TBR Cleanse

TBR Pile Cleanse

I can’t resist a good play on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, considering it’s one of my all-time favorite books. (And I finally get to teach it this summer in a film and lit class!) I originally saw this little game over at Jillian’s place, but she got it from Lia

As I’ve got a solid 2,170 books on my Goodreads “To-Read” shelf, I figured, why not take a look at TEN to see if they deserve to be there anymore. I decided to go with Jillian’s approach, which takes a step beyond the “KEEP OR GO” to address some other little factors. The rationale for that? Simply to be more thoughtful about my choices. I’ve also added the date when I first placed the book on my “to-read” shelf.

I think I might make this an ongoing project, posting a new 5 or 10 books each week. I’ll call it my “TBR Pile Cleanse” and, like weekend housekeeping, I’ll tend to my over-cluttered TBR list each Saturday. 

Sorted according to the books I added first to my TBR list, so these have been lingering the longest.

Book #1: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: By all accounts, everyone reads this book (they have read it, they plan to read it, whatever). García Márquez is a beautiful writer, and an important one, but I’ve only read a couple of his short stories plus the novella Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores. So, as this is his masterpiece, I need to read it. I also hope to read more of his. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level (1-10, with 10 meaning DO IT ALREADY)?: 9
  • Project lists: None, but perhaps I could come up with some kind of South American or Latin (Spanish-to-English translation) kind of project or challenge? Or maybe I no longer need challenges to keep me occupied and, instead, I can simply read a book when I feel like reading it. 

Book #2: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: This is probably pretty self-explanatory. It’s Dumas. It’s a classic. I’ve actually never read anything by Dumas, which is pretty embarrassing. But you look at the size of his books and think, “sure, some day, bud.” I’ve honestly heard nothing but good things about it, though, despite its length. Same goes for The Three Musketeers. So, maybe I’ll read this one some summer when I don’t have to teach. Or over a winter break when I don’t want/need to cram a bunch of books into a few weeks’ time. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level?: 7 
  • Project lists: The Classics Club

Book #3: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: I’ve read parts of this. Chapters of it are often included in anthologies, so that must be where I first encountered it (sometime in college). She and Louise Erdrich always seem to get portions of their work anthologized but then few people seem to read the complete works. This seems to me an important book, and I remember enjoying the bit that I read. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level?: 5
  • Project lists: The Classics Club

Book #4: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: I think my sister recommended this one to me. Of course, it was wildly popular for a time. I worked in a bookstore from 2006-2008, and I remember this being an oft-requested title. I haven’t read many Middle Eastern writers, possibly no Afghanis, so in my pursuit to be truly well-read, I think this one must remain. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level?: 6 
  • Project lists: None

Book #5: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: I go through phases when “the wild” seems absolutely fascinating to me. Sometimes, I feel quite the hermit and wish to escape from civilization and society. I imagine myself living in a little cabin in the woods, or on the plains, in some kind of Thoreau-meets-Cather scenario. I’ll never actually do it, but I can have my literary escapism version of it every now and again. I suppose I added this one when I was in that kind of mood, and I know I’ll be in that kind of mood again someday. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level?: 3
  • Project lists: None

Book #6: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: This one is another classic that everyone is “supposed” to read. To be honest, I’ve never been very tempted. I suppose I like Capote’s work… he does some interesting things (Other Voices, Other Rooms was pretty fascinating). His relationship with Harper Lee, who was a part of this project, also interests me. This is perhaps one of the earliest and most groundbreaking examples of American literary journalism, though, so even though I’m not too compelled to read it, I still think I should at some point. Maybe in retirement, or if I ever teach a creative nonfiction class. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level?: 4 
  • Project lists: None

Book #7: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: Like my hermit/adventurous side, I also have a healthy lifestyle/sociologist side, which comes and goes. At some point in time, I was obviously interested in what fast food culture is doing to us (Americans), to our bodies, budgets, healthcare, economic health, etc. I suppose 10 years ago I felt like I needed this book to learn about all of that, but I don’t feel that way anymore. After years of reading essays on the topic, and often teaching it as an ethical research issue, I have a fairly good grasp on this mess. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Release!
  • Priority Level?: 10 – the book has been removed!
  • Project lists: None

Book #8: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: I think this is another one, like The Kite Runner that had a rage of popularity sometime about a decade (or so) ago, and which people always asked for when I was working at the bookstore. I know that, at some point, I had a general idea of what this book was about. I’ve heard good things, surprising things, but I really have no desire to spend any time on thi one.  I might be wrong, but with a TBR above 2,000, something’s gotta give, right? 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Release!
  • Priority Level?: 8 – it’s gone but could return. 
  • Project lists: None

Book #9: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: I feel pretty bad that I haven’t read this one, yet, because it is a classic beloved by many. I feel worse about it than most, though, because I actually received a copy of this from a good friend when I went away for graduate school. Someone (my sister?) asked a bunch of my friends to give me a copy of their favorite book, with a “going away” note in it. I must have received 6 or 7 really interesting books, none of which I had ever read (including The Things They Carried and the Bartimaeus sequence). I think this is the only one from that special set of books that I’ve left to read. 
  • Do I own it?: Yes
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level?: 9
  • Project lists: None

