TBR Thursday 136… and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year I added up the full extent of the horror of the TBR, including the bits I usually hide. So time for another count to see how I’m doing…

Okay, now, I know it doesn’t look good. But there are extenuating circumstances! I recently started my new challenge to read 102 Classic Crime novels, which meant adding roughly 80 books to either the TBR or the wishlist. (The other twenty are out of print at the moment.) So you see, if you strip those out, really the overall figure has gone down! It’s purely an optical illusion that makes it appear as if it’s gone up. It’s like when your government keeps telling you your taxes have gone down and yet you seem to keep having to pay more – it’s simply a quirk of mathematics.

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in June, and I haven’t travelled very widely since then…

780px-Around_the_World_in_Eighty_Days_map

I’ve had two trips to Moscow – a luxury stay at the Metropol Hotel in the company of Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, and a rather more traumatic trip with Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Although I enjoyed the Towles more, Doctor Zhivago is by far the better book in terms of what it has to say about post-revolutionary Moscow, so it wins the slot on my detour list. My only other foreign trip was to the Sioux lands, one of the stops on the main list of places featured in Jules Verne’s original Around the World in 80 Days. This trip was made in the company of Sebastian Barry in his Days Without End, and sadly we spent most of our time at war with the Sioux. Perhaps one day I’ll go back and see if we can’t smoke the pipe of peace…

This challenge has fallen by the wayside a little recently because of my Russian challenge, but I’ll pick it up again properly in the New Year.

To see how I’m doing on the Main Journey plus all the detours so far, click here.

37 down, 43 to go!

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The Classics Club

classics club logo 2

Four off my Classics Club list this quarter, so still behind on this one but beginning to get into a rhythm that should allow me to gradually catch up over the remaining four years of the challenge. These have undoubtedly been some of my best recent reads…

11. The Gowk Storm by Nancy Brysson Morrison – 5 stars for this Scottish classic that has similarities to the writings of Jane Austen, but with a darker tone. Deserves a much wider readership than it has.

12. She Who Was No More by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac – 4½ stars. A fascinatingly dark study of a character whose own actions send him on a spiral into delusion, depression and perhaps even insanity. And a decent mystery too.

13. Cop Hater by Ed McBain – another 5 star read for this first in the long-running 87th Precinct series. The combination of noir and police procedural and the excellent quality of the writing make this a true classic of crime fiction.

14. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 5 stars, of course, for this classic story about poverty, justice and race in small-town America in the 1930s. Some of its attitudes may be outdated but it still has much to say about the problems facing contemporary America.

14 down, 76 to go!

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Reading the Russian Revolution

Another two reviews from the main list this quarter, one biography and one classic of fiction. I’ve also read another non-fiction from the original list, The Unwomanly Face of War, but not yet reviewed it. This challenge is drawing close to its end, and the list has changed a bit over the year, but I’m still thoroughly enjoying my revolutionary immersion and hope to fit in at least two or three more before I finish. To see the full challenge, click here.

6. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – a flawed work in terms of plot, structure and characterisation but with the saving graces of some fine descriptive writing and occasional insights into Russian society before, during and after the Revolution. I’d recommend it more in terms of its historical significance than its literary worth and, on that basis, I’m glad to have read it. 3 stars.

7. Lenin the Dictator by Victor Sebestyen – an approachable and very readable account, lighter in both tone and political content than some of the massively detailed histories of the period, but giving enough background to set Lenin’s life in its historical context. 4 stars.

I’m also adding two more that weren’t on the original list:-

8. Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths edited by Ekaterina Rogatchevskaia – issued to go alongside this summer’s British Library exhibition on the Revolution, this works very well as a substitute for those of us who weren’t able to attend. It’s beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated, and the balance between text and illustrations is excellent, making it a substantial history as well as a visual feast. 5 stars.

9. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – this tale of Count Rostov, sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow soon after the Revolution, is an entertaining and enjoyable read for the most part, but in the end it feels oddly off-kilter, lacking any real profundity or depth. 3½ stars.

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

My brand new challenge, only started a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve only read 1 so far (as at 30th Sept) to add to the five I had already read and reviewed before I started. But I’m looking forward to making these classic crime novels a regular part of my reading diet. To see the full challenge, click here.

6. Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate – I thoroughly enjoyed this – excellent writing, great characterisation, insightful about society, lots of interesting stories within the main story, and a realistic if somewhat cynical look at the strengths and shortcomings of the process of trial by jury. 5 stars and a great start!

6 down, 96 to go!

