Summer Reading

Photo by Vassil Tsvetanov Ah, summer. That glorious time of year when it seems like all the time in the world to read is within our grasp. It seems like my TBR pile is getting larger and larger. The good news is that I have managed to find myself a book club, which I’ve been trying to do for some time. The book club is reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have been wanting to read Adichie for some time, and without the impetus of the book club, I’m not sure when I would have gotten around to it.

I’m finally reading The Age of Innocence. I’ve seen the movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder many times, but I haven’t actually read the book, and it’s long overdue. I’m enjoying it a great deal so far. Beyond these two books, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to read. I signed up for a course in Greek and Roman Mythology through Coursera, and it has some required reading. Luckily, we start with The Odyssey, and I read it so recently (plus I’ve taught it a bunch of times), that I don’t feel tasked to re-read it for the class. I’m trying to figure out what’s been on my list for a long time that I really want to try to read.

However, it’s shaping up to be the summer of catching up on things I’ve meant to read for a long time. Case in point? I really would like to get to Toni Morrison’s [amazon_link id=”140003342X” target=”_blank” ]Song of Solomon[/amazon_link] and Ernest Hemingway’s [amazon_link id=”0684803356″ target=”_blank” ]For Whom the Bell Tolls[/amazon_link], both of which I’ve been meaning to read for some time. I keep picking up [amazon_link id=”045123281X” target=”_blank” ]The Pillars of the Earth[/amazon_link] and putting it back down again. I didn’t used to be so squeamish about really long books with tiny print, but in the last few years or so, I don’t know… I really have to want to read it if it’s that long. I’m not as bothered by listening to them as audiobooks, curiously. Perhaps it’s that my eyes are starting to bother me now when I try to read really tiny print. As I said, I wasn’t bothered by big books with tiny print so much in the past.

I have a lot of books on my Kindle that I want to get to, as well: [amazon_link id=”1250012570″ target=”_blank” ]Eleanor & Park[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0345806972″ target=”_blank” ]Longbourn[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0307948196″ target=”_blank” ]The Dressmaker[/amazon_link], and many others besides.

I also need to read [amazon_link id=”0763662585″ target=”_blank” ]More Than This[/amazon_link] by Patrick Ness, as it’s my school’s Upper School summer read. What are you reading this summer?

Photo by Vassil Tsvetanov

Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph Richir

Saturday Reads: January 21, 2012

Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph RichirSaturday Reads is a weekly feature sharing bookish links from news, blogs, and Twitter that made up my Saturday reading.

I spent a lot of time at my two favorite newspapers’ book sections on my iPhone this morning. The Guardian has a great article by Margaret Atwood reflecting on [amazon_link id=”038549081X” target=”_blank” ]The Handmaid’s Tale[/amazon_link] some 26 years after it was published. A commenter quoted Rick Santorum, underscoring just why Atwood’s book is as important as ever. Here’s my review of The Handmaid’s Tale from my archives, if you’re interested.

The New York Times has a great review of [amazon_link id=”0062064223″ target=”_blank” ]The Flight of Gemma Hardy[/amazon_link], which I will soon be reading for TLC Book Tours (very excited!).

New Books

The publishers also sent me a pretty copy of [amazon_link id=”B004CFA9Y6″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link], which Margot Livesy’s book is based on. I can’t wait to reread that one. It’s got deckle-edged pages and the paper cover is textured. I am very much in favor of this new trend in making classics look cool with bold, creative covers. As much as I love old paintings, I think they’re becoming a little played as book covers (she said, knowing she used one on the cover of her own book—in my defense, I don’t have the budget to pay a graphic artist to design one). I think winter is a good time to read gothic classics.

The New York Times also has good reviews of new nonfiction, including Ian Donaldson’s new biography [amazon_link id=”0198129769″ target=”_blank” ]Ben Jonson: A Life[/amazon_link], John Matteson’s new biography [amazon_link id=”0393068056″ target=”_blank” ]The Lives of Margaret Fuller[/amazon_link], and Richard W. Bailey‘s new book [amazon_link id=”019517934X” target=”_blank” ]Speaking American[/amazon_link].

I also really liked this feature on Edith Wharton as New York will celebrate her 150th birthday on Tuesday. Nice link to [amazon_link id=”B005Q1W10A” target=”_blank” ]Downton Abbey[/amazon_link] and discussion of Wharton’s own novel [amazon_link id=”0140232028″ target=”_blank” ]The Buccaneers[/amazon_link].

Of course, Charles Dickens also celebrates a big (200th) birthday this year, and The New York Times has a fun feature on Dickens. Favorite quote? “The fact is that Charles Dickens was as Dickensian as the most outrageous of his characters, and he was happy to think so, too.”

I’m think anyone interested in New York might find the new book [amazon_link id=”067964332X” target=”_blank” ]New York Diaries: 1609-2000[/amazon_link] intriguing. It sounds like the book has a variety of entries, from the “famous, the infamous, and the unknown in New York.” The Times reviewed this one, too, of course.

