Classics Circuit. Jenny and I have been loyal participants in the Classics Circuit from the beginning. It’s sort of turned into a two-person, long-distance book club for us. I’m especially excited about the tour coming up in May/June on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. It’s a theme I suggested back when the Classics Circuit was in its infancy, and when Rebecca offered me the opportunity to coordinate the tour, I was happy to say yes. If you have a blog and enjoy detective fiction from the 1920s and 1930s, I hope you’ll consider joining in. Sign-ups are open until April 2.
Dewey’s Readathon. The spring 24-hour readathon is scheduled for April 10 and sign-ups are now open. I’ve participated in the last two fall readathons and enjoyed them, but I haven’t decided about this one. I know I won’t be in for 24 hours, both because I can’t do without sleep and because I have theatre tickets that night.
I am, to be honest, of two minds about the readathon. I love the big reading party aspect of it with everyone reading together and talking about what they’re reading, and I enjoy the reading for charity parts. But there’s a whole “read a bajillion books” piece of it that bugs me. Last year, I chose to immerse myself in a single tome, Armadale. It’s a long immersive novel that actually, in my opinion, rewards reading in long, large gulps, rather than short sips. But the text was dense, and the book was long, so it was actually the only thing I read that day. (And I read almost the entire book that day!) I was a little under the weather and could perhaps have read more if I’d been feeling better, but I was still happy with that.
The trouble is that I got really frustrated when seeing other people reading lots of books (short ones, but still) and many thousands of pages. Please understand that I’m not saying these people were just skimming or that their reading counts for less because they were reading shorter or simpler books. I read short and simple books sometimes too, and people’s reading speeds are all over the map—I suspect mine are about average among big readers, and I know others read much more quickly than I do. But it was still frustrating to feel like I wasn’t getting much read. Most of this is really a reflection of my own internal need to excel, but it did make the readathon less fun for me, so I’m pondering whether and how I’ll participate this year.
I do need to read The Count of Monte Cristo for the Classics Circuit, and that does seem like a book that rewards immersion, so that’s probably what I’ll want to read. But if I do, I’ll need to figure out a way to tune out the “X books completed” chatter while still enjoying the communal reading party. Perhaps there are others who would join a “big honking tome” club for the readathon? Seriously, spending a whole day with Wilkie Collins, Sarah Waters, or Susanna Clarke, or even Stephen King—what could be better? Or maybe a “read one long series” club for Lord of the Rings readalongers?
And again, I’m not meaning this to be a criticism of the readathon—it’s mostly a criticism of my own attitudes and tendency to compare myself to others. What’s funny is that I see other bloggers talk about competitiveness among bloggers all the time, but the readathon last year was the just about the only time I ever really felt bugged about it myself.
Notes from a Reading Life
March 15, 2010–March 28, 2010
I skipped Sunday Salon last week because I didn’t have anything I wanted to write about, so it’s a long list this week. I almost just posted my weekly notes without a topical salon post, but I wonder if people like the reading notes enough for me to take the time. I like seeing others’ book lists, and I enjoy giving a shout-out to the bloggers who introduced me to good reading prospects during the week, but it does take time to put the list together. If people aren’t reading this part, I may just let it go and only do Sunday Salons when I have a topic in mind. (I’m a big believer in not posting for the sake of posting.) If you like this bit, though, let me know, and I might just post it each week whether I have a salon topic or not.
- Hush by Jacqueline Woodson. Wonderfully written YA about self-identity.
- A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer. For the Classics Circuit. My first Heyer and not my last. Review coming March 30.
- The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry. Lessons in writing poetry. It was fun and informative, but it didn’t turn me into the next Wordsworth, as the poem I shared in my review attested.
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Another wonderfully written YA novel about a current issue touching more young women than I’d like to think.
- The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. I continue to love this series more every time I read it. Post coming March 31.
- Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams. The first play I’ve read in years, but I couldn’t resist Frances’s suggestion that I join in on a shared read of this great work by one of my favorite playwrights.
