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Spring Cleaning Your Bookshelf Just Means Shopping for Books in Your Closet

'Tis the season to clean up that TBR pile. Here are five books we loved crossing off our lists.
Tertulia staff •
Apr 10th, 2023

We all aspire to a clean, decluttered home. But a decluttered book shelf? Not so fast. It's too soon, a panicked book lover might say. Well, over at Tertulia we're doling out tough love this spring cleaning season. We don't advocate going full Kondo on your Jenga tower of books just yet — we're not monsters. But we did decide it's the perfect time to engage the ghosts haunting our own TBRs. Here are five neglected books that Tertulia staff saved from an eternity collecting dust.

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

I picked up All About Love last summer and managed to read the preface before realizing I was not emotionally capable of handling hooks' wisdom at that moment. Almost a year later, I'm cleaning out my desk and I stumble upon it again, this time willing to go along for the ride. I can honestly say nothing prepared me for the emotional plunge. I took in every. single. chapter. The feelings and longings hooks writes about in this book they grab you and immediately transport you, sometimes back to your childhood home and sometimes to a future you imagine for yourself. It's one of those books that makes you forget where you are, so that it's just you and the words on the page for hours. I learned so much in so little time. Reading this book should be a requirement for human interaction. —Iliyah Coles

The Employees by Olga Ravn

For months, this book sat tucked away in my closet alongside a few other lonely unread novels. Unlike its companions, all sweeping tales with daunting page counts, The Employees comes in at a slim 125 pages, composed of brief statements relayed by the crew members of a spaceship. I'm a big fan of tightly woven, wildly imaginative sci-fi narratives with smart and insightful commentary on contemporary issues, and boy, does this short novel deliver on that. First released in Danish in 2018, this book is eerily prescient as humanity is making its greatest ever leaps toward an AI-dominated future. Ravn is not the first to grapple with the ethical and philosophical dilemmas posed by such a future, but my god does she paint a stunningly strange and thought-provoking portrait of what one version of that future could look like. —Emmanuel Hidalgo-Wohlleben

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

As a grad student, I’m assigned a new book to read every week in each of my classes, so since How to Write an Autobiographical Novel was something I was reading for fun, it fell by the wayside this semester. I finally finished it this week and absolutely loved it. Each essay in this collection made me re-examine what writing as an art form was capable of. I loved getting to see how Chee developed as a writer through his more personal stories. I felt like I was becoming a better writer, too, just by following along his journey. I’ve been thinking about essays such as “The Querent” and “The Writing Life” every day since I finished it. —Laurann Herrington

Teenager by Bud Smith

I brought Teenager on vacation last summer but ended up reading something else. I'd been eyeing it on my bookshelf for months afterward, and was excited to pick it up for this assignment. Bud Smith is a wonderful writer. I could go on for days about what I love about this book: the crime-spree romance, the open-road Americana, dialogue that never misses, pacing that doesn’t let up. I reread chapters, lingering on passage after passage including one that absolutely wrecked me of a chicken running for its life toward the sunrise after surviving an abduction by our teenaged Bonnie and Clyde and, later, a coyote attack. This dark, funny, charming as hell novel now has me chasing down every one of Smith's four other novels and innumerable short stories. —Erica Landau

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Like many of us, I buy more books than I’ll ever be able to read. My TBR stack has become an unwieldy tower forever edging on collapse. I decided to read Le Guin’s sci-fi classic The Dispossessed for my spring cleaning read. To put it bluntly: I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Le Guin challenged me philosophically and politically. I can’t wait to read more from her. —Romina Raimundo

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