As someone who works in a library and is a huge mood reader, I often forget what books I already own and how many I still need to read. I was reminded of this especially when my family and I initially moved, and I had to go through the process of packing and unpacking all of my books. It made me notice books that I’d forgotten about and wanted to read, or realize that I owned a lot of books that I no longer cared to read anymore. So, to rectify this issue, I decided that I wanted to challenge myself a little.
So I’d like to introduce the Alphabet Backlist Challenge (ABCs!).
Since this is just the introductory post, I’ll just explain how this is going to work for me for now.
I do very well reading multiple books at once. So from now on, I want at least one of the books I’m currently reading to be a book I personally own and want to get off my backlist TBR. Now, because I’m extremely indecisive, I decided to do this in a randomized way.
As I unpacked my books, I catalogued them in a spreadsheet so I could keep track of their location as well as other information on the books such as series, author, genre, as well as read status. I alphabetized the list by author last name, and that’s how my books are currently organized. However, for this challenge, I made a second sheet based off this first sheet. I took all the titles and alphabetized them by the first word in their title, ignoring definite and indefinite articles. Then, I separated every letter from A-Z into their own columns, as well as any titles started with numbers. This allows me to see every book title under a letter as well as having them numbered.
And then going down the line, I’ll have a random number selected (either by a friend or random number generator) and then whichever book it lands on I’ll make a decision: read, discard, or put back for later. I am mainly giving myself all three options because I know that I’ve definitely forgot about what some of these books are about, but also because I’m such a mood reader that a book I’m really excited for could be ruined if I forced myself to read it.
A detail I might add is how it works if the random number lands on a series I haven’t read. Say there are three books, and I land on the second, but I haven’t read the first one yet. Then I would simply read the first, take that one off the list, and leave the second one on the list. That way, I still read a book on my backlist, but I didn’t mess with any orders. And hopefully, if it was good, I continue the series by choosing the next book independently while continuing my ABCs with the next letter.
Essentially, this process allows me to find a random book in my collection, reread the summary, and make a decision on if it still piques my interest or if it should go into the donation pile.
So, since this is just starting, I guess I’ll give a sneak peak on how this is working!
Hilariously, the first number that was pulled was 13, my birthday, and even better, but the book it landed on was one that I had been thinking of frequently as of late, and had been debating picking up regardless on if it was pulled.
An Alphabet of Embers edited by R.B. Lemberg
An Alphabet of Embers is an anthology of unclassifiables – lyrical, surreal, magical, experimental pieces that straddle the border between poetry and prose. It lives in a place between darkness and sound, between roads and breaths, its pages taut with starlight; between its covers, words talk to each other, and have an occasional cup of tea.
This next one, what book the number matched up with, definitely hit a cord with me. My late friend Corey recommended this one to me, and I bought a copy solely on their recommendation. I tried reading it several times but got distracted. Now, with them gone, I feel drawn to this book and what it could mean to me. Will I like it?
A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde
On the search for a cup of coffee before the guest lecture he’s giving, Tom spies a tired, half-frozen young man who looks even more need of coffee than him. On impulse, he buys the man a cup—but an attempt to strike up conversation ends in the young man walking off, seemingly put off by Tom Walford—the tabloids’ favourite billionaire—buying him coffee. But when he reappears in Tom’s lecture, all Tom knows is that he doesn’t want the man slipping away a second time.
Agreeing to dinner with a man he only knows from internet gossip columns isn’t the wisest decision Cin’s ever made, but he wants to like the infamous Tom Walford and he can’t do that if he doesn’t give the man a fair chance to be likeable. Which he is, almost frustratingly so, to the point Cin wishes maybe he hadn’t been so fair because he never had any intention of getting attached to Tom, who seems to come from a world far too different from his own for anything between them to last. Little does Cin know, they’ve got a lot more in common than he imagines—including their shared discomfort with their assigned genders, and all the complications that go with it.
So here’s the first example of the number landing on a series. I had my partner choose the number for this one, and it landed on the sequel. Thankfully, I own the first book as well, so I was able to simply select the first one. And I’m SO excited for this one, actually!
City of Strife (City of Spires #1) by Claudie Arseneault
Isandor, City of Spires.
A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.
Arathiel hides in the Lower City, piecing together a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.
Arathiel could appeal to the Dathirii—a noble elven family who knew him before he disappeared—but he would have to stop hiding, and they have battles of their own to fight. The idealistic Lord Dathirii is waging a battle of honour and justice against the cruel Myrian Empire, objecting to their slavery, their magics, and inhumane treatment of their apprentices. One he could win, if only he could convince Isandor’s rulers to stop courting Myrian’s favours for profit.
In the ripples that follow Diel’s opposition, friendships shatter and alliances crumble. Arathiel, the Dathirii, and everyone in Isandor fights to preserve their homes, even if the struggle changes them irrevocably.
So that’s the first post for this series! I don’t know if I’ll keep it going after I get to the end of the alphabet, because I was thinking I could just continue it until I get caught up with my books. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing how this challenge works out for me. I’m going to be pretty lenient with myself, meaning that if I’m struggling with a book, I’ll just put it back on my shelf and draw another one. I don’t want to throw myself into a slump!
With all of that being said, if anyone wants to join me on this, feel free to do so! You can manage it however you want it, this is just works for me. What really helped was already having a spreadsheet full of my books.
Let me know what y’all think in the comments? Think I’ll survive this challenge (lol!)? Or will I give up like other challenges?? We’ll have to wait and see!