Weekly Wrap-up + Very Tentative Reading Plans for May and Beyond

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week. I know I just said in my April Wrap-up that I don’t do well with a TBR, but… here I am, making one anyway. This is all very tentative—I don’t do well with a strict TBR, but I find I’m more motivated to read if I have a set of options and a VERY loose time frame (much like my Women’s Prize reading), so I’ll try to do something similar for May and for the rest of the year.

A minor life update—my reviewing mojo is back!!! I was able to write and schedule a few posts again over the past few days. Thank you all for your encouragement last week; it really helped to know that a reviewing slump is normal. ☺️

On to the wrap-up!

Posts This Week

Books I Finished This Week

  • Finally finished How We Disappeared. My review will be up next week.
  • I also finished My Dark Vanessa, and I’m glad to say that it’s worth the hype! It wasn’t perfect but it was very thought-provoking. Review to come.

Books I’m Currently Reading

  • Still reading The Body Is Not an Apology. This might be on my Currently Reading shelf for awhile; I find it’s one of those reads I have to dip in and out of.
  • As I’ve mentioned in my April Wrap-up, I’ll be reading a short story a day from O’Connor’s Complete Stories. Discussions will be hosted by Melanie @ Grab The Lapels. I’m on track so far, and I look forward to the discussions because weirdly enough, short stories are more difficult for me to digest than novels.

May TBR: API-Inspired Reading

Based on some posts I’ve been seeing here and on bookstagram, I gather that May is Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month in the U.S. While I won’t be joining any of the official reading challenges, I figured I could put together my own API-inspired TBR based on the books by Asian authors that I’ve been meaning to read. Again, these are all just options; I don’t think I’ll be able to read all of them, and I’ll be happy if I can finish one or two of them.

  • Edinburgh (2001) by Alexander Chee
  • Stories of Your Life and Others (2002) by Ted Chiang
  • A Little Life (2015) by Hanya Yanagihara
  • In the Country (2015) by Mia Alvar
  • Little Fires Everywhere (2017) by Celeste Ng
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019) by Ocean Vuong

Women’s Prize Reading

Status of My Women’s Prize 2020 Longlist Reading

My reading for the official list has been stalled indefinitely. I can’t seem to find physical copies of A Thousand Ships or Hamnet anywhere, and they’re not yet available on either Nook or Kindle, so I don’t think I can read them in time for the announcement. SAD! As for Actress and Nightingale Point, I might end up purchasing e-books instead.

The #ReadingWomen Challenge

Timeline: May to September 2020

This year marks the 25th year of the Women’s Prize, and to celebrate it, the committee created the #ReadingWomen challenge, wherein readers are encouraged to revisit the 24 titles that have won the prize in the past. Readers also get a chance to vote for a Winner of Winners in autumn. I wasn’t planning on joining the challenge, but I looked at the list again recently (I was bored lol) and realized that I already have a couple of the books lying around, and that there are a number of authors here that I’ve been meaning to read, so… might as well!

After I put everything together, there were a total of 11 books on my tentative TBR. I also decided to put in the very first winner, A Spell of Winner by Helen Dunmore, to bring it up to 12 (for the very arbitrary reason that 12 is my favourite number).

Screen Shot 2020-05-03 at 11.16.20 AM

  1. 2018 Winner: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  2. 2017 Winner: The Power by Naomi Alderman
  3. 2016 Winner: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
  4. 2015 Winner: How to be both by Ali Smith
  5. 2014 Winner: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
  6. 2013 Winner: May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
  7. 2011 Winner: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
  8. 2007 Winner: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  9. 2006 Winner: On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  10. 2005 Winner: We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  11. 2002 Winner: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  12. 1996 Winner: A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

I’m fairly excited about this list. If all goes well I might be able to read all of these by autumn (we don’t have autumn here but I’m guessing that’s around September??) and maybe even revisit An American Marriage and The Song of Achilles, which I’d already read some time ago.

Reading Classics

Every year, I’ve been meaning to chip away at my classics stack, but I always find myself putting them off for shinier recent releases. However, I’ve finally figured out a sufficiently motivating workaround: I’ll read through the major works (primarily novels) of just ONE classics author per year. I think this is manageable, since each author will rarely have more than ten major novels (and let’s be honest, I probably won’t pick someone with more than that). Plus, it’ll be interesting to track the themes and changes in style of each author throughout his or her body of work.

For now, I won’t be so strict with the definition of classics. I’m going by “I’ll know it when I see it,” meaning authors like Austen, Wharton, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. Since I’m doing this for fun (mostly), I will likely not do authors like Joyce or Woolf, whose works I find impenetrable. But we’ll see.

This year, I’ll be reading Thomas Hardy’s major novels, for the sole reason that I already have three physical copies of his novels at home. I’ll be reading them by chronological order, or from least depressing to most depressing:

  1. Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)
  2. The Return of the Native (1878)
  3. The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
  4. Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891)
  5. Jude the Obscure (1895)

I hope to read all these books by November, and possibly post a wrap-up by December.

