TBR List Declutter, Issue 38

Tangent: On Letter-Writing

For the past year, I’ve been exchanging letters with a prison inmate through the letter-writing ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Church of the Larger Fellowship. Because of the circumstances, this is necessarily a pen-and-paper conversation, and for reasons of privacy, it’s one that takes place via a kind of postal game of telephone, my letters going from me to the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston to the prison, and with the return letters taking the opposite route. In the end, though, the letters get through, and we are each holding a piece of paper that the other held in their own hands.

In the meantime, I am connected via social media to friends and relatives who live thousands of miles away from me. We share an emotional closeness, a closeness born of shared blood, shared experiences, and shared friendship, but we rarely connect in the real world.

This prison pen-pal and I share conversation, but we don’t share friendship, and yet by virtue of the paper we pass from one pair of hands to another, we have more of a tangible, physical-world connection than I have with some of the people I love most in the world. When it comes to that, I share more physical closeness with the realtor I shook hands with at the last open house I attended or the person I sat next to the last time I rode on a plane than I do with most of the people to whom I feel closest.

This physical connection is a small thing, but it feels significant to me. Through my various screens, I get information about the people who are most important in my life, but I don’t get the tangible, concrete connection I crave. To close this gap, I’m trying to connect with those I love in the same way I connect with a person from whom I am separated by cinderblock and razor wire.

I’m making a list of about a dozen people to whom I want to write a letter, and I’m setting aside time a few mornings a week to put pen to paper, lick an envelope, and drop a note in the mail, instead of refreshing e-mail, Facebook, and Instagram, e-mail, Facebook, and Instagram, and around and around again in the search for something tangible. I’ll send these letters out and see what happens.

I might be following a false trail, but if it works the way I hope it will, maybe I can regain some of that feeling of connection by putting a paper I touched and onto which I put the words I’d like to say in person into the hands of someone I love.

Visual Interest:


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


Titles 471-490:

Title: How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z
Author: Marlowe, Ann
Date Added: 4/25/2014

Verdict: Go. This interested me when I heard about it on the radio, but it interests me less now.

Project List: n/a

Title: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Lin, Grace
Date Added: 4/26/2014

Verdict: Keep. Own, son loves it, still intend to read it. Eventually.

Project List: Kids/Read-aloud.

Title: Swallows and Amazons (Swallows and Amazons, #1)
Author: Ransome, Arthur
Date Added: 4/26/2014

Verdict: Go. I hope I’m not missing out on some life-changing classic of children’s literature by dumping this one.

Project List: n/a

Title: Sleep Donation
Author: Russell, Karen
Date Added: 4/28/2014

Verdict: Keep. Interesting idea, short book. I plan to get this on Audible rather than reading the e-Book.

Project List: none.

Title: The Secret Life of Sleep
Author: Duff, Kat
Date Added: 4/28/2014

Verdict: Go. Every time I look at this cover, I yawn. One isn’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but that yawning thing just isn’t going work for me.

Project List: n/a

Title: The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life
Wolf-Meyer, Matthew J.
Date Added: 4/28/2014

Verdict: Go. Meh. Not so interested.

Project List: n/a

Title: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
Author: Novak, B.J.
Date Added: 4/28/2014

Verdict: Go. It probably isn’t fair to judge the books of all The Office alumni/ae on the work of one The Office alumnus, but when I didn’t like Rainn Wilson’s autobio, I decided not to read anything else written by an actor, unless maybe if he/she was a writer first and then had, like, cameos in a film or something, like Stephen King. Although it might be interesting to see Stephen King on a sitcom.

Project List: n/a

Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Zevin, Gabrielle
Date Added: 5/6/2014

Verdict: Keep. Lots of people love it, a few intrepid souls hate it, and somewhere in the middle is where my desire to read it lies. I hope it’s not going to be a Jojo Moyes situation. God, I hate those books.

Project List: none.

Title: A Suitable Boy (A Suitable Boy, #1)
Author: Seth, Vikram
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. Sure. Let’s try this one out.

Project List: none.

Title: Inferno
Author: Myles, Eileen
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. I’m not sure if this is going to be my thing (a poet’s novel?), but that’s probably the very reason I’m leaving it on here.

Project List: none.

Title: Drinking with Men: A Memoir
Author: Schaap, Rosie
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Go. I read several reviews, but the one that tipped me over the edge said, “I can’t believe how much the author exposes of herself while never really examining her motives.” I don’t (or I hope I don’t) read memoirs out of an interest in the lurid details of someone’s personal life. What I want in a memoir is personal growth and discovery. It sounds like this might not be that kind of memoir.

Project List: n/a

Title: The Complete Claudine
Author: Colette
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Go. I thought about just replacing The Complete Claudine with Claudine at School and then seeing if I wanted to read more, but I don’t even really want to read the first in the series. Semi-autobiographical fiction…ick.

Project List: n/a

Title: Excellent Women
Author: Pym, Barbara
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. I’m not sure what “high comedy” is, but I’m willing to find out.

Project List: none.

Title: The Second Sex
Author: Beauvoir, Simone de
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. I’m not entirely sure what this book is about, except in a very vague sense), but I know that it’s a classic and that I’m supposed to read it.

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics

Title: Dora: A Headcase
Author: Yuknavitch, Lidia
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Go. The excerpts I’ve read seem entirely unappealing to me.

Project List: n/a

Title: The Left Hand of Darkness
Author: Le Guin, Ursula K.
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. Ursula LeGuin. I’ve not read her since junior high. Let’s see what this is about.

Project List: none.

Title: Kindred
Author: Butler, Octavia E.
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. After hearing so many great things about Octavia Butler, how can I not read her?

Project List: none.

Title: Heroines
Author: Zambreno, Kate
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. As reticent as I am to read a blog-turned-book, this seems interesting enough that I’d like to give it a try. And don’t worry; I’ll never turn this blog into a book. Well, maybe if someone pays me a lot of money.

Project List: none.

Title: The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
Author: Carter, Angela
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. Retellings of familiar tales with a feminist slant by the “literary godmother” of Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link,  and J.K. Rowling, among others. I feel as though I need to read this.

Project List: none.

Title: Speedboat
Author: Adler, Renata
Date Added: 5/10/2014

Verdict: Keep. Another I considered scrapping, but descriptors like “snarkfest” and “proto-blog” in the reviews keep me interested in this title.

Project List: none.

Eight more titles off the list for a total of 180 of 490 (24.0% of the original 750).

Any thoughts about which I kept and which I tossed?


  1. Ellery Davies · 15 Days Ago

    Re: “On Letter Writing”…
    Very heavy, very poignant, and thought-provoking. Excellent writing. Superior personal vignette!


    • Charity · 14 Days Ago

      Thank you, Ellery! I appreciate all feedback, but I appreciate positive feedback the most. 😉


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