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After years of resistance and thinking I can motivate myself, I finally took the plunge and join The Classics Club. The last time I read a piece of classic literature, excluding my reread of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was in March 2013, and even that was a reread of a short novel I first read in high school. Obviously, motivating myself is not going well.

Club participants are supposed to pull together a list of fifty or more books considered to be classics and both read and discuss every single title on their personal blog within a five year period. I plan to read seventy-five books in three years ending on August 15, 2017 simply because I rather like the idea of reading twenty-five classics each year.

Neither the club nor I have a definition of what is a classic so in addition to those titles that immediately came to mind — those big, scary titles I’ve been avoiding for years — I pulled titles from two other lists I had hoped to read more titles from by now — 101 Great Books for College-Bound Readers and AP Literature. I would also like to finish reading the complete works of Jane Austen, and reread one novel I do not think I was ready to read when I original did. (I’m looking at you, Wuthering Heights.)

I’ve structured my list below the jump in alphabetical order by title, but I have also created a spreadsheet where you can organize my list by author, order in which I added it to my list, and year originally published. Read the rest of this entry »

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Over the weekend, I walked over to the public library — yes, I finally realized my dream of living within walking distance of a library! — with a friend who was visiting for the day and pursued the used book sale. We arrived right as the sale opened, and there was already large crowd assembled picking through the boxes of books on the tables and the bookshelves lining the walls.

Despite missing out on a copy of Little Bee by Chris Cleave, I was able to pick up seven books I’ve wanted to read for awhile now at a dollar a piece thus expanding my personal library from a pitiful collection of one nonfiction book and two guidebooks to my new city. (Due to relocation costs, I left my entire book collection — read and unread — back at my parents’ home.) And, better yet, my friend was able to purchase two beautiful art books for her grandfather, whose birthday party she was headed to later that day, at a total of $15.

  • Let the Great World Spin (Colum McCann) — It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the Twin Towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. Sounds interesting, no? I think I tried to read this book once before because the title sounds so familiar, but the plethora of reviews I’ve seen over the years for McCann’s novel might be why it sounds so familiar to me.
  • Shantram (Gregory David Roberts) — Narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear, Roberts’ novel introduces readers to Bombay’s hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries. I picked up a copy because I remembered Erin of Erin Reads’ review. Looking over her review now, however, I see that her praise was for the audiobook not the print edition. Whoops.
  • Memoirs of a Gesha (Arthur Golden) — Written as a fictional memoir, Golden’s tells the story of one woman’s life as a geisha over a twenty year period in the 1930s. I saw the movie adaptation of this film over two years ago and really enjoyed it.
  • Snow Falling on the Cedars (David Guterson) – In 1954 a fisherman is found dead and a local Japanese-American man is charged with his murder. In the course of his trial, it becomes clear that more is at stake than one man’s guilt. For San Piedro is haunted by memories: of a past love affair between a white boy and a Japanese girl; of land desired, paid for and lost; and of what happened during World War II when its Japanese residents were sent into exile while their neighbors watched. This the one book that I picked up merely on a whim.
  • In the Shadow of Gotham (Stefanie Pintoff) — Young Sarah Wingate has been brutally murdered in her own bedroom in the middle of an otherwise calm and quiet winter afternoon. After just one day of investigation, Detective Simon Ziele is contacted by Columbia University’s noted criminologist Alistair Sinclair, who offers a startling claim about one of his patients, Michael Fromley—that the facts of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to Fromley’s deranged mutterings. Another book I’ve seen several reviews for in the past.
  • The Invisible Bridge (Julie Orringer) — Andras Lévi, a Hungarian Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. This book was published right about the time I visited Hungary, and I have wanted to read it ever since. The photograph on the cover is of the bombed out bridges connecting Buda with Pest to form the city of Budapest.
  • The Tiger’s Wife (Téa Obreht) — In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Again, another book I’ve seen several reviews for since its publication.

Also pictured is the book I picked up at my new book club’s recent meeting. I traded in my copy of Out Stealing Horses by Per Patterson as I have tried to read the book multiple times with little success for a copy of The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides since I loved his other novel Middlesex. I know The Marriage Plot has not been as widely loved as Middlesex but given the other choices, it was the only one that caught my attention. I hope I’ll have better luck with it than others have before me.

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To be honest, I thought I would hit this landmark last year, and it seems almost fitting that I hit it on the eight of December and then took until today, the twenty-eighth, to comment on it, but here I am. 1,000 posts in five years of blogging (six next month) with 775 of them being reviews — 464 fiction books and 226 nonfiction books.

I’ve read several posts in my RSS reader over the past couple of months discussing a shift in blogging. Perhaps the most pertinent posts for myself would be the wrap of the Book Blogger Survey that was offered back in October, particularly Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness’ breakdown of participants’ responses to significant life changes and it’s impact on blogging. I found my reading and blogging slowing down last year as I entered my final year of undergrad, which I figured would happen given the thesis I was preparing to write.

But my posting further slowed down in 2013 as I started a new job in a new city for the summer and then started grad school in the fall and while I’m not willing to completely walk away from this blog, I don’t have to tell you all that it hasn’t been a priority for me in this last year. My hope is that once I graduate, once I have a job and lead a more stable life, I’ll be able to return to the wonderful rhythm of reading and discussing the books I’ve read.

Of course, I don’t mean to sound entirely melancholy. In addition to the non-bookish accomplishments in my life that are to be celebrated, I’ve read some great books in the last year, tackled some massive tomes that I never thought I’d finish, and am very pleased to celebrate 1,000 posts. And probably the most rewarding aspect of this whole slow down is I no longer feel that internal and external pressure to plow though books I don’t like for the sake of keeping my blog update or “relevant”. Although, if I learned that a long time ago, I never would have made it to 1,000 posts as quickly as I did.

Photo © Me. Taken: December 7, 2013.

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Have I really not shared a post of my recent acquisitions since May? Well, given how little reading I’ve been doing over the past few months, I suppose it is good that I managed to slow down my acquisitions as well. Yesterday and today were the on campus library’s used book sale and I could resist pursuing the available titles. I was fortunate to pick up two titles I’ve wanted to read for awhile, and a friend was nice enough to pass along another.

  • Bananas (Peter Chapman) from PaperBackSwap
  • The Lady and the Unicorn (Tracy Chevalier) from the used book sale
  • Out Stealing Horses (Per Petterson) from the used book sale
  • The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) from a friend
  • Prophet’s Prey (Sam Brower) from the used book sale

Edith Wharton (phone pictures) Mark Twain (phone picture) Charlotte Perkins Gilman (phone picture) Nathaniel Hawthorne (phone picture)

I had the fortune of the day off from my internship today and spent it at the National Portrait Gallery. In between exhibits feature the portraits of modern-day, common people, Civil War generals, and political figures were portraits of beloved (and not so beloved) American writers. Henry James, of course, being the exception to this having been born in New York City but becoming a British citizen the year before his death in 1916.

I instagramed the eight that I found and recognized in the museum with the reminder to myself to read the works of those whose portraits I photographed but have yet to experience in the written form. Seeing these faces was a rather interesting experience. I never expected the ever so dark and twisted Edgar Allan Poe to be quite so dashing.

Top, clockwise: Edith Wharton, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Bottom, clockwise: Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry James, and Toni Morrison.
 

Edgar Allen Poe (phone picture) Harriet Beecher Stowe (phone picture) Toni Morrison (phone picture) Henry James (phone picture)

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