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A good quarter’s reading – I feel Darcy would be proud of me!

Thanks for joining me on my reading journeys! 😀

 

40 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 136… and Quarterly Round-Up

  1. I won’t take the financial excuses from government and I won’t take any excuses from you, my dear! All the jiggery-pokery with numbers don’t impress me! It merely makes me feel better about not daring to openly admit to myself all the real numbers…

    • Hahaha – well, I do see a certain logic behind that suggestion. But… do logic and TBRs go together? I was just wondering what challenge I should replace the Russian one with…

  2. Well, I think Darcy would be proud of you, too, FictionFan. You really are quite skilled at making those numbers say the sort of thing you want them to say, and that in itself is an impressive skill!

    In all seriousness, I’m pleased for that you’ve had some good reading. That’s the whole point, after all. The challenges are fun, but to me, that’s the main thing.

    • Creative accounting – a skill prized by dodgy businesspeople the world over! 😉 Somehow the final total still keeps going up though…

      Yes, I enjoy challenges but only open-ended ones – I prefer to fit the challenges to my reading rather than my reading to the challenges on the whole. But they do encourage me to read more classics which is good. 😀

    • Ooh, you may well! I thought I’d put them to one side till I was running out of the other eighty(!) since the way things are going lots of them might be republished over the next year or two anyway. But at some point I’ll maybe email you a list of them if you don’t mind seeing if you have any of them… Mind you, that would take me closer to the 500 mark… *faints*

  3. I think you should feel very proud of yourself! This reminds me that I still haven’t gone back to finish Dr Zhivago. I was about a third of the way through when I stopped but I was getting very fed up with it. Is it worth continuing?!

    • Thank you – I should! I’m confident I have the most complicated TBR spreadsheet in the entire blogosphere… perhaps the entire universe!! 😉 Ha! I can’t in truth say I loved Zhivago – if I hadn’t been all enthusiastic about the challenge at that point, I may well have abandoned it myself. It’s one of those books I’m glad I’ve read in retrospect, but didn’t much enjoy the reading…

  4. All those numbers made me feel quite giddy. I think you should submit your spreadsheet for the perusal of Radio 4’s stats programme, More or Less. I bet they’d unearth some hidden dozens more.

    • Nooooo, no more! I toyed with the idea of adding on the unlistened-to audiobooks this quarter, but my mind isn’t strong enough. I’m thinking of entering my spreadsheet for the Turner Prize, though – if I do say so myself, it is something of a modern marvel…

  5. Well, I think you’re doing pretty well whatever the numbers say! I really must try to make some progress with my Classics Club List, it’s not getting much of a look in. I feel a Classics Club Month coming on…if I can just resist signing up for blog tours and requesting titles in NetGalley. Oh, so pretty simple then…

    • Thank you! Haha – if only I could get out of this pesky habit of adding two for every one I read! I know – in principle fifty classics over five years doesn’t sound too difficult, but fitting them in amongst all the new stuff is quite hard. I don’t do blog tours, but NetGalley is my total downfall. Still can’t resist it, though… 😀

    • Haha – I keep saying I don’t do challenges so I have no idea how I’ve ended up doing four at the same time. I think it’s some kind of conspiracy! We should form an Anti-TBR League and have demonstrations… outside libraries, perhaps… 😉

  6. I was out of town yesterday, so I apologize for reading this one a day behind. Hmm, I totally appreciate your rationalization. Domer (a finance major) always tells me how figures can be manipulated to tell a story (not that he’d ever stoop to such depths, mind you). Still, do you really think you need to be accepting another reading challenge when your TBR is already filled to overflowing?? Let’s all sing together, “I’m just a girl who can’t say NO!!” *winks*

  7. I am impressed, truly! I see that the numbers have fallen overall, if only 80 books hadn’t been added to the list! But I’m really looking forward to reading your reviews of these (despite being a teensy bit worried about my own TBR) so as far as I’m concerned it’s all good!

  8. Well done on your rapidly diminishing TBR 😉 I’m so impressed by all your challenges, I only have 2 and find it hard enough keeping pace with those. When they’re completed though, I definitely want to join you on the wonderful MMM challenge!

    • I’m doing excellently, aren’t I? I don’t understand why some people seem to think it’s all got out of control! Why, there are still thousands of unused lines on my spreadsheet… 😉 Oh, I hope you do join the MMM challenge – so far of the eight I’ve read, seven have been exceleent and the eighth has been… interesting. I bet you’ll be like me and find you’ve already read a few which makes for a nice flying start… 😀

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