Thursday, January 21, 2016

and so it begins: journey to the bottom of the tbr pile

Last year I made a whole list of resolutions. Inspired by the ending of one year and the beginning of another, I compiled a list of things I wanted to do, things that meant something, that I felt would serve some purpose, would serve me. 

I called them goals because that felt more achievable; resolutions are abstract where goals are concrete. Or so I imagined. I didn’t manage to achieve many of those goals/resolutions. In fact, if I’m honest, barely one was properly and completely crossed off the list. 

So was my 2015 a failure? 

I guess that depends on your definition of failure. And conversely, of success. I’m still working out what those things mean to me. So I’m ill-equipped, currently at least, to know if 2015 was a failure. Or a success. 

What I do know is I only made one resolution this year. Start small and all that. 

There are currently around fifty books in my tbr pile. I say around fifty because I only counted the books that haven’t managed to find their way onto a bookshelf. I suspect my real tbr pile is a little higher, but my ability to buy books at a faster rate than I can read them is really a story for another day. So let’s stick with the piles of books beside my bed.

I've long harboured an appreciation for/small obsession with/insatiable desire to understand what our personal tbr piles mean, what they say about us and who we are and who we want to be. Perhaps that's why I've built such a large pile. Maybe the construction of such a pile is a way to decipher something of who and what I am, to try to find a definition for failure and success that I can use as a measuring stick for my life. Perhaps, once again, I'm attempting to make the tbr pile more than what it is. Maybe it really is just a pile of books. 

My preoccupation with the tbr pile aside, this years single resolution/goal is to not buy another book until I’ve read all the books stacked beside my bed. I’m calling it my journey to bottom of the tbr pile. Which makes it sound like a much more physical adventure than it will actually be. Though I do resolve to get up at semi-regular intervals to make a fresh pot of tea. 

As a way of attempting to keep myself accountable, I’ve decided that I will post a review of each of these books after reading. And as a way of attempting to keep myself accountable to the reviews, I’m posting a list of my tbr pile here:

Chris Kraus - I Love Dick
EB White - Essays of EB White
Fury: Women Write About Sex, Power and Violence
Nakkiah Kui - Kill The Messenger
Grace Paley - The Collected Stories
Sofie Laguna - The Eye of the Sheep
Ariel Levy - The Best American Essays 2015
Rebecca Solnit - A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Meghan Daum - The Unspeakable
Janet Malcolm - Forty-One False Starts
Michel de Montaigne - On Friendship
Annie Proulx - Bird Cloud
Gerald Durrell - My Family and Other Animals 
The Best Australian Science Writing 2015
Noel Pearson - The War of the Worlds
Laurie Penny - Unspeakable Things
E.M. Forster - Aspects of the Novel
Meghan Daum - My Misspent Youth
John Steinbeck - The Harvest Gypsies
Goodbye to all that: Writers on loving and leaving New York
Dorothy Parker - The Collected Dorothy Parker
The Paris Review Presents The Art of the Short Story
Ian Moffitt - The U-Jack Society
E.M. Forster - Collected Short Stories
Los Angeles Review of Books - Summer 2015 Edition
Sapphire - Push
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Judith Wright - We Call For A Treaty
Kate Grenville - Lilian’s Story
Australian Writing Today
Bill Bryson - Down Under
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Richard Wrangham - How Cooking Made us Human
Rosemary Sutcliffe - Beowulf
Alice Pung - Unpolished Gem
Joyce: A Collection of Critical Essays
Roddy Doyle - The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
Alice Munro - Too Much Happiness
Marjorie Barnard - Miles Franklin
Douglas Hyde - A Literary History of Ireland
Flannery O’Connor - The Complete Stories
Ernest Hemingway - By-Line
Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
The Persephone Book of Short Stories

Running down that list is equal parts intimidating and exhilarating. I best get reading.