The Intimidating TBR Tag

And now it’s time for the walk of shame. The beautiful and brilliant Renay has tagged me to talk about my TBR list, and I hang my head woefully and confess my TBR sins.

1. What book have you been unable to finish?

Future Crimes, by Mark Goodman. I started it a while back, and it wasn’t that I wasn’t into it, but you know how if you kept getting lice as a kid because that one girl in your class had a crunchy granola mother who I guess didn’t believe in Nix Shampoo and wouldn’t do anything about her daughter having lice so everyone in fifth grade kept getting it over and over again, you know how to this day if you talk about lice your head starts itching even though you know it’s psychosomatic and everything’s fine?

No? That’s just me? (My head itches right now y’all.)

Well, anyway, reading Future Crimes got too stressful for me. It made my brain itch. I’ll go back to it sometime! Swearsies!

2. Which book haven’t you read yet because you haven’t had the time?

All of them? Can I answer “all of them” to this question? I’m giving the very specific answer right now of The Madwoman Upstairs, which I checked out with a regular (okay, largeish) bunch of library books and then a ton of electronic holds on new books arrived at once. With a shiny new Crooked Kingdom, Three Dark Crowns, Tessa Dare romance novel, and this sports romance novel by an author called Ruby Lang I only just heard about, the library books that are currently on their last renewal are falling by the wayside. Sorry, The Madwoman Upstairs! I’ll come back to you someday!

3. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s a sequel?

Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. I got it at a book sale thinking “well I won’t like Wolf Hall for sure but maybe I’ll like this,” and then I tried reading Wolf Hall and really loved it. (Go fig.) So now I have this nice hardback of Bring Up the Bodies, and I haven’t read it yet because Anne Boleyn dies! And even though Mantel’s version of Anne Boleyn isn’t the world’s most ever sympathetic, still I do not want her to get beheaded.

Bring Up the Bodies

4. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s brand new?

All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths about Native Americans, by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. I read Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States a few years back and thought it was terrific. I’m also trying to be more aware of indigenous American history and lives generally, and I’m hoping to read more from Indian authors in the upcoming year.

5. Which book haven’t you read yet because you read a book by the same author and didn’t enjoy it?

White Teeth and On Beauty, by Zadie Smith. I quite liked her essay collection, Changing My Mind, but wasn’t wild about her latest-but-one novel, NW. I am hoping that I’ll love her latest latest, Swing Time, and then that will ease the way for me to get back to reading these two earlier novels, which have been on my list for like a decade now.

6. Which book haven’t you read yet because you’re just not in the mood for it?

Happy Families, by Tanita Davis. Let me revise that: I am in the mood for it. I will always be in the mood for it. I loved her latest book Peas and Carrots, and I am confident that Happy Families will be similarly thoughtful, emotional, and great. But I have been saving Happy Families for some kind of feelings emergency, and even though 2016 has been terrible, there hasn’t been anything so cataclysmic as to merit digging into my emergency reserve of books that feel like hugs.

7. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s humongous?

Don Quixote, okay, I admit it. I asked for it for Christmas probably over ten years ago, received it from one of my beloved aunts, and to this day I still haven’t read it. There’s a part of me that’s hoping Alice at Reading Rambo will host a readalong one time, but honestly it doesn’t seem like the kind of book she’d be excited to read along with other bloggers.

(But Jenny, couldn’t you just host the readalong? I hear you ask. Okay, yes, probably I could do that. Alice is just so much betterrrrrr at it and she’ll definitely keep dooooooooing it and I’m so laaaaaaaaaaazy and I’m just like not a leader I am really more of a facilitator slash sheep. So.)

8. Which book haven’t you read yet because because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?

Wow this is really specific. I don’t buy books based on the covers almost ever, because I want my library to be (I’m sorry to use this word but) curated. So I’ll do something closeish: I was very excited to read The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, because on paper it sounded perfect for me, all sciencey and accessible. But then I read a thing where apparently a bunch of scientists who study this stuff as their jobs do not think Mukherjee has a good handle on it at all. DILEMMAS.

9. What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?

My Uncle Napoleon, by Iraj Pezeshkzad, which is so intimidating it is now officially the oldest book on my TBR list. Not only is the book 500+ pages long, it’s also in translation, which is very intimidating to me. My track record with translated novels is not the greatest track record. Anyway, the good news is that in compiling this post, I discovered a super beautiful cover for the book that made me feel like three degrees less intimidated.

My Uncle Napoleon

10. Who do you tag?

Look, this tag made me dig deep into my TBR shame, and I don’t want to pressure anyone else to do that who doesn’t want to. Do the Intimidating TBR Tag if you wish! Maybe it’ll remind you that you should get off your butt and read My Uncle Napoleon already or else take it off your TBR list and admit it’s never going to happen.

Someone has to decide which animals go extinct

Have y’all ever thought about that before? I had not! But I was reading the 2013 Best American Science and Nature Writing, edited this year by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and an essay by Michelle Nijhuis from Scientific American blew my mind out of the back of my skull. Someone has to decide which animals go extinct! Even if that is not the exact decision that gets made, it’s effectively still true: When resources are finite (and they always are), choosing to save one species means you have chosen not to save another one.

If you aren’t in denial about this truth, then your next job, as a conservation biologist, is to decide how you’re going to decide which species to save. There are some different schools of thought on this. One says, species with unique jobs or species whose existence is crucial for the survival of many other species should be our top priority. This seems pretty obvious: If all the animals in the forest depend on whitebark pine nuts for food, we should save the whitebark pines.

These dudes

Except that we don’t really understand ecosystems all that well, and we might choose wrong. Another idea is to save weird endangeredspecies, ones with few close relatives. We can probably let go of the ashy stormy petrel, because there are lots of different kinds of stormy petrels that are almost exactly the same. But Bactrian camels and Chinese salamanders don’t come from big families, so this theory suggests that we should make those a conservation priority.

I love how camels look like they don’t give a fuck, and also how they legitimately do not give a fuck. (I didn’t include a picture of Chinese salamanders because they freak me out.)

Another idea is that we should pick ecosystems we really like, and save those in toto. It’s all very controversial, and everyone gets really upset when we start talking about letting species die (cause that is upsetting), so let’s leave that behind and move on to the other article from this collection that I wanted to talk about, which discusses a wonderfully crazy concept called rewilding.

I can’t do justice, actually, to this one. It’s too nuts. You can read the whole article here and you should because it’s interesting, but I will just share the passage I liked the best:

In an article published in the journal Nature, the group [of scholars] presented a plan for what it called “Pleistocene rewilding.” When humans arrived in North America . . . they killed off most of the continent’s large mammals, leaving key ecological roles unfilled. The Pleistocene rewilders proposed finding substitute animals that could serve in their place. For instance, African or Asian elephants could be let loose to make up for the long-lost woolly mammoth.


The authors . . . envisioned a series of small-scale experiments leading up to the creation of “one or more ‘ecological history parks’,” which would cover “vast areas of economically depressed parts of the Great Plains.” In these huge “history parks,” elephants, camels, and African cheetahs — to replace the missing American cheetah — would roam freely.

Ahahahahaha, I love this idea so much (though I’d like the people who came up with this plan to just watch Jurassic Park real quick to get a feeling for what might go wrong). Oh SCIENCE. What did we ever do to deserve you?