If I had to state a single reason for why all the books on my "TBR pile" stayed there for so long, it's because I'm hung up on the idea of "the right book at the right time." There have been several times when I knew that I wasn't giving a book a fair shake but didn't know when I would be able to, and I don't like reading that way. To compound matters, I'm really indecisive: I've wanted to make a dent in this pile for the longest time, and haven't because I can never decide which book to start with!
That's why I really like this "reading roulette" system, in which someone else gets to pick the next book for me. For one thing, it really helps that someone else is making the decision. I don't mind letting others tell me what to do when it comes to non-essential matters . . . and when it's fun. For another, there's a built-in synchronicity to this method that takes care of all my timing issues.
That Other People Picked for Me to Read
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Mrs. Darwin wasn't the first commenter under my Reading Diary entry for Where the Red Fern Grows by Winston Rawls, she was the first to take me up on my offer to pick a book. Had I really not, she wondered, read Sense and Sensibility?
Actually, it was my first Jane Austen novel, which I took out of the library, started, finished, and totally failed to appreciate back in high school. (See what I mean about "wrong" times?) I bought myself a new copy after finishing Mansfield Park, which got to be my last Austen novel (with a Reading Diary entry of its own!), intending to do a "Austen rereadathon" some time in the future. That was probably the mental block that kept me from reading it for so long: committing to one novel is one thing; committing to six in a row is another!
But was the timing right, anyway? To my delighted surprise, yes! At the start of the novel, Elinor Dashwood has to deal with a death in the family, an odd arrangement in a benefactor's will, an avaricious in-law, an over-emotional mother, the loss of a comfortable home, and a move to a much smaller place--which made uncanny parallels to my life as I was reading!!! No Edward Ferrars, though.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
And Amy got to be first!
The reason I put The Scarlet Pimpernel one off for so long is that I kept running into what seemed like a major spoiler and hoped that time would efface it from my memory. That strategy kind of worked, because I didn't remember the name of the character involved . . . but I still couldn't forget that a certain plot point would happen, so I kept expecting it. And then I got really critical when it finally happened, but in a way that I wouldn't have written. LOL!
As for timing . . . It certainly wasn't a bad time to read The Scarlet Pimpernel. But neither was it a spectacular time. Then again, how would I know? I only see the present and the CLEARING timetable that means I'm not as free as I'd like to start a Baroness Emmuska Orczy reading project exploring her less famous novels. (Not that something like that has ever stopped me before . . .) On the other hand, perhaps a few months into the future, I'll read something else that will make me glad to have finished The Scarlet Pimpernel when I did!
But it's always a good sign when a recently-finished book inspires me to blog something--and I'm quite happy about my Character Connection post on The Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive!
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Finally, Facebook got a chance! It was there that Pentimento chose this novel to be the third leg of this list. And since three times is "enemy action," this round of my TBR Challenge has officially become the romantic one.
The Time Traveler's Wife is a beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking novel that makes me feel I'd end up exposing all my most vulnerable parts if I had to explain why I love it so much. Let me just say that I'm glad I read it as a "maiden," I want to read it again as a matron (before and after I become a mother), and I both hope and fear that I'll read it for the last time as a widow. Because, you know, time.
On another level, it's the perfect read for a month when I've been pondering "uneven" relationships in Romances written for young people--namely those in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs. (Niffenegger herself is much classier than I am and draws her parallels with Vladmir Nabokov's Lolita. =P) It also lets my thoughts overlap yet again with those of Sheila, who has been wondering why a loving God would refuse to heal a sick and suffering individual who prays to Him: theodicy and the question of suffering are a minor note in this novel, inasmuch as the time traveler's "chrono-displacement disorder" is a genetic disease that puts an incredible burden on him. But . . . (Please use your secret decoder rings now) . . . Niffenegger ultimately "doesn't go there," and both we and the characters must wrestle with that angelic mystery (Jeder Engel ist schrecklich!) that a universe that is so full of senseless suffering also seems shaped and framed by transcendent love.
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Now that Twitter and Facebook have had their turn, it's back to Blogger, my true love. The first person in the combox to pick a book from my TBR Challenge post will determine my next read!
Image Sources: a) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, b) The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, c) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger