Down the TBR Hole #1

I’m starting with both my TBR and maybe-read shelves: just 5 from each, 10 total, so this post doesn’t get too long. In future editions I may focus on one shelf or the other, or even do 10 from each, who knows. Also, this is meant to be a weekly meme but I probably won’t do it more than a couple of times a month, unless I decide to really focus on decluttering my shelves.

Side note: if a book on my maybe-read is marked “stay,” that actually means it’s moving to my TBR.

Lia @ Lost in a Story is the creator of Down the TBR Hole (and the header graphic above). Here’s the process:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order by ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: should it stay or go? 

(You can click on the cover images below to see each book’s Goodreads page.)


From my TBR shelf

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

‘Here we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die.’

– Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan

In 1993, after a terrifying and disastrous attempt to climb K2, a mountaineer called Greg Mortenson drifted, cold and dehydrated, into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram Mountains. Moved by the inhabitants’ kindness, he promised to return and build a school. Three Cups of Tea is the story of that promise and its extraordinary outcome. Over the next decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools — especially for girls — in remote villages across the forbidding and breathtaking landscape of Pakistan and Afghanistan, just as the Taliban rose to power. His story is at once a riveting adventure and a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit.

I added this book all the way back in 2014, which is when I first made my Goodreads account — it may even have been my very first shelved book! And it’s tempting to keep it for that reason alone, especially since the synopsis sounds as intriguing as it always has. However, given all the to-do over this story possibly being fraudulent — I’m not taking sides or including links because I haven’t done any independent research — and the many reviews criticizing the writing style — which, as you’ll know if you follow my reviews, is a huge factor for me; the excerpts I’ve seen confirm that this would not be my cup of tea (sorry, I couldn’t resist) — it goes.

Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

You’ve probably come across this series at some point, though possibly with the alternate cover. (To be quite honest, I’m not a huge fan of covers featuring people, but I find this version much more appealing than the eye with the tree-eyelashes and colorful clouds.) The reviews are very mixed, so I have a hunch but no real evidence for whether I’ll love it, hate it, or be left indifferent — and I’ll never know for sure until I read it, so it stays.

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.

Meridia grows up in a lonely home until she falls in love with Daniel at age sixteen. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family — unaware that they harbor dark mysteries of their own. As Meridia struggles to embrace her life as a young bride, she discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.

Erick Setiawan’s astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and memorable.

I have absolutely no recollection of adding this book, but Maggie Stiefvater gave it 5 stars and I’ve been wanting to get into more magical realism, and that’s all the reason I really need to decide that it stays.

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill

DO YOU KNOW THE HISTORY OF THE PUSHCART WAR? THE REAL HISTORY? 

It’s a story of how regular people banded together and, armed with little more than their brains and good aim, defeated a mighty foe.

Not long ago the streets of New York City were smelly, smoggy, sooty, and loud. There were so many trucks making deliveries that it might take an hour for a car to travel a few blocks. People blamed the truck owners and the truck owners blamed the little wooden pushcarts that traveled the city selling everything from flowers to hot dogs. Behind closed doors the truck owners declared war on the pushcart peddlers. Carts were smashed from Chinatown to Chelsea. The peddlers didn’t have money or the mayor on their side, but that didn’t stop them from fighting back. They used pea shooters to blow tacks into the tires of trucks, they outwitted the police, and they marched right up to the grilles of those giant trucks and dared them to drive down their streets. Today, thanks to the ingenuity of the pushcart peddlers, the streets belong to the people — and to the pushcarts.

Oh, this one. I read an excerpt in some “short stories for children” anthology and promptly fell into love — or at least very strong interest; that was almost the same thing to my younger self — because it was funny, vivid, and easy to follow without being simplistic. My local library has never picked up a copy, but I’m still keeping an eye out and, now that it’s back on my radar, may just end up buying it myself. It stays.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

Arcadia moves back and forth between 1809 and the present at the elegant estate owned by the Coverly family. The 1809 scenes reveal a household in transition. As the Arcadian landscape is being transformed into picturesque Gothic gardens, complete with a hermitage, thirteen year-old Lady Thomasina and her tutor delve into intellectual and romantic issues. Present day scenes depict the Coverly descendants and two competing scholars who are researching a possible scandal at the estate in 1809 involving Lord Byron. This brilliant play moves smoothly between the centuries and explores the nature of truth and time, the difference between classical and romantic temperaments, and the disruptive influence of sex on our life orbits the attraction Newton left out.

