TBR? More like WTF.

book, book haul, books, reading, tbr

In my life as a member of the Bookstagram community the beginning of the month marks the moment where a large proportion of user share a shot of the books they intend to read in the coming 4 weeks. As someone who religiously follows a couple of photo challenges for my inspiration I am often expected to become involved in the TBR pile craze but every photo I’ve ever posted using that hashtag has proved to be a massive lie. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of the books that I’ve included in any of my TBR photos unless I’ve already been reading them at the start of the month. For me, one of the big problems with Bookstagram is the inevitable pressure that comes from comparing yourself to other people. Even though nobody is really competing with anyone but themselves it doesn’t necessarily feel like that. Over the years I’ve felt that my inability to follow a simple monthly TBR is a flaw and some kind of failure. Well, until I decided to just say “fuck it” and do what I like. After all, life’s too short to make and follow a TBR.

Next year I turn 30. I realise that this has nothing whatsoever to do with my TBR fails but it does mean that I’ve had a lot of time to come to terms with the kind of reader that I am. For the vast majority of my academic career I was expected to read the books that were set by other people. Obviously this is normal but it’s not necessarily the best way to get people reading. I much prefer to write essays about books that I’m not too fond of but it’s not always easy reading something that you’ve not chosen. I’ve had to read a lot of shit over the years but I’ve also discovered some of my favourite books. I’ve also not finished a lot of books that I should have read. Especially during my postgraduate studies when I was tasked with reading a bunch of novels of sensibility. I enjoyed the course but these books haven’t exactly aged well. There were a couple of longer novels towards the end of term that I never finished reading because I couldn’t get myself to do it. That’s the problem with not having power over your reading material.

So, when I finished university I decided I would indulge in only reading the books that I really wanted to. Unfortunately, because I’m too easily swayed by covers and hype, I tended to pick books that I really didn’t get on with. Back in those days I would never give up on a book until I finished it… or, as was more often the case, put it back on my shelf to never be touched again. I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I know there’s no point in trying to force myself to read books that I don’t want to read. There’s no sense in wasting what little time I have to indulge in reading on something that I’m not enjoying enough. So, in that case, why should I restrict myself every month to choosing between a handful of titles?

If you guys are anything like me you’ll have a few bookcases filled with books you bought on a whim and never read. I don’t know my exact unread book count because if I ever take the time to count it I know I’ll just start crying by how big it is. It’s such a huge amount that it can cause a lot of stress. I feel the pressure to decrease the number but, in turn, this pressure leads to the same reaction I gave my university reading list. When you have such a large range of books to pick from how can you possibly decide which is important enough to make the top of the list? Well, you can’t. It’s the same reason that I will, probably, never be able to state with any kind of certainty what my favourite book is. Different books work at different times. My tastes change based on so many ridiculous factors: mood; tiredness; hunger; season; time of day; time since last saw a dog; the list is pretty much endless. I can’t predict which books I’m going to be in the mood to read so how am I supposed to compile a TBR for each month?

I can’t say that not living my a TBR each month is making me any better at reading. After all, I’m still too exhausted from work to read and am, more often than not, distracted by something on Netflix. I know that I don’t read enough as I should but I really don’t see how a TBR could improve that. If anything it would make me less likely to read because I’d end up reading something I didn’t want to open. When it comes to books, I’m one of those people that has a super short attention span. By which I mean, whenever I buy a new book that becomes the only thing I think about. They would immediately go to the top of the list. Something that would be fine if I only bought books after I finished one. I don’t. I buy books far too often. By the time I finish my current read I’ll have probably bought or borrowed a couple of new books that will have replaced the previous acquisitions at the front of the queue. As I’ve been doing this for years, the books I bought unnecessarily years ago have got no chance of being read as I continue to spend.

Seen in these terms, having a definite list of unread books or books to read is actually a really scary idea. It suddenly becomes this towering monster that is threatening to engulf you the more you leave it. We’ve all seen how unstable book towers can be and I can’t believe that an imaginary one would be any sturdier. I’m nearly 30 years old, single, living with my parents, and in the same dead-end job I’ve had for years: I have enough to worry about without adding a never ending TBR pile to the list. So, despite my monthly posts that suggest otherwise, I do not nor will I ever have a TBR. I don’t have time for that shit.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

books, most wanted, New Year, resolution, tbr
It’s nearly the start of January 2017 and, after my last post looked back on my last year, this one is looking forward to the next. In 2016 I made the resolution to read more books but didn’t do a great job. This year I hope to get better at reading and, by giving up on books as soon as I stop enjoying them, will hopefully stop falling into reading slumps. So, to inspire me to get stuff finished I’ve created a follow-up to my incredibly popular ‘Most Anticipated Books of 2016’ post with a few of my Most Anticipated Books of 2017. This is only a short number of the huge list I had at one point. It looks as if I’m not going to curb my spending this year. Ah well.

2017 fiction releases I’m excited about

  • Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Murakami is one of my favourite writers and this is his first big work of fiction since Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. This new release will be a collection of seven short stories about single men. This is the 2017 release that I’m most excited about and I can’t wait to read it.

  • Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

This is supposed to be a darkly funny, noir novel about art, motherhood and female friendship. It’s a story about a female writer who hired a young woman to care for her son whilst she works. The new member of the family quickly integrates herself but things start to take a dark turn. It sounds intense.

  • The Answers by Catherine Lacey

This is Lacey’s second novel and it introduces us to a young woman who is living in constant pain. In order to pay for her experimental treatment, she takes part in a Girlfriend Experiment to play the girlfriend of an eccentric actor. It sounds like an interesting concept.

  • Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

I’m going to be honest and tell you that I haven’t finished Eileen yet but this collection of short stories by its writer sounds amazing. It’s a collection concerning characters that are all unsteady in their own way. Wanting to be better or more connected, they are their own worst enemies. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

  • Norse Anthology by Neil Gaiman

I’m so excited about this that I’ve pre-ordered it. I love Neil Gaiman and I love Norse mythology so this book is kind of perfect for me. I can’t wait to see Gaiman’s take on these Norse tales.

  • The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet

This book sounds bloody incredible. It offers a different perspective on Roland Barthes’ death and includes a line-up of literary greats. It sounds like a better version of the DaVinci Code but with more about literary theory.

  • Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

Roxanne Gay set the literary world on fire with her essay collection Bad Feminist  which she is set to follow up this year with Hunger. However, before that is released Gay’s first collection of short stories is set to be published. They describe women in a variety of situations but, considering Gay’s reputation as a writer, it is bound to be a great representation of modern America.

  • Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Ill Will tells the story of two unsolved crimes, one in the past and the other in the present. The two are linked by one man. The story looks at the problem of memory and the dangers of self-deception. It’s a psychological thriller that I could actually get on board with.

  • The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

This novel tells the story of a criminal who is raising his daughter on the run. They move from motel to motel and always watch their back. Now, Samuel, wants his daughter to have a normal life. As they settle down for good, the father and daughter must come to terms with his past as it threatens their present. Sounds like a Tarantino movie or something. I love it.

  • Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

I really enjoyed Wolf in White Van so I’m really looking forward to Darnielle’s follow-up. It concerns a man working at a video rental store who investigates when customers start complaining that there is something strange on one of the VHS tapes. If it’s anything like his previous novel, this will be haunting but brilliant.

  • Flaneuse by Lauren Elkin

This book, part cultural retrospective and part memoir, traces the relationship between women and their cities. Elkin looks into the lives of these women in order to map her own life. It sounds like a different read and I’m pretty excited by it.

  • Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

This debut novel deals with memory, love ad forgiveness. As a wife must come to terms with her husband’s fading memory she attempts to piece together her husband’s past. I’ve heard good things about this and Ruskovich’s writing.

  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

A young woman lies in a hospital bed with a young boy sitting by her bed. It sounds creepy and haunting and I can’t wait.

  • The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

This tells the story of two women in the world of animation. After the release of their first feature pushes them into the limelight, they find their friendship being put to the test. As a lover of animation and well-written stories about well-written women this sounds ideal. I’m looking forward to it. It’s had some good write-ups so far.

  • Somebody with a Litte Hammer by Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill, the essayist, brings together a series of essays on topics including all things literary, social, cultural, and personal. This is bound to be an engaging and interesting set of essays.

