Category Archives: Book Haul / TBR

TBR 8.20

I have SO MANY reading ambitions for August that I’ll never fulfill them all, but I’m excited to dive in and sample a bit of everything! I’m trying to stick to a 5-book TBR system this year so I’ll start there and use this month’s 5 book plan to talk about  my reading goals for the month.

The list:

  1. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I have been slacking on nonfiction this year, and didn’t do as much racism reading as I’d meant to last month, so I want to make sure I’m still prioritizing reads that’ll help further my education and support Black authors. I did read Coates’s The Water Dancer in July with mixed results, but I have a feeling I’ll get on better with this nonfiction memoir written from a Black man to his son.
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is a previous women’s prize winner that I want to read before the “winner of winners” vote in November. I’ve made zero progress on this list over the summer and have a few winners on hand that I’d like to get through before the vote, so this is a nudge to get me started. It’s a book about “Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.”
  3. Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses. This is a Spanish dystopia in which animals have become too dangerous to eat, leading to the selective farming of humans for food. August is Women in Translation month so I want to read a few translated novels by women before it’s over! I have at least 4 unread titles on my shelf and an additional list I’d love to check out at the library, so if all goes well Tender is the Flesh should just be the beginning.
  4. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I’ve seen a wide variety of both positive and negative reviews, and I’m now jumping in to see what the fuss is all about for myself. This is a 2020 Booker Prize nominee about performative allyship when a Black babysitter is accused of kidnapping a white child. I’ve got a library checkout on hand and am starting this one today!
  5. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste. Another 2020 Booker nominee, and another library checkout. This one is nearly 500 pages, and is mainly going on this list so I don’t get distracted and neglect to pick it up because of its size. It’s a historical fiction account of Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in the lead-up to WWII.

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I AM going to finish reading my entire 5-book TBR this month, I swear. Maybe. Hopefully. That is the goal, anyway. It will be difficult to balance all of my goals- WIT reading, Booker nominees, my Black-authored summer challenge TBR, previous Women’s Prize winners, keeping up with new releases, and catching up on previous lists I’ve assigned myself and not finished yet. Oh, and I’ve gotten GREAT books from BOTM the last two months that I reeeeeally want to get to soon! (BOTM does in fact seem to be stepping up their game, after concerns discussed in this post! I’ve gotten The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi, Luster by Raven Leilani, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, Notes on a Silencing by Lucy Crawford, and The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper from them in July and August. I’ve not read a single one yet but I’m dying to read them all. Here’s a link where you can subscribe if you’re interested in the service and have a US mailing address- you’ll get a discount and I’ll get a credit!)

So there’s no way I’m going to get through all of these priorities in one month. I have to just acknowledge that up front. Hopefully I’ve curated my 5-book TBR well enough to check off some books from each category without losing track of any goals- and anything I don’t get to this month, I’ll still be picking up later. I’ll try to focus first on WIT and Booker books because the conversation around those categories is going on now and I want to take part! I’m very eager to read posts featuring WIT and Booker books this month as well.

 

I am on a book buy ban right now (with a few exceptions because I can’t follow rules apparently), but there are some exciting new releases on my radar that I’d love to see reviews for and pick up myself when I can:

  • Luster by Ravel Leilani. Literary fiction in which a twenty-something Black woman tries to find where she fits as an artist and learn how to believe in herself, while also getting tangled up with a man in an open marriage, befriending his wife and adopted daughter. Out Aug 4th
  • The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi. Literary fiction set in Nigeria, featuring the death of a man who lived a short and complicated life, focusing on his relationships with family and friends. Out Aug 4th
  • Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy. A young woman with a life full of losses and secrets tracks the final migration of a flock of arctic terns as the wilds of the world and the creatures that need them to survive dwindle. Out Aug 4th.
  • Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer. The long-awated YA fantasy/romance retelling of Twilight from Edward’s perspective. (I am SO CURIOUS to see how this will be received.) Out Aug 4th
  • The New Wilderness by Diane Cook. Dystopian Booker nominee in which a woman and her daughter volunteer to live in the last remaining strip of natural land in an experiment to determine whether humans can coexist peacefully with nature. Out Aug 11th
  • Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. (I accidentally jumped the gun with this one last month, but it’s still upcoming so I’m sharing it again!) Betty is part of a mixed-race (Cherokee and white) family with eight children and some deep dark secrets; she lives with poverty and violence, but also has a fierce imagination that provides a means for escape. Out Aug 18th
  • Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno. I received an ARC from The Library Hotel earlier this year! This contemporary novel follows a woman “grappling with grief, loss, and the burden of inheritance” as it explores how small decisions can have the biggest consequences. Out Aug 18th
  • Sisters by Daisy Johnson. After a case of school bullying, two close sisters move with their mother to an isolated new/old home, where the bond between them changes in unexpected ways and is tested by a string of shocking events. Out Aug 25th
  • Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa. A woman born to Palestinian refugees becomes a refugee herself when the US invades Iraq; eventually she finds her way to a home in Palestine, where the life she wanted for herself is realized under Israeli occupation. Out Aug 25th

