Prospecting my TBR Pile to find 24 enticing books written by women

prospecting TBR

I’m trying to break my tsundoku habit and replace buying new books with reading the ones I’ve bought already.

The challenge is to make my dauntingly large TBR pile enticing enough to compete against the constant flow of “Look at this exciting new novel that was released today.”  I need to be eager to read the next offering from my TBR pile, not just work my way through it like a penance.

I adapted an idea from Themis Athena on BookLikes who recently ran a “Women Writers’ Bingo”.  I went through my TBR pile and picked one author for each letter of the alphabet. I ended up with 24 enticing books (I didn’t have any books by women whose surnames began with X or Z). I’m challenging myself to read them all by the end of the year.

I was surprised at how much fun deciding which book to pick for which letter was. I’m looking forward to them now. Here’s what I picked.

24 women wriers1

I’m not going to read them in alphabetical order, I’m too undisciplined for that, but I will choose something from this list for every second or third book I read this year.

Putting them together shows me the amazing range of talent that is out there. See if any of them appeal to you

A to F


A: Margaret Atwood (Canadian) “Oryx & Crake” 2003. Time on TBR pile: 24 months
The first book in her post-apocalyptic trilogy. Even though I think of Atwood as one of my favourite authors, I haven’t rushed to read this.

B: Carol Rifka Brunt (American) “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” 2012. Time on TBR pile: 4 months
This is a highly praised debut novel about grief, coming of age and compassion.

C: Joanna Cannon (English) “Three Things About Elsie” 2018. Time on TBR pile: 3 months.
This novel about an eighty-four-year-old woman. laying in her kitchen after a fall and reflecting on secrets in her past intrigued me enough to pre-order it but not enough to have read it yet. This book is on the Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2018)

D: Cherie Dimaline (Canadian / First Nation) “The Marrow Thieves” 2017. Time on TBR pile: 4 months.
It’s quite hard to find work by First Nation authors. There’s no audiobook or ebook version available in Switzerland from Amazon. I had to go to Tolino to get a copy. I made the effort because I couldn’t resist First Nation Postapocalyptic Science Fiction in which North American Indigenous People are being hunted for their marrow.

E: Jennifer Egan (American) “Look At Me” 2002. Time on TBR pile: 4 months
Jennifer Egan has had a lot of hype recently but her “Manhattan Beach” doesn’t call to me so I thought I’d try her earlier book about a model who has her face smashed in a car accident and re-emerges unrecognisable. Lots of room to explore identity and image in this one.

F: Karen Joy Fowler (American) “Sister Moon” 2002. Time on TBR pile: 1month
This will be my third book by Fowler. The first two, “The Jane Austen Bookclub” and “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” were innovative, challenging and fun but very different from each other. “Sister Moon” is different again, telling the tale of a member of the nineteenth century San Francisco elite finding her own, unconventional path.

G to L


G: Imogen Hermes Gowar (English) “The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock” 2018. Time on TBR pile: 2 months
There’s been a lot of noise about this debut novel about curiosity and obsession, set in Victorian England. I bought it because it is a Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2018)

 H: Sarah Hall (English) “The Electric Michelangelo” 2017. Time on TBR pile: 7 months.
I enjoyed Sarah Hall’s “Wolf Border” and went looking for her backlist. I couldn’t resist the description: “Hugely atmospheric, exotic, and familiar, The Electric Michelangelo is a love story and an exquisitely rendered portrait of seaside resorts on opposite sides of the Atlantic”, especially when I grew up near one of the seaside towns.
I: Virginia Ironside (English) “No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses!” 2014. Time on TBR pile 7 months.
This is a piece of light relief about a woman in her sixties who is not ready to grow old according to other people’s rules. It follows on from “No! I Don’t Want To Join A Bookclub”, about Marie Sharp’s sixty-first year, which amused me greatly.
J: Rachel Joyce (English) “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”  2012. Time on TBR pile: 2 months
This was a “Must Read” book in 2012 that I never got around to. Yet another book about an old person not doing what’s expected of them. Seems to be a theme for me at the moment.
K: Amie Kaufman (Australian) “Illuminae” 2015. Time on TBR Pile: 1 month
I often find Australian Science Fiction has a refreshing spin to it. This is THE hot YA SF trilogy of the moment and the audiobook version won an Audie for multi-voice performance.
L: Min Jin Lee (Korean) “Free Food For Millionaires” 2007. Time on TBR Pile: 2 months.
I became aware of Min Jin Lee through “Pachinko”, which is also on my TBR Pile and came out with a lot of fanfare this year. I wanted to start with her debut novel which explores identity for the children of immigrants in the USA.

