Category Archives: Book Haul / TBR

TBR 4.20

New month, new books! My March TBR may not have gone so well, but I’m back for a fresh attempt.

Every month for 2020, I’ll be setting a TBR with five of the books I expect to read (and love!) throughout the month. I won’t mention extras even though I may expect to pick up other things, and at the end of the month, finished or not, each of the five are barred from future 2020 TBR appearances.

Here’s what I’ve got lined up for April:

  1. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara. A Women’s Prize longlister, and my last library book  until things reopen. Since this post is a little late I’ve actually started reading this one already and expect to finish soon- I’m quite enjoying it so far! It’s about a group of children investigating a friend’s disappearance in India.
  2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. A recent release, my first O’Farrell book, and another Women’s Prize longlister. This one features the death of Shakespeare’s son and the play he wrote soon after, titled after the same child. I believe the book focuses on the grief of the entire family.
  3. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee. Another Women’s Prize longlister. I am planning to read as much of the longlist as possible before the shortlist announcement on the 22nd, so this will be dominating my reading life for a while longer. This book is a Singapore-set dual-narrative novel about WWII and the traumatic aftermath of some of the events of that time.
  4. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. This is a new release that came out at the end of March, and one I’ve been highly anticipating. I don’t know much about it but I think I’m going to love it- that’s one of the criteria I use to put these TBRs together; I wanted to read more high-rating books this year so I try to fill these monthly TBRs with titles I hope will be 4 or 5 star reads for me!
  5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is the first book in Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell historical fiction series. The third book has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize. It’s the longlister I’m least certain about finishing on time for the shortlist announcement, but I’m hoping that even if I don’t quite make that cut-off I’ll still finish the trilogy in April. I’m including the first book here as an extra nudge to get started!


Clearly it’s a Women’s Prize-heavy list, but after partially failing my TBR in March I think this is the surest way to stay on top of things. I hope to pick up more of my 2020 reading goals again in May, including my 20 in ’20 list, 2019 releases I missed, and new releases I’m highly anticipating. But for now, these are some of the books I’m most excited to read in April! Hopefully this will only be the beginning.


And even though I don’t think I’ll have time to pick any of these up this month (I still need to catch up on March’s new books!), here is the list of new releases for April that I’ve got my eye on. I’ll be watching for reviews on these throughout the month to help me decide what to prioritize.

  • Sin Eater by Megan Campisi. Historical fiction about an orphaned girl tasked with listening to the confessions of the dying, eating foods that symbolize their sins, and thus granting them access to heaven. Out Apr 7th
  • The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni. A horror/gothic novel featuring a woman who (to her surprise) inherits wealth and a castle in Italy. When she goes to check it out she learns that she’s inherited some dark family secrets as well. Out Apr 7th
  • Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O’Connell. Nonfiction that tells the tale of one man’s quest around the world to see how people from different places and cultures are preparing for what many see as a grim future for planet Earth. Out Apr 14th
  • You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce. A thriller in which a possibly dead novelist leaves behind a manuscript revealing the literal skeletons buried in her past. Out Apr 21st
  • Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh. A literary mystery about an elderly woman who discovers a note in the woods mentioning a dead body- leaving her to question everything about her new home.


Tell me about something you’re reading in April! Are you following the Women’s Prize or picking up any anticipated releases?


The Literary Elephant

Vacation + Book Haul!

I think I only mentioned once on my blog that I had a vacation coming up this month, so in case you missed that, I spent last week in New York City!

It was my first time there, I’ve wanted to go for ages, and when I agreed to it (with a friend) there were no COVID-19 cases in the city yet. Ultimately it was probably not the best time to be there, and it was so bizarre seeing Broadway announce it was closing shows two days after I’d seen one, and The Met announce it was closing the day after I’d been there, etc. The employees at the One World Trade Center were talking (loudly) amongst themselves about whether the observatory would close, while they were putting me in the elevator. I’d spent enough on tickets and housing and flights ahead of time that I really didn’t want to back out of my plans, but there’s no way to separate what has been happening with coronavirus from my NYC experience; my friend and I were doing everything we could to stay clean and healthy, to stay outdoors in open air and away from enclosed crowds as much as possible. I had to buy a second pair of shoes in NY because we were walking so much to avoid using public transit when we could. And now that I’ve returned I am isolating myself because I normally have frequent (direct and indirect) contact with my family, which includes three grandparents over 70, at least two of whom would probably not respond well to a bad virus. I’m lucky in that I live rurally and can quarantine myself without it affecting my life much, which was the main reason I was okay with going on this vacation even as things started to look more alarming right beforehand.