  • Marlena by Julie Buntin

This novel tells the story of two young girls and their turbulent friendship. Their behaviour gets more troubled and outrageous and ends with one girl dead. Years later, the survivor is still haunted by the past and, when a ghost from that year comes resurfaces, she has to come to terms with these events. This sounds like it will be an in-depth study of a friendship and the effect that people have on our lives.

  • South and West by Joan Didion 

This brings together two extended excerpts from the best-selling author’s never-seen-before notebooks. I think it will be interesting to have a greater insight into the mind of the writer and her process.

                                                                                                  SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

                                                                                                  book haul, books, currently reading, Man Booker, recently watched, tbr

                                                                                                  This has been a bit of a non-week if I’m honest. I’m still waiting to hear back about this interview and, according to an email update, I won’t hear until at least Wednesday. I’m trying to forget about it but it’s difficult when you want something so much. So I’ve thrown myself into a distracting cycle of Netflix binges. It’s not clever or helpful but it does take my mind off everything. So I’m sorry that I’m still reading the book I expected to have finished by now but that’s just what I’ve got to do. At the same time I’ve been spending my wages without a care. Clothes and books that I really don’t need are littering my bedroom floor shaming me for my lack of self-control. Although, after seeing the pictures of this years Books Are My Bag tote I knew I had to have one. It’s gorgeous. And if you’re getting the bag then you at least need to buy a book as well. You know, National Book Shop Day and all.

                                                                                                  Currently Reading

                                                                                                  • His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

                                                                                                  Is there even any point in this section any more? I’m still going. It’s at that point where I’ve finished the main account and am just going over the different viewpoints. It’s the long and arduous bit now and I’m clearly failing at getting through it. Can anyone say reading slump?

                                                                                                  Recently Purchased

                                                                                                  • The Shining – Stephen King
                                                                                                  Found a super cheap copy of this this weekend and decided it was worth getting a new one. I know my relationship with Stephen King is difficult but his classic stories still hold up. Probably more so considering how disappointing I’ve found his latest ones. I’m looking forward to revisiting this.

                                                                                                  • Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
                                                                                                  Another super cheap book I couldn’t resist. Yes, I already own a copy of this book that I tried and failed to finish. But it cost £1 for fuck’s sake. How can anyone walk away from a book that costs so little? Maybe some people out there have the resolve to say no but I probably don’t need those types of people in my life.

                                                                                                  • The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Tales – Edgar Allen Poe
                                                                                                  I bought this as part of National Book Shop Day because it’s fucking gorgeous. You know that feeling when you see the most beautiful cover in the world and you know you have to take it home with you and read it straight away? That. You’ll be seeing this all over my Instagram in the coming weeks that’s for sure. Oh, and to add to the whole thing, it’s fucking illustrated.

                                                                                                  Recently Watched
                                                                                                  • Dirty 30
                                                                                                  I watch a lot more random shit on YouTube than somebody of my age probably should. As such, I feel like I’ve hear a shit load about this film so I decided to check it out. I found the 2014 film from these guys Camp Takota to be a cliched, unoriginal and shaky first attempt but it wasn’t as if it was terrible. Their second film was on more solid ground thanks to a stronger narrative and better script. It is, however, still completely cliched and could easily have starred the 80s Brat Pack without seeming too weird. Still, it wasn’t the worst 90 minutes I’ve ever had.

                                                                                                  • House
                                                                                                  I realised that I never got round to watching the final season of this show. In fact I must have only got about halfway through season 7 so I’ve finally reached a point in my rewatching where the episodes are new to me. Yes the show tailed off as it went on but Hugh Laurie is still amazing in the role. I’m loving it.

                                                                                                  SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

                                                                                                  books, comic books, currently reading, Luke Cage, Man Booker, Marvel, Netflix, sci-fi, tbr

                                                                                                  This week I’ve done badly with reading again. The reason is the same as it was last week. On Thursday I had an interview and since last Friday I’ve been madly preparing and trying to calm my nerves. I’m not sure how it went but I know I could have done better answering the questions. It’s safe to say, with my past experiences, that I don’t have my hopes up but it’s a job that I really want. Still, it’s out of my hands for now so I’ve spent my time since Thursday playing Civilisation V. It’s been fucking awesome. I’d forgotten that I’d bought it until the game was discounted on Steam. I’ve bought so much shit in their sales over the years that I have an unlimited supply of games I’ve never or rarely played. So to ignore my increasing fears of rejection I’ve been trying to dominate a digital world. I always intend to try a peaceful campaign for as long as possibly but easily fall into the joy of military victory. Well, I am British. As if I can avoid creating an massive Empire with my huge fleet of war ships.

