Reading · Reading Ohio · WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (32)

Cuyhoga River in Winter - Kent Ohio
A view of the Cuyahoga River just over a week ago. Would you believe I took this from a busy bridge facing downtown Kent? It’s all about the framing…!

I feel as if I’ve been shamefully neglecting the blog. Neglecting reading other’s posts. It’s a Sisyphean task, that–keeping up with everyone, everything. Especially when I already have the feeling of being underwater elsewhere, at work most especially. I keep plodding away at the reading, though, my Sunday morning reading the one constant. I’m only one week behind (and intend to catch up) on the Deal Me In Challenge. I finally finished Chronicles of Avonlea, which happens to be a short story collection, and which I believe I actually started over a year ago (maybe even in 2015!). Yet I feel as if I’m moving quickly nowhere. Perhaps the long list of unblogged books bogs me down. So many I don’t even properly remember now, not well enough to write about. And perhaps that is why I’ve written nothing.

But I’ve had enough of feeling their weight on my shoulders. Somehow, I’ve managed to dash off a few short posts here this afternoon. Those will be forthcoming. And for those I don’t feel I can prepare a proper post for (but those I still wish to say something about), a few thoughts:

His Last Bow – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Scotland, 1917)

A collection of Holmes stories I read last fall on vacation. A diverting read, though I fear that I don’t remember the stories that well.  This leaves just one collection left and I will have finished all the Holmes stories!

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (Britain/Zimbabwe, 2015)

The publicity surrounding the movie prompted me to pick this one up. A psychological thriller, I found it much more unputdownable than Gone Girl, but I didn’t feel the need to run out to see the film version. Though I did like the end much better.

Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt (U.S., 1975)

On learning of Natalie Babbit’s death late last year, I immediately had to pick up Tuck Everlasting for a reread. I had last touched this one in late elementary school, and so both found that I couldn’t remember the story and yet it was completely familiar. A sweet story of a young girl who accidentally meets up with a family who has drunk from the fountain of eternal youth, it is in a way a touching meditation on death and life and the consequences of immortality.

She folded her arms and nodded, more to herself than to Winnie. ‘Life’s got to be lived, not matter how long or short,’ she said calmly. ‘You got to take what comes. We just go along, like everybody else, one day at a time.’ (Chapter 10)

Although I read it as a nostalgia piece/for my Children’s Classics project, Tuck Everlasting could also be assigned to my Reading Ohio project, as Natalie Babbit was originally from/grew up in Ohio. It’s also a nice segue to add a little reminder that the 5th Classic Children’s Literature Event is coming up in just a couple weeks! I’ve already a collection of books waiting for me temptingly…

Happy Reading!

Purple Orchid in Full Indoor Bloom
Who says winter isn’t growing season?
The Classics Club · WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (31) & Classics Club v2

I just realized that I haven’t taken a single photo this year, excepting some really exciting work pics (of markups on drawings – see exciting). Not helpful in learning to use my camera better this year. I will have to add that to my February priorities. I made a list at the start of the month of my January priorities, and so far it’s been really helpful in keeping me focused. I also just this week finished listening to Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and that’s really the point of the book: you have to prioritize and focus your time. I wouldn’t call it life-changing for me–I already knew that was my problem–but her suggestion that we need to plan even our leisure time in advance if we’re to maximize it really hits home, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. (And no, she doesn’t mean planning out every minute, just knowing what activities you want to do so that instead of frittering away hours online or in front of the TV or what have you, you actually read that book you’ve been meaning to get to.) I’ve categorized every weekend so far this month: one for DVR catch-up/knitting, one for reading, one for misc. to do’s (this weekend!), and it’s left me feeling a lot more productive. Even if I feel like I haven’t actually managed to read all that much this month so far.

Part of that is the season: winter is for knitting and I don’t knit and read at the same time. I do knit and TV watch at the same time. I suppose I could knit and audiobook… Part of it is the general sleepiness winter seems to bring. Part of it is the Deal Me In Challenge. So I’m reading, but short things, and it doesn’t feel as much of an accomplishment. But I’ve been keeping up so far!