- The Poison Tree by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. The next Morland Dynasty book. I’ll probably finish today.
- Ptolemy’s Gate by Jonathan Stroud (audio). The final book in the Bartimaeus trilogy. I’m on the last disc, so you can expect a review this week. I’m so in love with this book. It’s the perfect payoff to an enjoyable series.
- Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. I couldn’t wait until April to continue, so I plowed right into the next book.
- Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola. For the Classics Circuit. I’ve never read Zola before. He’s one of those authors who has always intimidated me, which is odd, because when I look at the descriptions of his books, they all seem like exactly my kinds of books.
- The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell. I liked Vowell’s Assassination Vacation well enough in print, but I love her stories on This American Life, so I want to try an audio version of her books.
- Far North by Marcel Theroux. A post-apocalyptic novel about a frontier sheriff in a ruined world. From Paperbackswap.
- The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Pope. This YA historical fiction set in Tudor time and involving fairies has been recommended to me by about a zillion people, but my library doesn’t have it. From Paperbackswap.
- The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins. Now that I’ve read all the Wilkie Collins novels my library offers, I’m gathering copies of the books I can’t get at the library.
- Prince Rupert’s Teardrop by Lisa Glass. This was already on my wishlist, thanks to the reviews by Simon and Kirsty, so I was excited when the author offered me a copy for review.
- 2017 by Olga Slavnikova. The English translation of this dystopian thriller and winner of the 2007 Russian Booker Prize is just being released this month, and I was lucky enough to win a copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ program.
Books on My Radar
- Kinky Gazpacho by Lori Tharps. A memoir/travelogue about a woman’s experiences living overseas and the culture shock she experienced. Reviewed by Eva at A Striped Armchair.
- Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Life in an Australian Aboriginale community. Reviewed by Eva at A Striped Armchair.
- Cold by Bill Steever. I have a fascination with Alaska, the Arctic, the Antarctic, and stories of survival in situations of extreme cold. I’ve mostly watched documentaries to feed this fascination, but this book sounds like a treat since it delves into a bit of everything. Reviewed by Eva at A Striped Armchair.
- Meet Me Under the Ceiba by Silvio Sirias. A story of an investigation of the murder of a lesbian woman. Reviewed by Eva at A Striped Armchair.
- Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson. A examination of how World War I created a surplus of single women in the UK after the war. Reviewed by Myrthe at The Armenian Odar Reads.
- Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. A Japanese classic in which a man wanders into a village in the sand dunes and finds himself trapped there. Reviewed by Jackie at Farm Lane Books.
- Glamour: Women, History Feminism by Carol Dyhouse. A history of fashion and changing definitions of beauty in the 20th century. Reviewed by Rachel at Bookssnob.
- Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres by Ruth Brandon. A social history about the status of governesses in Victorian England. Reviewed by Chris at Book-a-Rama.
- The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison. The Orange Prize longlist came out recently, and several titles on it look interesting, but I’m waiting to see some reviews before adding any to my list. This book about a girl evacuated to a Yorkshire country house was one that caught my eye, and Litlove’s review confirmed that it’s probably worth checking out.
- The Execution by Hugo Wilcken. CB James at Ready When You Are CB didn’t reveal much about this book, so as not to spoil it, but he compared it to Strangers on a Train and said it would suit people who like complexity and ambiguity in their thrillers. Hey, that’s me!
- The Still Point by Amy Sackville. Multiple time lines, polar expeditions, journals. Jodie at Book Gazing made this Orange Prize longlister sound terrific.
- When Things of the Come First by Simone de Beauvoir. For some reason, de Beauvoir intimidates me, but Tony’s review at Tony’s Book World made this sound both accessible and interesting.
- The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. This is a favorite book of one of my very good friends, but I keep forgetting to add it to my list. Nymeth’s beautiful review at Things Mean a Lot caught my eye this week, and so onto the list it goes.