Some people will hear about a book that sounds kind of interesting or a friend tells them about, and they’ll immediately add it to their “to-be-read” list on Goodreads (or wherever). I’ll admit I’m a bit more selective. I always try to read the synopsis and really decide if it is worth my time to pick up. Then I’ll add it to my list. It’s probably why I tend to forget about books that I might later hear are good, so maybe I should stop being so strict. I do have several different shelves because I am an over-organizer, however, I am now up to 70 books on my TBR shelf on Goodreads. It is a small number to some, but 70 is still quite a bit. It’s time to start trimming the fat. I’ll go through five books at a time and determine if they still suit my fancy, starting with the books I put on my list longest ago.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the ‘spice’ melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis.
I have many friends that tell me to read this. It’s such a classic science fiction novel and is touted as one of the best. It is a foundational book for many sci-fi books that followed it. I have picked up so many beautiful versions of this book at the store and have been tempted to get them. But will I ever read it? If I’m honest with myself, I know sci-fi is not my thing, and I have also heard this book can be a slog.
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Fraa Erasmas is a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar, a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected from the corrupting influences of the outside “saecular” world by ancient stone, honored traditions, and complex rituals. Over the centuries, cities and governments have risen and fallen beyond the concent’s walls. Three times during history’s darkest epochs violence born of superstition and ignorance has invaded and devastated the cloistered mathic community. Yet the avout have always managed to adapt in the wake of catastrophe, becoming out of necessity even more austere and less dependent on technology and material things. And Erasmas has no fear of the outside — the Extramuros — for the last of the terrible times was long, long ago.
Now, in celebration of the week-long, once-in-a-decade rite of Apert, the fraas and suurs prepare to venture beyond the concent’s gates — at the same time opening them wide to welcome the curious “extras” in. During his first Apert as a fraa, Erasmas eagerly anticipates reconnecting with the landmarks and family he hasn’t seen since he was “collected.” But before the week is out, both the existence he abandoned and the one he embraced will stand poised on the brink of cataclysmic change.
Powerful unforeseen forces jeopardize the peaceful stability of mathic life and the established ennui of the Extramuros — a threat that only an unsteady alliance of saecular and avout can oppose — as, one by one, Erasmas and his colleagues, teachers, and friends are summoned forth from the safety of the concent in hopes of warding off global disaster. Suddenly burdened with a staggering responsibility, Erasmas finds himself a major player in a drama that will determine the future of his world — as he sets out on an extraordinary odyssey that will carry him to the most dangerous, inhospitable corners of the planet . . . and beyond.
I almost fell asleep reading that synopsis. Why did I even add this to my list? It has its own made-up terminology, is over 1,000 pages, and reviewers call it “challenging.” Going to have to pass on this one.
Verdict: Remove. Quickly.
A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
The city-state of Saraykeht dominates the Summer Cities. Its wealth is beyond measure; its port is open to all the merchants of the world, and its ruler, the Khai Saraykeht, commands forces to rival the Gods. Commerce and trade fill the streets with a hundred languages, and the coffers of the wealthy with jewels and gold. Any desire, however exotic or base, can be satisfied in its soft quarter. Blissfully ignorant of the forces that fuel their prosperity, the people live and work secure in the knowledge that their city is a bastion of progress in a harsh world. It would be a tragedy if it fell.
Saraykeht is poised on the knife-edge of disaster.
At the heart of the city’s influence are the poet-sorcerer Heshai and the captive spirit, Seedless, whom he controls. For all his power, Heshai is weak, haunted by memories of shame and humiliation. A man faced with constant reminders of his responsibilities and his failures, he is the linchpin and the most vulnerable point in Saraykeht’s greatness.
Far to the west, the armies of Galt have conquered many lands. To take Saraykeht, they must first destroy the trade upon which its prosperity is based. Marchat Wilsin, head of Galt’s trading house in the city, is planning a terrible crime against Heshai and Seedless. If he succeeds, Saraykeht will fall.
Amat, House Wilsin’s business manager, is a woman who rose from the slums to wield the power that Marchat Wilsin would use to destroy her city. Through accidents of fate and circumstance Amat, her apprentice Liat, and two young men from the farthest reaches of their society stand alone against the dangers that threaten the city.
There is nothing that I particularly hate about this synopsis. It sounds like a good political intrigue novel with a lot of moving parts. But it also sounds a bit convoluted and boring. However, I like the idea of an original low magic story. I am sitting here on the fence. On one hand, would I ever get around to reading this? On the other, do I want to forget it exists?
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?
As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.
Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.
What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.
In short, it’s about everything
I enjoy the movie and first saw it a long time ago. It’s the story that will always be first in my mind. Would I like to read and enjoy the book? Yes. Will I make the time for it? Probably not. Maybe I’ll just buy a copy to show on my shelves.
Verdict: Remove, but maybe move to a different “shelf”
Legion by Brandon Sanderson
Stephen Leeds, AKA ‘Legion,’ is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his ‘aspects’ are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society.
It is shocking that I, a diehard Sanderson fan, should have any book of his still on my TBR shelf. But damn, that man writes so fast. This has also been out since 2012 and is only a novella, so that’s why I tell myself it’s left unread. Let’s knock it out soon, shall we?
Verdict: Keep, because it’s Brandon freaking Sanderson, duh.
Wow, cleared out 3 out of 5 books on my first go round. It helps that these books were put on my TBR about 5 years ago. However, it did bring up an interesting problem for me. There are some books that I would love to have, but may take me a long time, if ever, to get around to read. That sounds like a major first world problem, but hear me out. Way back when my husband married me and my book collection, he said it was too much; I could never read them all. Now, he has come around to the idea that these books aren’t just for me, but also, our sons. At any time, they could go in and pick out a new world to immerse themselves in. Therefore, when a book like The Princess Bride comes around, it feels like a book I would want to have for them. I think I’ve been inspired to make a new “to-purchase” shelf.
What’s on your TBR that should probably go? Are there any books that you buy just to have?
Down the TBR Hole is a tag created over at Lost in a Story. It’s a great way to widdle down that massive pile of books you want to read.
- Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
- Order on ascending date added.
- Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
- Read the synopses of the books
- Decide: keep it or should it go?