7 books I’ve been meaning to read.

coffee and books

Category #3 for the 2016 MMD Reading Challenge is “a book you’ve been meaning to read.”

I know I’m not the only reader who has a list of books I fully intend to read one day but just haven’t gotten around to. Honestly, these “meaning to read” titles make me feel a little guilty, and that’s no fun.

That’s why this category has served me well the past few years. At the beginning of the year, I’ve made a list of six or seven titles I’ve been meaning to read—and then resolved to finish them before the year was out.

That little list took books that had been languishing on my TBR list for too long and gave me a reason to read them now.

Readers, this is your chance to move a book that’s been nagging at you off the TBR list. Pick something great, and get to reading. If you’re anything like me, your only regret will be that you waited so long to get started.

Books I've been meaning to read 2016
The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

I can't believe I haven't read this yet. From the publisher: "Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships."

More info →
Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun

I've been meaning to read this since I read—and loved—Adichie's more recent novel Americanah last year. I finally finished it earlier this month. This novel tells the story of the Biafran War of the 1960s—an event largely forgotten outside Nigeria—through the eyes of four diverse characters. I had a hard time putting Americanah down, and while this one wasn't as gripping, it was well done and compelling. More info →
Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance

I enjoyed the author's first book Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris and have been looking forward to this third installment in the Madame Chic series. Polish Your Poise hit bookshelves last October, and has been sitting on my nightstand ever since, unopened. I intend to change that, and soon (although I am wondering how much new ground will actually be covered in this new book). More info →
The Shape of Mercy

The Shape of Mercy

A friend with great taste pushed this paperback into my hands and told me to read it as soon as possible, which is my favorite way to discover a great book. Publishers Weekly calls this novel "potentially life-changing," saying it's "the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges." That's hard to resist. More info →
Joy in the Morning

Joy in the Morning

I adored A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I finally read it for last year's Reading Challenge, and was delighted to discover Betty Smith had written other books worth reading. But have I read this one yet? No, and that's a shame because the publisher's description sounds right up my alley: "an unsentimental yet radiant and powerfully uplifting tale of young hearts and marriage." More info →
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Friends have been recommending this beloved series to me for years, but until this week the only book I'd read by Alexander McCall Smith is Emma: A Modern Retelling. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel: the tone of this novel wasn't quite like anything I'd ever read, and it was easy to read, in the best sense. I'm looking forward to getting to know these characters better in the series' subsequent installments. More info →
Watership Down

Watership Down

People are shocked when I tell them I haven't read this modern British classic, and I can't tell you how many times I've checked it out of the library only to return it weeks later, unread (again). (It doesn't help that the hardcover my library carries is massive.) But serious readers speak so fondly about it, and it shows up on so many book lovers' favorite-books-of-all-time lists, that I want to see what I'm missing out on. More info →

What are YOU reading for this category? 


Leave A Comment
  1. Theresa says:

    I read Cutting for Stone. I have had it on my TBR list for 4 years and have owned it for a long time. I loved it.

  2. Katie says:

    I’m on book 4 of The #1 Ladies Detective Agency and I pick up this series regularly between books for their lighthearted stories and fun characters. I hope you like them too!

  3. Dinah says:

    I recently listened to the audio of “The Scarlet Letter” and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Is listening to audio books cheating when on a reading fast?!

    • Audio books are never cheating. Listening in the car, on errands, or while gardening, cooking or housecleaning are sometimes the only way to keep up with your TBR list. My fav of all times is “Terms of Endearment.” Even if you saw the movie, listen to this one and you will love Larry McMurtry’s writing (all the while seeing Shirley MacLaine in the role of Aurora. I have a post about “Listening to Literature on my book review blog!
      Beth, http://www.BESTBOOKSBYBETH.com

  4. Girl in Boston says:

    I finally read Watership Down for the first time last year – the audio book is good if that makes it easier! I also love Alexander McCall Smith. I liked his series better than Emma. I think it was HBO that did a series based on the books and it was done well.

  5. Sara K says:

    Watership Down has been on my list for several years as well. I did start reading it last year, but I never finished it. Maybe this will be the year!

    Among other books I’ve been meaning to read are Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and Mary Stewart’s King Arthur series

  6. Jessica says:

    Joy in the Morning is one of my all-time favorite books. I’d go as far as to say it’s life-shaping. I also like Alexander McCall Smith. He’s airplane/beaching reading – and I mean that in the best sort of way.

