Monday, January 4, 2021

Backlist 2020

Way back in early 2020, I decided I would try to read books I owned - some of them for a very long time.  My bookshelves are full, stuffed in fact, and I need to weed a bit.  However, I find it nearly impossible to get rid of books I haven't read, even if it might have been over a decade since I acquired them.  

This is probably not an entirely inclusive list, and I struggle a bit with the term 'backlist.'  From my research it appears that any book now published in 2020, is now just five days into 2021 considered a backlist book.  That doesn't seem quite right, so I eliminated books that had come out fairly recently from my tally.

Here are sixteen backlist titles I am glad to have read in 2020: 

1. My Antonia by Willa Cather - this classic has sat on my shelf for years and a good friend has read it herself and told me many times how much she enjoyed it.  It took a while for me to get into it, but it's a good prairie story (something I enjoy) and I would happily read the other two books in this trilogy.

2. The Girls Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper- this memoir is one I wanted to be more about her upbringing in Los Alamos, but is more a coming of age story focused on her own childhood and its impact on her adult life.  It was OK, but not amazing.

3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King - I buddy read this with a student over the summer and my husband and friends have raved about it. I do find myself still thinking about it from time to time and marveling at King's brilliance, but it is so long and the entire time I was reading it I kept thinking how many other books I could have been reading.  It is an interesting and thought provoking idea that one event, if changed, can impact so much.

4.  The Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin - I enjoyed this one more than I thought. Zevin writes of a family consumed with materialism and spending money they don't have and the lengths they'll go to to hide their financial problems.

5.  84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - a collection of letters between Hanff a writer living in NYC and a used book dealer in London is touching as she requests books to buy and over a span of decades the two become friends of sorts

6.  A Wild Ride Up The Cupboards by Ann Bauer- Bauer's somewhat autobiographical novel tells the story of a young mom who will do whatever she can for her oldest child who has some autistic like tendencies and struggles to be diagnosed.  

7.  Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst -a family moves to a camp under the direction of a man who believes he can cure their child.  Several other families live at this camp as well, which is a last-resort for many of them as they are all desperate to help their children, but the director is definitely creepy and things aren't exactly as they seem.

8.  I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows- this is a Dust Bowl story and although I normally love this time period (depressing though it may be), that's about all I can remember about this book.

9.  Whistling Season by Ivan Doig- I love a good pioneer era story and this one, set in Montana, has a fantastic cast of characters. I especially loved Morris Morgan who arrives along with his sister who has been hired to help a widower raise his three sons.  I've happily discovered this is a trilogy.

10. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides- when this was published there was absolutely so  much buzz about it that I didn't have any interest in it.  It's a solid suspense/psychological thriller with some good twists in it, but after all that hype I didn't think it was nearly as good as I had heard.

11. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper- a good friend recommended this to me years ago and finally I decided to pick it up - the patriarch of the family dies, bringing the siblings all together for the first time in years.  This is a dysfunctional family story at its best.

12.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - I had a student beg me to read this with him (the same one I read 11/22/63 with over the summer).  I used to love picking up huge novels, but again, this one was just too long although I found Theo's story - from his life with his mother to what happens after her death and into his adult years - to be worth reading.

13.  All At Sea by Decca Aitkenhead- this memoir is such a tragic story. Aitkenhead and her husband and sons are on vacation where her husband drowns.  She tells the story of his life, their life together, and how she coped with his loss.

14.  The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner- I put off reading this one for such a long time because as soon as I saw the word 'polygamy' I wasn't interested.  But it is soooo good. If you liked Educated or The Glass Castle, then this is the memoir for you.  I will be recommending this one for a long time.

15.  The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum- Lucinda leaves NYC and moves to a small midwestern town where she plans to write articles about what life is like there and send them back to her employer in the big city.  But Lucinda finds a different life than she expected, and maybe small town isn't so bad after all.

16. That's What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell - this is a fun story about Julia, a rich mom of two who seems to have it all...except it seems she isn't getting enough attention anymore. So, she's off to find the next big thing to share with people.  She finds Flame, a new fitness, sensation and begins to work with Tatum, one of its instructors. While Julia thinks she's got Tatum under her thumb, Tatum isn't as innocent as she appears and she has no problem using Julia to make her way to the top.

These sixteen didn't put a dent into the books that are on my shelves unfortunately, and I'm hoping to do more reading and weeding in 2021.  Do any of you have backlist titles you need to get to this year?

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