Sunday Salon: Announcements, Announcements, Announcements

Just a couple of quick notes about upcoming events this week:

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.

Books Completed

  • 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.

Currently Reading

  • 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.

On Deck

  • 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.

New Acquisitions

  • 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.
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55 Responses to Sunday Salon: Announcements, Announcements, Announcements

  1. Frances says:

    Kind of relieved that you shared your thoughts about the readathon today. I have yet to participate in one because of some of the same reasons you list here. On one hand, it does look like so much fun but on the other, all of those posts listing minutes read, pages read, number of books read, number of posts up, etc. makes it seem more like a competition than a community event. Love your idea of immersing yourself in one text uninterrupted.

    Thanks for reading along for The Night of Iguana. Really enjoyed your thoughts.

    • Teresa says:

      Frances, I’m glad I’m not entirely alone in worrying about the readathon seeming competitive. I know that’s not the intention, and I’m not sure there’s a way around it really. The updates are part of what makes it a party, and I do like that communal aspect of it.

  2. I’ve been a cheerleader for a few Read-a-Thons, but never actually gotten to read for it. This year I’m going to try being a reader and I’ve been working on coming up with a pile of short-ish books to read. I’d never really thought of your approach — take one long book and delve into it — because I can see the logic in the argument that when you’re reading that long it helps to be able to switch if things aren’t holding your attention. But I do also like the idea of investing a day to just read one book. I got to do that on a couple of bus rides last weekend and it was really great.

    Anyway, I hope that you do in fact decide to do it and the “bajillion books” chatter doesn’t bother you too much. The Count of Monte Cristo is a great book, but one that I’ve never been able to read all the way though (I end up distracted for some reason and let it go). Good luck!

    Also, Sarah Vowell on audiobook is great. I love listening to her read her pieces. I can’t wait to hear what you think about Partly Cloudy Patriot.

    • Teresa says:

      Kim, I totally understand the whole idea of having a pool of books. Even though I’ve read longer books in past readathons, I’ve also had a few short books, graphic novels, etc., on hand, just in case the long book isn’t working for me.

  3. gaskella says:

    I don’t think I could do a Readathon – it just feels a bit forced to me, and that always inhibits my reading.

    • Teresa says:

      Annabel, When the reading starts to feel forced, I take a break or go to bed! The thing is, I’m almost always up for taking a Saturday for nothing but reading, and the readathon does provide an excuse to put other Saturday activities on hold.

  4. farmlanebooks says:

    I love the community aspect of the read-athon, but couldn’t take part as I just can’t concentrate on a book for that long. I have my own mini-readathons, but I tend to flag after about 4 or 5 hours reading in one day (and that is with a few breaks!) I agree with your thoughts on picking a long book – if I ever know I’m going to have a lot of reading time then I always pick a long one. I find it very satisfying to finish a chunkster and I don’t like having lots of reviews to write in a row!!

    Eva has been adding to your wishlist a lot recently!! She keeps adding to mine too ;-)

    • Teresa says:

      Jackie, I think even if I had the full 24 hours available, I couldn’t read that whole time. But I can easily spend 8 or 10 hours reading, with breaks of course. And if I’m going to do that, I like to use it to make progress on a chunkster (because I do love a chunkster!)

      Eva is one of the biggest contributors to my reading list, and all of those were from one post! I think I might have been feeling particularly susceptible to bookish temptation that day!

  5. Nymeth says:

    I won’t be able to join the read-a-thon this time, but I really like your idea. I think I’d have more fun reading one long book than several shorter ones. With short ones, you need to go through that “just getting into the story” phase several times until you get hooked. Not to mention that by the end I’d be horribly behind on reviews, which yes, tends to worry me when it comes to read-a-thons :P So I definitely see your point.

    • Teresa says:

      Ana, it did occur to me last year when I saw people tweeting and posting about the number of post readathon reviews they’d have to write that I was letting myself off the hook for some serious work later!

