TBR List Declutter, Issue 31


“Why does San Diego have to be so sunny all the time?” asked my son. “I wish it would rain more.”

My son is lover of the cold. He dances when it snows, revels in ice, has the sense to avoid coming in out of the rain.

He is having difficulty adjusting to life in Southern California.

I, however, am having less difficulty. Part of it is that I lived in San Diego as a child, for six of my first ten years, in two three-year increments. San Diego is stored in my memory as “normal.” Canyons and cliffs and dry air and constantly moderate temperatures are my baseline. It’s still an adjustment, but I have to remember it’s more of an adjustment for my children.

“I think when I grow up I won’t move at all,” said my son. “Moving seems like a lot of work.”

I forget that the influences in my children’s lives are different than those from my own childhood, and therefore their thoughts and feelings will differ from my thoughts and feelings about the same subjects. A boy who can only remember living in New England might not have the same sense of “home” in Southern California as I do.

My son is clearly a different person than I am. I feel humbled to be reminded of that.

Visual Interest:

From Fordyce Bath House, which was made into Hot Springs National Park’s museum and visitor’s center:

This is the skylight from the men’s bathing area of the spa.

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


Titles 331-350:

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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:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 29

Welcome to another twenty-title TBR List Declutter blitz!

As promised in Issue 28, here’s some visual interest. This is a pill bug we befriended on our way home from the playground:


I fear that the feeling of friendship might have been a little one-sided. Also, I can’t look at a rolled-up pill bug without wondering what it would be like to crunch the little fellow between my molars. To date, I haven’t attempted to find out for real, but the wondering persists.

Speaking if wondering, if you find yourself wondering what this is all about, check out the introductory post.

Titles 291-310:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 28

Hi, there! How’s it going?

Things are great here, although “here” has changed recently. A couple of times, actually. It’s been exciting and tiring and kind of disorienting.

But now that things are settling a little bit, it’s back to decluttering my TBR!

I’m going to try to zoom through the declutter by doing 20 titles per post for a while. Perhaps I’ll include a little non-book-cover visual interest to mix things up a bit. Like this, from the passenger seat of my car in San Diego, California:


Now, on to the books!

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

Titles 271-290(!):

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2017: My Year in Books

Here at the end of 2017, I’m in the midst of my 17th relocation since I graduated high school (and my 23rd move since birth (not including the relocation from my mother’s uterus into the world at large)). That’s a lot of moving when I put it like that. It feels like a dubious accomplishment.

I vowed to make 2017 a travel year, but I didn’t know until November that in addition to the trips we took to California, Utah, Washington, DC, and Spain, we would also be relocating 3,000 miles southwest.

At the time this post publishes, if all goes according to plan, I’m sitting in a rental car with one spouse, two children, one cat, and a box full of muffins and pretzels, driving farther and farther away from the below-zero temperatures of this New England winter. I’ve spent the past few years in New England assembling a wardrobe largely made up of black and gray wool, which I trust will be of great use in San Diego.

Planned and unplanned travel and wardrobe choices aside, 2017 was, as usual, a year of books.

I read 101 books this year. The average (mean) books read per month was 8.41, and the average (mean) per week was 1.94. Total number of pages (according to Goodreads) was 27,931 (76.5 pages per day, 537 per week). Of course since a lot of these were audiobooks, not all of these were pages, per se.

Of these books, 69 were fiction (including children’s books), 10 were memoirs (up 100% from last year), and the remaining 21 were other nonfiction (an increase of nearly 150% from 2016). Of these, 16 were audiobooks and 6 were DNFs.

My Cavalcade of Classics list expired in January with disappointingly few books checked off. I plan to use my TBR List Declutter to help assemble a new, more reasonable Classics list. I’m not terribly skilled at “reasonable” when it comes to books, but it’s a laudable goal and probably something of a spiritual practice. Biblioasceticism or something.

Between Dewey’s and 24in48, I think I hit my readathon stride this year and learned a lot about how to assemble a readathon pile that holds my interest throughout 24 hours of reading.

