April 2016, In My Stacks

Having read through the first quarter of the reading year, how are your stacks?

March 2016 Stack

Reading projects

Is the bedside stack turning over regularly? Are you struggling to stick with projects that you were sure would fit perfectly into 2016?

Four books in this stack are from various TBR lists, some because they are older works by favourite authors (like Toni Morrison) and others because a bookfriend sang their praises loudly (like Leslie Marmon Silko).

Both authors are challenging for me. The prose is beautiful – sometimes so beautiful that I have to read it aloud to catch the beauty, otherwise it swells and whirls and overwhelms and I get stuck.

That happened to me with my last reading of Toni Morrison, The Song of Solomon. I began it three times, read large sections of it aloud, and took months to complete.

None of which even begins to touch my experience of reading Beloved. I began reading it 16 years ago and I haven’t finished yet.

Normally I wouldn’t consider that a read in-progress, but I am still haunted by the half of the book which I did read. This unfinished story is one which I recall more vividly than many books I have begun and finished long since.

My bookmark remains in it, still, and enough time has passed to make me all-the-more anxious about completing, because obviously some of the most troubling parts of the story remain in my reader’s memory. Tar Baby stands between Beloved and me now. I wonder how many years I could spend with Tar Baby in my stack.

Nella Larsen’s volume of collected works, An Intimation of Things Past, with an introduction by Marita Golden, is challenging in a different way.

In some ways, t is a terrific companion to Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, which I read recently. And it also fits with some of the stories in Langston Hughes’ The Ways of White Folks. Her shorter stories are often striking (sometimes startlingly sad), and I am torn between wanting to finish and wanting to spin them out.

Marge Piercy’s Gone to Soldiers took a long time to settle into my stack. The large cast of characters was difficult to hold in my mind (with so many other books in my stack especially) and it took awhile to understand that sometimes it is more about capturing a mood and a trend than about specific details and individual experiences.

Most of the characters are depicted on the home front during WWII, but eventually some characters participate in military conflict, which rounds out the historical picture (from a North American and European perspective).

I knew the time and geographic locations provided connections between chapters (I’ve tried to read this one before – this is my year for completing previously abandoned projects!) but now that I’m a couple hundred pages into the story, I recognize there are more deliberate connections between characters as well (siblings, neighbours, etc.). It is interesting, but the tiny type means it spends more time in the stack than it spends in my grip.

There are five volumes from five different series in my current stack, but I’ll chat about those another time.

Are there elements of your reading stack which seem to demand their own conversation?

Is there something in your stack which you are simultaneously drawn to and yet are reluctant to read?

Are there other bookish contradictions preoccupying your reading mind these days?

Do tell: what’s new and not-so-new in your stack…



  1. […] Piercy’s Gone to Soldiers – The only remnant from my last In the Stacks photo. I’m considering a reread of Summer People when the weather gets hotter. Although I […]

  2. Jane Ozkowski June 8, 2016 at 10:51 am - Reply

    You’ve captured my thoughts about Beloved exactly! I got halfway through about five years ago, and I haven’t picked it up again. I still think about the parts I read often, yet for some reason I haven’t been able to go back to it. Maybe this is the time to do so!

    • Buried In Print June 8, 2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      What’s remarkable about this is how much the unread (portion of the) book is almost as powerful as the read: I’m not sure I’ve ever had this kind of experience with another book. I’m also not sure what (if anything) it means!

  3. […] many books to talk about! Including what’s currently in my stacks and what I’m reading with this year’s reading about […]

  4. […] April 2016, In My Stacks […]

  5. Naomi April 24, 2016 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    I’m definitely struggling to get all the reading done that I was hoping to get done. Not because I don’t feel like reading it, but because other books have distracted me along the way, *and* because I always think I can read more than I actually can. 🙂
    But I am enjoying all of it, which is the main thing. Right now I have both King Leary and Hangman’s Beach on the go. I have to admit that I started Hangman’s Beach because I’m having trouble getting into King Leary. Maybe because all the characters are hockey players, and I don’t care much about hockey? Ha! It is good, though. And funny. Just not gripping.

    • Buried In Print May 5, 2016 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      How’s the Raddell going? I made a couple of attempts with TN&TL many years ago, but didn’t get too far. I thought I had a copy of King Leary at hand, but I do not; I’ve been meaning to read that one for aaaaaages. Maybe it’ll pick up for you as you get to know the guys?

      • Naomi May 8, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

        As I said before, King Leary did pick up for me, and I ended up really enjoying it!

        I have loved both of the Raddall books that I’ve read now. Hangman’s Beach is full of interesting history of Halifax and area during the Napoleonic wars. I was explaining it all to my husband as I went, because he grew up in Halifax, but he didn’t really know about any of it.

        • Buried In Print May 11, 2016 at 3:11 pm - Reply

          I’ve been seriously thinking about seriously reading more East Coast authors, more seriously systematically. There are so many on my list of faves already that I’m certain I am overlooking some gems. I’ve always felt like an East Coast girl at heart and even here in Ontario I love the rocky and watery parts most. Raddall is back on my list now!

  6. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis April 23, 2016 at 9:01 am - Reply

    I have a terrible time finishing Toni Morrison, too. I’m so relieved that it’s not just me.

    • Buried In Print May 5, 2016 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Do you plan to keep trying? I really do love her style, but I seem to need extra encouragement to stick with the stories. Maybe we could time to read one of them together. I’m still in the same place in this one. *grins*

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