Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tackling the To-Be-Read Pile

I may have mentioned that I have a to-be-read pile that I could probably use to build a house. Some of these are books I bought because they struck my fancy at the time but that I haven't managed to read. Most are books that I got from publishers or at conferences or conventions. They aren't books I'd choose for myself, but I keep them because I hate the idea of getting rid of a book I haven't read. What if it turns out I like it and discover a great new (to me) author? Because the pile has become rather intimidating, I've set a goal this year to try to weed through it. I have to at least try to read some of these books, and if they don't really grip me, then I'm giving myself permission to donate or sell them.

I gave myself an easy start with books that I bought. I figure that if I chose them, then there had to be something about them that appealed to me.

Believe it or not, I had a Terry Pratchett book on the TBR pile. It hadn't been there long, just a few months, and I mostly hadn't finished it because it was one of the books about the wizards, and those can be chaotic, so they take a fair amount of concentration to read, and the time I started it was in one of my low-attention-span phases. But this time around I was in the perfect mood for it. The Last Continent is essentially about the Discworld version of Australia and had the usual number of laugh-out-loud moments. I'll probably have to re-read it to catch all the details.

Then I picked up one I've had for a little more than a year, after having it recommended ages ago. When I first met Connie Willis, she told me she was sure I'd love Dorothy L. Sayers and wrote out a recommended reading list for me, in the order I was supposed to read them. The first book on her list was Strong Poison, and wouldn't you know, that was the one my library didn't have. I finally found a copy at a used bookstore (I have no guilt for buying books by dead authors at used bookstores). I was waiting to be in the right mood for an old-fashioned mystery on the proper kind of day for it, and we did get a rainy spell, so I finally got to it. And I loved it. I have a minor literary crush on Lord Peter. I also now get more of the references in To Say Nothing of the Dog. The library does have the next book on the list, but as luck would have it, it's currently checked out. The next one after that is on my TBR pile after I found it at a church garage sale, so working my way through this series will help me narrow down the pile.

There was another one I tried but still haven't managed to get to the 100-page mark, I think because it's written in third-person present tense ("she goes, she does") and that's difficult to read. I may give it one more try before finally giving up. (And I don't name books until I've read them and can recommend them.)

Finally, there was a book that's languished on the TBR pile for about 19 years. I first found Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille the summer after I graduated from college, and the title and cover made me think it was sort of Douglas Adamsy (a la The Restaurant at the End of the Universe), but it wasn't, and since what I wanted was something Douglas Adamsy, I put it aside. Years later, in the post-Firefly phase, I pulled it out again because it sounded sort of Firefly-like (what with the mix of Western and Chinese), and it's sat there, mocking me, ever since. The cover describes Cowboy Feng's as a pub that offers the best matzoh ball soup and Irish music in the galaxy, and it travels around in time and space, always just ahead of nuclear destruction. It sounds kind of funny and quirky, but it's more of a serious book -- in tone almost like if Charles de Lint wrote science fiction (including the focus on traditional music). On that level, it was an interesting book that became a real page-turner. But I have to admit that I still really want to read the book that the cover seems to describe, and I would have liked it better (and probably read it sooner) if the cover and cover blurb hadn't promised something so different from what was inside. Then again, I'm not sure how you'd describe a book about traveling through time and space in a cross-cultural pub without it sounding funny and quirky.

I went to the library this week for the first time in about a month, so the TBR pile is getting a temporary break. This summer I'm looking forward to more TBR reading, since those are perfect swimming pool books.

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