Royalty and aristocracy books TBR in April 2022

This month’s reading theme is royalty and aristocracy. I was surprised to have so many that fit, but it’s already the 12th of the month and I haven’t even started yet.​ An interesting range of books, from historical to fantasy to non-fiction, with settings from medieval Europe to immigrants in contemporary America and cross-cultural relationships in Africa. Priorities will have to be set.

Left: right royal books

Arthur, High King of Britain (1994), Michael Morpurgo. I’ve read several of Morpurgo’s books and they’re usually very enjoyable. On my shelf since I don’t know when.

Transcendent Kingdom (2020), Yaa Gyasi. I have to read this before my book club on 18 May, so this is one book on the pile that will definitely be read. It’s about a Ghanaian family in Alabama and the opioid crisis. I loved Gyasi’s Homecoming, so I’m looking forward to this. Entered the house the day before yesterday!

A Distant Mirror (1978), Barbara Tuchman. One of my medieval history professors repeatedly recommended we read this. I never did, but I still feel the guilt and never forgot the name of the book. On my shelf since 2008 and still not read! Could this be the month?

The Sunne in Splendour (1982), Sharon Kay Penman. Even though I was enjoying this history of Richard III, the Wars of the Roses, I put it to one side halfway through, when the author made the bad tactical move of starting Book Two, telling the story from Anne’s point of view. I will have to reread my notes and peer at the excellent family tree at the start of tbe book, as I cannot for the life of me remember who Anne is. I am determined to finish it this year. TBR since June 2009.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930), E.M. Delafield. I may reserve this for a later date, perhaps for 20 books of summer? I suspect I’ll adore it and assume it would be a perfect summer read. TBR since 2014.

I Capture the Castle (1948), Dodie Smith. Another half-read book a-languishing. As I want to keep it, I may delay again. TBR since 2017.

Anna & the King of Siam (1943), Margaret Langdon. This is the book the wonderful musical The King and I was based on. It’s a keeper, so I may not get to it until I’m desperate to read a book about an Asian country, in this case Thailand, or Siam as it once was. Permanent collection. No rush.

Koning van Katoren (How to Become King) (1971), Jan Terlouw. A Dutch preteen’s classic I have never read, about a 17 year-old boy who volunteers to become king when there is no heir to the throne. But in the best fairytale tradition, he must first carry out seven difficult tasks. TBR since 2014.

Middle: pretenders to the throne

Le petit prince (The Little Prince) (1943), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Non, je ne l’ai jamais lu. I intended to read this years ago when I started reading books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List, but I lost it when it fell down the back of a shelf. Je l’ai redécouvert, so I should read it before il est disparu again. Sadly, I’m not sure if my French is up to it.

The Castle on the Hill (1941), Elizabeth Goudge. Set at the beginning of WWII, a book about fear, bravery and hope. It seems likely I will see parallels with the situation in Ukraine, so I will try to get to this. Inherited from my mother and TBR since February 2022.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (1953), Roger Lancelyn Green. TBR since August 2014. It would be interesting to compare this with the Morpurgo book.

Het woud der verwachting (In a Dark Wood Wandering) (1949), Helle S. Haasse. The Hundred Years’ War, Charles of Orleans, Henry V, Joan of Arc. Recommended to me by many Dutch historical novel fans. I doubt I’ll read it this month.

Het fort van Sjako [Jacko’s castle], Karel Eykman, Peter Vos. A short children’s historical novel set in Amsterdam. TBR since 2014.

Vegas Knights (2011), Matt Forbeck. Urban fantasy. Two trainee wizards try to scam Las Vegas, only to discover the whole place is run by magic. TBR since 2015.

Koning van de baracca’s (2014), Femke van Zeijl. An intercultural relationship between a man from Mozambique and a Portuguese woman. TBR since 2016.

The Shadow King (2019), Maaza Mengiste. Women at war in Ethiopia in 1935. Booker nominee. TBR since November 2020.

Maanpaleis (Moon Palace) (1989), Paul Auster. Dropping out and a road trip from Manhattan to Utah. On the 1001 list. I’d like to read it this month, but time is ticking. TBR since March 2018.

Het luizenpaleis (The Flea Palace) (2002), Elif Shafak. I’ve been wanting to read a ‘proper’ book by this Turkish-British author for ages. I will try to squeeze this in, even though it won’t help reduce the physical TBR as it’s a library book. It tells the stories of the people living in a rundown former palace in Istanbul. On second thoughts, I’ll reserve this for June’s theme: insects and bugs!

Right: lesser nobility

Lord Foul’s Bane (1977), Stephen Donaldson. Fantasy. My husband has half a shelf full of this series. I keep meaning to read one, but doubt I’ll have time this month.

De vrouw met de zes slapers [The (1953), Antoon Coolen. Set somewhere in a sleepy village in the east of the Netherlands. The local castle is deserted until the lady of the house returns to sleep alone, but always with one of six villagers in the corridor outside. Nostalgic with some interesting insights into times gone by. I almost finished this in January 2020. Time to read the rest.

Under the Net (1954), Iris Murdoch. An imposter, hanging on from last month’s 1954 Club. Maybe during 20 Books of Summer. TBR since May 2018.

Jamaica Inn (1936), Daphne du Maurier (not pictured). An atmospheric tale set in Cornwall. Reading now for Heaven Ali’s #DDMReadingWeek. What a writer!

