Category Archives: Book Haul / TBR

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


TBR 10.19

Also to be known as: Spooky TBR! My favorite (reading, not weather) time of the year!

My TBR goal for 2019 was to read all of the new books I’ve acquired by the end of the following month. This hasn’t really been working out for me, but I’m continuing to track the info. So I’ll show you what new books came to my shelves in September in the first half of this post (the books that my TBR goal says I *should* be reading in October), and then I’ll highlight the spooky (and other) books I’m most likely to be reading!

New books I haven’t read yet:

  1. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. This is a true crime novel about one woman’s pursuit of the Golden State Killer, whose identity was still unknown at the time. It won the Goodreads Choice award for nonfiction last year, and probably everyone interested in true crime has heard of it; I picked it up from the Barnes and Noble Book Blowout Sale at the beginning of the month.
  2. Far From the Tree by Robin Benway. This is a YA book dealing with adoption; I’ve seen several great reviews, and also picked it up from the B&N sale.
  3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I had a coupon and decided I wanted to spend it on a former Women’s Prize winner- I picked this one from 2012. It’s a retelling of Homer’s The Iliad; while I enjoyed but didn’t love Miller’s more recent release, Circe, I think I’ll fare better with this one!
  4. How to be Both by Ali Smith. Another past Women’s Prize winner (2015). I found this one on Book Outlet, where everything is so cheap it’s impossible to only order what you came for… I’ve actually not read anything from Smith yet but I think I will love her writing! I want to be sure I read Autumn this season!
  5. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for this title’s US release. I’ve already read a few pages because I was too curious about the style to resist, and I’m liking it so far! It’s about an Ohio housewife ruminating on… well, everything.
  6. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Yes, this is the Canadian version, with a slightly different title than the US version. I saw the US edition on the B&N sale, but in the end I didn’t want to pay half price for the hardcover. When I saw this paperback on Book Outlet for $4 the week after, the price was right. I’ve seen mixed reviews for this reliving-the-same-day murder mystery, but above all it sounds bizarre and that’s my brand.
  7. Firestarter by Stephen King. I’ve heard recently that King’s new release, The Institute, might actually share a lot of similarities with this older publication of his that’s lesser known but popular among the Constant Reader (King fandom) crowd. I know this one involves a kid (or kids) with superpowers, and nothing else. I’m now planning to pick this up prior to The Institute.
  8. The Institute by Stephen King. The aforementioned new release. I was so excited about this one with its Stranger Things vibes (which is hilarious, considering Stranger Things was largely inspired by Stephen King books) and am kind of bummed that I’ve decided not to jump straight in. Again, kids with superpowers is all I know.


(I’m sorry this is such a low quality pic- I’ve never been great at photography but I usually at least try for proper daylight!)

Of these eight, the titles I’m most likely to read in October are: Ducks, Newburyport, which I want to finish before the Booker Prize winner announcement, and Firestarter, because I have to read at least one Stephen King novel for Halloween month- this title is now at the top of my King list. It’s possible that I might also reach for The Institute, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and/or The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, all of which seem more or less in line for the fast-paced and/or disturbing sort of content I like to read in October.

I’d really like to get to both of the Women’s Prize winners before the end of the year as well, but I don’t think I’ll be picking them up this month unless I need a break from the horror genre.

And before we move on from the book haul portion of this post…

New books I’ve already read:

