My Tottering TBR: A New Life for Neglected Books

We all know what it’s like to sustain a TBR that gets bigger, then periodically smaller, then smaller, maybe a bit bigger, then smaller, and so on. What about the TBR that simply seems only to grow out of all proportion? You know, like when you leave the wonderful bookstore carrying a delightfully heavy bag filled with new titles, but have yet to finish reading so many at home that you already own? This type of TBR finds itself, well, more neglected than actually maintained, even though we keep our volumes dusted and arranged in an appealing manner and smell them on a reasonably regular basis. 

What about TBRs born on various docs or even lovely tablets, hanging around the house, found at a later date, maybe even [*grimace*] yeeeeeeears later? Would you say this is neglect? What if books were indeed steadily being read and discussed, but just not these? Is it possible to borrow a book from the library more than ten times but never read it, finally purchase the book and then find, five years later, it remains unread? (Might anyone guess how I came up with that particular scenario?) 

I suppose there are all sort of possibilities for how a pile might find itself left behind, its only company the other unfortunate books celebrated at purchase and then left alone when life gets too packed full of other obligations. In the case of the following titles, which I compiled in 2015 (I know, I know), most were simply overtaken by life, though I do remember well select titles. Food at Sea, for example, came home with me a number of times before I found it at a library book sale. However, time went by and, because I have a habit of shifting furniture, as well as by necessity storing and un-storing items, including books, this one may have fallen sad victim to whatever causes very visible objects to simply disappear. I had forgotten about it until I discovered this list, and even stopped typing to go look for it.

Some titles might still be patiently waiting on my shelf, while others are ones I’ve never actually owned, but saw spoken of somewhere and really wanted to read. I no longer remember how I came to know about others, such The Sleeping Dictionary, which utterly fell off my radar until I happened once more upon this list. Re-reading the blurb*, I decided it surely must stay with me. There are a few others I’d collected as I saw them reviewed, in the library, at the bookstore and wherever else the bread crumbs might have lead me, and I share them below. I’d still really love to read these, and hope you are getting into the groove of your neglected TBR ~


Food in History by Reay Tannahill (Accidental find while browsing a used book store)

“An enthralling world history of food from prehistoric times to the present. A favorite of gastronomes and history buffs alike, Food in History is packed with intriguing information, lore, and startling insights–like what cinnamon had to do with the discovery of America, and how food has influenced population growth and urban expansion.”

Cinnamon is linked to the discovery of America? (I bet he answer is inside!)

The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey (My son brought it home for me from one of his library excursions)

“In 1930, a great ocean wave blots out a Bengali village, leaving only one survivor, a young girl. As a maidservant in a British boarding school, Pom is renamed Sarah and discovers her gift for languages. Her private dreams almost die when she arrives in Kharagpur and is recruited into a secretive, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends. But although success and even love seem within reach, she remains trapped by what she is . . . and is not. As India struggles to throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills—for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her—to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness.”

Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine from Ancient to Modern Times by Simon Spalding (Discovered in library’s new non-fiction)

Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine from Ancient to Modern Times traces the preservation, preparation, and consumption of food at sea, over a period of several thousand years, and in a variety of cultures. The book traces the development of cooking aboard in ancient and medieval times, through the development of seafaring traditions of storing and preparing food on the world’s seas and oceans.
Following a largely chronological format, Simon Spalding shows how the raw materials, cooking and eating equipments, and methods of preparation of seafarers have both reflected the shoreside practices of their cultures, and differed from them. The economies of whole countries have developed around foods that could survive long trips by sea, and new technologies have evolved to expand the available food choices at sea.

Changes in ship construction and propulsion have compelled changes in food at sea, and Spalding’s book explores these changes in cargo ships, passenger ships, warships, and other types over the centuries in fascinating depth of detail. Selected passages from songs and poems, quotes from seafarers famous and obscure, and new insights into culinary history all add spice to the tale.”

Galileo’s Telescope by Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota and Franco Guidice and translated by Catherine Bolton (Scored when prowling library new non-fiction)

“Between 1608 and 1610 the canopy of the night sky was ripped open by an object created almost by accident: a cylinder with lenses at both ends. Galileo’s Telescope tells how this ingenious device evolved into a precision instrument that would transcend the limits of human vision and transform humanity’s view of its place in the cosmos.”

Introducing Infinity: A Graphic Guide by Brian Clegg & Oliver Pugh (Happened upon in the library’s physics stacks)

“A brand new graphic guide from Brian Clegg, author of the best-selling Inflight Science, Introducing Infinity will teach you all you need to know about this big idea, from mathematicians driven mad by transfinite numbers to the ancient Greeks who drowned the man that discovered an endless number.”

*All blurbs from Amazon unless otherwise indicated

My Tottering TBA: The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin – Rediscovering Discoveries

The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin

 An original history of man’s greatest adventure: his search to discover the world around him.  In the compendious history, Boorstin not only traces man’s insatiable need to know, but also the obstacles to discovery and the illusion that knowledge can also put in our way. Covering time, the earth and the seas, nature and society, he gathers and analyzes stories of the man’s profound quest to understand his world and the cosmos.

As readers saw in a previous post focusing on the new year’s reading challenge, I’ve got a list of 21 – to match the year – and one is actually a re-read: Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself. I first read it as a teenager stuck on an international flight, having been previously drawn to the work by what might be one of the greatest covers ever, showing The Flammarion Engraving.

One of my favorite sections—if not the favorite—was that which discussed how long-ago people perceived time and the methods they used to divide it up, the work covering calendars and their evolution as well as timepieces eventually taking shape as the watches we know today. But all those stories in between, of lives within which lived obsessions, disappointment and jealously-guarded secrets—these and the people who lived all of it were such a source of fascination for me I simply couldn’t put it down and have gone back to it time and again.

Still, there is a lot I’ve forgotten, which I have learned from many others reads is often because I wasn’t quite ready for all the information at the time I first took it in. Subsequently, I hear about a particular topic, not always recalling that I’d read about it in this or that book. Then, if I am lucky enough to be able to re-read a book I loved the first time, I might happen upon that idea again, marveling at how knowledge of it had been resting in my brain, waiting for that further expansion to breathe more life into it. This doesn’t mean the long-ago read was written poorly, just that sometimes information has to be shaped like clay to take more a substantive form in my mind, to be retained and utilized.

In the case of The Discoverers, it is what my teen son might call a big boy book—the descriptor itself a big boy one, used by teenagers these days to refer to something of noticeably larger or generous size—filled to the brim with an amazing body of knowledge that I am tremendously excited to be able to read again, looking forward to the moments when I hit upon things I might call now-new—not necessarily new, but fitting into that category of information described above, buried in the recesses of my mind and that I hadn’t really exercized understanding of.

I have only vague memories of the other sections—grave-robbing medieval medical students; adventurers charting the seas and the stars; so much spanning the geography of time, beckoning us to remember and to place ourselves somewhere within these maps and how we fit in and the links to all in our past that make our places work.

For Your Information

The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin 

Published: January 1, 1983 by Random House | ISBN 0-394-40229-4*

Format: Hardcover | Pages: 684*

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*my copy

Top: World’s oldest Sundial, from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings (c. 1500 BC), PD-Art, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Bottom: The Flammarion Engraving – A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion wood engraving. PD-Art, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
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