So I thought I’d do a variation on that theme here on my review site. One of the things I get frustrated with myself about as a reader is starting ideas for reading plans, and then allowing myself to get distracted from those plans quickly. So perhaps doing monthly TBR entries will inspire me to stick to some of the plans.
I read a lot of new literary fiction, and that’s not going to change, especially now that I’ve co-founded a new literary prize at my school. I’ll read quite a few new titles throughout the year and I’m not going to try to predict which ones I’ll get to ahead of time. But I’ll come back to current releases in a moment.
Where I am going to rely a little more on forward planning is in my other three reading interests: classics, non-fiction, and 20th-century fiction. I intend to read one title from each of those three categories each month, with the rest of my reading each month drawing from new releases.
For May, my classic will be Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin. I’ve never read it, but in the past year I have read several books revolving around slavery (Beloved, The Underground Railroad, Homegoing, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), and it seems a logical time to pick it up. My fear is that it’s going to be deadly dull (and it’s not short), but while I still have some focus and motivation, let’s give it a go.
My non-fiction selection for May is Chris Kyle’s American Sniper. It’s “the autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. history,” and I don’t even recall why I bought it many, many months ago. But one of my goals is to read (finally) some of the books sitting untouched on my shelves. In May, then, I’m taking one step toward that goal with American Sniper.
My 20th-century fiction choice for May is Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel A Pale View of Hills. I “came of age” academically in the 20th century, but there are so many important novels from the second half of the century that I still haven’t read, so I’m using this plan to fill some of those gaps. I may even reread some books that I loved decades ago and need to revisit. This plan can go in a couple of directions. I may decide to read an author’s entire oeuvre or I may just opt for the highlights of their careers. I’ll let that take form as I go.
In most months, I manage to read five, six, sometimes seven books. So if I stick to this plan, that still leaves me two, three, or four selections from new fiction to round out my month. I’m not going to commit to specific titles ahead of time, but I’m always willing to entertain suggestions. Right now at home, waiting to be read, I have Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, Jessica Shattuck’s The Women in the Castle, George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing. If you’ve read any of these, let me know in the comments which one I should read first. In the meantime, happy reading.
p.s. Tomorrow is National Independent Bookstore Day. Please support your local booksellers. Sadly, Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have one and the nearest is in Miami. I’m so tempted to open another bookstore when I retire from teaching. This community has to be large enough to support one? Someone needs to talk me out of this.