Reading

Anew Again

Walking path covered in snow
I’m Dreaming of a White New Year?

Happy New Year!

I do so like even-numbered years. There’s just something pleasing about the symmetry of a number divisible by two. (Not that I necessarily dislike odd numbers—I’m rather fond of nine, actually. But then again, it’s a perfect cube…) And, although I find I’m customarily optimistic at the start of a new year—it’s like opening a new notebook to that first fresh, clean, page—I still can’t help but think that 2018 is going to be a good year. It just feels that way.

As I was trying to get started here, though, I was actually poking around in last New Year’s post, and found I want to quote myself from last year:

I know many people are happy to see 2016 gone. It wasn’t kind to many of us[…]. Personally, however, I don’t believe it was quite the worst year I’ve had, as despite the negatives–and there were plenty–there were plenty of positives as well. And while there may be reasons to be concerned about what 2017 may bring, I find that I’m an optimist at heart, and have observed that although at times life may seem bleak, if we look hard enough we may find something to hearten us. While I don’t believe that it is wise to hide ourselves away from negative news, nor do I think it is healthy to focus solely on what distresses us, but better to look for the good as well and for what we may do, no matter how small. At unexpected times, I was reminded last year of how something as simple as a smile or holding out a hand to another can uplift someone when they are feeling down. And while I will lay out plans and goals for the coming year below, if I can just remember this, if I can endeavor to be always kind, even to those I dislike or cannot trust, then I will have accomplished something more meaningful than plowing through a list of books.

In many ways this still holds true—2017 wasn’t great, at least not for many people around me, but for me at least there were still many high points and experiences, from goals met to work accomplishments to new skills learned (Pottery! Can I tell you how excited I was the first time I successfully threw a bowl on the wheel? 🙂 ).

Of course, most of the goals met were work-related. Which I guess is still something, but I didn’t do as well with the goals I laid out here last January:

  • Deal Me In – lasted about a month and a half. Although it was nice to actually read some short stories for a change of pace.
  • Back to the Classics – big fail. Only read two books and didn’t blog about either.
  • Yeah, no, I didn’t read 8 titles from my Classics Club list. Only two, and I didn’t write about either. Whoops.
  • I DID read two recent works in translation (Zlata’s Diary and Blood Crime), but didn’t write about either. (Yet—there’s still hope for Blood Crime, since I just finished it.)
  • Children’s classics were successful, largely thanks to the fifth Classics Children’s Literature Event and a Beauty and the Beast hole I fell into.
  • I only made it to 24 finished books instead of the goal of 26, but that’s right around where I usually fall—and I had a couple reading slumps this year—so I’m not really disappointed by that.
  • And of course, as already mentioned, I did NOT do a good job of writing about my reading  in 2017. I really hope to improve upon that this year.

Outside of reading, I did much better:

  • I learned how to use many more of the settings on my camera, from adjusting aperture to shutter speed to a simple trick for cutting down the harshness of the on-camera flash (hold a tissue in front of it – it works!) Now it’s just a matter of practice, practice, practice.
  • I blew past my knitting goal (3 decent-sized projects)–I think I know where my reading time went!
  • I didn’t spend much time on Spanish so…oops.
  • And I didn’t go through all my various folders of papers, papers, papers. Another year. This year?

As far as the reading I did do, nothing really jumps out for highlights. There were a lot of rereads—among them, I finally started in on a reread of the Harry Potter series (I’ve been thinking about this for years), and I finished a reread of the first three books in the Raven Cycle before I read the final book in the series. There were a lot of fairy-tales, including manymanyversions of Beauty and the Beast. It turns out there can be too much of a good thing…

I did, for the first time ever, successfully read the entire Bible in a single calendar year. Although I wasn’t reading it as literature per se, there were a few “literary” highlights that jumped out: On finishing I Samuel, the thought that sprang to mind was that it really read as quite the action adventure story (Saul v David – plenty of intrigue and excitement!).  Also, the introduction to the book of Ruth in the Norton Critical Edition I have highly praised its literary merits—for its tight structure, especially.

I also read The Epic of Gilgamesh, which was good–but I read it in a prose edition, and really want to reread it in a poetic translation (which is why I haven’t written anything about it, actually.) And there were a few other new-to-me books – the above mentioned translations, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mary Barton [Classics Spin selection which I’m about 1/3 away from finishing], ‘Salem’s Lot – but nothing really jumps out.

So that’s my reading goal for 2018: read great books. Not just books I love or enjoy or comfort reads, but GREAT BOOKS. I ended 2016 with a couple, but it just didn’t happen in 2017. So no grand reading plans–short of the 2018 TBR Pile Challenge–I don’t have any set lists or goals. No numbers to reach. No challenges to hit. Just find and read really good books, books that won’t leave me alone after I finish them, books that will reward reread after reread. (Oh, and write about them here.)

