Another Birthday & An “Overhaul” of Previous Years’ Gifted Books

I thought a Wednesday would be a crummy day to have a birthday on, but actually it was great – the celebrations have extended from the weekend before to the weekend after, giving me a whole week of treats. Last Saturday we planned a last-minute trip to Oxford when I won a pair of free tickets to the Oxford Playhouse’s comedy club, their first live event since March. It featured three acts plus a compere and was headlined by Flo & Joan, a musical sister act we’d seen before at Greenbelt 2018. Beforehand, we had excellent pizzas at Franco Manca. Oxford felt busy, but we wore masks to queue at the restaurant and for the whole time in the Playhouse, where there were several seats left between parties plus every other row was empty.

My husband was able to work from home on the day itself, even though he’s been having a manically busy couple of weeks of in-person teaching and labs on campus, so we got to share a few meals: a leisurely pancake breakfast; fresh-baked maple, walnut and pear upside-down cake, a David Lebovitz recipe from Ready for Dessert (recreated here); and a French-influenced dinner at The Blackbird, a local pub we’d not tried before. In between I did some reading (of course), helped hunt in the garden for invertebrates for the labs, and did a video chat with my mom and sister in the States.

Today, since he had a bit more time free, he has made me Mexican food, one of my favorite cuisines and something I don’t get to have very often, plus a second cake from a Lebovitz recipe (luckily, the remnants of the last one had already gone in the freezer), this time a flourless chocolate cake topped with cacao nibs.

Just three books came in as gifts this year, though I might buy a few more with birthday money and vouchers. (A proof copy of Claire Fuller’s new novel, forthcoming in January, happened to arrive on my birthday, so I’ll call that four books as presents!) I also received chocolate, posh local drink, and the latest Alanis album.

An Overhaul of Previous Years’ Gifted Books

For a bit of fun, I thought I’d go back through the previous birthday book hauls I’ve posted about and see how many of the books I’ve read: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Simon of Stuck in a Book runs a regular blog feature he calls “The Overhaul,” where he revisits a book haul from some time ago and takes stock of what he’s read, what he still owns, etc. (here’s the most recent one). With permission, I’ve borrowed the title and format.

Date of haul: October 2015

Number of books purchased: 7 [the bottom 3 pictured were bought for other people]

Had already read: 2 (the Byatt story collections, one of which I reread earlier this year)

Read since: 2 (reviews of the Jerome and Zola appeared on the blog)

Still to read: 3 – It’s high time I got around to the Byron and Dinesen books after five years sat on my shelves! I DNFed the first Gormenghast book, though, so may end up jettisoning the whole trilogy.


Date of haul: October 2016

Number of books purchased/received: 6

Read: ALL 6! I am so proud about this. Reviews of the Brown, Taylor, and Welch have appeared on the blog.

Still own: Just 2 – I resold the Brown and Holloway after reading them, gave the Mercer to a friend, and donated the Taylor proof.


Date of haul: October 2017

Number of books received: 11

Read: 4 (reviews of the Cox, Hay, and Hoffman appeared on the blog)

DNFed and resold: 2

Still to read: 5


Date of haul: October 2018

Number of books received: 10

Read: 8! Another fine showing; only the Giffels and Winner remain to be read. Reviews of the Groff, one L’Engle, and Manyika & Richardson appeared on the blog.

Still own: 8 – I resold the Hood and Petit after reading them.


Date of haul: October 2019

Number of books received: 14

Read: Only 2. Hmm. (I reviewed the Weiss, and the Houston appeared on my Best of 2019 runners-up list.)

Currently reading/skimming, or set aside temporarily: 4

DNFed and resold: 3. D’oh.

Still to read: 5


Are you good about reading gifted books quickly?

What catches your eye from my stacks?