Anyway, all that was just to reassure you that I’m being as responsible as possible about taking a vacation in this fraught time; now on to the good stuff! I managed to see everything I wanted to on this trip, and some of the big ticket items for me were popular bookstores, so I’m going to share some photos and my book haul! The plus side of the isolation situation is that I’ll have plenty of time to dig into the eight Women’s Prize longlisters that arrived home in my absence, which I intend to start reading later today. I’ll also be catching up on comments, blog hopping, and posting throughout the week; I have a few non-Women’s Prize reviews to catch up on and then I’ll be dedicating myself to the longlist for the next month or so.

But first, New York! I was a massive tourist and mainly took the most expected photographs, so I’m not going to caption all of these. Feel free to ask for more info if you want it!

The pizza was a massive highlight- we ate at Julianna’s the first night and loved it so much that we tried two other pizza places throughout the week which were also excellent but didn’t top Julianna’s. I had somewhat low expectations for The Vessel (a honeycomb stair construction), compounded by the fact that my feet and knees and legs in general hurt a lot by the time we got to it, but it turned out to be one of the top hits of the entire trip. The view from the One World Trade Center was incredible, even on an overcast day (it’s ALWAYS an overcast day when I’m going up to ab observatory, this has also happened to me in Chicago, Washington D.C., and St. Louis). There aren’t really any museums around me so it was fantastic seeing some famous artworks in person. I’m not a huge fan of performing arts (I got dragged to a lot of my cousins’ elementary school plays as a kid and never quite recovered) but LOVED seeing my first Broadway show- Wicked! I was already a fan of some of the songs (I know I’m coming late to this game) but was only loosely knowledgeable about the storyline, which turned out to be a great starting point. Otherwise, the best part of the trip was simply wandering around, seeing the sights and getting a feel for different parts of the city (we were mainly in Brooklyn and Manhattan, there just wasn’t enough time to branch farther out). Ironically, the night I took the picture of a (crowded) Times Square was also the night I read a fresh article about Times Square looking like a “ghost town” thanks to coronavirus, so… don’t believe everything you hear! (But seriously, take care of yourself and those around you.)

Aaaand I’m an idiot who got too excited about the books to take any pictures of the bookstores (except for the ceiling mural in Albertine, which is in the top row of photos) but I did buy plenty! More than I was planning to really, but there aren’t many bookstores where I live and I discovered that it was impossible to walk out of any indie bookstore without making a purchase (especially since Barnes and Noble is by necessity my local go-to at home).

Here’s what I picked up!

  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor – I picked up a signed copy at Books Are Magic; this book was already on my TBR (I wanted to focus on buying things I was sure to read) and has a nice pink sticker on the cover that says “signed at Books Are Magic” so I have a little reminder of my trip as well. This is LGBTQ+ lit fic about an Alabama man figuring out life in a Midwest university town.
  • The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich – Also from Books are Magic. I heard of this one in college but it was barely on my radar- I wanted to pick up something about the city while I was there, and since I was having such a great time walking around this seemed like a good fit. It’s a nonfiction account from a man who walked through every neighborhood in the five boroughs and recorded impressions of them.
  • Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina A. Kover – I picked this book up at Albertine, a French and English bookstore. To be honest we went for the ceiling mural, but I really ended up loving the translation table and had such a hard time leaving with only one book. This one features a young girl whose family fled Iran for France.
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King – From Strand Books. To be honest my feet hurt a lot and I was exhausted by the time we arrived here (they’re open until 10:30, which we took advantage of) so my selection here wasn’t quite as thoughtful. I had seen one positive review of this book and put it tentatively on my TBR, and then went and bought a copy mainly because it had that “Signed at Strand Books” sticker. But it’s about a grown woman trying to write and novel and figure life out, which could be a great fit for me, so hopefully I’ll love it.
  • Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman – My friend and I stayed one night at The Library Hotel and I cannot recommend it highly enough to any bookish people staying in Manhattan. There are so many perks, the staff is incredibly nice, and there are so very many books. This one’s an ARC I found in our room, a mystery that was already on my TBR. It features a woman who gets off a bus in Philadelphia with no idea who she is.
  • Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno – When we checked out of the Library Hotel, we were offered more ARCs. I hadn’t heard of any of the choices on the desk but I was drawn to the title of this one, and chose it on the strength of the phrase “grappling with grief and loss” from the blurb. I don’t know any more about it and I’d like to go in blind.
  • Pierce Brown’s Sons of Ares Vol II: Wrath by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell – I don’t read a lot of comics or graphic novels but maybe I would if I could frequent places like Forbidden Planet. This is the second volume in a Red Rising prequel series; I read the first last year and have been meaning to pick this one up, so was happy to find it!
  • Aries by Stella Andromeda – This was a total whim, found at Kinokuniya Books, a Japanese and English bookstore that hadn’t been on my radar but looked too good from the window to pass up when we walked by. There were so many great new literary hardcovers on display in this store that it was starting to feel a little torturous; I was already worrying about how I was going to fit everything in my carry on for the flight home. So I saw this cute little volume, remembered it’s almost Aries season and that I wanted to learn more about astrology and tarot this year, and I picked it up partially for its small size.
  • Titanic: First Accounts edited by Tim Maltin – I found this at Posman Books. I have a mild Titanic obsession, which began in the third grade when I learned that Titanic sank on an April 15, which is my birthday. (Obviously not the same year.) The obsession has cooled in recent years so I was not aware that this nonfiction collection of firsthand accounts existed but as soon as I saw it I had to have it.
  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff – I bought this at the 9/11 memorial museum. I have been wanting to pick this nonfiction account of 9/11 up for so long, and I couldn’t not buy it in New York once I knew I was going, and then I couldn’t not buy it at this museum. It’s on my “20 in ’20” list and it means a lot to me that I’ll be able to remember this trip and the memorial and museum when I read it.