    I’ve tried Watership Down 2x (1x I think because you had it on a list) and I just can’t seem to get the engine started on that one. I keep wondering what is everyone else seeing that I don’t!

    Looking forward to the Shape of Mercy.

    • Maggie says:

      I have read several times, and love, this book. (There is an old movie of it too which was what made me want to reread the book, although towards the end the movie lost some of its magic.) The story of the rabbits is an allegory which you will recognise if you do persevere and read the book. I love the characters in this too. It is a wonderful story, I am sad so many find it hard to read.
      His book Plague Dogs is very stirring and it made me cry but was a very powerful story.

  7. Sandra mosolgo says:

    Alexander McCall Smith has an amazing insight into the female psyche. Americanah is on my to read list so it will be next.

  8. Debra says:

    Watership Down left such an emotional scar on me I’ll never forget it. The Scotland Street series by Smith is a treasure, too!
    It was great to see this list today and I agree with Pattie–thrilled that Susan Meissner is on my blog this week (Inkwell Inspirations). An incredible author!

    • Bernadette says:

      I was going to say just this! ^I actually don’t care for the No. 1 Detective series, but I love both his Scotland Street and Corduroy Mansions series.

      • A. S. says:

        I was not thrilled with the No. 1 Detective series, nor the Scotland Street Series (perhaps for no other reason than that I cannot appreciate them yet), but the Isabel Dalhousie series is one of my all-time favorites – if Jane Austen expressed a slightly darker side, was a mystery novelist, and a moral philosopher, out would pop The Sunday Philosophy Club.

  9. Watership Down! One of my husband’s favorites. I didn’t read it until exam week in college (any other readers out there who had Exam Week Novels? A new to you book you saved for the evenings as a reward for all that studying?). My husband chose it as a family read aloud when our guys were really young (Kindergarten and second or first and third). I wasn’t sure how they’d take it being so small, but what was beautiful was they loved it because Dad loved it. I would even hear talk of Hazel and BigWig and Fiver as they played.

    My younger guy, now in seventh grade, just finished reading it himself.

  10. I just finished Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – I can’t believe I haven’t found her before now!!! Watership Down is one of my favorite books ever – I even went to the point of searching out a beautiful first edition for my bookshelves! His Plague Dogs is wrenching but unforgettable for animal lovers. I’ve put down Tree Grows in Brooklyn several times – it will be my book that I abandoned. Not because I didn’t like it; I think life intruded and I lost momentum. I’ve now put several of yours on my growing TBR list – ugh!!!

  11. Lexi says:

    I’d like to suggest that you enjoy Watership Down on Audible. We listened to it a couple years ago on a road trip as a family. We all loved it, even my then 15 and 13 years old sons were reminding us to “start the book” when we got back into the car. The narrator was excellent.

    • Debra says:

      That would probably be an amazing audiobook. Audible might just be the saving grace for literature (and yet still be a profitable business). So many more books are going to audio now. Regretfully there is occasionally a narrator who ‘puts me off’ a book which might otherwise be a great read.

      • Laura says:

        I tried listening to a few Jojo Moyes books on audio and left with the conclusion that I didn’t like her writing, but now I’m thinking maybe it was the narrator who was off putting. It’s weird how that can truly affect how a book feels.

        • Debra says:

          oh yes! I absolutely agree. But on the other hand, a great narrator might make a book sound more interesting that it is on paper (Which feels like a sort of cheeting 🙂 )

  12. Corby says:

    Oh the languishing of books on my ear growing TBR. Well just yesterday I scrolled to the bottom of my list and decided that’s where I’d choose my next books….
    His Excellency, George Washington by Joseph Ellis
    Th Wealth of the Poor by Larry M. James
    Meeting God in Quiet Places by F. LaGard Smith

  13. Susan says:

    I liked “The Shape of Mercy”, but I liked Susan Meissner’s “A Fall of Marigolds” and “Secrets of a Charmed Life” better!

    Ahhh, Watership Down – I read it when hubby and I were first married, and I have vivid memories of finishing it one evening, sitting there in our apartment, and I BURST into tears at the end (I’m not a cryer, normally) and hubby wondered what was going on! I’ve also read Joy in the Morning and loved it, but I’m sure it would mean more to me now since I was a teenager when I read it.

