2015 TBR Pile Challenge

It is once again time for the TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader and once again, I’ll be a participant!

This is by far my hardest challenge for the simple reason that I have such a difficult, insurmountable, arduous, overwhelming problem with following lists. When it comes to reading, I’m more of a free spirit who would like to flit here and there as the mood or read-along takes me.  Being trapped in a schedule is not my thing.  HOWEVER, I do realize that it’s beneficial to work on the areas that are challenging for me, so this challenge reflects my effort at balance.

I still have a couple of books to finish for last year’s challenge.  If I can get to them, I’ll be more than a little pleased!

Here are Adam’s rules:

The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months).
Specifics:
1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2014 or later (any book published in the year 2013 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat:Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.
2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.
3. The link you post in the Mr. Linky below must be to your “master list” (see mine below). This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge). See THIS LINK for an idea of what I mean. Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2015.
4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back here if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2015 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from Amazon.comor The Book Depository!
5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published before 2014!

And so, of course, now I have to come up with a list.  Since I’m being even more unfettered with my planning this year, a list is certainly going to be a challenge.  Let’s see what I can come up with:

  1. Meditations –  René Descartes
  2. Orlando –  Virginia Woolf
  3. The Plague – Albert Camus
  4. Confessions  –  Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  5. Hamlet  –  William Shakespeare
  6. Ivanhoe  –  Sir Walter Scott
  7. Walden  –  Henry David Thoreau
  8. Framley Parsonage  –  Anthony Trollope
  9. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler  –  Italo Calvino
  10. Persuasion  –  Jane Austen
  11. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. The World’s Last Night and Other Essays – C.S. Lewis

Alternates:
  1. The Cantebury Tales  –  Geoffrey Chaucer
  2. Ulysses  –  James Joyce

Whew!  I think I have a list I can stick to.  Ivanhoe and Ulysses are monster reads but I should be able to accomplish at least one.  I hope!

Best of luck to everyone on their TBR Pile Challenge!

Jane Austen Project 2015

Plethora @ Plethora of Books is doing her own Jane Austen Project for 2015 and I’ve decided to join her.

Isn’t the button lovely?  In any case, I’ve read most of Austen’s works, only having the last half of Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion left to read. Plethora’s described her challenge as this:

February: Sense andSensibility [1811] (409 pg.)

My addition: Pride and Prejudice [1813] (254 pg.)
July: Mansfield Park[1814] (507 pg.)

August: Emma[1815] (474 p.)

October: Northanger Abbey[1818] (254 pg.)


December: Persuasion [1818] (254 pg.)

I’ll probably switch up the months a little.  I’ve heard rumour of a Persuasion read-along in January that I’d like to join and, while she hasn’t included Pride and Prejudice in her challenge, I’m going to slot it in.  This should be my fifth time reading it.
So if we have any more “joiners”, please go to Plethora’s blog, grab the button and sign up!

Back to the Classics Challenge Wrap-Up

I can’t believe that it’s already time to wrap-up for the year.  This challenge was probably my easiest by far and I actually finished it on August 25th.  Oh, if they all were so easy!

1.  20th Century Classic   The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
2.  19th Century Classic   David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
3.  A Classic By A Woman Writer  Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
4.  A Classic In Translation   Son Excellence, Eugène Rougon by Émile
                                                  Zola
5.  A Wartime Classic  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
6.  A Classic by an Author Who is New to You  The Warden by Anthony 
                                                                                 Trollope

Optional:

1.  An American Classic   The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
2.  A Classic Mystery/Suspense Thriller  The Big Sleep by Raymond 
                                                                        Chandler
3.  A Classic Historical Fiction Book  The Once And Future King by E.B. 
                                                                       White
4.  A Classic That Has Been Adapted into a T.V. or Movie Series  Othello
5.  Extra Fun Category – Write a Review of #4   Othello Movie Reviews 

This challenge was hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate (what a great blog name, huh?) and she did a wonderful job!  I hope the challenge continues in 2015!

Reading England 2015 Book List

For a general and very handy reference, I’ve included O’s list of books by English county, copied from her blog.

