I’m going to focus on reading some of the books on my backlist this year, and thus, I have created a little challenge.
Conversely, this year, when I thought I might focus on getting through some of the backlist on my reading list, I ended up reading lots of new releases instead. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this a lot. Although books don’t have a shelf life, per se (I feel there is a pun there I’m not seeing), it is fun to read a book that everyone’s talking about, rather than not being involved in the discussion for fear of spoilers.
This very long preamble aside to say, it’s time I stop ignoring my very long reading list! This reading challenge/goal will hopefully help me to do that. I’ve imaginatively named it… the 5 books and 5 years challenge. What can I say? I’m a creative genius.
Pretty self-explanatorily, this involves reading five books on your reading list that are backlist, and each from a different year. I’m doing this latter part because otherwise I’m just going to read a bunch of books from 2020 or 2021, which may not be frontlist, but certainly aren’t old, either.
Should all of these books also be from at least five years ago? That’s what I’ve gone with, but it’s probably not that important. And as a reminder, that’s only 2017 or back…
Otherwise, no limit on the when, or the what, just – 5 backlist books from 5 different years. Easy!
Here are the selections I have gone for:
My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout (2017)
Synopsis: Lucy Barton has spent her life running away from her past; from an isolated, penurious upbringing in Illinois where she and her siblings often went hungry. Now Lucy has moved through a faltering marriage to a carefully constructed new life in New York as a writer, replacing rural, open skylines for the Chrysler Building looming large on a tightly enclosed horizon.
When Lucy finds herself recovering in hospital, she is visited unexpectedly by the mother she hasn’t seen for many years. As the two of them talk, a seam of memory is opened wide, forcing Lucy to confront the past she has struggled so hard to keep at bay. As old tensions rise to the surface Lucy tries to accept what her life really amounts to; the many roles she has played, the people she has loved, abandoned and betrayed.
I’m starting off strong by going with 2017, the latest year I can. This book has been on my reading list ever since a curious mishap at the library (the physical library, not the ebooks, which are all I borrow these days), where I was put on the reservation waiting list, missed my collection window and then never tried to get my hands on it again. Better luck this time!
I’m also keen to explore this author’s works, and this is the first in a currently-updating trilogy, so it seems like good timing.
The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson (2009)
Synopsis: For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear while the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, a divinely invincible leader. Hope is long lost, until a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa in the depths of the most hellish prison and discovered he has the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, Kelsier will turn his talents to the ultimate caper: one with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.
Only he’s not just planning the greatest heist in history, he’s plotting the overthrow of a divine despot.
Correct, I am finally tackling Mistborn. 😊
This is the first book in the series. Even though I’ve put the synopsis above, I have no idea what this book is about, except that it’s supposed to contain out-of-this-world worldbuilding (lol) and is long? Good luck to me I guess!
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marques (1962)
Synopsis: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s great masterpiece is the story of seven generations of the Buendia family and of Macondo, the town they built. Though little more than a settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its wars and disasters, even its wonders and its miracles. A microcosm of Columbian life, its secrets lie hidden, encoded in a book, and only Aureliano Buendia can fathom its mysteries and reveal its shrouded destiny.
I, too, cannot believe I haven’t read this classic. Marquez is probably the most famous Colombian writer (for English speakers). This book is renowned for being startlingly original, and is also an important part of the magical realism genre, which is honestly just, so clever.
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (2013)
Synopsis: Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: the tale of Lata – and her mother’s – attempts to find her a suitable husband, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. At the same time, it is the story of India, newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great general election and the chance to map its own destiny.
This has been on my TBR for many years, ever since I seriously put my mind towards exploring South Asian stories in literary fiction, and I was reminded of it by the BBC’s big-deal dramatisation a few years ago.
This is a mammoth book (over 1000 pages!!) so I’d like to find some proper time to read it.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (1969)
Synopsis: I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it’s like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again.
The first and best-known of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary seven volumes of autobiography is a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration.
Throwing in another 1960s book in here with this autobiography, which I mentioned in my New Year’s Book Tag. This is also the only non-fiction book on here, and as I’m trying to read and listen to more of that, I think it’s a nice one to round off the list. I’ve read lots of Dr Maya Angelou’s poetry but none of her novels.
It was not even a little bit difficult to find five different books across five separate years that have been languishing in the depths of my TBR.
Although I can’t speak to the efficacy of this challenge yet, I’m sure it will be a useful exercise. Let me know if you try it! Its’s time to take action against our ever-growing TBRs 😠
A quick ‘backlist reading’ tangent:
I attempted to make a stab at my backlist last year through the Beat the Backlist Challenge. Although I had great intentions, and the prompts are very fun, I found it both too broad in scope to match my reading, as well as to actually keep track of.
For example, I constantly forgot to match the backlist books I chose to read to the prompts list. Although I know many people love it (and it’s an excellent idea!) the style of it just isn’t for me, and I’m never going to reach even half of the 52 prompts!
Nonetheless, here are the prompts I managed to tick off for that challenge:
Quest to find an object: The Queen’s Thief – Megan Whalen-Turner (This book is as old as I am…)
This is (I think) middle-grade fiction, which I don’t read a whole lot of, but I’ve had this recommended to me several times and honestly, it was great fun. Sometimes a bit sad! I wasn’t wholly pleased with the ending, but I’ll probably still pick up the rest of the series ヾ(≧ ▽ ≦)ゝ
Caused a book hangover: The Rage of Dragons – Evan Winters (2019)
Please just direct yourself to my review and read this excellent series.
Multiple POVs: The Betrayals – Bridget Collins (2020)
A book where the multiple narratives (here counted as two or more), are used to truly excellent effect in creating a picture of a society, a relationship, a feeling. My review is here.
Non-human character: The Wicked King – Holly Black (2018)
I could have included any of this series but hey, this one is literally named after the non-human character.
On the indie bestsellers list: Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng (2019)
Imagine reading this book and then not immediately reading everything else this author has written. I need to correct that asap, clearly.
Has a dream scene: Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko (2020)
AHH I literally bought the sequel to this asap and…haven’t read it yet. This book is excellent. It also fits the prompt particularly well.
Non-fairytale retelling: Legendborn – Tracy Deonn (2020)
My notes for this one just said: ‘it’s ARTHURIAN retelling babes.’
The forests are important: The Lie Tree – Frances Hodges (2016)
How about the TREE is important, huh? This prompt isn’t seeing the woods for the trees…or however that saying goes…
This one I listened to the audiobook and it was such a good idea. The atmosphere is startlingly present in audio.
What backlist books are you reading this year?