Tracee: Here’s my question for everyone. Is there a book you have always planned to read, but just haven’t quite gotten around to it yet? I have two: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.
Catherine: Always Pride and Prejudice. Recent – Razorblade Tears, which I just started.
Tracee: I predict you will enjoy Razorblade Tears. It’s a powerful story.
Connie: This one made me think because my TBR list is growing by the day. So many wonderful books out there—plus all the great books of the past. I’ve read The Moonstone (you’ll like it, although it’s written in the old tradition with much more exposition). Like you, I want to read The 7 ½ deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. But I think the main book I’ve always wanted to read but never have is War and Peace. For some reason, I keep putting it off. Can’t wait to hear what others have to say.
Tracee: War and Peace! One of my favorites. I try to reread it every few years, although as with many old favorites, I can skip through to my favorite parts. Tolstoy loves a lengthy description and parts of it are good for brushing up on your knowledge of the Napoleonic wars….
Connie: Encouragement to dive in. And my knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars is sadly lacking.
Emilya: Hmm… I definitely have a very extensive TBR list, but I generally read what I’m interested in. I genuinely can’t think of anything that I have on my list that’s been there for ever. Eventually, I get to them all. A better question for me might be “What book did you start, knew it was good, but wasn’t in the right frame of mind to finish, and put it aside to finish later. And have yet to come back to it.”
I have several like this on my kindle. I turn to them when I need to, but I haven’t finished any of them cover to cover:- The Gulag Archipelago – since I’m reading it in the original, I don’t find it boring. I think the English translation is pretty dense. But it’s exceedingly depressing. I can only read a portion of a chapter at a time before I begin to get down. – The Collected Works of Jack London. I LOVE Jack London. If he is good enough to inspire Hemingway, he’s good enough to inspire me. I’ll read a story or a novella here and there, but then get distracted by shiny new novels. – Lately, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, who is my favorite author, ever. But it’s not a sequel to Jonathan Strange, so I’m hesitant to start.
Tracee: Ah yes, The Gulag Archipelago. I should check my copy… I don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way through because… IT IS DEPRESSING! But then, shouldn’t it be? That’s why I feel guilty for not having the wherewithal to at least read it.
Sharon: Oh, yeah. Add that to my TBR pile too. Never get to it. IT’s been there for years.
Keenan: So many that my TBR topped over and I had to build another bookshelf.
Of the more unique books on the list is Cu na mBaskerville, the Irish translation of The Hound of Baskerville. I’m studying Irish. As it turns out, it’s a tough language. So I decided to start with children’s folk tales in Irish which should be easier, right? And just as soon as I understand half the words of the first sentence without looking them up, I’ll begin reading.
Sharon: Wow! What an ambitious project. Kudos to you.
Alexia: Atlas Shrugged. Not because I’m a libertarian or an Ayn Rand fan. From what I’ve read about her, she falls under the heading of Horrible Human and her anti-altruistic stance has inspired some truly selfish, mean-spirited worldviews. But everyone talks about it so much and uses it as the basis for their self-centered philosophies, I wanted to read the actual thing so I can say I rejected it based on first-hand knowledge. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet..
Keenan: It’d be character research.
Tracee: I have a vague memory of reading it while in architecture school. How obvious is that? While I love a big sprawling book, I wasn’t a big fan. Honestly, I barely remember it.
Sharon: It is an interesting book but her opinions, as you’ve noted, are awful. Thinking back on it, it’s almost like she predicted a lot of the political/social/economic problems we have today—maybe because people emulated some of the characters. For a long time, John Galt was seen as a hero.
Tracee: Maybe it was too spot on while I was in school so seemed mundane! I’ll have to give it a quick thumb through again.
Alexia: Emilya, The Other Black Girl is my Gulag Archipelago. It’s really good. In fact, it’s so good that it filled me with such a sense of overwhelming dread that I had an anxiety attack and have been afraid to pick it up since.
I also had to stop listening to the audio version of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. The narrator did such an excellent job that when he read the Melian Dialog, I got so invested in wanting the Athenians to have mercy on the Melians, that I was practically in tears. The printed version isn’t quite as dramatic. Plus, it was for a class so I had to finish reading it.
Tracee: I must listen to this now! I have read it, but I wasn’t quite at the point of tears. Clearly I missed something.
Susan: Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead is my Gulag Archipelago. I know I will love it. It is exactly the sort of story I love. I have a copy of it on my nightstand and every night I look at it, but I have this feeling that if I read it, I’ll never write anything again. I’m waiting for a really confident moment, which has not come just yet.
Sharon: Susan, If you never wrote again, that would be a tragedy of the highest order. Never let that happen.
Susan: Sharon, thank you. What a lovely thought. Or, you know what I mean.
Emilya: I’m thinking the title for this post should be The Gulag Archipelago TBR! 🙂
Alexia, The Other Black Girl gets less realistic as it goes on, so I think you might be able to finish it. I have many feelings and thoughts about that book. Mostly, I wanted it to go in a different direction and be more of the kind of book that makes people anxious. BUT, I also respect the author for writing what she wanted to write and making the statement she wanted to make.
I never read Gilead. Should I put it on my list? I never read War and Peace, though I started it a few times. I don’t think I want to read it. I keep forgetting about The Moonstone. I read The Woman in White and loved it, so I’ll probably like The Moonstone (adding to list).
Michele: Honestly, I have adored reading since I was a very young child but something about the pandemic made it difficult for me to enjoy or even focus on fiction. This added to my general sense of frustration. The one exception was Death in Greenway. I had won an annotated copy in an auction and couldn’t resist the story because I had the inside scoop fro Lori Rader-Day herself.
I refused to stop buying the books that I know I will want to read one day and slowly that is happening. My TBR pile towers so high, I had to purchase a special bookcase for it. A book or series I know I should love and have devoured, Is Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. I tried My Brilliant Friend so many times.
Meanwhile, I was like a junkie on books about the 2016 and 2020 elections and the events leading up to the insurrection.
Tracee: I would walk on hit coals to read your annotated version of Death in Greenway. I loved the book and seeing Lori’s notes would be great fun.
I haven’t finished My Brilliant Friend either. I think I started it at the wrong moment, and possibly too full of expectation. I’ll pull it out again.
Keenan: I always mean to read something by Tana French, but I never get past the first few pages.
Sometimes when I really want to read something, I put it off to ‘savor’ the future pleasure, and then I put it off so long that I forget about it and it falls off my radar completely.
Sharon: I LOVED War & Peace. I enjoy big, sprawling books. The thicker the better. And although I had a hard time keeping all the characters straight, the imagery and words were so beautiful I didn’t mind a bit. The story just sweeps you along.
Tracee: Thank you all! Should we check back this summer and see who conquered the title on their forever list, their Gulag Archipelago?