Funny story: I actually read Arcadia by Iain Pears by mistake and because, yet again, the library didn’t have the book I was actually looking for. It has multiple glowing reviews and one of my favorite fanfiction writers has referenced it multiple times. Obviously, it stays. ✔


From my maybe-read shelf

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder, Run, and Bel Canto, examines her deepest commitments — to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband — creating a resonant portrait of a life in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

As she shares stories of the people, places, ideals, and art to which she has remained indelibly committed, Ann Patchett brings into focus the large experiences and small moments that have shaped her as a daughter, wife, and writer.

I actually have no idea how this even ended up on my TBR shelf, and it was one of the first to migrate to my then-brand-new maybe-read shelf. Since Bel Canto is staying on my TBR (for now, at least) and I’ll probably find my way back to this book if that one blows me away, it goes.

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

Reading this synopsis over now, it sounds more like disturbing material bordering on sensationalism (and let’s not even get started on the treatment of mental health), rather than a fun weird read. It goes. ✖

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick

This fast-paced action novel is set in a future where the world has been almost destroyed. Like the award-winning novel Freak the Mighty, this is Philbrick at his very best.

It’s the story of an epileptic teenager nicknamed Spaz, who begins the heroic fight to bring human intelligence back to the planet. In a world where most people are plugged into brain-drain entertainment systems, Spaz is the rare human being who can see life as it really is. When he meets an old man called Ryter, he begins to learn about Earth and its past. With Ryter as his companion, Spaz sets off an unlikely quest to save his dying sister — and in the process, perhaps the world. 

Hm, YA sci-fi that reminds me of those technology-based dystopian short stories (e.g., “Harrison Bergeron”) that I actually enjoyed reading in school? It stays. ✔

Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls #1) by C.C. Hunter

One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls — a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches and fairies train side by side — learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart. 

Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear — Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs… 

On the one hand, I love the “camp/boarding school for ‘troubled’ aka non-human teens” trope (see: Percy Jackson, among others). On the other hand, YA paranormal romance with a love triangle introduced as early as the synopsis … Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and rule that it goes. ✖

The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride

When Tessa’s best friend Noelle disappears right before the start of eighth grade, Tessa’s life changes completely — she shies away from her other friends and stops eating in the cafeteria. Now, two years later, Noelle has escaped her captivity and is coming home, in one piece but not exactly intact, and definitely different. Tessa’s life is about to change again as she tries to revive the best-friendship the two girls had shared before Noelle — now Elle — was kidnapped; puts up a futile resistance to the charming new guy at school; pursues her passion for photography while trying to build the bravado to show her photos to the public; and tries to balance her desire to protect and shelter Elle with the necessity to live her own life and put herself first. 

So at some point Jaycee Lee Dugard’s story somehow ended up on my radar, and since then I have had a kind of morbid, horrified fascination with kidnapping cases, the way some people are really interested in serial killers. I also read a few of the opening chapters in the library, but we were in a rush or I had forgotten my library card or something, so I never checked it out and it’s kind of a book that got away. It stays. ✔


The Total: 6 stay | 4 go

If you’ve read any of the books on this list, I’d love to know if you agree with my decision to keep/remove them! And, just out of curiosity, how many books are on your TBR?

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17 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #1

  1. Oh I’ve read Shatter Me! I personally really liked it, but I was a lot younger when I read it (mind you I’m 27 now), so my preferences might have changed. What I do still agree with right now is that the writing style itself is somewhat difficult, it’s not a good book to listen to, so if you read it, read a physical copy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read Three Cups of Tea,and I really liked that book. I have heard the controversy as well. I have done some research online and still haven’t quite decided why I believe, but regardless, I am glad I read it. Even if it is a “fiction story” it was still a really good book.
    http://www.breathetoread.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aside from the Shatter Me books I haven’t heard of any of these books. I am very, very intrigued by The Tension of Opposites. I’ll have to check it out, because I love true crime books and I’m curious about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have only read one of these books Shatter Me. And, well, “Read” is a bit of a stretch. I DNF’d at 50%. I like your reason for keeping it, however! I hope you find something in it I did not. I’ve also been told the series gets significantly better over time. But, I won’t be finding out.

    I have seen Stoppard’s Arcadia performed and I LOVE it. I’m shocked your library didn’t have a copy! I’m glad you’re keeping it. Perhaps you’ll get to see it performed soon?!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been seeing more people do this and I think it’s a great idea! I don’t have too many books on my wishlist though 😛 I wasn’t a lover of Shatter Me but as reviews are very mixed I agree with what you said – you should totally see what works for you or doesn’t work for you by reading it yourself! And yay for clearing off quite a few 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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