Lovely  Eve Messenger  tagged us all for this more unusual book tag – ‘My Intimidating TBR’ Tag. I do like completing the tags occasionally and couldn’t resist giving this one a go. Like Eve, I’m encouraging everyone to join the fun and consider themselves tagged.

  1. What book have you been unable to finish?


‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is a book I was so excited to read, keen doesn’t cover it. I have read two thirds of it; found it inspiring, funny and wise at times. Then I will find a section which for me is annoying, cliche, blasé and undeserving of a such a good writer. For this reason alone I still have not got round to finishing this book.

Here is a taster: 

‘The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one…when courage dies, creativity dies with it.’

‘The writer Rebecca Solnit puts is well: “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.” Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.’

(PS. I recently finished her brilliant ‘The Signature of All Things’ and can highly recommend this book.)

2. What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?


‘Birds Without Wings’ by Louis de Bernieres

A while ago I read an interview with Louis de Bernieres of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ fame. Whilst he appreciates the fame and success the book and later the film brought him, he considers his more recent novel, ‘Birds Without Wings’, the true classic and worthier novel. At 625 pages of intense and literary writing this is a book that deserves time and concentration so I’m still waiting for that perfect (many long) moments! This brief outline explains the scope and setting: 

‘Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia – a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.’

3. Which book have you yet to read because it is a sequel?


‘Our Own Country: A Novel (The Midwife Series)’ by Jodi Daynard

In March 2015 I reviewed ‘The Midwife’s Revolt’ and when I came across the next book in the series I could not pass up the opportunity to see whether Jodi Daynard keeps up the pace and emotion in her latest novel.  I hope it does not cover too much of the same ground however.

‘In 1770s Boston, a prosperous merchant’s daughter, Eliza Boylston, lives a charmed life—until war breaches the walls of the family estate and forces her to live in a world in which wealth can no longer protect her.’

4. What book have you yet to read because it is a new release?


‘small great things’ by Jodi Picoult

As a great fan of Jodi Picoult I always keep an eye out for her latest book. Her current novel-in-progress, ‘small great things’, is due out on 8th November 2016 and along with her fans around the world I’m looking forward to this latest sure-to-be bestseller. As usual she doesn’t shy away from controversial weighty topics; this time it’s race. 

‘Ruth, an African-American nurse, has worked at a CT hospital for nearly twenty years as a labor and delivery nurse. So when a young couple, Turk and Brittany, come into the hospital to have their baby, it is business as usual — until Turk calls in Ruth’s white supervisor after the birth. He says, “I don’t want her or anyone like her to touch my boy,” and pulls up his sleeve to reveal a Confederate flag tattoo: he and his wife are Skinheads.’

5. What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t like it?


‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tart

It wasn’t that I didn’t like ‘The Goldfinch’; at times I adored it, wallowing in the long descriptive passages, caught up in the general premise. However, it was just TOO long and verbose. I’m tempted though to try and read another one of her books, particularly ‘The Secret History’. Once again the description is enticing but I’m torn. 

‘Under the influence of their charismatic Classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality, their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.’

What do you think? Has anyone read this? Should I give it a go? 

6. What book have you yet to read because you aren’t in the mood?

the girl

‘The Girl with all the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey

This book was a Christmas present and one I do want to read, that I keep meaning to read but somehow the moment is never quite right. Not one for night times, not one for sunny happy days, not one for low depressed days. Hmm…still I’m intrigued though. 

‘Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.’

7. What book have you yet to read because it is humongous?


‘The Penguin Book of the British Short Story. Volume 1’ edited by Philip Hensher.

Having seen the editor of this short story collection talk in November 2015 at the Royal Society of Literature I truly meant to have read this earlier. Again it was a present and I can’t wait to read the stories contained within but its size has caused certain reservations within me. Not the 702 pages, rather its actual tome and tomb-like weight – having been spoilt with the light weight of a kindle and paperbacks it will be annoying to not be able to hold it with one hand, not to be able to snuggle up and be cosy to read in the evenings. However, I will tackle this soon…I mean it. Then there is always volume two to put on my Christmas list. I had to laugh when reading Philip Hensher’s comment in the General Introduction when he writes that: ‘This anthology could easily have become twice as long as it is’. Was that a threat?!

