Tuesday, December 17, 2013

TBR Pile Challenge - It's a Wrap!

I am happy to announce that I completed the  TBR Pile Challenge 2013, hosted by Roof Beam Reader, and am definitely signing up for it in 2014.  Not only does it feel good to get those books off the TBR shelf and into their permanent home (alphabetized in the fiction part of my personal library), but I discovered some real gems amongst them.  In other words, with only a few exceptions, I acquired these books in the first place because they held a promise of a good read and I was mostly not disappointed.

Here's my list with linked reviews in no particular order--certainly not in the order I read or reviewed them:
  1. Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin - I love New York and I really enjoyed this book.  I was surprised after I read it how many mixed reviews it had received.  
  2. Madame Tussaud, by Michelle Moran - I won an ARC copy of this years ago, and languished for years unread.  This was definitely one of my favorites of the year!
  3. Hamlet's Dresser, by Bob Smith - I heard about this on a blog awhile ago, got it, and promptly forgot about it, but it ended up being a wonderful memoir of a very interesting person and how Shakespeare helped him deal with some very severe trauma in his personal life.
  4. The Testament of Mariam, by Ann Swinfen - a gift from the author, it's about the sister of Jesus, and it was beautifully written.  One of those books I will think about for a long time, and someday reread.
  5. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro - absolutely brilliant; I cannot recommend this book enough.
  6. The Virginian, by Owen Wister - I bought my copy roughly 35 years ago in a used bookstore and never got around to actually reading it.  A wonderful Western, archetypal with bonus lit crit from a cowboy.  
  7. The Whiskey Rebels, by David Liss - very disappointing.  It had come highly recommended, but I ended up panning it.  I have another Liss book that I will try this year, but if I'm disappointed again, he's off the list!
  8. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver -I love her books--this was absolutely superb.
  9. The Ninth Daughter, by Barbara Hamilton - the first in a mystery series with Abigail Adams as the slueth.  Enormously fun to read.  Simply reinforced my notion that Abigail Adams was fantastic.
  10. Cleopatra's Daughter, by Michelle Moran - I got this shortly after I finished Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff, and I was mildly disappointed.  The main character rubbed me the wrong way, but Moran wrote Madame Tussaud (see #2), so all is forgiven.
  11. 1876, by Gore Vidal - excellent historical novel, part of a 7-part series, from one of the best American writers of the 20th century.  A pleasure to read.
  12. Katherine, by Anya Seton - another new favorite.  Loved, loved, loved this book.
True Confessions: I tried reading The Leopard, but found I just didn't know enough about 19th century Sicily to enjoy it, so I turned to one of my alternates, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and found I couldn't stand the protagonist (an annoying meld of the protagonists from We Have Always Lived in the Castle and I Capture the Castle), so I abandoned that and read my other alternate, 1876 (see #11), by Gore Vidal, and loved it.

Great reading year, great challenge, looking forward to posting my 2015 list later this week...or next!


  1. GREAT JOB!! I just learned about this challenge and hope to be in your shoes this time next year! ;) I'm glad you were able to reach your goal!

  2. Congrats on checking off so many of your TBR books! That's awesome. I keep whittling away at my own pile, one book at a time. (Too bad new books tend to come in two, or three, at a time.) And good luck on next year's challenge.

  3. Well done! I finished ten of mine plus my two alternates, which I actually read over the summer. I was going to try one more but I guess I should surrender and just put up a post.

  4. Congratulations! Doesn't it feel wonderful to cross those off the list?

    I am so relieved to find someone else who didn't enjoy The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I could not believe in that narrator - she does not sound or feel like an 11-year-old girl, to my mind. But everyone else I know who has read it has loved it.

  5. Congratulations! You read what looks like some great books along the way!

    Good luck and have fun with this in 2014!

  6. You did really well with this challenge, Jane! I am thinking of going into this one. I have so many books to read already on my shelves. I really need to push myself to read them.

    I have heard other people praising David Liss too, but when I picked up the Whiskey Rebels it didn't seem to be a novel that interests me. I'm always disappointed when historicals don't interest me, because I like them.

    I have read Prodigal Summer and loved it. I want to read Katharine very much. You read some good titles here, and it must feel very satisfying to get them off the TBR shelves.