As 2018 dawns, I am reading White Tears by Hari Kunzru. I predict that the first week of January will be filled with audiobooks, but after that I hope to be able to spend at least a little bit of time with my reading-with-my-eyes books in between house-hunting and connecting with homeschooling groups, orthodontists, veterinarians, pediatricians, dentists, and the myriad other members of our entourage.

 One of the biggest downsides of this late-breaking moving madness (we didn’t know we were moving until November 30; yippee!) is that I didn’t get my usual birthday/Christmas present of five library books selected for me by my spouse. Maybe I can convince him to get me a half-birthday/Christmas-in-June stack of books. Or maybe once we’re in the land of perpetual good weather, I’ll no longer want books as gifts. That would be strange development, indeed, but I rule nothing out anymore.

Below is my book list for 2017, by the month I finished each book. Click on the month name for the “Bookends” for that month, which includes other information about my reading progress throughout the year. I also cross-post most of my reviews on Goodreads. If you’d like to just go straight to Goodreads to see my reviews there, here’s the link to my Goodreads profile. You can also go there to see all 1163 books I’ve read and logged on Goodreads. If you’re not a Goodreads fan, you can check out my collection on LibraryThing instead, although it’s not as up-to-date as my Goodreads (alas).

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 27

Craziness is afoot later this month, so during this relatively less hectic time I’m trying to squeeze in some TBR list decluttering for posting during the crunch. Let’s see how I do.

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

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 26

We’ve had our first snow of the year, a good 4-5 inches on the ground and the trees and the rooftops. My children were outside shoveling the driveway with their dad and playing in the snow. They came in laughing and rosy-cheeked. I sat with a cat on my lap and read and ate popcorn and Spanish chocolate and drank La Croix and occasionally looked up to enjoy the snowy outdoors through double-paned glass.

I’m not usually so Scrooge-like about the first snow of the season, but the disinterest does give me an excuse to sit down and go through a few more titles on my TBR. So, silver lining!

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

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 25

This issue of the TBR List Declutter is a bit delayed. I thought I’d gotten wifi at all of the places we were staying on vacation, but it turns out I didn’t. And in coffee shops in León, Spain, no one seemed to be working at tablets or laptops—they were all drinking coffee and eating gratis pastries and talking animatedly to one another (we-ird)—which left me feeling too self-conscious to post from there.

If you want to know the truth, I don’t really feel bad about missing my arbitrary weekly schedule for my TBR List Declutter. I was in Spain, goshdarnit, and it’s difficult to feel bad about anything in Spain, except for the fact that I was exhausted trying to understand and speak Spanish for ten days and traffic circles always make me cry, but in the face of castles and mountains that belong on postcards and cathedrals that also belong on postcards and beautiful, freezing beaches (postcards) and tapas for Thanksgiving (Instagram), I’m certainly not going to feel bad about not posting about books I don’t want to read.

Okay fine, I do want to read some of them. Don’t mind me; I’m just in a whiny mood because of the jet lag. (I know: boo-hoo, no one twisted your arm to go to Spain, did they? No, they didn’t, but that doesn’t make me any less tired.)

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

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Bookends: November 2017

November. Holy moly. November.

It was fun, but oh, so tiring. My family traveled 15 out of 30 days, were in the capitals of three nations, and I lost ten pounds (not intentionally; I always lose weight when I’m traveling and then my son got a stomach virus, and, well, there you are). Sometime I’ll write about all of it (except the stomach virus), but it might have to wait until January. In the meantime, check out my Instagram (see sidebar) for images of our adventures.

In between all of that, I read a few books, and that’s what this is all about. I would have read more if those movies and games on the airplane seat backs weren’t so compelling. I’d say I hope to have more titles to report in December, but December’s going to be a whole different brand of crazy, so more reading is probably too much to ask.

At any rate, here are November’s books:

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TBR List Declutter Week 24

Well, it’s Thanksgiving in the United States, but I’m not celebrating it as I usually do. I’m not going to tell you how I’m celebrating it because I’m writing this three weeks ago, and I’m not sure yet how I’m celebrating it. I’ll have to leave you in suspense until a future post. My eight-year-old would call that a cliffhanger.

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

Titles 231-240: Read More