Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lost on My Bookshelves for Way too Long - Part 1

I need another project like I need another hole in the head. 

But I think that I have finally motivated myself to start chipping away at a special TBR list made up strictly of books that have been on my bookshelves for at least ten years without having been read.  I keep stumbling onto books that have been there more like 20+ years...and I'm wondering if they really deserve still to be taking up that much precious shelf space.  It's come to the point where I need to either read them or abandon them to someone else who might enjoy them.

These are the first five that caught my eye this afternoon:

The Angel on the Roof: The Stories of Russell Banks (2000) - I have enjoyed several of Banks's novels over the years (Cloudsplitter, The Sweet Hereafter, Affliction, Continental Drift, Trailerpark, among them) and must have believed that the short stories would appeal to me equally when I purchased this first edition. The thirty-one stories were written over a 30-year period.

Any Old Iron, a 1989 novel by Anthony Burgess - I have no idea where I bought this book, or more importantly, why, since I am pretty much unfamiliar with this author's work.  But here it sits...and sits.  It is said to be a "multilayered historical portrait of our cataclysmic (twentieth) century from the sinking of the Titanic through the Russian Revolution and the two world wars to the creation of the state of Israel."  Burgess is best known, of course, for A Clockwork Orange, and I suspect this to be a prime candidate for abandonment.

Eagle's Cry, a 2000 novel by David Nevin that is billed as "A Novel of the Louisiana Purchase."  This is a period in American history that I find intriguing because the country was still in the process of taking its final shape as more and more territory continued to be added to it.  Now all the U.S. had to do was hold itself together and a new world power would be born.  Easier said than done.  Central characters include Jefferson, Madison, and Napoleon Bonaparte.  I have not read Nevin, but I see here that he wrote two historical fiction novels prior to Eagle's Cry, and I know he's written several since.  I place the odds at about 60-40 that I will finish this one.

Amy Tan's famous 1989 novel, The Joy Luck Club, has been sitting on my shelf in the form of a pristine first edition almost since it was first published.  This one is the story of four Chinese women who started a club to play mah jong, invest in stocks, and eat good food together.  Forty years later, one of the women is gone, replaced by her daughter, and the story continues.  This little first edition has become valuable enough that I would never abandon it, but I do need to read it...very carefully.  And I will.

Bluebeard, the 1987 novel by Kurt Vonnegut has been sitting on one bookshelf or another since 1987.  It's another pristine first edition whose pages have never seen the light of day.  I probably bought it because it was Vonnegut, and for no other reason (unless it was the cool boot on the cover), since the book's description does not much interest me: "This one is about a man who was in on the founding of the first major art movement to originate in the United States, Abstract Expressionism, and whose pictures all fell apart due to an unfortunate choice of materials."  A bit "ho hum," that.  I place the odds of finishing it at something like 50-50.

My plan is to read one, maybe two of these books a month, until I exhaust the backlog on my shelves.  Frankly, though, that could take years, so I would probably settle for checking off ten or so a year in hopes that I don't end up falling any farther behind than I am today.  Wish me luck.


  1. I've heard good things about Bluebeard, though I haven't read it myself.

    1. Well, it's Vonnegut...so I'm hoping. I'll probably start it or the Joy Luck Club book this weekend. I still can't believe how many books like these are on the shelves, and have been for so long now. I'm almost hoping I hate some of them so that I can make space for a book-buying spree of the future.

  2. Sounds like you need to use the 50 page rule. If it doesn't grab you by then give up. The money is spent, but your time hasn't been invested yet.

    Very nice blog, BTW.

    1. Patty, I pretty much use a 40-page rule but, for some reason, have seldom even considered reading a bunch of the books on my shelves. Seems like they were purchased in another lifetime...

    2. Oh, too, I want to thank you for your kind comment about the blog and for commenting.