2013 TBR Pile Challenge Sign Up Post

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius

As a former bookseller who regularly took advantage of the employee discount, I have a ton of books sitting on my shelves that were purchased with enthusiasm but left to languish after shinier books distracted me. I’ve decided that the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader is just what I need to help me get the ball rolling on some of these titles.

The challenge details are straightforward: choose 12 books to read that have been on your shelves or TBR list for longer than a year. Here are my 12 that I’m committed to reading in 2013 and brief note about why I’m reading it:

1. The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2005) by Megan Marshall.
Why? I read and still own The Peabody Sisters of Salem (1950) by Louise Hall Sharp and was thrilled when Marshall’s book came out because the Peabody sister’s story was in need of update.
2. The Root: The Marines in Beirut August 1982-February 1984 (1985) by Eric Hammel.
Why? I signed-up to join the Marines on October 14, 1983 and nine days later the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon was bombed. I was watching TV when the news broke in with a special announcement and felt like I was punched in the gut. In that attack 299 people died, of which 220 were Marines. This incident changed the tone of my enlistment. I bought a copy of The Root when it first came out, but gave it away to a newly minted grunt as a welcome to the Corp gift. I picked up a used copy earlier this year because I’ve always wanted to learn more about the events leading up to and after the attack beyond the magazine articles I’d read.

3. Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi (2009) by Neal Bascomb.
Why? I’ve been curious about how Nazis were hunted down and brought to trial, but have never read about the efforts. I bought this book at a steep discount in the final days of Borders.

4. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978) by A. Scott Berg. READ! Click here for review.
Why? I came across a 1979 mass market edition this book years ago in a thrift store and thought it would be interesting to read about an editor who helped shape the careers of so many “important” writers. And now that there’s a movie in the works about Perkins that’s based on this book, I’m dusting it off.

5. My Life in France (2006) by Julia Child. READ! Click here for review.
Why? I grew up watching Julia Child or, to be honest, at least pausing on her show as I flipped the knob on the TV…I must admit, I’ve never been a foodie, but I did love the movie Julie and Julia. I’m fascinated that Child was a late bloomer who found what she wanted to do with her life in middle age.

6. Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde (2008) by Thomas Wright.
Why? Why not? I bought this book from the bargain section at the Unabridged Bookstore earlier this year because it seemed to be a unique and fascinating way to look at someone’s life.

7. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend (2011) by Susan Orlean.
Why? My Mom got me this book for Christmas last year. I loved Rin Tin Tin growing up and thought Lassie was rather lame in comparison. One of my uncles had a German Shepard that I was in awe of and so having that real-life dog probably made me prefer him over the Collie. Also, Willa Cather once met Rin Tin Tin on a train and mentioned going to see one of his movies in a letter to a friend, so there’s that, too.

8. The Swarm (2004) by Frank Schatzing.
Why? Until recently every summer my family spent a week on the Outer Banks of NC and I usually tried to take along at least one book that took place in/around the world’s oceans. (Note: the best place to read The Shadow Divers is on the beach…or perhaps in a boat.) I bought this one for that purpose, but then decided reading about something infecting the ocean probably wasn’t a great idea unless I wanted to skip swimming and boogie-boarding, both of which I wasn’t not willing to sacrifice, even for a good book.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood. READ! Click her for review.
Why? Because my feminist and serious reader cards will be taken away if I don’t read this book. Soon. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve yet to read anything by Atwood. Some people react with horror, some with disgust, when I reveal this dirty little secret of mine. I’ve loved reading interviews with Atwood, follow her on Twitter, and feel warm and fuzzy about her, so you’d think I’d have read her books, but, alas, this will be the first one. I did start reading it once but couldn’t get into it. In the past I’ve probably lied about reading this one or at least nodded knowingly when its been mentioned. Please forgive me.

10. The Last Dickens (2009) by Matthew Pearl.
Why? I met Pearl when his first novel was just out and was charmed by the talk he gave at Printer’s Row that year. I loved his first two novels (The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow) and can’t believe I haven’t read this one yet. I want to read his newer novel, The Technologists, but won’t allow myself to read that one until I read this one. It’s not that I don’t like Dickens…I think at one point I actually thought I needed to read more Dickens before reading this novel. Silly reader’s thoughts.

11. The Watchmen (1987) by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons.
Why? Because I want to read more graphic novels and this is considered one of the best in the genre. I’ve had this copy on my shelves for years now, even took it on vacation once, but have yet to read it. 

12. Fun Home (2006) by Alison Bechdel.
Why? I adore Bechdel’s comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For. And I know I often say “I can’t believe I haven’t read X yet!”, but in this case, I really can’t believe I haven’t read this one yet. 

My two alternates are:
1. Homecoming (2006) by Bernhard Schlink. Why? I love his novel The Reader and I wanted to explore more Schlink.
2. The Night Train To Lisbon (2004) by Pascal Mercier. Bought this at the airport several years ago and just haven’t gotten around to it. Friends tell me to get on it already.

If you just read or skimmed this post, chances are that you, too, have at least 12 books waiting to be read. Why not join the fun? Visit Roof Beam Reader and sign-up!


  1. I agree with Jennfer, The Handmaid's Tale is a good one! I read that and 1984 within a month of each other – what an interesting experience! I probably should've added Brave New World and We during that time period, just to really blow my own mind. Hah!

    You've got an awesome list – I'm really looking forward to reading your thoughts on these. The Peabody Sisters sounds fascinating and The Last Dickens (and all the Pearl books, actually) has been on my list forever.

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks, Adam! The Peabody sisters were amazing women. Henry James got a lot of flack for but denied that he used Elizabeth Peabody as a model for Miss Birdseye in The Bostonians–another book that's been languishing on my TBR Pile for too long. Haha.

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