When the idea for this series germinated in my head, I had several ideas floating around in my head. One of the ideas was that I would take a picture of my to-be-read pile, and write a short explanation of how I came to own the books, and in some cases why I want to—or don’t want to—read them. In the process of taking the picture(s), I realized I have a TON of books I need to read, and that I should take more than a month-long break from buying books.
It occurred to me, too, that many people might say, “Why don’t you just go to the library, you crazy, book-buying fiend?” Well, when I was growing up, my mom insisted on my access to good education, good shoes, and good books. As a result, I always had good shoes, and she always bought/handed down good books to me (though I still question whether her handing Flowers In The Attic down to me was a good choice, but oh well). Over time, I developed the same habit when it came to shoes and books—I buy good shoes because that way I don’t have to replace them every six months. Also, I developed a connection to and love for owning and being able to see my books. It makes a place feel like home. So, I buy good books partly because it was the way I was raised, and partly because—I’ll admit it—at this point I’m addicted to buying them. I have far more books than I have shoes, just to be clear. So there.
Anyway, here’s Part One of my To-Be-Read “pile,” which is more shelve-ish in nature than a pile. Below the list I’ve written about why I have the books, plus a little extra, of course.
1. Wendell Berry by Hannah Coulter
2. The Lowland by Jumpha Lahiri
3. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
4. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
5. A Feast of Crows by George R.R. Martin
6. The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls
7. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
9. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
11. The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel
12. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
13. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
14. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
15. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
16. The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
17. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
18. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
My thinking process as I typed this list was something like this: Jesus this a lot of books…and there are THREE MORE SHELVES?? Why do I ever buy new books at all?? People are going to think I’m crazy…Hell, I think I’m crazy now that I’m putting this list into solid, viewable form. I really have a problem. 18?? Ok, no more books for the rest of the year…” and so on.
Anyway. Why do I have these books? It’ll be easier if I group them together to explain why. Otherwise this post will take a year, and I don’t have that kind of time. I mean, I don’t even have time to read all of these books. So.
The Silver Star, Dark Places, and The Lowland: My mother read these and thought they were good, and because she still, after a lifetime of reading, passes books along to me. I pass books to her as well. We bonded—and continue to bond—over books. I also pass books on to my daughter. I want to read The Lowland because I read Lahiri’s The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies, and I enjoyed her prose style. I read and was totally engrossed in Gone Girl, and I figure I’ll eventually read Dark Places. As far as The Silver Star, I’ve never read anything by Walls before, but if my mom recommended it, I’ll give it a go.
The Game of Thrones books: Does the presence of these books really require explanation? I am not reading the series because I saw it on HBO. I will say that. I’ve
made it through read the first two books, and after a while of getting used to the storyline/storytelling method, they’re quick reads. Well, as quick as 1,000 page books can be, I guess. They’re great for school-year, before-bed reading. I need escapism a lot during the school year, and these books definitely work for that.
Fangirl and Attachments: I have these because a Twitter acquaintance, Jen at Foreword Literary, recommended them (she also recommended Eleanor & Park, which I discussed in the first post in this series). I liked Rowell’s style in E&P, so I can see myself returning to these books sooner rather than later.
Devil in the White City, In Cold Blood, and The Monuments Men: I picked these up at my favorite local used bookstore after I went to AP Language and Composition training. Before teaching said course, I mainly focused on literature while teaching Diploma Programme Language A. So I figured I needed to brush up on my nonfiction knowledge. That was, uh, two years ago. Where does the time go? I still need to read these three, because I like having options for what to include in my mainly nonfiction-focused course.
The Windup Girl, The Bluest Eye, and Ceremony: I have had the first of these books for a more than a couple years; The Windup Girl was recommended during an International Baccalaureate training. My friend currently teaches the latter two in AP Literature, and I was intrigued by some of the things I heard her planning to discuss, so I grabbed them on one of my trips to my favorite local used bookstore.
Wendell Berry: My stepmother gave me this book when I went back to Maryland for my grandmother’s funeral. She thought I would like it because it is about an environmental activist. I appreciated the gesture, but this book is not very high in my hierarchy of which books to read next…at least not right now.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats: My friend and fellow blogger Libbi read and loved this book and recommended it, so I added it to the menagerie of books on my shelves.
The Fourth Bear: I have this because I truly loved Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and figured I would like the rest of his writing just as well. I read The Big Over Easy, though, and wasn’t terribly into it, and so I actually plan on taking this book back and trading it in for another. I love how that works, by the way, the book trading.
Cloud Atlas: Because, David Mitchell! I am only sad it’s taking me so long to get to his book. Soon, I swear.
A Lesson Before Dying: Is it bad if I say I honestly can’t remember who recommended this to me and why I bought it? I know the book’s contents and general plot, and I think that is what interested me. This might have actually come from my mother-in-law’s purge of books when they moved. She let me have first choice of her collection (many of which are featured in another shelf picture).
That list is crazy! Next time the formatting will likely look a little different—not sure I can be so thorough in the listing and explanations.
What I’ve learned through this process already, though, is that I really, really need to stop buying books, and focus on reading the ones I have. However, I’ll keep going. It’s interesting to be introspective and reflective about the books I have and why I have them.
If you’ve ready any of the above books and have a recommendation, please let me know!