That’s it for my reading plans! I know I’m being ambitious, but oh well, blame it on the quarantine. Are you any good at keeping a TBR stack, or are you pretty much a mood reader? Let me know in the comments!


35 thoughts on “Weekly Wrap-up + Very Tentative Reading Plans for May and Beyond

  1. Great-looking TBR!!! I’m glad you got your reviewing mojo back, and I’ll be really excited to see your thoughts on My Dark Vanessa & How We Disappeared! And your API-inspired TBR looks great, too! I hope you read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; it is such a beautifully written story, and the way the author writes about difficult relationships through an immensely compassionate lens kind of reminds me of Weather. Wishing you the best of luck on all your reading challenges!! 🤗

      1. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is definitely different from Weather in many ways (I don’t want to skew your expectations or mislead you!!), but the compassionate approach to describing challenging relationships felt very similar to me. I hope you love it!!

  2. Such exciting reading plans!! I see so many interesting books. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous has been on my TBR for a while but I havent gotten to it yet. Also I love your classics reading plans. I feel like theoretically I want to read classics, and every once in a while Im suddenly in the mood to read some, but I just never follow through lol. I would love to read some EM Forster, especially A Room With a View or Howard’s End. Hopefully the Thomas Hardy novels go well for you ☺

    1. Thank you!! Lol I know the feeling, which is why I hope publicly declaring it will finally push me to read classics 😅 I hope you get to those soon—haven’t read either of them but EM Forster is also on my list!

  3. It’s so good to hear that you are out of your reviewing slump! It looks like you read some interesting books last month – My Dark Vanessa sounds super intriguing, but I’m a bit wary of the potential triggers. Glad you liked it.
    Have a great May, Gilana! 🥰

    1. Thanks Stephen! Yes, I would say it’s quite triggering but not graphic—what was more distressing to me was the prolonged emotional manipulation. Very thought provoking though. Hope you have a great May too! ☺️

  4. Man, your reading lists are so inspiring! I’m gonna continue to just live vicariously through you, though, since my brain just needs the smut all the time. (My secret admission: I’m reading Convenience Store Woman, which is not a romance, right not. Don’t tell my fellow smut-reporters.)

    Some random thoughts:
    – I worked my way through about half of O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find a few years ago. I would read a short story on the bus on my way to work in the morning, and then think about it all day. And then I realized that her stories made me exceptionally cranky, and since I was teaching college freshman, I needed to be…not cranky. I’ll be curious to hear about your experience.
    – Stories of Your Life is sooooooooooooo goooooooooooood.

    1. My reading continues to be primarily romance & smut though. Like 50%. I get stressed if I’m disappointed by lit fic so I reach for romance. (My lips are sealed! I remember reading that—I liked it but I was hoping for more… psychological depth I think.)

      I’ve read two stories so far and I have to admit that I am not getting a lot of the references and have to read the dialogue a couple of times so… I can see how it can make you cranky!

      That’s good to hear!!! I’m very excited to get to it now. I know he has a new collection out but I’d like to read this first.

      1. Yeah, I totally get that on the psychological depth. So far, it seems like the whole portrait is, “she’s autistic.” I’m still enjoying it though – I like that it’s so spartan and mannered.

        I think O’Connor made me cranky because she had such a bleak view of humanity.

        And my husband bought the new Chiang college as soon as it was released – even though we have literally a thousand unread books on our shelves. This is what happens when two book nerds cohabitate.

  5. ellie @ eleanorsophiewrites

    These are all great reading plans! Flannery O’Connor is a master of the short story, I hope you enjoy her work!

  6. I used to follow a fairly strict schedule of reading one book each month from the following categories: the book I’ve owned the longest, the book I bought most recently, a library book, a book for my reading fat women quest, and a book for the #ReadingValdemar project I’ve been doing for 16 months now. Lately, though, I’ve been buying a lot of books and leaning toward reading along with a buddy instead of sticking to my schedule. I have a schedule through the end of the year, but I’m more willing to adjust it.

    1. Have you always followed some sort of schedule in your (checks back to your site) SEVEN wow years of blogging? I’m only in my fourth month and I already find it a struggle. I have yet to do a buddy read, but I can imagine it’s far more motivating than pushing yourself to stick to a schedule. Just reading along with the WP was already motivating for me!

      1. At first, my goal was just to read and review women, and I was only reading review copies of books. When I was teaching, I blogged a lot less. My goal was to share one post within a calendar week, which means I may post once on Monday and then not post again until the next Friday (almost two weeks apart). But I’ve never done a hiatus or quit. There are times I have wanted to. If you keep up with a few select friends, your circle will start small and eventually grow. I avoid following blogs where people don’t actually leave meaningful comments on my site (“Nice review!” isn’t enough for me to invest all my time in reading another person’s blog posts and not get much back in return). You also decide how blogging works best for you. Some people find it easier to write the author a letter instead of a review. Some people write shorter, more concise reviews. All of these are great options, and you do what works for you. If you overwhelm yourself (and most book bloggers do and quit within 1-3 years), then you’ll lose all the friendships you made. After a while, it starts to feel like the books are secondary to the friends.