  • Week 1: Q of Clubs – Fray Luis de León, “Oda III”
  • Week 2: 8 of Clubs – Francisco de la Torre, “Soneto V,” “Soneto XX,” and “Soneto XXIII”
  • Week 3: A of Diamonds – Ben Jonson, “To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare”

The first two weeks were challenging as both were from Clubs, which are all Spanish poems. I have a copy of Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain (ed. Elias L. Rivers) which I’m reading from and it does have prose translations, but those are…okay. So I’ve been challenging myself to really read the Spanish closely, which takes a good chunk of time. “Oda III” was the easiest, a poem in praise of Francisco Salinas, a music professor at the University of Salamanca. The Sonnets by de la Torre were more challenging, especially as their language included words (or spellings?) that the online translation dictionary couldn’t always find, I assume obsolete or archaic. I also have never done as well with Sonnets as with other poem types. “To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare” I read with much greater pleasure. Both as it was far less work and as I was familiar with the subject. I was amused to find that Jonson predicted that Shakespeare would continue to be performed/read for centuries to come – how prescient! It also seems that Jonson’s words could be used in the who wrote Shakespeare battle as pro-William Shakespeare, as Jonson both praised Shakespeare’s words (over contemporaries) and clearly refers to him as the “Swan of Avon,” though also, famously, reminding us that Shakespeare “small Latin and less Greek.” I have yet to read this week’s selection (a short story – finally!).

I’m also in the middle of two longer reads, a reread of Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Maggie Stiefvater) and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Which brings me to the next topic. I’m fast coming up on the deadline for my original Classics Club list, in March. Five years! Already! And…well, it hasn’t gone so well. Of the 125 items on the list, I’ve only completed 14 (nearly 15). I’ve read 26 individual books/plays, but a number were combined into one list item. (Or 28 books if one counts the volumes of The Lord of the Rings separately.) At the same time, I’ve been itching to update/revise the list. I’ve read some books for my Ohio project that could have counted on a Classics Club list, but I hadn’t included them. And there are others I still want to read. I also have a Great Courses series, “The Western Literary Canon in Context,” which has added other (admittedly white male) titles to my TBR list. Then I also seem to keep dipping back to rereads that weren’t on my original list. Not to mention quite a few other books lining my shelves that never made it to/were purchased after the original list was made.

So, in the spirit of the New Year (it’s still early enough to say that, right?), and in the excitement that list making always brings me, I announce The Classics Club v.2, my ten year reading list. It’s long, at 150 items, so I’ll spare you scrolling through. But if you really want to read it, it’s HERE. I had some trouble cutting down (ha!), and it’s longer than the original list. Even assuming that the revisions/additions help me stay more focused, I’m still never–based on current reading rate–going to get through this list in only five years. So I’m blithely disregarding the 5-year guideline.

Some notes regarding the list:

  • Most unread titles from the original list are still here. I swapped out some of the Greek plays (largely based on the Great Courses series reading list) and dropped a couple other titles that aren’t actually on my shelves, but I tried to keep the variety of genre/country I had on the original.
  • I’ve added a number of rereads. Mostly Austen. I can’t help it.
  • The only book that I read on the original list that makes a reappearance is Beowulf, which I want to reread in another translation.
  • I’ve added some Ohio reads.
  • Most of the additions are ancient/medieval lit. I’m a little scared of some of those actually…
  • I also added three Faulkner which I’m really looking forward to. I only had one title on my original list because I wasn’t sure if I’d like him. It was a mistake.

I’d ask you what to read first, but current read The Epic of Gilgamesh is item #1. When I’m not mired down in Spanish poets…

Happy Reading!



WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (30)

Well. It’s been a while. As I sort through photos I’ve taken since I last posted here, I see a visual record of how much time has passed—from long, hot, humid late summer days to the chill and gray of late autumn’s first snow. It is sometimes hard to believe that so much time has flown by, and yet, there was so much packed in those days.

I really didn’t mean to drop off from here, but one week away led to another and a couple weeks led to a month and a month led to…today. And sometimes when you stop doing something it’s so hard to start up again. Indeed, the effort of putting word to screen has seemed extraordinarily intimidating at times. And just for a little blog post.

