2015 In Review

2015 Reading Stats:

Number Of Books You Read: 50

Number of Re-Reads: 

Genre You Read The Most From: Classics

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2015: The Canterbury Tales.

Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’tOn The Road by Jack Kerouac.  I had read his The Dharma Bums and just loved it, but On The Road simply didn’t have the charm of the former.  It was a chronicle of a bunch of irresponsible young men getting drunk and stoned across America.  Just not for me.

Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read in 2015: In a good way, Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington.  I was a little fatigued with the slave narratives, but Washington, without anger or bitterness, presented such a balanced view of the issues, and a way for the people coming out of slavery to really move forward and feel like they were building useful lives for themselves.  He definitely goes on my hero list. 

Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did) in 2015:   Well, I’ll say Beowulf because I hosted a read-along of it.  I had a great time; I hope everyone else did too!

Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel? Best Series Ender:  I read through Jane Austen’s novels and was so pleased to revisit old favourites and finally read the two that I had never read before (Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion).  Pride and Prejudice remains one of my all-time favourites.  I also developed a new appreciation for both Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2015:  Michel de Montaigne.  He is such a unique thinker and his writings are so personal that after you read a few of his essays, you feel like you’re talking with an old friend (although one you conversely often argee and disagree with).  He’s fabulous!

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/ out of your comfort zone:  Montaigne’s Selected Essays.  I don’t usually read essays, even though I want to read them.  Montaigne was a blast!  I can’t wait to read more of him.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year: Dracula.  We seek him here, we seek him there, we very-credulous-and-always-one-step-behind men seek him everywhere.  Is he in heaven or is he in hell?  That damn’d elusive Count Dracula!

Book you read in 2015 that you are most likley to reread next year: I will definitely read The Canterbury Tales again, but not next year.  

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015: Probably this Ignatius Press edition of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Most memorable characters of 2015:  Michel de Montaigne (Selected Essays)Hamlet (Hamlet), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Confessions – the mould was broken when God made him), Beowulf (Beowulf) Basil Grant (The Club of Queer Trades), Gandhi (The Story of My Experiment With Truth)

Most beautifully written book read in 2015: The Forgotten Daughter.  I was truly blown away by Snedeker’s writing.  Not only does she create a believable and vibrant setting, she brings to life the characters within it.  The true degradation and loss of liberty under slavery resonates in this book, yet without becoming maudlin.  An excellent read.

Most-thought provoking/ life-changing book of 2015: The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mohandas Gandhi

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read: The Canterbury Tales

Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015: There were so many and this is perhaps not the favourite but it’s a valuable one that springs quickly to mind: “…… Nature has given it (life) into our hands, trimmed with so many and such happy surrounding, that we have only ourselves to blame if we feel it a burden, and if we waste it unprofitably ……  And yet I am resigned to lose it without regret; but as a thing that is by its nature losable, not as if it were a troublesome burden …… Not to hate the idea of death is properly becoming only in those who enjoy life …. I enjoy it doubly as much as others, for the measure of enjoyment depends upon the more or less attention we give to it …..  The shorter my possession of life, the fuller and deeper must I live it …… Rather should we study, relish and ruminate it, in order to give adequate thanks to him who bestows it upon us.”  ~~ Michel de Montaigne

Shortest/longest book you read in 2015: Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlinson and The Christmas Child by Hesba Stretten (both 52 pgs.) & Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (676 pgs.) (although the longest would have been  Mein Kampf [710 pgs.] if I’d read the part about the National Socialist Movement)

Book that shocked you the most: Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.  It is astounding and more than a little unsettling that he grew to rule a nation. His delusional hatred of Jews and non-Arians was not cloaked at all.  It made me realize that if it could happen once, it could happened again.

OTP of the year: Every year I have to look up what OTP means.  Sigh!   😉  Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice!

Favorite non-romantic relationship: Pinocchio and Geppetto – very much a Prodigal Son story.  Otherwise the Little Women family.

Favorite book you read in 2015 from an author you’ve read previously: Price and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Notes From the Underground by Dostoyevsky

Best book you read in 2015 that you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.

