Tag Archives: book haul

Vacation + Book Haul!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I picked up!

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



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

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

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


The Literary Elephant

TBR 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 6.19

My TBR goal for the year is to read any new books I’ve acquired by the end of the following month. We’re not quite halfway through the year yet, but I am seriously considering throwing this goal out the window, which is an unusual stance for me in general and especially after May, which was the first month all year that I’ve succeeded with this self-challenge. But May has also been the first month of my new Top of the TBR series, which I’m enjoying a whole lot more than these book haul TBR posts. And May has also been the third month in a row for me of no 5-star novels, which is seriously putting me in the mood to just reach for whatever I think is going to break this weird reading funk I’m in and skip the plans and lists.

But I’ve decided to stick with this set-up for the month of June, at which point the year will be half over- a nice round number that seems opportune for reassessment. So here are the new books I’ve picked up in May that my TBR goal says I should be reading in June:

  1. The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler. This was my BOTM selection for May, and it’s at the top of my list for the nonfiction binge I tend to partake in this summer. (List of probable nonfiction titles I’ll be reading coming soon.) I haven’t read Hessler before and I don’t know anything more about this book beyond what the title suggests, but I thought a regional history of a country I’m not especially familiar with would be a great addition to my summer nonfiction stack.
  2. The Killer Across the Table by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. This was an extra nonfiction title I picked up from BOTM in May. I just watched the first season of Mindhunter recently (on Netflix), which is related content. I’ve succumbed to a serial killer / true crime fascination and am looking forward to continuing down that path in my reading life as well.
  3. A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley. This is a collection of short stories that was shortlisted for the National Book Award in 2018, and the author was one of my TAs in the creative writing program at the University of Iowa. I’m also trying to read more short stories this year, and as I near the end of the Faber Stories collection I’m looking forward to getting back into other collections of short stories.
  4. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston. I believe this is a YA novel about a high school cheerleader who is drugged and assaulted at a party. I haven’t been reading much YA this year but I do still appreciate hard-hitting books from that age range. This also sounds a bit like Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, which turned out to be one of my favorite reads of 2018. The clincher was that this was only $1 on Book Outlet.
  5. Winter by Ali Smith. I own but haven’t read Autumn yet, though all signs point to me enjoying this seasonal quartet when I get around to it. I didn’t expect I would ever find it cheaper than I did this month, so I decided it was worth getting it now for my future self. I don’t really anticipate that I’ll be reading either Autumn or Winter this June, which means I’ve probably failed my TBR goal for the month before I’ve even begun. But who knows, anything could happen.
  6. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. I actually read the titular piece from this book last year, and liked it enough that I wanted to pick up my own copy. This one matches my edition of The Waves (which I have not read yet). But it also contains a second essay, much to my surprise, so I will have to read that as well before I can count this as completed.
  7. Fever Dream by Samanta Scweblin. I was not expecting this one to be as small as it is, but I suppose that bodes well for my ability to get around to it right away. This one is the 2018 Tournament of Books winner, and I also remember it being described as something like a psychological ghost story? That sounds right up my alley. I will actually pick this one up soon. Probably.


Those are the books I’ve picked up in May and haven’t read yet. In the interest of inclusivity, I’m also going to mention that I picked up my own copy of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones for a good price this month, and am currently rereading it in preparation for a Women’s Prize shortlist wrap-up post (coming soon). I’m also working my way through another batch of Faber Stories that I’m pretty confident I’ll finish before the end of May- I’ve already read Akhil Sharma’s Cosmopolitan and will promptly be reading Samuel Beckett’s Dante and the Lobster and Djuna Barnes’s The Lydia Steptoe Stories (mini-reviews coming soon). All of these I’ve acquired in May but expect to finish before June begins.


Additionally, I’ve got a few library holds that have come in recently that I’ll be reading in the first half of June: Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test, Hanna Jameson’s The Last, and Melanie Golding’s Little Darlings.

Furthermore, I’m on a quest to finish reading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (as much of it as is published so far); I’ve got a few episodes left to watch from season 4 of the corresponding Game of Thrones TV series, and then I anticipate that I’ll be reading A Feast for Crows in June.

And in case that wasn’t enough, I’ve also agreed to a buddy read of Stephen King’s The Stand, his longest novel (we’re reading the uncut 1400+ page version), starting on the first of June. Which we aren’t even expecting to finish until early/mid July. I’ll only be reading about 200-250 pages of this per week, which is typically less than half of my weekly reading, so I will be reading plenty of other books in the meantime, but there’s no use denying that this is a substantial commitment.