Bedfordshire
                The Two Sisters by H. E. Bates
                My Uncle Silas by H. E. Bates
                Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan
Berkshire
                The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
                Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy 
                Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes
                Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
                The Merry Wives of Winsor by William Shakespeare
                The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde
Bristol
                Evelina by Fanny Burney
Buckinghamshire
                Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
Cambridgeshire
                The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster
                Maurice by E. M. Forster
                Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
                Glory by Vladimir Nabakov
Cheshire
                Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Cornwall
                Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
                Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
                Basil & Rambles Beyond Railways by Wilkie Collins
                Basil & Rambles Beyond Railways by Wilkie Collins
Cumbria
                The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
                The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices by Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins
                The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
                Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
                Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
                The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth
Derbyshire
                Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
                Adam Bede by George Eliot
                Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
                The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
Devon
                Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
                Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
                The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
                Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
                He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
                Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope
Dorset
                The Worm Forgives the Plow by John Stewart Collis
                Moonfleet by J. Meade Faulkner
                Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
                The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
                The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
                Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
                Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
                Thank you, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
Durham
                  (see Tyne & Wear)
Essex
                Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
                Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
                Nightingale Woods by Stella Gibbons
                The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Gloucestershire
                Cider With Rose by Laurie Lee
                The Tailor of Gloucestershire by Beatrix Potter
Hampshire
                Watership Down by Richard Adams
                The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Herefordshire 
                On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
                The Diaries of Francis Kilvert by Rev. Francis Kilvert
Hertfordshire
                Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
                Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
Huntingdonshire
                To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Kent
                The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates
                The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
                Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
                Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
                The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
                Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
                Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
Lancashire
                Hard Times by Charles Dickens
                Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
                North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
                Redburn by Herman Melville
                The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
                Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Leicestershire
                The Right to an Answer by Anthony Burgess
Lincolnshire
                John Marchmount’s Legacy by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
                The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
                Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson
London
                Emma by Jane Austen
                Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
                A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
                The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Buttler
                The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
                Fanny Hill by John Cleland
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
                A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
                Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
                Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
                The Nether World by George Gissing
                New Grub Street by George Gissing
                The Diary of a Nobody by George and Wheedon Grossmith
                Hanover Square by Patrick Hamilton
                Esther Waters by George Moore
                The Diary of Samuel Pepys
                Vanity Fairy by William Makepeace Thackerary
                Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
                Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
Norfolk
                The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
Northamptonshire
                Mansfield Park by Jane Austen [uncertain]
                Mistress Masham’s Repose by T. H. White
Northumberland
                Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
                Ruined City by Nevil Shute
Nottinghamshire
                Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
                The Rainbow by D. . Lawrence
                Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
                The White Peacock by D. H. Lawrence
Oxfordshire
                The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
                Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Shropshire
                Howards End by E. M. Forster
                A Shopshire Lad by A.E. Housman
Somerset
                Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
                Persuasion by Jane Austen
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
                Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
                The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope
                Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse
Staffordshire
                Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
                The Old Wives Tale by Arnold Bennett
                Adam Bede by George Eliot
Suffolk
                Celia by Fanny Burney
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome
Surrey
                The Watsons by Jane Austen
                A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
                The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
Sussex
                Sanditon by Jane Austen
                The Worm Forgives the Plow by John Stewart Collis
                The Last Post by Lord Maddox Ford
                The Collector by John Fowles
                Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
                Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
                The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
                The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells
                The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
Tyne & Wear (formerly Durham)
                Afternoon Off by Alan Bennett
                The novels of Catherine Cookson
                The Stars Look Down by A.J. Cronin
                Rokeby by Walter Scott
Warwickshire
                The Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
                Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes
                Kenilworth by Walter Scott
                As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Wiltshire
                The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
                The Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope
                Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Worcestershire
                Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
                The Well of Loneliness by Radcyffe Hall
Yorkshire
                Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
                Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
                Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
                The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
                The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
                A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
                The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
                Dracula by Bram Stoker

For those who would like to learn where the counties are situated in England, some handy references are: this link to a map of the counties; as well as this quiz; and this quiz; and this jigsaw puzzle.

Picture me rubbing my hands together gleefully.  I just can’t wait!

Reading England 2015

Ah, my first commitment to a challenge for 2015!  O at Behold the Stars is hosting a Reading England Challenge for this coming year and how could I not participate?  Not only should this challenge be particularly easy because of my love for English literature, it will also give me an education in learning the counties of England.  While I’ve had exposure to various English counties through reading, I have no idea on a map where each is located (except I know that Surrey is in the south!) so what a chance to further my knowledge of the country!