8. What book have you yet to read because it was a cover buy with bad reviews?


9. Which book on your TBR is the most intimidating to you?


‘Mason & Dixon’ by Thomas Pynchon

This book has been on my TBR since forever, quietly disappearing to the bookcase before finding its way back onto my bedside table. The book is the most intimidating I’ve ever come across. I just about get the first few pages but its style is so dense and complex; yet I feel I should be better than this. I read ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Pynchon as a student and was hooked. I want to do this one justice and might persevere – or maybe not. 

Here’s a taster for you of the first sentence:

‘Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware,— the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking’d-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel’d Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,— the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax’d and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.’

I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection; as always I would love to hear from you about some of these selections or about some of your own Intimidating TBRs. If you’re tempted, please do the Tag!

46 thoughts on “MY ‘INTIMIDATING TBR’ TAG

  1. PeterR

    Well, I’ve just finished “Mason & Dixon”, more out of bloody-mindedness than anything else. Wikipedia contains many complimentary quotes concerning it, such as: “Harold Bloom said, “I don’t know what I would choose if I had to select a single work of sublime fiction from the last century… it would probably be Mason & Dixon””. My own take is “what was the man on?”. It’s more a stream of consciousness, rambling off in all sorts of strange directions, and leaving the reader with the “what is happening? where are we? feeling. Perhaps I’m too much of a Philistine to appreciate great literature even when it hits me in the face.

    1. Thanks for coming back with this comment on ‘Mason & Dixon’. I’m very impressed you managed to read and finish it – very patience and great perseverance. Your comments sum up what I felt after just the first few pages – good to know I’m not missing anything!

  2. So much to think about, but I’ll center on one. I too read The Gold Finch and absolutely hated it. I ended up skipping quite a bit of the Las Vegas Section with the two boys. Years ago I read The Secret History and liked it. Her second book (10 years later) The Little Friend was terrible but this third book(written twenty years after the first one) takes the cake! She has an incredible vocabulary and obvious spend years researching and writing, but her story-telling and the feelings elicited on reading her words are just not my idea of a good book, let alone a Pulitzer!

    1. I am beginning to wonder if anyone actually read ALL of The Gold Finch!? I skipped large sections too – just wanted to know what happened in the end. Great that there seems to be one good by her and I’ll definitely take a look at The Secret History. Like you I was impressed with her writing and vocabulary. There is real skill and ability but this book with so much promise just didn’t deliver. Don’t you wonder what the judges are looking for? I feel this about smaller competitions as well as big ones such as the Pulitzer! Thank you so much for your incisive comment.

      1. I really do wonder what the judges look for – certainly writing skill, vocabulary, research, character and plot development. Where I think they missed out on Gold Finch was the style and pace of the work as a whole. And the tone was so dark;the characters so unlikeable; the message, so depressing throughout. There was no relief, which is why, I think many people scanned through large parts of it. Even Shakespeare threw in comic relief in his tragedies. And I’m sure at least one of the judges must have connections or be part of New York’s “elitist, erudite faction”! Excuse the sarcastic tone. I do intend to read some of those books on your list, though. Clare

  3. I’ve been curious about Big Magic for a while and I am not surprised to read your thoughts about it. It’s so interesting because in reading Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir, she recommends Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Love, Pray as one of many (and I mean many!) memoirs to her students. But she goes on to use it as an example of a memoir that became a NYT bestseller but critiques it that in places, it doesn’t give the reader what they want in glossing the deeper stuff of memoir that one would expect from such a writer. Yet…Mary Karr says that it is in the quality of her lyrical writing that makes it what it is…a bestseller. I’ve yet to read that too. I could talk with you all day about this ‘stuff’!! Fascinating collection here Annika…great idea for a tag, you write wonderful reviews! 🙂 xxxx

    1. Sherri, thank you for your lovely comment. Only later did I see the mixed reviews for Big Magic – it is an unusual book in that it dares to be itself. I loved the parts where she meets other people and recounts their stories – it is on the deeper philosophical level it wavers I found. Eat, Love & Pray I thought was a great read (perhaps not book, there is a difference) but again it was slated. Her latest book is on a whole new level and I felt she has arrived! This was a fun tag and maybe you’ll get a chance to do it on your blog…Warmest wishes to you. 😀

  4. Mike

    A very interesting read. Although none of the books you mention are on my TBR list (although I did read the first couple of pages of Mason and Dixon before my brain froze), I’m looking at the pile of books I still have to read and it’s an exciting task. I tend to be a slow reader – perhaps because I can never imagine finishing a book and not having a couple more lined up. Plus the thought of having a pile of books to read and missing something really interesting is certainly a good driver to keep on living!


