My To Be Read (TBR) Pile

Below is a picture of my TBR pile. It just keeps growing. By some standards it’s not very high. By mine, it’s too high. And it’s about to get higher now that my wife was kind enough to get me a gift card to a certain chain bookstore that also sells music and DVDs. So unless I buy some operas or DVDs, I’m liable to increase the height of my pile.


This stack doesn’t necessarily represent my priorities, though the ones at the top are the ones I’m most likely to read first. That could change based on a whim. Here they are and why they’re in my pile.

Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gilman – I haven’t seen any of Gilman’s plays yet. I picked up Blue Surge at a used book store, tore through it, and parts of it still linger in my mind. So I went back and bought Boy Gets Girl.

The Salon by Nick Bertozzi – Read a spirited review of it in the Sun-Times and ordered it. I read the first 30 or so pages and was transfixed by its images and its humor. Then put it down because I was still reading another book that I needed to finish and review first. The only graphic novels I’ve read so far are Persepolis 1 and 2 by Marjane Satrapi. (Those are excellent.) I was not a comic book kid. Skatepunks were into comic books and graphic novels. Metalheads like me were into Dungeons and Dragons and science fiction. But based on the Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers who review movies and books these days, it seems not to many of us old Metalheads ever climbed their way into the upper echelons of the Culture Critics.

The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neil – Impulse checkout at the library while picking up a few children’s books to read to my 2-year-old son. Haven’t seen it performed or read it before. Feel like I should because I liked Long Day’s Journey into Night and O’Neil is one of the giants of American Drama.

The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Classic political thriller about a CIA agent who thinks the Vietnamese were behind the JFK assassination. So far it’s a fun and highly intriguing read. I got the hardcover first edition at a used book store this past weekend for 5 bucks. You can see the price tag on the spine.

Divine Days by Leon Forrest – This beast of a tome (1100 pages) has been my “Currently Reading” book for months now. It is rich, dense, bawdy, astute, Faulknerian, and Joycean all at once. It can not be read quickly. My initial reaction is that it’s the final gasp of Modernism as developed and practiced by Faulkner and Joyce. Besides, it’s set in Chicago by a Chicago writer, and I’ve been doing my best to read anything by and about my home city. (Would still like to get to Sara Peretzky.)

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy – This mention by Maud Newton made me order it. It is published by the New York Review Books, which is an excellent source of rescued books that deserve to be in print.

Words Without Borders – This anthology put out by the people behind the web site Words Without Borders was an impulse pick up by me a month or so ago at Everybody Reads Bookstore. I’ve been dipping into it occasionally and so far, the handful of stories I’ve read have only made me wish that those authors’ complete works had already been translated into English…so that I could buy them and add them to my TBR pile.

At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag – read this review in PopMatters and combined with that amazing essay by her in the Guardian (no longer available on their site), I bought it.

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet – Bought directly from Softskull Press (along with Everyone’s Pretty) when they were having their Being Bought Out Sale. I liked Everyone’s Pretty. So I have high hopes for this one.

Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys – Because my friend Sarah Kate Levy has an essay in it. So far I’ve only read her essay, which was very good, funny, and tender. When I was at USC, I was in the same poetry class as one of the anthology’s editors Tom Dolby, who wrote the novel The Trouble Boy. (His poetry was much better than mine.)

The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy – I visited Montreal last summer and read Mordechai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Then I wanted to read some Quebecois writers. Yes, in English because my French is nowhere near good enough to tackle a whole novel.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones – Much-revered work published only a few years ago.

Dear Digby by Carol Muske-Dukes – My wife picked this up for me a year ago from the USC bookstore, before we left L.A.

A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul – Been meaning to read something by Naipaul for some time…

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros – Her early book The House on Mango Street is a classic that I have enjoyed reading a few times.

Gates of the Sun by Elias Khoury – Palestinian writer whose 1998 book was recently translated. We don’t get much opportunity in the States to read works in translation. So I jumped at this highly-recommended one.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – I’ve read it before. But this book can not be reread enough. I’ve been known to reread just the Addie Bundren section.

And so when Cora Tull would tell me I was not a true mother, I would think how words go straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes along the earth, clinging to it, so that after a while the two lines are too far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other; and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words. Like Cora, who could never even cook.

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain – This is on loan from my sister. She’s going to want it back at some point. Kitchen Confidential was fantastic. And I love Bourdain’s show on the Travel Channel “No Reservations.”

So, how many is that? 18.

Shoot. I forgot Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett. An English friend loaned this to me a few months ago. Not sure when I’m going to get to this one either. Argh. That makes 19.

This past weekend a former professor of mine from undergrad recommended Tolstoy’s Anna Karennina. Which I still haven’t read. There are a number of classics I haven’t read…I won’t list them here…Which just leads me to think and despair, as always, that there is never enough time to read all of the books I want to read…

Enough kvetching.

Back to my pile. I’ve got to make it lower.

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