But though I’ve been busy (work, life) and though I’ve been prioritizing reading over writing, I find I’m not ready to just step back and leave the blogging aside. The task of writing—of ordering my thoughts into a somewhat coherent form—is a good exercise, I think. The recording of my random thoughts on books is a remedy to my forgetfulness—perhaps I may not quite remember a book I read four years ago now, but if I can turn to a post I wrote on it, I have something to hang on to. And of course there are other bloggers—although I am not so good at involvement in the bookish community (and after this lengthy absence may have forfeited what few readers I have), I know that it is so warm and welcoming that with just a little effort I could find myself much more involved.

So I shall try, try, try again.

I started keeping a Bullet Journal this summer, mostly to keep track of work-things—schedules, to dos, and such—but it’s proving instructive in my overall life as well. How many goals/tasks I can set for a week, realistically. How to break up projects into smaller bites so that I can both stay focused on the bigger picture and have small pieces to mark off as “done.” As a record, it’s becoming wonderfully informative, and as a tool, I’ve let it be marvelously flexible. I don’t worry about “mistakes,” or whether or not it’s beautiful (it’s not; I don’t have time or inclination to make one of the wonderfully decorative varieties), I just adjust and alter as I go, learning what methods of tracking and task-keeping work best for me. And I’ve found that just a small record each week of things I’d like to do, be it an overall task for the week or something small to do everyday or every few days, is helping me to keep focused and to not just “have good intentions” but to act on them. It is ever a work-in-progress, but since I added “reading” as a daily goal, I’ve seen my reading rate go up. I can but hope that adding blog-time (reading, writing) to the list will help as well. (Though at some point, it must be admitted, I will run out of time to fill!)

So as the nights grow longer (for just a few weeks more!) and the days colder, it is time for books and words again.  A tentative return, but sincere.

Happy Reading!

Reading · WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (29) – At the Half

FuchsiaHappy July!

Where has the year flown?! I’m quite sure that March took a leave of absence and June was on a two-week vacation (likely to someplace slightly cool and with a nice bit of rain; June, why didn’t you invite me along?) and so that I really can’t be held to account for the speed with which this year is zooming by.

But speeding it is. And while sometimes that seems a good thing—every day past is one day nearer an autumn vacation; every day past is nearer the end of what does seem to have become a downer of a year. Every time I turn on the national news or nose around online, it seems there is some new terror or tale of woe; it is no wonder that the escapism of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was so appealing to me. (Though it must be said, here in NE Ohio we had a nice one-week respite after the NBA finals—every day for a week it seemed that to turn on the local news or open the local paper was to find yet another bit of celebration and excitement. In some ways, a sport like that is so unimportant in the grand scheme, yet the magic of the joy that a win—finally, a championship win—brought the region is nothing to disregard in such angry and hurtful and frightening times.*) And it feels that it will only be more so, as the November election, sure to be fraught with negativity and threatenings, fast approaches. I find I can only stomach so much of negative news and politicking, and find the lure of escape (or avoidance) compelling. The internet is dangerous, an opinion at every corner. Television is a hazard; already the political ads are fast and furious. (Sorry, networks, I won’t be watching TV this fall.) So to books I must turn. Certainly not a bad thing in general, and certainly not if I actually expect to finish off my goals for the year, this year!

Actually, considering the real slump I feel like I had around about March, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. I’ve managed to read eleven “books”† so far (plus finish a few I started in 2015), which, while not exactly halfway to my goal of twenty-five, is closer than I might have expected in April. And I’m currently in the middle of three. I’m actually really optimistic about this goal as much of my planned summer reading is of the more relaxing variety. I never said those twenty-five books had to be difficult… (Although, of course, the two books I just impulsively requested and received from the library are both non-fiction. But the read-fast type.)