Best world-building/most vivid setting you read this year: Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  I read it twice this year thanks to Hamlette’s read-along!

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read: The Club of Queer Trades by G.K. Chesterton.  I just realized that I didn’t read many fun books in 2015.  I’ll have to rectify that next year!

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015: The Forgotten Daughter by Caroline Dale Snedecker.  Again it communicated the hopelessness of slavery while giving hope in another way.  Just excellent.

Hidden gem of the year:  The Brubury Tales by Frank Mundo.  I’m not a fan of modern fiction and I’d expected these tales to be definitely weaker versions of The Canterbury Tales, but I was absolutely blown away.  His poetic skill resonated throughout the stories and his insight into human nature was exemplary.  I will read this one again, for sure. 

Most unique book you read in 2015: The Journal of William T. Sturgis.  It was refreshing to see a man who acted with honesty and integrity towards the native people, yet also held them accountable to basic human behaviour.  Quite a man.

Book that made you the most mad: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  I wanted to smack most of the characters.  

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015:  We Went Outside and Saw The Stars (Keely reads the type of books I absolutely love and compiles thoughtful and insightful reviews) and Gently Mad  (Sharon reads a very eclectic panorama of books and her reviews are always thought-provoking)  I know that I’ve forgotten somebody …..

Favorite review that you wrote in 2015: Wow, this is tough.  I’m going to choose my Montaigne essay posts, of which there are three, plus an introduction.  These reviews took up an inordinate amount of time, but I’m glad that I have little snapshots of all the essays I read.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog: Ooo, I don’t know.  Perhaps my  Join the Beowulf Read-Along post where we had some discussion of translation and other fun Beowulf-related things. I didn’t do many other survey-type posts this year. 

Best event that you participated in: The Hamlet Read-Along at The Edge of the Precipice.  I also enjoyed my Beowulf Read-Along, and my read with O of The Canterbury Tales was a blast.  It was so helpful to read her excellent posts as we read along.

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015:  Meeting new bloggers and responding to comments on my blog. 

Most popular post this year on your blog: My The Canterbury Tales/The Brubury Tales Project post with 371 views.  After that my Ecco Homo review at 311 views.  Honourable mentions go to Sonnet XXIX by Garcilaso de la Vega and Christianity and the Survival of Creation by Wendell Berry.  I was amazed at the top winners this year.  

Post you wished got a little more love:  This year I can’t answer this question.  A number of posts that I was certain wouldn’t be popular received tons of views, and my others had a good number of views as well, so I’m happy. 🙂  

Best bookish discovery:  I was excited to purchase C.S. Lewis’ English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, one of the Oxford History of English Literature volumes.  I also scored The Riverside Chaucer in a beautiful hardcover edition, but after I’d finished reading The Canterbury Tales.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year: I completed Back to the Classics Challenge, Reading England Challenge, Jane Austen Project, The Canterbury Tales/The Brubury Tales Project and the Books in Translation Challenge.  I failed at The Pre-Printing Press Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks (reached 50 books), my TBR Pile Challenge, reading only 9 of the 12 books I should have, and the Deal-Me-In Challenge.  I also hardly read any C.S. Lewis for that project, read only a couple of Shakespeare for my Shakespeare project and did not read any Trollope from my Barsetshire read.  Woe is me!

Looking Ahead

One book you didn’t get to in 2015 but will be your number 1 priority in 2016: The History of Napoleon Buonaparte by John G. Lockhart.  Good grief, this is ridiculous!  I’m fascinated by Napoleon and I absolutely love this book, but I’ve been working on it for a couple of years and something else always takes my attention away from it.  I simply MUST finish it this year.

Book you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut): Metamorphoses by Ovid, and The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser

Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2016: The Last Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope.  No, you’re not seeing double from last year.  I’m leaving it here because I can’t think of another book and I hope to get to Trollope in 2016, but knowing me and what I have planned, I can’t see getting to the end of the series.  I also would like to read The Lord of the Rings, but I’m hesitant to make a commitment, as I have so many other books that I’m planning to read.