  14. Katy Kozee says:

    OMG! I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so much that I wanted to stand on the street corner and hand out copies when I was done and yet I didn’t know she had written other books. Somehow I had gotten the ideas she was a one-and-done author. This is wonderful news and I plan to put aside all my other TBR books and start this one ASAP. Thanks for the great start to my day!

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve read two of these! Can’t believe I’ve read something you haven’t! 😉 I read Watership Down for school in 6th grade. It wasn’t my favorite, but worth it. And Joy in the Morning was actually one of my picks for your reading challenge! A BFF recommended it and I’m so glad she did. It’s truly sweet and endearing and so real-life. I’ll be interested to see what you think of that one.

  16. Katie says:

    I could not get into Joy in the Morning, which really bummed me out as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my all-time favorite book.

    • Dawn says:

      Same here. I LOVE A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; Joy in the Morning was a disappointment in comparison. I read it about 10 years ago, so maybe I should give it another shot.

  17. E. Ford says:

    I love The One and Only Ivan. Such a beautiful story of friendship. It’s one of the few middle grade books that I kept when I left teaching after 12 years. It has a place of honor on my bookshelf, and I recommend it to everyone.

  18. Laura says:

    I finally read Watership Down last year. It took me a long time but I switched between audio and print, which helped. Joy in the Morning since I learned she had written another book. Prior to that, I had assumed she was a one hit wonder. Can’t wait to get into it! Also been meaning to read All Creatures Great and Small and An American Childhood. Plus a thousand others!

  19. PamDDO says:

    What you should read next 😉
    If you enjoyed The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, try The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama. Goodreads calls it: Alexander McCall Smith meets Jane Austen! I finished it yesterday and enjoyed it completely.

  20. Emerald says:

    I adored Watership Down when I read it many years ago. I fell in love with it all over again listening to the audible version read by Ralph Cosham – between his voice and the story itself was delightful to rediscover.

    • Debra says:

      As a fan of the Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache) mysteries, I can say I truly love Ralph Cosham’s work. He was the perfect choice for that story. I’m sorry that we’ve lost his talent.

  21. Kitty says:

    I adore the no. 1 Ladies Dectective Agency on audible. The narrator is wonderful. Her dialect transports me to Africa. And I’d never know how to pronounce the names. I have a hard time connecting to books when I don’t know how to pronounce the names!

  22. Bev says:

    The only book I’ve read from your list is “The One and Only Ivan” which I loved. Lots of choices you’ve given – but I’m aiming to read “Emma” – still haven’t read it!

  23. Anita Latawiec says:

    I’m taking on your 2016 reading challange. I made my list, and choose for category #3 Animal Farm. I don’t know why I’ve not read this book, but found myself relating this book with our current political trash talking. It was true then and is still true now! Loved this little book and is a new favorite for me. Better late than never!

  24. Mimi says:

    I love the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. The books deal with serious problems and human nature but are always uplifting and hopeful. My picks for the books I’ve been meaning to read Maus by Art Spiegelman and/or Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis.

  25. Watership Down has been on my list forever too! I was an English major in school, so I have no idea how I made it through without reading it. But for this category for me, I think I would have to go with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Has been on my list forever!

  26. Donna says:

    Great post, Anne! For this category, I’m reading A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre.

    This year I’m also making a point of reading books that I’ve been meaning to read forever:

    1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – finished it two weeks ago. I can’t believe it took me so long to read it! I was avoiding it because everyone raves about it. It’s one of my favourite memoirs.
    2. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – finally read this back in January and loved it. Then I read The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies. Big Little Lies is my favourite of the three!
    3. The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman – I’ll be picking this one up soon. It’s on my winter reading list.
    4. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich – currently reading.
    5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – it’s on my winter reading list so I’ll be getting to it soon.
    6. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell – I’ve been meaning to read this one for years. It’s on the list of 100 books I’ll be reading this year.
    7. Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen – This has been on my list for years and I’ve been putting it off. But it made my list of 100 books so I’ll be getting to it this year!
    8. The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman – this one was recommended to me last year and I can’t wait to finally pick it up this year.
    9. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
    10. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
    11. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
    12. The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski
    13. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh – I’ve been putting this one off because of the subject matter.
    14. Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg
    15. Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

    Happy reading!

  27. Lori Jo says:

    I love, love, love the Ladies Detective Agency books. I have read them all and they have brought me great enjoyment and relief from everyday life. I highly recommend them!!!

