23 September 2014

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

Oh, fall.  I am really not ready for it to actually be fall yet.  Mostly because that means that the rest of the year has completely gotten away from me.  How can it almost be October?!  A lot has happened this year.  All in all, it's been a great year.  Dealing with family health issues has been the only true dark spot on the map.  Fall and spring, the two transition seasons, hold a lot of anticipation for me.  Spring is pretty obvious because everything is green and new.  Fall is more contemplative in my opinion.  It's a great time to reassess and make changes.  I am anxiously waiting to see what those changes are.

Anyway, as with the beginning of every season, The Broke and the Bookish is covering Top Ten Books on the Season's TBR List.  I contributed to today's post on the blog, but I wanted to come up with a full list for over here.  (For the record, I DID finish The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert yesterday; review coming)

1.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  I started rereading this one after finishing SOAT yesterday.  It became one of my favorites when I first finished it my junior year of college, so I felt it was time for a reread.  I love so much about this book.  The characters overall and the sense of urgency that Tolstoy creates in Anna are two of my favorite things.  For me, it's a cozy yet sweeping read.  I can't wait to see what I discover this time.

2.  Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe  I already wrote a post about wanting to finish this one this fall.  While my overall reading plan for fall has changed, due to a lack of time to read, I still want to read this one.  I think it's the right time to read it.  I feel a real closeness with the characters, particularly the protagonist (which I am sure is why he is the protagonist, duh), whenever I pick this one up, which spurs me to keep going.

3.  The Unwitting by Ellen Feldman  For some reason this Cold War tale jumped very quickly to mind as I was coming up with this list.  I started reading this earlier this year and kind of stalled because it felt kind of slow.  I think I might be able and willing to push through that now.  Plus it's set in literary New York in the 1950s and 1960s and it's always a good time to read books about that!

4.  Secrets of the Flesh:  A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman  I am going to be reading this with an online friend.  It's mentioned in one of my favorite story arcs of Gilmore Girls--where Lorelai decides she just can't get married, so she and Rory go on a roadtrip.  This is the book she wants to take with her.  Why?  What about Colette made her want to take this?  That's what I hope to figure out.  Plus Colette's work has always intrigued me, but I just haven't really read much by her.  Hopefully this gets me to read more.

5.  Dracula by Bram Stoker  Every year for the past few years I've wanted to read a spooky classic in October in honor of Halloween.  I made tremendous progress on this one two or three years ago, but didn't finish.  I really like how it's told through a variety of letters, newspaper articles, diary entries, and other narrative techniques.  For me that made it read a lot more quickly.  We shall see how this works out.  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is another possibility.

I'll be honest--I kind of stalled after picking out the first five books.  But I like to complete things, so I grabbed five other books that looked rather appealing when I gave my shelves a closer look, searching for additions to round out my list.  I don't know if I'll actually pick up any of these, but at least at this moment, these five also look good.

6.  Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes  Like I said earlier, fall is a contemplative time for me, so I thought that Mayes's memoir might be a good selection for fall.

7.  Moby-Dick by Herman Melville  Whenever I sit down to read this book, I find myself flying through it.  So I'd say that it's realistic that I could finish it this fall.

8.  Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion  This collection of pieces was on a list I saw last night.  I can't remember what the list was, but this title stuck with me.  I've read a couple of the pieces in here and really enjoyed them.  Maybe it's time for more.

9.  Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen  I saw this on the bargain table the last time I was in Barnes and Noble.  Because I'm really getting into essays, I thought I'd pick this one up.  Why not?

10.  This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett  Finishing this collection of essays would make me very happy.  Initially I bought this one on my Kindle, but I had to buy a hardcopy so that I can underline and annotate (I know I can do that with eBooks, but it's just not the same to me).

12 September 2014

Friday Thoughts and Musings

It appears that fall has come early around here.  Yesterday I left the house wearing leggings, closed toed shoes, and a jacket.  Today I am wearing a sweater and jeans.  The weatherman said we have most likely had our last day of 90+ weather for the year.  I'm really not too happy about this.  I feel like I was gypped out of a summer.  I missed those hot sultry evenings and those hot, sticky mornings.  I missed going to baseball games.  I missed sitting outside and getting some sun.

But, secretly, I am a little excited about the clothes and the changing leaves.  I love wearing sweaters, scarves, and boots.  I love curling up in the den and reading away the afternoon and evening.  I love spending Saturdays lounging around while my parents watch college football, myself occasionally tuning in.  I made myself a nice mug of hot chocolate to sip on this morning while I was reading.  It was pretty nice, I must admit.

Now I am just hanging out, waiting for my dad to get home so we can go to a Monet exhibit.  I've been wanting to go to this exhibit ever since I found out it was in town.  Upon moving back home, I realized that the likelihood of getting a friend to go with me was pretty much slim to none, so I invited my dad.  To my happy surprise, he agreed to go with me.  Yay!  Monet is one of my favorites.  We went to an Impressionist exhibit a few years back in Dallas and I was super giddy to see Monet and Van Gogh (then some Picassos and Warhols, but they were in a different part of the museum).

Unsurprisingly, my reading plans have changed.  I haven't entirely abandoned hope of getting through the three books I named in my last post, but I'm just not sure that I am up to the task yet.  I had a long talk with a good friend yesterday about a reading dilemma I have been going through lately.  He faced a similar situation when he moved a few years ago.  You go from being around like-minded people who constantly feed and discuss your love of literature to being around people who don't quite share that love.  The transition back to reading solely for personal pleasure and not for discussion is kind of difficult.  Granted, this is the way we both were before going to college and becoming lit majors, but things are a bit different when you are taking lit classes.  So I'm working on getting back to reading solely for my personal pleasure.