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2016: Keep up with my books!  Keep up with my posts!  It’s my perpetual resolution and hope.

Wishing everyone happy reading days and lots of them in 2016!!

The Classics Club “50” Survey

Being swamped with reads and my two courses (one of which is taking three times as long as they estimated), I was going to wisely ignore the 50 question survey from the Classics Club.  But when I read a few of my blogging friends interesting posts, I had to give it a whirl.  It took 2 weeks to compile but worth every minute.  I’d almost forgotten the habit of past contemplation, which brings such value into our present reading habits.

1. Share a link to your club list.
Here’s a link to my current list.  I’m about 1/5 of the way through.
2. When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club? 
I joined on November 12, 2013.  My complete list is comprised of 168 books:  15 books from Ancient times; 16 books from Medieval/Early Renaissance;  41 books from Early Modern times; and 96 books from Modern times.  Of the 168 books, I’ve finished 33, so I’m exactly on track (or ½ a book behind, if I want to be picky!).
3. What are you currently reading?

Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and Utopiaby Sir Thomas More.  Two books by two “sirs” ….. boy, how did that happen?
4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it?
Four Shakespeare plays, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.  I’m reading them for an edX Shakespeare course.  Both new to me were Romeo and Juliet and Othello and I really enjoyed them, especially Othello.  The last two were re-reads: I love Much Ado but A Midsummer Night’s Dream has never really been a favourite.
5. What are you reading next? Why?
For Christmas, I’d like to read Dickens,  The Chimes; for the spin, I’ll be reading Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift; God in the Dock for my C.S. Lewis Project; and I hope to get to Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope to continue the series, but I am doubting that will happen until January.
6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why?
Absolutely, without even having to think about it, Paradise Lost by John Milton. It completely blew me away; his characterization of Satan was by far the best that I’ve ever encountered, and the scope of the work was so ambitious that one could only admire his ability, even if he fell short in certain areas.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, would probably come second.  As I just mentioned on Ruth’s blog, after I finished this one book, I felt I’d had the benefit of reading three!
7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?
Oh, the anticipation changes depending on my mood.  Right now, I’m looking most forward to Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott and The Histories by Herodotus. 
8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why?
My dread of certain books, however, does not often change.  I would go to the furthest Antipodes to avoid The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and Aristotle’s Ethics. I would have also paid to avoid anything by Henry James, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, etc.   I have few of these writers on my CC list, which was really dumb because now they’ll all be populating my second list. 
9. First classic you ever read?
I believe it was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Either that or The Vicar of Wakefield  by Oliver Goldsmith.  I was late starting to read classics and, honestly, read mostly garbage before I hit 20.
10. Toughest classic you ever read?
Well, because I was a classics newbie, I’d have to say The Vicar of Wakefield but only because my brain had to be trained to absorb well-written prose.  Thankfully I was a fast-learner.  But after I was “classicfied”, I would probably choose The Divine Comedy.  On the surface, it’s not a tough read but if you want to dig deeper, there are so many layers to it that I don’t think you could mine them all if you read it once per year.   
11. Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry?
The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  The relationship between one of the characters and his father was so well-drawn out, yet vibrating with conflict and tension.  I don’t want to give too much away, but for most of the book, you’re shocked at how one character treats the other, then at the end you find out why he has been acting in that manner, and it’s a good reason.  Then you experience the internal conflict within yourself …… his behaviour is wrong yet it’s not wrong.  You want to condemn him yet, how, when his motivations were pure?  It’s really quite a fantastic book.
12. Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list?
Definitely, The Count of Monte Cristo followed by War and Peace.  And the longest left on my list ……????  Wow, thanks for this question ….. it’s made me realize the number of true chunksters I have yet to read.  And it’s scary!  Probably The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (did I really put this on my list?) and then possibly, The Fairie Queene.
13. Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list?
That would be The Epic of Gilgamesh, which I think dates to around 2000 B.C., and the oldest one left is Herodotus’ Histories.
14. Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any?
I’ve read a great number of biographies this year and I’m not sure that I could pick a favourite.  Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain was wonderful, as was Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis.  And I can’t miss mentioning Augustine’s Confessions, as well as saying that I began a new relationship with Montaigne after reading selected portions of his Essays!  
15. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why?
Oh, I don’t think I can answer this one. I need to give recommendations based on the person or it could go horribly wrong.
16. Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any?
I have a first edition of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, which has four engravings missing.  Every time I look at it, it gives me a thrill. 
17. Favorite movie adaption of a classic?
Pride and Prejudice from 1995 with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle; Cold Comfort Farm with Kate Beckinsale; and  Kenneth Branaugh’s Mucho Ado About Nothing.
18. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.
Dante’s The Divine Comedy, or a good adaptation of Le Morte d’Arthur, both likely impossibliites.
19. Least favorite classic? Why?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  Should I start ducking the tomatoes?  It was painful!  The characters didn’t resemble real people and their actions were stupefyingly dense.  I’m still trying to brace myself to read some more of her works.
20. Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read.
1.             Albert Camus
2.             Winston Churchill
3.             Herodotus
4.             Honoré Balzac
5.             Samuel Johnson
21. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?
I don’t know but grasping at a first thought, I’ll say, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland by Samuel Johnson.
22. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.)
I can’t think of any that specifically fit this criteria, but I did hate A Picture of Dorian Gray for about ¾ of the book and then ended up loving it.  I also thought I’d hate The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac but was charmed by it.  Perhaps I’m really a closet-hippie, perish the thought! 
23. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head?
Monsieur Myriel from Les Miserables, Satan from Paradise Lost, Sarpedon from The Iliad (don’t ask me why),  Moomintroll and Socrates.  Whew!  What a list!.
24. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?
Definitely Elizabeth Bennet!!
25. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like?
Cassandra from I Capture the Castle but probably for only certain parts of her life, Gerald Durrell for the part of his life that he was on Corfu as a child, and Elizabeth Bennett.
26. Which classic character reminds you of your best friend?
Believe it or not, Jane Bennett.
27. If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why?
Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre (I think O mentioned these books too) In these books it always seems like the fun ends after marriage, and it would be groundbreaking to discover that it doesn’t!
28. Favorite children’s classic?
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson.
29. Who recommended your first classic?
I chose it myself.
30. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.)
My blogger friends, particularly O who finds absolute treasures, Jean, who I think knows about every book that was ever printed, and Ruth who picks truly wonderful reads.  I also go to Nancy for history books and other eclectic finds, and Sophia for YA fiction; they don’t always fit into the classics category but I’m mentioning them in any case.
31. Favorite memory with a classic?