  28. Karen says:

    I can’t say enough good things about The One and Only Ivan. I am an elementary school librarian and talk it up so much with the kids! It has short sentences and explains why at the beginning since it is from the gorillas point of view, so it is perfect for a classroom read aloud! Love it!

  29. Tara says:

    Home sick today, so I read “The One and Only Ivan” after seeing it on your list. Loved it! Definitely not just a book for kids!

  30. Tory says:

    I highly recommend #1 ladies detective agency in Audiobook format! It’s been years since I read it, but I remember loving it. I wasn’t as big a fan of the Watership Down Audiobook (loved the story, after about 1/3 of the way in, just didn’t care for the narration.) Same narrator as Still Life (three pines mystery) which I also didn’t care for – if you like that Audiobook maybe you’d like this one too, but IMO you won’t be missing out on anything if you read that one on paper.

  31. Leigh Kramer says:

    Half of a Yellow Sun was on my list last year but I didn’t get to it. Definitely making that happen this year! I would love to hear your thoughts about Shape of Mercy once you’re done! I love Susan Meissner’s books and I believe this was the first one I read.

  32. liz n. says:


    That is all.

    (Oh, and, yes, “Half of a Yellow Sun” is also very good.)

    • Kacie says:

      YES! PLEASE, Anne, Read Watership Down! I read it last year and my word. I loved it.

      It did take me a little while to get into it, because I wasn’t sure where it was headed. But let me just say, it will take you on an unforgettable adventure.

      I enjoyed the epigraphs at the beginning of the chapters, and I enjoyed the lore shared by warren storyteller, Dandelion.

      It is just so rich. READ IT PLEAAAAAAAASE

    • liz n. says:

      On a more calm, less Hermione-tells-everyone-what-they-should-do note, I’m currently reading my pick for Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read: Atonement. Best description of a migraine ever, and WHAT is up with this kid, Briony? (Please don’t actually answer that question; I’m less than a hundred pages in.)

  33. Jamie says:

    I read Joy in the Morning as a teenager…after I had read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn about a dozen times (or so it seemed….how I love that book!). I remember seeing the name of the author on the spine of the book on my parent’s HUGE bookshelf in the front room and realizing that it was the SAME PERSON who wrote that other book I loved. It was toted as somewhat of a sequel to Tree but with different characters. I liked it but really wanted it to just be about Francie and Neely. I missed them…is that weird to say? Of course not. Ha!

  34. Amy Vogelsberg says:

    I just discovered your podcast and have binge-listened to them this week. Love them!! I’m finally getting around to read the Mistborn series to see if I can recommend them to my son. For myself I am going to give Tale of Two Cities another try.

  35. Virginia says:

    I’ll be one more voice in the “Read Watership Down right now!” category, or rather, LISTEN to Watership Down. Ralph Cosham’s brilliant narration has become the book to me. I’ve listened to the audio version about 5 times, and have read the book about as often.
    And how did I not know Betty Smith wrote another book? I will definitely be searching that one out.
    This blog and its extensions has become my biggest and most trusted (besides family and friends) source of books to read. My TBR list is huge because of it, and I absolutely love it that I never have to spend much time figuring out what to read next, or to find the perfect audiobook for my next road trip. And your podcasts are the perfect motivation for me to hit the treadmill. 🙂

  36. Kori says:

    I’m reading Day After Night by Anita Diamant. I loved The Red Tent by her, but so far this book has not gripped me yet. I’ll give it a few more pages to decide whether I should keep going or not. Half of a Yellow Sun is one of my favorite books, an incredible read. I teach 5th grade and I assigned Watership Down to a group of my students for literature circle. I’m reading it along with them and the discussions that they are having is amazing. I love listening in on them talking about symbolism and allegories!

  37. chris Friedman says:

    The One and Only Ivan is one of the best books I have read–absolutely beautiful and so moving–i had many tissues!!

  38. Crystal says:

    I bought Joy In the Morning by Betty Smith yesterday. I didn’t even know Betty Smith had other books! I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and read it every year just because it is so good. I am in love with Joy in the Morning. It is wonderful. I’m almost halfway through and it is great! I can’t wait to finish it! Thank you for sharing this list because I’m going to read Watership Down in the future as well. It was on my TBR list for a while but its so large, that I figured I would never get through it! lol

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