    1. Mike, thank you so much for your comment. I had to laugh at your last sentence, what a lovely sentiment and by the length of my tbr list I will live a LONG time! Not having enough books on my tbr pile is never a problem, it’s size is rather daunting at times and then confusing with books that get ‘lost’ on my kindle. Oh, such troubles in life are a treasure!

    1. Thank you, Marje. I can’t wait for the Jodi Picoult one and then I can add it to all her others I have on one shelf on my bookcase (after having read it, of course!)

  5. I love your reviews. I hadn’t heard of any of those books and just by the way you are able to poetically express likes/ dislikes and subject matter, tells me which would be worth a look. Thank you so much. 🙂

  6. What a great list of questions. They pretty much covered all the reasons TBR books stay there. The only one I missed was “What’s the latest book to move off of your TBR book.

    I’ve looked at the Midwife series, after you reviewed it. It looks good. I read “Midwives” from the Oprah book list and surprised myself by loving it. I wouldn’t mind more on the subject.

    1. That’s a good question – maybe the next people doing the tag can add it on?

      I had a look at the ‘Midwives’ book you mention and if it is the one by Chris Bohjalian then that sounds excellent. Taut, gripping and set in the present day – the one I reviewed was set during the American Revolution!

  7. I enjoyed the visit and post today. I laud your choices. Currently I have to say I am involved with a series of liturgical mysteries by Mark Schweizer. Very hilarious and light reading. Thanks for an insightful blog. 🙂

    1. This book sounds just the antidote for all these intimidating TBRs! Great cover, easy going fun story-line – I’ve put it on my list; the one for holidays! So glad you enjoyed the post. Warmest wishes to you.

      1. Thanks for your kind words as always. I am reading the entire series of liturgical mysteries in order beginning with the Alto Wore Tweed. I am almost done with #9 in the series, The Countertenor Wore Garlic. I noticed a new one in the series which I shall add to my list of books to read. 🙂 We are currently having Fall weather instead of Spring. Snow yesterday… 😦

        1. Grr to the snow. However, in 1976 it snowed in June and then the next week we got a heatwave which lasted until September! There is a precedent here – may the sun shine soon for you. It’s great when you find a series of books you love – like a comfy blanket to immerse yourself in. Enjoy the new too.

          1. Even your comments are enjoyable, not to mention your blog. Thank you. I hope we don’t have a repeat of 1976 with our weather although rumor has it that our summer will be a hot one.

  8. I felt as you did about Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC. I was really looking forward to reading it – maybe that’s the problem. I had too much expectation pinned on that book. I haven’t read Donna Tart’s THE SECRET HISTORY but I found that the last few pages of THE GOLDFINCH were spectacular but I did also find that it could have profited from a good trim, especially all that section in Las Vegas.
    I really enjoyed your angle on this post, Anika. Very well done and informative. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Carol. This was a fun post to compile and a great excuse to have a book recce! I also wanted to make it a bit different and give readers a taste of the books, otherwise often you have no idea about them. I loved parts of the writing in The Goldfinch; the first hundred pages were fantastic, wonderful premise but then 771 pages on it was too wordy. A trim all round would have been good – apart from the beginning!

  9. I read Thomas Pynchon’s book V when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa and was enthralled by it. Ever since I have felt I should read another… but never have. Maybe it will be Mason and Dixon, Annika. –Curt

    1. Curt, not exactly a light-read for your time in Africa! If you ever read this one let me know what you think – it is such a different and dense style so I don’t think I’ll ever get far with it. Time feels too precious and so many great books to read! Wishing you many happy reading moments on your travels. 😀

  10. I’m a huge fan of Jodi Picoult…can’t wait to read her latest. Sadly, your post reminds me of my ever-growing stockpile of books to read. Then of course, there’s my Kindle. Yikes!
    Have a great Sunday, Annika!

    1. Jill, glad I’m not the only one who gets stressed about everything I want to read. It’s easy to see my tbr books; they are on my bedside table or a special place on one of my bookcases. As for Kindle books, I have a habit of buying something and then it seems to get ‘lost’ until I come across it a year later! Yeah! Another Jodi Picot fan – is there a fan club I wonder??😀 The book is released earlier in America. Enjoy her latest and your TBRs.