The Rules:
  • This challenge begins on the 1st January 2015 and ends on 31st December 2015, but of course if you really get into it then keep it going 🙂
  • You can sign up any time between now and the end of 2015. Only books read after 1st January 2015 count, though.
  • Choose a level (below), but do not feel obliged to pick your books or even your counties beforehand. 
  • Because this is a classics blog, I’d encourage people to read classic novels, but how you define classics is up to you.
  • You are not limited to English authors. Henry James, for example, is American but his novel The Turn of the Screw is set in Essex, and so he counts for the challenge
  • It would be grand if you blogged about the books you read for each county but you don’t have to. If you do, you don’t have to feel obliged to give any information about the county in general other than, maybe, “This is my review of x which is set in the county of x“. You could also include a description of the landscape in your posts, but again you don’t have to.
  • You do not have to read the books in their original language, translations are accepted (I only read in English so I would never dream of making other people read in their second language!)
  • Audio books, Kindles, and whatnot are accepted too.
  • Poetry, plays, biographies, and autobiographies count as well as novels. 


The Levels:
  • Level one: 1 – 3 counties
  • Level two: 4 – 6 counties
  • Level three: 7 – 12 counties
  • Level four: 12 + counties

The English books I have on my slate for 2015 are:

Orlando Virginia Woolf
Framley ParsonageAnthony Trollope
The Cantebury TalesGeoffrey Chaucer
Grace Abounding to the Chief of SinnersJohn Bunyan

I’m notoriously bad at making lists and sticking to them so while my list is short, I’m certain I’ll be able to add many more books to it.  Level Two is my goal but I’ll probably be able to get to Level Three easily.

O added a wonderful list of English books sorted by county, so I’m planning to do another post just on this excellent reference.  I’m going to need it!

Russian Lit Challenge 2014 – Check-In

Another challenge check-in and another challenge going along well.  My, it’s nice to get these check-ins on near completed challenges instead of the ones I’m struggling through.  My challenge goal was to read three Russian novels and so far I have read three, so my challenge, theoretically is complete.

Both Eugene Onegin and Doctor Zhivago were re-reads.  I think I’m becoming a re-read advocate because each book that I’ve re-read has given me such a deeper understanding of the work, which, of course, increases my appreciation of it.  This quote pretty much sums up my experience:

“In truly good writing no matter how many times you read it you do not know how it is done. That is beacause there is a mystery in all great writing and that mystery does not dis-sect out. It continues and it is always valid. Each time you re-read you see or learn something new.”                ~ Ernest Hemingway

Palace Square in winter
source Wikipedia

But, of course, I’m not done; I’m going to continue with the challenge.  At least before the end of the year I have Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev planned and in the summer I want to read Russian Thinkers by Isaiah Berlin.  The latter would count as a book for this challenge too ……. wouldn’t it ……????

Does anyone have any other suggestions of Russian books that I simply must read?  Any suggestions are welcome!

Mount TBR Checkpoint

According to Bev at My Reader’s Block, it’s time to report on my climb up the mountains!  Which mountains have I surpassed?   Which mountain have I reached?  Have I met my goals?  Well, let me investigate!

As far as my challenge goes, it appears that I quickly scaled Pike’s Peak (12 books), continued on to Mount Blanc (24 books) and have just started to ascend Mount Vancouver, which I’ll conquer if I reach 36 books.  It looks like I may be able to reach Mount Ararat this year at 48 books, but it will be a close call.  Can I do it?  Stay tuned to find out!

photo courtesy of Glenn
source Flickr
Creative Commons

Bev kindly posted a few questions that we may choose to answer in honour of our mid-year check-in.

A. Choose two titles from the books you’ve read so far that have a common link. You decide what the link is–both have strong female lead characters? Each focuses on a diabolical plot to take over the world? Blue covers? About weddings? Find your link and tell us what it is.

This one was particularly easy.  The Odyssey, Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus all explored the idea of fate, and, from an ancient Greek worldview at least, that you are helpless to escape it.  You’re in the hands of the gods and they control your destiny!

And because that question was so easy, I’ve chosen to answer another one:

 B. Tell us about a book on the list that was new to you in some way–new author, about a place you’ve never been, a genre you don’t usually read…etc.

Paradise Lost had been on my list for some time but I had very cleverly avoided it.  Seventeenth century poetry in blank verse is scary!!  Yet, when it came up in a read-along I knew that it was the perfect time to participate. And wow!  What an epic!  And how silly of me to wait so long.  I have plans to read Paradise Regained but I don’t think that it can even come close to the brilliance of the original so I’m a little hesitant to start it right away.  In any case, with hindsight, I wish I had read Paradise Lost years ago!

photo courtesy of @Doug88888
source Flickr
Creative Commons

So what have you read off your personal bookshelves this year?