 

Recognize any titles from your own lists, or see anything new that catches your eye? Let me know in the comments!

 

The Literary Elephant

TBR 7.20

Black lives matter! If you haven’t yet, check out this post where I’ve rounded up and explained a number of ways to help the movement, or just go straight here to do your part.

 

I have two main reading goals for July: to continue reading and reviewing books by Black authors, and to catch up on some of my previous TBRs and book lists that I’ve fallen behind on. A lot of those list books are white, so my aim is to alternate between reading those books and reading the books by Black authors that I pulled from my shelf last month or have purchased since. Because I set a rule for myself this year not to repeat TBR books, my July TBR is instead going to focus on the Black-authored half of my planned reading.

Here’s the list:

  1. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is magical realism historical fiction that I’m hoping I’ll love as much as Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. I’ve been meaning to read Coates’ work for years; I’m actually more interested in his nonfiction and I have Between The World and Me on order to arrive in July, but since I already own this fiction title I want to cross it off my list first.
  2. Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown. I believe this one’s either a YA urban fantasy or magical realism novel (I think I’ll have to read it to see which way I lean on categorization). I’ve been seeing rave reviews for it and have been missing YA content in my reading this year! I had such a good time with my last book for younger readers, Akwaeke Emezi’s Pet, that I’m eager to check out another.
  3. A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley. A short story collection written by an Iowa Writer’s Workshop grad who taught one of my undergrad classes. There are so many reasons I want to read this one, not the least of which is that I had a goal to pick up more short story collections this year! I have a buddy read for a white-authored collection in the works as well, so this one will provide balance.
  4. How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Another of my goals for this year was to read more non-fiction, which I’ve been utterly failing at. Wanting to educate myself on modern racism seems like a great way to increase my non-fiction reading, as with this book which I believe is part memoir, part antiracism guidebook. I’ve ordered a handful of non-fiction books on racism, but since there was such a surge in demand for them they haven’t all shipped yet, much less arrived. So I’ll be starting here. I’ve actually read a few pages already and am looking forward to finishing the rest!
  5. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Another non-fiction book about racism, though this one’s UK based. I want to start with something a little more applicable to the US since that’s where I’m at, but I also want to make sure I’m branching out and taking a broader world view. This seemed like a good place to start to achieve that goal, and I’m sure some of it will echo what’s going on closer to (my) home as well.

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June has been an excellent reading month for me, mostly (wrap-up coming soon!), so it feels plausible right now that I could expect to read all 5 of these AND make a dent in previous TBR books that have fallen by the wayside. But if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that anything can happen and plans may change in an instant, so we’ll see how this goes. Because I’m aiming to make every other read a Black-authored book in July, those should make up 50% of my reading no matter how far through the lists I get.

 

Before I close, here are the new releases coming out in July that I’ve got my eye on:

  • Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman. Adult mystery in which a woman steps off a bus in Philadelphia with no ID and no memory of who she is or how she got there. An exploration of the self and the obligations of womanhood.  (This is actually my current read, I was lucky enough to snag an ARC from The Library Hotel earlier this year!) Out July 7th
  • Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. YA LGBTQ+ fantasy Cinderella retelling in which girls attend a ball where they are either chosen as wives or never heard from again- at least, until two best friends who’d rather marry each other decide to topple the king’s regime. Out July 7th
  • The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper. Memoir of healing the self by healing others, following an African American woman’s experience as an emergency room physician, a profession predominantly comprised of white men. (I was thrilled that BOTM was able to put this on my radar for July! Since I talked extensively about the current BOTM situation here, a little update: it looks like half of the authors featured in their July line-up (5 books, one co-authored) are by POC. That’s a step up for BOTM, although I wouldn’t have minded the predictable white-authored thriller and romance selections to be… something else. Still, I’m sure they select their books months in advance and I think a 50% turn-out for non-white authors shows that they made some quick and meaningful changes in the wake of controversy earlier in June. To be honest I think the next few months will be more telling as to their overall efforts. I’m cautiously hopeful, based on July!) Out July 7th
  • Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford. Memoir of a woman who reports in adulthood her story of sexual abuse in a private school at age 15; the focus is on the ways that the school, police, and other authority figures actively worked against her case when she was a minor, to protect the school’s reputation. Out July 7th
  • Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power. This one’s a YA horror in which a teen girl goes searching for her family history and is shocked by what she finds. Out July 7th
  • Betty by TIffany McDaniel. Betty is part of a mixed-race (Cherokee and white) family with eight children and some deep dark secrets; she lives with poverty and violence, but also has a fierce imagination that provides a means for escape. Out July 14th

Any new releases I’m missing that are on your can’t-wait-for-it list? 🙂

 

The Literary Elephant

TBR 6.20

This is going to be a bit longer than usual, because I need to add a section of books I highly recommend and/or need to read, in honor of the Black Lives Matter protests happening in the US (and beyond) this week. I’m going to start with my regular 5-book TBR for June, then follow up with the new releases I’ve got my eye on this month, and end strong on the Black lit I’m challenging myself to read this summer.

To start off, my June TBR:

  1. My Dark Vanessa by Elizabeth Russell. I was hoping to hit the blogger-built alternate Women’s Prize list hard this month, which includes this book. It’s a 2020 release I was highly anticipating and bought soon after its publication. This is the story of a woman looking back on relationship she had as a minor with an older teacher at her high school, reevaluating whether she believes it to have been sexual abuse and why or why not.
  2. The Body Lies by Jo Baker. Another title from our alternate Women’s Prize list that I have on hand, have been eager to read, and would love to pick up as soon as possible. It follows a writer with a student who has written her into his book- and given her a “horrifying fate.”
  3. Supper Club by Lara Williams. An alternate Women’s Prize book that no one from the group has read yet! It’s about a secret society of women who seek to reclaim their physical space by feasting, unrestrained. I’ve had a physical copy sitting around for months and need to pick it up.
  4. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. One of my 20 in ’20 books. I read Machado’s memoir In the Dream House back in March and really liked it. I’ve had her short story collection unread on my shelf for far too long, and having just finished another short story collection in May I think the time is ripe to work through another one. Thanks to In the Dream House I also know that Machado is an LGTBQ+ author, and with June being Pride month I am hoping this can be a sort of springboard to picking up more LGBTQ+ work/content throughout the month.
  5. Four Past Midnight by Stephen King. I know this is hardly the time to be reading from old straight white dudes with a lot of blatant prejudice in their writing, but I’ve had this one lined up as a buddy read for a while. It’s a collection of four novellas, and I expect I’ll be reading one per week throughout the month. I’m working on a slow read-through of all of King’s books, not becauase I particularly like him but as a sort of reading experiment, to eventually compare a prolific author’s work over the course of several decades. I’ve got a great post in mind to cover Stephen King, but I’ve got plenty of reading still to do before I get there, and this one’s next on my list.

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To be honest, I set this list a couple of weeks ago already and in light of recent events my focus has shifted; I don’t at present expect to read all of these in June, but I’m hoping to catch up on all of my 5-book TBRs before the end of the year so I’ll keep this list and get to what I can when I can.

Next up:

Without my regular library visits, my new release reading has majorly suffered these past couple of months, but there are quite a few new books I’m looking forward to among June’s publications! I can’t guarantee I’ll get to any/all of these within the month, but I am looking forward to reading them eventually and want to acknowledge what I’ve got my eye on.

