TBR List Declutter, Issue 32


San Diego is big. The city is very spread out, and while public transit here is either nonexistent or dramatically inadequate, the highways are pretty impressive. They have lots of lanes to choose from and are quite efficient, much of the time.

Although many people I’ve talked to back in Massachusetts gasp when I talk about highways with a dozen or more lanes, I actually really like I-5. At the widest part of the highway (I’ve seen it listed as 20-22 lanes, but I haven’t counted), there’s an “I-5 local bypass” where I don’t even have to get on the highway proper if I’m going just an exit or two down the road. And when I do have to get on the highway, the on-ramps are long. In Massachusetts, I white-knuckled my way onto the highway, praying that someone would let me merge, but here, I use the ramp to accelerate to cruising speed and integrate myself into the flow of traffic, mostly seamlessly.

And while there are some crazy, weave-in-and-out-for-no-apparent-reason drivers and lots of people pass on the right, which unnerves me, the vibe overall is pretty laid-back. I’m still learning my way around, and at times I’m in the wrong lane or something and make a quick change that’s not entirely cool. In fact, I am at times a menace on the road, a scatterbrained driver with two kids talking about warrior cats in the backseat and “más rock…en español!” on the radio who can’t decide which lane she needs to be in to get on I-5 southbound. I know it’s only a matter of time, but so far, I have not been honked at (although my spouse has). I’ve not been given the finger (that I can tell; car windows are tinted pretty dark here). I’ve not been aggressively tailgated in retaliation for some perceived slight. People just let me be an idiot and wave me along in situations in which, had our roles been reversed, I would have totally flipped them the bird.

It seems I’ll have to learn how to be a chill driver after the intensity of Massachusetts roadways. I only hope San Diego highways stay forgiving and don’t take on the characteristics of their sisters in LA and in the SF East Bay (at least as I experienced those highways nearly a decade ago; I apologize if these areas have experienced a change for the compassionate on their interstates and I’ve maligned them unfairly).

Tangent to the tangent: While we were driving in León, Spain, my husband screwed up exiting one of the million roundabouts and accidentally cut off another car. The driver laid on his horn and zoomed up around us into the bike lane to honk some more and tell us off. I’m not sure of the English translation of his hand gestures or the words he was yelling, but I think I got the gist. Given how pissed he was at us, I half expected to see him pointing a gun at us. I wasn’t even aware that I had that fear about my fellow drivers until that moment. But then I realized that we were in Europe and while he might try to kill us in some other manner, the risk of him shooting us was much lower than it would be in the U.S. Yay, Europe!

Visual Interest:


A fellow hiker along the trail in Saguaro National Park East. (Maybe a carpenter ant (Camponotus ocreatus)).

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


Titles 351-370:

Title: Listening Against the Stone: Meditations
Author: Miller, Brenda
Date Added: 6/6/2013

Verdict: Keep. I have too many books of meditations, but this sounds like something a little different than the curated wisdom of ancient and modern sages. This book is personal essays, all by Brenda Miller (co-author of The Pen and the Bell, which I enjoyed very much), some of which have won the Pushcart Prize.

Project List: None.
Title: Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad
Author: Benner, Scott *
Date Added: 6/6/2013

Verdict: Keep. These sound like fun essays, and I don’t often hear about the perspective of stay-at-home dads.

Project List: None.
Title: On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good
Author: Wallis, Jim
Date Added: 6/9/2013

Verdict: Keep. I’m pretty sure I heard about this one on NPR. I’m not sure I’m the intended audience, but Wallis’s message seems like the kind of thing I could get behind. Whether we’re devoted members of a particular religious denomination or if we’re Atheists or somewhere in between, religion affects our lives and the politics in the United States, and so is something we need to consider regardless of our personal belief system. Unless, I guess, if our personal belief system precludes us from considering the role of religion in American political life. But since mine doesn’t, I’ll plan to read this book. Eventually.

Project List: B-list.

Title: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Author: Shoneyin, Lola*
Date Added: 6/13/2013

Verdict: Keep. Most reviews say this is an excellent novel, so I’m game.

Project List: None.

Title: Genius Unmasked
Author: Ness, Roberta
Date Added: 6/13/2013

Verdict: Go. If this book were just a study of the similarities and differences between different geniuses throughout history, it would probably stay on the list. But when I read about how the author was going to take these common factors and assemble them into a “cognitive toolbox that anyone can employ,” I decided this strayed too far into the self-help realm for my taste.

Project List: n/a

Title: The Fountain Overflows
Author: West, Rebecca
Date Added: 6/23/2013

Verdict: Keep. Based on the synopsis, this story sounds very familiar. I’m going to have to read it to find out why.

