10 Overlooked Books in my TBR Pile

Everytime I go shopping for books to read in my TBR stack, I seem to overlook the titles listed below.  Some have been on my shelves for more than 10 years. I think all of them are good books and worth the time.  But invariably I pick them up, give each the once over and promptly return them to the stack.  Here is hoping that writing about them propels me to actually read at least one of these ten books.

Update: And I’m now slowly working my way through the list.

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Counselor Ayres’ Memorial (1908) by the Brazilian author Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis and translated by Helen Caldwell – From the back cover: “A retired Brazilian diplomat recounts the love affair of a young widow who would rather be faithful to her dead Romeo”.  Machado de Assis is considered the greatest writer of Brazilian literature.  My review is here.

Belarmino and Apolonio (1921)  by the Spaniard Ramón Pérez de Ayala and translated by Baumgarten and Berns – The story of shoemaker-philosopher Belarmino and shoemaker-playwright Apolonio who are bitter rivals.  Both are put out of work by the advent of mass production of shoes. Considered de Ayala’s greatest work.

The Dwarf (1944)  by Nobel laureate Par Lagerkvist, and translated from the Swedish by Alexandra Dick,  is considered his most important work.  From the book:  ” The novel, set in a time when Italian towns feuded over the outcome of the last feud, centers on a social outcast, the court dwarf Piccoline”.  My reivew is here.

Paradiso (1968) by the Cuban poet José Lezama Lima and translated by Gregory Rabassa.    Jose Cemi, the hero of the book, begins life at the turn of the century in Cuba. As an adolescent, Cemi discovers his soulmates, the intellectuals Fronesis and Focion, and it is the triangle of their relationship which provides the impetus for much of the novel”.

The Engineer of Human Souls (1977)  by Josef Skvorecky and translated by Paul Wilson is described as a “labyrinthine comic novel that investigates the journey and plight of novelist Danny Smiricky, a Czech immigrant to Canada.   I love Czech literature but I have not read anything by Skvorecky yet.

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City Sister Silver (1994)  by Jachym Topol and translated by Alex Zucker.  From book: ” this epic novel powerfully captures the sense of dislocation that followed the Czechs’ newfound freedom in 1989. More than just the story of its young protagonist—who is part businessman, part gang member, part drifter—it is a novel that includes terrifying dream scenes, comic scenes about the literary world, and an oddly tender story of the love between the protagonist and his spiritual sister”.

Buddha’s Little Finger (1996) by Victor Pelevin and translated by Andrew Bromfield.  The novel follows 26 year old Pyotr Voyd’s hallucinations and imagined flashbacks from the Russian civil war.

Listening Now (1998) by Anjana Appachana –   A first novel that ” tells the story of Mallika, a child who recounts the tragic tale of her mother Padma as she believes it to be. We then hear the same history related by Padma’s sister, mother, and friends, and ultimately by Padma herself. Each retelling casts a fresh view until the full story of Padma’s love is revealed.”.

The Biographer’s Tale (2000) by A.S. Byatt – The story of a postgraduate student, Phineas G. Nanson, who decides to write a biography about an obscure biographer, Scholes Destry-Scholes.  Byatt is one of my favorite writers.

Breaking the Tongue (2004) by Vyvyane Loh – A first novel that chronicles a young man’s coming of age during the fall of Singapore in World War II, a story of of a country undergoing enormous upheaval. Shortlisted for the IMPAC Prize.

Have you read any of these books?  Which one sounds the most interesting? Any overlooked books in your stack?

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17 comments

  1. No I haven’t – and I haven’t even heard of most of them (except of course Byatt). Perhaps that’s why these are still on your TBR? They are not really “out there”! As for my stack, don’t even ask!

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  2. Byatt is a favourite of mine too – it’s hard to go wrong with her. My boyfriend is a big fan of Machado de Assis, which is one of many reasons why I’ve been meaning to read him. And I quite like the sound of Buddha’s Little Finger, but I’m wary because I had a terrible experience with Pelevin’s The Helmet of Horror :\

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  3. Every single one of those books looks great. And I’m looking forward to the time when you decide to pick them up and review them.

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  4. The Dwarf sounds the most interesting to me, mostly because it reminds me of this film I had to watch in German class in college that was super-interesting. (Sorry, I can’t remember the name of it).

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  5. I ll happly read engineer with you kinna ,like you I feel guilty of books thatr seem to fall down tbr pile some new names to me ,all the best stu

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  6. Great list of books! I hadn’t heard of any of them before, but they all sound great. I have two of Byatt’s books on my own tbr so perhaps I should get to them soonish. Listening Now sounds especially good, I think.

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    • That’s the thing – they all sound great and I really don’t why I consistently dismiss them in favor of other reads. I’m encouraged and will remedy the situation.

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  7. This is about the fourth time I’ve looked up Machado de Assis in my library’s catalogue and been incredibly cranky to discover he isn’t there! I might just have to ILL him soon. 🙂

    The only one on your list I’ve read is The Biographer’s Tale (since I super duper love Byatt). It was definitely enjoyable, although not my favourite of hers!

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    • Eva, it’s great to hear from you 🙂 . I’ve read other works by de Assis. I loved Epitaph of a Small Winner and can’t recommend it enough. Byatt is also one of my favorite authors. I guess I’ve stayed away from The Biographer’s Tale as it is not regarded as one of her stronger novels.

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