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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
This should be fun! Now, which country to choose first…?
I know many people are happy to see 2016 gone. It wasn’t kind to many of us–well to be honest, I knew in Dec. of 2015 that 2016 would never be a great year. 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.
But, much the same as opening a new package of notebook paper has long inspired me, turning of a calendar page and dropping of a ball inspires in me an excitement for what this coming year holds. I was determined to end 2016 neatly–cleaning, organizing, finishing. Well not everything. I wasn’t going to make myself crazy/stay up all night just to finish a recently restarted knitting project. But I finished the two books I most wanted to finish to end the year, I finally put away papers that have been piling up since last January! and recycled/shredded others, I finished off reading the last week’s worth of local papers. (Wow–there are so many great things happening locally, including some wonderful building revitalization projects.) And so, despite lacking a fresh coat of snow to give the world a “new” feel (rather, it’s all melted at the colors are muted browns and greys, warmed by winter sun), everything feels fresh and new. I pulled out a couple books this morning, eager to make a start on my upcoming projects and goals.
But first, I really should remember last year–I had quite a few goals and challenges, but how did I do?
Read at least 25 books this year – Met! (Just how many books I read depends on how you count; I only counted books I both started and finished in 2016, and grouped all of the Beatrix Potter 23 Tales into one for the count.)
Focus more on my Classics Club list – Met! (I read eight titles off the list. Sure, there are still plenty to go, but…)
Start adding in some contemporary translated fiction. Oops. I didn’t read any translations more recent than the 1960s, while I wanted to read at least one that was no older than 2000.
Plenty of Children’s Classics! – Met! (I hosted the Classic Children’s Literature Event in April, for which I read Emil and the Detectives, The Jungle Book, and a number of Beatrix Potter tales. Later in the year, I finished off the Potter tales and added in some Susan Cooper and Tuck Everlasting. By my count, a total of 28 different titles.)
o’s Reading England 2016. Goal: level 1 (1-3 counties). – Met! I didn’t write posts for these books (yet…), but I did read two books.
The Classics Club’s Women’s Classic Literature Event. Goal: min. 4 classics by a woman author (not counting contemporary). – Met! (Counting the Beatrix Potter’s as one title.)
Karen at Books and Chocolate’s Back to the Classics Challenge. (All books must be at least 50 years old.) Goal: hit all 12 categories. – Fail! Well, I did read books that would fall into six of the categories, but I only wrote posts for five. And I hadn’t thought to ask, but someone did for this year’s edition, and a poetry collection wouldn’t actually count, so…five books, with four posts. It was a fun challenge, regardless. (Actually, I may have read an acceptable 20th century classic–Silence–, but that depends on whether the cut off is any book written before 1966 or including 1966. Whichever interpretation, again, no post.)
So not too badly, I don’t think. (If you really want to know which titles I read for each goal/challenge, the complete list is here.)
As far as the reading itself, I really felt 2016 was excellent. Just a few months ago, I wasn’t so sure, but as I read more to finish off the year/recalled what I had read earlier, I’m really happy with the titles I finished.
I read quite a wide variety this year, pushing my boundaries a bit: 5 plays, 1 poetry collection, 2 non-fiction titles, 4 translated titles, 3 short story collections, 3 works by African-American writers, and my first ever Japanese novel. Most were good or better; the only title I really was disappointed in was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which did feel a bit more like fan fiction, but I will acknowledge that it might give a different impression when watching it staged, as it was written for. Although there are 13 different male authors compared to 9 different female authors I read this year (I think I counted correctly), part of the reason for the gap is that one book (Above the Shots) was co-written/edited by two men and Harry Potter was a joint effort between J.K. Rowling and two male collaborators. So much for stats.
My Top Books of 2016
The two books I read this year that I believe will stick with me longest are both translated works. I still can’t believe how well I remember Miguel Ángel Asturias’ The President [El Señor Presidente], the story of a small group of people just trying to live their lives under a tyrant. Highly recommended. And I only just recently finished Shūsaku Endō’s Silence, a novel investigating faith and belief in the most difficult of circumstances. It has already proven a most thought-provoking read and I imagine I will be still thinking of it months from now.
Less thought-provoking, but wonderful to read as well wasA Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I found absolutely delightful. I am keeping my eye for any local productions of this play, which is now one of my favorite Shakespearean plays (along with Much Ado About Nothing). Also delightful was my reread of Pride and Prejudice–I really had forgotten how much I simply enjoy reading Austen.
I had not expected to read any nonfiction in 2016, but I am really happy with the two titles I did read. But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman was a bit of a mind-bender and Above the Shots: An Oral History of the Kent State Shootings by Craig S. Simpson and Gregory S. Wilson I found excellent as my first experience reading oral history. By comparing and contrasting the points of view of so many people who were in or around Kent in May 1970 (as well as official records), I came to a better understanding of how any story can be a matter of perspective, and how even those who witness an event my find their own understanding changing over time. This was actually a topic touched on But What If We’re Wrong? as well, so they proved excellent companion reads.