I’m open to participating in other’s one- or two-month long events, but that’s about it. I’ve mentioned it here previously, but I won’t be hosting a Classic Children’s Literature Event this year. However, if you’re interested, I’m reading A Wrinkle in Time to start the year – I’m planning on posting on January 28th, so if you want to participate in a really informal RAL, please feel free to join right in!

Outside of reading, I’m limiting my goals as well. This year is one I want to make more about being deliberate: with how I spend my time, in what I acquire (or get rid of), in what I create, in what I read. And it is a year when I want to focus on finishing: all those many projects and lists I feel are constantly hanging over my head. These aren’t specific goals, I know. Which makes them hard to measure. (Though, truthfully, if I have fewer projects on my to-do-list at the end of the year than I do at the start, that would be an acceptable measurement.) But right now those ideas–being deliberate, focusing on finishing–are where I’m feeling drawn to focus. Fortunately, my TBR pile qualifies as a very deliberate list to finish…!

Happy Reading!

Challenge

Back to the Classics 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018

So…I did okay in 2016 with the Back to the Classics reading, I just didn’t post on most of the books. And in 2017. Whoops. I guess I read two or three books that qualified, but, again, didn’t write about any. So I wasn’t going to sign up for this (or really any year-long challenge except the TBR challenge)–but–when I looked over my TBR list, I realized that if I finish all my TBR Challenge books I will have completed the basic level (6/12 books) for this challenge. And if I read the two alternates, I will be 1 away from the middle level (9/12). So…third time’s the charm?

Hosted by Karen from Books and Chocolate, the categories this year are (all books must be at least 50 years old):

1.  A 19th century classic
2.  A 20th century classic
3.  A classic by a woman author
4.  A classic in translation
5. A children’s classic
6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction
7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction
8. A classic with a single-word title
9. A classic with a color in the title
10. A classic by an author that’s new to you
11. A classic that scares you
12. Re-read a favorite classic

(More details/rules at Karen’s original post.)

I will admit, even assuming success with the TBR list, I may not get much further–there are a few categories I’m not sure at this moment what I’d do with, especially if I try to stick with books off my own shelves. At least there’s plenty of time to decide!

Thanks again to Karen for hosting. Now what to read first…?

Challenge

2018 TBR Challenge

This year I’ll read these. No really, I mean it this time.

Ha! I always have such great reading plans, and usually derail somewhere along the way. But I also have so many books on my shelves I really do want to read (or finally get around to rereading). And it’s always tempting to sign up for TBR challenges, although I’ve yet to successfully complete one.

Adam’s (Roof Beam Reader) is both the most tempting to me (only twelve books!) and most difficult (but I have to pick them in advance!). Especially keeping in mind that twelve books is often about half of my reading for a year. (Too many interests, too little time…) It really took me a long time to decide to attempt the 2018 TBR challenge for this very reason–I’ve learned from experience that I need to have flexibility in my reading plans so that I can either follow a thread of interest (2017’s Beauty and the Beast rabbit hole for example) or impromptu join in a reading event. But the longer I thought about it, the longer my “I intend to read this next year anyways” list grew…so here we go!

Time Quintet by Madelene L'Engle
1. A Wrinkle in Time
2. A Wind in the Door
3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet
4. Many Waters
5. An Acceptable Time

I’ve already said that I intend to read a lot of Madeleine L’Engle next year, and I’m definitely starting with A Wrinkle in Time. The whole Time Quintet box set has been sitting on my shelves too long unread, so this year–regardless of what else may happen with this list–I WILL read these!

Cover: Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics)6. Lady Susan

I picked this up to read in October, and it didn’t happen, but it still sits patiently on my TBR pile. (I might even read the starts of Sanditon and The Watsons too, but it’s a bit of a letdown to read an unfinished story, so perhaps not.)

Cover: The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle7. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes

This is the last Holmes book I have to read and I had intended to in 2017, so…it’s time.

Cover: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

This has been on my shelf forever. I’m sure I’ll like it. I don’t know why I haven’t picked it up; mostly I think I forget I have it. Let’s make 2018 the year!

Cover: The Farm by Louis Bromfield9. The Farm

A classic by an Ohio-native author, I’ve been wanting to read this since I started my Ohio reading project a few years back, but somehow other Ohioans kept jumping ahead. If I get this read, I’ll have to make a field-trip to Bromfield’s Malibar Farm, too.

Cover: The Warden by Anthony Trollope10. The Warden

I’ve never read any Trollope, though I’ve watched any number of TV mini-series adaptations of his novels. I’ve been itching to get back to Victorian writers, and this seems a good place to start.

