TBR List Declutter: Week 10

Today I hit the century mark! The first of seven. When I’m done, I will celebrate the TBR Declutter’s sesquisepticentennial, if I continue to use anniversary names to count my books. If I just use Latin numbers, today’s post ends with centum, and I’ll (eventually) be counting up to septingenti quinquaginta. And that concludes our lesson on Latin numbers for today.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 91-100 (nonaginta unus (XCI) – centum (C)): Read More

TBR List Declutter: Week 9

With these ten, I had apparently finished with the book of books. The New York Times had a “Top 20 Writers Under 40” thing a few years ago, and based on my tags, I seem to have started gathering TBRs from that list.

Just today I added a handful more books to my TBR because I’m incorrigible. I’m not counting the ones I add right now because hopefully by the time I get to the end of the list, I will have read a few titles and it will all even out. Of course, lately I’ve been reading titles that aren’t on my Goodreads TBR, so that doesn’t bring my TBR numbers down.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 81-90: Read More

TBR List Declutter: Week 8

As of this week, I’ve gone through more than 10% of my original 750-title TBR. Motoring right along with ten more from March 9, 2010, from the book of books.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 71-80: Read More

Bookends: July 2017

July was a mix of hot, muggy days interspersed with phenomenal, California-like weather that left me feeling renewed and (almost) ready to put up with the mugginess again. It’s difficult on days like these to imagine that snow is only a few months away.

I’ve continued doing work around the house, and I find myself looking around the house wondering what else to do and/or what else to get rid of. There are just four big jobs left to do, three of which I’m hiring out (if I can get people to schedule the work). The quotes I got for the fourth job made me choke on my kombucha, so I’m going to try reupholstering my kitchen set with my own hands and a book about upholstery I’m getting from the library. And some fabric. I would leave it, but the vinyl is cracked and it looks pretty tacky and unkempt. Not that I generally have a problem with looking tacky and unkempt, but I prefer my kitchen to look, if not stylish, at least kempt. If I think that my ham-handed attempts will leave it looking better than it does now, I’ll give it a try.

I kept up with my TBR List Declutter this month. Each Thursday, I post the titles of ten books that are on my TBR, why I added them in the first place, and whether I’m keeping them or taking them off of the TBR. This week I’ll pass the 10% mark of my initial TBR. Crawling right along!

Speaking of crawling, July also brought our annual shipment of monarchs to rear.

 

Totally cute, right? Hopefully we’ll have nine to eleven healthy monarch butterflies to release at the end of the month.

And now to the primary purpose of this monthly post—books!

Read More

TBR List Declutter: Week 7

Another week, another ten books! All of these were added on March 9, 2010, from—you guessed it!—the book of books. If you see me blogging about wanting to check out a “500 books you must read” book from the library, please leave me a firmly worded comment reminding me of my current dilemma.

I decluttered my kitchen today and am in the mood for more tossing. I hope that helps me make some cuts to my TBR.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 61-70: Read More

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Howards End was the July SBC selection, and finishing it, I’m no longer behind on my reading for my own book club! Check out the SBC page for the titles we have coming up and to look through the ones we’ve already read. You can join the conversation in the comments or in our Goodreads group.


This novel is beautifully written and, for a book written before World War I, surprisingly relevant to today’s political and social climate. The central conflict seems to be between Margaret’s ideals and how these manifest in real life. She is intellectual, well-educated, and has a strong will, which makes it disappointing to see her make choices that seem counter to these aspects of herself. I felt so irritated with her for some of the mistakes I saw her making, for seeming to choose bad relationships over good ones, but in the end, she seems to come to a place of compromise that is better for (nearly) everyone involved than what would have been available had she dug in her heels from the beginning.

The novel seemed to be gearing up for a grand confrontation and dramatic decisions, and so at first this compromise ending was unsatisfying to me. But upon reflection, I decided that the ending is all the more realistic for the lack of fireworks. Gradually I saw that the decisions Margaret made that were so frustrating to me were frustrating because they’re the kinds of decisions I think anyone makes who has ideals and also lives in the world. It’s more satisfying to read about people bucking convention, throwing off everything they once valued and making a clean breast of it as a shiny, new person, but it’s not realistic. We can make changes, but we don’t really become new people, or if we do, it’s a slow metamorphosis and one governed by forces outside of our control, contrary to the promises of self-help books, talk shows, and websites selling fitness programs (and I don’t mean religious or supernatural forces, but the natural forces of biology, economics, politics, environment, and genetics through which we all muddle as best we can).

