Reading Off the Shelf – April Results

Off the Shelf Challenge

I’m doing the Off The Shelf Challenge in which readers pledge to read a certain amount of books that they already owned before the beginning of the year. All in an attempt to reduce the number of unread books on their shelves.

I had a total of 31 unread books on my shelves before January 1st 2011. I pledged to read them all by the end of this year. In January I managed 11, 5 in February, and 3 in March, so the old-TBR (yes, I got “some” new books since), was 12 at the beginning of April.

Now, how did I do in April and what were the books like?

I decided to go for some of the oldest books on the shelf and gave some of them a 30 page chance to prove themselves to me. In the end, I did not finish 3 books. The text with each book is also the (only) review I will do of them. Tell me if you think I’m wrong for discarding them:

Further Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. This book was one of the oldest (June 2010) on my TBR pile. I really didn’t feel like reading it, so I told myself sternly to read the first 30 pages and then make up my mind. I tried to give it a fair chance, but decided to give up after those pages.

The book has a large number of characters, and most are silly rich city types, both of which I don’t like. The book moves from one character to the next, in very short chapters which I find confusing. And maybe in the eighties, when this book was published, it was great fun to read about gay people and drugs but I found it rather too obvious.

Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk. This had been on my TBR since a book swap in September. I wasn’t really attracted to the book, but others at the book swap praised the book as being fantastic and a must-read. Finally I picked it up. 30 pages was too much, though. I gave up after about 20. The problem? The book was an assault on my brain. There were descriptions of places, surroundings, thoughts, and not just one or two, they followed each other in rapid succession, sometimes resembling stream of consciousness.

Of course, I looked to see whether the rest of the book would be the same, and it looked like it would. So I gave up. The writing style doesn’t agree with me, unfortunately.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. This is not a bad book at all. It’s dystopian, which I love. It’s also YA, which I sometimes like. And it’s an e-book, which has to be pretty good, or I’ll forget to read it. It’s not like a physical book that reminds you “Hey, read me!”.

So I had this book going for a few weeks and I got about half-way. Not a bad story, but I had enough of it. It’s the story about Marcus, who fights against the government’s actions to prevent terrorism, but at the same time restricting the freedom of the people.

Marcus makes clever use of internet and other technology but this turned into a bit of a tutorial on how these things work. His political stance was too often described in too much detail. I’m happy to have read half of the book, but I don’t need any more.

Then, I read a few books that I did finish (remember this is all from my old TBR, I read another 14 books that are not included in the TBR challenge):

Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman.  4 stars. A literary read about a sanatorium in Finland in the 1920s.

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann. 3 stars. About two German scientists in the 18th Century.

To summarize:

I scraped the barrel with some of these books: they had been on my shelf for a long time for a good reason. But one other book was really quite good (4 stars) and another was OK too (3 stars)

That’s 5 books off the old-TBR shelf and 7 left.

So, is the shelf getting a lot emptier then?

Well, I do get new books regularly. In March, I got new books at a speed higher than I could read them, but this month has been good – or should I say: I have been good?

There are now 23 books waiting for me (including the 7 from the old TBR). So, the net result since January (when I had 31) is minus 8, i.e., I have read 8 books more than that I got new in that period. So I’m reducing my TBR at the very slow rate of 2 books a month!


How about you? How’s your TBR reading going?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

29 Responses to Reading Off the Shelf – April Results

  1. Cindy says:

    I’m not managing any reading except new recipes.

  2. Love your strategy first in, first read. Congratulations for staying focused on your TBR list.

    I need to work on my APril recap post, I’m ‘afraid’ to see how many audio books I listened to!

    Good luck in May!

    • Leeswammes says:

      I didn’t list all the other books I read, Mari, but this TBR thing is a little obsession of mine. I have learned in the last few months that when I *really* want something, I *can* do it. Same with dieting or stopping to smoke. Now I wish I *really *would want to diet right now. But the inspiration on that one is missing at the moment. The TBR however, is something I *will* tackle!

      You’re really into audiobooks, aren’t you? I find it hard to keep concentrated, haven’t listened to one for a while (and when I did, I probably missed half of the story).

  3. Fiona says:

    Congratulations on managing your TBR. Mine is at 456 and once Waterstones cranks up it’s engine after these double bank holiday weekends we’ve had I’ll be back to 460.

    Then I really must try to get it down a little bit…

    I mean, most books I do read are form my TBR, but adding to it all the time.

    I did make a list of ‘Dust Mites’ a while ago and since read 2 of them. I really need to dig down deep and get those ones I’ve owned for years and years out and read them!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Fiona, if I had that many books, I probably wouldn’t try to read all of my TBR, but since mine is much, much smaller, I thought I should. So I don’t feel guilty about buying books. You could try to read more than you add in any one month. Then, by 2034, you may be down to 16 or so! 🙂

      • Fiona says:

        I think I would be very upset if I could not buy another book until I finished my TBR. I keep setting myself goals but I’m rubbish with them.