                                                                                                  Currently Reading

                                                                                                  • His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

                                                                                                  It’s still good. It’s still being read super slowly. I have nothing more to say.

                                                                                                  Recently Purchased

                                                                                                  • Dear Laura – Jean Stubbs
                                                                                                  After my interview I had some spare time before my bus. It just so happens there’s a fantastic charity bookshop nearby so I wasted my time buying books that I didn’t need. This is one of them. Why did I buy it? It has my name in the title. That’s it. Worst reason to buy a book ever. I have a fucking problem. Still, a good old fashioned Victorian mystery sounds bloody good to me. A business man dies of an apparent suicide but is it actually murder?

                                                                                                  • Fidelity – Susan Glaspell
                                                                                                  Another of my charity book haul. I bought this because it’s on of those beautiful Persephone Books editions. The simple grey colour is good enough but opening it up to the gorgeous end pages. I just couldn’t resist. This novel asks the question “is love enough?” When a young woman marries someone controversial for love it has consequences for so many people. When she returns to her home time she has to ask, was it worth it?

                                                                                                  • Quantum Leap novels (Knights of the Morningstar – Melanie Rawn and Loch Ness Leap – Sandy Schofield)
                                                                                                  The greatest charity shop find ever. These two babies were the first thing I saw and there was no way I was leaving the store without them. Quantum Leap is the cult sci-fi show that has scientist Sam Beckett lost in time. He gets around by leaping into the bodies of random people and found himself on any number of weird and wacky situations. These books are bound to be a fantastic use of my time.

                                                                                                  • Angel Catbird – Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain
                                                                                                  This is a book so perfect that, if I didn’t actually possess it, I would easily suspect I made up myself. Amazing writer Margaret Atwood has devised a graphic novel about a man who accidentally gives himself the ability to turn into a cat/owl hybrid. This is based on classic, pulpy superhero adventures and is fucking amazing. Johnnie Christmas’ artwork is great and the narrative is just brilliant. As are all the cat facts that litter the pages. It’s going to be a painful wait for part 2 next year. 

                                                                                                  Recently Watched
                                                                                                  • Luke Cage
                                                                                                  Friday was Luke Cage day as we all know but I didn’t have the time to watch any more than the first episode. I’m trying to take this series slower than I do with most Netflix shows. I know there are a fair few numbers in comparison to a lot out there but I don’t want to rush it. I already know I’m going to love this and, after feeling lost when I finished Stranger Things in a day, I want to let this feeling last. 

                                                                                                  Top 10 WEN-sday – Top 10 Books I’d Rather Be Reading Than End of Watch

                                                                                                  books, George RR Martin, list, Man Booker, Neil Gaiman, sci-fi, Stephen King, tbr

                                                                                                  I’m currently still reading the final book in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch, and I’m hating every moment of it. I can’t wait to finish it and, I have to be honest, I’ve looked ahead to find out how it ends. It’s not great but I’ve spent so much time on it that I feel like I have to finish. This always happens to me, I start a book and try so hard to finish it that I just keep going despite knowing it won’t be any good. Obviously, as I’m struggling to read it not only makes it harder to finish but it’s also highlighting how many other things I could be reading. As you know from my weekly rundowns, I have a problem with buying too many books so I have plenty to be getting on with. They all sit looking at me as I struggle to give a shit about Brady’s fucking psychic powers and Bill’s cancer. So I’ve compiled a list of the books I’d rather be reading than this shit. 

                                                                                                  Ten: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

                                                                                                  It’s not been that long since I last read Neverwhere but finding the amazing illustrated edition recently has awoken all of those familiar Gaiman feelings. As I sit and write this list I can see it on my bookshelf. It calls to me and begs to be picked up. I wouldn’t say that it’s my favourite Gaiman book but I can’t help but fall into the world he helped to create. 

