A Book Club of a Different Color

We like to offer our readers as many different voices as possible from the Carnegie Library system. Please welcome our newest contributor, Jess, who will be joining us monthly from now on.

At the beginning of February, Irene blogged about using Goodreads to track what books she’s reading this year. I will freely admit to being a Goodreads super-fan. I’ve been an avid user of the site for the past three years or so, and as a result, my “To-Read” shelf has gotten a little out-of-control. Like, hovering-around-620-items-out-of-control.

Early last summer, I decided to do something about it.

A knitting hero of mine, The Yarn Harlot, found that forcing a self-imposed sock club on herself was helping to keep her yarn stash in check (most knitters will tell you that a controlled stash is the impossible dream). Knowing a good idea when I see one, I figured a self-imposed book club might be an excellent way of knocking out some of the books on my list that I had long forgotten about.  I use an online random number generator and let fate decide one book (as long as I can easily get it from the library and isn’t in the middle of a series) that I must finish by the end of the month. Today I’m going to share four winners from my list – and one dud.

allunquietAll Unquiet Things, Anna Jarzab.  This YA book is about the aftermath of the murder of seventeen year old Carly. A former good girl who turned self-destructive in months before her death, there are still plenty of lingering questions about her downward spiral. Her ex-boyfriend, Neily, and her guilt-ridden cousin, Audrey, become reluctant allies as they try to work through what really happened to Carly. This is a solid mystery that reminded me a lot of Veronica Mars in tone.

 Love Walked In, Marisa de los Santos. I had this book on my list for three years, which goes to show that this experiment of mine just might be working. While it may appear to be just another chick lit book (and I’ll admit that there are a one or two minor “first book” missteps), de los Santos, a published poet, writes such beautiful prose that it elevates this story of family and unexpected love to something special. The sequel is just as lovely.

Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon. So far, this has been the only exception to my “no middle of a series” rule, since it is book two in the Outlander series and the next one I needed to read. It’s impossible to talk about the plot without giving too much away about the first book, but I never thought I would learn so much about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite uprising from a work of fiction. Gabaldon’s dedication to research in her books is kind of amazing and I can’t recommend this series enough.

All Other Nights, Dara Horn. Not to sound like SNL’s Stefon, but this book has everything. Spies. Romance. Civil War battles. Assassinations. More spies. But maybe the thing I liked best is that Horn offers up a perspective rarely explored in Civil War-era novels – that of the Jewish soldier. The main character, Jacob, uses his religion and his family’s standing as big-time New York shipping merchants to leverage many of his spy assignments – including working for Judah Benjamin, the Jewish Attorney General for the Confederate states. The blending of fact and fiction is handled smartly and if you’re like me, you’ll spend the few days after you finish the book researching all of the real people and events.

Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design, Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl. Hunka-hunka, stinky cheese – the cheese stands alone. I’m sure there is an audience for this book, but it wasn’t me. I went into it with the expectation that it would be more of an exploration of the socio-economic reasons behind the crafting explosion of the last decade (Hi, where do I get my Nerd Card punched?). Instead, it is basically a collection of profiles on crafters and artisans across the country, with five longer essays that don’t  add very much.  I don’t want to knock these folks or their art, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I may give the Craft in America documentary a try, however.

How do you keep your to-read list under control?

–Jess

13 Comments

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13 responses to “A Book Club of a Different Color

  1. I’ve stopped having a to-read list; I just never made it to it! My reading tends to wander, often with one book piqueing my interest to another. It’s much more relaxing.

  2. Julie

    An acquaintance of mine kept a list of potential books to read the following year. By January first, he would use this list to decide which books to read over the next year. That’s one way! I am not that disciplined or organized. Like Maria, I’m a happy wander.

  3. i periodically sweep through my to-read books and clean house. of course i only put up books that i have, so that helps. i use my to-read list to help me decide what to read next. that still doesn’t help me from it growing longer as i get a lot of kindle freebies.

  4. Kristine

    I love Goodreads too! I’ve been using the site since 2006 and have about 300 on my “to read” list. Lately I’ve been choosing my next reads by titles with the highest ratings. How does your online random number generator work? I like that idea alot!

  5. I’m a wander-er. That said, I just wrote down the titles of several of these books to find later…. lol. someday :-)

  6. Step away from the button!! It’s so addictive and easy to just add something that you can find comfort in the fact that no one is judging you for having 620 books to read, it’s do-able right? Just read a book a day for like 2 years and you’ll be grand :)

  7. Most of the books on my to-read list are library books, so there’s a built in three week deadline. However, I work at a library, and it’s tempting to check out a few new books every night! To keep it somewhat under control, I usually allow myself to have 2 or 3 books out at one time. Enough to have variety but not so many that I start losing track of them. Thanks for this post-it has inspired me to start using goodreads again :)

  8. Your way of choosing a book seems to take a lot of the stress out of it. :) I’ll try it and see if it works for me too.

    Oh, the dread ‘TBR’ list (which just increased by 3 books, thanks to your post :) )… I’m terrible at getting mine under control! Every time I go to the library, I get out a bunch of books that aren’t on it, then take half of them back guiltily and add them to my to be read pile.

  9. I love love love goodreads! My tbr has exploded since I became a member, over 900 books and growing. I find it oddly comforting knowing I have an endless list of interesting titles to pick through. Participating in reading challenges is a fun way for me to chip away at my to-read list.

  10. Pingback: What’s in That Pile Beside My Bed | Eleventh Stack

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