I noticed the other day that the stack of books by my bedside is almost all either books I haven't even started to read yet, or got only part of the way into before something -- something bookish, something parental, something woolly, I don't know -- distracted me. So I decided, thinking it would be amusing, to walk through the house making a list of the books that I own that I haven't actually read yet. Of course I've heard the joking reference to "Mount To-Be-Read", but this morning I'm rather ashamed to find that my personal mountain is less like the photograph above, and more like this one --
There are all sorts of excuses, of course -- I've added a number of free titles from the Gutenberg Project and others of that ilk to my Kindle faster than I can read them, I pick up things that look interesting from the remainder shelf, I buy up series from going-out-of-business sales, I buy titles from authors I've read previously and like, I get Christmas and birthday presents, I just have lots of interests. A good portion of the books on my list were for essays in college, when I was taking classes about women artists and Victorian literature and doing my senior project on feminist literary criticism -- a number of the books I browsed and made use of, but did not actually read from start to finish. Some on my list are related to family history -- the Swedish history, obviously, but also the coal one and the German villages one. One at least -- the O'Brian -- I keep wistfully putting off because I want there to be an Aubrey/Maturin story I haven't read already.
It's somewhat comforting to find that I am not the only one with a massive stack of unread books -- there is even an ongoing challenge (in its fourth year, so you can see how perpetual it is) at Bev's blog "My Reader's Block" with different mountainous attainments for however many books you want to finish --
Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR pile
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile
Mount Olympus: Read 150+ books from your TBR pile
I am somewhat consoled to find that my own list of a hundred and seventeen books is, though high, at least not at the very top, but as Bertie Wooster would say, I hardly know whether to laugh or weep. Does it put things into perspective that 117 is probably less than a tenth of the books in the house?
Ackroyd, Peter. London : the biography.
Ackroyd, Peter. The Tudors.
Bailey, Anthony. Standing in the sun : a life of J.M.W. Turner.
Beauman, Nicola. A very great profession : the woman's novel, 1914-1939.
Benjamin, Melanie. Alice I have been.
Benson, Clara. The mystery at Underwood House. (Kindle)
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare : the invention of the human.
Brownstein, Rachel M. Why Jane Austen?
Burney, Fanny. Evelina, or, The history of a young lady’s entrance into the world. (Kindle)
Browne, Ray B., and Kreiser, Lawrence A. Jr. The detective as historian : history and art in historical crime fiction.
Brook, Timothy. Vermeer’s hat : the seventeenth century and the dawn of the global world.
Chesterton, G.K. The complete Father Brown. (Kindle)
Christiansen, Rupert. The Victorian visitors : culture shock in nineteenth-century Britain.
Crosby, Alfred W. The measure of reality : quantification and western society, 1250-1600.
Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington. The history of underclothes.
Delaney, Frank. Ireland : a novel.
Dickens, Monica. The house at World’s End.
Dickens, Monica. Summer at World’s End.
Ekirch, A. Roger. At day’s close : night in times past.
Englund, Peter. The beauty and the sorrow : an intimate history of the First World War.
Finlay, Victoria. Color, a natural history of the palette.
Fossier, Robert. The axe and the oath : ordinary life in the Middle Ages.
Freese, Barbara. Coal, a human history.
Gaskell, Mrs. Ruth. (Kindle)
Gaskell, Mrs. Sylvia’s lovers.
Gaskell, Mrs. Wives and daughters. (Kindle)
Gladwell, Malcolm. David and Goliath.
Greenblatt, Stephen. Shakespeare’s freedom.
Greer, Germaine. The obstacle race : the fortunes of women painters and their works.
Greer, Germaine. Shakespeare : a brief insight.
Griffin, Susan. A chorus of stones : the private life of war.
Grudin, Robert. The grace of great things : creativity and innovation.
Hardy, Thomas. A pair of blue eyes. (Kindle)
Henry, O. Selected stories of O. Henry.
Heyer, Georgette. The black moth. (Kindle)
Hutton, Olwen. The prospect before her : a history of women in Western Europe, 1500-1800.
Ilich, Ivan, and Barry Sanders. A b c : the alphabetization of the popular mind.
James, M.R. Ghost stories of an antiquary. (Kindle)
Jekyll, Gertrude. Old English household life.
Juster, Norman. A woman’s place : yesterday’s women in rural America.
Kennedy, Annie E. and Bidwell, John. Dear General : the private letters.
King, Margaret L. Women of the Renaissance.
Kingsnorth, Paul. The wake.
Kohn, Alfie. The brighter side of human nature.
Kurlansky, Mark. Salt.
Lendon, J.E. Song of wrath : the Peloponnesian War begins.
Lerley, Merritt. The comforts of home : the American house and the evolution of modern convenience.
Levi, Primo. Other people’s trades : essays.
