On being exhausted by the most-loved thing (also, #TBR20)

2513621945_c317fe78dc_zSometimes I feel utterly overwhelmed by reading. I remember a time (OK, maybe I imagine it) when I used to run out of books to read, or when friends would lend me a book and I just started reading it right away, not worried about the other important books I was meant to be reading. Now, it seems I may die from a Surfeit of TBR. There are books I need to read because they’re research for the book I’m writing; books I should read because they’re like a book I mean to write; books written by people I know; ‘important’ books. It’s all a bit like a school assignment.

Recently I read this blog by Eva Stalker, and I was struck by this idea she’d developed about why she kept adding to her ‘to-read’ pile when she already had enough books to keep her busy for the rest of her life:

Like all anxieties it had mortality at its root. Aside from the instant gratification of buying something new, what I bought had a certain intent. I was buying what I wanted to have read. I was always looking for the next thing, the next great thing that would mean everything.

I too have that feeling. The next book, the next album: that will be the great thing that will mean everything. The perfect book. The book that shifts me to a different plane of existence (ironically, when I think of the books that have meant the most to me so far, none of them were on my ‘to-read’ list. ‘Gilead’ was given to a work colleague as a gift, and he handed it over to me when he was done because he thought I might like it; I’d never heard of it til then. The Cazalet Chronicles were my dear friend Rose’s mother’s favourite books, and they were pressed upon me by Rose: what a glorious reading experience those books turned out to be. ‘Rings of Saturn’ I picked up off my parents’ bookshelf; ‘Middlemarch’ from an op shop after vaguely remembering someone somewhere thought it was good. Anyway, back to the story, right?)

Eva Stalker decided to set herself a task – no buying new books, no borrowing new books, until she had read 20 of the books she already owned. Of course, there had to be a hashtag: #TBR20.

I’m going to give this a try and see what happens. Of course, I expect miracles; I always do. Here are my 20 unread books:


  • The Best Australian Stories, 2014
  • Lost & found by Brooke Davis
  • This changes everything by Naomi Klein
  • N by John A Scott
  • Suddenly a knock at the door by Etgar Keret
  • The weight of a human heart by Ryan O’Neill
  • Cold light by Frank Moorhouse
  • Bury my heart at wounded knee by Dee Brown
  • Cities are good for you by Leo Hollis
  • Falling by Elizabeth J Howard
  • Slow water by Annemarie Jagose
  • Crandolin by Anna Tambour
  • Life and fate by Vassily Grossman
  • A mercy by Toni Morrison
  • Demons by Wayne Macauley
  • The asking game by Rose Michael
  • Ablutions by Patrick de Witt
  • The necessary rituals of Maren Gripe by Oystein Lonn
  • Here come the dogs by Omar Musa
  • The book of strange new things by Michel Faber

There are short books, long books, speculative fiction, non-fiction, hard books, easy books, must-read books, books I have no idea where they came from or what they’re about, books by friends, books by Australians, books by men, books by women and books of short stories. Really, there should be enough here to keep me interested without buying anything new til I’m done.

Sorry, booksellers…

Image by Lindsey Turner/Flickr

15 thoughts on “On being exhausted by the most-loved thing (also, #TBR20)

    1. me and my hare (hair?) brained schemes. Of course there will be updates. Thinking of transferring my ‘reviewing’ (if you can call it that) from Goodreads to here anyway. I’m really curious about that Maren Gripe book. No idea what it is.

  1. Great post, Jane. Thanks for linking to my blog, much appreciated. I like what you say about remembering a time when you’d run out of books or when you’d just start reading what you were given without worrying about what you were *meant* to be reading. I hadn’t really thought about how much pressure I’ve piled onto myself as a reader, but now you mention it I remember a time like the one you describe too.

    Looking forward to reading your updates and thoughts on the books you’ve picked. There are quite a few on your TBR I haven’t heard of. My partner’s reading Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee at the moment and thinks its superb.

    1. I’ve had bury my heart for about five years now: I really should read it! I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of a lot of those (there are some I haven’t…) – there are a lot of Australian books in there and I know not many of those escape our shores.
      Thanks for the great idea.

  2. I’m in the same boat. Huge list of to read books. Next one on the list is YOURS! Ha! Someone told me how many books someone can read in a lifetime and I thought I might have a mental breakdown right then and there. Too little time, too many books. I haven’t even read “Middlemarch” yet. I like to keep a list of books I hear about that pique my interest and then I think they will jump out at me when the time is right. So pleased to read your reference to “Gilead”. I read it last year for a book group and was alone in my praise and appreciation for it.

  3. Oh Frocktober! Exhausting! But raised over $1700 for ovarian cancer research so it was worth the pain. Your blog is most excellent and I’ve been reading it for a while now – so yeah – before you became a big award winning author. Middlemarch might be part of my Summer reading. I’m following your reviews on goodreads. Your novel sounds intriguing and pretty wonderful I must say!

  4. I know exactly what you mean Jane. One of the things I love about Goodreads is having a place to keep track of all the books I mean to read. At the same time, this sometimes seems like a chore to be done, rather than a pleasure to anticipate. I too remember a time when I just read whatever I happened upon next and it was rather lovely. I’ve got pretty good about not buying new books, but I’m a shocker when it comes to the library – I always have around 20 library books waiting to be read.

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