  1. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. 5 stars. I read this novella earlier this year and had such a fun time with it. It’s been nominated for several major awards, and though I never really expected it to win them, it is a book I think I’ll enjoy revisiting. Plus I had a coupon. I 100% will buy a book just to utilize a discount.
  2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. 2 stars. I’ve always loved Atwood’s writing, including The Handmaid’s Tale (which this sequel follows), so I pre-ordered this one a while back. I read it promptly upon arrival, partially because of that prior interest, partially because I wanted to read it while it was on the Booker Prize shortlist. In the end, let’s just say I’m glad I was able to pre-order at a discount.
  3. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. (I rated this one 5 stars originally, but have recently begun a reread that I think will bump it down to 3. I’ll wait until I’ve finished to say for sure.) This is a romance/crime novel that was published the year I was born- I recently did a tag featuring books from that year, which was the final push I needed to order a cheap copy from Book Outlet for nostalgic purposes and start a reread. It’s not exactly my taste anymore, but it’s a quick and humorous read with a lot of memories for me.
  4. Bag of Bones by Stephen King. This is one of my favorite King novels, and also one of the first of his books that I read, some dozen years ago. I’ve always wanted my own copy, and do plan to reread. I found this one on Book Outlet, and it matches several other King editions I already own, so the time was right. It’s a ghost story.
  5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. 5 stars. One of the ways I’m trying to keep my own-unread TBR down is to use my book-buying urges (and those pesky coupons) to pick up books I’ve already read and loved, and want to own. This was one of my favorite books in middle school and I’ve been wanting a copy for ages- I was happy to find the same edition I originally read! This one’s about a teen who’s been raped, who pours her trauma into an art project.
  6. Ask Me About My Uterus by Abby Norman. 4 stars. I just heard about this nonfiction/memoir last month and was so excited about it that I picked it up on Book Outlet immediately and began reading the day it arrived. It turned out a little different than I was expecting, but it’s an incredible read and very eye-opening. Review coming soon.


Unfortunately, my unread stack is a bit larger than my read stack again, but I don’t expect I’ll be doing much book shopping next month, as my schedule is starting to go haywire and I have less time to spend both in bookstores and on the internet. Sadly, this means I’ll be less present on WordPress over the next month or two, but I’ll do what I can to keep up.

Other reading plans for October:

I’ve got Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore from the library, which means these will be my next reads. I’ll probably split time between these and Ducks, Newburyport.

Soon I’ll also have Hannibal by Thomas Harris from the library, probably my last library check out for the month. I’ve been slowly reading Harris’s Hannibal Lecter series at the rate of one book each October, and this being the third year I’m up to book 3.

I also want to focus on some other unread spooky books I’ve picked up earlier this year and failed to read in a timely manner. The titles I’ve most got my eye on right now are: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell, The Phantom of the Opera and Other Tales by various authors, When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry, Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach, and Strange Weather by Joe Hill. Plus I’ve got quite a few unread Stephen King books and plenty of spooky stories from previous years on my shelves, as well as the books I’ve already mentioned in my September haul. So, as you can see, no shortage of choices.

I can’t guarantee I’ll get to everything I want to, of course, but despite the excessively long work days ahead of me, I should still have plenty of small breaks throughout the day- which I’ve learned does not work at all for me for writing (which includes blog posts, sadly) but allows me to read more during the day than I normally manage. The silver lining. In any case, I’m in the perfect mood for all the horror reads, and I’ll keep up with reviewing them in season to the best of my ability.

Have you read any of these, and/or want to put in a vote for what I should prioritize?

I wish you many spooks in the coming reading month!

(Unless you’re not a fan of horror, of course.)


The Literary Elephant



TBR 9.19

Another month, another book list! This one’s going to be a bit of a mess I’m afraid, so enter at your own risk.

My TBR goal for 2019 was to read all of the new books I’ve acquired by the end of the following month. This hasn’t really been working out for me, but I’m continuing to track the info. So I’ll show you what new books came to my shelves in August in the first half of this post (the books that my TBR goal says I *should* be reading in September), and then I’ll give a more general overview of my plans for the month.

New books I haven’t read yet:

  1. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. I really want to read this adult fantasy trilogy now that it’s complete (sometimes I prefer to wait until the end so I can read the books back to back), but I have two other series to catch up in before starting something new so I likely won’t be reading this in September. I only bought it this past month because I came across a good-condition hardcover for under $5 and can’t resist a book sale.
  2. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. I’ve been looking at this one longingly for months and I finally had a coupon and went for it. But I think I want to read Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World first (which I already own) because I expect to enjoy this one more and I’m a save-the-best-for-last kind of person. So I probably won’t read this in September either.
  3. Dark Age by Pierce Brown. This is the fifth installment in the Red Rising trilogy, which I have been enjoying since the beginning (though it’s been long enough since I read the first book that I’m increasingly curious to reread and see if I still feel the same). This is one of the series I would want to catch up in before starting something new, so I am planning to get to this one very soon.

