Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph Richir

Saturday Reads: A New Weekly Feature

Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph RichirAs usual, Robin Bates’s exploration of literature as a mirror enlightens. In this case, Robin considers the notion of books as friends.

I’m enjoying Carl Pyrdum’s Thesis Thursday posts (but have to save them for the weekend). This one explores Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, and prompted me to remove my copy from the shelf. I should read it this year. All the way through. I’ve only read parts of it, and I’ve had it since about 1992. Also, a side note: Why did Shakespeare never write about King Arthur? I would have loved to have seen what Shakespeare could have done with the Matter of Britain.

Mandy has convinced me I need to read Bleak House. Downloaded it on my Kindle.

Fans of Downton Abbey might want to check out this New York Times article for suggested reads. After reading about these books in post after post on Downton Abbey, I’ve added the following Downton-related books to my list:

[amazon_image id=”0770435629″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0140232028″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Buccaneers (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0312658656″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The American Heiress: A Novel[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0199549893″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Forsyte Saga (Oxford World’s Classics)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0143120867″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”014118213X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Howards End (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”0770435629″ target=”_blank” ]Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle[/amazon_link] by the Countess of Carnarvon (I do hope some mention will be made of the Earl of Carnarvon’s connection to the Tutankhamun find). Lady Almina is the inspriation for Cora, Countess Grantham, and Highclere is where Downton Abbey is filmed.

[amazon_link id=”0140232028″ target=”_blank” ]The Buccaneers[/amazon_link] by Edith Wharton. Wharton didn’t finish this book about wealthy American women who travel to England in search of titled husbands. Looking forward to it.

[amazon_link id=”0312658656″ target=”_blank” ]The American Heiress[/amazon_link] by Daisy Goodwin, which has the much better title of My Last Duchess in the UK.

[amazon_link id=”0199549893″ target=”_blank” ]The Forsyte Saga[/amazon_link] by John Galsworthy. I read a story somewhere (perhaps apocryphal) about an elderly woman who hung on in her last sickness until the last book in The Forsyte Saga was published.

[amazon_link id=”0143120867″ target=”_blank” ]Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor[/amazon_link] by Rosina Harrison. Lady Astor seems to have been a rather fascinating person.

[amazon_link id=”014118213X” target=”_blank” ]Howards End[/amazon_link] by E.M. Forster. I’ve actually had this on my list for a while.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Everyone Has Read but Me…