  11. The Gold Finch was a good read although too much meandering and quite a bit of redundancy. I’m not up for another from Donna Tart at this point. My TBR is overwhelming. Currently reading Another Sunset by Jason Zandri, A Personal Journey through THE HEART of TEACHING by John Fioravanti and two children’s books. Enjoying all so far. So many books, need more hours and days to get to them. There are several books I’ve started but just won’t finish for a variety of reasons. I love a good book. I like to read paper during day and kindle evenings (or when out for appointments). Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee was my top pick for reading this past year.

    1. Bette, thank you for sharing some of your TBR – I feel its humongous size is slightly daunting! What a wonderful selection of books you’re planning to read and also thank you for the reminder about Harper Lee; this is out in paperback here in July so I’ll finally get a chance to read it. Can’t wait. Wishing you many Happy Reading evenings. 😀

  12. The Thomas Pyncheon book is written like poetry. Each line and paragraph builds a mood and image that deserves to be savored–and there’s 773 pages of that?!! That would take FOREVER to read. The Girl with All the Gifts has been eyeing me from my TBR pile, too. Maybe you and I can set a date and do a buddy read–how does July look?

    1. Eve, you’re on! Buddy read of The Girl with All the Gifts in July! I just re-read the Pynchon quote and it does read like poetry and reading it aloud slowly works very well and builds up an intense evocation of baking. But how, oh how does anyone read the whole book? Also why are all the nouns capitalised. I’m used to that in German but not otherwise – or is it meant to be olde English?

  13. Great book tag, Annika, and what a lot of work to pull this post together. You’re so organized and thoughtful about your reading list. By comparison, I’m a disorganized heap. You have some intriguing reads ahead of you. Some dense and weighty tomes, too. 🙂 Happy Reading, my friend.

    1. Thank you, Diana and you are correct that it was a lot of work to put this together but for me it is like leaving me in a sweet shop! 😀 What a delightful excuse to go through my books, read a bit here, a bit there…heaven! Never mind the mess on my desk, books piled high and notes galore!

  14. I just got a copy of Small Great Things at BookExpo America signed by Picoult herself. I just made it before they ran out of copies. Such a treat. I look forward to reading it.

    1. What??!!! (Imagine my voice rising to a high screech here). You have a SIGNED copy of her latest book which is not even released in the US until October. Wow!! That’s brilliant, Carrie. Be good to it and enjoy the book. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy now…

      1. Hehe. It’s an Advanced Reader Copy. That’s mostly what they gave out at BookExpo. A way to get early readers and reviews. As if Picoult needs that! And yes, it’s signed. Pretty cool indeed!

  15. delphini510

    Annika, you certainly must have been encouraged but this Tag as the post is presented with both pictorial and entertaining content. I love you using extracts to show us your view.

    I share your taste in many of your choices and was totally gripped by “The signature of all Things” after the ‘quieter’ Big Magic (which I finished). 🙂

    As to reading heavy Tomes I wonder whether the old fashioned reading tables were handy.
    Thank you for this vivid introduction to your chosen books

    1. Mirja, I love the idea of the old fashioned reading tables – wouldn’t that be perfect. I think they also had ‘handles’ to hold the pages open. I seriously get finger ache! Well done for finishing Big Magic; did it change towards the end? What did you think of it overall? So glad you read her other book too – I feel that hasn’t got the spotlight and commercial success it deserves. So glad you enjoyed the post!😃

    1. Thank you and glad you liked the list. The fun of these tags is sharing our different books and feelings about them. Would you consider doing a post on the tag – you read so many books! I’d love to see your intimidating tbrs.

  16. Anika, I think I got to the exact same spot in the Elizabeth Gilbert book and stopped reading. I, also, really enjoyed her previous book. It was such a well written book and such a departure from her genre. I read all your reviews and I think I am going to print this post out because we seem to have a lot in common when it come to our reading tastes. I couldn’t finish the Goldfinch. It was just to obtuse.

    1. Bernadette, thank you so much for this delightful comment! So you couldn’t finish Big Magic either. I liked Eat Pray Love, even though that got mixed reviews but the latest one I mention was fantastic – on a different level and so well researched. As for Goldfinch I skipped sections as I was racing to the end – which was well worth it, just too too much in between. Hope you get a chance to enjoy some of the books on the list and let me know if you try another Donna Tart book!

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