30 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday



I'm also a contributor over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Every week we host a meme called Top Ten Tuesday.  This week's topic is right up my alley--Top Ten Classics.  Either favorites or ones that I want to read.  I think I'll be able to limit myself to ten favorites, as opposed to merely listing ten that I want to read...

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Favorite Classics

1.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell--No top ten list involving the classics could begin with any other book.  I love this book.  I read it ten times between the ages of 13 and 18.  Sadly, I haven't read it in its entirety since then, but I plan on rectifying that soon.  There is so much about this book that I love.  I love the language used to tell the story, I love the story, I love the characters.  This book made me laugh and cry and feel all the things.

2.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee--There is a lot to love about this book too!  The story is told from Scout's perspective, which means there are some super precocious lines (a snowman that looks like an absolute "morphodite," anyone?) but the narrator is also able to cut through a lot of the bullshit, the way only a child can.  It also features one of the bravest, most inspiring protagonists in literature--Atticus Finch.  Lee does an amazing job of creating a sense of place in how she describes everything from the physical appearance of the town to the humidity to the people of the town.

3.  Catch-22 by Joseph Heller--People either love or hate this book.  I think a lot of it has to do with whether they are able to follow the various strings of the plot.  This novel is full of memorable characters--even the secondary and tertiary characters are supremely entertaining.  It truly exhibits the madness of war and of blindly following orders.  I laughed and cried and applauded.  It's a late addition to my ambitious reading project.

4.  As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner--This is one of those books that I never really thought about until I realized how many times I have read it.  If I keep re-reading the same book, obviously it means something, right?  I love how Faulkner creates so many voices to tell the story.  I love how it examines the futility of certain ventures, but also the bond of family.

5.  A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway--This was my first experience with Hemingway.  I really enjoy the story of this novel.  I haven't done a close reading of it--which means I really need to soon--but I can't help but get caught up in the story.  There are moments of action that make you catch your breathe and there a moments of happiness that also make you catch your breath.  Definitely need to re-read soon!

6.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald--This novel is so short!  But it says so much!  It's a great commentary on the high life in the 1920s, told by someone who was right in the middle of it.  However, it's also a novel of hope and dreams.  Nick Carraway is one of the most interesting narrators.  It's really difficult to dissect my feelings about this novel.

7.  East of Eden by John Steinbeck--I love this book!  (This is getting repetitive, isn't it?)  Steinbeck retells the story of Genesis in this novel and also weaves in his own family's history.  He creates an overwhelming sense of place and extremely deep characters that touch your lives and wriggle their way into your mind.  Lee is one such character.  He's stayed with me for over four years.  I am partway through a re-read of this novel and am very much looking forward to picking it up again.

8.  The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway--This was the third Hemingway novel that I ever read.  I love reading about the 1920s ex-pat scene and this perfectly fit the bill!  It made me want to run away from home and travel around Europe.  Like Gatsby, this novel also explores the emptiness of life.  It has some interesting characters.  I like how Hemingway weaves in his own experiences into his novels.  They make for a rich reading experience.

9.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck--This novel hold a special place for me.  Steinbeck does a great job of setting the scene in Oklahoma and I think it helps explain why Oklahoma is the way it is--it never recovered from the Depression.  That said, the Joads' journey west to California is heartbreakingly entertaining.  It's hard to believe that this stuff actually happened, but it definitely did.  This one talks about the resilience of people and says a lot about the strength of women within the family.

10.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain--I'm honestly kind of surprised that I included this novel.  I had a horrible experience in a single-author course as a junior in college and haven't been able to pick up any Twain since.  But this novel is a perfect satire!  It points out the hypocrisies in human nature.  Much like To Kill a Mockingbird, it's choice in narrator truly makes the book.  As an outsider living within society, Huck cuts through the bullshit like Scout.  It's a truly American story.  And I think I can finally read it again.

Those are my favorites.  What are yours?

This Weekend's Book Haul, or Why My Project Is So Hard, But So Awesome

Zach and I had a great weekend.  Or really a great Sunday.  Saturday I had to cover one of our student worker's shifts and that really sucked.

The Good:
I finished Auntie Mame and will review that soon.

I started The Painted Veil and am really enjoying that.  I think I'll finish it soon.

I purchased and discovered some great books and am really excited about them.

BUtterfield-8, Aspects of the Novel, and two sets of these notebooks that I love that were on clearance
                                             
The other books I discovered that I absolutely had to get as well--
What There Is to Say We Have Said:  The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell
The 40s:  The Story of a Decade by The New Yorker Magazine
The New York Stories by John O'Hara
Supreme City:  How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America by Donald L. Miller

(OK--I might kind of definitely have a thing for New York in the middle part of the 20th century... and would probably totally love to live there now, even though I have never been there or indeed really anywhere Up North)

However, that presents a problem with my ambitious project.  What about new purchases?  What about the two books I decided I just had to add to my list that I already owned (Middlemarch, which I decided I needed to add after starting My Life in Middlemarch and Catch-22, which I thought I had added, but realized I hadn't)?

First of all, let me point out that I realize that this project would be the perfect time to cut back on my book buying.  I get that.  I hope that it will.  But I have certain soft spots for kinds of books.  Namely classics and books relating to New York in the middle part of the 20th century.  I'll add them to my shelf of books for this project.  It's my project and it can extend into next year if I need or want for it to.  The point is the read the books sooner rather than later.  But, yes, I should definitely cut back on my book purchasing.

Secondly, if I really, really, really want to read a book and don't allow myself to read it OR, conversely, if I really, really, really don't want to read a book and try to force myself to read it, I just won't read.  I allowed myself to make a simple swap.  I picked up Cakes and Ale by Maugham, which is on the list, but wasn't really feeling it, though I did want to read something by Maugham, so I switched it for The Painted Veil and am totally loving it.  I read nearly 100 pages on a day when I didn't really do that much reading.