All in all, a great trip for books! I was proud of myself for limiting my purchases to one book per store, mostly. It’s a nice stack of things I genuinely want to read, which also double as location-specific mementos.

While I was gone, I also read most of Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House which I have since finished and it was fantastic, and started Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies (do not ask why I brought multiple books on a short trip in which I expected to be buying more books, I don’t have the answer) which is also fantastic so far. I expect to finish the latter today and then start reading the Women’s Prize list while I catch up on writing reviews!

Thus ends this episode of where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, and what’s coming up on my blog. Spot any favorite books or stores in my list, or any favorite locations in my photos?


The Literary Elephant

TBR 3.20

And so it begins again!

Every month for 2020, I’ll be setting my TBR with five of the books I expect to read throughout the month. I won’t mention extras even though I may pick up other things, and at the end of the month, finished or not, each of the five are barred from future 2020 TBR appearances.

This has been working perfectly for me so far, having completed both my January and February lists on time (monthly wrap-up coming soon!). I’m a bit more worried about March though, for two reasons: 1) the Women’s Prize longlist will be announced in just a few days, and I hope to read as much as possible from that list this coming month. Perhaps I could’ve waited to create and share my TBR, but what I read in March will be determined not only by what’s on the list, but which of those titles are most readily available; we could be halfway through the month before I have a clear idea of in what order I’m going to be reading the longlist, partially because 2) I’m also going on a trip this month! I will be in New York City for 6 days in the second week of March, which came up unexpectedly but I am very excited about it. I’ve never been and have long wanted to go, so I probably won’t be reading quite as much that week, and I expect I’ll order/library request the longlist books before I leave, which means I probably won’t know what will arrive first until I’m back. So I’m not sure a regular TBR will work this month on top of all that, but I’m going to try! If all goes well, here’s what I’d like to read in March:

  1. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. I have been majorly slacking on nonfiction this year (by which I mean, I haven’t read ANY yet, and I regret it!); this one’s on the list of 2019 books I wish I had read last year. It’s a very-hyped memoir about an abusive same-sex relationship, with experimental formatting. It’s the book I’m planning to take on my flight, so hopefully I’ll be able to read at least this one book while I’m gone!
  2. The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina- Separating the Myth from the Medicine by Dr. Jen Gunter. I started this nonfiction medical book back in January, and sadly haven’t made much progress in February. I am very excited that this exists even though I get more out of some chapters than others. I had to set it aside in a busy week and always struggle to get back into a book after I’ve done that, but I know I will appreciate this one and hope the extra push will help me finish it this month!
  3. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. This is a library checkout, and one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 (out this February). If it’s longlisted for the Women’s Prize I’ll get to it sooner, but I’ll definitely be reading this one either way. It’s a historical fiction novel set in 1600s Norway and focusing on witch trials. My genre spotlight post for March will feature historical fiction, so I’m using the rest of this TBR to keep me on track for that as well.
  4. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. This is one of my own-unread “20 in ’20” books, in addition to being the right genre for my spotlight post. But it’s long, so I’m uncertain. It’s an Irish 20th century lgbtq+ saga of one gay man’s life, and I am very much looking forward to finally picking it up!
  5. Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. Another historical fiction, this one featuring kidnapping and supernatural powers in Victorian London. It’s a library checkout and a February release I was very excited about. I’m hoping to squeeze this in before my trip and before longlist copies start coming in. (This is technically eligible for nomination as well, but it’s not one of my longlist predictions!)


