The joy & the curse of the tbr shelves

I love my tbr shelves. I’m a very lucky woman, as well as a very undisciplined one when it comes to buying books. I blame the internet & ebooks for the explosion of my tbr shelves over the last few years – it couldn’t possibly be my fault. I’m also very easily led when it comes to ideas for what to read next &, as my mother would have said, my eyes are bigger than my stomach (or whatever the bookish equivalent is). So, the curse of the tbr shelves is that I often have a copy of whatever book has been reviewed in the blog post I just read or podcast I just listened to, especially as I read blogs that often focus on older books, & I want to read that book right now. Or as soon as I finish the three books I’m reading at the moment. But then, definitely, before the next inspiration strikes. So, the book moves from the shelves to the pile on my desk & sometimes sits there so long that I’ve forgotten what the original inspiration was. These are the books I’ve pulled off the shelves in the last few weeks & the reasons why they’re there.

I read a list of the best WWI novels. I can’t find the website now but it was on my Facebook timeline. It was an interesting list & I’d read several of the books already. One that I hadn’t read but do own is Rose Macaulay’s Non-Combatants and Others. Another book was Mrs Humphry Ward’s Missing. This was free to download to my Kindle so I did that, knowing that I will never remember why I downloaded it when I finally get around to reading it. However, I was also reminded of John Sutherland’s biography of Mary Ward. My Oxford paperback edition has some of the most laudatory quotes from respected biographers that I’ve ever read. “A major biography… it deserves a fanfare” Claire Tomalin, “John Sutherland’s… account of her life is clearly the best yet.” Julia Briggs, “gripping… a story that unfolds with the fascination of high tragedy.” Margaret Drabble. So, why has it been on the tbr shelves since 1995? Maybe it’s the very small print…

Continuing the WWI theme, I listened to a fascinating podcast from BBC Women’s Hour the other day. It was an interview from the 1960s with Baroness de T’Serclaes, who began life as Elsie Knocker, one of the courageous women who set up ambulance posts & nursed during WWI, usually with very little help or encouragement from the establishment. I remember telling my self to order the paperback because I was never going to have time to read the hardback. Well, I did, & that was four years ago.

Simon Savidge recently reviewed Kate Colquhoun’s new book about the Maybrick murder case, Did She Kill Him? Simon also interviewed Kate on his podcast, You Wrote The Book! I’ve read other books about Florence Maybrick & I love a good Victorian poisoning murder so I’m keen to read this soon. At least this is from the library so it’s in the library tbr pile instead of my own personal tbr pile. Is there a difference, except that the library books have to go back eventually?

Then, I read Desperate Reader’s review of Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil. I have this lovely Vintage edition & I seem to be collecting Vintage editions of Maugham but not actually reading any of them.

I’ve also just read an interview at Nerdalicious with Elizabeth Norton, author of many historical biographies, including The Anne Boleyn Papers. This is a bit different though, as it’s a biography told almost entirely through the contemporary sources for Anne’s life. However, it reminded me that I have this beautiful Folio edition of one of the major sources for Anne’s life, George Cavendish’s Thomas Wolsey : His Life and Death. Somehow, I’ve also managed to order Elizabeth Norton’s book as well… How does that happen?

Then, there was Heavenali’s review of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas & Cosy Books’ purchase of the Virago edition of Charlotte Yonge’s The Daisy Chain, which reminded me that I still haven’t read the sequel, The Trial, which I downloaded a long time ago. I could also mention the new Persephones & the Slightly Foxed editions that I’m determined to read as they arrive & not let them be overtaken by other books – but I won’t because this post is long enough as it is.
There you have it, my latest list of good reading intentions. Only time will tell how many of them I actually read. I have no idea what’s coming up next because my brain is hurting.

19 thoughts on “The joy & the curse of the tbr shelves

  1. That Rose M book caught my eye, Lyn. Her books are as scarce as hen's teeth around here.
    Books come and go so quickly these days so my theory is to strike while the iron is hot and save them for a rainy day. Or when the mood strikes. Isn't it nice to choose a new book at 10 pm or while in your pajamas on a Sunday morning?


  2. I know exactly what you mean – a TBR shelf can get completely out of control, as mine has. I have a free books project near me where you can just pick up any books you like FOR FREE and I now have no clear counter space in my bedroom. They're all interesting books that I would like to read … but then there are more and more of them published every day – how can I possibly keep up?


  3. There aren't many of Rose's books in print but I was glad that Capuchin chose this one to reprint. I just have to find time to read it… You're right though, choice is a wonderful thing. Books do go out of print so fast that I feel I have to buy them as soon as they're published, especially reprints that come & go. I'll get to them all one day – if I live long enough!


  4. Working in a library (& buying all the books) is bad enough but to have free books for the taking as well… My tbr shelves are overflowing as it is. I think we just have to accept that we will never catch up & try not to stress about it too much.


  5. Oh my goodness. I must laugh. This column could have been written by me. So many books, never enough time or uninterrupted time specifically. All these books around us is like wearing a wooly comfy coat as we sip hot chocolate. So comforting to have them. Such anxiety trying to read them. Loved this post.


  6. HA! I can So relate to this post right now as you well know. I will be going along happily reading from my little pile of books and then someone will write about something either new to me or that I have long owned and make it sound so very good, it is all I can do to make myself stop from picking it up, too. Sometimes I can't stop myself and I still pick it up (hence the many books in progress and the few books I am finishing at the moment. Serendipity–I just pulled out the Rose Macaulay book last night as well in thinking of books published earlier in the 20th C that I can read for my century of books list–haven't started it, but it was shifted from my downstairs bookroom to next to my bed. I have a constant migration of books back and forth–just like you! đŸ™‚ See, we are all creatures of habits when it comes to books…..


  7. Working full time takes up far too much reading time, in my opinion. Then, again, I couldn't keep Lucky & Phoebe in the style to which they've become accustomed (or buy all those unread books) if I didn't work. I like the woolly coat analogy. That's just how I feel when I look at all my books.


  8. I think we should all stop reading each other's blogs for a while! Still, that wouldn't be much fun, would it? I've just started watching the Pallisers TV series from the 1970s & am desperate to read The Prime Minister (Book 5 in the series) before I get up to those episodes in the series. I read the first four Pallisers years ago but still have the last two unread. Now's the time – I think!


  9. I am always adding to my tbr pile as well. I can't resist the lure of a good book. I hear about interesting books all the time, whether it is on a podcast or a book blog or on twitter. And I just have to have the book even though I'm in middle of three others already and by time I finish them there's a whole other bunch of books that I've heard about and so the list and the pile grows. It makes me despair sometimes, but mostly I'm glad to always have more to read than I possibly can.


  10. I completely understand about the ever growing TBR pile. You're right though, it is not just a curse but also a blessing.. There are times when I tend to forget that and only feel overwhelmed by the amount of yet to be read books in the house.


  11. I feel overwhelmed as well but it doesn't stop me buying more! I'm lucky to be able to afford to buy books though so I just try to count my blessings.


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