Lorénzen, Lilly. Of Swedish ways.
MacArthur, T.E. The volcano lady : volume 1, a fearful storm gathering.
Macdonald, Anne L. No idle hands : the social history of American knitting.
MacGregor, Neil. Shakespeare’s restless world.
Marshall, H.E. Our island story.
Masterson, Martha Gay. One woman’s west : recollections of the Oregon Trail.
McCall Smith, Alexander. The novel habits of happiness. (Kindle)
McCall Smith, Alexander. The revolving door of life. (Kindle)
Moberg, Vilhelm. A history of the Swedish people. (2 vols.)
Mortimer, Ian. The time traveler’s guide to Elizabethan England.
Mortimer, Ian. The time traveler’s guide to medieval England.
Morton, Kate. The forgotten garden.
Muir, Frank. An irreverent and thoroughly incomplete history of everything.
Novik, Naomi. Uprooted.
O’Brian, Patrick. 21.
Pargeter, Elizabeth. The brothers of Gwynedd. (Kindle)
Porter, Roy. English society in the 18th century.
Potter, Lois. The life of William Shakespeare : a critical biography.
Power, J. Tracy. Lee’s miserables : life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox.
Ransome, Arthur. Great Northern?
Ransome, Arthur. Pigeon post.
Ransome, Arthur. Secret water.
Ransome, Arthur. Swallowdale.
Ransome, Arthur. We didn’t mean to go to sea.
Ransome, Arthur. Winter holiday.
Richardson, Henry Handel. The getting of wisdom. (Kindle)
Ruck, Berta. The boy with wings. (Kindle)
Ruck, Berta. The disturbing charm. (Kindle)
Rybczynski, Witold. Home : a short history of an idea.
Sackville-West, V. Country notes in wartime. (Kindle)
Schama, Simon. Dead certainties : unwarranted speculations.
Schama, Simon. A history of Britain, vols, 2 and 3.
Scheer, Teva J. Our daily bread : German village life, 1500-1850.
Schlink, Bernhard. The weekend.
Schultz, Gladys Denny. Lady from Savannah : the life of Juliette Low.
Scott, Franklin Daniel. Sweden, the nation’s history.
Sebald, W.G. Austerlitz.
Shanley, Mary Lyndon. Feminism, marriage, and the law in Victorian England.
Shapiro, James. 1599 : a year in the life of William Shakespeare.
Smiley, Jane. Charles Dickens.
Spufford, Francis. I may be some time : ice and the English imagination.
Stabiner, Karen. My girl : adventures with a teen in training.
Stevenson, D.E. Five windows.
Stevenson, D.E. Found in the attic.
Tanner, Tony. Prefaces to Shakespeare.
Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity fair.
Thirkell, Angela. Pomfret Towers.
Thompson, Flora. The illustrated “Lark Rise to Candleford”.
Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan world picture.
Tinagli, Paola. Women in Renaissance art.
Tomalin, Claire. Samuel Pepys.
Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers. (Kindle)
Trollope, Anthony. Dr Thorne.
Trollope, Anthony. The last chronicle of Barsetshire.
Trollope, Anthony. The warden. (Kindle)
Turner, Thomas. The diary of Thomas Turner, 1754-1765.
Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. The age of homespun.
Unsworth, Barry. The songs of the kings.
Ustinov, Peter. Dear me : a memoir.
Vickery, Amanda. Behind closed doors : at home in Georgian England.
Vickery, Amanda. The gentleman’s daughter : women’s lives in Georgian England.
Visser, Margaret. The rituals of dinner.
Wainwright, Alfred. Westmoreland heritage.
Warner, Marina. Monuments and maidens : the allegory of the female form.
Welty, Eudora, and Ross Macdonald. Meanwhile there are letters.
Wickersham, Joan. The news from Spain : stories.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little house in the Ozarks : rediscovered writings.
Wiley, Bell I. The life of Johnny Reb, and The life of Billy Yank.
Wilson, A.N. The Victorians.
Well -- I don't think I will actually sign up for a challenge officially -- I think I know myself too well for that -- but now that I can see them all written down like this, I will make a concerted effort to read a good many of these before the year is out. (I was going to say, "before I buy any more" but, well, I think I know myself too well for that!) I also must say that I don't really like the idea of churning through a list simply to be able to cross things off, and so I am in no hurry. Besides, I am already in the middle of two new books, Ruth Goodman's How to be a Tudor and Helen Simonson's The summer before the war -- but after that, I know there is a lot of good stuff on this list, so I've no reason to put it off any longer. I have a bit of a hankering for something funny, so perhaps Frank Muir? (Does anyone else sorely miss "My Word" on the radio?) Though I must admit that both Pepys and Turner are very tempting, since I already know that their biographers are excellent writers, and I've been looking forward to reading these ever since they landed on my shelves....