February’s TBR didn’t bring nearly as many high ratings to my reading as January’s did, but it still helped keep me on track with various reading plans so I’m calling it a success. The real reward, honestly, was just the excitement of completing the list after I thought I wasn’t going to finish in time; I hope the prospect of doing so again will help motivate me to complete March’s list as well, even though I will probably be prioritizing the Women’s Prize longlist where I can. But anything could happen! Maybe March will be my best reading month so far this year. 🙂

Even though I don’t expect to get to many (if any) of these right away, here are the new releases this month that I’ve got my eye on! This is a list of releases on my radar that I’ll be watching out for this month in reviews and bookshops:

  • Anna K by Jenny Lee. A YA contemporary romance Anna Karenina retelling, in Gossip Girl style. Out Mar 3rd
  • The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Uncovering Secrets, Reuniting Relatives, and Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland. Nonfiction about the pros and cons of widespread DNA testing and its impact on families, communities, and culture. Out Mar 3rd
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. Contemporary fiction featuring a woman who looks back on a relationship she had with a teacher as a teen and looks closer at whether it was abuse. Out Mar 10th
  • The Deep by Alma Katsu. Historical fiction horror centered around the sinking of Titanic and the subsequent use of a sister ship amidst plague and war. Out Mar 10th
  • The Operator by Gretchen Berg. Historical fiction about a phone operator in a 1950s Midwestern town who hears something shocking while listening in on a private conversation. Out Mar 10th
  • The Keeper by Jessica Moor. Mystery/thriller about a woman who worked at a domestic violence shelter and has turned up dead. Out Mar 10th
  • Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. Thriller about a woman who was victim to Munchhausen by proxy as a child, out for revenge. (I’m on the fence about this one, having seen some comments about the way mental health is handled.) Out Mar 17th
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. Literary fiction following several lives connected to a five-star hotel in British Columbia. Out Mar 24th
  • Constellations by Sinead Gleeson. Nonfiction essays centered around female bodies and health, grounded in one Irish woman’s experiences with art, illness, grief, and more. Out Mar 24th
  • Look by Zan Romanoff. YA contemporary about a girl with a large social media following, finding the line between what she presents to the world and who she really is. Out Mar 31st
  • Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang. Literary fiction about an Asian American woman in an interracial relationship who must choose where her career is heading and find her place in society. Out Mar 31st

There are several titles coming out in March that I’ve been looking forward to for months, and which have featured on my most anticipated releases of 2020 list. It’s a bit frustrating that I can’t pick them all up immediately, but there are so many great bookish things going on this month that I’m sure to find some quality reads no matter what I focus on! And surely I’ll be coming back to the titles I don’t manage to pick up within the month. I’m very interested to see what other readers will think about these books as they emerge into the world.

See anything on my lists that you’ve read or are looking forward to reading?


The Literary Elephant

TBR 2.20

After an unexpectedly busy week, I’m far behind on blogging; here’s my monthly TBR to help me get back on track!

Every month for 2020, I’ll be setting my TBR with five of the books I expect to read throughout the month. I won’t mention extras even though I may pick up other things, and at the end of the month, finished or not, each five are barred from future 2020 TBR appearances.

This worked so well for me in January; I was able to read all five books on the list, plus pick up several extras, without feeling bad at the end of the month for anything I might not have gotten around to (a common issue for me with planned TBRs- I get too ambitious).

In that spirit, I’m hoping for an equally positive result this month, and once again have carefully curated my list based on various goals and commitments. The list:

  1. A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne. This is a library checkout, a group buddy read, and a previous Women’s Prize winner. It’s a literary mystery following a woman looking back on an upsetting crime and the events from her childhood in the 1970s. I’ve actually finished this one already! Review to come.
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. A romance classic set in 1800s England, featuring a trio of sisters and their adventures in love. This is one of only two Austen novels I have left unread and one of the titles from my 20 in ’20 list. This will also be great to read in preparation for my Spotlight post this month, which will focus on the romance genre.
  3. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. This is an LGBTQ+ romance featuring the Prince of Wales and the son of the (female!) US President. I’m slowly working through my backlog of unread BOTM selections, and this title will also be great to read in conjunction with my Spotlight romance post.
  4. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips. Structured as a series of vignettes from around a Russian community, this is a novel about the mysterious disappearance of two local girls. It’s the only book I acquired in January that I haven’t read yet, it’s on my list of 2019 publications I should’ve read last year, and it was shortlisted for the National Book Award for fiction, so I’m eager to (finally!) get to this one!
  5. Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown. This is a historical/contemporary fiction novel following a housewife who finds a cookbook in her home with notes written in the margins about its previous owner’s fraught marriage. It’s a library checkout for me and an anticipated 2020 release; I’m also hoping it’ll be a nice counterbalance to all the romance this month.


Last month I was hoping for 5 5-star reads from my TBR, and ended up with an impressive 3 5-stars and 2 4-stars; this month I’m less confident, but still hoping for at least 2 5-stars. I have some other hopeful titles I’d love to pick up this month, including some library checkouts that I’ll probably get to and some titles relating to Black History Month that I should get to, but I don’t want to muddle the TBR system this early in the game. I will of course review what I end up reading as I go.

