Making a list

The Next Chapter: Building a TBR

Coming up with a TBR (to be read) list can be tricky. I remember in high school and in my early 20’s, I would make long TBR lists on yellow legal pads. Usually, there were at least 20 books on the sheet and at the top of the list was Germinal by Emile Zola. I don’t know why I wanted to read a book about a miner’s strike in France but I did. I wish I kept these lists but I didn’t. I never, though, mapped out when I would read each book. I finally figured recently my TBR for the rest of the year and as you will see I had to take into account buddy reads and movie adaptations of books I haven’t read before, plus incorporating some of the books on my original 2021 TBR list.

Every year I try to come up with a theme to help me figure out what books I want to read that year. In 2018, I decided I wanted to read mostly classics and finally read books like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford. In 2019 the theme was reading books by authors I never read before. That year I read books by Wallace Stegner, J. M. Coetzee, Harold Brodkey, and Alice Munro. This year I decided to concentrate on books written by current authors and so far I read Americanha by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and Elanor Olyphant is Completely Fine while also reading books not on my list like The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and Things I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I decided to join Rick Mac Donnell’s Booktube Spin number #3 and the spinning wheel landed on #2, Before Night Falls by Renaldo Arenas and #20, The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. I did finish Before Night Falls but I decided not to read the Roth book right away. I remember that the film Passing, based on the novel by Nella Larson is supposed to come out soon on Netflix. I first learned about Passing when I read David Bowie’s list of his favorite 100 books. I can see why Bowie liked it because it’s about identity. Claire is an African American woman of mixed race whose skin is so light she can “pass” for being white. My copy had Larson’s other novel Quicksand and I read that too.

In September I decided to go back to my original TBR list and started reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I’ve been wanting to read Murakami for a while and I’ve been told this book is a good place to start. It’s about two college students and how the suicide of their high school friend still haunts them. It’s only around 200 pages long, so if I can fit it in I might read another book on my original TBR, perhaps There There by Tommy Orange about the lives of urban Native Americans.

Now I come to my two buddy reads. For #Victober, where you read only Victorian literature, I have a buddy read of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure with my Bookstagram friend Rolly. I’ve read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd, and The Mayor of Casterbridge, and I liked them all. Jude is about 400 pages, so I think I don’t see myself reading another book in that time. If I do have time, I might read the short book Silas Marnier by George Elliot.

November is another buddy read of Earnest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms with my Bookstagram friends Rolly and Nike Classics. The novel takes place in Italy during the first World War. I haven’t read much Hemingway and even though I never liked his macho persona, he’s still a major American author I should read more of.

I don’t expect it will take me that long to read A Farewell to Arms, which leaves me with half of November and all of December. I recently bought a copy of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I have been obsessed with this book ever since Reese Witherspoon chose it as one of her book club picks. The movie comes out next year. If I still have time for another book, I might read The Things They Carried by Tim O’ Brien, which is another book going to be adapted for the big screen.

I haven’t picked out a theme for next year’s TBR. I’m debating reading books by authors I have read before like Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, Graham Greene, and others. Or I might read books I’ve been meaning to get to like Lord of the Flies, The Scarlett Letter, and Death in Venice. I still have time to mull it over. Unfortunately, I can’t go back in time and refer to my old TBR lists. I’m sure eventually I will figure it out.



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