Book #10: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  • Date added?: Oct. 21, 2009
  • Why is it on my TBR?: Another no-brainer? I cannot believe I haven’t read this book, but I know that I absolutely must! Now would be a pretty good time to do so, too, given the state of affairs in this country right now. I remember starting it when I was in high school (for an  independent reading class) and giving up on it after a couple of pages. I think I would be much more receptive to it these days, and I tend to really enjoy books like this. 
  • Do I own it?: No
  • Verdict?: Keep
  • Priority Level?: 9
  • Project lists: The Classics Club

 

*As an aside. I actually once owned every single one of these books; however, in the last year, I’ve sold/donated about 1,200 books. I no longer have a personal library (just a few half-filled bookcases) which is both sad and wonderful. Whenever we settle down for a while, I’ll begin rebuilding. This project might actually help me consider the texts that I really do want to own again. 

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24 thoughts on “TBR Pile Cleanse

  1. My TBR hit 2,200 this week and I just did the same thing with my Goodreads list yesterday. Got rid of about a dozen titles that I wasn’t interested in (a lot of gardening books from when I thought I could acquire a green thumb; authors whose previous — or subsequent — books I didn’t like, etc.) I need to do this more often!

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  2. I got rid of my entire TBR shelf on Goodreads a couple of years ago because it was stressing me out. I’ve started put a few things on again – because otherwise I’ll forget about them – but I need to come up with a strategy to keep the list short.

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  3. Although I enjoyed Into the Wild at the time, I realized afterward that he throws pretty much everybody else under the bus in his version of events. Everybody but him is a screw-up bad guy. Left a bad taste in my mouth.

    But Brave New World — that needs a 10! Read that last week!

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  4. I love this. I may have to participate myself this summer.
    I am one of the few people who don’t like The Princess Bride movie, but I absolutely adore the book. It’s a lot of fun and really clever.
    I haven’t read Brave New World yet, either, and have been vowing to for about ten years. Some day…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my goodness The Kite Runner is so compelling. Please please give it a 10! Read it now. It’s that good!

    I have read 100 Years of Solitude and while the writing was breathtaking, I still don’t get it. I don’t see why it is on so many of the “you must read this classic” lists.

    This is such a fantastic way of looking at your TBR collection! I’d love to join you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I need to do this when I move in four years. Seriously consider as I’m packing my books if it’s something I really want, or will want, to read. I have over 3000 books and I’m not complaining. I love having a home library. However, it wouldn’t hurt to whittle it down a bit before I move, as I am moving three states away.
    By the way, Time Traveler’s Wife…a favorite of mine. I hope you add it back. 🙂

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    • Yep. We’ve moved every 2 years. I had thousands of books in storage (for 8 years… paid thousands of dollars juat to keep them sitting there) and had thousands more at home that I kept moving from place to place. When we moved last year I got rid of about 1/3. We are about to move again and I’ve gotten rid of another 60-70%.

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  7. Jonathan says:

    I guess I use my GoodReads TBR shelf a little differently in that it’s just books that sound interesting enough for me to consider reading them. I fully accept that I won’t have time to read them all so I use the ‘order’ feature to try to prioritise ones that I’m thinking of reading sometime soon. I did set up a shelf for books that I wanted to retain (for whatever reason) but was unlikely to actually read but it’s a bit superfluous really.
    The beauty of the GR TBR shelf is that it doesn’t bother me if it’s ten or ten thousand. It’s a bit different for the books I actually own.

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  8. I think I was really happy when I saw The Princess Bride on your list. It might sound strange, but it’s one of my favourite books and has one big difference between book and film (considering Goldman wrote the script for the film as well). In the book Goldman, in a kind of alter ego, says that he is just adapting the book that someone else wrote. If you read this plotline (taking up about half the book) I think it’s a brilliant take on how stories are transfered from generation to genereation. I haven’t really seen anyone who has studied literature do their take on this aspect of the book (though if anyone knows of one please let me now). Other than that, interesting list and happy reading (or non-reading).

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  9. This is such a great idea! I feel like I should reevaluate some of the books on my TBR, especially if I don’t own it.
    I did read Brave New World recently. I really liked it and was so glad I read it. I still might be a little traumatized by the ending.

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  10. Pingback: Down the TBR Hole #1 | The Englishist

  11. I use the Godreads to read tool mainly to keep track of books I might want to read in the future but then forget to look at it so doing a trawl through as youve done could be a good exercise. I keep a separate list of ‘owned but unread’ books and am slowly working my way through these.

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  12. Pingback: TBR List Declutter: Week 1 | Imperfect Happiness

  13. I treat my whole TBR shelf on Goodreads as pretty theoretical. It is interesting to see the books I thought I might want to read at various times. And if I save it here, I know I have it on a list somewhere if the subject re-enters my orbit later. I know some people find having a ton of books on that shelf stressful, but I think I would only feel that way if I regarded it as an actual commitment to definitely read the book. Love this series idea!

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