In the meantime, here’s a list of February releases I have my eye on! These are not necessarily books that I’ll be picking up this month (though I’d really like to) or even at all (I ended up crossing two of my January releases off my TBR entirely); they’re new releases I’m interested in at the moment, and will be checking out reviews for throughout the month and am hoping to learn more about! Since my TBRs are limited this year I thought this would be a nice way to share the news of some upcoming books and perhaps put some great titles on your radar. These are the new titles I’ve got my eye on for February:

  • The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons. Supernatural romance in which a woman strikes up a relationship with a man who is dead. He’s not supposed to become involved with any living people while he waits to join the afterlife, which results in a string of bizarre consequences for the pair. Out Feb 4th
  • Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. Historical fantasy following a female detective in Victorian London who pursues the case of a kidnapped child rumored to possess supernatural powers that various “collectors” have taken an interest in.
  • Smacked by Eilene B. Zimmerman. Nonfiction autobiography/memoir of a woman discovering that her (now deceased) ex-husband was a high-functioning addict and workaholic- without anyone noticing the drug abuse until his death. Out Feb 4th
  • The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams. Historical fiction in which a school for young women is rocked by a mysterious illness; the single female teacher can advocate for the students only by confronting the male authorities in charge. Out Feb 11th
  • Weather by Jenny Offill. Literary fiction about a librarian woman who is also a fake shrink, called upon to answer a popular podcast’s influx of mail about the state of the modern world. Out Feb 11th
  • The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. LGBTQ+ historical fiction about a Norwegian storm and 1600s witch trials. Out Feb 11th
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor. LGBTQ+ literary fiction about an African-American man from Alabama at a Midwest university, where various encounters reveal “a lifetime of buried pain.” Out Feb 18th
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. Nonfiction set in WWII Britain, following Churchill’s personal and political life. Out Feb 25th

Is there anything here you’ve read, or that catches your eye? I’d love to hear more thoughts! Tell me what you’re most excited to be reading this month!


The Literary Elephant

TBR 1.20

I’m going to sneak this TBR in between my December and January reviews, even though it’s a little late!

A new year means a new TBR system for me, because I still haven’t found the best fit. I like a bit of structure in my reading schedule, but I don’t like feeling stifled by an overfull list, so this year I’m taking the best features of a few different TBR methods I’ve tried and combining them in what I hope will turn out to be the TBR system that’s right for me.

Here’s the plan: at the beginning of the month, I’ll put 5 books that I’m hoping to read on my TBR. The goal is to read all of those books, and also have a little room left over for (unofficial) surprise additions. At the end of the month, whether I’ve read the books or not, the TBR is done and replaced with a new one. I’m not going to carry anything over, although if there are titles I don’t get to I still will read them at some point, I just don’t want to end up in a situation where I drag a few books with me through the whole year and feel married to a TBR that’s just not happening. Those are the only rules- 5 books, 1 month only. We’ll see what happens.

This is what my January reading looks like:

  1. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. A library checkout, the 2019 National Book Award winner, and a title from my “books I missed” list. It’s about two teens in a prestigious arts school (in the 80’s) whose relationship is interfered with by their theater teacher.
  2. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. A buddy read, an author I’ve loved in the past, and the basis for a film adaptation I’m eager to see. It’s about a young man who was orphaned as a child, meeting the wife (a possible murderess) of the cousin who raised him.
  3. The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy. A library checkout, and the last of the 2019 Booker nominees I’m reading before wrapping up my experience with last year’s long list. It’s about a man who is hit by a car on Abbey Road. (That’s an overly simple synopsis but I don’t know much more and I’ve heard it’s best not to know too much about this one beforehand.)
  4. The Martian by Andy Weir. A 20 in ’20 book from my list of backlist 5-star predictions, and a popular sci-fi that’ll put me in the right mindset for the Spotlight on Sci-Fi post I’m working on this month. It’s about a man who’s left behind a research mission on Mars.
  5. Long Bright River by Liz Moore. A 2020 release, and an unread BOTM book from my shelves. It’s about a missing girl from Philadelphia, and the opioid crisis.

All 5 of these fit different goals and projects I’m working on this month or this year, and they’re all books that I think could be 5-star reads for me. As it’s already the 9th, I’ve read one of these books already (Trust Exercise) and started a second (My Cousin Rachel), and I’ve finished an extra book besides. So, hopefully the rest of the month will be just as productive (or even more so- to be honest, I’ve been reading a bit slowly). I have several more titles I’m REALLY wanting to get to this month, another project I want to finish soon and plenty of excellent 2020 releases that I’m starting to get my hands on, but in the spirit of the new TBR I’m leaving my base goal at these five.


