10 Books of Summer 2021

Summer, conceptually, is nearly upon us (just ask the weather), which means time to start thinking about summer reading. Whatever that means.

For me, it’s always been more about the concept of long periods of time for reading–in which anything, fun or uncomfortable, breezy or difficult, intellectual or mind-numbing might be read. Even now, well past the years of long days of summer freedom, I still think of summer as the time for more reading–if for no other reason than it’s often too hot to do anything else.

Which makes it great fun to think about summer reading and to join in Cathy’s 20 (or 15 or 10) Books of Summer Challenge.

Top to Bottom:

  • Three Exemplary Novels (Cervantes)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare)
  • Mansfield Park (Austen)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain)
  • Wives and Daughters (Gaskell)
  • Britt-Marie Was Here (Backman)
  • The Farm (Bromfield)
  • Enter Jeeves (Wodehouse)
  • The Trumpet of the Swan (White)
  • Under a White Sky (Kolbert)

I wish I were one of those people who could confidently predict the twenty books they’d read over the coming summer months. That is, I wish I could confidently predict reading that many books over the swift summer. But I know myself too well–my interests are too varied (and time-consuming) and my books sometimes too thick–I am lucky to read 10 in a three month time frame, much less 20. As I’m currently in a realistic (I think ) mindset, I’m only setting my sights on 10. (Though…the challenge beckons…)

Nor can I guarantee that it will be these 10 books. For the first time in a while, I actually don’t have any specific inclination to a particular book or reading plan as ‘up next,’ so while all are books I would like to read sometime, I’m not sure if that ‘sometime’ is ‘now.’ As the whim carries me.

Though A Midsummer Night’s Dream is highly likely; a local theater group will be performing it outdoors (on the beautiful grounds of a landscaped 1920s era estate). I’ve wanted to see an outdoor performance of Midsummer since I last (first?) read it a few years back and I may have to reread for the occasion.

I may start with The Farm. The poor book–I’ve been ‘planning’ to read it for years–if books had sentience it would be developing a complex–but after reading a biography of the author back in January I’m more interested in ever.

But everything else is subject to change (yes, even the library book–I’m fickle). I haven’t read any mysteries for some months, so it may be time for another. And one never knows what readalongs or random library books one may stumble upon. But half the fun of a challenge is always in the planning, no?

Back to the Classics 2021

Button: Back to the Classics Challenge 2021

Although I have some semi-ambitious goals for how much I will read in 2021, I don’t feel compelled to attach myself to any particular challenges–except for Karen’s Back to the Classics challenge! This one is always fun, and after finally reading all 12 categories last year, I want to see if I can do it again. I’m also hoping to improve on 2020 in one way: reading more books that are actually on my Classics Club list. Of course, the way these things go, some shiny classic will probably pop onto my radar and distract me from my good intentions, but as long as I’m reading, it’s good!

This year’s categories:

  1. A 19th century classic.
  2. A 20th century classic. and posthumously published.
  3. A classic by a woman author.
  4. A classic in translation.
  5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author.
  6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read.
  7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author — a new book by an author whose works you have already read.
  8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title.
  9. A children’s classic.
  10. A humorous or satirical classic.
  11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction).
  12. A classic play.

I don’t have any specific plans at this point – there’s so many possibilities!

If I’m to stick to my Classics Club list, the play would likely be from Anne Carson’s translation An Oresteia, which I was supposed to read for a Classics Club spin in September, but didn’t get to. I don’t think I have anything humorous or satirical on my list, but I do have several P.G. Wodehouse on my shelves, so that’s a good possibility. Several people have listed The Leopard as their likely classic about an animal or with an animal in the title, and it’s on my Club list, so possible.

The category that’s a new-to-you classic by a favorite author is interesting. I still have several unread Elizabeth Gaskell I could read, or, there’s The Sound and the Fury, which I think I’ve pledged to read the last two years. Maybe this will be the year?

More likely than not, the 2021 challenge reading will be like 2020: I’ll end up reading books that strike my interest and slotting them in where they fit. And hopefully that only means one or two books to deliberately seek out at the end of the year.

