And now one of my favorite things about book blogging… the annual setting of the goals! Oh, how the possibilities are endless in January. And then somewhere in October the cold hard realities set in… 😂
As usual, I am not going to put too much pressure on myself with a huge list of goals. I’ve picked four goals to pursue. Without further ado:
Goal #1: Read at least 20 nonfiction titles this year.
I follow so many bloggers who regularly read some excellent sounding nonfiction, and I keep adding titles to my TBR list, but my ratio of nonfiction to fiction is still pitiful. This year I am aiming a little higher and hope to start knocking some of those titles off my list.
Goal #2: Reread at least 4 books from my owned shelf.
I keep books that I love and think I will reread “sometime.” But in reality I just don’t end up doing that, and they sit there collecting dust. Last year I reread just one title, and it was a library book! So this year I’m making this a focus.
Goal #3: Read at least 12 titles from my Classics Club list.
If I am to stay on track to finish my list in February 2023 then I need to stay on task with this project.
Goal #4: Read more authors of color. Last year my percentage was a pitiful 18%. Not good enough.
So that’s it. I feel like these are manageable. And as blogger Naomi once reminded me, it’s not so much the achieving of the goals as the pursuit and improvement that’s important.
To switch topics here slightly, I began the new year with a feat of reading that I never do… I bought a book and read it right away! I got some gift cards to the local independent bookstore for Christmas and of course they burned a hole in my pocket. I bought Prince’s The Beautiful Ones, and I’m pleased to say that it’s a solid four star read. A must-read if you’re a Prince fan. It’s a wonderful glimpse into his childhood and his family, the early days of his recording music. It saddens me that he died before completing it… it’s such a tantalizing look at a brilliant, playful mind. He definitely left us too soon and is terribly missed. So there’s one nonfiction book to start the year off right!
I can’t wait to read all of your reading goals for 2020, if you choose to set them. I hope your reading year is getting off to a good start!
Marcie at Buried in Print and Naomi at Consumed By Inkhave been doing such a lovely job hosting Margaret Atwood Reading Month (#MARM.) When I heard that they were doing this it was just the prompt I needed to reread her earliest novel, The Edible Woman. I first read it pre-Goodreads, which for me means before 2007. I remembered that the main character had some kind of eating disorder, but that was really I remembered. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed it very much and it was definitely worth the reread.
Published in 1969, this quirky novel centers on Marian, a young working woman who lives in an apartment with her roommate, Ainsley, and dates the handsome and respectable Peter. She has a less than thrilling job at Seymour Surveys, revising questionnaires designed for housewives. Four months in she’s asked to join the pension plan, which shakes her in a big way.
It was a kind of superstitious panic about the fact that I had actually signed my name, had put my signature to a magic document which seemed to bind me to a future so far ahead I couldn’t think about it. Somewhere in front of me a self was waiting, pre-formed, a self who has worked during innumerable years for Seymour Surveys and was now receiving her reward. A pension. I foresaw a bleak room with a plug-in electric heater. Perhaps I would have a hearing aid, like one of my great-aunts who had never married.
Ainsley is trying to deliberately get pregnant, while Marian’s other good friend Clara is deep in the chaos of motherhood with two small children and a baby on the way. When Peter proposes to Marian (after a disastrous evening out with Ainsley and a doozy of a fight) Marian thinks of Peter as the savior rescuing her from a life of drudgery and the dreaded pension.
I was seeing him in a new light: he was changing form in the kitchen, turning from a reckless young bachelor into a rescuer from chaos, a provider of stability. Somewhere in the vaults of Seymour Surveys an invisible hand was wiping away my signature.
Everything starts to change, however, once Marian meets a strange, scholarly young man at the laundromat and then starts experiencing some unusual visions and thoughts whenever she eats a meal. Just as she gets what she thinks she wants, the promise of being a wife and someday a mother, her world starts imploding bit by bit.
This is an unusual novel in that the characters don’t always do what you think they might do. Marian is a frustrating character in that she doesn’t seem to know herself very well, but her journey is interesting to see play out. And of course societal conventions of the time and place (late 1960s Canada – Toronto? It wasn’t clear to me) are sometimes tedious and offensive to this modern reader. But this novel was more entertaining and thought-provoking than anything. It’s neat to see how Atwood got her start. I see the seeds of her witty, subversive writing here. If you’re a fan of her writing and you haven’t yet read this, I think you should add it to your list.
