Book Recommendations, Reading

The Backlist Blowout Winter Reading Challenge (+ 15 Backlist Titles On My List!)

Backlist Book Recommendations + Backlist Reading Challenge

For me, summer is the time to catch up on all the latest releases that everyone is buzzing about. This summer was no exception, as my library agreed to purchase about a dozen brand new titles for me (many on my Summer Reading List), which meant I was first in line to see if the books lived up to their online hype.

But each year, after the summer reading frenzy so steeped in contemporary themes and plots, I find myself more than ready come fall and winter to back off the new and shiny a little bit. (It helps too that this year, the bar coder at our local library was sick for an extended period of time, which meant that most of my holds didn’t come in for several weeks and, when they did, they came in all at once. We’re talking 8 or 9 books at a time to read in a 3-week period, folks—-not exactly the ideal timeline for feeling like I have all the time in the world to read whatever catches my fancy during the supposedly lazy summer reading months.)

So, after several weeks of frantic reading, I’m ready to slow down. To actually read from my own shelves again (since I literally own hundreds of books I’ve never read). To be more active in pursuing the reading goals I have as part of my 101 in 1001 challenge.

Care to join me?

The Backlist Blowout challenge is fairly straightforward—

Need some backlist book recommendations? Here are some of the titles I’m considering:

Note: The titles and images below are affiliate links through Amazon, which means I may get a small commission from any purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you.

15 Backlist Titles to Pick Up Now

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Published in 1997, this was Roy’s debut novel, which went on to win the Booker Prize. It follows the saga of an Indian family with seven-year-old twins, whose lives are forever changed when their beautiful cousin Sophie arrives onto their scene. I’ve heard the prose on this is phenomenal, with a plot that moves around a lot both chronologically and physically. While only one of my Goodfriends friends has rated this (3 stars, in case you were wondering), from the reviews I’ve looked over, it seems like this is a very hit and miss book for a lot of people—either people love the complex structure and beautiful language and all that it lends to the story, or they hate it. I’ve owned this one for years, and, as a bonus, it will help me to cross off a title from my 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die list.

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

This novella was first published over a century ago in 1917 and only recently came onto my radar. I’m including it here because 1) it’s an easy win at only about 150 pages, and 2) it’s a book about books–specifically, about a strange traveling bookstore–which is wonderful fun for book nerds like myself.

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

If you’ve signed up for my email list and gotten my free mini book on 25 Titles on My Bucket List, you’ll know that this is one that I’ve had on my shelves for about 15 years. When my dad first found me this title in a used bookstore and eagerly pressed it into my hands, I dismissed it as “not for me” at the moment. However, as I’ve matured a bit, I realize that this classic is EXACTLY for me, as it’s a meditation (written while the author was on vacation with her family) on all that’s important to me in my life now—love and marriage, motherhood, the “shape of a woman’s life,” and how modern conveniences and pressures often take us away from the simple things that are the most important. I fully plan to read this one with highlighter in hand.

The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate

This won the Newbery Medal in 2013 and is the story of Ivan, a gentle and overall content gorilla who lives in captivity in an arcade. He’s happy with his life around humans and rarely thinks about his jungle home…until a baby elephant shows up and helps him to see things with new eyes. This book got many favorable reviews from my friends on Goodreads who have read it, and many have said that children would enjoy it even more (as it’s written in a more simplistic style than they as adults tend to prefer). I *might* even try and read this aloud to my 4-year-old, who’s starting to get to the point now to understand longer stories. (If you’ve read it, would this be a good pick for a preschooler?)

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

I used some birthday money years ago to purchase this nonfiction title soon after it came out in 2015, but then I never actually read it. Part of this is because the long-held dream I once had of being a published author is not burning so strong at the moment (and hasn’t for awhile), but as I do love reading memoirs and writing personal essays and sketches for the blog and for myself, I figure this is still one that’s definitely worth checking out.

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery

I loved the Anne of Green Gables series as a girl (who didn’t?), but somehow, I’ve never picked up anything else by the author. I’ve heard fabulous things about this other lesser-known series by Montgomery, and though I’m not a typical series reader, I do like the thought of knowing that there are more books that follow this character if I end up loving her as much as I loved Anne. Most of my Goodfriends friends who have read this says that it doesn’t *quite* match up to the Anne series, but that it’s still worth a read for sure. We’ll see if I agree.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

One of my 101 in 1001 goals is to read 5 books recommended by 5 different people, and this was one of the titles given to me (to check out all the others, they’re all found in this post). I purposely asked for a book that was a little out of my usual realm, and this was the one recommended—this bestselling title back from 2004 all about human cadavers and the strange journeys they’ve taken over centuries. This definitely isn’t a book I normally would gravitate toward on my own (when my husband had to complete a cadaver lab as part of his degree, I basically forbid him to talk about it with me), but I’ve heard enough positive reviews about this quirky, surprisingly humorous book that I’m definitely willing to give it a shot.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