But wait! There’s another feature I want to add to my 2020 TBRs: a list of the books coming out this month that I’ve got my eye on! I might or might not pick these up this month or this year (there are SO MANY excellent-looking 2020 releases), but I’m excited about these, I’m looking out for reviews on these, and I’ll be picking them up here and there when I can. So, here are the January releases that most caught my attention (by US publication date):

  • Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey. Literary fiction spanning twenty years of one woman’s life, comprised mainly of conversations. Out Jan 7th
  • The Tenant by Katrine Engberg, translated from the Danish by Tara Chace. Literary thriller in which a murdered woman’s novelist landlady is either the culprit or another victim in a larger game. Out Jan 14th
  • How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleishman. Literary suspense set in 1940s small-town Alaska featuring a missing twin and a German bush pilot with three requests. Out Jan 14th
  • Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar. Magical realism set in India, featuring a fleeing surgeon and the three murdered people he tries to mend one night. Out Jan 14th
  • Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford. Magical realism in which a young woman and her father heal villagers by cracking them open and/or burying them, until an affair with a local man and a betrayal turn everything upside down. Out Jan 21st
  • The Seep by Chana Porter. LGBTQ+ science fiction about a post-invasion utopia, a woman who chooses to be reborn as an infant, and the grieving wife who finds herself on an unexpected quest. Out Jan 21st
  • Recipe For a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown. Contemporary/historical fiction in a dual narrative of a modern woman and the 1950s housewife whose cookbook (filled with personal notes) the former inherits with the house; both find themselves stuck in fraught marriages. Out Jan 21st
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. Contemporary fiction about a Mexican woman running a bookstore whose journalist husband writes a tell-all piece about a man who turned up in her shop- the jefe of a big drug cartel. Out Jan 21st
  • The Teacher by Michal Ben-Naftali, translated from the Hebrew by Daniella Zamir. WWII historical fiction about an enigmatic English teacher at a Tel Aviv high school and the student who hunts for her story. Out Jan 21st

There are more that I’m aware of and I’m sure more will catch my attention throughout the month, but in a fresh attempt to stay organized I’m making up these little lists right before each month begins so I can keep in mind some of the titles I’m most looking forward to hearing more about. These are those, for January.

Have you read any of these, or recognize them from your own TBR?


The Literary Elephant


TBR 12.19

For the final time, I am following my 2019 TBR goal of adding all of the new books I acquired last month to my “official” TBR, and for once I think I might come close to finishing the list! I’m going to make a serious attempt, anyway. It helps that with as busy as November was for me, I didn’t buy many books. I’ll list those first, then mention a few others I’m also aiming to get to before the end of the year.

New unread books on my shelves this month:

  1. The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. This was my BOTM choice for November, a nonfiction account of an undercover mission into American asylums. I’ve been very interested in madness, mental health, and flawed systems lately, so I’m highly looking forward to this one!
  2. American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan. Thanks to spooky October and Nonfiction November, I’ve seen a number of great reviews and recommendations for this nonfiction piece about a disturbingly prolific serial killer in recent history. I picked it up as an add-on through BOTM.
  3. Know My Name by Chanel Miller. This is a memoir about a well-known sexual assault case and its aftermath, which I’ve been itching to read since its publication and will definitely be diving into soon!
  4. Supper Club by Lara Williams. After my busy work schedule died down, one of the first things I did to reward myself for surviving the season was go to the bookstore. I wanted to pick up something I didn’t know a lot about but thought I might love, something I wasn’t specifically looking for, and this one jumped out at me. I believe it won the Not the Booker Prize this year, but happened just as my busy season struck so I haven’t really seen any reviews or revisited the synopsis!
  5. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I read an intriguing article about Owens a few months ago that spoiled some of this book, but I’m still intrigued to pick it up. I believe it’s about a loner girl accused of murdering a popular local boy. I wasn’t really planning to buy it right now but I stumbled upon a hardcover copy at more than half off, and I couldn’t resist.

A new book on my shelf I’ve already read:

  1. Strange Planet by Nathan W Pyle. 4 stars. Review coming soon. This is a little collection of Strange Planet comics, which I discovered on Instagram early this year and have been avidly following there. I couldn’t resist picking up the book and speeding through it right away. It features “beings” (they look like aliens) who have very literal or ironic encounters about everyday things.


Other books I’m aiming to read in December:

  1. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. I’m taking part in a buddy read of this Women’s Prize winner this month! I remember nothing about this book other than that it’s historical fiction and wintry, with some magical realism, but I’ve already got a copy checked out from the library and am planning to pick it up either as my next or second-next read.
  2. The Institute by Stephen King. I’m also doing a buddy read of this latest King release, tentatively scheduled to conclude right at the end of the year. This one features a group of kids with special talents, who are kidnapped and taken to the Institute, where no one has ever escaped.
  3. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak. I saw this was available at the library the last time I went, so I picked it up. I’m going to aim to wrap up the rest of the Booker longlist before the end of the year (except for Quichotte, but more on that in my Booker wrap-up). This one’s about a dying woman recounting the details of her life as her brain shuts down, and the friends trying to give her a proper burial.
  4. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. I got a copy of this one at the end of October and meant to read it in November, but it didn’t happen (more on recent reading failure coming in my Nov. wrap-up). It’s about the lives of twelve people (mostly black women) in London, and it shared the Booker win. I’m really looking forward to this one, and it’s the title I’m undecided about whether to pick up before or after The Tiger’s Wife; I expect to get to it soon either way!
  5. The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy. I’m on hold for this one at the library, so this is a tentative plan, but it’ll be the only title left on my Booker trek so I’m really hoping to get to it! I’m next on the hold list but whoever’s got it now is overdue to return it, so we’ll see what happens. I remember nothing about this offhand, although I think it focuses on memory.
  6. The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty. This is a Middle East adult fantasy sequel that I started reading earlier this year, and had to put down to meet another deadline. I was enjoying it, and can’t believe I haven’t picked it back up yet. I still want to finish before the end of the year- I’m halfway through.