Looking forward to a new year of classic reading!

Back to the Classics 2020, Wrapped

There’s nothing like pushing it to the last minute, but I did it! For the first time, I’ve managed to read books for all 12 categories in the Back to the Classics Challenge AND write about them (for 3 entries in the challenge).

I actually read more than 12 classics in 2020, but that ones listed below are the books I felt best fit Karen’s categories. Other than #5, I didn’t have to make a deliberate plan for any of these categories, in fact, for some of them I had finished the book before I realized that it was a perfect fit (such as The Wind in the Willows).

It feels like it’s been a long time since I read some of these: did I really read The Nibelungenlied this year?

As far as the books, I enjoyed most of them. (I don’t think “enjoyed” really applies to a book like Native Son, but I’m happy I read it.) I can’t believe it took me until this year to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Jane Austen is always a treat, and Cranford was a wonderful treat. But if I had to pick a top read, it would probably be the short story collection Ficciones. There’s no good reason it had been previously abandoned; sometimes I just do that.

My biggest disappointment with this list? Most of them aren’t on my Classics Club list – something to work on for next year!

  1. 19th Century Classic. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (1811)
  2. 20th Century Classic. Appointment in Samarra – John O’Hara (1934)
  3. Classic by a Woman Author. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe (1794)
  4. Classic in Translation. The Decameron – Giovanni Boccaccio (Italian, 1350-53)
  5. Classic by a Person of Color. Native Son – Richard Wright (1940)
  6. A Genre Classic. The Secret Adversary – Agatha Christie (1922)
  7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain (1876)
  8. Classic with a Place in the Title. Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell (1851-53)
  9. Classic with Nature in the Title. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame (1908)
  10. Classic About a Family. The Nibelungenlied – Anonymous (c 1200)
  11. Abandoned Classic. Ficciones – Jorge Luis Borges (1956)
  12. Classic Adaptation. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy (1874)

(simplerpastimes [at] gmail [dot] com)

Reading Classic Books Challenge

Erica at the The Broken Spine is hosting what looks to be a fun, low-stress classics challenge in 2020, the Reading Classic Books Challenge. Books may count for up to two categories, and merely have to be at least 50 years old (well, and fit one of the prompts!). Knowing that I already have at least two books lined up in the queue for January(ish), plus some other classics I hope to get to this year, I think it will play nicely with my low stakes reading plans.

The Prompts:

1) Read a classic over 500 pages
2) Read a classic by a POC and/or with a POC as the main character
3) Read a classic that takes place in a country other than where you live
4) Read a classic in translation
5) Read a classic by a new to you author
6) Read a book of poetry
7) Read a classic written between 1800-1860
8) Read a classic written by an LGBT author and/or with an LGBT main character
9) Read a classic written by a woman
10) Read a classic novella
11) Read a classic nonfiction
12) Read a classic that has been banned or censored

I could probably hit all these just off my bookshelves, but we’ll see where 2020 leads me! If you’re looking for prompting to read more classics in 2020, you should consider joining in!

Classics to Read, A Shorter List

January and February turned out to be even busier than I had anticipated (and I knew they might be a bit), as I found myself dumped into an unexpected (but surprisingly educational) work deadline that of course led to a domino effect of other difficult deadlines, and so forth. All that to say that I’m not even close to having my “chunkster” Classics Spin read finished. Just not enough reading time (sad face)…or maybe too much Netflix and knitting. Oops. (On the other hand, my sweater is finally coming along swimmingly…only been working on that for a year!)

I realized late last year, though, that I don’t actually have a proper, registered with the club, list. I have A List: 125 titles long, I’ve been reading from it, using it for Spin title selections. But after my first list expired and I posted a second list, I never actually informed the Club. So. Looking at my list—and at reality—I decided it was time for Classics Club v2b. I’m finally ready to acknowledge the truth of my reading habits, so it’s been pared down to just 50 titles. Although it’s now March (where does the time go?!), since I started reading in January, I’ll say my reading dates are January 1, 2019-January 1, 2024.