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday focuses on the top ten books I feel as though everyone has read but me. I went to three different high schools. I can’t remember reading a single book for school during all of tenth grade. In fact, all I remember about that year was doing grammar exercises out of the Warriner’s grammar book and feeling that our teacher hated us. Eleventh and twelfth grade were better, but I still managed to graduate from high school (and college, as an English major no less) without having been required to read a lot of books that seem to be staples in the canon.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0452284236″ target=”_blank” ]Nineteen Eighty-Four[/amazon_link] by George Orwell. I actually do want to read this one, and I had every intention of reading it this year, but I think you have to be in a mood for dystopian literature, and frankly, that mood hasn’t happened this year.
  2. [amazon_link id=”0142000671″ target=”_blank” ]Of Mice and Men[/amazon_link] by John Steinbeck. I’ve seen the movie many times, and it’s not like it’s a long book. It’s just that, well, the mood thing. At least that’s my excuse for not reading it this year. You know, I put together this reading challenge specifically to address some of these deficiencies, and I read all of one book for it.
  3. [amazon_link id=”0143039431″ target=”_blank” ]The Grapes of Wrath[/amazon_link] by John Steinbeck. Ditto.
  4. [amazon_link id=”0307454541″ target=”_blank” ]The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo[/amazon_link] by Stieg Larson. Not sure I want to read it, but man, hasn’t everyone else?
  5. [amazon_link id=”0307594009″ target=”_blank” ]Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl[/amazon_link] by Anne Frank. I somehow never got around to this one. I teach at a Jewish school, but the students tend to read it in middle school now.
  6. [amazon_link id=”B000XSKDH4″ target=”_blank” ]Anne of Green Gables[/amazon_link] by L.M. Montgomery. Would I like this? I was never sure, so I never picked it up. Now it almost feels too late to bother.
  7. [amazon_link id=”1420929089″ target=”_blank” ]Little Women[/amazon_link] by Louisa May Alcott. Even my husband has read this book. I never really wanted to, but it sure seems like everyone else has read it.
  8. [amazon_link id=”0375842209″ target=”_blank” ]The Book Thief[/amazon_link] by Marcus Zusak. I have finally been convinced to put this on my TBR pile, but frankly, I avoid books about the Holocaust mainly because it was such a tragic event—many of my students’ grandparents are Holocaust survivors—and sometimes I feel that books and movies try to capitalize on it. It’s hard to explain how I feel. It’s sort of like writing a college admissions essay that deals with your brother being killed by a drunk driver—the admissions committee looks callous if they pick at your writing ability with a subject so fraught with emotion, but the point behind the essay is to evaluate your writing ability. It’s a form of manipulation. That’s how I feel about Holocaust books and movies—it’s almost impossible to criticize them because you look like a horrible person. Case in point, [amazon_link id=”0198326769″ target=”_blank” ]The Boy in the Striped Pajamas[/amazon_link] probably couldn’t have happened in reality because of the manner in which the Nazis dealt with children during the Holocaust, and yet, how do you point that out without looking like a complete ass? I should just stop because you probably think I’m a horrible person.
  9. [amazon_link id=”1594480001″ target=”_blank” ]The Kite Runner[/amazon_link] by Khaled Hosseini. I started this one, but didn’t get far. My daughter has read it. She said it’s excellent.
  10. [amazon_link id=”1451626657″ target=”_blank” ]Catch-22[/amazon_link] by Joseph Heller. This seems to be some kind of staple of teens/twenties. I don’t know how I passed the threshold into the my thirties without having my book passport stamped with this one, but I snuck by somehow. And now that I’m officially in my 40’s, I’m just not even sure I’d want to bother.

In addition to these books, I haven’t read much Kurt Vonnegut at all (that is, I have read one short story). I’ve also read precious little Dickens ([amazon_link id=”0142196584″ target=”_blank” ]A Tale of Two Cities[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0142196584″ target=”_blank” ]Great Expectations[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”1612930336″ target=”_blank” ]A Christmas Carol[/amazon_link] being the only selections I’ve read).

However! Before the admonitions start in the comments, I would like to add that I have read all of the following books that seem to be cropping up on these lists on other peoples’ blogs today:

  • [amazon_link id=”B003GCTQ7M” target=”_blank” ]Moby Dick[/amazon_link] by Herman Melville
  • [amazon_link id=”B003VYBQPK” target=”_blank” ]The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn[/amazon_link] by Mark Twain
  • [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link] by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • [amazon_link id=”0684801469″ target=”_blank” ]A Farewell to Arms[/amazon_link] by Ernest Hemingway
  • [amazon_link id=”0679723161″ target=”_blank” ]Lolita[/amazon_link] by Vladimir Nabokov
  • [amazon_link id=”0199536368″ target=”_blank” ]Crime and Punishment[/amazon_link] by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • [amazon_link id=”0143105442″ target=”_blank” ]The Scarlet Letter[/amazon_link] by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • All of Jane Austen’s completed books (the six novels)
  • [amazon_link id=”0143106155″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link] by Charlotte and Emily Brontë respectively

So, I am not a complete slouch.

