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The Back Row

15. January 2009


Kiki's TBR shelves

Kiki's TBR shelves

Most people I am friends with are readers. in fact, most of the people I interact with are readers.
I know a few people, even writers, that don’t read regularly and have no real love for books, but I find that our worlds usually don’t intersect much.


I’m sure everyone who reads this blog is a reader, or at least wants to be one.
Which means you all have the same problem I do. There are too many books.
We all buy more than we should, be it food, so-called beauty products, shoes or, yes, books.
We are given free books at events and conferences. We snap up 3-for-2 specials. We buy books by people we know or that we know we’ll love. We impulse-buy that pretty cover.

All these books turn into the dreaded TBR, the to-be-read. TBR can be a pile, a tower next to the bed, a shelf, a box, pretty much anything that will take to holding rectangualr heavy objects.

And then what?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself with some free time, maybe an afternoon, or those few hours before sunrise (whether you’re up already or still up), have eagerly walked over to your TBR, looked it over, then turned away and sighed “I have nothing to read!”

Sound familiar?
Welcome to The Back Row.
 Let me explain. My TBR is a shelf in one of my bookshelves. Actually, it’s two shelves, one for fiction, one for non-fiction. Both shelves have one row of books stacked in the regular way, spine out, like most people have in their bookshelves. But because my TBR is ever-growing, there are books in front of that, face-out.
Not just any book can have the honour of being a face-out book though. This privilege is reserved for

  1. books by favourite authors
  2. books by people I know and who write books in genres I love
  3. very pretty covers
  4. hyped books someone recommended to me

in that order.
And that’s usually the order I read them in. I don’t always make an effort to replace a front-row book with one fromthe back row. In my deluded world, one day I’ll be so far through my TBR that I’ll only need one row. Yeah, I know the likelihood of that, too.

So once I get through all the books I really, really wanted to read, I’m left with the others. The back row. The books on special, the 3 in the 3-for-2 deal, the more-cover-than-substance impulse buys from my favourite section, the weird, the ones I knew were recommended somewhere but I don’t know where, the conference freebies, the “I should read outside my genre” picks.

These are my “I have nothing to read” books. Oh, I’ll probably get to them — eventually.
Unread books are such a sad thing. Someone out there should be enjoying them, reading and re-reading, recommending and gushing and generally doing great things with them. With me, they’re dead in the water.

Some of the books on my back shelf right now:

  •  Curry – Lizzie Collingham
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy
  • The Single Girl’s Guide to Murder – Joanne Meyer
  • Fashionably Late – Nadine Dajani
  • Duet – Kimberley Freeman
  • Bollywood Confidential – Sonia Singh
  • Sink Or Swim – Kate Cann
  • Nicola and the Viscount – Meg Cabot
  • So Much For My Happy Ending – Kyra Davis

Have you read any of these? Convince me why they should be front-row books. Or why they should be removed from my TBR and be tossed aside for better, worthier reads. Like…?

And now, admission time. What does your TBR look like? How do you decide which book is next? What makes  abook a queue-jumper for you? And tell us, which ones are your back-row books?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 16. January 2009 8:12 am

    Ok Ms. Kiki Fu – I’m the author of one of your back row reads, Fashionably Late, and I’ll take you up on the challenge! Here’s a review of FL that popped up online last week, from (ahem):

    “Fashionably Late is Nadine Dajani’s first book, but it is the second one I’ve read and enjoyed. (Review of Cutting Loose.) The book itself is a lot of fun. It will definitely make readers want to go to Cuba, something that is a bit difficult for Americans (but might get easier with our new President). The depiction of Cuba is wonderful; it is obvious that the author has a great affection for the locale.

    It is also a quest of self-discovery, which is always fun to read. Though some readers may disapprove of Aline’s behavior, it is clear she is simply trying to decide what kind of life she wants to lead. Does she want to be a good, Muslim girl who makes her parents proud? Does she want to be wild and carefree? Or does she want to settle down somewhere in between? It’s a provocative question and readers will probably have their own opinions on what she should do as they are reading the novel.

    One thing I loved about the novel was Aline’s character development. At the beginning of the novel, she seems kind of shallow, only caring about clothing and such. But as the novel progresses, her inner character is revealed. She is actually passionate about her culture and discusses how Cuba reminds her of Lebanon.

    However, Aline is also a bit of a mess. Her inability to tell the truth to virtually anyone close to her demonstrates that she is unhappy with her life. Many people (ethnic or not) understand pressure from parents to live a certain way. It is a dilemma for many immigrant families: trying to raise children the way they themselves were raised in a society that has completely different values. I felt like Aline was very torn between what her parents wanted and what she wanted for herself. To make things even more difficult, she couldn’t discern what she wanted from what was simply rebelling against her parents. These are interesting issues to sort out, but the lying was a bit frustrating. She seemed to live in some sort of denial, figuring that she could continue lying and it wouldn’t catch up with her.

    One interesting tidbit is Ranya, the main character from Cutting Loose is introduced in Fashionably Late as Aline’s cousin. It would have been fun to read these books back to back, in order, but the reader definitely isn’t missing anything reading them out of order, or reading one without reading another! I’m definitely looking forward to what Dajani comes up with next.”

    Does that help? ; )

  2. 16. January 2009 8:48 am

    A convincing argument indeed! Thanks for speaking up.
    How could I *not* read this next now?

  3. Nadine permalink
    19. January 2009 10:13 am

    Ha! Hope I didn’t pile on the pressure too much… I just couldn’t resist!

  4. 19. January 2009 10:48 am

    Hey, at heart, I *want* to be convinced to read them all! ^_-

  5. 19. January 2009 2:56 pm

    Hey Kiki,
    Sorry I can’t help you with your Back Row books. I’m not as organised as you are – I have books on shelves, box, tray, in the regular shelves with books i’ve read…. basically they are everywhere.
    I am trying to do the Harlequin book challenge and mini-challenge to help me clear the back log, see:
    E 🙂

  6. 20. January 2009 11:09 am

    I’d move Nadine Dajani’s book to your front shelf. I found it witty and smart and really fun to read. Definitely a cut above the huge mass of chick lit titles that got published around the same time.

    And congrats on signing with your agent! Here’s hoping for a quick sale.

  7. 20. January 2009 11:10 am

    Ha! I didn’t see that Nadine herself had commented before me. LOL.

  8. 15. April 2009 8:47 am

    Thank Maureen! You rock!

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