Preparing for Summer – Which Books?

Inspired by Ruth at A Great Book Study, I am going to place aside my fear of having a list or goals to follow, and put together a pile of books that I hope to read during the much anticipated summer months.

Books To Complete:

The Chronicles of Barsetshire: I should be at Framley Parsonage for my Chronicles of Barsetshire Read-Along.  I’m in the middle of Barchester Towers at the moment and I hope to get through Doctor Thorne before summer.  I’m enjoying this series immensely.  Trollope captures the characters beautifully …… all their human faults and foibles as well as their kindnesses.  There is no better introduction to a small English village.

The Saying of the Desert Fathers:  another stalled book that I need to finish.  Not to mention that it’s in my TBR Pile Challenge.  I must admit, I’m not doing very well with this challenge.

Defence Speeches:  and another stalled one.  And another on my TBR Pile Challenge.  I don’t know why I stopped reading this.  I LOVE Cicero’s defence arguments; so logical and crafty!

The Decameron:  a long scheduled read.  Because of its style (a collection of stories), it has been easy to read and keep up with.

The Morte d’Arthur:  I am trying to slog through this.  I don’t know what is the matter with me.  This is a book I should be eating up but I just don’t care for it.  Perhaps it was my bad experience with Once and Future King, which I read prior to starting Le Morte.  Or maybe I haven’t had the attention span to devote to it.  Or perhaps I’ll never become enamoured with it.  In any case, I’m determined to finish it so I will do my best to get through a good portion of it in the summer.

The History of Napoleon Buonaparte:  yet another stalled book.  I really liked reading it; the history was fascinating and the author paints a very real picture of Buonaparte.  Other books just took over.

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler:  ah, Calvino!  Will I gain an appreciation for your unique style and structure, or will I want to strangle you when I finish?  I guess time will tell ……

Summer Day
Volodymyr Orlovsky
source Wikiart

New Books To Read:

Ovid’s Metamorphoses:  one of my books that I attempted to read last year but didn’t get very far.  I anticipate that I’ll have time in the summer to concentrate on it property.

Russian Thinkers:  This book intrigues me.  By Isaiah Berlin, a Russian-born Jew, a social and political theorist and philosopher, these essays explore Russian thought and the idea of freedom, while exploring the minds of great Russian personages such as Herzen, Tolstoy and Turgenev and the political and social changes that stemmed from their influence.  And I can count it for my Russian Challenge!

Arthurian Romances:  This will count for my Arthurian challenge.  I need to get a move on with this challenge because so far I have only finished Once and Future King.  How shameful!

The Book of Margery Kempe:  for my Well-Educated Mind Biographies Challenge.

Surprised by Joy & A Grief Observed: for my C.S. Lewis Project

Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche & Kafka:  “…. one of the most straightforward and easily understandable introductions to the whole modern experience of existentialism.”  Let’s hope so.  My poor brain can only handle an easy introduction.

The Universe Next Door:  a classic book for understanding the philosophy of different worldviews.  It looks very interesting.

Le Bretonnerie in the Department of Indre
Gustave Courbet (1856)
source Wikiart

For Fun!:  (Ooops! That doesn’t sound good.  Perhaps I should say, “for more fun.”)

The Terror:  I received this book from Andrea from Tasseled Book Blog during her wonderful give-away contest and can’t wait to get to it.  A relaxing day on the beach will be a perfect time to read it!  Thanks, Andrea!

The Little World of Don Camillo:  an Italian classic based on the real life priest Don Camillo Valota.  It is supposed to give an excellent portrayal of the rural Italian countryside after WWII.

Porterhouse Blue:  I bought this book for no particular reason ….. on a whim, really, which is not like me, so I thought I’d see how my rash action turns out.  I am also humming-and-hawing over whether to try to start reading some books on the Guardian’s 1000 best book list.  Porterhouse Blue is on it.

Le Petit Nicolas:  for my Language Freak Summer Challenge

Ausgewählte Märchen:  German fairy tales for my Language Freak Summer Challenge.

Stories of the East From Herodotus:  really, I should just read Herodotus’ Histories but this old children’s book is on my TBR Pile Challenge list and the last thing I need is another tome to read.

