It has become apparent that my TBR (to be read) list has gotten nearly out of hand. Therefore, I have decided to do a post featuring ten books from it approximately every other week. As I go through the list, I will evaluate each book and decide whether or not it still belongs. Who knows, perhaps as my list (hopefully) shrinks, you will find a few books to add to your own!
The last time I did this type of post was June 18th At the end of that post, my TBR list contained 681 books. Today it has 689. I have gone through 100 books.
#101. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
Synopsis: Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel is a classic of twentieth-century literature. It is a story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Lily Sabbath. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawkes, Hazel Motes founds The Church of God Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with “wise blood,” who leads him to a mummified holy child, and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Hazel’s existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdoms gives us one of the most riveting characters in twentieth-century American fiction.
Comments: I added this to my list at the urging of a respected professor. Honestly, the story sounds strange and violent, and not at all enjoyable, but someday I will find my way through it.
#102. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
Synopsis: For this novel, Scott moved far away from the setting of his own turbulent time. He went back to the late 12th century, and to England rather than the Scottish settings of all his previous novels. He connected his writing Ivanhoe with his concerns about contemporary events. Scott drew together the apparently opposing themes of historical reality and chivalric romance, social realism and high adventure, past and present.
Comments: This, too, was added after first a professor commented on it and then it came up during a convention I presented at. It’s a classic, so I’m sure that if I took it off this list now, it would eventually find its way back.
#103. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley
Synopsis: La Côte d’Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinières, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent château and vineyard. With the property comes a mountain of debt—and almost as many questions…
Paris, 1944: A bright, young British office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is sent undercover to Paris to be part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during the climax of the Nazi occupation. Separated from her contacts in the Resistance, she soon stumbles into the heart of a prominent family who regularly entertain elite members of the German military even as they plot to liberate France. But in a city rife with collaborators and rebels, Constance’s most difficult decision may be determining whom to trust with her heart.
As Emilie discovers what really happened to her family during the war and finds a connection to Constance much closer than she suspects, the château itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future. Here is a dazzling novel of intrigue and passion from one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.
Comments: Sounds intriguing! I don’t remember adding it, but I want to learn about this mystery chateau!
#104. Blackout by Connie Willis
Synopsis: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas–to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.
Comments: This could be fun, and definitely has potential to hold my attention, but given the amount and quality of other books on this list, I’m going to let it go for now. If it’s meant to be it will come up again when I have time for it.
#105. Laddie: A True-Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter
Synopsis: Loosely based on Stratton-Porter’s own childhood, Laddie is a double tale — the classic poor-boy/rich-girl romance and the story of a child of nature and her idyllic childhood.
Comments: I’m surprised that I haven’t read this yet, since Gene Stratton-Porter is one of my favorite authors (especially from my tween years). I, or someone in my family, might even own it. I’ll have to find out. Anyways, I can’t bear to take it off my list!
#106. In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson
Synopsis: Remember when you were a child—when all the world was new, and the smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembers: the funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the century-old schoolchild’s slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient trunk filled with quilt pieces—each with its own special story—and the button basket, a miracle of mysteries. And best of all was the remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the past alive as only a born storyteller could.
Here are those marvelous tales—faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old alike, a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps richer; when the treasures of family life and love were passed from generation to generation by a child’s questions…and the legends that followed enlarged our faith.
Comments: This book sounds adorable, and I am sure that I would love it if I were still a child. I also have no recollection of it or where it came from, and no real reason to keep it here. I’m sure it is a good children’s book, but I read so few children’s books these days.
#107. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Synopsis: First published in 1901, The Making of a Marchioness follows thirty-something Emily who lives alone, humbly and happily, in a tiny apartment and on a meager income. She is the one that everyone counts on but no one goes out of their way to accommodate. This Cinderella-like story remains a much-loved favorite among many.
This book is followed by a sequel, The Methods of Lady Walderhurst. Later, the two novels were combined into Emily Fox-Seton.
Comments: Whenever I hear about this book I can’t help but think of Little Women, which I adore. It isn’t a very high priority on my TBR list, but it’s going to stay (at least this round).
#108. The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
Synopsis: H.G. Wells described The Old Wives’ Tale as “by far the finest long novel written in English and in the English fashion”. He was, of course, speaking for his own generation, and a hundred years later the opinion may seem somewhat exaggerated. However, there is no doubt that The Old Wives’ Tale is a superb novel of its kind, and it is still as readable and enjoyable as ever. First published in 1908, it tells the story of the Baines sisters–shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia–over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the lives of the sisters from childhood in their father’s drapery shop in provincial Bursley, England, during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of the Staffordshire Potteries to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris. It was fascinating to learn from Bennett’s journal how he saw an old lady in a cafe and was inspired to think of how her life might have been lived, how she must have once been young. The plot of the novel came to him fairly promptly, and, as they say, the rest is history. This novel was serialized on British television with great success circa 2000.
Comments: I don’t remember adding this one (this seems to be a trend in this edition!), and it sounds tedious.
#109. My Salinger Year by Joanne Rakoff
Synopsis: At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches. At night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Williamsburg apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities, and struggling to trust her own artistic instinct, Rakoff is tasked with answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back. Over the course of the year, she finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s, on her own dangerous and liberating terms.
Rakoff paints a vibrant portrait of a bright, hungry young woman navigating a heady and longed-for world, trying to square romantic aspirations with burgeoning self-awareness, the idea of a life with life itself. Charming and deeply moving, filled with electrifying glimpses of an American literary icon, My Salinger Year is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer. Above all, it is a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives and awaken our true selves.
Comments: As a fan of J.D. Salinger, I’m instinctively drawn to anything bearing his name. This has sat on my list for a long time, and I hope it won’t linger too much longer.
#110. The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
Synopsis: The work of a lifetime, from one of the world’s most influential thinkers, about the heart of the Christian faith. “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. . . . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” With compelling honesty John Stott confronts this generation with the centrality of the cross in God’s redemption of the world — a world now haunted by the memories of Auschwitz, the pain of oppression and the specter of nuclear war. Can we see triumph in tragedy, victory in shame? Why should an object of Roman distaste and Jewish disgust be the emblem of our worship and the axiom of our faith? And what does it mean for us today? Now from one of the foremost preachers and Christian leaders of our day comes theology at its readable best, a contemporary restatement of the meaning of the cross. At the cross Stott finds the majesty and love of God disclosed, the sin and bondage of the world exposed. More than a study of the atonement, this book brings Scripture into living dialogue with Christian theology and the twentieth century. What emerges is a pattern for Christian life and worship, hope and mission. Destined to be a classic study of the center of our faith, Stott’s work is the product of a uniquely gifted pastor, scholar and Christian statesman. His penetrating insight, charitable scholarship and pastoral warmth are guaranteed to feed both heart and mind.
Comments: Another that I barely remember, but this one has me hooked. I’ve been looking for a theology book to read after I finish my current re-read of Disruptive Witness, and this might be it!
Ending number of books on TBR list: 686
Do you recognize any of these books? Have a reason I should reconsider any of my decisions? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Until the next chapter,
A mixed bag for sure. I’d have kept The Old Wives Tale though.
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