This meme came to my attention recently due to some great posts by a couple of other blogs I follow – Laura at Snazzy Books and Karen at Books and Me. However, it was created by Lia at Lost in a Story as a way to tackle the gargantuan To-Read shelves that a lot of us have on Goodreads. Like a lot of other people, I’ve long ago forgotten what prompted me to add some of the books I have shelved and it’s high time for a clear out. This seems like the perfect way to get it under control – well, start to (whisper: I have 769 books on my To-Read shelf!)
The rules are simple:
- Go to your Goodreads To-Read shelf
- Sort it in ascending order of Date Added
- Take the first 5 books (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous)
- Read the synopses of the books
- Decide: keep it or let it go?
- Repeat every week until the entire list has been filtered (hmm, quite a few weeks then!)
Because I have so many, I’ve decided to tackle 10 at a time..
The Siege of Khrishnapur by J G Farrell (added 23rd Jan 2012)
India, 1857: The year of the Great Mutiny, when Muslim soldiers turned in bloody rebellion on their British overlords. This time of convulsion is the subject of J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, widely considered one of the finest British novels of the last fifty years. Farrell’s story is set in an isolated Victorian outpost on the subcontinent. Rumours of strife filter in from afar, and yet the members of the colonial community remain confident of their military and, above all, moral superiority. But when they find themselves under actual siege, the true character of their dominion – at once brutal, blundering, and wistful – is soon revealed.
Verdict: Keep – I recently saw and enjoyed the film Viceroy’s House which was set around the same time so this sounds fascinating plus it won the Booker Prize
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (added 23rd Jan 2012)
Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which centre around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries.
Verdict: Keep – I have really enjoyed other books set in Nigeria and this is something of a modern classic and a diverse read to boot
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (added 23rd Jan 2012)
The story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity in his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.
Verdict: Go – I dithered over this but on the basis that, if I don’t feel immediately drawn to keep it then it must go, it goes.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (added 23 Jan 2012)
As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have re-entered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.
Verdict : Go – Ishiguro is a brilliant writer and I loved Remains of the Day but this doesn’t entice me quite as much. Also I’m pretty sure I listened to it on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime a few years ago so recall how the story finishes.
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (added 20th May 2012)
In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town’s Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily and asks for his finest “master of the art of death,” an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno – her name is Adelia.
Verdict: Go – this sounds intriguing, I love the cover and I like the idea of a female heroine but all of those are not enough to keep it.
The Lost Army of Cambyses by Paul Sussman (added 20th May 2012)
A mutilated corpse washes up on the banks of the Nile, an antiques dealer is murdered, and an eminent British archaeologist is found dead at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. At first, the incidents appear unconnected. However, Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police is suspicious. So is the archaeologist’s daughter, Tara Mullray. As they both seek to uncover the truth, they find themselves thrown together in a desperate race for survival. From a mysterious fragment of an ancient hieroglyphic text to rumors of a fabulous lost tomb in the Theban Hills, from the shimmering waters of the Nile to the dusty backstreets of Cairo, Khalifa and Mullray are drawn deeper into a labyrinth of violence, intrigue, and betrayal. It is a path that will eventually lead them into the forbidding, barren heart of the western desert, and to the answer to one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world.
Verdict: Go – the setting of this one sounds intriguing but the plot is similar to so many other books of its type that it’s not going to make the cut. I’m on a roll here!
Good Night, Mr Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas (added 21st Jul 2012)
Miss Irene Adler, the beautiful American opera singer who once outwitted Sherlock Holmes, is here given an unexpected talent: she is a superb detective, as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker can attest. Even Holmes himself must admit–albeit grudgingly–that she acquits herself competently. But in matters of the heart she encounters difficulty. The Crown Prince of Bohemia – tall, blonde, and handsome – proves to be a cad. Will dashing barrister Godfrey Norton be able to convince Irene that not all handsome men are cut from the same broadcloth?
Verdict: Go – I was probably attracted by the Sherlock Holmes connection but it sounds too much toward romance than historical fiction for me
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (added 21st Aug 2012)
Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find – through love or through exacting maternal appraisal – a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multi ethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humour and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.
Verdict: Keep – even though this is a massive book, it sounds like this prize-winning novel would be worth the effort
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard (added 31st Oct 2012)
Vidocq! Master of disguise and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq is a man whose name sends terror rippling through the Parisian underworld of 1818—and the inconsequential life of Hector Carpentier is violently shaken when Vidocq storms into it. A former medical student living in his mother’s Latin Quarter boarding-house, Hector finds himself dragged into a dangerous mystery surrounding the fate of the dauphin, the ten-year-old son of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette presumed to have suffered a cruel death years earlier in Paris’s dreaded Temple. But the truth of what happened may be even more shocking—and it will fall to an aimless young man and the most feared detective in Paris to see justice done for a frightened little boy in a black tower . . . no matter what the cost.
Verdict: Go – this sounds like an interesting historical mystery but I can’t see it reaching the top on my TBR pile any time soon
Transgression by James W. Nichol (added 1st Nov 2012)
How can love survive a brutal time? In 1946 in North America, a child makes a grisly find in a deserted field—a discovery that opens a shuttered window on a secret dating back to the beginning of the turbulent decade. In 1941 in occupied France, Adele Georges’s fruitless attempts to learn the whereabouts of her father, captured by the Nazis, lead her to a lonely young German soldier far from home. A spark between them becomes a fire—and a dangerous love affair blooms across enemy lines, dooming Adele to a grim post-war existence as a despised outcast, one of the infamous “horizontal collaborators.” Ostracized, tortured, tormented, she chooses a desperate escape, accompanying a war-damaged yet optimistic Allied soldier across an ocean to a new land. But there is no refuge from the past, as Adele’s broken heart and shameful secret drive her deeper into despair…and toward a shocking outcome.
Verdict: Keep – I’m a sucker for anything set in WW2.
I’m quite proud of myself – only 4 kept and 6 dumped. This has been liberating and I can’t wait for next time. Do you agree with my choices or would you have made a different decision?