29 responses

  1. A belated happy birthday, Rebecca. I’m glad to see you had such a lovely time. I’d forgotten we share the same day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the only reason I remembered your birthday 😉 (I wish I could say I was some memory ninja who remembered every book club and blogger friend’s birthday, but it’s not so!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Books and good Mexican food–sounds like a perfect birthday celebration. Keep it going. Birthdays should last a good month in 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, I like that idea! My husband’s could take up all of November, and then Christmas will cover December. It’s essential to have nice things to look forward to this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Belated birthday greetings. A fun day in an un-fun year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Indeed, it seems more important than ever to find things to celebrate.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy belated birthday! Sounds like you had a fantastic time. Particularly lovely to go to the Oxford Playhouse, and good they are able to open the venue, even in a limited way (my sister used to work there and has been worried about their finances as they essentially pay for the whole year through their pantomime, like a lot of theatres).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, how neat that she worked there! We’ve been a few times over the years. I also remember a couple of one-actor plays we saw, one of Walden and one about Emily Dickinson. Those were very special experiences. Good news that they were just awarded £458,026 as part of the government Culture Recovery Fund.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Belated birthday wishes Rebecca – sounds like you had a lovely time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy! I’ve had a lovely week. I feel very lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Belated happy birthday. That pear and maple cake sounds fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It didn’t look particularly impressive — upside-down cakes are always a bit messy. But it was very tasty indeed. And two of the three pears were from our own garden.


  7. Happy birthday and glad you managed to have such a good one!

    Because my birthday is in Jan, not even a week after Christmas, I tend to try to clear the shelves beforehand a bit, then they go on the TBR in the order they came in, unless any are for specific challenges or readalongs, as sometimes they are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I was thinking your birthday was the week before Christmas. Now I know! We have a friend whose birthday is 9 Jan. I always feel bad that her birthday must get rolled into Christmas with very few separate presents.

      I admire how disciplined you are with putting your TBR in date order. Mine gets all jumbled because I shelve fiction apart from the different nonfiction genres (though I do tend to push all the read books into the double stack at the back so as to keep the unread ones at the front).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy birthday! The food and activities sound wonderful. I don’t often get gifted books. More often I’d get a gift card and pick out my own. But this year for Christmas I’m requesting some specific cookbooks as gifts, so we’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think people are afraid to buy books for big readers like us — they think you’ll already have read it, or won’t like it. But so long as people stick to a wish list it’s fine!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Haps births! No one gives me books anymore, ever, but I plan/hope to instate a wish list situation this year. Mostly in 2020 I’ve been buying books in several large hauls, then not quite managing to get to the bottom of the previous pile before doing a new haul. Trying, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, they can at least get you book tokens or vouchers? Or would you feel weird buying books not from your own store?

      I have been pretty good about reading the brand-new books I’ve bought this year right away. I think there might be just a couple left, so I’ll try to get to them before the year is out.


  10. I’d say you’ve done really well reading your gifted books. I’m really bad at it. Even though they’re usually books I want to read, my library books and review books always get priority, which leaves my own poor books unread.
    What a great birthday week you had! I would have loved helping you find invertebrates in your yard!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, the review books and library copies always seem to come first. That’s why I welcome challenges that get me reading books from my own shelves.

      It was fun! I moved all the plant pots and scooped up the earthworms and woodlice that were underneath. My husband is an expert at catching flies, so he focused on that.


      1. Ooo… Flies are hard to catch!


  11. Belated birthday greetings. How lovely that you were able to find ways of celebrating even in these strange times. What a god idea to look back on previous “hauls”. I’d be afraid of doing that for my Christmas gifts – feeling so guilty that books I requested are still lying unread after 5 plus years

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep meaning to put such books from 5+ years ago in a special area so I remember to prioritize them. Maybe next year I’ll start a shelf in the hall bookcase for them.


  12. Happy belated birthday, and what a lovely time of it you’ve had. I’m terrible at reading gifted books. I’ve still got some books I was given as gifts when I was a kid that I haven’t read yet! *winces*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Returning to those childhood gifts sounds like a project for 2021!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been trying to slowly work through them in recent years, but I don’t think I’ve read one yet this year…I’m almost afraid to check!


  13. […] ate, or received as presents! So, to follow on from my posts from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, here’s this year’s rundown. (I haven’t read any more birthday acquisitions since last […]


  14. […] what I did, ate, or received as presents! So, to follow on from my 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 posts, here’s this year’s rundown. (Oh dear, I realize I’ve read just one of the […]


  15. […] occasions don’t get ignored? By undertaking regular “overhauls” such as this and this, and checking there are no more than 3 unread books remaining from any one haul. If there are, […]


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