Cover: The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay11. The Secret of Lost Things

One of a small number of books in the “get it read so you can (likely) get rid of it” pile – I’ve been trying to read and relocate at least one a year (in 2017 it was ‘Salem’s Lot which has been passed on to my brother), and 2018 is The Secret of Lost Things‘ year.

Cover: The Sound and Fury by William Faulkner12. The Sound and the Fury

I started this. Loved what I read. And it got re-lost on my bookshelf when something else snuck in ahead of it. Not this year!

Alternates:

It was hard to decide which two books to list as alternates instead of on the main list, but here’s another two Victorians that I’ve had around for years and put on so many to-read-this-year lists it’s not even funny. Actually I’m hoping to read these on top of all the above 12. What’s life without a little over-ambition?!

Cover: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins13. The Woman in White

Cover: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell14. Cranford

 

I’ve seen plenty of other lists around, so I know I’m in good company. Good luck and happy reading!

My official participation page.

Classic Children's Literature · RAL

Anyone for a RAL?

It’s inevitable – no matter how lousy the reading’s been, no matter how many books are currently in the TBR stack next to my reading chair – come December (if not earlier), I’m thinking about the next year. What wondrous reading will be then? Admit it – you do it too. All those lovely end-of-year lists/goals/dreams. Truly, one of the highlights of December for me! (Can you tell I’m a planner/list-maker?)

So yes, I already have a pretty good idea of what I’m planning on for next year. And while I usually wait to share until either a) I’m signing up for a challenge I likely won’t actually complete or b) my end of year post, I thought there was one plan that I should mention early. Actually, a non-plan as well: I currently have no plans to continue the Children’s Classic Literature Event for a sixth year. If anyone else wants to host a similar event, please feel free (and I may even read along), but I won’t be hosting one.

A Wrinkle In Time Movie Poster (low res)

However. I am planning some Madeline L’Engle reading for next year, starting with a reread of A Wrinkle in Time. Yes, of course this is because of the upcoming film adaptation. And the fact that I asked for and received a box set of the Time Quintet books several years ago and still haven’t (re)read them. And then I thought, “hey, there’s a movie coming out–maybe I’m not the only one who wants to (re)read this?” So let me know if you think you might want to read along – if there’s enough interest in a A Wrinkle in Time RAL prior to the March release (I’m thinking January), I’d be willing to host. Alternatively, if there’s already a RAL planned/running, please point me that direction as I haven’t found it yet!

Now, just to clear the deck off first…

The Classics Club

And the Title Is….

 

Cover: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

With #4 spun, it looks like I’ll be reading Mary Barton over the next few weeks (hopefully!). It’s been a while since I’ve read Gaskell, but I do really like her, so I’m excited for this one. And it will be nice to get back to some Victorian literature; it’s been quite a while.

Looking forward to a short work week, too—hopefully some extra reading time to get this started.

Happy reading!

Classic Children's Literature · RAL · Reading · The Classics Club

Coming Soon: Classic Children’s Lit Event, 5

2017-ral-original

I’ve been more absent from here lately than I’d like–it seems like February is just a month that I don’t get along with. But now it’s March, the sun is shinning (and it’s supposed to be half-way warm this week!), and that means the 5th edition of the Classic Children’s Literature Event is just around the corner: April–less than a month away! I can’t believe this is the 5th year.

alice-original

As in years past, I will be reading an optional readalong title. I really waffled over what to pick this year, but finally opted for one of the runners up from last year’s poll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s been many, many years since I last/first read this–I believe in fourth grade, so I don’t remember it all that well other than that’s is odd, something that must surely appeal to many, as evidenced by the recent movie adaptations (confession: I haven’t actually seen them). Although I have an illustrated version that also contains Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, I decided to pick up The Annotated Alice from the library. Still a coin toss as to which book I’ll read from.

Event Basics

  • During the month of April, read as many Children’s Classics as you wish and post about them on your blog and/or leave a comment on the event page on this blog. I will have a link page starting the first of April to gather posts so that we may share as we go.
  • The optional RAL title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. (Optional: also read Through the Looking-Glass. I’m guessing I won’t get through both.) I plan on discussion the weekend of April 21-23.
  • I’m not going to be the “children’s classics” police. Use your own judgement for what fits the category but if you want some guidelines, these are what I’m going by:
    • I think many of us have read more recent children’s books that we may already deem “classics” (for example, many people feel that way about the Harry Potter books), but for this event, I’d prefer if we read books that were written prior to 1967. This will still allow a lot of options, and will hopefully avoid the “but what is a classic” dilemma! (And yes, 1967 is rather arbitrary. Rebel if you wish, but 50 years old seems a good age.)
    • Defining “children’s,” especially prior to 1900 or so can be a challenge as some books we think of as “children’s” today may not have been intended that way at the time. Personally, I’d say books appropriate for approximately an elementary-school aged child or preteen (to read or to have read to them) should be fine. I’d personally also count the various fairy tales, even though some of the earliest versions were not exactly family friendly.
    • Feel free to include books from any country, in translation or not. I have limited exposure to non-American children’s lit, so I’d love to learn about books from other countries myself.
    • Feel free to double up with other events or challenges if you wish.
  • And if you need ideas I posted
  • There is no deadline for joining or participating (other than, of course, the end of April).