  6. Steph says:

    Count of Monte Cristo is so much fun, and it’s definitely good for a long day of reading. It’s very epic and full of adventure, so it will keep your interest, that’s for sure!

    I understand your conflict regarding the readathon. I find that I do mini-readathons of my own where I just read all day, but I tend to do so just when I’m really absorbed in what I’m reading and not worrying about “competing” with any other readers. Page counts would probably just bog me down…

    • Teresa says:

      Steph, All-day (or nearly all day) reading sessions aren’t all that uncommon for me either. And I’m not obsessive about sharing page counts or progress reports on readathon days. It’s mostly something to do when I need a break.

  7. litlove says:

    I need my sleep! And I like reading interspersed with other activities. Everyone has different patterns, and mine just don’t particularly fit in with a readathon. But I like following it afterwards, and watching everyone fall asleep or desperately need to go to bed at around 3 in the morning!

    • Teresa says:

      Litlove, So true about everyone having different patterns. I tend to love to read for long periods, which gives the readathon natural appeal.

  8. I’m planning to do Read-a-Thon Lite again (my own thing…just read much of the day…blog a bit…go to bed when I get too tired). I read lots and lots of short books last time, but this time, I’m hoping to do a Books about France theme.

    I’m hosting a giveaway on my Sunday Salon post today. I plan to give away two $10 gift cards to Amazon on Easter Sunday. I hope you will stop by and sign up!

  9. Jenny says:

    Maybe I can do a readathon when my kids are older. Now, not so much. But I love the idea of doing a Gunslinger readathon (or read-along… maybe after your LOTR thing?)

    • Teresa says:

      Jenny, Living along certainly makes the read-a-thon easier. And I would be so on board for a Gunslinger readalong–I’m all for spreading the Roland love!

  10. Colleen says:

    thanks for your perspective on the Read A Thon – I will be doing this for the first time in April – I am new to blogging.

    I like the idea of immersing myself in one long book as I often find that some books require dedicated reading time as opposed to the little bits of time I can otherwise dedicate. I think I may keep a book of short stories on hand to intersperse with the longer novel.

    Have a good week!

    • Teresa says:

      Colleen, There are definitely books that work better if read at long stretches. Those seem like perfect read-a-thon choices for me, with a few shorter back-ups on hand if the main book isn’t working. I think I did read a story or two the first year I participated.

  11. Nicola says:

    Excellent post. I think the whole point about reading is that it is ultimately a non-competitive, solitary activity. For that reason, I don’t do challenges, readathon’s, memes etc etc although I love receiving personal recommendations.

    • Teresa says:

      Nicola, I think one of the things I like about some of the blogging events is that they are fun ways to make a usually solitary event a little more social. But there’s a limit to how social I’m able to be, even over books. I find I must choose carefully, which is why I gave up challenges and am rethinking the readathon.

  12. Megan says:

    I’m kind of a slower reader in general, and that bothers me about myself and my blog fairly often. Oddly enough, though, it didn’t bother me so much with the Read-a-thon. I think I was just so happy to have an excuse to plan a day of reading only that comparing myself to others wasn’t quite as huge for me on that day as it, uh, usually is. I did have to contend with some of my own mistaken expectations. I think I honestly thought I would be able to read much more in 8 or 10 solid hours of reading than I did, so that bummed me out a little, not in that I was comparing myself so much to others, but in that I just supposed I could read faster if I just had the uninterrupted time, and I couldn’t! I won’t be able to participate in the readathon this spring, but if I did, I think just knowing what to expect from myself would definitely improve my experience since it would be easier to focus on the big reading/blogging party instead of the “wow, do I really read this slowly?” thing. LOL!

    Whether you choose to read one big book or a few small ones, I hope you’ll be able to participate and enjoy regardless of what or how much other people are reading. I guess at the end of the day, it’s just the same as the whole blogging thing in general. It’s something that can be fun to do, but if you’re not ultimately doing it for you, then you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons. Now if I could only listen to my own advice… ;-)

    • Teresa says:

      Megan, You’re right–and I do pretty well maintaining that attitude about blogging in general. I think in the Read-a-Thon this year, I’ll just log off if I find myself drifting into book envy.