Looking over my other goals from the start of the year:

Reading Ohio – two so far (Folks from Dixie and Selected Poems, both by Paul Laurence Dunbar). I’d hoped to do better by now, but Dunbar proved a larger challenge than expected.
The Classics Club – four titles read! (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Pedro Páramo, Titus Andronicus, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) This is actually a bit better than expected, although it helps that three are plays. Pedro Páramo hadn’t been on my radar at all at the start of the year, but ended up as a Spin title.
Women’s Classics Literature Event – alas, so far all I can count are the lovely Beatrix Potter Tales. The only other women I’ve read this year have been too recent to count as classic. Must rectify.
Bardathon 400 – Well, as you may have noticed under The Classics Club heading, I’ve read three (and watched filmed adaptions of two of those) so far. The Taming of the Shrew and Kiss Me Kate are next, at which point I will count this one “complete.”
Reading England – none yet, but two currently planned for summer reading.
Ancient Greek – oops. Not even anything on the horizon. Maybe I should start thinking about a play or two?
Books in Translation – two so far (Emil and the Detectives and Pedro Páramo), plus The President (Miguel Angel Asturias) in progress. Not too bad for me actually.
Contemporary Translations – but none of the translated work has been what I call “contemporary.” This may actually prove to be the most difficult challenge for me this year, just on a time available basis.
Children’s Classics – well, with the Event in April, I was bound to do well here. Either four or twenty-six, depending on how you count! (Emil and the Detectives, The Jungle Book, the Beatrix Potter Twenty-three Tales, and The Grey King by Susan Cooper) I’ll have a few more by the end of the year, but I never really had a set number in mind.
And finally, Back to the Classics – I’m actually surprised by how well I’m doing, four of twelve so far, without a specific effort. But I was able to count Pedro Páramo for a translated title, the two Dunbar titles for non-white author and short story collection, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona for a place in the title. I would really like to finish this one, but that will definitely take some planned effort on my part.

At only the opening of July, it’s still easy to be optimistic about the reading for the rest of the year, and perhaps even let myself daydream that I might exceed my goal of twenty-five. (Hey, I’ve still got a week’s vacation planned. It could happen!) Of course, I still need to post about a number of the titles I’ve listed above…a challenge for another day.

How’s you’re 2016 reading going? Any exciting plans for the second half? I’ve already been seeing posts for July’s Spanish Lit Month–time to catch up!

*Something also noted by NPR’s Renita Jablonski, who finally found something to cheer for after a dreadful couple weeks.
†It seems more accurate to group the short Beatrix Potter
Twenty-three Tales as one book than to count them separately.

Classic Children's Literature · Reading · WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (27)

Feb 2016 Crocus
Feb 2016 Lenten Rose
Feb 2016 - Snowy Cuyahoga River
Feb 2016 - Pufferbelly in Snow
Feb 2016 Rainbow

February 2016. Not until I started sorting through the pictures I took this month, did I realize how well the weather paralleled life this month. Up and down, all over the place, restless, unsettled, hopeful. There have been both highs and lows–though at the moment it feels the lows have been deeper than the highs tall, but some things that have been suspended, waiting for resolution, have been resolved. Snow gives way to rain gives way to sun gives way to snow gives way to spring flowers. And so it goes.

My reading this month has been similarly unsettled–and sparse. My New Year’s goal of 5 hours a week has been woefully unmet of late, and I seem to be all over the place with my reading. I have so many books started but seem not to be making much progress on any save for the Shakespeare I read over the course of a few evenings a few weeks back. I’m feeling the need to finish something, yet I can’t seem to settle with anything. I even–quite unplanned–started a new title Thursday night, The Sound and the Fury, which seemed to just jump off my shelves at me. I wasn’t planning on reading anything then–rather, to sleep, but despite the trickiness of the first chapter (and I’m only a short ways in), I must confess I’m currently quite captured by the book. We’ll see if it holds.

Hopefully, though, all the partially read books means at some point I will be finishing like crazy. And then of course, have the difficulty of too many blog posts to catch up on. I’m a little behind right now as it is…

I am however looking forward to April and the Children’s Classic Literature Reading Event! The official announcement/sign-up post should go up this week, and I’ve begun pulling books off my shelves to read. I also already ordered Emil and the Detectives from the library, as it won the vote for the readalong title. (If you’re thinking of joining in, you may want to start looking for it now, as it doesn’t seem to be as readily available as some of the other titles–I had to order it from outside my library system.) Truth to tell, I will probably start reading for the event in March, and continue into May!