Death By Living:  my brother-in-law gave me this book and said I would enjoy it.  I usually trust his judgement but, then again, this book is not a book I’d usually choose to read.  I’m stepping out of my comfort zone!

Summer Landscape with Fishermen
Efim Volkov
source Wikiart

No, I am not delusional.  I don’t expect to finish ALL of these books.  I also can see that if I don’t finish some of my “in progress” books soon, I won’t have time to read any new books, which is good incentive to focus on some unfinished reads before summer begins.  It will be interesting to see my progress at the end of the summer.  I do have one glorious month off, where, if I wanted to, I could read all day long, but I usually end up doing lots of hikes as well.  Last year I read 13 books during the months of July & August so hopefully I can either meet or beat that number.  I can only try!

What are your reading plans for the summer?

An Enthralling Novel (1885)
Julius LeBlanc Stewart
source Wikiart

The Well-Educated Mind Biographies Project

Ruth of A Great Book Study has been making her way through the book, The Well-Educated Mind, a book that inspires and instructs readers on how to read and analyze novels, autobiographies, histories, plays and poetry.  At her invitation, I’ve decided to join her as she begins the biography section.

(the above image is used courtesy of Thomas Baker, Thomas Baker Oil Painting)

The biography section contains twenty-six autobiographies, listed in chronological order:

  1.  Augustine – The Confessions

  2.  Margery Kempe – The Book of Margery Kempe

  3.  Michel De Montaigne – Essays

  4.  Teresa of Àvila – The Life of Saint Teresa of Àvila by Herself 

  5.  René Descartes – Meditations

  6.  John Bunyan – Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

  7.  Mary Rowlandson – The Narrative of the Captivity and
                                              Restoration

  8.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Confessions

  9.  Benjamin Franklin – The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

10.  Henry David Thoreau – Walden

11.  Harriet Jacobs – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written 
                                    By Herself

12.  Frederick Douglass – Life and times of Frederick Douglass

13.  Booker T. Washington – Up from Slavery

14.  Friedrich Nietzsche – Ecce Homo

15.  Adolf Hitler – Mein Kampf

16.  Mohandas Gandhi – An Autobiography: The Story of My 
                                Experiments with Truth

17. Gertrude Stein – The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

18.  Thomas Merton – The Seven Storey Mountain

19.  C.S. Lewis – Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

20.  Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X

21.  May Sarton – Journal of a Solitude

22.  Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn – The Gulag Archipelago

23.  Charles W. Colson – Born Again

24.  Richard Rodriguez – Hunger of Memory: The Education of 
                                       Richard Rodriguez

25.  Jill Ker Conway – The Road from Coorain

26.  Elie Wiesel – All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs


From the list I’ve already read, The Seven Storey Mountain, thanks to my Classics Club Spin, Augustine’s Confessions, and from my C.S. Lewis Project, I will have read Surprised by Joy, when we get to it.  As for what I’m looking forward to, probably Montaigne’s Essays, the Gulag Archipelago and Mein Kampf top the list, yet I must admit autobiographies are not a genre with which I’m widely familiar, so I’m a little hesitant as well.  Gertrude Stein and Malcolm X are perhaps the biographies I feel the most “meh” about, but with this list and my lack of exposure, I fully expect I will be pleasantly surprised with at least two books that I am less than enthusiastic about reading.  We’ll see when we complete the list.

Ruth has listed some questions on A Great Book Study that will help us as we read, and I am going to post them here for easy access:

During the first stage of reading (find out what happened):
What are the central events in the writer’s life?

What historical events coincide-or merge-with these personal events?

Who is the most important person (or people) in the writer’s life?

What events form the outline of the story?

In the second stage of reading:
What is the theme that ties the narrative together?

What is the life’s turning point?  Is there a conversation?

For what does the writer apologize?  In apologizing, how does the writer justify?

What is the model-the ideal-for this person’s life?

What is the end of the life: the place where the writer has arrived, found closure, discovered rest?

Now revisit your first question: What is the theme of this writer’s life?

In the final stage of reading:
Is the writer writing for himself, or for a group?

What are the three moments, or time frames, of the autobiography?

Where does the writer’s judgment lie?

Do you reach a different conclusion from the writer about the pattern of his life?

Do you agree with what the writer has done?

What have you brought away from this story?

