The end of last year seemed chaotic to me. It snuck up on me. I was sick on Thanksgiving and wound up eating food Mary Panza sent over. Then, once I felt better, I planned for my trip to Jersey to visit my mom and brother’s family. It didn’t give me a lot of time to make a TBR for 2023.
First, I should address that I have several friends on Bookstagram who are doing the #tbr23in23 challenge. I wish them well, but I never read over 20 books in a year. The one year I tried reading over 20, I wound up reading smaller books like Frog in the Throat by E.X. Ferris and Oh, What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever. They were good, but I only picked them out because they were short books. No offense to anyone, but I think your TBR should reflect the journey you want to take, not just trying to reach an arbitrary goal.
In years past, I came up with themes for my TBR. One year I concentrated on reading classics, and I read great books like Brave New World, The Good Soldier, and Little Women. Another year I read mostly contemporary novels and wound up loving The Underground Railroad, The White Tiger, and Americanah. Another year I chose to read books by authors I had never read before, and I wound up reading books by J.M. Cotezee, Lauren Groff, Harold Brodkey, and Alice Munro, all authors I now want to read more of. However, for 2023, I decided to take a break from themes and just read books I’ve been wanting to get to. So here’s what I plan to read this year.
Last year, I joined a small online book club run by my friend Jennifer. Ironically, a person picks a theme for the whole year, and Jennifer asked me to pick the theme. Last year’s theme was books with food in the title, and that’s why I read Green Fried Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and The Beet Queen. It took me a while to pick one, but I chose books with cities in the title. The reason why is I wanted to finally read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Gentleman in Moscow, Brighton Rock, and The Paris Wife. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, but I might squeeze that in at the end of the year.
I always look forward to my buddy reads with my Booksta buddy Rolly. Last year we read Stoner, The Moonstone, and A Christmas Carol, all books I enjoyed reading. This year we have three buddy reads planned. First is Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Next, we are both Kurt Vonnegut Jr fans, so we are reading Breakfast of Champions, which was my favorite book for a long time. Finally, I am going to try convincing Rolly to read The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. I have two reasons for picking it: Anne is the only Bronte sister I haven’t read anything by yet, and the book deals with a woman who leaves her husband, which was pretty much unheard of in 1848 when the book was published.
I want to read All the Light We Cannot See this year because Netflix made a TV show based on the book, with Mark Ruffalo and Hugh Laurie, and it’s supposed to come out this year. I’m upset that Netflix hasn’t released when it’s coming out, and I don’t see a release date on IMDB, even though I check it monthly. I find it very annoying.
All the other books on my TBR are random picks. I finally found a copy of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibson after years of searching. I saw the film years ago when it came to the theater, and I loved it. I noticed that The Chosen with 70’s heartthrob Robby Benson is on Amazon Prime, and I want to read the book before I see the movie. I realized that I hadn’t chosen a book written by a person of color. Diversity is important to me. At first, I was going to pick The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, but I decided instead to read The Wedding by Dorothy West. It’s the story of an African American wedding held on Martha’s Vinyard. Also, I will try to squeeze in some mystery novels, maybe one of the Perry Mason books by Earle Stanley Gardner or maybe a P.D. James book. I also want to finish Stones For Ibarra by Harriet Doerr. I started it last year but took a break so I could finish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
A good TBR is like a road map. You know what direction you want to go in, but if you see a sign for the biggest ball of string or a museum about merry-go-rounds, how can you resist? To me, it’s about the journey books take you to. So, I’m going to put on my seat belt and start my trip.