        I was quite pleased to get below 460 a while ago. I hope to keep it that way…

      • Leeswammes says:

        Oh, Fiona, that’s a lot. Of course you can’t not buy books until you’ve finished the TBR. You’d never read a newly published novel for a long time!

  4. Leslie says:

    I’m terribly behind in my reading which is one of the reasons I’m now listening to a lot more audio books.

    I started Little Brother a year ago, got to about page 80, got distracted by another book and haven’t been back to it. I was hoping it would be a bit better than you found it to be. I seem to remember it was ok but not compelling, obviously, since I forgot about it!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Leslie, good to hear you didn’t get through *Little Brother* either, it’s not just me then. I also found it ok but not compelling but since it seemed to go on in the same vein through the whole book, I gave up.

  5. Trisha says:

    My TBR pile is obnoxious. It’s not even a pile; it’s multiple shelves, and actually the unread and the read are mixed together in many places. It’s embarrassing, but I think there’s something like 300 unread books on my shelves. In other words, I am doing very very badly at eliminating my “pile”. 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Trisha, if I were at that point I would give up too! My TBR is manageable so I’d like to manage it. 🙂

    • Fiona says:

      Haha – obnoxious TBR piles. I think the best thing we can do – those of us with TBRs in the 3 digit region… is hack away around the edges.

  6. Julie P says:

    The fact that you are reducing it at all is awesome though, Judith! Keep up the good work….

  7. Dorte H says:

    I think you should be very PROUD of yourself – because I won´t even admit how many books I bought in April (shame on me).

  8. Nadine Nys says:

    You’re doing great, Judith. I wish I could say the same. Luckily my TBR-pile is manageable too, so i am not panicking yet. 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Lucky you, Nadine. I’m the same though. I know it’s manageable right now, so I’m trying to keep it that way. If I get over 60 or so, I’d probably give up trying.

  9. I have been trying to read from my shelves, and also donates lots on unread books on my shelves that I know I will never read. In April I donated over 50 to out library booksale, but I still have about 500! UGH

    • Leeswammes says:

      Diane, with so many books, where do you start? Maybe you could spend a few days every month just trying out books – read 30 pages (like I did) and if it’s good, that’s your next read, if it’s no good, then: bye bye book!

  10. Uniflame says:

    I love how this is going for you 🙂 I might need a challenge like this next year, if things continue like they are now.

  11. I’m participating in this challenge as well, and I am at 14 of the original 30 I listed (I’m actually almost ashamed to say that I have a bookcase filled with my TBR pile – I’m even using the top of it as a shelf for my challenge books). But I’ve committed to not buying any for at least a month, and with my Bebe Girl off to college this year, money is going to be tight, so the book-buying wallet will necessarily become smaller.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Julie, if the book budget is getting smaller, then it’s actually quite a good thing you still have such a large TBR! Look on the bright side.

  12. Susan says:

    I’m sorry, Judith, but I must slap you on behalf of San Franciscans everywhere. In one short week you discarded not one, but two excellent books set in my fine city!

    Armisted Maupin is one of my very favorite writers, and one heck of a nice guy, as well. The Tales of the City novels are at least part of why I live in San Francisco–a city, I might add that fully embraces our gays and our drugs, LOL. I have to ask, have you read the first two books in the series? That would make a BIG difference in your enjoyment, because if you had, you would have fallen in love with the characters. (And most of the central characters are the very working-class denizens of 28 Barbary Lane.)

    As you can see, you’ve touched a nerve. I cherish these comic melodramas. They are as evocative of San Francisco as anything you’ll ever read. I’m thrilled to have a ticket on May 19th to the Broadway-bound musical based on the first Tales of the City book.

    I also really enjoyed Little Brother, but don’t feel quite as emotional about that one. Here’s a link to my review:

    Ugh, posted in the days before I even knew how to add photos to posts! And, of course, now that I see the title of my review, I must note that you’re not an American.

    Sorry for the diatribe!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Ouch, that HURT, Susan! 🙂

      No, I forgive you. I know I didn’t give Tales of the City a totally fair chance. I discarded it mentally before I even started. And no, I didn’t read the other ones. I just came across this and heard good things about it so I bought it. Maybe one day I’ll start at the beginning!

      Little Brother was too much of the same for me. I got his point and then I was only half-way the book. Maybe there were more points to be made, but it was enough for me. I agree that it is an important book. Hopefully every American will read it. 😉

  13. Susan says:

    Yes, well, it takes sone strong provokation to incite me to virtual violence. I’ll try to control myself henceforth.

    Really, both of those books are very, very American, and very San Francisco specific. (Even the rest of the US thinks we’re a bunch of freaks.) It’s hard to imagine reading them from a totally different culture. Though, exploring different cultures is one of the joys of reading, right?

    It’s always a pleasure chatting with you, Judith. 🙂

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