Down the TBR Hole #1

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books on the academic side of things (specifically Tolkien lore), and while I enjoy them, I can’t imagine that very many readers would be interested in my review of a 160 page discussion of how J.R.R. Tolkien used his knowledge of philology to further the philosophy of his books. But I do want to keep writing here at Traveling in Books, because books, so I’m going to try a few things I’ve seen some other bloggers do until I read a book I actually want to review or come up with an interesting discussion topic.

So for the first time ever, I’m going to give this a try!

DowntheTBRHole

I’ve seen this meme on several sites, but I’ve never participated in it. It’s hosted by Tia over at Lost in a Story, so head over there to see what books she’s gotten rid of. Wait. That sounds weird. Go check out which books she decided to keep on her TBR!

Thanks to Goodreads, most of us seem to have a zillion books on our ever-growing TBRs, which means it’s a good idea to go through the list every once in a while and get rid of the books we aren’t interested in anymore or books that we forgot we added to the list in the first place. Stuff like that. So I’m going to go to my Goodreads ‘To Read’ list, pick a handful of titles, and decide if they’re going to stay or go.

I randomly picked the number 6, so I went to page 6 of my TBR and picked 6 books to evaluate:

1. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

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Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why. With the same intelligence and insouciant charm he brought to How Proust Can Save Your Life, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow.

Even as de Botton takes the reader along on his own peregrinations, he also cites such distinguished fellow-travelers as Baudelaire, Wordsworth, Van Gogh, the biologist Alexander von Humboldt, and the 18th-century eccentric Xavier de Maistre, who catalogued the wonders of his bedroom. The Art of Travel is a wise and utterly original book. Don’t leave home without it.

I’ve read a few other books by Alain de Botton. They were well-written, but they sometimes felt like they were a little pretentious. There are other travel books that I like so much more than I’ve liked de Botton’s other works, and honestly, I’d forgotten I had added this to my list, so it will be going away.

2. Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors (Wars of the Roses #4) by Conn Iggulden

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England, 1470. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. The Yorkist king Edward IV is driven out of England, his wife and children forced to seek sanctuary from the House of Lancaster. Yet rage and humiliation prick Edward back to greatness. He lands at Ravenspur, with a half-drowned army and his brother Richard at his side. Though every hand is against them, though every city gate is shut, they have come home. The brothers York will not go quietly into banishment. Instead, they choose to attack. Yet neither Edward nor Richard realize that the true enemy of York has yet to reveal himself. Far away, Henry Tudor has become a man. He is the Red Dragon – ‘the man of destiny’ who seeks to end the Wars of the Roses. His claim will carry him to Bosworth Field. There will be silence and the mourning of queens. There will be self-sacrifice and terrible betrayals. Two royal princes will be put to death. There will be an ending — and a new royal house will stand over them all.

I enjoyed the first three books of this series, but when I checked this one out from the library a few months ago, I couldn’t get into it. Because I know how the Wars of the Roses ended, I don’t feel a pressing need to read this book. This one is going away.

3. Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

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The Smuggler: By day, Aristide Makricosta is the emcee for Amberlough City’s top nightclub. By night, he moves drugs and refugees under the noses of crooked cops.

The Spy: Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, but after a disastrous mission abroad, he makes a dangerous choice to protect himself…and hopefully Aristide too.

The Dancer: Streetwise Cordelia Lehane, burlesque performer at the Bumble Bee Cabaret and Aristide’s runner, could be the key to Cyril’s plans–if she can be trusted.

As the twinkling marquees lights yield to the rising flames of a fascist revolution, these three will struggle to survive using whatever means — and people — necessary. Including each other.

I’ve seen nothing but good reviews from reviewers I trust, as well as hearing about it from one of NPR’s ‘Best of…’ lists. Both of these things bode well for the quality of Amberlough. Plus, I just bough it a couple of weeks ago, and the paperback’s gorgeous spine looks out at me from the bookshelf every morning while I’m getting ready. This one is staying.

4. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

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What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

I’ve heard mostly good things about this book, but it is huge and when I checked it out from the library and started reading, I couldn’t get into it. It’s not one of those books I think I’m likely to forget about, but it doesn’t need to live on my TBR. So away it goes.

5. Paradise Lost by John Milton

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As a young student, John Milton fantasized about bringing the poetic elocution of Homer and Virgil to the English language. Milton realized this dream with his graceful, sonorous Paradise Lost, now considered the most influential epic poem in English literature.

A retelling of the biblical story of mankind’s fall from grace, Milton’s epic opens shortly after the dramatic expulsion of Satan and his army of angels from Heaven. What follows is a cosmic battle between good and evil that ranges across vast, splendid tracts of time and space, from the wild abyss of Chaos and the fiery lake of Hell to the Gate of Heaven and God’s newly created paradise, the Garden of Eden. Controversy still swirls around Milton’s magnificent and sympathetic characterization of Satan, a portrait so compelling that many critics have maintained that he is the true hero of the story.

In college, I met with one of my art history professors about a project. She mentioned a passage from Paradise Lost that I was unfamiliar with, and I told her so. She gave me a funny look and said, “Why do I keep thinking you’ve read everything?” I still haven’t read it, though. I bought a copy the day after Election Day in 2016, because that was how I felt about the state of the country. I still plan to read it because the poetry is amazing, so this one is staying.

6. The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics by Gary Zukav

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Gary Zukav has written “the Bible” for those who are curious about the mind-expanding discoveries of advanced physics, but who have no scientific background. Like a Wu Li Master who would teach us wonder for the falling petal before speaking of gravity, Zukav writes in beautifully clear language—with no mathematical equations—opening our minds to the exciting new theories that are beginning to embrace the ultimate nature of our universe…Quantum mechanics, relativity, and beyond to the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect and Bell’s theorem.

At an Esalen Institute meeting in 1976, tai chi master Al Huang said that the Chinese word for physics is Wu Li, “patterns of organic energy.” Journalist Gary Zukav and the others present developed the idea of physics as the dance of the Wu Li Masters–the teachers of physical essence. Zukav explains the concept further: The Wu Li Master dances with his student. The Wu Li Master does not teach, but the student learns. The Wu Li Master always begins at the center, the heart of the matter…. This book deals not with knowledge, which is always past tense anyway, but with imagination, which is physics come alive, which is Wu Li…. Most people believe that physicists are explaining the world. Some physicists even believe that, but the Wu Li Masters know that they are only dancing with it. The “new physics” of Zukav’s 1979 book comprises quantum theory, particle physics, and relativity. Even as these theories age they haven’t percolated all that far into the collective consciousness; they’re too far removed from mundane human experience not to need introduction. The Dancing Wu Li Masters remains an engaging, accessible way to meet the most profound and mind-altering insights of 20th-century science. –Mary Ellen Curtin

I love science. I really do. Once upon a time, I wanted to be an astrophysicist and work for NASA. Then higher math came along in school and my brain decided it didn’t compute, so I took the fork in the road and ended up in the arts. But while I enjoy reading about science, this one has been on my TBR for over a year and I never think about picking it up at the library, so this one is going.

So that was fun, in a nerdy kind of way! I took four books off my TBR that I realized I was not interested in anymore. Hopefully, my brain will not be all, “I’ve removed books from my TBR! I can add a bunch more to it!”, because that’s what I do sometimes. But I really do want to cut down on the length of my TBR, because if I did nothing but read the books on the list (and that never happens), I would have enough titles for about 2 years. And that’s not counting the new releases I’m interested in or the older books I will inevitably look at, so there’s no sense in keeping a bunch of books on my TBR if they’re going to make me feel guilty about not reading them.

Number of books I started with: 240

Number of books I ended with: 236

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