TBR List Declutter, Bonus Issue 2

Tangent: Podcasts for Suburban Walks 

The past month or so I’ve been taking long walks over the weekend. I try to get in the neighborhood of ten miles. I always start from my house. Most times I do a circuit, but sometimes to expand my range I walk to a destination 10-ish miles away and have my spouse pick me up in the car.

The first time I hiked on the trails to a waterfall in one of the nearby canyons. Then I started having dreams about rattlesnakes, so I decided to set the nature hikes aside until rattlesnake season passes or, since apparently every season is rattlesnake season in San Diego, until I forget about them again.

Since then, I’ve kept it suburban.

I’ve walked to the library and on to a farmers market, then risked my life discovering firsthand the reason for the GoogleMaps disclaimer that the route may not always reflect real-world conditions. I’ve walked to Costco and met my spouse waiting in line for gas.  I’ve walked a big loop across another canyon, to Target to buy icing spatulas, and then to a different library. Most recently I walked to a farmers market ten miles away where I met my family and bought local passion fruit.

No matter my route or destination, I get about three hours by myself to think, take in the suburban sights, breathe in car exhaust, and listen to podcasts.

Here are some of the highlights from my auditory explorations:

  • Being Sincere in a Cynical World, from To the Best of Our Knowledge. This show explores the reasons for and costs of cynicism and the value of vulnerability. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and that I addressed in part in my tangent about duplicity. The third story, “Can You Change the Mind of a White Supremacist” was my favorite. If you listen to only one story from that episode, I recommend that one.
  • Loving Bees, also from To the Best of Our Knowledge. This one is all about the importance of bees—especially local bees—to our ecosystem and most notably to human food supplies. My can’t-miss from that episode was “Rebuilding Detroit, Hive by Hive” about a couple who turn a vacant lots into bee sanctuaries. We have family near Detroit, and I’m scheming to visit Detroit Hives next time we’re in the area.
  • Word Watch and Word Watch, the Sequel, from Code Switch. These episodes explore the racist origins of common words and expressions.
  • Talk American, also from Code Switch. This one deals with the information we assume about a person based on their accent and explores the origins of the non-accent that’s become the standard for network news in the United States. (Spoiler: it started in Cleveland.)
  • “Blockchain all the things. Or don’t.” and “Bitcoin IRL,” from Make Me Smart. I can’t actually decide if I love these or hate these. After listening to these episodes, I understand blockchains and Bitcoin about as well as I understand futures trading now, which means they’ve taken my understanding from abject confusion to only partial confusion, which is positive. I think.
  • On Homeschooling Culture & Rethinking School, from Brave Writer Podcast. There’s not much that’s brand new to me in the homeschool world, but this interview with Susan Wise Bauer got me thinking. Of particular interest to me is Bauer’s observation that the homeschoolers in the classes she teaches at William and Mary College are overall ill-equipped to defend their arguments. Since listening, I’ve been thinking my approach to logic and argument with my own children. Critical thinking is, in my opinion, possibly the most important skill I can foster in my children. We tend to be a skeptical family, and intellectual argument is our native tongue, but a little more formal preparation—and more intentional interaction with those with differing viewpoints—is probably in order.

That’s some of what’s been filling my ears these past several weekends. If you listen to any of these or if you have any favorites of your own, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Visual Interest:



Titles 771-782:

Tooth and Claw
Walton, Jo
Date Added: 02/17/17

Verdict: Keep. “Jane Austen with dragons.” “Anthony Trollope with dragons.” “Watership Down with dragons.” “Dragons” isn’t usually enough to hook me, but the other things along with the dragons make this book quite enticing.

Project List: None

Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter
Aguirre, Carmen
Date Added: 02/15/17

Verdict: Keep. And so begins the list of titles I added when I wanted to learn about Chile before we visited. Then we went to Spain instead, and I put these on the back burner. They still look interesting, though. So. There you have it.

Project List: none.

Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul
Reid, Michael
Date Added: 02/15/17

Verdict: Keep. A friend of ours from Chile said that Chile would never be a major economic power because Chileans like to party too much. I suspect there’s more to it than that, and perhaps this book will help me understand a little bit of it. And then I can have some background before I visit. Eventually. Hopefully while my kids are still young enough to want to adventure with their parents.

Project List: none.

Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North
Dorfman, Ariel
Date Added: 02/15/17

Verdict: Keep. My son mentions the Atacama Desert at least once a day. Did you know that the Atacama Desert is in a rain shadow? Did you know scientists test out equipment they send to Mars in the Atacama Desert because the environment there is so harsh? Did you know that the Atacama Desert used to belong to Bolivia until Bolivia lost all of its coastline and the valuable copper deposits of the Atacama to Peru and Chile? This one is on my list in part to see if I can learn anything about northern Chile that my son doesn’t already know.

Project List: none.

The Dictator’s Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet
Muñoz, Heraldo
Date Added: 02/15/17

Verdict: Keep. More Chilean history. It also seems like a good time to read about a foreign government meddling in another country’s election.

Project List: none.

In Patagonia
Chatwin, Bruce
Date Added: 02/15/17

Verdict: Go. Surprisingly, the only Chile book that I’m scrapping is the one described as a “classic,” despite the fact that the label is probably a lot of the reason it’s on here in the first place. Reading the reviews, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a Desert Solitaire in Patagonia, which is what I was hoping it would be.

Project List: n/a

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile
Allende, Isabel
Date Added: 02/15/17

Verdict: Keep. This might be one Chile title too many, but I’ve enjoyed Allende’s fiction, and she is connected by birth to the events of the 1970’s, so this one stays.

Project List: none

Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results
Lupton, Robert D.
Date Added: 02/09/17

Verdict: Keep. Confession: The only reason this book is on my TBR is because the title makes me laugh. I really do wonder what I would look like if we cared about results. I doubt this will be a read-every-word book, but I’m curious about Lupton’s “the free market will solve poverty” thesis (or at least that’s what the reviews suggest his thesis is), especially as I look more deeply into the issue of homelessness in my new home city.

Project List: none.

Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America
Cleves, Rachel Hope
Date Added: 02/09/17

Verdict: Keep. This is another that found its way onto my list because it has my name in the title (thank you, #bookstagram challenge) but it’s staying here because the subject is incredibly interesting to me.

Project List: none.

When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World
Jobin-Leeds, Greg
Date Added: 01/10/17

Verdict: Keep. I did a fair amount of activism when I was in my twenties, primarily for farmworkers’ rights and against the Drug War, but I never felt confident that what I was doing made any difference in the grand scheme of things. I hope that there are stories here I can share with my children so that together we can come up with some ways to make a difference in our community.

Project List: none.

Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile
Wheeler, Sara
Date Added: 01/07/17

Verdict: Go. I tried this one out about a year ago, I think, when I had the idea that I might be able to pitch the idea of a book about family travel in Chile and maybe have part of our trip to Chile financed. I quickly realized that I lack the chutzpah necessary to make that kind of pitch and/or the follow-through to actually write a promised book. I also discovered not very far into this particular book that I didn’t much care for it. No need to keep it on the list, I think.

Project List: n/a

The Alexiad
Komnene, Anna
Date Added: 1/7/17

Verdict: Keep. I’ve been trying to diversify my Cavalcade of Classics list and was excited to find out about this history. Not many female authors for the ancient-to-medieval period on my list. This one’s going on my daughter’s to-read list for her homeschool studies of early medieval history, too.

Project List: Cavalcade of Classics.

Two more titles off the list for a total of 284 of 782. That’s 36.6% of the titles I’ve looked at so far. I should have kept the number at 750. It would have made the percentage almost entirely meaningless but it also have made it more impressive.

And that’s the end of the TBR List Declutter posts. Even with all that I’ve cut, I still have 498 titles on my TBR, not including the 18 I’ve added in 2018 so far. So I guess I’d better get reading. Or maybe I should do some more pruning…

Any thoughts about which I kept and which I tossed?

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