Classics Spin #24

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I don’t really have time for this. I have so many books already planned for the next few months, especially library books either to finish or already on hold, as well as a couple possible readalongs. I don’t have time to be adding any more books to my ‘immediate plans’ list. Nope, really should skip this one…so here’s the list. 🙂

  1. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Wives and Daughters (England, 1865)
  2. Poe, Edgar Allan: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (U.S., 1830s-40s)
  3. Dickens, Charles: Bleak House (England, 1853)
  4. Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls (U.S., 1940)
  5. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (England, 1932)
  6. Morrison, Toni: Beloved (U.S., 1987)
  7. Lawrence, D.H.: Sons and Lovers (England, 1913)
  8. James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction (U.S., 1878-1908)
  9. Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man (U.S., 1952)
  10. Camões, Luís Vaz de: The Lusiad (Portugal, 1572)
  11. Homer: The Odyssey (Greece, c. 8th century BCE)*
  12. Anonymous: Beowulf (Anglo-Saxon, between 8th-11th centuries)*
  13. Trollope, Anthony: Barchester Towers (England, 1857)
  14. Virgil: The Aeneid [Aeneis] (Rome, 29-19 BCE)
  15. Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop (U.S., 1927)
  16. Bolaño, Roberto: 2666 (Chile, 2004)
  17. Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury (U.S., 1929)
  18. Carson, Anne, translator: An Oresteia (Greece, 5th century BCE)
  19. Bromfield, Louis: The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
  20. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Russia, 1886-1912)

A randomized list of my remaining classics club books I already have or are readily available from the library. Titles with an * are rereads.

Looking over the list, I’m reminded why I want to participate in the spin: I can’t decide which of these I want to read first! Even the long titles are appealing (I’m kind of hoping for 2666, actually, and I’m sure I don’t have time to read that, even with a September 30 deadline.)

Here’s to a good spin!

A Summer Check-In

It is raining today. The slow, steady, chill gray rain I associate with spring—or November. But we need it; July is usually our wettest month, but the thunderstorms stayed away this year and the fields are dry and the gardens thirsty.

It is a good sort of day for reading.

Purple Coneflower
The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) don’t seem to mind that it hasn’t rained.

I’ve been reading a decent amount this summer, for me at least. Not all of it has followed the plans I outlined back in May. There were holds I’d forgotten about, books I’d been meaning to read and finally decided to pick up. And of course, I’m always subject to reading whims, no matter how carefully I make a list.

Although we are roughly two-thirds through the 20 Books of Summer Challenge, and I’ve only finished five (of a realistic goal of 10), I do feel confident at finishing out the summer strong. I’m midway through several books and have a few children’s classics planned for August.

It’s been a less good summer for writing—for me at least. The weather has been miserable more days than I’d like (I don’t deal well with heat and humidity), and my brain turns to mush. So, rather than writing up full posts for everything I’ve read/am reading, I thought I’d just share some brief notes here.

67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence (Howard Means, US, 2016)

I’ve long been interested in the history and aftermath of the May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings, since a high school government class session on the topic around the time of the 30th anniversary. Attending Kent and walking past the location of the protests and shootings nearly every day (the then-architecture building overlooked the site) only increased my interest, and this is the third book I’ve read on the topic. (Previous reads are 13 Seconds and Above the Shots.) While it might seem that three books on a single topic might become a bit redundant (and it can be at times), something that I have learned is that multiple sources can each bring something different to the table. 13 Seconds was published within a year of the event, and so brought with it the contemporary perspective. Above the Shots and 67 Shots were both published within the last 5 years, and have a longer perspective on events, the aftermath, the legacy, and even the discovery of possible new evidence in 2007. Above the Shots was also an oral history, the first oral history on any topic I’ve read, and as such brought a wealth of viewpoints, from student protestors, student observers, student conservatives, townspeople, national guards. It was the first time I really began to understand the context of the real fear on the part of the town and larger “silent majority.” But I will never understand the impulse to wish violence on another.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain, US, 1876)

I have the start of a longer post on this one drafted but suffice it to say I can’t believe it took me this long to read this entertaining adventure story!

