When Lisa from TBR313 recently wrote about the progress she’s made on her reading projects I was prompted to examine my progress on my own project. The only ongoing project that I’ve committed to is the Century of Books challenge and, frankly, my progress has been pretty slow. This is the second year I’ve recorded all of the books I’ve read from 1900 to 1999 and I was really sad to see that I’ve only read 21 books published in the twentieth century in almost 2 full years. I could have sworn I’ve read more twentieth century books than that! Granted, I’ve not consciously chosen books for this project – I’ve just read what I wanted and then counted them if they fit into the parameters. Most of the books I’ve read are concentrated in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, which is no surprise as these are my favorite years to read in. I haven’t read anything from 1900-1922 or from 1977-1998. Obviously I need to try to deliberately choose books from those years to read if I’m ever going to complete the challenge.
Next year, I want to pay more attention to this challenge and to get to the half-way mark. I’ve been a bit disappointed with my reading this year as I haven’t read as many classics as I’ve wanted to or as I’ve needed to to make me a happy reader. I’m still trying to find the balance between reading what I want to read and what I feel obligated to read as a librarian. This year I feel I went too far on the contemporary/popular side so next year I need to come up with a different ratio. Perhaps one for one – one classic for every contemporary book I read. It’s a constant puzzle that I’m still trying to solve.
How have you done on your challenges or projects this year?
This delightful book is written by a Jane Austen expert, but it is in no way dry or academic. It examines twenty ‘puzzles’ or themes or curiosities that run through all of Austen’s novels, things such as ‘Is there sex in Jane Austen?’ and ‘Why is it risky to go to the seaside?’ The chapters are very in depth and use lots of quotes from the novels, yet they are short and snappy to read. I breezed through this book and really enjoyed the discussions that draw from each of Austen’s works. I definitely felt a desire to reread all of her novels with this new information in mind. Reading this feels like attending a class with that funny, warm, wonderfully brilliant favorite professor from college. I could listen to him all day.
Even if you’re not a rabid fan of Austen or a Janeite you’ll find much to like in this book. It delves into the history of social customs during this time period and also discusses aspects of her own life and experiences that affected her books. I found it to be insightful, witty and very entertaining.
I’ve always appreciated Jane Austen novels, of course, but I’ve never considered myself a Janeite. I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice one time – when I was 17. I remember thinking it was okay (however, I did stay up until 4 in the morning to finish it). At that time in my life I was more enamored of Madame Bovary or Tess of the d’Urbervilles – novels that are more tragic and melodramatic than Austen’s works. My next experience with reading her was when I was just graduated from library school, unable to find a librarian job and living with my parents. I was very discouraged and turned to books for escape. One of the most memorable of these books was Northanger Abbey. I remember spending days immersed in this novel. It did help to relieve my sadness. And then I read Sense and Sensibility when I was living in a small town in Arkansas, lonely and friendless. It was also a source of solace for me.
In subsequent years I’ve tried to read Emma and Mansfield Park several times, but have just concluded that I must not like Jane Austen all that much anymore – until now. Emma is such a good book. I absolutely love it. I’m a bit over half-way through and find myself sneaking paragraphs during the work day. It’s completely satisfying. And now I am very curious about Jane Austen herself, her life, her world and how she planned her novels. So, I’ve started What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan and have The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne on my nighstand. I’m also planning to read a few more, if not all, of her novels in the coming months. I’m waiting to make my selection until my book club chooses our 2016 books as there are three Austen novels up for consideration and I’ll work around whatever is chosen for next year.
This is the most excited I’ve been about an author or about reading in months. Thank you, Jane Austen!
Are you a Janeite? Which of her novels is your favorite?
I started reading Emma on Thursday night out of sheer desperation. I’m suffering from the reading blahs right now and can’t find anything to hold my interest or anything that doesn’t sound like something else (why does so much historical fiction have to employ the dual narrative these days?) so I thought I’d try a classic that I’ve never read all the way through and force myself to stick with it. Later this year it’s the 200th anniversary of Emma‘s publication and it feels like the perfect time to read it. And I’m not having to force anything! I truly do like it and am savoring every paragraph. I guess Jane Austen is just what I needed.
My copy is the one on the top left, but I do love the bottom middle – and how stunning is the bottom left? Which of these covers do you like best?
*I totally and completely forgot that I already posted an Emma cover collection last year – am I losing my mind or what??*
I read about this Scotland-based mystery in a recent issue of Library Journal who gave it a starred review. I always look out for books that are well-reviewed yet don’t have the ‘buzz’ that a lot of other books have – the ones that not everyone is talking about. This one is definitely in that category and it is an eerie, well-plotted mystery that I really enjoyed.
Gloria Harkness lives in a rural, isolated old house in southwest Scotland near where her special needs son is in a care home. One night an old friend from her childhood, Stig, pounds on her door, scaring the living daylights out of her. When she recovers from her shock he tells her a convoluted story about how someone he knew from his teen years has reappeared and has intimated that she knows what happened to a boy from their school who died mysteriously. The school they attended just happens to now be the care home where Gloria’s son lives. Never one to turn away from a good puzzle Gloria agrees to help Stig find out the truth about the death. Her search takes her all over the countryside as she tracks down the other children who attended the school and discovers disturbing revelations that have disastrously affected their adult lives. Can she and Stig discover the truth before they, too, are irreparably impacted?
Gloria and Stig are wonderfully down-to-earth characters and the secondary characters are also very colorful. One of my favorite parts of the book was the references to Scottish folklore and things such as devil’s bridges and rocking stones. It added a slightly creepy factor to the mystery which I like.
If you like the earlier, supernatural tinged stories of SJ Bolton The Child Garden would appeal to you. It has all of the elements of not only a very good mystery novel, but also of an effective scary story (though not too scary). It’s a perfect read for this time of year.