Reading Refresh: starting over with the TBR pile (sort of….)

It’s no secret that I love reading. I also love to read and chat with others about reading.  So it comes to pass on occasion that my enthusiasm and passion for reading (coupled with all the great recommendations from all the lovely book bloggers I follow) outstrips the rate at which I can actually finish a book. The frequency with which books get added to the To be Read pile gets faster and faster.  Library deadlines approach with seemingly ever quicker velocity.  It’s all a bit like a bookish version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I get in my own way and end up reading nothing because it all seems too much.

That is when I know I need to take a breath, step back, and start again. After all, the brilliant thing about library books (or one of many brilliant things) is that they can be re-ordered at some point.

Nevertheless, it always feels like a tiny form of defeat to return an un-read library book. Sure, if it is a book I have tried to read and just not got on with, that’s fine.  I probably bring home more of these books than ones I actually finish.  No, it’s those volumes where I run out of time which tug at the heart-strings.  I know in my bones that they need to go back so that someone else who does have time can enjoy them.  More importantly, much as I may wish to read them, while they remain unread on my shelf, they act as ballast upon my bookish wellbeing, somehow exerting vicarious pressure: ‘if you can’t read me, I’m not going to let you feel able to read anything else…..’.  It’s very strange and not a little annoying.

Anyway, there’s an easy fix, even if I have to build myself up to it.  The ‘sticking plaster’ approach eventually becomes necessary, where I take back in one sweep all the library books I have outstanding and am unlikely to have time for.  Initially painful, this is ultimately a welcome source of relief and liberation!

I recently found myself in the position of needing to rip off that plaster. This was my looming library pile – all books which I seriously want to read at some point. But it was all too clear that this was not going to happen just now.

Step one: identify priorities.  I love the idea of participating virtually in Ann’s Reading Summer School, so the Brodrick and the Airth were definite keepers.  And I had already started The Narrow Lane, so wanted to keep that one too.

Back to the library went all the others – for now.    Aaaannnddd relax. Phew.

But lest any of you bibliophiles be feeling slightly queasy at the thought of such a small To Be Read pile, here’s a shot of at least one of my owned book towers…


….here’s a screenshot of my current e-library loans….

…and I note from my Amazon account that I have 690 books on my Kindle if things get really desperate.

And that doesn’t even take into account any book festival book-buying I might, ahem, have already done, and may well do more of….


It’s wonderful to feel a sense of tranquillity and wellbeing settling back over my reading world. I’m happily working my way through the first Father Anselm novel, The Sixth Lamentation to lead in to the official summer school reading list. I have also nearly finished The Narrow Lane (which is excellent, by the way – I’ll write more about this in a future post).  So on with the reading! And may it be a long time before the next book-plaster needs to be ripped. 😀📚


*Featured image ©Disney Corporation

My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 1

Edinburgh styles itself ‘the festival city’. We have all kinds of festivals, about all kinds of subjects, all year round. But it is in the summer where the party really gets started.  Over the course of a few weeks, we have the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  It is an incredible period of vibrant creativity, excellence and fun.

My Mum and I kicked things off this year with art-immersion over a couple of days.  We saw the City Art Centre’s stunning exhibition of Victoria Crowe’s work.  I wrote about my love of this artist here and here. It was wonderful to see some familiar paintings again, and plenty of new-to-me ones too.  Here is a screen-shot montage of some of the photos I took as we went around.  I love this collage display of colour and texture, which is the epitome of Crowe’s style:


Talking of collage, we also went to see Cut and Paste at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. Among my favourite works were this pair of c1830 pictures by George Smart, depicting a goose woman and a postman.


And we managed to fit in a whizz round the National Gallery of Scotland’s Bridget Riley exhibition.  It is always fascinating to see her ground-breaking geometric work, but I particularly enjoyed the room of sketches and preparatory pieces which, in true maths good practice tradition, showed her workings:


Next came a few comedy shows with Hub and our nephew, Mitchel.  Perhaps the most compelling was the stand-up routine by New Zealander Liam Malone, who is a gold medal winning paralympian.  Mitch has his own paralympic ambitions, so Liam’s show was hugely motivating and inspiring for him (as well as being very funny).  He was also very kind and generous with his time, talking to Mitch before the show, giving him a shout-out during the routine, and posing for a photo afterwards.  Thank you Liam!

Mitch (L) and Liam (R)


Finally, I kicked off my book festival programme with a couple of memorable events.  Tim Winton spoke about his new book, The Shepherd’s Hut. I could have listened to him for ever.  He reflected powerfully on the importance of landscape in his work; the creative process (or lack of process in his case); and how he sees optimism and hope as disciplines and obligations which have the capacity to break and re-make things.

“Surfing and writing both involve a lot of waiting. A surfer is waiting for a swell, the residue of an event that happened in the past. When you get one, you ride their energy to the shore. That’s what I do as a writer. Stories and ideas are just ripples from old events.” ~Tim Winton


After a couple of hours relaxing in the festival’s garden, seated under this lovely old tree…..

…I saw Damian Barr and Kit de Whaal talk about the recently published Common People: an anthology of working class writers. I am a huge fan of both authors and this was a wonderfully entertaining session, with an important point about the need for us all to make space for perspectives and experiences which are different from our own.

Of course, a festival would not be a proper festival without the addition of a bit of weather.  This is Hub and Mitch in the queue waiting to see Irish comedian Jason Byrne:

Never let it be said that we allow a bit of rain to dampen our festival enjoyment! 🙂