Reading Middlemarch by George Eliot for the first time.  I read it in the summer on the beach and was completely enthralled for the 6 days it took me to read it.  I can still remember the crash of the waves.

32. Classic author you’ve read the most works by?
Definitely C.S.  Lewis.  I could probably teach a course on him now.  I probably know more about him than he knew about himself.  Wait, no, Jean knows more than I do.
33. Classic author who has the most works on your club list?
William Shakespeare.  There is really no excuse as to why I haven’t read all of his plays. 
34. Classic author you own the most books by?
C.S. Lewis again.  Although I do own a lot of Enid Blyton.  Would she count as a classic?  And Dickens ….. lots of Dickens.  Oh, and I have about 10 different copies of The Lord of the Rings.
35. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?)
Not really any I can think of.  I’m happy with my list and I know I’ll be making another.  Now if you’d asked me which books I’d remove from the list, I’d have a detailed answer!
36. If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. 🙂 Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way?
Hmmm, this is difficult to answer.  Perhaps Balzac?  But that would be an enormous undertaking.  I’m reading through Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series right now (on book four) but since I’ve read him, he wouldn’t count.
37. How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy?
I had 11 re-reads. I was probably looking forward to The Odyssey the most of all and I did get tons more out of it on the second reading.
38. Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish?
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.  I felt that he had some ulterior motive or that I was being dragged on a journey by someone I didn’t trust.  Sounds odd, I know.  It’s on my list so I’m going to give it another try.  Oh, wait, I should have said Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Whenever I read Fitzgerald’s works I feel like I’ve wasted my time and I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this before with a classic. 
39. Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving?
Definitely! To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  I loved her stream of consciousness in this book.
40. Seven things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature?