Speaking of non-challenge Spring Events, Richard at Caravana de recuerdos is hosting, now through May 15 or so, a Mexican reading event. The only requirement is to read a (fiction) book by a Mexican author or a (nonfiction) book about Mexico. My impulse is to join in, but I honestly don’t know what I would read just now or when I will have time to add another book to the pile. (See above about too many books started…) Still tempted though, and I did vow to read more in translation this year.

As far as the challenges I joined at the start of the year, it’s been slow-going (see above about being all over the place), but I feel I’m making progress. I’ve finished a Shakespeare play and watched a BBC adaptation of it, so that will be one down for the Bardathon challenge, and, if I choose, it could double for one of the Back to the Classics titles. (I haven’t decided yet if I’ll count it for that.) I’m also working on a couple titles that will count for both my Ohio reading projects and Back to the Classics plus there’s another Shakespeare play sitting next to me, and of course the Children’s Classics may count for some titles as well. And The Sound and the Fury could be the 20th Century classic. Phew. No wonder I’m all over the place with my reading – too many good options.

So how’s Februry been treating you and your reading? Better than me, I hope!

WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (26)


I feel like I’ve had serious blogging block of late. I’ve thought about posting—even started a now out-of-date draft of this very post in October—but I just haven’t been able to do so. And I’ve three books I’d like to write about.

Part of this is time, of course. When time is limited, choices must be made, and it is far easier to choose to read a book or watch a movie than to put word to screen. But part is…a weariness of continuing, I suppose. Or maybe just a weariness of writing. No, the weariness of always trying to catch up to a target that is continually moving forward. I considered, seriously, that perhaps it was enough to read. That with all the other things I want to do—to knit, to bake, to learn—perhaps the blogging is just too much.

But perhaps it was just the weariness of damp, dreary late autumn days talking, and now that the hope and light of the Christmas Season is near upon us, and that the temptations of reading “challenges” again begin to raise their alluring heads, I find myself rejuvenated. Not just to read all the books and blog about them, but to take part in some challenges, to write about books—and perhaps some other things, to make plans I might possibly keep.

I’m not sure yet which challenges I will participate in. I’ve my eye on a few that I might try. The excitement of both group participation and knocking some books of my list!

One thing I DO know—while I still plan to host a version of the Children’s Classics Literature Event I’ve held the past few Januarys, it will not be until the spring. This is for a reason most practical—I often lose several hours of reading per week in the winter months due to commutes made lengthier by snow, so last winter I decided that any future such events would be better later in the year. I’m thinking April. (Of course, thanks to el Niño, it now looks like we’ll have a mild winter locally, but who can tell?) At some point early next year, I’ll ask for either recommendations or votes on a readalong title and post other pertinent information.

In the meantime, my current reading. I’ve a library hold I need to pick up (The Martian by Andy Weir—all the publicity for the movie finally prompted me to request it), another that will hopefully come in soon (White Nights, the second of the Shetland Island Series of mysteries by Ann Cleeves), and most excitingly, I’m joining in on a readalong of Emma (Jane Austen), hosted at Dolce Bellezza over December. I’ve been thinking of rereading it since I re-watched the 2009 TV adaptation (staring Romola Garai) over the summer. The timing could have been more perfect. There’s also still a few books hanging on that I just can’t seem to finish. I’ve nothing against either Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel García Márquez) or Ghostwalk (Rebecca Stott), other than I just can’t seem to remember to read them. It’d be nice to finish them off before the end of the year. (Especially the Márquez—I’ve been working on that since July!) But it’s probably a little overoptimistic to think I’ll finish everything! Especially with all the usual holiday busyness. One can only try, though….

Happy Reading!