All in all, a total of 11 books that I *should* read in December. The only one I really don’t care whether I get to or not is Where the Crawdads Sing, which I do want to read eventually but I don’t mind letting it wait a bit. The rest, I think I’ve got a good shot at completing! I’m also planning to read some more Faber Stories throughout the month, and to make some headway in The Vagina Bible; but if I don’t complete those projects before 2020 that’s okay with me, I’ll continue in January. I have one more library hold pending as well, but I’m not sure whether it’ll come in for me to read in December or January, and I don’t mind either way. And so, for the second time all year, I might actually be able to complete my “new books” TBR, or at least get close enough to feel good about it! Here’s to hoping for a strong end to a questionable reading year!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?


The Literary Elephant

TBR 11.19 / General Update – I’m back!

I’m finally making my return to the blogosphere!! After a few very long work weeks that kept me mostly offline, I am (at last!) back to business and so ready to talk about books. I have a lot of posts to catch up on, both in terms of viewing and writing, so unfortunately it’ll probably take me a while to be fully back to “normal” here. I was hoping for some periodic breaks in my work schedule to allow me to keep up a bit better this month, which really didn’t happen. The good news: while I’ve been cut off from the internet, I’ve still been reading and making tons of plans for post ideas, 2020 book/blog goals, etc. so you’ll be seeing a lot of new stuff here soon and I’ve got ALL THE EXCITEMENT for it!

To start off, I’m catching up with the last post I had partially drafted: my October book haul / November TBR. It seems like as good a way as any to fill you in on a bit of what’s been happening with my reading and what I’m planning for the rest of the month, even if it is late for a TBR.

As per my 2019 TBR goal, I’m *supposed* to be reading all the new books I’ve acquired by the end of the following month- this hasn’t been working well for me, but I’m continuing to track the info and make a small attempt, so first up below will be a list of new books that came to my shelves in October. After, I’ll mention any other books that I’ve *actually* been reading this month, with an overview of the reviews I’ll have coming up.

New books I haven’t read yet:

  1. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. This is one of the 2019 Booker Prize winners, and one of the longlisted titles I was most looking forward to reading. I put it off during the Booker craze because it wasn’t out in the US yet, but I finally caved and ordered a copy when it won (and I believe it is now available in the US in paperback as well). This will probably be my next read, which should mean a review in early December.
  2. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. My October BOTM selection. I suspect I’m going to appreciate Coates’s nonfiction (I still haven’t read any of it yet, the shame!) more than this novel, but after skipping my BOTM boxes for a few months (very unlike me, even though I haven’t been thrilled with the selections this year) I just couldn’t resist.
  3. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. I enjoyed Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and have heard nothing but praise for this latest novel from him. It’s historical fiction about racial prejudice in the southern US that’s been nominated for the National Book Award (though I believe it didn’t make the shortlist) and the Goodreads Choice Awards (which I don’t hold in much esteem but still vote and view).
  4. The Vagina Bible by Jennifer Gunter. This is a nonfiction book that I hear is both useful/informative and also fun, as it debunks popular misconceptions about female health. (And is written by an actual medical doctor.) I ordered a copy as soon as I heard about it. I’m hoping to dip in and out of this with the aim of finishing before the end of the year.
  5. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde, translated by Diane Oatley. This is a translated novel I’ve been meaning to read for a couple of years now, am pretty sure I’m going to love, and for some reason keep refraining from checking out at the library. I found a copy on sale and am hoping that having it on hand will be the final push I need to reach for it! I’d like to read this one yet in November.
  6. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I found this one on Book Outlet and couldn’t help picking it up, even though I don’t really know much about it. I believe there’s a writer who finds a diary from a Tokyo girl, and as she gets swept up in the story she finds there she’s not sure whether the diary writer is still alive? I’m uncertain about that, but enjoy going in blind. I know this one’s been on several award lists and it’s been recommended to me, so I was pleased to find a cheap copy.
  7. On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Apparently I’m building my collection of Women’s Prize winners. I’ve picked up several others from the winners list in the past few months, and it looks like the trend is continuing. I know nothing about this book other than its inclusion in that literary award list, and even though she’s been on my TBR for years I’ve not yet gotten around to reading anything by Zadie Smith! Hopefully that will change soon.
  8. Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and Its Private Consequences by Catherine Pelonero. This is a nonfiction book about a case that’s intrigued me since high school psychology class. Kitty Genovese was a woman murdered in New York in the 60’s- there were many witnesses who saw or heard what was happening, and no one helped her or called the police. I need to know more.
  9. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Another nonfiction, this one focuses on the effects that humans eating animals have on this planet. It was actually Foer’s more recent We Are the Weather that caught my eye, but after looking into it I decided to read this one first.
  10. Foe by Iain Reid. I read and enjoyed Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things a while back and have been meaning to pick up this new novel. I wasn’t planning to buying it right now, but Book Outlet had a cheap hardcover available and I found it in a moment of online retail therapy when my defenses were low (which explains why this list is getting so long). I know very little about the story- I believe there are a pair of siblings living on a secluded farm, and something creepy happens.
  11. All Systems Red by Martha Wells. This is a sci-fi novella I’ve seen around but only added to my TBR fairly recently. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this, so even though I know my library has a copy I couldn’t pass this one up on Book Outlet either. I know it features an android main character (“murderbot”) who is not fond of humans. I suspect I’m going to want to binge this series as soon as I get started.
  12. Faber Stories. After reading and (mostly) enjoying all 20 of the original Faber Stories (and also seeing some of those prices rise absurdly as the year has progressed), I went ahead and ordered all 10 of these new stories before they had a chance to become ridiculously expensive. I expect to read these all before the end of the year, probably resuming my habit of reading and reviewing in batches of 3-4 titles. the newly added stories are:
    • Let The Old Dead Make Room for the Young Dead by Milan Kundera
    • Giacomo Joyce by James Joyce
    • Shanti by Vikram Chandra
    • The Cheater’s Guide to Love by Junot Diaz
    • My Son the Fanataic by Hanif Kureishi
    • Homeland by Barbara Kingsolver
    • Mostly Hero by Anna Burns
    • Intruders by Adrian Tomine (I recently read this one)
    • Fairy Tales by Marianne Moore (And this one)
    • Ghostly Stories by Celia Fremlin (And this one)