Oh, and on November 18th, Atwood’s birthday (79 years old,) I ate cake! Just a simple piece of store-bought cookies and cream cake from the grocery store, but it was delicious and I enjoyed every bite. May Ms. Atwood celebrate many more happy birthdays.
Happy Valentine’s Day (whatever that means to you!) There are all kinds of love and hopefully, whether you’re in a relationship or not, you are cultivating some self-love with your awesome rock-star self today! It’s been a while since I’ve done a WWW Wednesday.
What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? What do you think you’ll read next?
Emma by Jane Austen. This is a reread for me. I last read it in 2009, so Goodreads tells me, although if you’d asked me I would have said it was even longer ago than that. I am LOVING IT. It’s so readable and entertaining. I’m practically love-hating Emma herself as a character, she’s deliciously AWFUL, so snobby and delusional. I’m about halfway through. I plan to re-watch the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow after I finish reading the novel. It’s been ages since I saw it.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie. Oh my goodness. So good. I managed to not race through a short story collection for the first time ever! I read one story a day (mostly) and gave myself time to think about them. This collection is beautiful and sad and funny and magical. Review to come, hopefully this weekend (I’m behind on reviews as always!)
The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman. This was my book group read for January. It was a reread for me, also last read in 2009 (weird!) It’s really really good, solidly page-turning historical fiction, written in the 1960’s by a locally famous southern writer. It’s set in the decades after the Civil War, in a small North Carolina mountain area. The main character, Lyddie, is awesome – she reminds me a lot of Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. She has a similar determination to live life fully and enjoy being alive even in the face of hardships and struggle. Review to come soon!
Coming Next: (As always, this is subject to change!)
My book group read for February is Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, a book that’s been on my TBR since it came out. I’ve heard mixed reviews but I don’t mind – those are often the best kinds of book group picks for discussion. I’ve also got The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce checked out from the library, and it’s got holds on it so I’ve got to read it soon. I’ve never read anything by her before. Last, I ordered the next book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Wizard and Glass. I was reading those last summer and then got distracted and derailed from the series. But now I want to continue!
Have you read any of these? What are you currently reading? Let’s chat!
Having somehow not read any of the Anne of Green Gables series as a child (too busy reading Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club, I guess) I read the first book as an adult in 2009. I remember being quite charmed by it, but I didn’t feel the need to continue with the series for some reason. (I get like that – it usually takes me years to complete series – too many books calling me!) But since I’ve been book blogging, I started feeling left out of the know when it came to L. M. Montgomery’s classics. It seemed everyone was speaking a language that I didn’t understand as I kept seeing posts about the series. So when the #AnneReadAlong came up, I knew I wanted to join and give myself the push I needed to complete the series. I read my library branch’s copy, which is a donation to our collection. It’s a Canadian edition from 1942, and it has some nice illustrations.
On a second reading of Anne of Green Gables, I immediately questioned whether or not I was a horrible person. At first, I felt irritated by Anne’s cheerfulness, her constant chirping about “how splendid!” everything was. Had I grown that cynical and cranky in eight years? I worried, is this a taste of my future as a crotchety old woman?!?
And then, thankfully, I began to let Montgomery’s sweet story work its charms on me. I started to feel envious of Anne and her friends walking to and from school and one another’s houses, enjoying the beautiful natural world of Prince Edward Island. I spend almost no time outdoors on a regular workday, sadly, and I almost never walk anywhere – to the park and back with my son when I’m off, but that’s about it. I do love noticing birds and flowers and trees, so I feel like I connect with Anne in that way. But my experience of modern life is probably true for many other people who live in suburbs, commute to work in cars, and work inside air-conditioned buildings. What it must have been like to be that connected to the natural rhythms of the seasons, to be so attuned to every flowering of buds and beautiful sunset. Yep, I’m jealous.
I was also struck by how different children seem to be now compared to the early part of the twentieth century. When Anne was 12, she seemed so much more innocent and naive than modern twelve year-olds. But when she was 16 she seemed so much more independent and organized than many sixteen year-olds today. Children became “adults” much faster than we seem to now, in that they started working and getting married so much earlier, and yet while they were children they were able to fully be children and indulge their imaginations and be silly and playful.