My friend recommended rereading a few old favorites to get that spark going again.  I'm giving a recent release that I really want to read and enjoy another shot.  Then I'll probably start delving into my past for material.  Fortunately, I have a good feeling about this new release this go around, so hopefully I will be able to finish.  I know that Anna Karenina, which I am thinking about quite a bit at the moment, will be there waiting for me to reread when I am finished.

Speaking of old books, I have been purging books like crazy.  I have a rather impressive mountain of books to donate or sell.  Honestly, I kind of want to sell them to make some money because most of these books are unread.  Once I got all of my books under one roof, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of books.  Even more so by the amount of un-read books.  They just kind of made me feel bad, which is completely not the point of having books to begin with!  Some of them are pretty cool...but are not ones I think I would ever read in this lifetime even if I lived to be two hundred years old.  So it is time we part ways.  But it totally works because it means that I now have shelf space for books I want to keep and read, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The nice thing about purging is how it really kind of feeds on itself.  The more you get rid of, the more you want to get rid of.  Or at least, that's how it is for me.  I am jonesing to recycle all of the articles that I printed, but never read for two years worth of library school.  That will free up quite a bit of space.  There are old magazines that I'm not going to go back and read.  There are clothes I am never going to wear again.  There are all of those stupid little gadgets that people get you that you never asked for and most certainly will never use that are just wasting space until you finally crack and toss them all.  Stuff like that.  I can finally breathe again and that is a good thing.

In closing, I found this really awesome list of 15 Books to Fuel Your Inner Femme Fatale.  I don't know why this character has been on my mind lately, but I have been wanting to reread the books from this awesome crime fiction class I took as an undergrad.  Have fun!

Mille tendresse!

08 September 2014

Reading This Fall

In a couple of weeks, The Broke and the Bookish will be doing their seasonal "Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List."  I will totally be participating in that and will come up with a list of ten books that I really want to finish this fall.  However, I am writing a post today about three books that I am making it a personal mission to finish this fall.  Two of the three are books I have owned and wanted to read for AGES and the third is more recent on my radar, but it equally pressing in importance to me.

I have great nostalgia for a few nights during the fall of my junior year of college when I holed up in my room and just read.  I read hundreds of pages in the evening and nighttime.  I finished a few wonderful books in that period.  I don't know if it was the weather or that the stars aligned, but I really want to pull off something like that again.  I'm not saying I'll knock these three out in a few nights of reading, but I want to spend some long nights reading and avoiding the world.

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust  This was the first book that came to mind.  A couple of weeks ago, I determined that I was going to read this book this fall if I took me three months to do it.  I don't know what it is about this book, but I have wanted to read it for years.  I can probably blame it on that scene from the first season of Gilmore Girls when Max loaned Lorelai his copy.  I've always thought that him giving her a book to read was really sexy, probably because I find reading or other intellectual pursuits to be really attractive in a man.  I don't know a whole lot about the novel or maybe there isn't a whole lot to know.  I know that you go on these long, meandering trips down French garden paths and that there isn't a tremendous amount of plot.  Either way, I am determined to read this.  Fall seems like a good time to be reflective, which is what a lot of this book is about (from what I gather).  I love the design of the cover--yes, I judge books by their covers--and I think it has perfect fall coloring.  I would love, love, love to be able to get through this one on my own, but I have a guide just in case (though the guide covers the entirety of In Search of Lost Time).

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville  I don't know when finishing this book became my own personal white whale, but it has.  I have to finish.  I've picked it up a number of times over the past couple of years and have been reading it on and off since this summer.  I'm finally aboard the Pequod!  I have met Starbuck.  And that's about it.  I really like how Melville uses a bunch of really short chapters.  That has made it possible for me to read while visiting at the hospital or just when I have snippets of time.  I would love to be able to sink in for a few hours and just go.  I wrote on wanting to be anywhere but here the other day at The Broke and the Bookish and this book has really helped with that desire.  Melville does a really good job of bringing you right in the middle of things by describing everything and everyone so vividly.  I laugh while reading this one and can fully picture what is going on and that has been really great lately.  Still, it doesn't help a whole lot to do those things if you never actually finish reading the novel.  I am going to finish this novel this fall so that I can wear my shirt!  Finally!

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe  It's only been in the past year or two that I have really heard about this book, much less wanted to read it.  Like Moby-Dick, I've been reading it on and off for the past month or so.  I really like how minutely Wolfe describes his characters and his setting.  I feel fully submerged in the characters' hopes and desires and feelings.  I picked this one up recently because the main character goes on this huge journey to find what he is looking for.  I feel like I have been at a real crossroads in my life the past couple of months and haven't quite figured out where I want to go or what I want to do.  OK...maybe I do know what I want, I just haven't had the opportunity to connect all of the dots to get there.  Anyway...big path to self-discovery and self-fulfillment--I've been there; I am there; I want to read about another character going there.  While I haven't exactly wanted to slay this book, I have really been wanting to finish, so I added it to the list.

It dawned on me last night that my big problem with reading all of these years has been my attention span.  Somehow, gradually, it shortened so that when I see something flashy--the TV, my cell phone, another book--I immediately start thinking about it instead of the book at hand, then I switch to that other book (and getting an iPhone a couple of years ago really hasn't helped because the whole of the internet is within my reach at all times).  So I am going to start working on this.  I am taking today, minus a few devoirs, to just read one of these novels.  I haven't decided yet which one, but I plan to do nothing but read for the vast majority of the day (with a forecasted high of 91, I think it's too warm to read Proust today).  I don't think that this will immediately cure me of a short attention span--it's only one day--but I think it will be a great way to relax and get further into a book that I have been meaning to read for quite some time.