  13. Aarti says:

    I completely understand you about the read-a-thon book number thing. Some people read a LOT! I guess I just have concentration issues, maybe, but I just can’t do that.

    I LOVE The Count of Monte Cristo. I was considering a reread of it for the Dumas circuit, but ultimately decided I’m not quite ready for a 1100 page book at this time. But it is so, so good!

  14. Myrthe says:

    I read Prince Rupert’s Teardrop earlier this year and I enjoyed it. It’s good in a slightly unnerving sort of way. For some reason I never got around to writing a review for it, though. The Good Earth is a good one as well.

    I participated in the first or second readathon as a cheerleader, after that I somehow never got around to participating, in part because for me the times are really bad. With the timezone I live in it’d start at 5pm. I still have it in the back of my mind to participate one day, every time I see the next readathon announced, I do consider signing up. But not this year for sure, as I’ll be on holidays. :-)

    • Teresa says:

      Myrthe, I love a good, unsettling sort of book, which is exactly what Prince Rupert’s Teardrop sounded like to me. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. I hope to get to it soon.

  15. I try not to compare myself to others during the read-a-thon. I look at it as a way for me to carve out time to read what I want to from my shelves regardless of review copies that must be read, etc.

    I’m going to sign up again, but I think I will be spending less time on challenges.

    • Teresa says:

      Serena, I’m definitely avoiding the mini-challenges this year. Last year, I thought most of them cut into my reading time too much. I liked doing some of the ones that took five minutes or so, just for a break, but that’s the limit I want to spend this year.

  16. rebeccareid says:

    You know, in the past, I’ve always wanted to join the readathon. Now, I’m really okay reading at my own pace, a little every day. I completely see what you’re saying. I’ll add that sometimes it’s fun to keep the books spread out, i.e., not read it all at once. IT doesn’t stay with me as long. I like having a certain book to look forward to at the end of the day!

    • Teresa says:

      Rebecca: I’m definitely more of an immersive reader–always have been. I am liking spreading out my rereads, only reading 30-45 minutes a day at lunch, but I get too impatient to know what’s going to happen to enjoy that for first-time reads.

  17. Jenny says:

    How fun to read The Count of Monte Cristo all in one go! It’s one of those books that I LOVE, but don’t reread all that often because it’s such a massive time commitment. I hope you enjoy it! I really think that sounds like a great way to spend the readathon.

    • Teresa says:

      Jenny, I doubt I’ll manage it in one go, even for the readathon! But I could probably get a lot read that day. With all the encouragement, I’m starting to really look forward to it.

  18. Liz says:

    I know I would not be able to do the readathon — I like my own pace and my own way of doing things. Plus, I’d be thinking of the rest of my life and what I should be doing! Oh well. Maybe someday. Am currently reading a memoir kind of book, I Promised You Daisies by Robert Benjamin. It’s part 2 of a trilogy and shares his experiences as a young man in Boston in the late 1960s trying to build a responsible life out of shattered youthful dreams — and without ever having understood just how and why those dreams had failed. Quite engrossing.

    • Teresa says:

      Liz, The thing that I like about the read-a-thon is that it gives me an excuse not to worry about my other commitments for a day. The trick for me is figuring out how to do the read-a-thon in my own way.

  19. Kristina says:

    Hi Teresa, I really like your reading notes! I hope you’ll continue with them, I find them very inspiring – but I realise they must take some time to put together.

    • Teresa says:

      Kristina, I’m glad you enjoy the notes. They really don’t take that long to put together–I just figure if no one is looking at them, I’d spend the time on something else.

  20. Kathleen says:

    I understand what you mean about the readathon. Sometimes it seems like people just want to prove how many books they can read during the 24 hours. But I do like the excitement of the event and have typically been a non-official cheerleader in the past.