I fell in love with Matthew Cuthbert, of course, and his devotion to Anne. (“Matthew would have thought that anyone who praised Anne was ‘all right.'”) His quiet determination to let Anne have a dress like the ones the other girls wear and his being flustered in the store is just priceless. I’m so glad that Anne had Matthew’s gentle adoration to counter-balance Marilla’s undemonstrative demeanor. And yet I found myself liking Marilla more and more as the book continued. I especially identified with her once Anne had gone to study at Queen’s, and Marilla came home to a quiet house with a “gable room at the end of the hall (that) was untenanted by any vivid young life and unstirred by any soft breathing.” Any parent can empathize with Marilla’s grief, whether or not their child has left the nest yet.
So many of you have read this series that I’m not going to do anything like a plot summary, but I do want to highlight some of my favorite quotations and passages. Some are funny; some are just highly quotable words of wisdom.
Marilla to Rachel Lynde when she expresses doubts about them adopting a child: “And as for the risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world.”
Anne, anticipating a picnic:“I have never tasted ice-cream. Diana tried to explain what it was like, but I guess ice-cream is one of those things that are beyond imagination.” SO TRUE, ANNE.
Marilla, after Anne’s adventure on the roof:“There’s one thing plain to be seen, Anne,” said Marilla, “and that is your fall off the Barry roof hasn’t injured your tongue at all.” Ha!
Anne, to Marilla at age thirteen:“It’s perfectly appalling to think of being twenty, Marilla. It sounds so fearfully old and grown up.”
Anne:“Look at that sea, girls – all silver and shadow and visions of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds…”Jane:“I don’t know- exactly,” said Jane, unconvinced. “I think diamonds would comfort a person for a good deal.” I like how you think, Jane!
I’m so glad I have an excuse to continue with the series! This is just the breath of fresh air I need to inject my reading life with a little sweetness and wholesomeness. Modern fiction can be so…you know…depressing! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like depressing as much as the next 21st century bookworm, but this is a nice change of pace. On to Book 2 – Anne of Avonlea!
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and Bookish, is a Back to School-related freebie, so we had a lot of leeway in the direction our lists could go this week. I feel like there are some books that I read in high school (which, ahem, was 20+ years ago for me!) that I would really like to reread as an adult. I know that as I change and grow as a person, so do my reading tastes change and grow. I feel like these books deserve an adult eye.
Beloved by Toni Morrison. I was a sophomore in high school when I was assigned this, and I feel like I was waaaaay too young to appreciate it. Since I’ve been reading Morrison in the past year, I know that I MUST reread this from an adult perspective.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. My mom was a big fan of the movie and the book, and I saw the movie at a fairly young age and fell in love with it. I read the book probably somewhere around 9th grade. Since then, I’ve become more aware of its problematic content. So I definitely need to reread this through the prism of a more adult understanding of race in American history.
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. She’s one of my favorite authors. I read this as assigned reading in high school and I’m grateful that I got that opportunity. I want to reread all of her earlier novels and her books of essays.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I have NO excuse for not having read this since the 9th grade. None.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. This was assigned at some point, possibly as a summer reading choice, I can’t remember. I remember really enjoying it, but I don’t remember much else about it. Worth a reread for sure!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I didn’t read this in school, but read it as a child, and was drawn to it again after the Winona Ryder/Christian Bale/Claire Danes version came out in 1994. But it’s been a very long time since then, so it made my list.
The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. This was an assigned book, perhaps for summer reading. It’s a memoir about Conroy’s experience teaching on Daufuskie Island, SC (which he calls Yamacraw Island in the book.) His one year teaching children of Gullah heritage in the late 1960’s was really interesting.
Here are three works I wish I’d been assigned in high school or college but never was:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
I swear I’m going to read these – sometime!
Have you read any of these? Has it been a while since you read them? What are some titles that you think deserve a reread since your own school days?
(The #Marchalong continues! Many thanks to Juhi from Nooks and Crannies for hosting the Middlemarch readalong and giving me an excuse to reread this marvelous book!)
I love Middlemarch. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. It’s not a perfect book, though. There are parts where my eyes glaze over a bit, and I kind of skim over the page, especially when Eliot writes about local politics. Book Four contained quite a few of these passages. I admit that they don’t hold much interest for me, although I can see why Eliot would want to write about them. Middlemarch is set in the early 1830s, which is around the time of the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832, which expanded voting privileges and more fairly represented bigger industrial cities. (Yeah, I looked this up! You can read about it here if you like.)
Even so, Book Four is titled “Three Love Problems,” and our main focus in on relationships, which is what keeps me turning those pages. So what are the problems exactly? My thoughts are thus:
Rosamund and Lydgate’s engagement and impending marriage – who does/does not support it, how are they going to afford to live the lavish lifestyle to which Rosamund is accustomed, how quickly can they get hitched.
