TBR List Declutter, Issue 30

I’ve been lifting in weight rooms since I was fourteen, mostly in college fitness centers. Most of these weight rooms have had ample benches and multiple sets of weights, and most times I’ve had no problem having a bench to myself and accessing the weights that I needed. Even if I got there and all of the benches were in use, I felt comfortable approaching someone and asking to work in (take turns lifting during while each of us rested between sets) and even asking someone to spot me if it was a day when my spouse wasn’t there. This is what I expect when I go to a weight room.

There’s a fitness center in the apartment complex where we’re staying until we find more permanent housing (or whatever passes for “permanent” for someone who’s moved twenty-three times). Usually I work out with free weights at home, but there are some limitations to that set-up (e.g., no bench, no good way to work my lats, only five-pound increments), so while we have access to a fitness center I’m hoping to make some progress I haven’t been able to make lifting at home.

This apartment complex fitness center has weights, but one couldn’t really call it a weight room. There are only two flat benches, one set of dumbbells, and no barbells. Around the perimeter of about a third of the room are resistance machines and the rest of the space is devoted to high-tech cardio machines (and I won’t even go into how I feel about the idea of running on a treadmill when we live in a place with perhaps the most perfect weather in the world).

Maybe due to a sense of scarcity around free weights, people are a little more possessive with their lifting accoutrements.

The men working out seem to be more aware of the weight room etiquette I expect, or at least they’re accommodating when a 5-foot-tall woman asks to use the twenties sitting by their feet while they’re between sets. But I find that the women are a different story.

This morning when I arrived at the gym there was a man using one of the benches and a woman standing next to a bench doing squats. It was chest and triceps day, so I definitely needed a bench. Since the woman doing squats wasn’t actively using the bench, I approached her (her name was Heather*. I know because it was painted in script on her plastic straw cup).

“Are you using this bench?” I asked.

Heather looked at me unsmiling and said, “Fine, go ahead,” and started to pick up her weights.

Now, maybe I was just sensing brusqueness that wasn’t there, but she seemed put-out to me.

“We can work in—take turns—if you need the bench,” I offered, but she was already moving, head down, to the area behind the benches where she continued her lower-body workout. By the time she needed a bench, the man using the other bench was done, and we both had a bench to use. So, it worked out, but she refused to make eye contact with me the rest of the time.

The interaction left me confused. I can’t figure out if I read the situation wrong or if it was just her personality. Maybe it was a difference in expectations for shared equipment or a difference in culture between a college gym and an apartment complex fitness center, or maybe she was intimidated by my upper arms, which I can’t really hold against my sides anymore because they’re so muscular. If I really wanted to know if it was a culture/etiquette thing, I would try to engage fellow lifters in conversation to get a sense for general expectations, but knowing myself, it’s more likely that I’ll just try to lift during a time when no one else is there.

Enough of the weight-lifting tangent. On to the visual interest, another sunset, this one while we were at the playground:


I assume that I will eventually cease to notice San Diego sunsets, or at least cease to be breathless at their beauty, but for now, I remain short of breath every evening.

Where were we?

  • Tangent – check!
  • Visual Interest – check!
  • Books – Ah, yes. That’s the point of this whole thing. On to the next twenty titles!

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

Titles 311-330:

Title: Holding Silvan: A Brief Life
Author: Wesolowska, Monica
Date Added: 3/8/2013

Verdict: Keep. I almost put this one in the “go” pile because on the surface to read it would seem emotionally masochistic. But as a doula and a woman who’s given birth both in a hospital and at home, I see how fear of death influences so many decisions and how that fear is used as a reason for relinquishing or supplanting decision-making power, depending on the role of the participant. I’m interested to read a memoir that looks directly at death knowing that there is no “happy” ending in the sense that death won’t happen. The timing and the circumstances change but death itself is inevitable, and maybe it’s not necessary to fear it. I don’t think we should embrace death, but just not fear it to the extent that we’re reactionary in our decision-making. Maybe this isn’t what this book is about at all, but I’d like to read it, all the same.

Project List: None.

Title: Dogging Steinbeck: How I Went in Search of John Steinbeck’s America, Found My Own America, and Exposed the Truth about ‘Travels with Charley’
Author: Steigerwald, Bill
Date Added: 3/8/2013

Verdict: Go. It’s an interesting idea and it sounds like Steigerwald did a fair amount of research about Steinbeck and his road trip before embarking on his own journey, but based on the reviews, I fear that the personality of the author and his apparently repeated mentions of his political views might annoy the heck out of me.

Project List: n/a

Title: Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
Author: Roberts, Dorothy
Date Added: 3/9/2013

Verdict: Keep. Back in the late 90’s, a woman I worked with told me, in bits and pieces over the course of our relationship, about her experiences with the medical system. I have had some crappy experiences with doctors and hospitals, but her experiences were at least twice as bad, sometimes jaw-droppingly bad. Even at the time I wondered if the difference was because she was black and I’m white, but with the recent revelations that black women die during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period at a higher rate than white women do, I have become even more convinced that the difference between our experiences was related to race. Our culture has a problem with women’s bodily autonomy in general, but the problem certainly seems to be magnified for women of color. Roberts’ book promises to be as direct and in-depth a look at this issue as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow was at the treatment of black individuals by the criminal justice system.

Project List: None.