The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien, England, 1937)

I decided this spring that this year demanded the comfort read of returning to Middle Earth. Either that or I was looking for an excuse… 😊 Regardless, it was fun to return to Bilbo’s adventures with the dwarves: avoiding trolls, goblins, and giant spiders; tricking elves and dragons; even attempting his hand at mediation. The Hobbit has a completely different feel from The Lord of the Rings; it strikes me always as closer to a children’s book than the later adventure, and perhaps more importantly, as if the mythology is less finished. Not, that is, that the underlying history of Middle Earth is lacking here—throughout references to Tolkien’s other stories and poems abound, though they may only be apparent to readers of his posthumously published work. But instead of orcs we have goblins, instead of Sauron we have references to a shadowy Necromancer. And of course, we know that the first edition of The Hobbit has a slightly different story of Bilbo’s obtaining of the one ring than later versions—Tolkien had not yet decided on its importance to the next story in the sequence, or the role of Gollum. Regardless, it is a story I am always charmed by.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love (Cal Newport, 2012)

This was not on my original 20 Books of Summer list; I had quite forgotten it was on the holds list from the library until it came in, months after placed on hold. I guess the pithiest description is “career advice.” Newport takes issue with the very common contemporary advice to “follow your passion,” not because he thinks that this will only work for a few (i.e., you may be passionate about basketball, but not have the skill and size to make the NBA), but because he believes that passion is a result of being “so good they can’t ignore you” rather than what will lead to THE job you’ll love. While I don’t exactly disagree with him, it does seem that there are some careers (architecture school, I’m looking at you) in which a certain level of passion may get you through the tough times to come out the other side. But his advice about focusing on and earning “career capital” – that is, skills that are valuable, but not necessarily common – is invaluable. Building up such capital will give you ever-increasing amounts of control over your career, and control over our time or life direction is often what truly will give us career contentment. If you need or want to make a career change, he advises that the best way is to build on the skills you already have rather than taking a complete 180, which will only set your career capital back to zero.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (Richard Rothstein, 2018)

Another deviation from my original 20 Books of Summer plans, I first heard about The Color of Law, as one of a number of titles recommended earlier this summer as protests over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led to a broader discussion of racism in the US. Rothstein’s premise is to argue that housing segregation in the US—that continues to this day thanks largely to income disparities between Blacks and whites, plus zoning designed to maintain property values*—is not solely the result of de facto segregation (that is, social and cultural reasons), but was de jure (that is, government-created).  It is not perhaps the most exciting of the titles recommended (it’s not difficult writing, yet dry enough I could only read it in short bites), but it is very illuminating as to the history of segregation in the US, specifically how government policies created or encouraged it, even outside the Southern states. I read it with a mixture of anger (the very racism/prejudice underlying neighborhood segregation is abhorrent to me) and resignation (from my awareness of the explicitly racist times and system in which the politicians and policy makers were operating). But it is important to know the history to make good decisions moving forward.

*It’s hard to argue against wanting to maintain property values. It’s also hard to separate out how much zoning designations were designed based purely on racism vs. economic classism. But there is no question that zoning regulations often deliberately permitted industry or other unpleasant activity adjacent to existing Black neighborhoods (but not near existing white neighborhoods). Nor is there any question that one of the factors behind the US’s current affordable housing crisis is zoning regulations designed to maintain property values that prevent development of multi-family or even densely developed single-family housing in many parts of the country, thus helping maintain a shortage of housing and pushing prices up ridiculously. My jaw dropped to learn that an “unimproved,” i.e., 2-bed, 1-bath Levittown house might go for $350,000 in 2018 (vs. the $8,000 it originally sold for, equivalent to ~ $75,000 c.2018).

A brief stroll in the shade of a local park.

As for books I am currently reading, I’m about one-quarter through a collection of essays on creativity, Wheesht, by knitwear designer Kate Davies. I’ll probably write more about it when finished, as her perspectives often goes against the current perceived “wisdom” about creativity and making. I’m ahead of schedule for the Mysteries of Udolpho readalong and hoping to finish early. It’s not quite what I expected—I’d say more romance and less terror! (Catherine Moreland and Isabel Thorpe, you misled me [Northanger Abbey])—but it started rolling along nicely in the second volume.

I’ve also just started The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, another deviation from my 20 books list (why do I even try with lists?). Only a few pages in, but I’ll have to hustle – there’s a deep hold list behind me, so no renewals on this one!

Then of course, where The Hobbit leads, The Fellowship of the Ring must follow. A reread, but it is so enjoyable to dip back into Middle Earth. Even if I know there are dark, dark times ahead. I’m hoping (though this seems unlikely) to have the trilogy finished by Labor Day. I’m also planning to start my reread of The Wind in the Willows this weekend. It feels like it should be an August book, so I’m determined to make it an August read.