Most important: Have fun!

Please let me–and other participants–know in the comments of this post if you are interested in participating, and let me know if you have any questions. Also, please feel free to use any of the event/RAL images on your own blogs.

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 300px

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 250px

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 200px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 300px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 250px

Happy reading!

Participants:

Image sources: The event logo illustration is “Merry Christmas” from The Way to Wonderland (1917, Mary Stewart), illustrated  by Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935). The RAL logo illustration is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865, Lewis Carroll), 1907 edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).

Reading all around the World

Reading All Around the World

In some–no, many–ways I feel very fortunate. One example: Although I am from a small (and shrinking) city in the Midwest and although I’ve lived in said city my whole life, excepting my time at college–which was only 25 miles up the road–, and a semester in Italy, I have had the good fortune to both meet people from all over the world and people who have traveled the world. Some, like me, have family that has been here for several generations, but unlike me, still have strong ties to their ancestors’ cultures, often throught their churches. Some I’ve met have been immigrants, firmly settled here, or students, just passing through. And some I know–including some family members–have lived oversees, fully experiencing another culture and country. Regardless, I have found that there is no better way to reinforce that people everywhere, despite our cultural differences, are much the same at the core, than to engage with people–sometimes even at the most minimal level–who have experienced another culture. My initial opinions on the U.S.’s 2003 invasion of Iraq were complicated by my acquaintances with an Iraqi-American who had fled Hussein’s government and a Bosnian who had survived the siege of Sarajevo. My awareness of the history of Crimea was not from the evening news, but a former roommate from the region. My concern over Syria increases from the many Syrian Christians in my hometown.

But we are not always so fortunate to meet people from elsewhere. Or even when we do, it may only be in passing and we never know their story. Even 14 years ago, when I was in Italy, there were many African migrants who I would pass on the streets, or sit across the aisle from at the Episcopal Church on Sundays. But I never actually met any, knew their names, knew their stories. Only that they were. On the other hand, books can bring us there. I’ve never been to Chile, but The House of the Spirits taught me much about Chilean history and about Chileans impacted by forces larger than themselves. Add to that the many wonderful books I’ve read from other countries, and I’ve long been wanting to expand my reading beyond my typical U.S.-Britain, occasional Spanish-language material.

So I knew I wanted to jump on board when I saw that Jean of Howling Frog Books was hosting a Reading all around the World–well, not challenge, but adventure, I knew I wanted to join in.

Buttong: Reading all around the World

But I’m adding my own personal twist. See, when I was first thinking about my own project for this–long before Jean announced the Club–I thought I would pick books out for an international reading project based on people I’ve met. Perhaps a little more limiting that the entire world, but with roughly 200 countries to choose from, it seemed a good way to narrow down my options. And wouldn’t you know it–when I started to list them out, I had no trouble reaching 50 (albeit, some of the connections are a bit tenuous).

There are few rules–a minimum of 50 countries (reader-defined) either fiction (author must be from/live in said country) or nonfiction about a country, no time limit, no pressure (see Jean’s post for details). I highly encourage anyone interested in expanding their reading past their comfort zone-countries to join in!

I’m tentatively aiming for five years, knowing the reality is more like ten (ambition never hurts!). My current list, subject to change, in alphabetical order:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Argentina
  3. Australia
  4. Belgium
  5. Bosnia
  6. Brazil
  7. Canada
  8. Chile
  9. China
  10. Colombia
  11. Croatia
  12. Cuba
  13. England
  14. Estonia
  15. Fiji
  16. Finland
  17. France
  18. Germany
  19. Greece
  20. Guatemala
  21. India
  22. Iran
  23. Iraq
  24. Ireland
  25. Italy
  26. Jamaica
  27. Japan
  28. Kenya
  29. Mexico
  30. New Zealand
  31. Nicaragua
  32. Niger
  33. Pakistan
  34. Peru
  35. Philippines
  36. Poland
  37. Qatar
  38. Romania
  39. Russia
  40. Scotland
  41. Spain
  42. Sri Lanka
  43. Sudan
  44. Sweden
  45. Switzerland
  46. Syria
  47. Thailand
  48. Turkey
  49. Ukraine
  50. Wales

This should be fun! Now, which country to choose first…?