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Shelf of Doom Redux (2013 TBR Pile Challenge)

by Kim on December 30, 2012 · 34 comments

Last December I signed up for my one and only challenge for 2012, Adam’s (Roof Beam Reader2012 TBR Pile Challenge.  The goal of the TBR Pile Challenge is to read 12 books that have been your “To Be Read” pile for at least an entire year. And you’re allowed to put 14 books on the list, in case two of them end up not working out.

I dutifully made my list of 12 books, even pulling them out onto their own “Shelf of Doom” — a phrase inspired by Jill (Fizzy Thoughts) — and then utterly failed the challenge. I only finished three of the 12 books I put on my list!

I’m really not sure what happened, other than I must continue to be allergic to reading the books I put on piles for challenges based on the way I seem to avoid them. The three I finished – Complications by Atul Gawande, Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood — were all wonderful; I’m just not sure what kept me from the others. Luckily (?) I’m not the only person who has this problem. According to Adam’s “Final Stretch” post, only seven of the 123 people signed up in 2012 have finished their list. So I’m not alone.

2013tbrpilechallAfter some debate, I decided I’m going to try the challenge again in 2013. I thought about sticking with the same pile of books, but this morning I realized I was tired of look at that Shelf of Doom and wanted to create a mostly new one. Here’s my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge List (with two alternates):

  1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessel (2006)
  2. Alone Together by Sherry Turkle (2011)
  3. Bring on the Books for Everybody by Jim Collins (2010)
  4. All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (1974)
  5. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2009)
  6. Salt by Mark Kurlansky (2002)
  7. House by Tracy Kidder (1985) (repeat from 2012)
  8. Thunderstruck by Eric Larson (2006)
  9. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2009)
  10. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (2009)
  11. The Race Beat by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff (2006) (repeat from 2012)
  12. The Truth by Terry Pratchett (2000)
  13. Possession by A.S. Byatt (1990) (repeat from 2012/alternate)
  14. Rereadings by Anne Fadiman (2005) (repeat from 2012/alternate)

Honestly, this shouldn’t be that hard. If I can read one book from the pile each month, I will easily finish it. But we’ll see… reading challenges are like my kryptonite. That’s probably a bad analogy, but you know what I mean.

In other news, I’m not sure what I will be reading today. I have a lot of blogging chores to get caught up with since I was away from everything for the last week. My plan is to start on those things right away this morning, take a break for breakfast and reading in an hour or so, and then settle in to write reviews and catch up on comments while I watch football this afternoon. Happy Sunday, everyone!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam @ Roof Beam Reader December 30, 2012 at 9:40 am

I’m glad you’re back again for 2013 – and I hope it goes better for you! I’m only going to hit 11 of 12, this year (After managing to complete my lists in 2010 & 2011). I’m not familiar with most of your list, so I’m looking forward to your thoughts on these. Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt is brilliant, though – slow going, at first, but an awesome reading experience if you stick it through to the end.

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I started Possession in 2012, but got distracted because of the slow opening. I think I need to read it on a day when I can settle in and read about 200 pages right away… seems like a winter Sunday sort of activity :)

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JenM December 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

There’s something about being “forced” to read a particular book that makes me rebel against it, no matter how good the book might be. Therefore, I avoid reading challenges, and it’s all I can do to read the 8 books from my bookclub each year.

Having said that, I read both Possession and The Glass Castle for book club and loved both of them LOL. I would agree with Adam about Possession, it was a bit slow starting, but completely absorbing. The Glass Castle was very well-written and a very fast read. You never know with autobiographies how true they are (memory being so self-dependent), but even if some of it is distorted, it’s amazing how well the author turned out with that kind of childhood.

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve heard many, many good things about both of them.

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Kathy Martin December 30, 2012 at 11:17 am

I have decided this year not to participate in any challenges since I have failed to complete any I participated in the past two years. Like you, making a pile of things I must read is a sure way to make sure I don’t read any of them. I want to be able to pick from my massive TBR mountain based on mood and not based on some challenge I need to complete. Good luck with your 2013 choices.

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I really struggle with challenges. I’ve never signed up for many, but when I have (even before my 2012 TBR fail), I was never very good at them. I like the idea of this challenge though — getting through older books that otherwise languish — so I’m cautiously hopeful I can do better this year?

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Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm December 30, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I loved The Glass Castle, and liked Salt and Thunderstruck! I think you’ll like them all.

I signed up for 1 challenge last year, and made it. So I’m branching out to 3 this year (including 1 of my own). I’m not gonna sweat the other 2, but I feel obligated to at least do my own!

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm

I’m confident I’ll like most of them, once I get around to reading them :) Good luck with your challenges, I hope you are successful!

