On TBR, and the joys of reading


” Read in order to live.”

Gustave Flaubert in a letter, 1857


I have been active on Instagram/Bookstagram for nearly two years and have noticed how my reading habits have changed over that time. From being a laid back reader of whatever I felt like, I have changed to feeling I need to read a book just because others have reviewed it or raved about it. So, I want to get back to a more relaxed reading pace, just following my whims.

It’s a double edged sword  to always be hearing about lots of different books. It can add needless anxiety, stress, and competition, which if carried too far can be detrimental. That’s what I found anyway. I have never had a massive TBR, yet I hear that this is common. Some people’s TBRs are in the dozens or even more.

It’s great to hear about what other people are reading, but it doesn’t mean I will then rush out and necessarily buy a particular book.

I have always been a very spontaneous reader, if I become obsessed with a subject I follow it as far as I can. Recently I reread ‘Jane Eyre’, one of my favourite classics. This led to me reading Clare Harman’s biography of Charlotte Brontë, a book recommended on Instagram. Absolutely amazing book! Well, this led to reading ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Brontë, as I knew nothing about her. Very much an underrated classic. Then I decided to read ‘The Brontës” a huge biographical tome by Juliet Barker. So you get the idea, I’m obsessive. That’s my favourite kind of reading, following a particular passion, rather than trends.

My favourite types of books are classics, contemporary literary fiction, biography and poetry, also books about art and artists, with occasional sprinklings of YA.

So here is my current TBR, pretty modest but I may go to the library tomorrow and see something amazing which I will then read first instead!

Gogol -it’s a bit embarrassing, but I studied Russian Literature at university, yet never read Gogol. This need to be remedied.

Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ – I read this classic many years ago, and want to reread it in a new translation. This is a magnificent book, a murder mystery and a sweeping drama of sibling rivalry among three brothers.

Dracula- just because.  It has been hugely influential in current vampire literature, but I have no idea what the original story was. Hope it’s a fun read.

I would love to hear what your current TBR is, and what you are reading at the moment.


Fires: by Raymond Carver

I learned some things along the way. One of the things I learned is that I had to bend or else break. And I also learned that it is possible to bend and break at the same time.

Isak Dinesen said that she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair. Someday I’ll put that on a three-by-five card and tape it to the wall beside my desk.

I have a three-by -five up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: “… and suddenly everything became clear to him.” I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that’s implied.
It’s possible… to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things … with immense, even startling power…That’s the kind of writing that interests me.

The above are all quotations from Carver’s essays.
“Fires” is an interesting collection of work by Raymond Carver, consisting of essays, poems and stories. The essays in particular I found really interesting, and are a fascinating insight into his method of writing, and the influences on his writing. A memoir of his father “My Father’s Life”, is poignant with the regret of things left unsaid. The title essay “Fires” was really meaningful for me, because in it he names his children as the biggest influence on his writing.

His responsibilities as a father were such, and the menial work he was forced to do was so time consuming that it left little time for writing. Writing a novel was an impossible dream, so he decided to specialise in short stories that could be written in one or two nights, and then refined. As Carver states in one essay on the crafting of his stories: “Get in, get out. Don’t linger.” The rest as they say, is history.

Maybe it’s for Carver aficionados only, but I really enjoyed this book. 4⭐️

This edition published by Vintage in 2009. Original publication 1988.