Book Report: Reading Dilemmas

April 27, 2023

Recently, I received an email from the Willa Cather Foundation about a virtual study course for four of Cather’s books, My Antonia, A Lost Lady, The Professor’s House, and Death Comes to the Archbishop. Benjamin Taylor, whose biography of Cather will be published in November, 2023, will host the series. I love each of those books, and I am tempted to sign-up for the series and, of course, reread the books.

Here’s the dilemma: each book I re-read means I don’t read something on my TBR list. Each time I sink into a much loved book, I am not reading a new release that sounds really good. And in the meantime the attraction to books, new and old, and the ongoing growth of my TBR list continues.

This week I got an email from the New York Times with the headline, “12 Books You Should Be Reading Right Now.” RIGHT NOW! EEEK! I probably should not have read further, but I did and was pleased to see I have read one of the titles, Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, and I am even more pleased to report I did not add any other titles to my TBR list. But how long will that restraint continue? Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy and the podcast “What Should I Read Next” will soon release her acclaimed Summer Reading Guide, and a plethora of other summer reading lists are just on the horizon.

If I ignore them, I may miss a book that would be a truly good match for me. Plus, I confess I like to be in the know about new books, an interest nurtured by working in an independent bookstore decades ago. I read a variety of book review sources, and bookstores are truly my happy place.

Perhaps I should think of this passion as a hobby, like knitting or bird-watching.

My TBR Lists

I keep elaborate book lists in my book journal. At the beginning of 2023, I transferred 57 unread titles from 2022. I have been working on that list steadily since then and am happy to report I have only 16 left on the list. I hasten to add I have not read, beginning to end, the remaining 41. I have at least started each of them, but only decided to complete a handful of them. If a book doesn’t appeal when I start reading it, I quickly discard it, usually returning it to the library or if I own it, adding it to the Little Free Library pile.

Of course, I have a 2023 TBR list, but I am trying to be more selective about what I add to that list. As of today, I have 59 titles on that list and have read or discarded 21 of those titles. Then there is my lists of acquired books and mystery series and the British Library Women Writer Series and books I want to re-read.

So far this year, by the way, I have read 45 books.

Current Thoughts About My Reading

I just finished reading Enchantment, Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May, who wrote Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. In this new book, which I am so glad I read, she decides it is time to

reset my terrifying “to be read” pile to zero and allow myself the possibility of choosing new books for this age I’ve landed in.

p. 150

Is that what I need to do? Close my book journal, except, course, to record what I’ve read. Forget the TBR list entirely–not an easy prospect for someone who loves to make lists almost as much as she loves to read. Perhaps I need to just read what is on my shelves already—the great majority are books I have already read and can imagine re-reading.

Obviously, as problems go, this is not major, but as a devoted and voracious reader what to read next is an issue, as is how to approach reading time. At age 75 there is more sand in the bottom of the hour glass than in the top.

I am aware that I am more and more attracted to re-reading old favorites, and at the same time reading older books I missed along the way or reading the backlist of an author when I read a current title.

What I suspect is that I will continue to muddle along –reading as much as I can, picking and choosing based on unscientific criteria, breaking my own rules, and quite simply loving the journey.

An Invitation

As you age, are you noticing anything different about your reading routine or rules, reading desires or interests? I would love to know.


Willa Cather Foundation

Anne Bogel blog and podcast

8 thoughts on “Book Report: Reading Dilemmas

  1. Good question Nan, I must first say, I am grateful that I can still read at almost 80; in “readers” no less. Like slow food I like slow reading good writers. I savor the words and the story. Then there are the quick “chick lit” I find at the library and read in a day into the night then toss back laughing that I figured out the mystery or love affair from the first page.

    I too toss a book back after a chapter or even a page no matter the hype about the book. I also dip into books I’ve saved – maybe a page here or a sentence there because I love the writing or the thoughts. I rarely buy books, and I rarely read inspirational books – that’s a lie. I was just sucked into Delia Ephron’s new book about her experiences with a bone marrow transplant. And I read cookbooks! And art books. And gardening books. I love my library! M

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was young, I thought I must finish every book I started–like finishing homework. At middle age, I modified my rule to: read 15% of the pages before deciding it’s not for me. Recently I heard at this guideline recommended: subtract your age from 100: that’s the maximum number of pages the book has to prove it’s worthy of your finite days. (33 pages for me)
    I rarely buy a new book and rarely reread fiction. My shelves only hold “keepers”– those with wisdom to revisit. I love using for used books —good prices , hidden gems, huge inventory.


  3. I like the 100 minus your age. For me that means 25 pages. Even before knowing that guideline, I have found that to be about the right enough pages in which to make a stop or go decision. Thanks for the link, too.


  4. Get rid of my TBR list and start all over? Oh, the horror! lol So maybe I’ll never get through my TBR list by the time I leave this earth, but that’s OK. The list itself is a comfort, don’t you think? Just like all our book piles.

    I am a list maker, too! Wonder if that goes hand-in-hand with being a reader?


  5. Sometimes my TBR feels like a chain around my neck and prevents me from paying attention to what I feel like reading. My desire to cross something off my list outweighs my real preference in the moment. And sometimes — often– the TBR is a helpful guide. Otherwise I would totally forget about books I really want to read. Such a dilemma!


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