of Marrakesh which I’ve already dipped into; and a couple of review copies I was sent last year slowly nearing the top of that bedside column; and …

Enough. I’m looking forward now to hearing about your current attempts to deal with your habit of tsundoku (defined as “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other such unread books”). Is progress or regress the name of the game for you?

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15 thoughts on “Mount TBR Checkpoint 1

  1. Love the word Tsundoku – fantastic. I’m doing pretty poorly with my TBR mountain. Just finished His Bloody Project, couldn’t finish Rebecca to my shame and before that was The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters which was wonderful. And a revisit to Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising which was just lovely. I’m so slow … Never mind. Just starting The Loney, which I’ve been really looking forward to – it sounds very creepy 🙂

    1. This all seems perfectly acceptable to me! A fantastic range too — no wonder your flash fiction has such variety, Lynn; I’m very leery of modern novels, to my shame, and should get down to more of them. Which reminds me, I have three or four or more titles published in the last year or two still sitting patiently on my shelves …

  2. Christine

    Tsundoku, what a lovely (and very specific) word! I’ll be in crunch time for the next few weeks, so I made sure to read more over my break not to fall behind. Rebecca, however, is one I also tried to read (and failed to finish, which seems like a bad sign). Trudging through some Zola at the moment, it’s rather grim, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I just like that his chapters are meaty enough for me to read one per day and feel satisfied before turning in. When work lets up, I want to return to Asimov’s robot series and maybe some Junot Diaz, they’d make for a nice change of pace.

    Did the questions help you take stock of the year so far? (And of course, I can’t wait for you to finish Emma.)

    1. Zola always seemed much to bleak for me when I attempted — and abandoned — Germinal at school, so kudos to you! And returning to Asimov in the last couple of years wasn’t the thrill I remembered from when I was a student. I’ve changed, I suppose!

      Did the questions help me take stock? I think so, enough for me to put down in a post, but then I’m always assessing what I’m reading and seeing what patterns it might fit into — I’m into patterns, real or imagined, as you might expect!

      I’m assuming you’ve set yourself a target too; hope you’re making the progress you wanted, but hey, it’s about the enjoyment of reading, isn’t it, not statistics. 🙂

  3. But, dear fellow readers, are you not aware of the other huge virtual TBR pile that is assembling while you read the ones on your shelves. I became so overwhelmed by this thought that I now have a firm policy of reading what fate brings to me. Sometimes not so worthy, other times quite wonderful.

    1. I’d go doolally if I thought about virtual TBR piles. I’m naturally acquisitive where books are concerned, squirreling them away in case of hard times ahead, but then forgetting I had them! But, like you, Gert, I also set store by serendipity.

      Squirreling and serendipity: not a good combination. Especially at a time when downsizing and decluttering are the fashionable pursuits of the well-off, who can well afford to be minimalist.

      1. In an ideal world I live in a serene uncluttered space which contains a reasonable number of books read and unread. This is however far from reality. The only step I take towards this is in passing good books on to friends requesting they in turn pass them on elsewhere.

        1. This is my ideal too, Gert, a composite of a serene uncluttered space (not too uncluttered, I like a touch of casual chaos) and like-minded friends who will where books are concerned pass on valued titles to those who may appreciate them, and so on and so forth.

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