So as you can see, my reading is all over the place and there’s no way I’ll manage to fit everything in unless I suddenly learn to speed read this month. But there’s a lot I’m looking forward to, and I’m hoping something here will break my sad no-5-stars streak. I have been enjoying most of what I’ve been reading, and I haven’t stopped reading so I wouldn’t say I’m in a slump, but something just has not been right in my reading life lately. (May wrap-up coming soon.) So if there’s anything I’ve mentioned in this post that you really want to see me review, let me know in the comments so nothing gets lost in this month’s shuffle! I really have no idea how much of this I might be reading in June, or what to prioritize. Send help.

Have you read any of these books? What’s your top-priority read for June?


The Literary Elephant

TBR 5.19

The usual spiel: my 2019 TBR goal is to read all of the new books I’ve acquired by the end of the following month, which means that my official May TBR is comprised of books I acquired in April.

But April was a bad month for me this year, even though it was my birthday month and therefore predisposed toward greatness; somehow I managed to acquire only one book that I haven’t already read. It was:

  1. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, my BOTM choice for April. This is the only book that my TBR goal “requires” me to read in May. I believe this is a legal/courtroom mystery about a woman who may or may not have murdered her autistic son, but I know there’s a lot more to it than that. Miracle Submarines and such, which I’m intrigued to learn about. People have been raving about this one and I’m looking forward to picking it up this month.

I also picked up a few of my favorites from the Women’s Prize longlist that I’ve already read but thought I would like to reread if shortlisted. None of them ended up advancing (a damn SHAME) but I’ll probably reread them soon anyway, just maybe not in May. These titles are:

  1. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, a powerful novel unlike anything I’ve read before or since that deserved a WIN, not only a spot on the shortlist. This is the exclusion I’m most upset about. This is a book about a Nigerian person who struggles with identity; there are cultural African elements (ogbanje spirits), and a challenging look at gender and mental health. Don’t let the shortlist fool you, this is absolutely a book worth picking up.
  2. The Pisces by Melissa Broder. I was less certain about this one making the shortlist because it has been very polarizing, but I found it fresh and captivating, despite its more disturbing moments. It’s about a woman struggling with her thesis on Sappho, searching for love and stumbling across a merman. It’s absolutely weird, but I marked so many great quotes the first time around that I ended up losing right after I sent the book back to the library, so a reread has been a long time coming (and I’m not taking any chances on the quotes disappearing from my computer file again).
  3. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. I read this one only two months ago, but it’s so short and impactful that I’m already ready for another go… and I hardly ever reread, which is saying something. I wavered on buying this one because it’s rather expensive for a novella, but I love the artistic touches in this edition so I went ahead and bought it. This one’s about a teenaged girl whose family is taking part in an Iron Age reenactment that goes too far. It’s so atmospheric and horrifying and brilliant that I can’t recommend it highly enough.


And now I want to share a little about my reading/blogging plans for May, since this TBR isn’t giving much away. Right now, I have one library book checked out: Miriam Toews’ Women Talking; I have a couple more holds pending as well, but I’m not sure when they’ll come in. I want to catch up with some of my backlist BOTM titles, including Lot by Bryan WashingtonA Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum, and When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry. At some point either in May or June, I want to reread Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage in preparation for a Women’s Prize shortlist/winner post. But primarily, I want to catch up on Game of Thrones. I’m seriously missing out on one of the biggest stories in pop culture because I’m one of those weirdos who needs to read the book first and I’ve only read two books so I’ve only watched two seasons. (Please, everyone who is caught up with season eight, remember that spoilers are cruel.) I want to read at least Storm of Swords (by George R. R. Martin) this month, and farther in the series if I can keep my momentum.


Since I’ll likely be starting with Storm of Swords, which will probably take me around a week (or possibly longer) to read, and I haven’t decided yet whether to post a full review upon completion (I’m not sure whether anyone would be interested in reading more than a few spoiler-free sentences in my month recap), this will probably affect my posts for the near future. I have two tags to complete and another round of Faber Stories mini-reviews coming up, but depending on how much time I spend reading Game of Thrones (and watching the corresponding episodes) I might be taking a bit of a hiatus from regular posts this month. I still expect to be perusing my feed, and I have a new weekly series in mind that I’m looking forward to starting, so I’m not going totally MIA.

Stay tuned for my April wrap-up (including the completion rate for my April TBR) which is coming up tomorrow.

Have you read Miracle Creek or any of the other titles I might be reaching for this month? I’d love to know what you thought in the comments!


The Literary Elephant