I’ve already posted about the two year-long challenges I’m planning on participating in for 2017: Deal Me In and Back to the Classics. I didn’t really see too many challenges I was interested in this year–thankfully! I have some areas I want to focus on as well. After a decent Reading Ohio year, that project will likely be on the back burner as I try to get to some more of my Classics Club titles and (really, this year, I mean it) some contemporary translated fiction.
Since I made my goal of 25 books last year–and it feels like a reasonable number for me–I’d like to hit 26 this year. One every two weeks should be doable.
I’d like to match my 2016 total of at least 8 titles from my Classics Club list.
To define “some” – let’s make it 2 works in translation (written in +/- the last 25 years).
Plenty of Children’s Classics! – so YES, I do plan on another edition of the Classic Children’s Literature Event, likely again in April.
Actually blog about most of those titles in a timely manner.
I also have some non-bookish goals that I’d like to work on this year:
Learn how to properly use my camera. I bought a DSLR last May, and while I have the automatic settings down pretty well, I’m still in the dark on anything else. Fortunately, I have a DVD series to go through to help.
Finish 3 decent-sized knitting projects. I’m thinking a sweater and two shawls.
Resume trying to regain my lost high school Spanish. I started using the Duolingo app; I’d like to make it through all the Spanish lessons this year.
Properly go through all my files/folders/papers. For example, I still have school notes that I, reasonably, saved to study for the Architectural Registration Exam, but then just stuffed them in the closet when the studying was done. It’s been years; I’m not likely to need them again–time to purge.
Here, with the optimism of the first of January, it all seems reasonable. Right?
Okay, so I didn’t exactly complete the 2016 Back to the Classics challenge (mostly for not blogging about–more details in my year-end-wrap up post this weekend). But it was fun anyway, and I like the categories this year, so I’ve decided that this would be my second and likely final year-long challenge for 2017 (not counting my own plans).
The challenge will be exactly the same as last year, 12 classic books, but with slightly different categories. You do not have to read 12 books to participate in this
Complete six categories, and you get one entry in the drawing
Complete nine categories, and you get two entries in the drawing
Complete all twelve categories, and you get three entries in the drawing
And here are the categories for the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge:
1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.
2. A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.
3. A classic by a woman author.
4. A classic in translation. Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories).
5. A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category also.
6. An romance classic. I’m pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot. 7. A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads. 8. A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two Cities, Three Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc.
9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title. It an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc.
10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc.
11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received.
12. A Russian Classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author.
(More details/rules at Karen’s original post.)
This should be fun! I can actually think of a book for just about every category–now as to whether I’ll get to them all or not… I’d certainly love to! I really want to read some Greek classics this year (finally), which would hit #4 and 5; there’s a likely Austen reread in my future (3 or 6) and it’s been a while since I read a Gothic classic (7), but I have a list.
Thanks again to Karen for hosting. Now what to read first…?
The last few years I’ve watched other bloggers make and post lists for a challenge hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis–52 short items (frequently short stories, but often also including poems, essay, or plays), each linked to a specific playing card. The idea: over the course of the coming year to select a card for each week then read that item in the appropriate week of the year. And it’s always been tempting–nothing too long to read, a great way to spend some time with literature types I don’t usually read. I finally succumbed to the temptation year, but under the strict understanding: I will almost certainly fail (I’m placing my bet on week four 😉 ). Actually I stand a lot better chance if I don’t commit to posting on everything I read, so, whether I do or not will probably be by whim. Regardless, I’m hope this helps me continue to push my reading boundaries away from longer forms.
My List is half short stories / half poems (for weeks with more than one poem, the poems in question are very short). All selections are from collections either on my own shelves or pilfered from my parents (they won’t even notice…)
Hearts – short stories
A – The Leader of the People – John Steinbeck
2 – Mr. Know-All – W. Somerset Maugham
3 – The Old Demon – Pearl S. Buck
4 – Young Archimedes – Aldous Huxley
5 – Butch Minds the Baby – Damon Runyon
6 – Suspicion – Dorothy L. Sayers
7 – The Open Boat – Stephen Crane
8 – My Oedipus Complex – Frank O’Connor
9 – The Snows of Kilimanjaro – Ernest Hemingway
10 – Six Feet of the Country – Nadine Gordimer
J – The Boarding House – James Joyce
Q – The Brute – Joseph Conrad
K – Lead Her Like a Pigeon – Jessamyn West
Spades – short stories
A – Vanka – Anton Chekhov
2 – Hautot and His Son – Guy de Maupassant
3 – A Letter to God – Gregorio López y Fuentes
4 – The Little Bouilloux Girl – Colette
5 – The Ruby – Corrado Alvaro
6 – A Double Game – Alberto Moravia
7 – Maternity – Lilika Nakos
8 – God Sees the Truth, But Waits – Leo Tolstoy
9 – The Walker-Through-Walls – Marcel Aymé
10 – The Augsburg Chalk Circle – Bertolt Brecht
J – The Procurator of Judæa – Anatole France
Q – My Lord, the Baby – Rabindranath Tagore
K – Modern Children – Sholom Aleichem
Diamonds – poetry
A – To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare – Ben Jonson
2 – L’Allegro – John Milton
3 – Il Penseroso – John Milton
4 – Lycidas – John Milton
5 – To a Mouse – Robert Burns
6 – Tam o’ Shanter – Robert Burns
7 – Kubla Khan – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
8 – Morte d’Arthur – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
9 – Ulysses – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
10 – A Grammarian’s Funeral – Robert Browning
J – Pioneers! O Pioneers! – Walt Whitman
Q – O Captain! My Captain! – Walt Whitman
K – When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d – Walt Whitman
Clubs – poetry
A – Sonetos I, LXI, LXXXI – Juan Boscán
2 – Sonetos & “Da mi basia mille” – Cristóbal de Castillejo
3 – Sonetos I, IV, X, XI – Garcilaso de la Vega
4 – Sonetos XIV, XXIII, XXIX, XXXII – Garcilaso de la Vega
5 – Canción III – Garcilaso de la Vega
6 – Canción V – Garcilaso de la Vega
7 – Madrigales I, II & Soneto I – Gutierre de Cetina
8 – Sonetos V, XX, XXIII – Francisco de la Torre
9 – Endecha II – Francisco de la Torre
10 – Soneto al rey nuestro señor – Hernando de Acuña
J – Oda I – Fray Luis de León
Q – Oda III – Fray Luis de León
K – Oda VII – Fray Luis de León
I look forward to starting this one – come Sunday! It should be a nice challenge. A thank you to Jay for hosting.