I was a little surprised at the last question in the second stage of reading: “What is the theme of the writer’s life.”  I’ve always been familiar with books having themes, but not lives.  Has anyone ever asked themselves, “What is the theme of my life?”  A fascinating question.  I wonder if we viewed our lives as having themes, would we choose to live them differently or live them “better”?  I wonder ……

In any case, I’m excited to start this project and I anticipate it will inspire me on to deeper and more thoughtful reading.  Please join us for the project, or even a book or two, if you feel so inclined.  We begin June 1st.

Language Freak Summer Challenge

Ekaterina at In My Book is hosting a Language Freak Summer Challenge. Since I continually profess that I am going to attempt a book in French, but as yet have had little inspiration, I thought a challenge would be a good shove forward.

How to Participate:

Read books in a foreign language this summer.  The challenge runs from May 1st to August 31st.

The Levels of the Challenge:

Beginner: read 1 book in any foreign language
Intermediate: read 2 books in any foreign language
Advanced: read 3+ books in any foreign language

The books can be in one or in several different foreign languages. You choose what you want to practice! But for really crazy linguists I have a special offer, which is called accordingly:

Crazy Linguist: read at least 1 book in EACH foreign language you know. Of course, this one is additional to the above listed three levels!

Bonus level is for films:

Subs Fan: watch any number of films in a foreign language (Why is it called so? Because subs are allowed, of course!)

After you read your book (or watch a movie), you are encouraged to post about your experience! It can be a review, or a reflection, or a rant, whatever! If the book’s language affected your experience, write about it! Is it easy or difficult? Does it have crazy grammar or so many rare words that you couldn’t put down your dictionary? Share!

For the hardcore language freaks I have another optional task! Try to write about the book in the language you read it in! Just a few phrases, to practice your writing! Last year native speakers were known to friendly explain the mistakes in the reviews, so don’t be afraid to make them! It’s all for your benefit, you know. 

Introductory Post Questions:


1.  What languages do you know?  I know basic French and Spanish (although my Spanish is very rusty), less than basic German with a smattering of Latin and ancient Greek.  

2.  What is your history with these languages?  I studied French for seven years in school but with sub-par instruction, so my French is embarrassingly weak when you consider the study time.  I studied both Spanish and German in school for one semester, but my German teacher was amazing so the German I learned in one semester was comparable to about three years of French class. Latin and Greek I’ve learned alongside my daughter while homeschooling her, but she has surpassed me now.  I wish I had more time to devote to learning these languages.

3.  Do you use them or are you out of practice?  I was very fortunate to be able to travel to France about 5 years ago, twice, for about 6 weeks each time.  Initially my French was woefully inadequate (I had to use Spanish to find my hotel), but gradually it came back and when I left the last time, I was able to understand conversations, although my speaking skills still needed much practice.  I’ve tried to keep it up since then.  My Spanish used to be pretty good, but needs a tune-up.  In German, I’d be lucky if I could read children’s books —- I need more instruction.  As for Latin & Greek, I have glorious dreams of being able to read Homer or Xenephon in Greek and the Aeneid in Latin ……… sadly I have a loooong way to go to reach that point but I can read a short story about the Gallic wars in Latin.  Such is my pitiful claim to fame. 😉

4.  Have you read some books in these languages?  Did you like it (them)?  I’ve read a number of children’s books in both French and Spanish.  I also started both Candide and Alice in Wonderland in French but didn’t finish them.  I tried reading The Cat in the Hat in Latin but crashed and burned. 

5.  What are your plans for the challenge?  I plan to try to read either Le Petit Nicolas, Le Tour de la France par Deux Enfants or Les Malheurs de Sophie as a main book.  Otherwise I would like to read some Fables de Fontaine, a Martine book, some German fairy tales, Ferdinand in Latin and a Spanish book, perhaps Corre, Perro, Corre, or another choice.  It’s nice to have four months for this challenge ~~ there are so many possibilities to explore and I will certainly have the time to investigate them!



Does it sound like fun?  Do you want to join in?  Then write an introductory post and then go to Ekaterina’s blog and link it to the linky there.  Please see her blog for other details about this exciting challenge.  Thanks for hosting, Ekaterina!

What Did I Read?

  1.  Corre, Perro, Corre – P.D. Eastman (Spanish)
  2.  Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai – Heinrich Heine
  3.  Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) – Brothers Grimm
  4.  Nuits de Juin – Victor Hugo
  5.  Desiderata (en Français) – Max Ehrmann