                                                                                                  Nine: Jurassic Park by Michael Chrichton 

                                                                                                  Just like Jaws, Jurassic Park is one of my most-loved films but I’ve never thought about reading the original novel. I just never really felt the need when Spielberg’s adaptation was so good. Plus, the idea of a version of Jurassic Park without Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough just seems wrong. Still, it was so interesting getting through Jaws that I decided it was time to give it a go. I’m not saying it will replace the film in my heart but it’s always fun to see where things come from.
                                                                                                  Eight:  Purity by Johnathan Franzen

                                                                                                  This is another book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but I’ve been put off by massive hardbacks. Also, I’ve heard some bad things amongst all of the praise it’s been getting. I’m not exactly familiar with Franzen but this certainly sounds interesting. I reckon it’ll be tough read, which is why it’s so high on this list. Still, I like the idea of the mystery surrounding Pip’s father and the Julian Assange sounding Andreas Wolf. 

                                                                                                  Seven: Sexus by Henry Miller

                                                                                                   A book that I’ve wanted to read ever since I found such a gorgeous copy on Amazon. You’ll have seen it on my Instagram if you follow me because I was obsessed. This is the first in The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy featuring a fictionalised account of his life. It’s goes into discussions about sex, love and happiness. It was also banned in the United States. Who doesn’t want to read a banned book every now and then.

                                                                                                   Six: A Dance of Dragons by George R.R. Martin

                                                                                                   Season 6 of Game of Thrones was fucking amazing. Now that the show has overtaken the books then it’s been great to sit down and watch things I don’t know anything about. It’s also got me excited about The Winds of Winter, which, fingers crossed, will be released early-ish next year. However, reading A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms has shown me that I’ve forgotten how to read Martin’s prose. I need to re-familiarise myself with his style and try and remember what the fuck happened at the end of book 5 before I’m supposed to jump into the next part. 

                                                                                                   Five: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

                                                                                                  I spent absolutely ages going through the bookshops in my town trying to find a copy of this book but to no avail. I guess nobody in Ilkley really gives a shit about which book won the Arthur C Clarke award. So I did something I don’t like doing and bought it on Amazon. It should be arriving in the next few days and the wait has made me super fucking desperate to read it. The only reason it’s so high up is simply because I don’t actually have it yet. 

                                                                                                  Four: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

                                                                                                  Another story that I’m familiar with but have never read the source material of. There’s a pattern emerging in this list. I love the film Battle Royale and am really interested to see how the issues it explores are dealt with in novel form. I’m expecting more than The Hunger Games but I don’t know if it’ll live up the violent brilliance of the film. Still, it’ll be better than the shit I’m currently reading.

                                                                                                  Three: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

                                                                                                  If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll probably have seen my copy of this novel. I love it. It’s all black, gold and neon pink. Beautiful and simple. Utter perfection. This is a story I’m familiar with but I have never actually read the novel. It tells the story of Hollywood starlets getting caught up in a cycle of drugs and alcohol to cope with the stresses of the entertainment industry. Despite being 50 years old this remains a relevant book and I think it’s about time I read it. Certainly, 
                                                                                                  the cover is urging me to open the pages every time I glimpse it. 

                                                                                                  Two: His Bloody Project by Roderick Macrae

                                                                                                  This was one part of my latest book haul and I’m beyond excited to read it. One of the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2016, it tells the story of a multiple murderer in 1869. It explores the mind and motivations of a guilty man as everyone tries to understand why he killed so many horrible crimes. I’m not normally a fan of crime thrillers but this one sounds different. Plus, the nomination speaks positively for it. Still, they did also nominate the hardly spectacular Us by David Nicholls in 2014. 


                                                                                                  One: Anything

                                                                                                  To be honest, at this stage I don’t even fucking care. I’d read anything if it meant I was done with this awful book. I thought the point was for Stephen King to play with the crime genre so why have we just fallen into another forgettable novel where King plays with the paranormal? It makes no sense and I absolutely hate how it upsets the flow of these novels. Unless there’s some big thing I’m missing I just can’t wait to finish this book. Although, from the look of reviews, I’m the only one that thinks so.