Compromise doesn’t trigger the dopamine release that I crave, and it doesn’t feed the desire I still feel despite my constant efforts to the contrary to see punished people I think have done wrong, but it provides a much more loving and sustainable model for change than the dramatic ending. Only connect.

Some quotes that spoke to me (page numbers from the 2000 Penguin Books paperback edition):

p.25: “It is the vice of a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the same as heaven.”

p. 52: “I’m tired of these rich people who pretend to be poor, and think it shows a nice mind to ignore the piles of money that keep their feet above the waves.”

p.91: “Actual life is full of false clues and signposts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes. The most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have moved mountains, and the most unsuccessful is not that of the man who is taken unprepared, but of him who has prepared and is never taken…Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty.”

p. 128: “The feudal ownership of land did bring dignity, whereas the modern ownership of movables is reducing us again to a nomadic horde. We are reverting to the civilization of luggage, and historians in the future will note how the middle classes accreted possessions without taking root in the earth, and may find in this the secret to their imaginative poverty.”

p.132: “I don’t believe in suiting my conversation to my company. One can doubtless hit upon some medium of exchange that seems to do well enough, but it’s no more like the real thing than money is like food. There’s no nourishment in it.”

TBR List Declutter: Week 6

Ten more titles, nine from the book of books—and one not!

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 51-60: Read More

TBR List Declutter: Week 5

Well, what do you know? Ten more titles from the book of books (added January 15, 2010). I really went to town adding titles from that book.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 41-50:

437067#41: A Cure for Dreams by Kaye Gibbons

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Southern Lit, published by Algonquin.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep. I thought of replacing it with Ellen Foster, but I always feel conflicted when I read a debut novel. If it’s good, I despair that I could never write a first novel that’s so good. If it’s bad, I get down on myself because I’ve not finished writing any of the novels I’ve started, which I just know would be at least as good as this bad one that got published. It’s even worse if the author was quite young when she wrote the debut novel. And as I get older, my definition of “quite young” becomes broader. Long story short: I’ll read this one instead of Ellen Foster, at least to start.

Project list: none.

281114#42: In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Southern Lit. Also, this title keeps coming up, which maybe means something. Although it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should read it. The DaVinci Code comes up a lot, but I have no intention of reading that, but this one seems different because people who bring this one up are those whose opinions about books I trust. Also, I think I might have read one of her stories in college.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep.

Project list: none.

#43: The Odd Woman by Gail Godwin

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? No idea. Maybe I liked the cover?

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep. If I had a B-list, this would be on it. The plot sounds like a lot of other books I’ve read, but it was a National Book Award finalist, so I’ll give it a chance.

Project list: none.

240628#44: The Long Night of White Chickens by Francisco Goldman

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Not sure. I probably put it here because of Guatemala, but I’ll probably keep it there because it’s set in part in a suburb of Boston (as am I).

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep.

Project list: none.

#45: A Sport of Nature by Nadine Gordimer

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Probably because it’s set in South Africa, and I can’t recall reading a book set in South Africa before.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep.

Project list: none, but with all of the different countries represented on my TBR so far, maybe I should start putting together a reading-around-the-world list.

 #46: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Probably because it’s famous.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Go. Famous isn’t a compelling enough reason for me.

Project list: N/A

#47: The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? I don’t know why I put it here, but it’s another one with very polarized reviews, which is always intriguing to me.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep. A lot of reviewers who dislike the book dislike it because they can’t relate to the characters. I’m curious to see if I can relate to them.

Project list: none.

 #48: Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? This is described as a book about outsiders, and it’s about Germany during World War II. I probably put it on the list for one or both of those reasons, but the plot also sounds interesting. The reviewers who like the book note that Hegi doesn’t go for the melodramatic, Hollywood-film WWII treatment, and I would like to see what this looks like.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep.

Project list: none.

 #49: Ellis Island and Other Stories by Mark Helprin

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Maybe I added it because it’s supposed to be an eclectic collection of short stories. Sounds good to me.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep. It’s possible that the author is over-hyped, but I guess I’ll have to read his writing to find out.

Project list: none.

#50: Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? I’m betting it’s here because the title sounds cool and because the author’s last name has that Scandinavian zero-looking “o” in it.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Go. The reviews—even the positive ones—don’t make this book compelling to me.

Project list: N/A


Two more titles off the list for a total of 9 out of 40 titles crossed off (1.2% of the original TBR).