1. Start to read poetry regularly.
2. Reading more essays.  I so enjoyed Montaigne this 
3. Reading The Cantebury Tales paired with The Brubury
    Tales, a modern re-telling.
4. Continuing my WEM & Shakespeare challenges.
5. Concentrating on regularly reading some children’s
    classics for my much neglected children’s book blog,
6. Reading more regularly in French (we’ll see how that
    Challenge, I think.  For those of you who don’t know
   me, lists make me nervous, but this challenge seems
   open enough that I hope to make it work.

41. Classic you are definitely going to make happen next year?
The Cantebury Tales, and The Histories, and possibly adding Ivanhoeand The Fairie Queene as good intentions.
42. Classic you are not going to make happen next year?
I am dreading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Good grief, why did I put it on my list?  I mean I want to read it, but when it’s on a list you have to.  I also wish to avoid The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud and Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.
43. Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club?
Being part of a blogging community has been the best thing.  I’ve made so many new blog friends and it’s been wonderful to be able to share a passion for reading with everyone and be introduced to new books.
44. List five six fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs?
Yipes!  It’s so hard to pick just five, or even six!

1. O’s blog Behold the Stars – she finds such obscure classics from well-known authors (I don’t know how she does it) and her reviews are so well-researched, amazingly well-written and chock-full of interesting tidbits.

2. Ruth @ A Great Book Study – I just love how thoughtful her reviews are; she gives insights into the deep profound mysteries of life, probably without knowing that she does it!

3. Jean @ Howling Frog Books – I have never met a blogger who has introduced me to more of an eclectic assortment of excellent books.  It’s great!  And she’s smarter than me! 😉

4. Jason @ Literatue Frenzy – he’s not always active (on his blog, I mean) but always deeply intuitive.  His posts are wonderfully eloquent, passionate and insightful, and he is perhaps the most polite blogger I know!

5. Nancy @ Ipsofactdotme – a truly contemplative reader and one with great perseverance (with much struggle, she taught herself to read in French).  Her reviews are insightful and structured in a way that make them refreshing reads.  She’s always very gracious.

6.  Carol @ Carol’s Notes – by reading just one of her posts, you can tell that she is so obviously a writer.  She blogs not only about books, but about human experience and human nature, with a wisdom that is truly amazing.  It takes me about four days to think about her posts before I’m able to respond.
Perhaps if I stop with numbers, I can get a couple more in:
Newly discovered blog:  Mockingbirds,Looking Glasses, and Prejudices – it’s quite startling how similar we are.  However we can’t agree about Mr. Rochester. 
Honourable mention:  Marianne’s blog — I know she likes to keep it low key but I can’t rave enough about her writing.  It’s just beautiful.  Every post, every comment is a delight to read and leaves you feeling like you’ve just received a unique and refreshing warm spring breeze.

And lastly, all the blogs on my blogroll to the left.  They are all excellent.
45. Favorite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber?
I think this is my favourite question.  I’d much rather talk about other people than myself! 😉

I loved O’s post on Agnes Grey — it really connected the reader to the book and the author and I think would increase the enjoyment for a first time reader X4.  

Jean’s Classics Club June Meme response was so insightful and timely.  

Jason’s post on Sense and Sensibility from a man’s point of view —- just great!

Carol’s How Did Emily Dickinson Know About Thought Police was a treat; she is a master at interweaving human nature and wisdom into her posts.

Phinnea’s first post on our Le Morte d’Arthur read-along left me in tears of laughter ……. Her posts are hilarious!

Ruth’s posts on Lewis and Clark were pretty awesome. It’s so difficult to write about non-fiction and make it sound exciting, yet she is amazingly adept at it.

……… seriously, I could go on and on with this question ……..