M to R

M: Hilary Mantel (English) “Beyond Black” 2006. Time on TBR Pile: 2 months
This one is a bit of a risk. Mantel’s work is highly praised but I have no desire to read her style of literary historical fiction (“Wolf Hall” and “Bringing Up The Bodies”) so I thought I’d try this piece of speculative fiction.
N: Celeste Ng (American) “Little Fires Everywhere” 2017. Time on TBR Pile: 7 months.
I’ve no idea why I haven’t already read this. I loved “Everything I Never Told You” and I pre-ordered this book about motherhood, adoption, cultural differences and the limits of our ability to control what happens to us. It’s just never made it to the top of the pile.
O: Barbara O’Connor (American) “How To Steal A Dog” 2007. Time on TBR Pile: 4 months
This is an award-winning children’s book with a clever title and a cute cover and a dog. What more did I need to know?
P: R. J. Palacio (American) “Wonder” 2012. Time on TBR Pile: 2 months.
I was concerned that this story of a misfit teen might be too Hallmark for me but the reviews have been positive and the movie is out so I thought, “why not?”
Q: Anna Quindlen (American) “Miller’s Valley” 2016. Time on TBR pile: 22 months.
So this story about family secrets in small town America isn’t my typical read. I bought it as part of the publisher’s push on some kind of special offer in 2016 and haven’t touched it since. Still, I needed a Q and I should read or release, so… here we are.
R: Marilynne Robinson (American) “Housekeeping” 2004. Time on TBR Pile: 14 months.
Marilynne Robinson has produced a string of prize-winning novels. The quality of her writing and the clarity of her observation are widely praised. I OUGHT to like this but, in more than a year, it hasn’t made it to the top of the TBR Pile.

S to Y

S: Jessica Shattuck (American) “The Hazards Of Good Breeding” 2004. Time on TBR Pile: 2 months
This is another award-winning debut novel. I like the ambition of a novel told from five perspectives and the theme of the slow erosion of the Boston Brahmin lifestyle.
T: Heather Tucker (Canadian) “The Clay Girl” 2016. Time on TBR Pile: three months.
I’m always willing to try a Canadian author I haven’t read before. This debut novel about a girl growing up the 1960s and being shaped by the traumas in her family has had great press.
U: Jane Urquhart (Canadian) “A Map Of Glass” 2007. Time on TBR Pile: 4 months.
I’d heard good things about Jane Urquhart. I picked this book because it’s said to have strong imagery and beautiful use of language and an experimental “where-is-this-going?” form.
V: Clare Vanderpool (American) “Moon Over Manifest” 2010, Time on TBR Pile: 11 months.
This is YA book is another debut novel. It tells the story of a young girl spending the summer in Manifest Kansas and collecting stories about the town’s past. I bought it because I liked the cover.
W: Kit Waal (English)  “The Trick To Time” 2018. Time on TBR Pile: 2 weeks
I pre-ordered the audiobook version of this book because it is on the Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2018). It set between modern-day Birmingham and the Birmingham of 1972 and follows the life of Mona, an Irish immigrant to England, through both timelines. It deals with themes of grief and loss and it appeals to me because my own family were Irish immigrants to England a couple of decades earlier.
Y: Sonja Yoerg (American) “All The Best People” 2017. Time on TBR Pile 4 months.
This was a shot in the dark for me. I liked the theme of dealing with a fear of mental illness across generations and the fact that the author had another career before becoming a novelist.

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