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Saturday Clean-Up: TBR Declutter #1

Saturday Clean-Up With What She's Read

I know I’m not the only one with a TBR that grows daily, despite my best efforts to keep it getting smaller. I’ve been reading others’ TBR Declutter and have decided to finally start doing it on my own. I have to admit that I’m a little nervous that it won’t actually get much smaller, but I suppose that’s the risk you take whenever you try to get rid of stuff. Have you ever decided you’re going to go through your closet and get rid of EVERYTHING and then you only get rid of like .0002% of your crap and not really feeling much better about the state of things?

Well, here’s hoping this KonMari of my TBR will go well!

Credit, goes to Lia @ Lost in a Story for this idea! And also to What The Log for encouraging me to really take it on. Thanks!

The aim is to declutter your TBR shelf. Here’s how it works, for those just tuning in:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.

  • Order on ascending date added.

  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.

  • Read the synopses of the books

  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m taking the bull by the horns for my first one and I’m doing 10! For the record, my current total is 269, and my oldest TBR adds go back to 2008.

Here they are:

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Rich in its stories, characters, and imaginative range, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the novel that brought Milan Kundera his first big international success in the late 1970s. Like all his work, it is valuable for far more than its historical implications. In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of human existence are magnified and reduced, reordered and emphasized, newly examined, analyzed, and experienced.

Plead your case: I already know I’m keeping this one. I’ve read and loved almost all of Kundera’s books, and they mean a lot to me. I don’t know why I haven’t already read this one, but I will.

Should it stay or should it go: STAY

Philip Roth: American Pastoral & The Human Stain

American Pastoral

In American Pastoral, Philip Roth gives us a novel of unqualified greatness that is an elegy for all the twentieth century's promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss. Roth's protagonist is Seymour 'Swede' Levov - a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheritor of his father's Newark glove factory - comes of age in thriving, triumphant post-war America. And then one day in 1968, Swede's beautiful American luck deserts him. For Swede's adored daughter, Merry, has grown from a loving, quick-witted girl into a sullen, fanatical teenager - a teenager capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism. And overnight Swede is wrenched out of the longed-for American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk. Compulsively readable, propelled by sorrow, rage, and a deep compassion for its characters, this is Roth's masterpiece.

The Human Stain

It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town an aging Classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would astonish even his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, "magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America."

Plead your case: I’m putting these two together because I clearly added them on the same day in a Philip Roth frenzy back in 2008, and these are the two that remain. I still really want to read American Pastoral. I think I’ve been pushing off The Human Stain because I saw the movie and it was a masterpiece in its own right. I know that isn’t the best way to handle a book-turned-movie—and trust me, I’m more than a little ashamed of it—but it kind of is what it is and we can’t keep them all! I still want to read it, and feel like I’ll probably pick it up someday, but I don’t think it’ll be any time soon.

Should it stay or should it go: American Pastoral stays, The Human Stain goes

Dancing After Hours by Andre Dubus

From a genuine hero of the American short story comes a luminous collection that reveals the seams of hurt, courage, and tenderness that run through the bedrock of contemporary American life. In these fourteen stories, Dubus depicts ordinary men and women confronting injury and loneliness, the lack of love and the terror of actually having it. Out of his characters' struggles and small failures--and their unexpected moments of redemption--Dubus creates fiction that bears comparison to the short story's greatest creators--Chekhov, Raymond Carver, Flannery O'Connor.

Plead your case: I added this during my time in graduate school when I was working toward my MFA. One of my professors recommended this to me after I workshopped a few of my stories. I didn’t buy a copy then because I couldn’t find an affordable copy for some reason? I always look for a copy in used bookstores.

Should it stay or should it go: STAY

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank's job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.

Plead your case: I know the story of this one so well by now. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever read it.

Should it stay or should it go: Go

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women. As time winds its way through their lives, the Ramsays face, alone and simultaneously, the greatest of human challenges and its greatest triumph--the human capacity for change.

Plead your case: It doesn’t need to be pled, it just needs to be read!

Should it stay or should it go: STAY

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying is Faulkner's harrowing account of the Bundren family's odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members—including Addie herself—the novel ranges in mood from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.

Plead your case: This is one of those I feel I must have already read, but I’m fairly certain I have not. How have I not? When will I read it? I dunno, but it’s not going.

Should it stay or should it go: STAY

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.

Plead your case: I love Tom Robbins so much. Jitterbug Perfume is one of my all-time favorite books. Still Life with Woodpecker is one of the few I haven’t read yet, but you bet I will!

Should it stay or should it go: STAY

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier year. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine reviles part of her own experience. And in the blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna tries to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook.

Plead your case: No pleading, just reading.

Should it stay or should it go: STAY

Money by Martin Amis

Time Magazine included the book in its list of the 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. The story of John Self and his insatiable appetite for money, alcohol, fast food, drugs, porn and more, Money is ceaselessly inventive and thrillingly savage; a tale of life lived without restraint, of money and the disasters it can precipitate.

Plead your case: This one of the books I think English majors feel they should read, so they add them to their TBR list and maybe get it to someday because, c’mon, Time Magazine included in the book of its list of the 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923-2005.

Should it stay or should it go: Stay?

Welp, that’s it for this round. I removed 2 this time and I have no idea if that’s good or not. Do you have any strong thoughts about what’s stayed and what’s gone? Let me know!

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