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

Great ExpectationsWhat can I say about Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations? I am not sure if a summary is necessary or not, but it’s the story of an orphan named Pip who is raised by his cruel sister and kind brother-in-law (seriously, Joe Gargery is one of the sweetest men in classic literature, isn’t he?). One day he encounters a convict who threatens him if he doesn’t bring food and a file to remove the convict’s chains. Pip steals food from his sister’s cupboard, but feels guilty and is dreadfully worried he will be caught. Some time later, his uncle brings him to the home of Miss Havisham so he can be a playmate to Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter Estella. Estella is a cold-hearted witch, and she learned well the lessons about hating men taught by her adopted mother, abandoned at the altar and forever after frozen in that moment of time (from the wedding dress to the moldy cake and clocks stopped at the time of the catastrophe). Seriously Miss Havisham is one piece of awesome characterization. Pip wants more than anything to be a gentleman so he has some chance of earning Estella’s love, for predictably (though who knows why, because she doesn’t deserve it), Pip falls in love with her. Pip suddenly has a mysterious benefactor who pays for him to become a gentleman. He goes to London, embarrassed by his humble beginnings and ashamed of his family (thus avoiding them). He racks up debts. He discovers who his benefactor is, and it is NOT who I thought it would be or who Pip thought it would be, either. In case you haven’t read it, I will not spoil it for you. Eventually Pip loses his money, but he gains his old sense of self back with Joe Gargery’s help.

I read this novel via DailyLit, and despite it being originally published as a serial novel, I have to say I think I might have done better to read it on my Kindle. I had a little trouble following everything, or I felt like I did. After reading some summaries online, I discovered I actually followed the novel fairly well, but I had forgotten a major character and therefore did not make a very important connection late in the book. Charles Dickens is a master of writing character, and his characters Miss Havisham, Joe Gargery, and Abel Magwitch jump off the page. I also loved Wemmick’s father, who everyone calls “The Aged.” The characters were a bit difficult for me to keep up with because of how I chose to read the book. Pip I found frustrating. Why does he fall for Estella when she clearly does nothing to earn his affection? (I guess he’s a masochist.) Why does he turn his back on good old Joe? He turns out all right in the end, but he makes a lot of annoying mistakes that make you want to kick him.

I don’t know why I never read much Dickens. This is only my third Dickens book (after A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities). It was an enjoyable read, and I will of course read more Dickens, but more than anything else, it’s satisfying to cross off a book I feel like I should have read a long time ago.

Rating: ★★★★☆

I read this book as part of my own Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn’t Challenge. It’s my first read for that challenge, and I need to read five more to complete it. I’m not going to count it as historical fiction because it seems to me to be set in Dickens’s own present, which doesn’t fit my definition of historical fiction per sé. Miss Havisham brings the gothic, however, so I will count it toward the Gothic Reading Challenge (16 more books to go on this challenge). My next DailyLit book will be The Man in the Iron Mask. Oooh, I love Dumas’s adventures! And French! Bonus!

Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn't

Reading Update: Where is Shelley’s Ghost?

Does anyone know how long it takes a book to travel through the post from the UK? I ask because I won this book:

Shelley's Ghost

For creating this video:

(And before you get excited, I was one of three entrants, so they just decided to award the prize to all three of us.)

I want my book! It was mailed on or around March 3, I think, and given that was over two weeks ago, I’m starting to wonder.

So last week was a good reading week for me, as I devoured Water for Elephants in a day, and I finished listening to the audio version of A Discovery of Witches. I will be wrapping up Great Expectations on DailyLit this week.

I started reading Jon Clinch’s Finn, the story of Huckleberry Finn’s infamous Pap. It’s a little dark, and I’m not sure I’m in the mood for dark right at the moment. It calls to mind Faulkner, and I think I will be glad I’ve read it when I finish it, but I think I want to pick up Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector, though it has really mixed reviews on Goodreads. I planned to read it anyway for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. I also toyed with the idea of picking up Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson. First of all, I’ve been through Between, which is a real place. Second, Jackson was hysterical in person when I heard her talk about her books. Third, I know it will be funny and light.

Yeah, I can’t decide.

Reading Update: March 13, 2011

Springtime novel reading

Last night I finished John Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. Hope you enjoyed my review. I am glad to be finished. No matter how much I enjoy a book or, conversely, dislike it, I’m always happy to be finished. It means I can start a new book. The one I’ve chosen to read is Water for Elephants. I want to read it before I see the movie, for one thing, and for another, a friend recommended it to me some time ago. In addition, it qualifies for the LibraryThing Pick Challenge as part of the Take a Chance Challenge, as it’s one of the 25 Most Reviewed Books. I really have wanted to read it for a while, and with all these reasons to try, now seems like a good time.

