My Book Backlog

In September of last year, I stopped reading novels.

I was about to start writing my own and I feared accidental plagiarism by osmosis. There were a few slips here and there but generally, I managed to stick to non-fiction or not read at all.

But I made a crucial error. I stopped reading novels but  I kept buying them. Now that the novel is finished – tweaking continues, but it’s basically finished – it’s safe to read novels again. Over the weekend, I went looking for the ones I’d put in the Buy Now, Read Later pile. And boy – there was an actual pile:

I was shocked. How had I let such a backlog build up? (And, even worse, continued to add to it – The Book Thief just arrived from Amazon.) Why did I buy these books when I knew I had others at home I hadn’t yet read, and wouldn’t get around to reading them for ages?

I have some excuses. I’d been meaning to get The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls) for ages when I spotted it in a bargain bin. I bought Netherland (Joseph O’Neill) because – as I mentioned earlier today on Twitter – I had the opportunity to get him to sign it, and he’s from Cork. (And pretty.) I’m a sucker for cute little books and Dear American Airlines (Jonathan Miles) is just adorable. (I also loved the idea: the narrator is stuck at an airport and the novel takes the form of a complaint letter to the airline.) Another I-just-love-this-cover buy: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Totlz, although it was the hardback version I loved and I ended up with the paperback. Waterstones Patrick St and their special offers also have a lot to answer for, specifically The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel. I can also blame them for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz as I read about it in their magazine – the same magazine I go through with a pen, circling everything I want to read but never actually get around to. The author’s previous work is why I bought The Secret Speech (Tom Rob Smith) and The Abstinence Teacher (Tom Perrotta), and Catch 22 (Joseph Heller) is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years that everybody who knows me keeps insisting I’ll love. Even Twitter is getting in on the act – it’s where I heard about E by Matt Beaumont and Me Cheeta by James Lever, two books I started on the sofa on Christmas Day and then left for later.

So kind blog-reading folk, HELP ME! I don’t have the time to read all these and I can only hold back on the book-buying for so long, so I need to shorten this list. Have you read any of them? Were any of them crap? Could I skip any of them while still going on to lead a rich and fulfilling book-reading life? Are any of them so good that I have to pick it up right now this second and delve in?

Let me know. Then we can tackle this backlog together and I can go to Waterstones again. Everybody wins!

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9 thoughts on “My Book Backlog

  1. FlossieT says:

    Tom Perrotta’s on my TBR list too, so I selfishly want you to read that one first and then share what you thought of it…

    I REALLY liked A Fraction of the Whole – it’s long, and crazy, and compelling. Particularly enjoyed the way the different narrative perspectives fit together.

    The White Tiger I was distinctly underwhelmed by – for me it was too pleased with its own cleverness, and the style undermined some of the points it appeared to be trying to make.

    Of the rest of them, I’ve only read Catch-22, a LONG time ago. It’s one of those books that’s on all the lists, and many people whose judgment I respect love it, but it didn’t make much of an impact on me either way, to be honest. Maybe I was just too young to appreciate it properly??

  2. diane says:

    The Glass Castle is fantastic (bargain bin?!!) though it’s memoir. It’s a lesson in how to write a fantastic and sometimes horrifying true story while never succumbing to misery lit stereotypes. READ IT NOW!

    (If you’d like, that is.)

    I started, and couldn’t finish, White Tiger.

    And that’s all I know.

  3. catherineryanhoward says:

    Thanks so much – lots of good info. Your Tom Perrotta request is duly noted – I have a long train journey this weekend so might take that with me then…. I read about 50 pages of A Fraction of the Whole back when I bought it and loved it too, but then got sidetracked. Will def have to go back.

    I know we like the same things (Go Douglas Coupland!) so I’ll move Catch-22 and The White Tiger to the bottom for the mo – I trust your judgement! Catch-22 is just one of those books I always feel like a plank for not having read. Should get over it, I suppose.

    Thanks for all your input – much appreciated! 🙂

    (Down and Out in Disney World, FYI, will skip this pile altogether and go right to the top of the queue as I can’t wait to read it!)

  4. catherineryanhoward says:

    Diane – didn’t even occur to me that Glass Castle is a memoir, but my non-fiction is all space and science and stuff, so I’ve lumped it in with these. As for the bargain bin I think the back cover had a crease in it or something! I’ll take your advice and read a few pages of it tonight – is that okay? You seemed adamant! 😉 According to the blurb it was on the NYT bestseller list for approximately a decade (ok, maybe I’m exaggerating) so I have high hopes.

    White Tiger is definitely out now. Nobody was impressed. Woo-hoo!

    • diane says:

      Hee, you sounded like you needed firm guidance 😉 I hope you like it, now I’ve been so adamant! She’s a very good writer.
      Look forward to hearing how you got on with the others, too. 🙂

  5. catherineryanhoward says:

    Diane –

    It’s 11.20pm. I picked up The Glass Castle at about 5pm this afternoon and literally couldn’t put it down. WHAT A BOOK! I’m in awe of it. I was utterly sucked in and I don’t normally cry at books but… Oh my God. Have already told best friend she needs to read it. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

    One down…

  6. diane says:

    You’re welcome! 🙂 Happy to help. You really did read it quickly. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. I remember loving it but that was a few years ago so I’m glad my memories weren’t misplaced! x

  7. Chris B. says:

    Just wanted to throw some credit your way. That line about Dear American Airlines being a novel sized letter of complaint with the narrator stuck at the airport has convinced me to buy it! Sounds like just my cup of tea.

  8. catherineryanhoward says:

    Why thank you, Chris – credit is always welcome around here, whether it’s technically deserved or not! In an eerie coincidence I was just eyeing Dear American Airlines thinking I might read a few pages tonight. Let me know what you think and we’ll see if we agree! 🙂

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