46. If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made?
Oh my, yes!!  In spite of feeling that I’ve had a rather average reading year, I participated in two read-alongs that were just amazing: the Paradise Lost Read-Along and The Odyssey Read-Along.  They both happened at times when I had time to read and I learned sooooo much from having the time to read contemplatively.  I hope I can get free time that will coincide with another read-along in 2015.
47. If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why?
I’m not sure.  Perhaps Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which is not even on my list and would be a re-read for me, but I think it would be a lot of fun! I’d also like to do a read-along on a non-fiction book because I think it would be weird, but I have no idea which one.
48. How long have you been reading classic literature?
Not very long.  I probably began in my early 20s, but seriously since 2010.
49. Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc.

         1. A little about me
2. Paradise Lost (my book of the year)
3. The Beginning of 2014
4. War and Peace (my longest read)
5. Extra, extra, read all about it!

50. Question you wish was on this questionnaire? (Ask and answer it!)

I think everything has been well covered!

My Reading Habits

Through both Carola at Brilliant Years and Plethora of Books, I found a list of questions that relate to reading habits.  Since I have about 10 reviews on the go and haven’t finished any yet, I thought I would take the time to answer a few of the questions.


1.  Favourite children’s book?

Ooo, this is hard.  I would have to say Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster, and Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (hilarious!)

2.  What are you reading right now?

You really want to know?  Yikes!  Bleak House, The Screwtape Letters, Money (L’Argent), The Decameron, Augustine’s Confessions, the Oedips trilogy, Barchester Towers, Red Land Black Land, Plato’s Meno, and The History of the Ancient World.  And there are others but they are on hold until I get some of the listed ones cleared up.  How embarrassing!

3.  Bad book habit?

a) Too many books  …….  (is that bad?)  b) having too many books out from the library  c) not reading many of the books I have out from the library (they often go on TBR lists)

4.  What books do you have on request at the library?

The French Market Cookbook, Atomic Accidents, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and many others (see answer to 3b & c).

5.  What do you have checked out from the library?

Classics of Western Philosophy, Backyard Bountry, Bleak House, The Big Sleep and many others (see answer to 3b & c).

6.  Do you have an e-reader?

I have a basic Kindle but I would choose a book over an e-reader any day.

7.  Do you read one book at a time or several at once.

I used to read one book at a time but now I read several.  I like reading this way but sometimes I can be extreme with my “several.”  Moderation is a good policy.

8.  Have your reading habits changed since you started a blog.

Well, I have less time to read, but I’m probably being more focussed when reading, because I know that I’ll have to review the book afterwards.  So there are positives and negatives, as in anything.

9.  Least favourite book that you’ve read this year (so far).

Can I choose three?  Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary and Once and Future King.  I think I can make a good case for my dislike of Wuthering Heights; I have searched high and low through personal reviews and scholastic reviews and no one has been able to convey to me anything concrete that I can appreciate about this book.  I wanted to like Madame Bovary, but I just didn’t, and the longer the book sits with me, the less I like it. Once and Future King ……….. honestly, I think T.H. White was a little weird quirky …… okay, a lot quirky.  Some of his writing and portrayals were quite bizarre and I didn’t think he did justice to the original.  That said, I’m only ¼ through the original Le Morte, so perhaps I can’t justify that last comment yet.  I am going to hold him responsible for my inability to enjoy Le Morte d’Arthur, however.  Once and Future King, I think, just put me in a weird head-space for it.

10.  Favourite book that you’ve read this year.

I don’t even have to think about the answer.  Paradise Lost.  Hands down the best, absolutely.  Just brilliant.  An honourable mention goes to The Odyssey, one of my favourites.  This current reading gave me more of an appreciation for it.

11.  What is your favourite place to read?

I like reading in the hammock on the deck or on the beach when there is absolutely no one else there.  Do I get to read in these places?  No.  I’m usually being interrupted or I’m so busy that I have to sneak a few pages here or there.  Sigh!  I can’t wait for summer and more time to read!