It’s been a while. With the end of April’s Children’s Classics Event, I dove into May with a focus on reading rather than writing, so now I find myself with, yet again, a backlog of posts to write—but at least a number of books are finished. I may, however, in the future have to institute a rule that I must write about one book before moving on to the next.
I have been working on some posts related to my Paul Laurence Dunbar reading, actually, but I’m not quite finished, so those will have to wait. In the meantime, I’m succumbing to temptation yet again, but I don’t think this will harm me. At worst, I will have too many books to finish in the fall; I make no promises of actually finishing anything on time, for that is unnecessary stress, when my job provides plenty of its own deadlines.
It’s only just the first week of “unofficial” summer, those June-July-August months when the school children are out of class and those of us still stuck behind a work desk long for the days of unfettered freedom, of long summers and ample reading time. The nostalgia creeps in every year, and every year I am convinced that I might read more than I do any other time of year. Foolish, of course—often work is even more busy in the summer—but an aim nonetheless.
It does seem that we are likely to have an uncomfortably hot summer—already we’ve hit 90 F (32 C) once—and in those temperatures I really am fit for nothing better than reading. So perhaps this year… Optimism springs eternal! With that thought in mind, and tempted by the sight of so many bloggers laying forth their summer plans, I set out mine, perhaps a week late, but a whole summer still stretches forth.
First, the next Classics Club spin. I’ve finished the reading (Pedro Páramo), but still need to write up a post for the last one—only a month or so overdue. Oops. It always gets me to read a book I might otherwise postpone, though, even if at times I finish months late. For this round I’ve only included books I already have on hand, as I’m currently trying to read off my shelves. A few I intend to read this summer, regardless of the spin outcome.
Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
His Last Bow – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
The Iliad – Homer
An Oresteia – as translated by Anne Carson
Fables – Aesop
Aeneid – Virgil
The Italian – Anne Radcliff
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell
Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell
The Lusiad – Luís Vaz de Camões
Three Exemplary Tales – Miguel de Cervantes
The President – Miguel Ángel Asturias
The Warden – Anthony Trollope
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Suttree – Cormac McCarthy
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
Then there’s the next Spanish Lit Month coming up in July, hosted by Stu of Winstonsdad’s Books and Richard of Caravana de recuerdos. I’m not sure yet what I will read, but I’d really like to actually finish something this year, as last year I failed abominably and nor did I manage to finish anything on time for Richard’s winter/spring Mexicanos perdidos en México event (Pedro Páramo was supposed to double for that as well…maybe I should save my post on it for July! Hmm…actually, that probably is what will happen…)
Finally, I see many bloggers signing up for the 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy of 746 Books. I initially dismissed the idea—I’ve not read 20 books in 3 months since I was in school—but there are options for 10 or 15 books as well. Surely I can read ten! My list is subject to change—I don’t wish to be strictly limited in my reading, if something catches else my eye. But these are the books I most want to read this summer, so it is likely I won’t deviate too much. Also, I’ve included an extra title in case my Classics Spin title is one I’m going to read anyway.
Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater [reread]
The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater [reread]
Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Maggie Stiefvater [reread]
The Raven King – Maggie Stiefvater
His Last Bow – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
Chronicles of Avonlea – L.M. Montgomery
The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
The Grey King – Susan Cooper
The Farm – Louis Bromfield
Enter Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse
TBD – Spanish Lit Month Book (if not Classics Spin title)
TBD – Classics Spin Book (if not already listed above)
Silver on the Tree – Susan Cooper (if Classics Spin Title is 1, 2, 7, 8, or 14)
I was going to stick with 10, but I realized that quite a few of my books are either YA or plays, so if I actually wanted to challenge myself I needed to bump it up to 15.
Well, I think that should be quite enough to go on! And what are your bookish plans for the summer?