The larger point of the project is to focus my reading and to challenge myself to read more and to read better books.  By creating the shelf and the challenge to read those books, I've taken a lot of the guesswork out of picking my next book.  I'm one of those that when I have too many choices, I wind up not making a decision.

So there.

Mille tendresse!

28 June 2014

My Most Ambitious Project Yet

Scary words.

I've graduated.  I am not going back to school for the foreseeable future.  I am equal parts drunk on the freedom of having no obligations or deadlines in my life and terrified that my brain is going to rot.  So I need some focus and some stimulation.  For me that usually means something involving reading.

I was recently cleaning up my stuff, primarily shelving books that were scattered here and there, when I came to my nightstand.  It's a lovely nightstand that my papa built for me to my specifications.  I wanted it to be tall, to have a drawer, and to have two shelves for books.  Like all of his creations, it is perfectly what I was wanting and needing.  Except, at this point in time, it was an utter mess!  Overflowing with books (I know--hard to really call this a problem) and other detritus.  So many books that I knew I could be occupied for quite some time.

Which got me thinking...

What if I read only the books on this shelf for the rest of the year?

Naturally, I had to do some trading.  Some of the books had wound up on this shelf once upon a time and never got moved elsewhere, just kind of shuffled around and were ones I wasn't too wild about reading.  I removed them from the shelf and brought in others that I really would like to read sooner rather than later.  I also wanted to be sensible about what I was planning on reading--it's unrealistic to think that I would finish several Russian novels.

And I think I am ready to commit.

It's a long list (41 books, last I counted).  But, hey, I've got time.  Some are short, some are long.  Some will be easy reads and others will be challenging.  Some are going to be re-reads (I'll denote these with a *).  Others I'm already partway through (I'll denote these with a **).  I have a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction, classics and some contemporary novels, essays, and even poetry.  I am not 100% sure that I will be able to finish all of them by the end of the year, but if I put in some effort, I think I can at the very least read most of them by the end of the year.  Having so many already in progress helps tremendously.

Here's the list:

Non-Fiction
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
John Adams by David McCullough **
Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes
Thomas Jefferson:  The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
Jet Set by William Stadiem
Secrets of the Flesh:  A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman **
Hotel Florida:  Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill
D.V. by Diana Vreeland
Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson * & ** (Wow! Good for me!)
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck, Steel True, 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson

Fiction
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote *
Break of Day by Colette
Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis **
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Unwitting by Ellen Feldman
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald **
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway **
From Here to Eternity by James Jones *
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers **
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez *
Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville **
Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell *
Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
The Portable Dorothy Parker
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932 by Francine Prose
East of Eden by John Steinbeck * & ** (Another yay!)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain *
Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

I'm sure it all sounds so crazy, but I need something to hold onto.  For me.  A lot of people I know use reading challenges as a way of broadening their horizons and creating order out of chaos, particularly when their lives are so much in flux.  That's what I am doing.

And now everything fits neatly on my shelves, which makes me happy.  The whole thing will be much more aesthetically pleasing.  (Though there is always a certain amount of romance in untamed piles of books...)



This list has twenty-three classics on it, which will help with my Classics Club goal of reading fifty classics by my 29th birthday.

The natural starting point is Auntie Mame.  I am also focusing on John Adams.  The two are definitely a study in contrasts.

27 June 2014

Welcome!

Welcome to my new blog.

Ahhhhh!  I feel so much better!  :)

For the past while I haven't felt good about my old blog, but I really couldn't put my finger on why.  It finally dawned on me that I started that blog when I was 19 or 20 (I can't remember which) and I've been feeling really limited by what I've done in the past.  It was time for a fresh start to reflect the person I have become.  Not that I think I am done changing--I think we always change--but I feel like I've finally reached a point where I'm a fine wine that will just get better with age.

I feel like my old blog started out as one thing, then tried to become more of a book blog, then tried to be about my other interests and activities.  Granted, this blog will be about all of those things, but it will be all of those things from the get-go and can be organized in a better way.  I'll continue writing about books, cooking, and whatever else pops into my head.

A bit about my inspiration...

The title comes from Auntie Mame, which is subtitled An Irreverent Escapade.  That's kind of where I feel like my life has headed.  I don't want to take things more seriously than they should be taken.  I want to keep it real.  I feel like I am in the middle of some wacky adventure that I have no idea what the destination is.  I'm working on just embracing that.  Though I haven't finished reading the novel yet, I have seen the film with Rosalind Russell a number of times and I adore Mame.  I love how eccentric, free, and hard-working she is.  Things rarely go smoothly for her, but she always has good intentions and things have a way of working out anyway.

Many bloggers that I have met since starting my first blog have influenced me and have been a pleasure to get to know.  One in particular, whose identity I won't divulge of out privacy to its lovely owner, has taught me a lot about how I want to talk about books--I want it to be more of a conversation about my thoughts and attitude towards the book, not a strict critical review of what worked well and what didn't and why.  I think in my journey as a reader it's more important to focus on how I feel about a book and how I react to it than it is to dissect all of the possible meanings behind why the author chose a blue front door.  I completed that degree in college.  I hated it.  (If we're going to look beyond me, I'd rather stick to the history--the times in which the book was written, the reception of the book, and its impact--I have degrees in that as well)  Another blogger whom I have come to admire is Lesley M. M. Blume.  She's written a fantastic series of books called Let's Bring Back, which is perfect for someone with a nostalgic streak, like myself.

I suppose that's enough for now.  Thank you for making the move with me and if you're new, thank you for joining me.

Mille tendresse!