12.  Do you ever dog-ear your books or write in their margins?

**** Shocked gasp! **** Dog-earing is taboo!!  However, I do jot notes in the margins of my paperbacks.  I used to be horrified at this practice too, but have since learned that having a conversation with the book is more important to understanding it than having it look pretty.  However, I don’t write in hardcovers (that is shocking) and some more favoured paperbacks I keep pristine and get another copy to write in.

13.  What is your favourite language to read in?

Well, I’m only proficient enough to read in English but I have high hopes of building my French skills to be able to read in that language too.  And while checking out some Spanish books for my Language Freak Summer Challenge, I don’t think it would take too much work to be able to read at a basic level in Spanish.  Of course, all these hopes require time, which I don’t have much of now.

14.  Favourite genre.

I like, of course, the classics.  I also enjoy reading non-fiction history and poetry (particularly epic poetry).

15.  Genre that you rarely read but wish you did.

Probably drama.  I have read some Shakespeare but lately have been reading through some Greek tragedy.  I’d like to explore more of this genre.

16.  Favourite biography.

John Adams by David McCullough.  I also enjoyed Thomas Jefferson, the Art of Power by Jon Meacham and The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton.  With some other bloggers, I’m starting a Well-Educated Mind Biography Project on June 1st.  I can’t wait to acquaint myself with more works in this genre.  

17.  Favourite Cookbook.

The Whole Food Nutrition Cookbook, Food to Live By, The Sprouted Kitchen and It’s All Good.  Yes, I can never pick just one book. 😉

18.  Most intimidating book that you ever read.

Probably Dante’s The Divine Comedy.  It got tougher as I went along.  I felt that this first time I familiarized myself with all the historical allusions.  The next time I’ll be able to dig even deeper and I’m looking forward to it.

19.  Favourite poet.

Well, I haven’t had much poetry exposure but I’d say Homer.  And even with more exposure I’m not sure if that choice would change.  He is the master of crafting the epic poem!

20.  Favourite fictional character – male.

This is a really weird choice, but I loved Sarpedon in The Iliad.  He’s a completely minor character so figure that one out!  And, of course, I loved Hector too!   The only problem with my choices is that it’s probable that these characters aren’t fictional.  Oh well, they’re dead, so that should count for something.  😉

21.  Favourite fictional character – female.

I was going to say Lily Bart from Wharton’s The House of Mirth but I think I more liked the way Wharton portrayed, her instead of the character herself. So I’m going to go with Cassandra from Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle and also Ruth from Gaskell’s book of the same name.  The first is hilarious and has a spunkiness that is delightful; the latter is an example of patient long-suffering but with a quiet dignity that is an example to those around her.

22.  Name a book that you could not/would not finish.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.  I will go back to it at some point but at the time, I was too irritated with it to continue.

23.  Name a book that made you angry.

A New Lifetime Reading Plan.  I expected it to give summaries of various classic novels and a plan to read them, however the authors used the book as a personal platform to inject their modern opinions and judgement on classic literature.  Not only that, their comments while flip, often bordered on rudeness.  The book was a complete waste of money.

24.  Are there any books/authors you’ve been avoiding?

I tend to avoid Thomas Hardy because he’s depressing but I do plan to read through his novels.  I need to begin in a happy frame of mind though.  I also have avoided Ulysses and other Joyce novels, Faulkner, Maugham, and to a lesser extent Henry James.  With all, I will try to read some of their works ,but I’m certainly not stampeding to do so.

25.  Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

Probably children’s novels.  Mostly pre-1970s.  I do like health and nutrition books so I’ll read those too, from time to time.


A to Z Survey

I found this survey randomly on A World of Books and decided to give it a whirl.

Author you’ve read the most books from:
Yikes, I think it would be either Jane Austen or Arthur Ransome, thanks to his Swallows and Amazons series.
Best Sequel Ever:
Well, I’m going to change this to best book in a series and my vote would go to Rilla of Ingleside from the Anne of Green Gables series.  It was a more serious book than the others, exploring the effects of WWI on Gilbert, Anne, their family and the people of the town of Ingleside.  Montgomery did an excellent job.
Currently Reading:
Too many books at once, however I will pick only two to list here:  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
Drink of Choice While Reading:

During the day, water and during the evening, either tea or water.  I especially like Honeybush Tea for its warm, comforting taste.