  • A Burning by Megha Majumdar. Literary fiction set in India, following three characters who become involved (intentionally or otherwise) in rising political extremism. Out May 2nd
  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan. Literary fiction in which a woman leaves Ireland for Hong Kong where she becomes entangled in two complicated relationships- one with a man, and one with a woman- that eventually force her to make a difficult choice. Out June 2nd
  • The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. Historical fiction featuring twin sisters who grew up in a small southern black community but lead entirely different lives as adults- one returning to her hometown to raise her black daughter, the other passing as white and burying her past. Out June 2nd
  • My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. YA fantasy retelling of a historical girl trying to become a legend in the Wild West. 3rd in a series of companion novels. Out June 2nd
  • Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier. Literary fiction coming of age story about a pregnant teen pizza delivery girl obsessed with a single mother on her delivery roster. Out June 9th
  • Stranger Planet by Nathan W Pyle. Humorous/satirical comic collection in which alien “beings” narrate relatable experiences echoing the ironies and nuances of human life. 2nd volume in set, though these don’t need to be read in order. Out June 16th
  • The Lightness by Emily Temple. Literary fiction that takes place at a summer camp for troubled teens, where our young MC falls in with a trio of girls determined to achieve enlightenment and master levitation before the summer’s gone. Out June 16th
  • The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty. Adult fantasy honoring aspects of Middle East culture, in which a handful of young men and women each work with whatever powers they possess to bring their chaotic magical city into an era of peace. 3rd in a trilogy. Out June 30th
  • Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh. Dystopian fiction in which young women receive a ticket to their adult lives- either into marriage and motherhood, or a career and personal freedom; the story follows a woman who questions the fate her ticket has dictated. Out June 30th
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Mystery/thriller featuring a woman who returns to the house featured in her father’s horror memoir, to discover whether the place is truly haunted and if so by what/whom. Out June 30th
  • Thin Girls by Diana Clarke. Literary fiction following twin sisters with a close bond that’s both supportive and destructive; through their relationship the novel examines body image, queerness, diet culture and more. Out June 30th

 

And now. I’m putting this at the end of the post not because it’s the least important to me, but because I’ve always been a big believer in the prospect that your ending is more important- and speaks louder- than your beginning. I am appalled at the blatant racism on display in the US right now and the treatment that protestors are receiving. So I’m taking this opportunity to do everything I can to support those in need, which includes furthering my own education on the subject of racism, celebrating and promoting Black voices (particularly through reading and reviewing here, as this is a book account), and encouraging others to do what they can as well. (Sign petitions! Donate! Amplify Black voices!) To this end, I’ve recently purchased some books by Black authors that I fully intend to read this summer:

I’m also aiming to pick up this summer some (or preferably all) of the Black-authored books that are already on my shelves:

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And in case you also find yourself looking back at your reading year so far and finding Black voices lacking there, I want to recommend a few other books that I’ve already read and really liked. These are books I highly recommend checking out sooner rather than later, if you haven’t gotten to them yet! These are primarily fiction; non-fiction by Black authors is an area I still need to work on. Some of the titles I wanted to buy this week have been harder to get ahold of (which is great! It means this is a topic people are focused heavily on right now!) so I’m hoping to pick up more later on as well. But for now, here are a few suggestions that I’ve read and appreciated, and hope you have or will as well:

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It’s vital (especially for those of us who are not Black) to read the non-fiction and racism-centered fiction first in order to understand as best we can the scope of what is wrong and what we can do to change the status quo. But I think there’s more to Black Lives Matter than recognizing that racism is happening, and celebrating Black authors who write “less serious” genres are also an important way of showing support because it helps show that we’re interested in Black stories for more than our own education on racism. We want Black authors to be free to create whatever art is in their hearts, and only reading non-fiction about racism fails to support that desire. Reading fiction is a necessary step in making sure non-white authors will get the same opportunities to write about whatever they want to write about, which is a freedom that’s been too limited to white writers for too long.

In sum, I’ll be making time to read, review, and recommend books by Black authors this month, alongside and in place of some of my other readings.  I’m postponing my May wrap-up and other scheduled reviews temporarily because I just don’t have the time and attention to spend on those posts at present.

Feel free to drop any Black author recommendations below!

 

The Literary Elephant

TBR 5.20

Every month for 2020, I’m 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. This is how I’ll give some structure to my reading schedule without overcommitting!

