Friday, December 28, 2012

Julie's 2012 Personal Reading Challenges [FINAL]

FINAL results on books I've read (or dropped) thus far. Originally written in December 2011.

One Sunday, when we'd gone to the Vigil Mass on Saturday to avoid getting embroiled in a local marathon that shuts down all the streets around our church (don't ask ... Tom has been enraged before to the point of risking arrest for civil disobedience).

Wait, what was I saying?

Oh. Right.

Anyway, we were sitting around until about 1 p.m. in our jammies talking about cabbages and kings and whether pigs have wings ... and about reading and classics. I realized that I have a handful of certifiable classics which I really want to read but that I keep acting as if the Reading Fairy is going to drop extra time and a book on my lap when I'll suddenly begin reading.

Bravely taking responsibility on myself, I made a list.

I love making lists. Don't you? And crossing things off them.

So here are my "must reads" ... I may not get through all of them in 2012, but I will be trying to always be reading one of them despite other distractions. In no particular order.

2012 Classics
  1. The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoyevsky (begun on Jan. 1 - dropped in a few weeks. Looking for either an audio version or a different translation as I just couldn't connect with that one, though I read 150 pages. Began it again a month later. Dropped it again.) Turns out that our book club chose this for 2013 ... so I will be reading it but will take it off my "personal" reading list since it is no longer a self-imposed book.
  2. Bleak House- Dickens ... loved it! (review here,  review/discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find)
  3. Middlemarch - Eliot
  4. Belly of Paris (Emile Zola)
  5. Last Call - Tim Powers (not a true classic, I know ... but still a "challenging" read which is what all these are for me)
  6. A Movable Feast - Hemingway
  7. The Four Quartets - T.S. Eliot
  8. Wuthering Heights ... partway through and then had to take a break because I just hate Catherine and Heathcliff so very much. Will resume in 2013.
2012 Religion
  1. Introduction to the Devout Life - St. Francis de Sales ... have begun this.
  2. The Way of Perfection - St. Teresa of Avila
  3. The Sabbath - Abraham Heschel (read this in the spring and, although Heschel's writing could be high concept at times, found it riveting. The idea of living in sacred time, of time being our temple on earth is fascinating and one that I find very helpful in prayer.)
  4. Introduction to Christianity - Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI LOVED IT! Dense but accessible in tons of places. (excerpts and review at Goodreads)
  5. Joan of Arc - Mark Twain
2012 Rereading
  1. The Sand Pebbles
  2. Fahrenheit 451 - Bradbury (read this for A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast and found it very thought provoking and more poetically written than I recalled.)
  3. Fire and Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Lark Rise - Flora Thompson
2012 Nonfiction
  1. A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bryson (tried it a couple of times and realized that I didn't actually care about the short history of nearly everything. Not Bryson's fault. So it is off the list.)
  2. Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life - Margaret Kim Peterson
  3. On Pilgrimage - Jennifer Lash
  4. Twain's Feast - Beahrs
  5. Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature (A good although flawed look at how revisionist tactics and understanding literature do not mix. The flaws come more from the author's vehemence and also some surprising gaps in authors covered. I mean to say, can one really discuss American literature without even mentioning Steinbeck?)


  1. The Heschel book is lovely. You. Will. Like.

  2. be sure to read the Pevear/Volkhonsky translation of Brothers K. They are sublime. Everything else is dishwater.

    Could not get into Middlemarch. But Eliot. Ah, you should re-read Four Quartets every month!

    Great list, Julie!

  3. Middlemarch took Rose several months as she put it down a couple of times for a break and then would pick it back up again. However, she kept reading me choice tidbits and the expression on her face when she was talking about a character who was a saint toward the end ... I've never seen her look so enthused, joyful ... perhaps infused is the right word. Anyway, I wanted to see what put that look on her face. :-)

  4. I always love T. S. Eliot, but do you know what I love more? Lists!! It looks like a great 2012!

  5. You've never read Wuthering Heights? Goodness, that's a must and I can't imagine someone not enjoying that. Brothers K is awesome. I rank it in the top ten greatest works. Plus it's remarkably funny without it being obviously funny. A Movable Feast is one of Hemingway's best. And I agree with Margaret above on The Four Quartets. I read it frequently myself. In my opinion, it's the finest work of poetry in English in the 20th century.

    I was surprised you included Twain's Joan of Arc in the religious readings. I've never read it and had assumed it was more of his satire. I looked it up and it's not. I may have to pick it up myself.

  6. Jenny ... same here! Lists, glorious lists! :-D

    Manny ... Rose told me the plot to Wuthering Heights as she read it and we both agreed it was the worst love story ever, which was what all modern commentary said that we'd seen. Then, recently I heard Joseph Pearce on Discerning Hearts podcast as part of his Great Literature series. He explained that it was Bronte's reaction to Shelley and the gang's Romance movement, specifically to their concept of love and marriage. Suddenly the book came into focus for both Rose and me and now I'm curious to read it.

    Twain evidently revered St. Joan of Arc and this book has been hailed as a masterpiece. I think he researched it for 14 years? Though I may be wrong.

  7. Some times the raw plot of a novel is not the most interesting part of the work. True, the plot of Wuthering Heights is probably like any other romance. But the characters are so distinct and intense. And the prose is really solid too. I also think that the way Emily Bronte disjoints the plot is creative and adds to the intensity, and I think contributes to the themes.

  8. I have the (apparently abridged) audio version of Bryson's "A Short History..."; it's a great listen and is read by the author.

    1. Oh, that might be the way to go! I'll have to see if our library has it ... thanks for the suggestion! :-)

  9. Joan of Arc was one of Twain's heroes, and he honored her through his book. Though it is technically fiction (the narrator is a fictitious person), it is one of the best and most well-written accounts of Joan's life. He wrote it to tell her story, not to push any sort of agenda or angle. It is a personal favorite of mine and it is the reason I chose St. Joan as my confirmation saint.

    Brothers K. is next on my list. My own brother has been encouraging me to read it for a while now.

  10. Twain's Joan of Arc has been on my own list for a while. Need to find a copy.

    I enjoyed reading The Brothers Karamazov this year but I think I'd like to re-read it sometime with a different translation. I often felt like I was missing something. I'd also love to read it with a group. I think a good ongoing conversation as I read might have helped too.

    I recall being underwhelmed by Wuthering Heights but I probably read it almost 15 years ago. I can't even recall for certain whether I read it on my own or for a class in college. Most likely I'd see it very differently now. I'd be curious to see Pearce's commentary on it. Maybe that might make me want to re-read it.

  11. Here's a link to the Joseph Pearce "Great Works in Modern Literature" series of podcasts ...