There were another couple of B-list titles. I really do need to figure out a way to shelve these. I mentioned my first 25-50 pages idea to my spouse, and he approved of it, saying it sounds like the Silicon Valley prototype model, at least how he understands it. He said there are some who suggest applying the prototype model to one’s career by trying out elements of several different careers and seeing where they lead rather than setting out a detailed plan to follow for the next ten years or whatever.

I value forward-planning, but I’m also somewhat changeable. Because I don’t know how I’m going to feel about something after I’ve done it for a while, I don’t like to feel tied to any particular path. (Of course, I committed to parenthood, but that’s not even the same two days in a row, so it stays pretty fresh, even during periods of acute exhaustion.) These B-list books sound interesting enough that I don’t want to toss them entirely, but not interesting enough that I want to completely commit to them. I’ll have to mull over the dilemma. But then, the more time I mull, the less I have to read. It’s a double dilemma.

Footloose and Fitness Tracker-Free

In June 2014, I bought a fitness tracker. I got myself a Fitbit One to wear on my hip rather than a wristband tracker because I really liked wearing my watch.

IMG_20170712_215132

Snazzy watch, much nicer than any fitness tracker.

I wore the tracker all day and all night, every day and every night. In 2016, hoping to shake things up by increasing the intensity of my exercise (coincidentally, this was also the upshot of Fitbit’s advertising at the time), I added a Charge HR to the mix. I wore the new tracker for daytime activities and the One for sleep tracking and felt confident that positive results would follow.

If you believe the reports, many people only wear their fitness trackers for a few months, but not me. I wore one fitness tracker or the other twenty-four hours every day for three years, even under my dress at my brother’s wedding. Gotta get credit for the Chicken Dance! (N.B., There was no Chicken Dance at my brother’s wedding.)

And then today, I deleted my Fitbit account. Read More

TBR List Declutter: Week 4

It appears that two weeks after my bulk addition of titles, I must have picked up the book of books again and added more. These are all from January 15, 2010.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Titles 31-40:

3388#31: Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? I suspect it’s here because it’s set during World War II but doesn’t take place in Germany.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep. I’m a sucker for magical realism.

Project list: none.

#32: Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? National Book Award, and it’s about race issues in the American South.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep, for now. Revisit in one year and remove if I’ve not read it yet.

Project list: none.

422#33: A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? I read (and pretty much enjoyed) Didion’s memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, and I’ve been curious to check out her fiction. Also, I like the title.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep for a year.

Project list: none.

132298#34: Frog by Stephen Dixon

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? No idea.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Go. Despite its award nominations, the premise doesn’t grab me enough to devote 769 pages of my time to it.

Project list: N/A

24910#35: World’s Fair by E.L. Doctorow

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? I think Doctorow is someone I’m supposed to read but haven’t. This book, despite being set in New York City, sounds interesting and won the National Book Award.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep. If I want to read Doctorow, this seems as good a place as any to start.

Project list: none.

165422#36: English Creek by Ivan Doig

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? It’s set in Montana, and the synopsis says that it’s “a masterpiece of vernacular in the tradition of Twain,” which sounds interesting to me.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep.

Project list: none.

30512#37: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Probably because it’s set in Ireland and written from the point of view of a young boy.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Go. I’m leery of the stream-of-consciousness aspect, and the reviews aren’t glowing enough to get me excited about reading it.

Project list: N/A

119073#38: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? It’s a medieval murder mystery with monks.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep. It sounds a little like An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears, and I liked that one, and it would be quite different from what I usually read (literary fiction and memoirs by literary-type people).

Project list: none.

12764#39: The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Mexican history is a subject about which I don’t know as much as I would like to, and it’s more fun to read about it in a novel than in a history book.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep.

Project list: none (or maybe Cavalcade of Classics?)

77092#40: Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

Date added: 01/15/2010

Why is it on my TBR? Cuba! With our back-and-forth national policy around trade and tourism with the island nation, it seems like a particularly good time to read about Cuba, and this seems like a good book about Cuba.

Do I own it? No.

Verdict: Keep!

Project list: none.


Two more titles off the list for a total of 7 out of 40 titles crossed off (nearly 1% of the original TBR).

A couple of these barely made the cut (notably the Joan Didion), and I wonder if it would make sense to have a ranked verdict. Like an A-list and a B-list for those books I choose to keep on the TBR. Maybe I’d plan to get the B-list books from the library in a big stack and then really quickly read the first 25-50 pages and decide whether to continue or not. Or maybe I should just be more quick to cut titles since they’re on these posts anyway, and I can always look them up again.