Down the TBR Hole #6

Finally back on track! A month ago, I discovered this meme, Down the TBR hole, from Confessions of a YA Reader, which is created by Lost in a Story (now Sunflowers and Wonder). Down the TBR Hole revolves around cleansing your TBR of all those books you’re never going to read and sort through it all to know what’s actually on there.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go.

This is week six for me, and I am as excited as ever. This has been incredibly helpful to organize my thoughts. I have averaged at 2/5 book removal (40%) rate, which I think is healthy but not insane.

My Goodreads: Sam Sigelakis-Minski
Current TBR: 1,509 (this is way more than last week because I have no self control and probably added more).


1. The Life and Times of Chaucer, by John Gardner

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  • Date added: December 27, 2011
  • Synopsis: The facts about Geoffrey Chaucer’s life are plentiful enough. It is the connections between the facts that seem to elude us: those subtle nuances of feeling and emotion that a biographer relies on to paint a true, complete portrait. Lacking these, we are almost compelled to make the story up as we go along, weaving together facts, opinions, and our own personal biases to flesh out an otherwise bloodless life.

For this reason, John Gardner may well be the perfect candidate to construct a life of Chaucer! An award-winning novelist and a translator of Middle English poetry, Gardner dumps into a pile all the “facts” we know about the beloved English poet and mixes them with a judicious sampling of literary criticism and a heaping dose of lively conjecture. What emerges is a rollicking good tale that might stand on its own, filled with persuasive answers to vexing questions; imaginative reconstructions of the Black Death and other compelling events of the times; and whatever snippets of Chaucer’s own poetry may help shed light on his extraordinary age. Black-and-white illustrations.

  • Real Talk: The synopsis isn’t great, but I have owned a copy of this book for literally years (I was drawn to the cover like moth to flame), and I really loved Canterbury Tales in Brit Lit 2, so I am now pretty committed to reading this at some point.
  • Verdict: Keep. I will read this one day on my honor.

2. Empress (Godspeaker Trilogy #1), by Karen Miller

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  • Date added: December 27, 2011
  • Synopsis: Her name is Hekat– And she will be slave to no man. In a family torn apart by poverty and violence, Hekat is no more than an unwanted mouth to feed, worth only a few coins from a passing slave trader. But Hekat was not born to be a slave. For her, a different path has been chosen. It is a path that will take her from stinking back alleys to the house of her god, from blood-drenched battlefields to the glittering palaces of Mijak. This is the story of Hekat, slave to no man.
  • Real Talk: I get tired even thinking of reading this. Make no mistake, Karen Miller is an absolute powerhouse – none of her novels are under 600 pages long, and her worldbuild is so incredible it is actually scary. I read her Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series, and its follow up Fisherman’s Children duology, and I can tell you that I loved them at the time, but was also incredibly depressed the entire time I read them. Also, I can’t recall much at all from the series, despite altogether reading around 2,800 pages of books set in the same universe. All of that being said, the reviews of Empress promise a similar experience – heartache, main characters that are really hard to relate to, another incredibly detailed and painstaking worldbuild. I don’t think I can do it.
  • Verdict: Remove. 28 year old, COVID-quarantined me cannot picture reading another Karen Miller and maintaining mental peace.

3. A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontv

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  • Date added: December 27, 2011
  • Synopsis: In its adventurous happenings, its abductions, duels, and sexual intrigues, A Hero of Our Time looks backward to the tales of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron, so beloved by Russian society in the 1820s and ’30s. In the character of its protagonist, Pechorin, the archetypal Russian antihero, Lermontov’s novel looks forward to the subsequent glories and passion of Russian literature that it helped, in great measure, to make possible.
  • Real Talk: Another unhelpful synopsis. I went through the reviews of Hero of our Time, and to be honest, I hate serious readers of Russian literature. As someone who toyed with the idea of entering literature academia, the worst people I encountered in the field were the ones who focused on Russian lit. There is a weird natural pretentiousness that I can’t comprehend, and a certain about of sadomasochism that seems to embody the movement. This book seems to be no exception – the people who love Russian lit love it, and everyone else is confused and slightly disturbed. (Full disclosure: I loved Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and the Margarita, but that is absolutely an exception to the rule).
  • Verdict: I am at a loss as to why I even added this in the first place, so it is safe to say this is being removed.

4.  An Assembly Such as This (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman #1)by Pamela Aidan

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  • Date added: December 27, 2011
  • Synopsis: She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows—as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

    Setting the story vividly against the colorful historical and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Austen but with a wit and humor very much her own. Aidan adds her own cast of fascinating characters to those in Austen’s original, weaving a rich tapestry from Darcy’s past and present. Austen fans and newcomers alike will love this new chapter of the most famous romance of all time.

     

  • Real Talk: I am a huge Austen buff, and have enjoyed quite a few spin offs and pastiches of her works. However, the more reviews I read, the more I am put off from reading this one. Darcy is supposed to be a complex and multifaceted character who is genuinely warm on the inside, with some social prejudices that he has to get over, and a standoffish nature from having been hurt in the past. While I don’t completely take stock in reader reviews, enough of the top reviews for this book detailed how shallow, rude, and genuinely snobby Darcy is portrayed here. I am all for a slightly left of center pastiche, but would rather not have my favorite character sullied that way.
  • Verdict: This is going to be left off, shockingly. I will find a better Darcy POV.

5. The Fortune of the Rougons, by Émile Zola

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  • Date added: December 27, 2011
  • Synopsis: The Fortune of the Rougons is the first in Zola’s famous Rougon-Macquart series of novels. In it we learn how the two branches of the family came about, and the origins of the hereditary weaknesses passed down the generations. Murder, treachery, and greed are the keynotes, and just as the Empire was established through violence, the “fortune” of the Rougons is paid for in blood.

    Set in the fictitious Provencal town of Plassans, The Fortune of the Rougons tells the story of Silvere and Miette, two idealistic young supporters of the republican resistance to Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’etat of December 1851. They join the woodcutters and peasants of the Var to seize control of Plassans, and are opposed by the Bonapartist loyalists led by Silvere’s uncle, Pierre Rougon. Meanwhile, the foundations of the Rougon family and its illegitimate Macquart branch are being laid in the brutal beginnings of the Imperial regime.

  • Real Talk: Not going to lie, I feel overwhelmingly underwhelmed by this. I have some other Zola novels on my shelf at home that I inherited from a beloved uncle, and those will probably be read if only to honor his memory, but this particular time in French history isn’t as exciting to me (give me any books on the First Revolution and I am in). Zola was never of particular interest to me, even when I was majoring in French.
  • Verdict: Sadly, I bid you adieu.

Conclusion:

Holy guacamole, I have never done so well at weeding books off of my TBR shelf. This may be that whatever was interesting me post Christmas 2011 just isn’t anymore (not sure of the significance here, but these were all added on the same day) or if this was a day of mindless adding that is best forgotten, but either way, 4/5 removal rate.

Let’s chat in the comments; I would love to hear if you have thoughts on any of these!

 

 

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