  21. DKS says:

    Re. Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola.

    Zola is a funny one. He’s addicted to trashy sentiment and melodrama (a little like Dickens without the sense of humour, or the inventive language) but when he’s at his best then the melodrama works, the whole thing — his earnestness, his concern for impoverished and exploited people, a sense of fierce disgust that seems to have been innate in him — comes off, there’s a wonderful meshing of melodrama and indignation — no, anger, rage — which seems at least partly due to the disgust — all of it roaring ahead at the same pitch. Raquin is strong but uneven, I think; he hadn’t worked himself out yet. I’ll be interested to see what you think of it.

    • Teresa says:

      DKS, I’m just getting started on Thérèse Raquin, so I haven’t formed an impression yet, but I do enjoy melodrama when done well. It seems like my kind of book, and if I enjoy it at all, I imagine I’ll be reading more Zola.

      • DKS says:

        If you do, then ‘Germinal’ might be worth trying. I haven’t read all of Zola (prolific, that man) but Germinal stood out above the rest like a tower. It’s the book I was thinking of when I wrote “all roaring ahead at the same pitch.” His dislike of exploitation and his personal bent toward excited disgust (obvious in Nana, where he seems sexually fascinated by his own character, and, at the same time, repelled and jealous when he considers the male characters looking at her) unite here just — nicely — with a beautiful click — and voila.

  22. Liz says:

    Teresa — that’s an excellent suggestion. I was reading on a blog this morning — the author said she was getting worn out, a bit from reading review copies of books she didn’t necessarily want to read, and that the blog was morphing into more “work” as opposed to “fun.” If you change it around, like the challenge, then it’s fun again!.

  23. Pingback: Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #13 | Books On About .com

  24. Dorothy W. says:

    I do like your “Notes from a reading life” section and I read over the books you list there. But of course, if it feels like too much time, then it makes sense to give it up. I don’t think I can participate in a Read-a-thon, mostly because as much as i love reading, I can’t stand the thought of sitting still that long. For a serious reader, I think I may have a fairly short attention span :)

    • Teresa says:

      Dorothy, The notes don’t actually take that much time to compile, and I really like sharing my reading finds and upcoming reads. I just figured that if people weren’t looking at them, I could spend that bit of time on something else. But enough people like them that I’ll continue for now.

  25. Pingback: Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #13 | Lover of Ebooks

  26. Ronnica says:

    I love the idea of immersing yourself in 1 book for the whole Read-a-thon. While I already have plans to hit up a bunch of shorter/YA type books (I like to see how many I can read in a day), I think the format is equally conducive for the type of reading you’re talking about. I think I might consider that for the next read-a-thon (or at least for a full-day reading day in the summer).

    • Teresa says:

      Ronnica, I’m now far enough into Count that I’m really looking forward to spending the day with it. But I can also see the fun in knocking out a bunch of YA or novellas or graphic novels.

  27. Carol says:

    I loved the Count of Monte Cristo by the way. I’m thinking about sinking in with The Three Musketeers on Saturday, after I finish the book I currently have going.

  28. Vasilly says:

    I like the idea of reading one book throughout the read-a-thon. There’s something about the read-a-thon that makes me relax my reading and read from genres I don’t normally dive in to like short stories, plays, and poetry. I used to compare myself to other readers during the read-a-thon but when I saw that one of the readers last time read about 30 books in the 24-hour period, I knew it was dumb of me to keep comparing myself to others, so I’ve stopped. During the read-a-thon, I only keep count of how many books or short stories I’ve read nothing else.

    I’ll be cheering you on during the read-a-thon if you decide to join.

    • Teresa says:

      Vasilly, I do plan to join (need to go make that official today). I like the idea of using the read-a-thon to try something new as well.

      And you’re so right about the comparing. That’s what I need to *not* do this time. I do keep track of pages read, but I’ll probably limit my updates this year and do less blog-hopping.

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