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:

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

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.


  1. Great list :) SO many I haven't heard of, though.... I need to do some googling!

  2. FUN!! I'm so excited to see John Adams on your list. Thomas Jefferson & The Art of Pwer is also EXCELLENT. Also, I spy Steinbeck & Whitman! And Austen. x


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