To-Be-Read lists can be so dangerous. On the one hand, they are super useful with helping the unsuspecting bibliophile in keeping track of titles that sound really fascinating in the moment. They masquerade as a useful tool to help the avid reader in maintaining resources of stuff if we actually find ourselves without anything to read (granted Hell would probably freeze over by then). On the other hand, they can become stressful little buggers if they don’t decrease but rather mutate like an unwanted weed, the numbers just growing completely out of control. In that sense, TBRs are just another shelf—literally and metaphorically—where books go to catch dust while they are ultimately forgotten about.
As I lay in bed one night during an impressive bout of insomnia, I began to ponder the state of my own massively large list of unread treats. My mind wandered off to the time that I had created a GoodReads account in 2013, to an era when my first To-Be-Read list was formed into existence. In fact, I had never even considered keeping a tally of interesting sounding novels until my association with GR! This then led me down a rabbit hole of discovery as I tried to figure out which books have been on my backstock the longest, and by that I mean even before GR was a thing for me.
I ended up with a list of seven books that have just been chilling, catching the fluffy allergy-inducing mites for the last almost twenty years! A couple of them weren’t surprising because they are somewhat intimidating to me, either out of hype or literary significance, however, the rest were total shockers.
Check ‘em out below! They are in order of newest to the most ancient of occupants.
Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki: In 2013, I took a Modern Japanese Culture and Literature class at my local Uni and Natsume Sōseki was one of the authors that we had read. His book Kusamakura (The Three-Cornered World) had made me fall completely in love with him as an author. When I asked my professor for recommendations on his other works, Kokoro was brought up as being one of Sōseki’s most renown novels. So, I typed up a note of it in my then Windows phone and then completely forgot about it after the semester was over. Two years later in 2015, after I moved into a new home, I even bought a copy of the damn thing, but I have yet to check it out.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: This sci-fi space opera was a brand-new fucking release back in 2011 when I found it sitting on the shelf of a local bookstore. I had never seen such a humongous fucking book before (physically, I mean, especially for a paperback) and I was stunned by the sheer size of it. The cover also looked so fucking badass. I took a picture of it with my camera phone and promised myself that I would buy it the next time I had a spare twenty bucks (I was pretty broke back then). Yet, by the time I was able to afford it, there were two or three sequels that had joined its ranks, and it felt daunting to have to start such a large series. Then before I knew what was happening, a TV adaptation was in the works and the hype had made me hold off further.
The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan: This #OwnVoices Chinese book was slapped onto the list in 2009 or 2010, shortly after I had read The Joy Luck Club for the very first time. I remember enjoying Ms Tan’s writing so much. Plus, her stories about Asian-American families and their multi-cultural struggles was supremely relatable. So, when I went looking for more of her stuff, The Kitchen God’s Wife was one of the first books that I came across. While I’ve owned a copy since 2010, it hasn’t made it off the shelf quite yet.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein: I don’t actually own a copy of this science-fiction classic, at least not yet. But in 2006, I took a sci-fi class for my English Lit. degree and the author had talked about this novel so much during his initial lectures. He had a love/hate relationship with it but recommend that all fans of the genre make a point of reading it one day. Naturally, I scribbled down the name and author in my notepad for future reference and haven’t quite found my way back to it. Honestly, this is a book that intimidates me due to how much it is revered amongst sci-fi junkies everywhere. While the premise totally sounds like something I’d fucking love, that much adoration is a bit scary.
1984 by George Orwell: Another intimidating sci-fi classic that has been collecting dust in the reaches of “one day.” I saw a super fancy edition of this book at Barnes and Noble when I was a teenager around 2004, which was my first time ever seeing or hearing about it. My mum gave me some cash to treat myself with since I had gotten a perfect GPA on my report card. In the end, I didn’t buy this (didn’t want to blow all of my moolah on one book), so I memorised the name and author and promised myself to find a cheaper copy. While I found many different editions of 1984, I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: On the same day that I came across 1984, I also came across a fancy ass edition of Hitchhiker’s. Once more, I knew nothing about it. It sounded hilarious and absolutely fantastic but was expensive as all Hell. When I ran an internet search of this book later that evening, I learned that Douglas Adams was a really famous dude and his Hitchhiker’s series was incredibly beloved. I was fairly new to sci-fi at the time, and I became overwhelmed by its powerful presence within the genre’s community. Then after that, like usual, I forgot it existed for the most part. Oops.
Stardoc by S.L. Viehl: This sci-fi gem released in 2000, while I was in junior high school (7th or 8th grade) and I loved the cover! It looked so damn cheesy yet full of adventure and possibly even some spoopy space creatures. But being a pre-teen with a limited allowance, there were better things for me to spend my money on, like candy and video games. I had put this book on my birthday wishlist for a couple of years. However, my mum was one of those who wouldn’t let me read things outside of my assigned grade level for fear of them being inappropriate (which I didn’t mind, it showed she cared). Since this was an adult sci-fi book, I never got it as a gift and overtime my ADHD brain forgot it existed. BUT! In January of this year, before quarantine bitch-smacked everyone, I managed to acquire the whole damn series for about twenty dollars. So, I can finally read through the oldest book (series) from my TBR stack! Fuck yeah.