If I finish all those, I’ll make my ten. Perhaps a bit of a challenge, but I’m cautiously optimistic. After all, the forecast is for more humidity, so there’s not much else to do but read!

20 Books of Summer

How to pick a summer read?

Something light, fluffy, perfect for a lazy summer afternoon?

That thick doorstop you’ve been meaning to get to and now might finally have time for when it’s too hot to do anything else?

Off the top of the tottering tower of to-be-reads threatening to topple over?

The library book you STILL haven’t read even though the library’s been digital-only for over two months? (Uh…is that just me?)

A children’s classic full of its own lazy summer afternoons?

The possibilities–and interpretations–are endless. And it can be impossible to predict: what seems like a “good summer read” in June may be the last thing you want to read come August. But this is one of the joys of summer – more relaxation and fewer rules.

Even since I saw the first posts popping up for 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, I’ve been thinking about what I hope–or expect to read–this summer. Twenty books in a three month period is, unfortunately, a bit of a stretch for me. Well, maybe if I switched to all kid’s lit or Golden Age Detective Fiction. But then I saw Cleo’s clever twist: select a list of 20 books, from which to read 10. Well, I can do that! Um…maybe? (Reference: unread library books.)

So I started going through my shelves. First, I pulled the library books. Because, well…(I have no excuses, really.) Then the books I already wanted to read. Throw in a couple children’s classics that I’ve been hankering to reread. Add a readalong title, a few books that are family loans that have been around longer than the library books (I’m the worst at reading borrowed books, apparently), and leave a space for an Agatha Christie that will have to come from the library, and we have a book stack.

From the bottom:

  1. The Wind in the Willows – after Cleo posted recently, I decided I needed to reread, probably in August
  2. 67 Shots – (Non-fiction). I had intended to read this in time to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, but didn’t even open it.
  3. Beowulf – possible reread; I’m in a bit of Medieval mode at the moment (current read: The Nibelungenlied)
  4. The Trumpet of the Swan – another possible August reread. And I need to go birding; there’s area wetlands that have Trumpeter Swans (and Bald Eagles – so exciting to see!)
  5. The Sound and the Fury – I keep pulling it off the shelves to read and getting distracted. This year, really! (Even if not this summer.)
  6. Call Down the Hawk – I pre-ordered this when it came out, so of course I haven’t touched it. At least that means I’m not anxiously awaiting the sequel…
  7. Britt-Marie Was Here
  8. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
  9. Loving Frank – These last three are books that one of my aunts loaned to me thinking I’d like them. I couldn’t say as they’ve been gathering dust ever since. Ahem. At least one of the three better get read this summer!
  10. wheesht – A collection of essays on creativity and making. I’ve read a few, but want to start over and really give them their proper due.
  11. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – this feels like it should be a summer read. Anyone want to whitewash a fence?
  12. The Mysteries of Udolpho – A readalong with Cleo and Jean, it starts June 1. I broke my book-buying ban (see: tottering tower of tomes) since – gasp – the library doesn’t have a copy, even if they were open! Of course, I’ll probably want to reread Northanger Abbey afterwards, and it didn’t make the list…
  13. One Hundred Years of Solitude – I was supposed to reread this for a readalong with Silvia and Ruth but the timing ended up right when I hit a reading slump. But I think I’m ready to pick it up now.
  14. The Odyssey – Yep, another library book, another reread. I still intend to read it.
  15. The Fellowship of the Ring
  16. The Two Towers
  17. The Return of the King
  18. The Hobbit – This is the big plan for the summer – with everything going on, it feels like the right time to reread these. And they go well with The Nibelungenlied. Maybe less violent…
  19. Seaward – I’m not sure my brother actually knows I have this…time to get it read and return
  20. Unpictured: The Secret of Chimneys – next in my Agatha Christie chronological reading. It may end up a digital read, depending on the library.

So, you might notice the problem: while I may not have time to read 20 books, it would appear that I’m planning to do so. And then there’s the books that didn’t make the cut but that might sneak in anyways. Good thing we can change our list! And that there’s a summer staycation coming up…

Classics Spin #23

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It seems like I was just reading for a Classics Club spin, and there’s another one. For this edition, I pared my list down to only books that are already on my shelves (after removing books I’ve already finished/am currently reading), seeing as I have a ridiculous number of unread books on my shelves and the library doesn’t seem likely to be open soon. (Considering they shut down even before the stay-at-home/non-essential orders.) Some of these titles are a bit lengthy, so I make no promises as to finishing this spin on time!

