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text 2020-08-21 19:29
Reconsidering my TBR stack

As some of you may recall, at the start of our lovely pandemic I created a TBR stack to tackle while we were in lockdown. The idea was that a visible pile of what I wanted to clear off of my shelves would be a great reminder should I ever need inspiration for how to while away the hours.


Since then I have read over a dozen books from the stack, which I then either added to my book box or occasionally decided to retain. At this point, it isn't unreasonable to expect that my stack has been whittled down to a small pile. Yet today it has more books on it than it did when I started it:




In retrospect I realize I made an error in how I managed the pile. Instead of confining it to the books I collected initially to comprise it I kept adding to it new titles that I wanted to clear from my shelves. The problem now is that even as I'm aware of all of the progress I've made in paring down my TBR titles I feel as though I've made zero headway in getting through them. It's a frustrating and depressing feeling after months of effort.


So now I'm done adding books to it. I've already winnowed out a couple that I've accepted I was never going to be able to summon the interest to read or re-read, and now the challenge is to reread what I have there. If I can remain true to my intention, I should be able to eliminate the stack by the end of the year

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text 2020-05-01 12:44
Summer reading during the coronapocalypse

Though it sometimes feels for me as though the days are melting into one long binge-watching session, today is the first day of May, which means that the summer is almost upon us. As some of you know, this is the time of the year when I set my reading goals for the season, which usually consist of ambitious projects that I undertake with varying degrees of accomplishment. Unfortunately these projects usually require access to libraries, which our ongoing coronapocalypse has denied us for the foreseeable future. 


This is why for this summer I'm setting myself just one goal: to read the stack of TBR books I have in our house:



While this is a lot less challenging than some of the plans I made for myself in previous summers, it will be enormously satisfying to read these books and be done with them. Best of all, it's a reasonable enough goal that I shouldn't have a problem squeezing in a few other books that I have on my shelves which I long wanted to tackle. With luck, by the time the shutdowns are over, I'll have a box full of books to trade in at my local bookstores, along with shelf space for some of my new acquisitions.

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text 2020-04-11 22:55
My office raid haul

This morning I regained access to my office for half an hour. Though I was a little late due to stopping off first at my parents' house to drop off some groceries and I was distracted by coworkers who wanted to chat (communication is just so much easier in-person), I made the most of my opportunity and grabbed all the books I thought I would want or need over the next three months:



Most of these are TBR books that are destined for the book box once I've read them, but you can expect reviews of them before that happens. Here's hoping that I chose wisely!

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text 2020-04-03 16:46
My April reading (with bonus coronavirus rant)

Yesterday my supervisor called, and we chatted about what lies ahead in the weeks and months to come. Among the nuggets of information he dispensed was that our college administrators might grant us access to our offices sometime next week. The proposal being mooted is that we will have access for one hour, during which time we are to grab everything we might need for the foreseeable future.


I can't stop marveling over the idiocy about this. First, they're citing as a complicating factor the need to "decontaminate" our buildings, which is on hold due to a lack of cleaning materials — only coronavirus can only survive on outside surfaces for about three days at most, so unless someone has been breaking in regularly to cough on our keyboards the buildings should be virus-free. People are far more likely to be infected by person-to-person contact, which is far more likely to occur if you have a couple of dozen people trying to access a building in the course of a single hour than if you were to grant them permission to do so for a longer period, such as half a day. Only a college administration could come up with a "low-risk" compromise that actually increases the risk of transmission.


Yet in spite of the risk I still plan on taking advantage of the opportunity, as I'm eager to regain access to my books. When I was last there I underestimated both the length of time that I would be locked out and the rate at which I would read the TBR books I grabbed when I was there. This time I'm going to be less discriminating in what I grab, especially as the last TBR book I have from there just isn't catching fire with me.


Still, I'm feeling keenly the lack of access to the broader resources available to me in my job. I'm especially missing my ability to request books through ILL, as my inability to do so is constraining my plans for my website. I have about a half-dozen books available now, and I could stretch out reviewing into late May. After that I face a choice as to whether to start buying them online (which could get expensive quickly) or go on a hiatus. If by the end of the month it looks as though our access will be restricted until June I'll probably go on a mini-buying binge. Beyond that will require some serious reconsideration.


All that being said, I have no shortage of reading awaiting me in the weeks to come. I have three books that I'll have to read sometime this month for reviewing, plus about  four or five for interviews. For some reason my upcoming podcasting load will be more heavily weighted towards literary biographies than usual, with books about Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner, and (hopefully!) William Wordsworth in my reading future. If anybody has an interest in reading the Dickinson and Faulkner biographies when I'm done, send me a message and I'll mail them to you once I'm through with them.


And finally it's National Poetry Month in the U.S. For the past few years I've gotten into the unfortunate habit of committing to read something in honor of it, yet I never follow through on this. This month I'm going to make more of an effort to follow through by avoiding that monster collection of Yeats I keep trying to tackle without success in favor of something more digestible.

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text 2020-03-30 17:22
Contemplating a new reading project while isolating
The Young Henry Adams - Ernest Samuels
Henry Adams: The Middle Years - Ernest Samuels
Henry Adams: The Major Phase - Ernest Samuels

So the angry creamsicle in the White House has announced that social distancing guidelines are going to be extended to April 30. It's probably for the best, given that the worst thing we do is prematurely end them only to face a need to start over. Considering that the group in the U.S. most vocally pushing back against social distancing has been feeding off of his temperamental whims on the subject, though, it would have been nice if he hadn't enabled them as much as he has until now.


Though I'm hoping that I can gain access to my office before then, I'm preparing myself for the prospect that the administration is going to tie the date for reopening them for faculty to whenever the state or federal governments end restrictions. Again I can respect the decision, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating in terms of accessing all of those TBR books I have up there that I would love to be clearing through right now.


Because of this, I'm contemplating a new reading project. A few months back I posted about how I decided to acquire Ernest Samuels's three-volume biography of Henry Adams. Though copies are affordably available online, I have yet to encounter any of the volumes in my visits to used bookstores, which has been a mite frustrating but not really an issue as it's been such a low-priority matter for me. Now with another month of at-home reading ahead of me and nothing especially appealing at hand I'm wondering if I should take the plunge, order the three volumes (all of which I could acquire for the combined cost of a new hardcover book), and read them over the next month.


So what do you think? Would you like to start reading posts about a multi-volume biography of Henry Adams? Or should I just suck it up, knuckle under, and read the hundreds of other books that I have sitting around the house instead? Feel free to post your comments, as I'd appreciate the guidance.

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