New books I’ve read already:

  1. Three Types of Solitude by Brian Aldiss. This is another short story from the Faber Stories collection, which I am now only one volume away from completing! I’ll review this one in my final round of mini-reviews when I get ahold of that last volume, but I’ll mention that I found this one really weird and fun, though I didn’t take much away from the read other than some quick entertainment.
  2. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. I read this one in July (from the library) and found it so powerful and unique that I needed my own copy. Just… all the stars.
  3. Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry. This was one of the Booker Prize longlist titles I was most excited about, so I purchased a UK copy in order to read it before the shortlist announcement, which comes a couple of weeks before this book’s US release date. Sadly the story didn’t quite live up to my high hopes, but the writing is gorgeous, at least.
  4. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson. This is actually my current read, but I have only about 60 pages left and I am loving it so much that I’ll certainly finish before the end of the month. I want to review this one before the shortlist announcement, so it’ll be coming up ASAP and will be gushy. You’ve been warned.


I’m pretty happy with this haul. I’ve read a good portion of it, I’m confident that I’ll be reaching for Dark Age probably within the next week, and I’m 100% okay with letting the last two books wait a little longer. I am planning to concentrate more in these last few months of 2019 on books I’ve bought this year and haven’t read yet, so there’s a good chance I’ll get to the Arden and Moshfegh before the end of the year as well.

And on that note… a little more on my plans for September.

First, the Booker Prize shortlist will be announced on the 3rd, and that might slightly alter my reading plans going forward. Right now I’m planning to read both The Testaments and Ducks, Newburyport in September, but I’ll post more concrete info about the shortlist and my Booker progress and reading plans after the 3rd.

Second, my buddy read for Stephen King’s The Outsider got pushed back from August to September, so barring further complications I’ll be starting this one in the coming weeks. I’m also anticipating a buddy read of Helen Dunmore’s A Spell of Winter, which I’ve got from the library and will probably start in mid-September.

Third, I have a very seasonal job right now, and fall is the busiest season. This is going to affect my ability to use the library, pick anything new up from bookstores, and stay as active as I have been on my blog. I will probably still have about the same amount of reading time, it will just be divided into littler pieces throughout the day rather than in one solid chunk at night, as has become my habit. For these reasons, coupled with the fact that my TBR system for this year has made it painfully obvious to me that I’m buying more books than I’m able to keep up with, I am planning to focus my next few TBRs on some of the unread titles I’ve bought earlier this year. I was particularly excited about my July haul / August TBR, which I didn’t end up having time for this month and still want to delve into.

Oh, and I’ve also got Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key checked out from the library!

All in all, I’ve got a weird mix of plans and anything could happen. I’m sorry I’ve been posting such unstructured TBRs the last few months, but I’ve discovered that if I plan my reading schedule down to the letter I feel too boxed in and also get really frustrated when reality turns out different and I have to readjust. So this is a general overview more than a strict list. Fortunately, I’ve still got a couple of weeks before my job gets real busy, so I’m going to cram in as much reading and blogging as I can in the meantime!

Happy September reading all around. 🙂


The Literary Elephant

TBR 8.19

I have way too many reading commitments stacked up for August, so the books I acquired in July that I’m *supposed* to be reading next month are probably going to take a backseat for now. Nevertheless, since reading my newly acquired books by the end of the following month was a goal I set for myself this year, I still want to track my progress even though I’m expecting it to be an utter failure this time around. So I’ll do a quick run-through here of the books I’ve hauled this month, followed by an overview of other books I intend to read.