Title: West Wind
Author: Oliver, Mary
Date Added: 3/10/2013

Verdict: Keep. I added this book because it contains one of my friend’s favorite poems. I can’t remember which one it is, but I remember the emotion with which my friend read the poem, and that led me to seek out the book right away. The trouble is, I don’t really know how to read poetry. I know reading a book of poetry straight through isn’t the best way to absorb the poems, but I lack the patience to read them one at a time, much less again and again to experience the nuances of the language. I’m going to keep this one on here, though, in the hopes that I can figure out how to read it so that I can get a better sense of what moved my friend.

Project List: None.

Title: Truth in Advertising
Author: Kenney, John
Date Added: 3/12/2013

Verdict: Keep. This one sounds like a funny but intelligent novel. I like to think that I am both funny and intelligent, and sometimes maybe even both at the same time, therefore, it makes sense that I should be reading books that are both funny and intelligent.

Project List: None.

Title: Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain
Author: Cohen, Deborah
Date Added: 3/23/2013

Verdict: Keep. Through Instagram and Facebook, we choose what we want to show of ourselves, what story we want to tell about ourselves. But we’ve been curating our lives for since long before social media, deciding what to present to the public and what to keep private. I’m hopeful that Cohen’s book will address some of the decision-making behind what was deemed appropriate or inappropriate to disclose throughout modern British history. The premise puts in mind of Mike Leigh’s movie Secrets & Lies.

Project List: None.

Title: Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages
Author: Knost, L.R.

Verdict: Go. I’m interested in how my commitment to and practice of attachment/gentle parenting evolves as my children grow up, but since I already have on my list Hold On to Your Kids (by Neufeld and Maté), which focuses primarily on the ages my children are now, I think I can safely let this one go.

Project List: n/a

Title: Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions
Author: Ostman, Cami

Verdict: Go. I like the idea, but based on the reviews, this is less an analysis of what draws women to and pushes them away from “extreme” religions than a collection of anecdotes from women who have left their religious communities. Which is fine, but not what I’m looking for.

Project List: n/a

Title: Novelties and Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction
Author: Crowley, John

Verdict: Keep. I enjoyed Crowley’s Little, Big; let’s see what his short fiction is like.

Project List: Short stories.

Title: This I Believe: Life Lessons
Author: Gediman, Dan
Date Added: 3/25/2013

Verdict: Keep. But I don’t want to read this book. I plan to listen to the audiobook because I enjoyed the “This I Believe” stories on the radio, and I think hearing them would be better than reading them.

Project List: None.

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Chbosky, Stephen
Date Added: 3/26/2013

Verdict: Go. I think I actually tried this one a few years ago and couldn’t get into it. This is another of those that one just has to read that I’m choosing not to read.

Project List: n/a

Title: Shakespeare: The World as Stage
Author: Bryson, Bill
Date Added: 3/27/2013

Verdict: Keep. I could take it or leave it, but I think I’ll take it since it’s supposed to be quick and funny, and quick and funny is always nice. And it might be a quick and funny way to learn a little more about Shakespeare.

Project List: None.

Title: The Fall: The Evidence for a Golden Age, 6,000 Years of Insanity, and the Dawning of a New Era
Author: Taylor, Steve
Date Added: 3/27/2013

Verdict: Keep. I’m on the fence about this one. It was recommended to me very highly by someone who tends to enjoy pop-science books that support her viewpoint regardless of whether those books are scientifically rigorous or not. But after reading the reviews, I think I’ll leave this on my B-list.

Project List: B-list

Title: Mariana
Author: Dickens, Monica
Date Added: 3/29/2013

Verdict: Keep. I have no idea how I first heard about this novel, but I love that it’s described as a “hot-water bottle” book.

Project List: None.

Title: How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
Author: Tough, Paul
Date Added: 3/31/2013

Verdict: Go. As a homeschooling parent, perhaps this should be interesting to me. Interestingly enough, it’s not. Plus “grit” is so five years ago.

Project List: n/a

Title: Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Author: Solomon, Andrew
Date Added: 4/1/2013

Verdict: Go. Interesting idea, but not 962-pages interesting. Plus, reviewers note that Solomon inserts himself into the story with some frequency, which, as I’ve noted in these TBR Declutter posts multiple times, is one of my nonfiction pet peeves. Memoir or researched nonfiction, not both.

Project List: n/a

Title: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
Author: Solomon, Andrew
Date Added: 4/1/2013

Verdict: Keep, B-list. I’m going to break my own rule here and keep a book that interweaves personal anecdotes and research. The National Book Award and Pulitzer nomination tipped the scales towards the “keep” side. But if it doesn’t grab me within the first fifty pages, it’s a DNF. And that’s not a threat; it’s a reading plan.

Project List: B-list.

Title: Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life
Author: Roberge, Rob
Date Added: 4/1/2013

Verdict: Keep. These stories seem out-there. I’m interested in checking them out.

Project List: Short stories.

Title: The Family Man
Author: Lipman, Elinor
Date Added: 4/3/2013

Verdict: Keep. This looks like a fun read with little substance. Perfect for a readathon, maybe?

Project List: None.

Title: Happy All the Time
Author: Colwin, Laurie
Date Added: 4/3/2013

Verdict: Keep. This is one of several books that I’ve shelved as “Intelligent Comfort Reading” on Goodreads, based on reviews I read on the book blog Shelf Love. The Family Man (above) is also shelved there, and it seems I cribbed the term “intelligent comfort reading” from Jenny’s review of that book.

Project List: None.

Six more titles off the list for a total of 111 of 330 (14.8% of the original 750).

Any thoughts about which I kept and which I tossed?

* Actually, her name wasn’t Heather, but I don’t feel comfortable putting her actual name in this post. It feels like an invasion of privacy. But she did have her name on her straw cup. And she was wearing floral leggings.

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