E-reader or Physical Book?
I MUCH prefer a physical book …….. somehow reading isn’t truly reading for me with a Kindle but I have to admit e-readers are handy and all those free classics are hard to resist.
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:
Hector from The Iliad.  I love how he conducts himself with honour and bravery and how he treats his wife, Andromache.  
Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I did not think I would have the taste or patience for her works but for some reason I loved the stream of consciousness style of writing in this book.  I don’t think it would have worked for any plot but in this story it was lovely.  I enjoyed it much more than expected.
Hidden Gem Book:
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – I hated it for about three quarters of the book but towards the end I realized the value of his experiences as good warning against certain life and lifestyle choices.  It became one of my favourites.
Important Moment in your Reading Life:
When I discovered the classics and realized that they deal with timeless issues, problems and human emotion, yet there seems to be more scope and deeper treatment of these situations in past times.  Such interesting content that intersects with life.
Just Finished:
New Grub Street by George Gissing.  I recently discovered Gissing and this was my first read of his works.  I enjoyed it but found that he manipulated his characters just a wee bit too much for my liking.  His societal commentary was interesting but he needed to be more subtle.
Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:
Much modern fiction.  If the plot is simplistic, correct grammar almost non-existent, the characters not believable, the social message more important than the other parts of the book and there is no real life-learning involved in the book, I have little interest in reading them.  Not to say I don’t read any modern books, but I am very selective.
Longest Book You’ve Read:

I think it would be The Count of Monte Cristo, with Don Quixote coming in a close second.  I’m currently reading War and Peace so that would count too when I finish.

Major book hangover because of:
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.  I hated this book.  Other than the wonderful descriptions, the story was completely unbelievable, forced and pretty much ridiculous.  When the main character accepted her husband as a murder without a blink of an eye, I was done.  I’m not sure I could even try another du Maurier novel.
Number of Bookcases You Own:
Can you believe, seventeen?  
One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  We read it each Christmas.  I’ve also read Beowulf and Pride and Prejudice quite a few times, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and The Undergound History of American Education I try to read at least once every couple of years.

Preferred Place To Read:
In a big, cushy comfortable chair on a dreary day with no noise other than nature.
Quote that inspires you from a book you’ve read:
“It is absurd to hold that a man should be ashamed of an inability to defend himself with his limbs, but not ashamed of an inability to defend himself with speech and reason; for the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs.” 
― AristotleThe Rhetoric & The Poetics of Aristotle

“In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair ….. the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”
—  Dorothy L. Sayers

Reading Regret:
With life right now I do not have enough time to read.  I find myself squeezing in my reads between responsibilities and a busy life.  It is just the seasons of life and I look forward to a period when I will have more personal time to devote to reading.
Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):
I’m embarrassed to admit it but it is The Chronicles of Narnia.  Especially embarrassing because C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite authors.  I WILL read it completely in 2014 —- one of my resolutions!
Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:
How can one choose only three?!!  If pressed and forced to make a quick decision, I would say, The Iliad, The Bible and Pride and Prejudice.
Unapologetic Fangirl For:
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.  People ask me why I was interested in reading about dope smoking, irresponsible, young hippies but honestly, I found their outlook, in some aspects, refreshing.
Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:
Well, since I’m not really that interested in modern books, I can’t think of one I’m really excited about.  Perhaps another book by David McCullough.  Sadly, Christopher Hibbert recently passed away, or he would be another author I would add.
Worst Bookish Habit:
I annotate in my paperbacks.  Gasp!  But I find it really helps me experience a deeper read.  My two most annotated books are Beowulf and Mere Christianity.
X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume, Volume 2.  No, I have not read it yet! 😉

Your latest book purchase:
All Hallows’ Eve by Charles Williams.
ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):
Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman, but only because I wanted to finish it and get on to my next classic!