Flavorwire had some interesting posts, too. I particularly enjoyed “The Fascinating Inspirations Behind Beloved Children’s Books” and “10 Cult Literary Traditions for Truly Die-Hard Fans.”

Finally, I enjoyed this reflection on A Wrinkle in Time at Forever Young Adult. [amazon_link id=”0312367546″ target=”_blank” ]A Wrinkle in Time[/amazon_link] will be 50 this year. Can you believe it?

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.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Season 2

Downton Abbey

Who is watching Downton Abbey tonight?

If you’re not familiar with the series, you could do worse than this season one primer from Forever Young Adult.

Stuff I’m looking forward to seeing:

  • More Maggie Smith as Dowager Countess Grantham.
  • The will they or won’t they between Matthew and Lady Mary (if he was smart, he’d go for one of her sisters instead. I think Mary is awful).
  • Matthew is going to have to fight in WWI. What will happen?
  • Are Thomas and O’Brien going to get a real comeuppance for all their scheming?
  • How involved is Lady Sybil going to get in the suffragette movement?
  • What will happen between Bates and Anna?

I hear that a season three is also a done deal, though when it will air in the States, I don’t know.

All of this has made me want to read [amazon_link id=”0199549893″ target=”_blank” ]The Forsyte Saga[/amazon_link]. I tried out [amazon_link id=”B004H0ZHD4″ target=”_blank” ]Upstairs, Downstairs[/amazon_link] (the 1970’s series rather than the new one), and I admit I didn’t like it much. Also on my list: [amazon_link id=”0140232028″ target=”_blank” ]The Buccaneers[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0312658656″ target=”_blank” ]The American Heiress[/amazon_link] (which I found out in Britain has the much better and allusive title of My Last Duchess; I hate it that things are so often “dumbed down” for Americans).

The Sunday Salon

NaNoWriMo

Getting Ready to NaNo!

NaNoWriMoToday is the last weekend day before NaNoWriMo madness begins on Tuesday. Is it just me, or do the organizers seem really disorganized this year? Still no word count widgets or even API’s, and the buddy system just set up in the last few days. What’s up with it; does anyone know? They’re usually much more on the ball. I don’t mention it as a complaint so much as a concern. It’s unusual for the site not to be completely ready in every respect by now.

Since I’m setting my book mere blocks from my house, my husband (who is my greatest cheerleader, as he’s a writer himself), convinced me to take a research trip walk downtown, and he showed me some shops I didn’t even know existed. He discovered them on one of his daily runs. I took some notes. We found ourselves in one of those new age stores that sells crystals and tarot cards, and lo and behold if I didn’t run into a former student who works there with her mom! I was so shocked. Like students, teachers also sometimes feel discombobulated when they see students outside of the normal setting. Not so much if you’re expecting it might happen, like at the movies or the grocery store. But in a new age store, well, it threw me. Then we got coffee at this great sweet shop that I totally had no idea was so close to my house. And here I was crying over not living near Ye Olde Pepper Companie. Actually, I am still sad we don’t live near that wonderful candy store. But Aunt Kimmy’s is a great little candy store, too.

I mentioned to my husband that both of us will need to visit the Salt Factory, our local British-type pub, and unfortunately, I would need to try a Guinness for the sake of research. I drink beer, but I’m not a huge beer drinker. Months might go by before I drink anything alcoholic at all. We writers have it rough, the things we must do in the name of research. Anyway, it was a wonderful trip, and I collected some good information. We also found a great new little old-time store called Roswell Provisions. I hope it stays open. It’s too perfect. Here is a peek (from their Facebook page photos).

Roswell Provisions

Of course, nothing’s set out here, as it was taken before they opened. We walked home, where we saw another former student and her family, who drove past us in their car. It was a gorgeous day and a great walk. We should do it more often, but it’s hard with everything that is going on, three kids, work, etc. It’s so handy to live so near the setting I chose (for a change), so I can just duck out to do a little research.

I am finally picking up Stephen King’s memoir [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft[/amazon_link]. My husband has read it and said it was useful, practical writing advice. I didn’t have anything I desperately needed to read lined up after finishing [amazon_link id=”B000JGQRPC” target=”_blank” ]Bridget Jones’s Diary[/amazon_link], so I grabbed to it read as I begin NaNoWriMo.

Aside from that, my weekend has been spent catching up on RSS feeds in Google Reader and trying to figure out how ready I am for NaNoWriMo. Oh, and I’ll leave with this: Class is in Session with Professor Wharton.

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

Books I Should Have Read in School Challenge

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

In signing up for my own challenge, how embarrassing is it that I’m not sure I can commit to the highest level, Literature Professor? And yet, I am just not sure I can read 12 books I should have read in school. Actually, I have done a pretty decent job of returning to books I should have read, such as Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, and the like, mainly because I’m a high school English teacher, and if I missed them myself in high school, I can read them as a teacher when I prepare to teach them. But there are a few books I missed or didn’t finish.

I’m going to commit to reading these six books next year, which will be Graduate Student Level if I complete all six.

photo credit: velvettangerine