This won the Pulitzer in 2008, but hardly anyone I follow on Goodreads has read it. This book follows the story of Oscar Wao, who has been fairly unlucky in life as he deals with being dangerously overweight, growing up in the ghetto (and being a nerd who doesn’t fit in), and with a family dynamic that’s pretty dysfunctional. He wants more than anything to find love, but he feels like he bears the curse of his family that has stalked them for generations. The premise makes Oscar sound like a likable and complex character, which is often enough to drive a novel for me, as long as it’s well done.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Here’s another one off my reading bucket list. I’ve been intending to read more Patchett for awhile now, especially as some of the bloggers I follow (like this one) list her as among their absolute favorite authors. Bel Canto is about a birthday party in South America that goes terribly awry when the whole party is taken hostage by terrorists and over the span of the novel, you get a complex look at the way relationships form and develop between all involved. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the ending of this, but all in all, it sounds like a page-turner I’ll burn through pretty quickly once I start.

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Ever since I finished Crossing to Safety in March of 2018 (which I would list among my top 5 favorite novels of all time, easily), I’ve been intending to read more of Stegner’s work. Unfortunately, I keep getting sidetracked by the new and the shiny and haven’t made the time (though I HAVE been quietly building up my Stegner library by picking up his books whenever I find them at used bookstores). I don’t know if I’ll start with this one about the narrator’s grandparents and their captivating life story of coming to settle on the American West frontier (which won a Pulitzer in 1972), or with All the Little Live Things, which was one of the recommendations given to me by a fellow reader for my 101 in 1001 goal.

The Art of Eating by M. F. K Fisher

One author that I’ve read the bulk of her work is Ruth Reichl, who used to be the editor of Gourmet magazine and a food critic for the New York Times and who has published several memoirs about her life experiences revolving around food (which are fabulous, by and large). Well, when Reichl repeatedly mentioned how much of her work was influenced by M. F. K. Fisher, I knew I needed to give her work a shot too, so I bought this huge compilation of several of her books (which is a bit of a doorstop at 750 pages). I’ve only read one of the books contained therein (Serve it Forth) and actually only gave it 3 stars at the time of reading (mostly because I found it a little slow and a little too heavy-handed on the history side), but what has been quite surprising to me is how vividly I still remember some of the scenes described in the book now, almost 3 years later. I think her other books are less heavy on the history aspect, so I think I’ll really enjoy diving back in.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I was doing a pretty good job of regularly picking up the classics I hadn’t gotten around to yet when I was doing my self-assigned reading every “term,” but since I decided to put a hold on that several months back, I haven’t touched many older works, much less “The Classics.” I somehow missed reading this one in high school, and as it’s short, I figured it’s an easy win so that I can cross the title off my 100 Most-Recommended Classics list.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

This apparently got a decent amount of buzz back in 1993 when it was published (and won the Pulitzer in 1995), but I’ve only recently heard of it. The plot seems like it’s right up my alley, as it deals with one ordinary woman’s journey through life as she steps into various roles (daughter, wife, mother, widow). As long as it’s written well, I actually tend to gravitate towards quieter plots, probably because I feel like they most reflect my own experience. None of my friends on Goodreads have read this one yet, but it seems to get decently high ratings from people who enjoy the writing style (which I’m guessing skews literary), so I’m thinking it will probably be a decent fit for me.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

I bought this on a whim over a decade ago when I saw it on sale at a Target, but I’ve still somehow never managed to read it. This book is highly rated on Goodreads (4.17 overall), and is set in Hawai’i over a century ago. The protagonist has nothing in the way of going for her dreams…until she contracts leprosy and is banished. I’m eager to finally give this one a chance because 1) I don’t think I’ve read hardly anything about Hawaiian culture thus far (and it’s especially interesting at the moment because my in-laws are currently there serving a mission), and 2) although leper colonies are something I’ve known about for basically my whole life, I don’t think I’ve ever read any kind of story centered around living in one. I think this one will be fascinating.

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage

I’m hoping to be able to find a copy through interlibrary loan of this lesser-known account (published in 1985) about one couple’s 23,000-mile bike trip around the world, where they covered ground in 25 countries in just two years. There aren’t a ton of reviews of this one out there on Goodreads, but the ones that are there are high, with an average of 4.35 stars. As I prefer to always be in the middle of a memoir/autobiography/biography if possible, this will fit in perfectly as I tackle all the other genres on this list.

Have you read any of these backlist titles? Am I in for some treats? And what backlist titles have YOU been meaning to read but haven’t?

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