Thanksgiving Snapdragons
Snapdragons from my mom’s garden – fresh picked for the Thanksgiving table!
Austen · RAL · Spanish Language Lit Month · WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (25)

View through the screen porch

  • So. It’s officially the first day of summer today. Though by the weather, it’s seemed it for a while. It’s been warm–though outside of a few days, not particularly hot–and very humid much of the past few weeks. And rain. Lots of rain. Everywhere I go in Northeast Ohio, everything is lush and verdant. I’ve had reason recently to travel parts of NEO I don’t normally visit, and several times now–avoiding interstate congestion–I’ve travelled through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Driving alongside the old Ohio & Erie Canal and Towpath Trail (well used by bicyclists), past old farmsteads and canal locks and all the lovely forested scenery is so relaxing, I’ve found I don’t mind taking a few or more extra minutes at all. And it’s lovely that it’s free to enter–I actually didn’t realize until recently that most U.S. National Parks charge entrance fees–though I don’t know, really, how they could as there are so many roads that pass through the park. (Ohio state parks are also all free.)
  • The weather’s not only been perfect for enjoying all the green around us, it’s been perfect for reading. Lovely weekend mornings on the back porch, lemonade and book in hand–perfect. Which is perhaps why I’ve gotten a little carried away with my to-read-soon list, especially regarding my library selections. I did decide that I will put on hold reading Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf or his essay “Beowulf and the Critics” until I’m ready to do a bit of Icelandic or other similar reading as well. But I’m in the middle of three other books, and my ambitions for the rest of the summer are perhaps a tad unrealistic.
  • First, the current reads. I’m still working my way through The Piazza Tales (included in the Library of America volume, black cover, in the image below), and I’m finding that I’m becoming more comfortable with Melville as I’ve been reading. There’s still about 100 pages to go, but I WILL finish this summer! Anne of Avonlea is a slow reread, one I pick up on occasion in evenings to read a bit from before I fall asleep. I know these books so well, and it’s such a nice bedtime read that I don’t care how long it takes me  to finish.
  • The most exciting current read, however, is Pioneer Girl, the unedited original manuscript of the memoir Laura Ingalls Wilder would later modify into The Little House books. It’s a lovely annotated edition, full of lots of historical tidbits and explanations. I’m almost through the section that corresponds with By the Shores of Silver Lake and hope to finish by the end of June. Although I’m reading a library copy, I am planning to order my own copy soon. And it’s prompting me to contemplate some Little House rereads. Maybe not the whole series, but if nothing else, I don’t remember some of the middle books that well, so perhaps those.

June 2015 Current Reads

  • And then the hope-to-read-soon pile. (Including a Little House book as mentioned above.) Realistically, this could probably take me to the end of the year, although if I were to make that pile, I’d include my next Sherlock Holmes (The Valley of Fear) for fall reading, and perhaps a few others. But for now, these are the books I think I’d most like to get to soon.
  • Actually, I may or may not read Off With Their Heads!, which is a nonfiction book about fairy tales and the way we use and read them. I’d originally planned to read it this spring, but never quite got to it. I think I’m down to my last renewal, so it probably won’t happen.
  • There are two titles that are definitely planned for July, as Stu and Richard are again planning a Spanish Lit Month. (Yay!) I went the “what’s on my shelf that I haven’t read yet” route for this one, which leads me to Love in the Time of Cholera and The Book of Imaginary Beings, which I keep misnaming in my head as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (J.K. Rowling). Completely different authors! But both the Borges and the Rowling are in the tradition of the Medieval Bestiary. (And did you ever imagine a mention of Borges and Rowling in the same sentence?)

Summer-Fall 2015 Plans

  • The other “dedicated” read is Northanger Abbey, for Adam’s Austen in August. I started to reread it early this past spring, but didn’t get far before I was distracted by other things. An Austen event seemed the perfect time to actually make some headway.
  • Out of Africa is at the suggestion of several other bloggers (plus my mom) from a few posts back. And the other books–Enter Jeeves, The Farm, The Bluest Eye, A Wrinkle in Time–are all books that for some reason or other, I’m drawn to read soon. At my current reading rate, I should make it through all these by next June! Guess I need to work on that.
  • Of course, I did manage to read two books (Beowulf and The Scorpio Races) for Carl’s 9th Once Upon a Time reading event, ending today. That was one better than I had planned. So perhaps I’m not too ambitious after all?
  • Happy reading!