My priorities in selecting my 50 titles (all of which came from the previous list) were:

A) Books I was already planning to read this year / next year
B) Books already on my shelves
C) Books I feel every other classics lover has read but me
D) Books that bring diversity of authorship or thought

The bonus, of course, was where any of these priorities overlapped! A couple rereads sneaked in because they were already on my read-soon pile, but otherwise, I avoided those as well.

  1. Anonymous: The Epic of Gilgamesh (Sumerian, c. 2150-1000 BCE)*
  2. Homer: The Iliad (Greece, c. 8th century BCE)
  3. Homer: The Odyssey (Greece, c. 8th century BCE)*
  4. Carson, Anne, translator: An Oresteia (Greece, 5th century BCE)
  5. Virgil: The Aeneid [Aeneis] (Rome, 29-19 BCE)
  6. Boethius: The Theological Tractates and Consolation of Philosophy (Rome, 523)
  7. Anonymous: Beowulf (Anglo-Saxon, between 8th-11th centuries)*
  8. Anonymous: Njal’s Saga (Iceland, 13th century)
  9. Anonymous: Nibelungenlied (Germany, 13th century)
  10. Anonymous: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (England, 14th century)
  11. Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales (England, 1380s)
  12. Camões, Luís Vaz de: The Lusiad (Portugal, 1572)
  13. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: Don Quixote (Spain, 1605, 1615)
  14. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: Three Exemplary Novels (Spain, 1613)†
  15. Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels (England, 1726)
  16. Radcliffe, Ann: The Italian (England, 1797)
  17. Poe, Edgar Allan: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (U.S., 1830s-40s)
  18. Stendhal: The Charterhouse of Parma (France, 1839)
  19. Brontë, Anne: Agnes Grey (England, 1847)
  20. Dickens, Charles: Bleak House (England, 1853)
  21. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Cranford (England, 1853)
  22. Trollope, Anthony: Barchester Towers (England, 1857)
  23. Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables (France, 1862)
  24. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Wives and Daughters (England, 1865)
  25. Eliot, George: Middlemarch (England, 1871-72)
  26. Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd (England, 1874)
  27. Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina (Russia, 1877)
  28. James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction (U.S., 1878-1908)‡
  29. James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady (U.S., 1881)
  30. Zola, Émile: Germinal (France, 1885)
  31. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Russia, 1886-1912)§
  32. Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth (U.S., 1905)
  33. Lawrence, D.H.: Sons and Lovers (England, 1913)
  34. Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway (England, 1925)
  35. Kafka, Franz: “Metamorphosis” and The Trial (Bohemia, 1915, 1925)
  36. Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop (U.S., 1927)
  37. Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury (U.S., 1929)
  38. Faulkner, William: Light in August (U.S., 1932)
  39. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (England, 1932)
  40. Bromfield, Louis: The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
  41. Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls (U.S., 1940)
  42. Wright, Richard: Native Son (U.S., 1940)
  43. Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man (U.S., 1952)
  44. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (U.S., 1952)
  45. Baldwin, James: Go Tell It on the Mountain (U.S., 1953)
  46. Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe: The Leopard [Il Gattopardo] (Italy, 1958)
  47. Borges, Jorge Luis: Ficciones (Argentina, 1962)
  48. Cortázar, Julio: Hopscotch [Rayuela] (Argentina, 1963)
  49. Morrison, Toni: Beloved (U.S., 1987)
  50. Bolaño, Roberto: 2666 (Chile, 2004)

Now, just to get reading!

* Indicates a reread.
† Vicente Llorens, ed., 1964. Includes El Licenciado Vidriera, El Casamiento Enganoso, and El Coloquio de los Perros
‡ Includes The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller*, Washington Square, The Beast in the Jungle, and The Jolly Corner
§ Includes The Prisoner of the Caucasus, The Diary of a Madman, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, The Devil, Master and Man, Father Sergius, After the Ball, The Forged Coupon, Alyosha the Pot, and Hadji Murat

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