A couple of months ago I was looking at my books and realized I have many by authors I haven’t read yet. For some reason, I have three books by J. M. Coetzee and haven’t read one of them. I have two short story collections by Nobel Laureate Alice Munroe. I have three or four books by Kate Atikson. Other writers I haven’t read who I own books include John Dos Passos, Carol Shields and Dawn Powell. That’s why my 2019 TBR list is going to be mostly made out of authors I haven’t read yet.
I think many times when choosing the next book to read, we tend to fall back on what I call “comfort authors “. I started reading The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham after I tried unsuccessfully in finishing Possession by A S Byatt. I liked Maugham’s books like Of Human Bondage and The Painted Veil and I wanted to read more by him. Other authors in this category include Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, and Graham Greene. I love their work and go back to their books over and over again. The trouble with that though is you may overlook other authors you might like.
So here is a partial list of some of the books I want to read next year. I haven’t read anything by these authors and I’m excited to start.
- Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. It’s a disgrace that I haven’t read by this famed South African writer. This novel won The Booker Prize, which is the Oscars of the literary world. I also have The Life and Times of Michael K. and Boyhood. All three books are relatively short.
- Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes. I haven’t had much luck with books about books this year. I stopped reading The Little Paris Bookshop and Possession. Maybe I will be lucky by reading this book. Many people love his 2011 book The Sence of an Ending. This is the second copy of the book I’ve owned and I take that as a good sign.
- The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. This is a book that I’ve had for a while. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1995. I think it’s about a pioneer woman and her long life, I believe. Many people seem to recommend this book.
- Loving, Living, Party Going by Henry Green. I have a collection of these three novels in one collection. His books seem to be about aristocrats and their servants, but not in a Downton Abbey way. He was admired by writers like W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and Rebecca West, among others. There is one photo of him that I love of the back of his head as he sits in an armchair. I love English eccentrics!
- I also want to read more short story collections. I have the collected stories of Jean Stafford and Dorothy Parker. I also have books of short stories by Donald Barthelme, Kay Boyle, and George Saunders. I don’t read as many short stories as I should.
I see my TBR as a template. Nothing is carved in stone. I like to change things up by trying to read a variety of books. If I read a sad or depressing book, I might follow it up by reading a comic novel or a mystery. I always go with what I feel in my gut. A couple of years ago I followed up Don De Lillo’s 800-page book with the very funny comic novel Lucky Jim. It may not be the most organized system, but it works for me.
Recently I ran across on Instagram a woman who was already stressed by her 2019 TBR. She posted photos of 40 to 60 books that she wants to read next year. I got the feeling her boyfriend was pressuring her to read more books. I told her that there are more important things to stress out about, like being sick or work. Books shouldn’t be one of them. If I read novels next year by authors I’ve read before, I won’t get upset. Books should be a source of enjoyment and relaxation. Read what you want to read at your own pace. You’ll thank me later.