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Susan December 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm

The Glass Castle still haunts me – I read it several years ago, and it was moving and powerful. It really is good, and will make you wonder how families could be like that. At least my family started to look good, for a change! lol

I have shelf of doom too. I change books around on it once in a while when I’m tired of looking at what I haven’t read yet off of it, even though I want to read every single book on it. I’m debating joining this challenge – mostly because I failed at the Tea and Book chunkster challenge, and just about every other challenge last year. I like the title of shelf of doom, though :-)

I tried reading Possession several years ago and disappointed everyone by getting bored 3/4 through. I feel really badly, as an English Honours student I did love it, it just seemed to go on and on. I hope you have better luck, so many people do love it (as even your commentators are saying already!). I might try it again, it’s a book I want to love and do understand, it was good in some places, and true in others. I think I just didn’t like the characters enough. I’m supposed to be cheering you on here, aren’t I??? Sorry! I hope you LOVE it too :-)

Happy 2013 and lots of reading time for you, Kim.

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:03 pm

For all my love of memoirs. I’m sort of surprised that I’ve never read The Glass Castle… it always feels like I’m failing as a nonfiction reader or something when someone mentions it :) I love the “Shelf of Doom” phrase too — super smart and funny Jill came up with that one!

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bermudaonion(Kathy) December 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I’m allergic to challenge books too! Good luck with this one in 2013!

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I hate being allergic to challenge books because bloggers always come up with such awesome challenges!

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Laurie C December 31, 2012 at 8:11 am

I only succeeded with 2 out of 12, so you did better than me! I stuck with my “shelf of doom” for 2013, but I’m revising my strategy and planning on tackling more of the list earlier in the year. Possession is one of my all-time favorite books and I really liked The Glass Castle also. I was underwhelmed by Special Topics in Calamity Physics but maybe my expectations were too high. I like Anne Fadiman’s writing a lot, but reading your reviews of your other nonfiction choices will count as good enough for me! ;)

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I was feeling sort of glum about failing so badly, but then when I was reading Adam’s post and saw many people weren’t doing well… I felt better :) At least we’re all overly ambitious.

I bought Special Topics in Calamity Physics a long time ago because it sounded awesome, but for the life of me I can’t remember at all what it’s about. And the copy I have doesn’t have a dust jacket — I lost it in a move, somewhere — so I can’t even find out. I think that’ll be good though.

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Jennifer December 31, 2012 at 10:45 am

Good luck this year with your Shelf of Doom! (I love that btw, too funny!) I’m doing this challenge as well and it will be the ONLY challenge I do in 2013.

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm

This is my only challenge as well — good luck!

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Lynne December 31, 2012 at 10:51 am

Do try to read Cutting for Stone if you can. You won’t regret it!

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I think that is first on my list. I have a trip coming up soon with, I hope, some reading time, and that one sounds good to me right now.

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Vasilly December 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I know what you mean about being allergic to books on your challenge lists. I fail reading challenges every year. I often forgot I’m even participating in them! ;-) Good luck!

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I often forget too. But I can’t even use that excuse with this one, since I had all the books on a separate shelf on my desk!

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Florinda December 31, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I considered signing up for the TBR Pile Challenge too, until I saw that it requires a book list up front. I can buy into the concept, but being required to commit to those books NOW is just daunting. Pulling old stuff off the shelves is a mood-driven thing for me.

I hope you do get to THE GLASS CASTLE, though. I read it per-blog and really liked it!

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Yeah, that is a tricky part. I think that is part of what threw me last year… by the time the middle of the year came around, some of the books I picked didn’t seem as appealing. I think I did a better job picking this year — grabbing books that I frequently almost read — but we’ll see.

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Athira January 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm

There’s something about seeing a book on a list I create that suddenly makes me not want to read it. I’m baffled by this phenomena! Since this has never worked for me, what I’m doing this year is keeping 15-20 books on a shelf that I rarely look at and when I’m looking for a book to read, go to that shelf and pick a book. Hopefully, the less I see one of those books, the more I may want to read it! We’ll see how that goes. :)

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Kim January 1, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Oooo, that’s a good idea. The surprise hidden bookshelf. I like it.

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Jenny January 3, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Special Topics, I tell ya what. You’re going to like it so much! You must. It’s really good and it’s completely not what you will expect to have happen at the end. I hope you do get to that one this year!

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Kim January 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I started this one Thursday because I needed a break from nonfiction and man, do I like is to far. Blue is so great. And I legit have no idea what it’s about because the hardcover I have doesn’t have the dust jacket anymore and I can’t remember the plot summary :)

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softdrink January 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm

You are not alone. I still have my very own Shelf of Doom sitting right where I created it last year.

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Kim January 5, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Lol. Take down the Shelf of Doom! We shall slay them together?

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Liz January 9, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hah. I also have a Shelf of Doom (great name for it, you guys), and rotate its titles on it every three months or so. Like most of you, I also find it anathema to stick to this list of titles (despite the fact that they are books I actually want to read – such a rebel). My reframing of this situation is that I might not read the titles on that particular bookshelf, but if I pick up another TBR pile, it’s the same thing really — getting a book off the TBR pile whether it’s that title or not. So – I rationalise it that way.

Just about to put together Q1 for 2013 this weekend… Quite looking forward to the prospect even if it does mean that I end up reading entirely different. A TBR title is a TBR title after all. :-)

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. :-)
liz in texas

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Kim February 3, 2013 at 8:39 am

A Shelf of Doom is both good and bad. But you’re right — anything that helps get books off the TBR pile is a good thing :)

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