Will Ladislaw’s growing (and so far, unrequited) love for Dorothea – how to contain his feelings while also making sure that he watches over Dorothea.
Causabon’s and Dorothea’s crumbling marriage. Both are frustrated, neither can seem to communicate effectively with the other, and one is in very ill health.
(I might be wrong. I could have included Fred Vincy and Mary Garth, but I felt that their potential love story was relegated a bit to the back burner in this section.)
Passage that made me laugh out loud: In Chapter 36, socially conscious Rosamund wants Lydgate to write to his baronet uncle Godwin about their engagement. Lydgate says, “I will write to him then. But my cousins are bores.”
It seemed magnificent to Rosamund to be able to speak so slightingly of a baronet’s family, and she felt much contentment in the prospect of being able to estimate them contemptuously on her own account.
Passage that made me want to gag: (Coincidentally, this came right after the previous passage.)
Lydgate, you perceive, had talked fervidly to Rosamund of his hopes as to the highest uses of his life, and had found it delightful to be listened to by a creature who would bring him the sweet furtherance of satisfying affection – beauty – repose – such help as our thoughts get from the summer sky and the flower-fringed meadows.
Lydgate relied much on the psychological difference between what for the sake of variety I will call goose and gander: especially on the innate submissiveness of the goose and beautifully corresponding to the strength of the gander.
Passage that made me utterly swoon: (Will Ladislaw, thinking of Dorothea)
But he would never lose sight of her: he would watch over her – if he gave up everything else in life he would watch over her, and she would know that she had one slave in the world.
It doesn’t get any more romantic than that, folks. As far as I’m concerned, I’m all in for Will Ladislaw.
Having said that, Eliot does something remarkable with the last chapter of Book Four. She makes the reader feel genuine sympathy for Causabon. Lydgate tells him that he is most likely dying, and as he reckons with this knowledge, Causabon shrugs off Dorothea’s heartfelt offering of love and affection. He wants no part of her pity, and he wants to brood alone in his room. Dorothea is surprised, hurt, and angry. But she holds off on quarreling with him, and instead waits for him to come up to bed. The last scene of Book Four almost had me in tears, as Causabon, touched by Dorothea’s devotion, softens towards her, and they walk arm in arm down the corridor.
I can’t wait to see what happens in Book Five, ominously titled “The Dead Hand.” How will Lydgate and Rosamund settle into domestic life together? Will Fred Vincy accept a job doing honest work for Caleb Garth? Will Mr. Causabon die, and will Ladislaw and Dorothea become closer? We’re half-way through Middlemarch, guys!
I listened to an episode of Books on the Nightstand the other day from back in September (episode 349, to be exact,) and hosts Ann and Michael were talking about rereading books. They had both reread one of their favorite books for a then upcoming book talk at Booktopia ( the bookish weekend events they used to host.) Ann had reread Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrowand Michael had reread Any Human Heart by William Boyd.
It was a very interesting discussion. Neither of them had been dedicated rereaders at all, mostly because they both work in publishing and have so much reading to do for work, and keep up with new things that their publishing company (Penguin Random House) doesn’t publish as well. But Ann shared that the experience of rereading one of her all time favorite novels may have pushed her into being someone who makes time to reread. She said that this time she was not so consumed by the plot, obviously because she knew the story line already. This allowed her to pick up on things she thinks she missed the first time around, when she was frantically turning pages. She mentioned that a couple of characters stood out to her more this time around, and she realized how central to the novel they really were. She didn’t know how realistic is was of her to expect very much rereading in the future, given her line of work, but she said that now she has a new understanding of the benefits and pleasure of rereading books.
Michael enjoyed his reread, but did not come away from the experience with a new vision of himself as a reader. He said that there were simply too many books coming out all the time that he wanted and needed to get to, and rereading just wasn’t something he saw himself doing.
Last week I posted about rereading Middlemarch, and how much I am enjoying the experience. In reality I might reread one book a year, but I always want to reread things more than I actually do. One blogging friend mentioned that she’d never reread a book before, but that it sounded like fun. I suggested maybe trying a childhood favorite first, and see how that goes.
So all of this got me wondering, how many of you guys make time to reread? Is it one book a year? Two? Do you read a particular book in a particular season every year? Or are you more like Michael, and simply have too many new books that you’d rather make time for? I’d love to hear what you think.