New books I’ve read:

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay. I’ve looked at all of the illustrations and read the text in an older edition, so I’m counting this as read even though I technically haven’t read the text from this copy and I am planning a series reread including the 4 illustrated editions. I don’t think I’ll be starting that reread before the end of the year, but Kay’s art makes it so tempting!
  2. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I read this back in high school and loved it. I’m not in a hurry to reread it, but I’m slowly adding to my personal collection the books that have made the biggest impact on my reading life or been memorable for some particular reason that I don’t own; this was the book that convinced me I like reading “weird” stories, with a bizarre/unrealistic element. Also, I think my mom will enjoy this one so I’ll lend it to her.
  3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I read and loved this sci-fi classic a few years ago, before I learned some things about Orson Scott Card that turned me off of his work. While I don’t think I’ll be continuing to read this series, I do want to hold on to my fond memories of this story. Book Outlet’s excellent prices meant I could pick up a copy without feeling like I was offering Card my full support. Distasteful authors can be hard to navigate.
  4. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg. This is a tiny compilation of some of Thunberg’s speeches on climate change, and this busy time of year was perfect for me to enjoy a short, inspirational nonfiction bind-up. I didn’t find it quite as informative as I’d hoped, but fascinating and compelling nonetheless. More thoughts coming soon.


That brings us to the end of the book haul portion of this post.  (I know the stack pictured is incomplete, I took the photo before my Book Outlet box arrived and don’t have sunlight now to update it- sorry!) I’m certainly not going to be reading all of those books before the end of November. I am planning to get to a few more Faber Stories, and, as I mentioned above, Girl, Woman, Other and A History of Bees. I’m currently reading Stephen King’s Firestarter in preparation for an upcoming buddy read of King’s The Institute, which I’m expecting to read between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m also tentatively hoping to finish S. A. Chakraborty’s The Kingdom of Copper before the end of the month, an adult fantasy sequel I started much earlier this year and had to put down at about the halfway point due to other commitments intervening.

And, before I close, here’s a recap of what I’ve read in the time I’ve been away from my blog. These reviews will probably be coming up in this order, or close to it; I’m also hoping to post something for Nonfiction November and my 2019 Almost-Favorites, so there’s plenty on my plate. Some of these books I mentioned in my October wrap-up, but I thought an updated list was in order:

  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power
  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
  • Faber Stories mini-reviews, including: Ghostly Stories, Intruders, and Fairy Tales
  • Nonfiction mini-reviews, including Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
  • Hannibal by Thomas Harris
  • Unbelievable by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

By the time I post these reviews, I’ll probably have finished a couple more of the titles I’ve mentioned above, so I probably won’t be entirely caught up until early/mid December. But I’m hoping to be caught up on reading blog posts within a week! Please bear with me while I’m settling back in, but feel free to chat-

Have you read any of these books?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


The Literary Elephant