1. Homer: The Odyssey (Greece, c. 8th century BCE)
2. Carson, Anne, translator: An Oresteia (Greece, 5th century BCE)
3. Virgil: The Aeneid [Aeneis] (Rome, 29-19 BCE)
4. Anonymous: Beowulf (Anglo-Saxon, between 8th-11th centuries)
5. Anonymous: Njal’s Saga (Iceland, 13th century)
6. Anonymous: Nibelungenlied (Germany, 13th century)
7. Camões, Luís Vaz de: The Lusiad (Portugal, 1572)
8. Radcliffe, Ann: The Italian (England, 1797)
9. Poe, Edgar Allan: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (U.S., 1830s-40s)
10. Dickens, Charles: Bleak House (England, 1853)
11. Trollope, Anthony: Barchester Towers (England, 1857)
12. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Wives and Daughters (England, 1865)
13. James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction (U.S., 1878-1908)
14. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Russia, 1886-1912)
15. Lawrence, D.H.: Sons and Lovers (England, 1913)
16. Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury (U.S., 1929)
17. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (England, 1932)
18. Bromfield, Louis: The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
19. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (U.S., 1952)
20. Bolaño, Roberto: 2666 (Chile, 2004)

Title I’m most hoping to spin: The Sound and the Fury, since I want to read it soon, and this would be a good incentive, or Wives and Daughters since I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.

Title I’m most “afraid” of spinning: Well, none of them, actually! They’re all on my Classics Club list for a reason, after all.

Here’s to a good spin!

A New Project: Reading Agatha Christie

Observing my reading over the past couple years, I really like mysteries. I suppose the same applies to my TV viewing as well. (And film – have you seen Knives Out!? My favorite movie of 2019.) True, they’re typically not  difficult (unless the subject matter is particularly unsettling or gory), but they are so much fun to read. To try to guess the end (if you don’t…oops…read it before you get there), to figure out the clues. So I’ve been reading a lot of them. Various authors. Robert Galbraith. Ann Cleeves. PD James. But mostly, Agatha Christie.

It really started, I suppose, when Kenneth Branagh remade Murder on the Orient Express (which I did enjoy, despite his unfortunate mustache). So I reread that. And then thought that some more Christie might be nice. Crooked House. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. Now, I have a mysteries & thrillers project list (have I mentioned how much I like lists? 😉), but, inspired in part by Cleo’s embarkment on an Agatha Christie reading journey, I’ve decided to amend the list with ALL of Christie. And read them in order (although I might skip some of the ones I’ve read recently). I will skip the books she wrote under the name Mary Westmacott as those aren’t mysteries, and I may or may not read her autobiography (which, actually, I read in high school).

I’ve read the first couple (1, 3, and 2, in that order – an oops due to forgetting which book came second) and will be posting on those soonish.

For the deathly curious, the list I will be reading from, in order. Due to library availability (and since I prefer to read on paper), I’ll be reading from the short story collections as published in the US. (It’s possible that some of those will be read out of order since the stories would have been individually at earlier dates anyways. This is meant to be fun, not dogmatic.)