      2. Thanks for sharing – I’m getting a lot of ideas from you on how to make blogging sustainable. Once quarantine ends and I’m back to my school year, I anticipate a lot of transitions (thesis, graduation, then practice), which means I probably won’t be able to post or visit other people’s posts as frequently as I’m doing now, but I don’t want to take too long of a hiatus or quit (I think my longest so far since I started was around 2 weeks). I’ll definitely try experimenting with those options. And you’re right – one of the most rewarding things about blogging has been meeting people and really getting to chat about books!

  7. Literary Elephant

    Ooh, I’m so excited about all of your reading plans! I think we’ll have a lot of crossover in our #readingwomen lists; I’ve read a few of your twelve, but most of the ones I haven’t are on my “will hopefully get to before September” list as well. Looking forward to your thoughts as you read them! I also have several Thomas Hardy books on my TBR and haven’t gotten to a single one yet, so I’ll be interested in your reviews on those to see which I should prioritize. And a lot of your API books are on my radar as well (lol, are you sensing a trend?)! I hope you’ll have an excellent reading month ahead, whichever books you pick up.
    Also, let me know when/if you still want to buddy read The Heart’s Invisible Furies! (No rush!)

    1. I do see a trend 😂 It’s nice to see that our tastes overlap though! I look forward to your thoughts on the #readingwomen books — I know you really liked McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing (I think from the comments in your litfic post??) so I’m wondering if I should go to it next or save (one of) the best for last.
      YES!! I was actually about to approach you about it again in your May TBR post hehe. Tbh I’ve never done a buddy read before — shall we e-mail about the schedule and etc instead? My email is gilreadsbooks at gmail dot com 😊

      1. Literary Elephant

        I loved A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing! I do talk about it often I think, ha. It’s one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read though, both for content and style, so I recommend picking it up whenever you’re in the mood for a challenge. I also really liked Home Fire and A Spell of Winter, which are more accessible though of course there’s some hard-hitting content in both as well. (Par for the course with lit fic, really!)
        Email sounds great! I’ll send you one as soon as I’m off here! 🙂

      2. Thanks for the heads-up! I checked the number of pages and it looks like it’s a short read, but I guess short doesn’t mean easy. I’ll get to it then when I feel more alert 🙂

  8. These do look like great reading plans! I hope you enjoy the books you plan to read, and I hope you particularly like A Little Life, though, of course, “like” is not the word for this book – people just live through this book 🙂 but I thought it was great, and I can see why it is so divisive – Yanaghira does the unthinkable there. It is also great that you are starting on Hardy, an excellent choice – he wrote so beautifully and I loved his Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure – for this year, I earmarked The Woodlanders (1887) to read too – I hope it is as good as his other novels.

    1. Thank you, Diana! “Live through” sounds more appropriate to the reviews I’m skimmed so far – it looks like it’ll be devastating to read. Your recommendation is very encouraging, though! Yes, I’m quite looking forward to his books – I think it was also brought to the forefront of my mind when you mentioned Jude in one of your wrap-ups. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about The Woodlanders. Maybe I’ll also add it to my Hardy pile. 🙂

  9. You have lots of great titles here – some of I’ve read and others I want to – so I’ll look forward to following along as you read through them! Personally, I think an ambitious TBR can be a good thing. Better too much to read than not enough, right? This year I’ve started picking a few titles to aim to read each month in order to provide some focus but I also feel free to read other books as I feel drawn to them.

    1. Thank you 🙂 That’s certainly an interesting perspective—I’ve always hindered myself from making a TBR because I don’t want to be discouraged when I fail, but I never thought of it in terms of ‘the more you plan to read, the better’! You mentioned ‘this year’ – did you try other sorts of reading plans and goals last year? 🙂

      1. I used to just have a massive TBR but not any particular monthly goals. Which meant a lot of books languished on my TBR for years! Now I try and pick one or two older titles and balance that out with newer ones. The last couple of years I’ve set a number that I hope to read in the year and that’s helped me to read more overall.

  10. Ohh what a pity you can’t find Hamnet & A Thousand Ships! Hopefully at least on e-book they’ll be available soon?

    I’m so excited about your #ReadingWomen challenge! I’ve read a few of those and look forward to your thoughts! Will try to read a few before September, too – especially looking forward to On Beauty & Home Fire.

    1. I checked and it seems Hamnet will be available in June 😦 No news for A Thousand Ships yet. Hopefully it’s around the same time as Hamnet.

      Yay!! Glad that I’m not alone in joining this challenge. Oof, I just finished On Beauty and I guess it’s just not my kind of book. Hopefully my next one will be better.

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