Of course, I’m still plugging away at The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser. I am about to begin the Victorian era. Given that my Kindle reports I am 65% finished and I’m reaching 1837, I wonder if there are just a lot of notes in the back of the book, or if Fraser really will emphasize the 19th and 20th centuries that much over the rest of British history. I hope not. Not that they’re not important, but I like to see things a little more evenly divided.

I will be finished with Great Expectations soon, and it’s not much at all what I thought it would be. Not sure I chose wisely in reading it via DailyLit. Some books lend themselves better to piecemeal reading than others. I will also finish A Discovery of Witches fairly soon (I have 4 hours and 23 minutes left to listen to).

I hate Daylight Saving Time. For a couple of weeks, I’m going to feel off. No one has given me a satisfactory explanation why we still have this practice. Can’t we have a referendum? I can’t think of a soul who likes it.

Is spring bursting forth where you live? The Bradford Pear tree in my yard is full of white blooms, and it won’t be long before the rest of the flowering trees follow its lead.

P.S. Sorry Jenners. I can’t follow the directions. I linked up this announcement post instead of the review post I will do in the future. Can you delete it, or should I just not fret?

photo credit: Tjook

Booking Through Thursday: Current Reading

Lost in Literature

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks readers what they’re currently reading and what they think of it. I posted a reading update just a few days ago, and nothing has really changed since my update. I’m still reading The Heretic’s Daughter, The House of Seven Gables, and Great Expectations. I haven’t started Jamaica Inn on audio yet.

However, I will say that while I find The Heretic’s Daughter interesting in its historical detail, and even a good and fair account of the Salem witch trials (at least the part of the book which I’ve read), it’s not grabbing me, and I am not itching to pick it up. I think it’s suffering unfairly from my just having finished The Hunger Games trilogy. That kind of action and edge-of-your-seat reading is rare—after all, the novels have rightly become a publishing phenomenon for that reason. I think I always knew The House of Seven Gables would be a slower read for me, and it’s not suffering from any discrepancy regarding my expectations.

What I’m more interested in talking about is the fact that I’m reading three or four books at the same time. I didn’t used to be the kind of person who could do that, or I suppose I should say I didn’t *think* I could, so I didn’t attempt it. However, I have discovered the ability to juggle several books at once in the last couple of years. It depends on the way I read. I usually have one book going in DailyLit, which is very slow going with just a five-minute portion of the book each day; however, I have managed to read five books in the last couple of years in this way, and I think at least three of them, I never would have finished had I tried to read them any other way. I usually try to have an audio book going, too. Aside from that, I’ve discovered I can read two other books either in print or on my Kindle. But four seems to be my max, and I can only read four if two are in some format aside from print/e-book.

It turns out NPR’s Talk of the Nation recently ran a story about folks who read more than one book at a time. The story calls them polyreaders. Interestingly, the story mentions that some folks frown on reading more than one book at a time. I found that curious because I have never met anyone who frowned on the practice. Have you? It seems a strange thing to be disdainful about!

What do you do? Do you read one book at a time or several at once? Why?

photo credit: truds09

Reading Update: August 29, 2010

Reading a book at the beachI set aside Syrie James’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, which I am reading as part of the Everything Austen Challenge, because everyone I know is reading Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, and I hadn’t even read The Hunger Games. Well, I’m about 200 pages in now, after borrowing it from a friend, and I have to say it’s real page-turner. I have been trying to talk my daughter into reading it because Collins’s writing style actually reminds me of Sarah’s. I think Sarah would like it. I might finish it today (after all, I read more than the amount of pages I have left yesterday). If so, I’ll post a review later.