New (unread) books on my shelves this month:

  1. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. My July BOTM selection, a new nonfiction about female desire I’m very intrigued about!
  2. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan. I picked this up in an excellent secondhand bookstore that I visited with a friend on her birthday; it’s one of McEwan’s titles I’m most curious about, and strangely unavailable at my local library and bookstore.
  3. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. I’ve yet to read anything from this author (regrettably!) and fortuitously came across this one in the same secondhand shop.
  4. After Dark by Haruki Murakami. I read and loved Murakami’s Norwegian Wood earlier this year, and have been wanting to try more of his work. I found this one at another secondhand shop.
  5. Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. (There aren’t any secondhand shops close to where I live, so when I had the opportunity I went a little crazy!) Beowulf has been on my TBR for ages, so this was a rather arbitrary time to pick it up, but perhaps having a copy on hand will give me the motivation to finally read it. This edition shows the full Old English text alongside the translation, which appeals to me because I studied Old English in college and want to see how much I remember!
  6. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. My last secondhand grab this month. I included this title in a Top of the TBR post this month and have suddenly been itching to start in.
  7. Wilder Girls by Rory Power. A lot of attractive new releases came out in July, but this is one that fascinated me the most. YA usually goes quickly for me and the synopsis looks great; I expect to be reading this one soon!
  8. The Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller. This is a sequel to Miller’s The Philosopher’s Flight, which was one of the weirdest and most fun books I picked up from BOTM in 2018.
  9. Different Seasons by Stephen King. Barnes and Noble was having a B2G1 sale on SK material (plus discounts!) which I couldn’t pass up. This story collection includes “Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body,” two SK stories I’m most excited to read!
  10. Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. I know less about this story collection, but I do find it easier to read thicker books when I don’t have a library due date looming ahead, so have been waiting for a good opportunity to pick up a copy of this one.
  11. Strange Weather by Joe Hill. I’ve not yet read any of Joe Hill’s work, but given my appreciation for Stephen King’s writing (SK is Hill’s father) and the similarities in style/content that I’ve heard the two share, I really need to remedy that situation. I’ve had my eye on this one since it was released, and like the thought of starting with a set of shorter pieces. (This is a set of four short, related novels.)


I’d like to pick up as many of these new-to-me titles as I can, because I am pretty excited about this month’s haul list, but I do also have a few other reading plans in mind.

First, August is Women in Translation month, so I want to be sure I’m supporting some translated women writers in my reading and reviewing throughout the month. The titles I’m going to aim for picking up in August are:

  1. Human Acts by Han Kang. I bought this after loving Kang’s The Vegetarian last year; I expect I’ll love this one as well, and it’ll feel good to tackle an owned-unread book that I’ve neglected too long!
  2. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi. This is another owned-unread book, though much newer. I was hoping to get to this one in July, but it just didn’t happen. This is the 2019 winner of the Man Booker International Prize.
  3. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. I recently rediscovered this book on my TBR, and feel that it’s time to finally pick it up.

August is also prime time for the Booker Prize longlist; I don’t think I’ll be able to read the full roster, but I am expecting to pick up these titles within the month:

  1. Lanny by Max Porter.
  2. An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma.
  3. The Wall by John Lanchester.
  4. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson.
  5. Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry.

Additionally, as though I didn’t have enough to read, I’ve tentatively agreed to another Stephen King buddy read, which will necessitate my completing:

  1. Finders Keepers by Stephen King. This is the second book in the Bill Hodges trilogy. I own a copy, and enjoyed the first book, but have been slow to pick this one up.
  2. End of Watch by Stephen King. The third book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, which I also already own.
  3. The Outsider by Stephen King. A related follow-up to the Bill Hodges trilogy, and the actual title I expect to buddy read, if I manage to complete the others in time. They’re all of reasonable length, by King standards, and the first book was a pretty quick and immersive read, so I’m hoping I can fly through these pretty quickly.

And last but not least, I also have two books already checked out from the library that I was hoping to squeeze into the end of July, which didn’t quite happen.

  1. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. I’m actually planning to start this one today, and am really looking forward to it!
  2. The Need by Helen Phillips. This is a short thriller that looks pleasantly disturbing, and is a new release I was really excited for. I’m not sure I want to read these two thrillers back-to-back, but they will be due for return soon and I expect to finish them both within a week or so.

All in all… 23 books. There’s no way that’ll happen, so I’ll certainly have to prioritize some categories here above others. I managed to finish 9 books in July (and am expecting to finish a 10th tonight- my wrap-up should be coming up tomorrow!), so I’m realistically hoping to complete about half of this absurdly ambitious TBR.

Have you read any of these? Anything you particularly recommend?


The Literary Elephant