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, 1921, Hercule Poirot
  2. The Secret Adversary, 1922, Tommy and Tuppence
  3. The Murder on the Links, 1923, Hercule Poirot
  4. Poirot Investigates, 1924, Hercule Poirot (Short Stories)
  5. The Man in the Brown Suit, 1924, Colonel Race
  6. The Secret of Chimneys, 1925, Superintendent Battle
  7. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, 1926, Hercule Poirot
  8. The Big Four, 1927, Hercule Poirot
  9. The Mystery of the Blue Train, 1928, Hercule Poirot
  10. The Seven Dials Mystery, 1929, Superintendent Battle
  11. Partners in Crime, 1929, Tommy and Tuppence (Short Stories)
  12. The Mysterious Mr. Quin, 1930, Harley Quin (Short Stories)
  13. The Murder at the Vicarage, 1930, Miss Marple
  14. The Sittaford Mystery, 1931, Mystery (US: The Murder at Hazelmoor)
  15. Peril at End House, 1932, Hercule Poirot
  16. The Thirteen Problems, 1932, Various (US: The Tuesday Club Murders; short stories)
  17. Lord Edgware Dies, 1933, Hercule Poirot (US: Thirteen at Dinner)
  18. Murder on the Orient Express, 1934, Hercule Poirot (US: Murder in the Calais Coach)
  19. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, 1934, Mystery (US: The Boomerang Clue)
  20. Parker Pyne Investigates, 1934, Parkery Pyne (US: Mr.Parker Pyne, Detective)
  21. Three Act Tragedy, 1935, Hercule Poirot (US: Murder in Three Acts)
  22. Death in the Clouds, 1935, Hercule Poirot (US: i)
  23. The A.B.C. Murders, 1936, Hercule Poirot
  24. Murder in Mesopotamia, 1936, Hercule Poirot
  25. Cards on the Table, 1936, Hercule Poirot
  26. Murder in the Mews, 1937, Hercule Poirot (US: Dead Man’s Mirror; short stories)
  27. Dumb Witness, 1937, Hercule Poirot (US: Poirot Loses a Client)
  28. Death on the Nile, 1937, Hercule Poirot
  29. Appointment with Death, 1938, Hercule Poirot
  30. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, 1938, Hercule Poirot (US: Murder for Christmas or A Holiday for Murder)
  31. Murder is Easy, 1939, Superintendent Battle (US: Easy to Kill)
  32. And Then There Were None, 1939
  33. The Regatta Mystery, 1939, Various (Short Stories)
  34. Sad Cypress, 1940, Hercule Poirot
  35. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, 1940, Hercule Poirot (US: The Patriotic Murders or An Overdose of Death)
  36. Evil Under the Sun, 1941, Hercule Poirot
  37. N or M?, 1941, Tommy and Tuppence
  38. The Body in the Library, 1942, Miss Marple
  39. Five Little Pigs, 1942, Hercule Poirot (US: Murder in Retrospect)
  40. The Moving Finger, 1943, Miss Marple
  41. Towards Zero, 1944, Superintendent Battle
  42. Death Comes as the End, 1945
  43. Sparkling Cyanide, 1945, Colonel Race (US: Remembered Death)
  44. The Hollow, 1946, Hercule Poirot
  45. The Labours of Hercules, 1947, Hercule Poirot (Short Stories)
  46. Taken at the Flood, 1948, Hercule Poirot (US: There is a Tide…)
  47. The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories, 1948, Various (Short Stories)
  48. Crooked House, 1949
  49. A Murder is Announced, 1950, Miss Marple
  50. Three Blind Mice and Other Stories, 1950, Mystery (Short Stories)
  51. They Came to Baghdad, 1951
  52. The Under Dog and Other Stories, 1951, Hercule Poirot (Short Stories)
  53. Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, 1952, Hercule Poirot
  54. They Do It with Mirrors, 1952, Miss Marple (US: Murder with Mirrors)
  55. After the Funeral, 1953, Hercule Poirot (US: Funerals are Fatal)
  56. A Pocket Full of Rye, 1953, Miss Marple
  57. Destination Unknown, 1954, Mystery (US: So Many Steps to Death)
  58. Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly, 2014, Hercule Poirot (written in 1954 to raise money for a church)
  59. Hickory Dickory Dock, 1955, Hercule Poirot
  60. Dead Man’s Folly, 1956, Hercule Poirot
  61. 50 from Paddington, 1957, Miss Marple (US: What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!)
  62. Ordeal by Innocence, 1958
  63. Cat Among the Pigeons, 1959, Hercule Poirot
  64. Double Sin and Other Stories, 1961, Various (Short Stories; US)
  65. The Pale Horse, 1961
  66. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, 1962, Miss Marple (US: The Mirror Crack’d)
  67. The Clocks, 1963, Hercule Poirot
  68. A Caribbean Mystery, 1964, Miss Marple
  69. At Bertram’s Hotel, 1965, Miss Marple
  70. Third Girl, 1966, Hercule Poirot
  71. Endless Night, 1967
  72. By the Pricking of My Thumbs, 1968, Tommy and Tuppence
  73. Hallowe’en Party, 1969, Hercule Poirot
  74. Passenger to Frankfurt, 1970
  75. Nemesis, 1971, Miss Marple
  76. The Golden Ball and Other Stories, 1971, Various (Short Stories)
  77. Elephants Can Remember, 1972, Hercule Poirot
  78. Postern of Fate, 1973, Tommy and Tuppence
  79. Curtain, 1975, Hercule Poirot (Poirot’s last case, written in the 1940s)
  80. Sleeping Murder, 1976, Miss Marple (Miss Marple’s last case, written in the 1940s)
  81. Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories, 1979, Miss Marple
  82. The Harlequin Tea Set, 1997, Various (Short Stories; US [stories published in other UK collections])