The TBR Stack: November 2021
Updated: Nov 11
Setting Year-end Priorities Now
With the end of 2021 in sight, I'm taking stock of my reading goals to make sure I'm on track. That means this month I'm reading some books which have been on my TBR for quite some time, a book I just heard about, and a brand new release!
I wanted to read a book with an experimental structure this year, so The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern finally floated to the top of my TBR list. Graduate student Zachary Ezra Rawlins discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. The book leads him into a secret underground world-- and a love story. This 2019 fantasy book is considered speculative fiction because the novel is divided into six "books" or sections. The chapters in each section alternate between Zachary's story and the stories of the mysterious book he found. I was enthralled by Morgenstern's The Midnight Circus when I read it earlier this year so I'm eager to dive into The Starless Sea now.
Already a contender for loveliest book cover this year, The Lost Apothecary promises more than a pretty picture. Released in March of 2021, the historical fiction work blends different timelines as it casts its magical story. Women across 18th-century London whisper about the mysterious Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But a mistake will have ramifications years, even centuries later.
I came across the next book on my TBR list while exploring an article about the "goblincore" aesthetic. Give it a read here if you're curious like I was. The book itself is A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers. The premise of this science fiction novella is unique; centuries earlier the robots of Panga disappeared into the wilderness, now one has emerged from seemingly nowhere with an intriguing question for the monk the robot encounters. A second book in this duology is expected to be released in 2022.
My middle grade read for the month is set decidedly in the present day real world. Front Desk by Kelly Yang is the first book in the Front Desk series. Readers follow the story of Mia Tang, a 10 year old Chinese American immigrant with weighty secrets. One of the biggest? Her parents hide immigrants in the empty rooms of the motel where they work. The author, Kelly Yang, was the winner of the 2019 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature.
I'm rounding out my list with a just released nonfiction title: The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson. As a naturalist, Goodall has devoted her life to understanding the world around us and to advocating for environmental justice. Her latest book explores what she considers the "Four Reasons for Hope," even in the face of daunting global challenges. Through stories from her life and career, Goodall provides a roadmap for how we can still create a better world.
Coming Soon! Next month I'll be releasing my new FREE Reading Tracker Printable! It's designed to be a fun and whimsical way to track your daily reading time and help you meet your reading goals. To be one of the first to get access to this FREE printable when it comes out, just sign up for email alerts here on my blog. Click on the Log In/Sign Up button at the top of the page to get started today!
And now my thoughts on my October reads!
Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian made for a great book to read as the weather turned colder this month. In this historical fiction and psychological thriller, a young and beautiful Puritan woman named Mary resolves to leave her violent and brutal marriage-- something unheard of in 1662 Boston. The powerful men in her community seem far more concerned with investigating her for witchcraft than her husband for abuse. The plot of this moved quickly, but the story is... bleak. Mary is intelligent and strong, but occasionally makes exasperating blunders. With a scant 25 pages to go, I had no idea how the story would end. The final chapter is intense and surprising. I gasped out loud as I read the words on the page.
Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Sower was my first read with the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and did not disappoint. Written in 1993, Butler imagines a 2020s America where global climate change and economic crises create social chaos. In this dangerous world, a young woman with extreme sensitivity to others' emotions becomes a voice of warning, reason, and freedom. The power of this book is not just in Butler's characters and world-building skill, but in how very believable and realistic that troubled world is. Beware of triggers including violence and sexual assault.
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester is an intimate portrait of two men who shared a love of language and scholarly pursuit. Professor James Murray served as editor of the famous dictionary which took decades to compile and develop. Dr. W. C. Minor submitted more than 10,000 entries to the ambitious project. He was also an American Civil War veteran and an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. This book gets a little dry when the author veers away from the biographies of the two men, but the story, though often tragic, is told with compassion and riveting detail.
“You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine, is it still in use? You are wondering, has it been cleaned? You may very well ask, was it thoroughly washed?” The Blackwood family suffered stunning losses after a fatal dose of arsenic made it into the table sugar bowl. While it's not a ghost story, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is the tale of two sisters haunted by the past. This 1962 short novel is an amazing work of gothic and psychological fiction. It kept me guessing right up to the end-- and beyond.
Also by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House proved to be a perfect Halloween read. The 1959 novel is considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the 20th century. Four people arrive at the reportedly haunted house, planning to investigate the supernatural claims. But the house itself seems to have plans of its own for those who dared to enter within its walls. The tension builds beautifully in this book with themes of isolation, longing for connection, and both supernatural and psychological horror. I loved this book even when it scared me!
What are you currently reading? I love hearing your recommendations. Let me know in the comments.
If you're already in the holiday mood, check out my 11 Holiday Reads list. You may just want to give yourself an early gift! Best wishes for further reading!
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