Book pile demolished


Back in September I pulled all of the new(ish) hardcovers I hadn’t read yet off my bookshelves. For the most part they were unknown quantities that were taking up too much of my limited shelf real estate. I decided to see if I could read, or at least try to read, all 26 books in the pile before the end of the year. And now that the end of the year is upon us, it’s time to reveal how I did.

Pretty darn good, as long as you accept that deciding not to continue with a book is as virtuous as finishing a book. The whole experience proved to me yet again that I need to take praise of new books with a grain of salt. Or at least do a better job of filtering the praise through my particular set of likes and dislikes.

It is also interesting to see what I decided to keep and what I decided not to keep. It doesn’t always correlate to what I liked best.

(DNF = did not finish)

In descending photo order:

At Last by Edward St. Aubyn: KIND OF ENJOYED / DONATING
Although I enjoyed it, it was a little too arch to keep around (or read the others in the series).

Hotels of North America by Rick Moody: ENJOYED / KEEPING
A man’s story told through his online hotel reviews. Clever, funny, and I want to read it again some day.

The Last First Day by Carrie Brown: ENJOYED / KEEPING
Comforting in a melancholy way.

Euphoria by Lily King: REALLY ENJOYED / KEEPING
Love me some anthropologically based fiction. (See also many of Barbara Pym’s characters and Satin Island found below.)

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift: REALLY ENJOYED / KEEPING
The upstairs/downstairs tale told in a unique, beautiful way.

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes: KIND OF ENJOYED / KEEPING
I wasn’t a huge fan of this because it wasn’t what I expected, but I am keeping it because now that I know that, I think I would enjoy it more. Plus there just aren’t enough novels about classical music.

Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud: ENJOYED / KEEPING
I’m actually not sure I will read this again, but I am not sure enough to risk chucking it.

Sweet Caress by William Boyd: JUST SHORT OF LOVED / KEEPING (I THINK)
I think Any Human Heart is superior to Sweet Caress so I may not keep it.

The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. by Jacques Strauss: REALLY ENJOYED / KEEPING
Gay coming of age in South Africa, those are too rare to not keep.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal: HATED & DNF / DONATING
I really love to hate this book, but no enough to keep it on my shelves.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: TEDIOUS & DNF / DONATING
I think everyone has a position on this one. Mine is pretty clear.

The Blue Guitar by John Banville: ENJOYED / KEEPING
Banville’s books are beautifully written and beg to be re-read.

The Girls by Emma Cline: REALLY BORING / DONATING
I liked the set-up of the young girl looking for something in her life. But once she met the other girls I thought it got really boring really fast.

Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy: AMBIVALENT & DNF / DONATING
Bad timing. I think I would enjoy reading it under the right circumstances, but not so much so that I want to keep it on my shelves.

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy: REALLY ENJOYED / KEEPING
I love books that deal with academic endeavors (although this book does not have an academic setting. There is much in this that I would like to read again.

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell: I KNOW I WILL LOVE IT BUT HAVEN’T STARTED IT YET / KEEPING

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild: REALLY ENJOYED / MIGHT DONATE
I found this clever in a superficial way and really enjoyed reading it, but I think it might do more good being circulated than sitting on my shelves.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond: AMBIVALENT & DNF / DONATING
I think this was a case of just not being in the mood.

And Sons by David Gilbert: ENJOYED / DONATING
I totally enjoyed this, but I don’t think I will read it again.

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan: AMBIVALENT & DNF / DONATING
At first I was really into this story, but then it got complicated in a way that didn’t interest me much.

Zero K by Don DeLillo: HATED / DONATING
Holy shit, how can a book this short be so painful and take so long to read?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: AMBIVALENT & DNF / DONATING
This might be a great book, but I couldn’t get past the fact that all of the action seemed to be predicated on actions taken due to superstition/religion. I am guessing that is part of a commentary, but I find it tedious.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney: DIDN’T LIKE & DNF / DONATING
So rubbed me the wrong way in the early pages and I knew it wouldn’t change enough to make it worth my while to continue.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee: HATED IT & DNF / DONATING
The snotty review says it all. (Click on title if you missed it the first time around.)

Canada by Richard Ford: REALLY ENJOYED / MIGHT KEEP
I’d never read anything by Richard Ford and may have only purchased it because it was on the remainder rack and one of my best friends in the world is Canadian. I really liked this book on many levels, yet I’m not sure I want to keep it. I don’t think I would re-read it.

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe: DIDN’T LIKE / DONATING
I’ve been a big fan of Wolfe’s past fiction (Bonfire, Right Stuff, Charlotte Simmons, etc., but this one didn’t work for me at all. Didn’t even give it 50 pages before I quit.)

11 thoughts on “Book pile demolished

  1. Richard January 9, 2017 / 3:19 am

    I haven’t read a The Blue Guitar yet, but I’m with you onJohn Banville. He writes beautifully. I like Richard Ford very much, too.


    • Richard January 9, 2017 / 3:23 am

      Great. I managed to include at least two typos in that comment. 🙄


  2. BookerTalk January 9, 2017 / 5:39 am

    knowing your propensity to buy in bulk I’m sure youve already filled the space left by those who have been given their marching orders


  3. The Big Garden Blog, Isle of South Uist January 9, 2017 / 6:47 am

    [J] Thomas, you need a new code/action for disposing of books: ritual burning, so as to avoid any possibility of you being responsible for inflicting the book on any other sane person. [Or you could donate it to Islamic State – they like to burn books.] ;~)


  4. Ruthiella January 9, 2017 / 9:50 pm

    Thank you for posting this, I find it totally satisfying to know that you went through the entire stack. Tick, tick, tick….

    In am glad to hear you enjoyed Mothering Sunday. I still have to read it. I have a copy but I want to have the head space to read it, which I don’t have right now.


  5. Liz Dexter January 11, 2017 / 4:48 am

    Well done, lovely to get a proper update on everything. I am fortunate in that I am a parsimonious person living near a high street with 8 charity shops in a literate / left-liberal area, so I don’t get tempted by much new, knowing it will appear in a charity shop in about a year, by which time I’ll have got more of an idea as to whether I’ll like it and I will not be spending a lot if I turn out not to.


    • Thomas January 12, 2017 / 2:59 am

      Many of the titles were purchased when I was feeling like I wasn’t reading enough new fiction. I began to feel like I was missing out. In many cases it turned out that I wasn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sarah C January 11, 2017 / 6:54 pm

    You have very different taste in books than I do, but even knowing this I cannot understand your reaction to Homegoing. Religion is certainly part of many cultures in this world, and the early parts of the book do explore the cultural settings in which the characters operate….but I didnt’ read this book as being about “superstition/religion” at all. I get the impression you didn’t get very far in it? It’s really a lovely and quick read about the long-term/generational effects of slavery on two family lines.


    • Thomas January 12, 2017 / 2:58 am

      I got about 50 pages in. I don’t think the book was about religion/superstition, I just felt like there was more in it than I cared to read about. It felt like every single action was the result of some superstition and I found that really tedious. I actually tried to read it and listen to the audio book and neither really worked for me.


  7. Gubbinal January 13, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    Thank you; we have similar tastes for the most part and I really enjoyed your summaries and verdicts. I was astounded that “The Girls” got such radiant reviews and also I cannot put up with De Lillo. St. Aubyn is too arch; when I enjoy him I feel vaguely guilty as if I were snubbing nice people at a cocktail party. It is difficult to love Barnes.


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