Project List: Cavalacade of Classics

Title: Skating to Antarctica
Author: Diski, Jenny
Date Added: 6/25/2013

Verdict: Keep. Sure, I’ll give this memoir a go. It sounds like the kind of travel book where the destination is the backdrop for introspection, and I think I could get into that.

Project List: None.

Title: Mother Daughter Me
Author: Hafner, Katie *
Date Added: 6/26/2013

Verdict: Go. I can see why I put this one on the list in the first place, but it doesn’t really strike me anymore.

Project List: n/a

Title: Morning Girl
Author: Dorris, Michael
Date Added: 6/26/2013

Verdict: Go. The reviews for this are weird. I’m not excited about giving this one a go.

Project List: n/a

Title: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Author: Kundera, Milan
Date Added: 6/27/2013

Verdict: Keep. I liked The Unbearable Lightness of Being (at least, I think I did. I don’t really remember the novel), and I’m leaving Kundera’s The Art of the Novel on my TBR, so why not leave this one, too?

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics?

Title: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
Author: Moore, Wes
Date Added: 7/1/2013

Verdict: Keep. I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time. It seems like a unique chance to glimpse how life might have worked out differently but for some basic changes in circumstance. Of course, this is about two men with the same name, not the same man living two different possible lives, but for the purposes of reflecting on what we have, where we are, and what things outside of our control helped us along, it’s possible that it’s essentially the same thing.

Project List: None.

Title: Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
Author: Berry, Wendell, et al
Date Added: 7/1/2013

Verdict: Go. I love the idea, and this could be a great way to read just a little bit from a lot of great authors, but I’ve already gulped the deep ecology Kool-Aid. I’m ready for books that are a little more lighthearted. Or at least depressing in a unique and entertaining way.

Project List: n/a

Title: Pleasant Valley
Author: Bromfield, Louis
Date Added: 7/14/2013

Verdict: Go. I’m a little conflicted about this one. I added it after my family toured Malabar Farm, the farm Bromfield built and about which he wrote this book. I was interested to read about Bromfield’s farming practices, which were innovative in the first half of the 20th century but nearly common knowledge (if not common practice) today, and with a couple of generations of my family calling Ohio home, I was interested in hearing about his experience of the land and the community. But based on the reviews, I’m not sure my TBR needs to include the nonfiction of Wendell Berry, E.B. White, and Louis Bromfield.

Project List: n/a

Title: Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
Author: Blackmon, Douglas A.
Date Added: 7/16/2013

Verdict: Keep. I’ve already read bits and pieces of this side of U.S. history, but it would be valuable to see it all in one place, especially after recently reading White Tears by Hari Kunzru.

Project List: None.

Title: All Creatures Great and Small(All Creatures Great and Small, #1-2)
Author: Herriot, James
Date Added: 7/21/2013

Verdict: Keep. I heard a couple of James Herriot’s stories on audio somewhere or other and really enjoyed them. This is one I might like to read along with my children.

Project List: None.

Title: A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains
Author: Bird, Isabella L.
Date Added: 7/21/2013

Verdict: Keep. I’ve wanted to read this book since I first learned of its existence, and I still want to read it today.

Project List: None.

Title: Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys
Author: Kindlon, Dan
Date Added: 7/23/2013

Verdict: Go, for two main reasons: 1) I’ve already read a ton of parenting books, and 2) I believe that I’m already aware of a lot of the limitations Western culture places on boys and men, and I’m already engaged in a great deal of introspection and awareness of the cultural influences on my behavior as I raise my son, so I’m not sure this would offer me much more.

Project List: n/a

Title: Here be Dragons (Welsh Princes, #1)
Author: Penman, Sharon Kay
Date Added: 7/23/2013

Verdict: Go. It gets good reviews, but I’m not really wowed by it at this moment.

Project List: n/a

Title: Purgatory Chasm
Author: Ulfelder, Steve
Date Added: 7/23/2013

Verdict: Go. I put this on my TBR because Ulfelder is a Massachusetts author and I was trying to consume the work of local authors. Plus, I’ve been to Purgatory Chasm. This doesn’t seem to be my kind of book, though. Besides, I’m in California now. I need to save my reading time for Steinbeck and Helen Hunt Jackson.

Project List: n/a

Title: Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures
Author: Morell, Virginia
Date Added: 7/31/2013

Verdict: Keep. My daughter’s read this twice and emphatically encourages me to keep this book on my list.

Project List: None.

Eight more titles off the list for a total of 127 of 370 (16.9% of the original 750).

Any thoughts about which I kept and which I tossed?

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