I do have a couple of theories that I can’t wait to discover whether or not I’m correct about. District 13, believed to be destroyed by the Capitol, reminds me of the group of readers in Fahrenheit 451, and I am wondering if they’re not really destroyed but secretly carrying on some form of resistance. Don’t tell me! I want to find out. Also, it’s obvious to me that the Romeo and Juliet move that Peeta pulled is no act, whatever Katniss has decided to believe. But I guess I’ll find that out.

I am still reading David Copperfield on DailyLit. The infamous Miss Havisham has just been mentioned for the first time. I picked up Jane Mendelsohn’s American Music at Audible after hearing Mendelsohn interviewed by Valerie Jackson on Between the Lines. The book sounded interesting. After listening for a short time, I think I would have put the second chapter of the book first. It seems a little disjointed. But I haven’t been listening long, so we’ll see. It is short for an audio book. Of course, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables is still on my Kindle, though I haven’t even finished chapter 2 yet. I bought The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent and Juliet by Anne Fortier on the Kindle with my Amazon Associates gift card. Also subscribed to The New Yorker on Kindle. I’ll let you know how it is. It’s my first Kindle magazine subscription.

What are you reading?

photo credit: Simon Cocks

Reading Update: August 8, 2010

HatsI’m still reading books set in Salem. After finishing Brunonia Barry’s The Map of True Places and The Lace Reader, I returned to Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, although this book is set more in Marblehead than Salem, it does have some scenes in Salem. I think my favorite thing about Salem was just walking around and looking at everything. It truly is a unique town, and I do hope I have the opportunity to go back.

In addition to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, I’ve begun a new DailyLit selection: Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. I haven’t read this one. I know, I know. Well, it sure starts off with a bang! Dickens was a master of characterization.

I am still reading just finished Charity Girl. I believe I’ll be finished with that one in a day or two, but my review will not appear here until the day it is published at Austenprose.

I am now about halfway through A Farewell to Arms. At this point, Catherine is pregnant, and Henry is going back to the front. I am wondering what is going to happen. I know the ending of this book. Years of being an English teacher have spoiled that plot, but I still wonder how we will get from here to there, and I wonder what will happen in between. I also found myself looking up “jaundice” on Wikipedia to see if it can be caused by alcoholism, and it looks like it can. Hemingway’s economy with words is beautiful in its simplicity. He still manages to capture so much with so little.

I’ve been trying to decide what I should read next. I’m still on this Salem kick, so I might read The Heretic’s Daughter, but I think I will scout around. Has anyone read Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman? I was going to swear off Hoffman after her Twitter rant last year, but this book looks interesting to me.

On a side note, Apture, the tool I use to create links on this site, appears to be broken at the moment, so the links might not pop up as enhanced links the way they usually do. And this post took twice as long to write as it would have with Apture. Hope they fix it soon!

photo credit: danahuff

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’s popular novel A Tale of Two Cities is the first Dickens novel I chose to read. I knew I wanted to read a Dickens novel, and Maggie helped me select this one. While it was very well written and some characters were particularly well-drawn, I had more difficulty following the plot and caring about some of the characters than I expected. I suppose I like complicated characters, and the line between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” was so clearly drawn, they might as well have been wearing white hats and black hats. They weren’t particularly interesting for that reason. Dickens also used the novel as a platform to moralize about the violence, and when it waxed poetic, it was interesting, but the frequency verged on annoying, even though I agreed with Dickens’s views about the violence.

Unfortunately, though this book was shorter than others I’ve read on DailyLit, I became overwhelmed with work in the middle of reading it and had to suspend my subscription for an extended period. I think perhaps the long gap between when I began this novel and when I finished it may have increased some of my confusion. I can’t say, however, that I didn’t enjoy it or that it was badly written, for it is clear to me that Dickens is a master of characterization, and I definitely plan to read more Dickens.

My next DailyLit read, however, is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a book I initially tried reading in high school (for fun, no less) and discovered was over my head at the time. If you’ve not tried DailyLit, you should check it out. You can keep track of my DailyLit books progress in the sidebar to the immediate right under the DailyLit section (beneath Reading and Recent Books).