Rabbit-proof Fence (1996), Doris Pilkington = Nugi Garimara. The heart rending tale of indigenous sisters walking across Australia to find their way home, escaping from an internment camp for mixed race children. I may pair this with The White Girl by Tony Birch, an Australian indigenous author. My book club will be reading that in June. TBR since July 2019.

Things I Want My Daughters to Know (2007), Elizabeth Noble. This is really only here for the photo shoot. I only got it recently, so it will have to wait its turn, but I loved her novel The Reading Group so have high expectations. TBR since October 2021.

Jews Don’t Count (2021), David Baddiel. I read an excellent article in the Guardian by Baddiel, pointing out that Jews are often not mentioned when it comes to discussions of discrimination. I will read this sooner rather than later. TBR since 2022.

Looking for Alaska (2005), John Green. Just here for the photo. Maybe later this year, for the ‘colour’ theme. TBR since 2017.

Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), Daniel Kahneman. My husband always buys interesting books at the airport. He probably gives them little more than an executive skim. If only I could read faster! This one’s about cognitive dissonance and taking decisions impulsively or in a more considered way. It does sound fascinating.

Alles is eventueel (Everything‘s Eventual) (2002), Stephen King. Fourteen creepy short stories and an introduction. If I read one a day from now until the end of the month, I can finally clear this space-hogger off my shelf. It’s been TBR since April 2017.

Realistic plans

It would be lovely to read all these books, all this month, but that is unrealistic, especially since I have had two extremely long translations to do. Realistically I hope to read:

  • Jamaica Inn for Daphne du Maurier reading week, deadline 15 May
  • Transcendent Kingdom for book club, deadline 18 May.
  • De vrouw met de zes slapers, 90% done
  • The Shadow King because it’s new and counts towards reading the world
  • Koning van de baracca’s because if I don’t read it this month, it won’t fit into any other theme
  • Jews Don’t Count because it’s short, important and I expect one of my sons to want to read it
  • Alles is eventueel because I can read a story a day but it all adds up to help clear my shelves
  • The Sunne in Splendour because it’s a guilt-inducing half-read book that also takes up too much space. Perhaps this one will stretch into June

Every month, I pull out a selection of books that fit a certain theme, but choosing which books to read is still difficult. I suppose it’s my own fault for having so much choice, but I am unrepentant. How do you decide what to read next? Do you take part in challenges that help narrow down your choices?

September selections and ongoing reading challenges

Now that my reading for 20 Books of Summer is officially over, I can start thinking about new reading plans. Of course, I do still have three of my summer books to finish, but that doesn’t stop me lining up more books to read and getting back to ongoing challenges. Not to mention the books I couldn’t leave at the library and the ones I liberated from the secondhand bookshop last week, but I’ll tell you about those in another blogpost.

Ongoing challenges: pet theme, countries, A-Z, 1001 books

Every year I take part in several challenges on the BookCrossing forum, one of which is called The Ultimate Challenge and involves reading books with a (loosely interpreted) theme every month. This September it’s ‘pets and farm animals’, so I have collected together everything that fits the bill, as you can see in the photo below. Upcoming themes are ‘numbers and maths’ (October), ‘school’ (November) and ‘crime’ (December).

The books I’m most likely to read this month are:

  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2006) by Muriel Barbery because that will fit the 1001 challenge. The Master and Margarita (1967) by Mikhail Bulgakov would too, but I very much doubt I’ll have time for both. On the other hand, Bulgakov was Russian, so I can count that for Asia…
  • The Man Who Spoke Snakish (2007) by Andrus Kivirähk comes from Estonia, not a country whose books I often come across, so it would be ideal for my country challenge. If only I hadn’t already read more than six books for Europe this year! Mind you, I am proposing reading a book set in France, so I’m not entirely sure about my rationale, here.
  • Het lied van de duizend stieren [The Legend of the Thousand Bulls] (1971) by Yasar Kemal is a strong candidate as it is set in the south-east of Turkey, close to the Syrian border, with Turkmen nomads coming into conflict with the settled world. I suspect I won’t get to it, but I have a cunning plan: it will fit perfectly for the November Ultimate Challenge theme, numbers and maths! Het verschil [The difference] (2000) by Monika van Paemel will also be postponed until then.

Challenges galore

Other year-long challenges on the forum include a confusing array of A-Z challenges (titles, authors, 1001 books), my ongoing Reading the World challenge (6 books from 6 countries from each of the 6 continents – the devilishly difficult 666 challenge) and an attempt to read 12 books this year from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

It’s the taking part that counts

I attempt most of these challenges every year and regularly fail, especially the country challenge. The A-Z challenges are new this year and in January it seemed easy. Now I’m not so sure. At least I don’t have any specific blogging challenges in September, but it’s already halfway through September and my reading progress on pet-themed books is abysmal, so I keep going round in circles. What to prioritise: pets, countries, A-Z? Maybe I should just read some books. Any books! Starting with the half-finished ones from 20 Books of Summer, perhaps. Not to mention other partially-read books that I hope to fit in somewhere before the end of the year. So many books, so little time. And I haven’t even thought about challenges like Novellas in November and the 1976 Club.

One thing’s for sure: I will change my mind many times before the end of the year. Do you have as much difficulty deciding what to read as I do?