I’ve gone 3 for 5 the last two months, though I’ve since caught up on one of my March books. Even though this hasn’t been a perfect success every month, I still enjoy having a little concrete list to choose from and help keep me focused on various reading goals. Hopefully this month I’ll be able to complete my list again!

The lineup for May:

  1. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. Since the Women’s Prize longlist announcement, I’ve fallen behind on some of my reading plans for the year, so I’m making a return to my 20 in ’20 list with this fantasy that’s been on my shelf unread for at least 5 years. All I know going in is that there’s a group of captives/rescues studying in a magical library under a man they call Father who might actually be God. I’m aiming to make Fantasy the subject of my genre spotlight post this month, so this should help put me in the mindset!
  2. Bunny by Mona Awad. This is a title from the list of books I should have read in 2019, and one of the titles on our blogger-edition Women’s Prize! I’m one of the last to start reading our alternate books, thanks to Wolf Hall and this slump I’ve been in for two weeks now, but this sounds like the perfect sort of story to get me back up to pace. It’s a New England-set horror about a cult-ish MFA program and seems to be best categorized as “weird af.” I can’t wait.
  3. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. I’ve decided to space out my Cromwell trilogy reading as a result of Wolf Hall taking me so long- I know my current slump is a product of a lot of factors not including disliking the trilogy, but spending so much time on Wolf Hall is becoming frustrating despite generally enjoying the detailed and immersive experience. I’ll need this TBR nudge to keep me moving through Cromwell’s fictionalized misadventures, though I don’t expect to struggle so much with the last two books.
  4. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. Another fantasy to prep for my spotlight post, another book from our alternate WP longlist, and now a title to cross off my BOTM list as well. I’ve loved Bardugo’s writing and stories in the past and have been very curious about this one- Sarah’s recent review made this look even more promising! It’s about secret societies on the Yale campus, which sounds excellent.
  5. Beach Read by Emily Henry. A BOTM title for me, a new release I’ve been looking forward to, and just something lighter and quicker to get me back into reading. I think I’ll pick this up very soon, especially after seeing several promising reviews for it: Naty’s and Karissa’s posts on it have been in my feed lately! This is a romance novel featuring two writers who disagree on books- or maybe their opinions aren’t so opposite after all.

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I’ve been taking it easy so far this month, and am hoping that the switch away from the Women’s Prize and back into fun reading will be just what I need to start tackling new reading projects and old ones that have been on hold, without feeling the self-imposed pressure of a full reading schedule. I’ll hold off on mentioning other specific titles I hope to get to this month to keep from being disappointed when inevitably something I’ve named publicly doesn’t pan out, but I DO want to mention that I’m participating in Melanie’s Flannery O’Connor short story read-along! It’s not in my official TBR because I’m not sure that I’ll manage to keep up with every story every day, but it’s very casual and should lead to some fun discussions. So if like me you’ve had a copy of this collection gathering dust for a while and want to check it off your list once and for all, this is a great chance to join in, and there’s still plenty of time to get started!

 

And even though I’m so behind on new releases I wanted to check out this year, here’s the list of May publications I’ll be keeping an eye out for!

  • Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride. Literary fiction about a woman who stays in many hotel rooms, recounting past experiences and pondering what it would mean to go home. Out May 5th
  • Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin. Science fiction featuring stuffed animals that double as surveillance devices; willing participants can choose to be followed or to follow someone else’s life. Out May 5th
  • Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas. Gothic mystery in which students at an exclusive boarding school receive a free education with promising futures in exchange for completely leaving behind the outside world for three years. For more info, Laura just posted a positive review that upped my excitement! Out My 12th
  • Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth. Contemporary fiction about a thirty-something millennial woman still struggling to figure out life as an adult amid a breakup… or perhaps a breakdown. Out May 12th
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry. Adult romance between a romance and lit fic writer sharing a summer-long challenge. Already mentioned above- I got an early copy thanks to BOTM, but I’m still stoked for the official release and seeing everyone’s reviews! Out May 19th
  • All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad. Contemporary fiction with an lgbtq+ focus in which a young woman’s dead mother leaves behind letters to men her family doesn’t know, revealing a hidden life separate from her marriage. Out May 26th

 

Any titles you’ve read or recognize from your own TBR lists? Let me know in the comments!

 

The Literary Elephant

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!

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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.

 

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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