Compiling a TBR list is part of “the blogger life-style.” All over the world, I imagine bloggers hunched over their desks at the beginning of the month, staining their fingers with ink as they jot down dates on a calendar and the list of books they plan to read.
Having a TBR makes me feel like a legitimate blogger. I fill a planner with titles and dates, as though I might be launched on an important wave of social media any minute. You know, Oprah might want me to select her next book pick! Or I might get a message from a charismatic book group leader: “We will meet on Facebook to discuss Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad.” And then we will take the hemlock together because we’ll be so depressed!
Actually, my whimsical TBR list reminds me more than anything of those odd employee picks at indie bookstores. The rookie booksellers enthuse about their favorite new books, scrawling a sentence or two on index cards scotch-taped to the shelf. “YOU WILL LOVE THIS POIGNANT NOVEL ABOUT A BIPOLAR DEAF QUEER WAITRESS WHO MEETS THE WOMAN OF HER DREAM IN REHAB.”
Do the index cards facilitate communication between buyers and sellers? A friend who is a longtime bookstore manager (a melancholy woman who thinks independent bookstores are “doomed”), says employee picks are a hopeless sales pitch : not once in seven years has a customer bought one of her picks (though I did tell her Stalingrad might not be everyone’s cup of tea), nor do any of those more frivolous titles chosen by her underlings sell.
I am immune to bookstore picks. But on the rare occasions when I allow myself to visit BookTube (Youtube channels for readers), I am mesmerized. I write down the title of every book the presenter holds up in front of the camera. Most recently I have added Summer Pudding by Susan Scarlet (Noel Streatfeild’) and Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott. Neither of these books is available in the U.S., so we’ll hope the titles sink to the bottom of the TBR before I have an opportunity to buy them.
Last year I bought Emily M. Danforth’s Plain Bad Heroines, after a vlogger said she hoped it would make the Women’s Prize longlist (it did not). When I bought this novel at a store, the cashier said, “You must have read my index card!” She was all smiles, and I told her how great her index card was, though of course I had discovered the book at a different venue. Although I didn’t find Danforth’s book particularly well-written, I did finish it, and that’s something.
Finally, let me share my TBR for July. I might read one of these six books this month. Or all six. We shall see.
- The Letters and Journals of Katherine Mansfield: A Selection. I carry this in my purse and have read some diary entries and letters at the doctor’s office. But I do need to sit down and read this short book cover to cover.
2. Ship of Fools, by Katherine Anne Porter. I love Porter’s short stories – she truly is a great American writer – and I hope I’ll enjoy her only novel, which takes place in 27 days in 1931 on a freighter-passenger ship traveling from Veracruz, Mexico, to Bremerhaven, Germany.
3. We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin. A Russian dystopian novel that, according to the jacket copy, “accurately predicted the horrors of Stalinism. ” Why do I think I’ve read this before? Have I read it before?
4. Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong. In this comic pop feminist novel, Isadora Wing, who is afraid of flyint, is on a plane with 127 analysts , one of whom she is married to and six of whom have treated her for fear of flying. They will all be attending a conference in Vienna. But Isadora’s done with analysis. She wants freedom, feelings, and what she calls “the zipless fuck. I read this when I was very young, and hope I’ll appreciate it more now. Henry Miller influenced Jong. I loved her recent novel, Fear of Dying.
5. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Why? You may ask. Why? You may ask again. Well, I can’t find my Collected Poems of Tennyson, so I found these Arthurian poems on a bookshelf. I am enjoying some of it immensely, though some of it is stodgy. You know who’s really annoying? Lynette of Gareth and Lynette. She is the most annoying character in the book – I swear.
6. The Wrath of Dionysus, by Evdokia Nagrodskaia. A Russian best-seller in 1910, according to the book jacket: “Long before post-modernism suggested that gender was a social construct rather than a biological absolute, Nagrodskaia’s novel put this issue before middle-class Russian audiences hungry for popular fiction.” All I can say a is: We’ll see!
What are you reading in July? Are you ticking things off a TBR list? Inquiring minds want to know!