Teaser Tuesday (wait for it) and a personal reading challenge

I have so many things I want to write about here, now that I am back home and on my laptop again, but am trying to limit myself to only one post a day… I keep thinking, do I mash everything into one post? Wait until tomorrow?

One thing I did after getting home, while the suitcase and clothes were still sprawled about, was start pulling all my international books off of shelves and making a bunch of stacks next to my bed! I’m really excited about the Read the World challenge and about broadening my concept of the world. I’ve placed all those books on the top shelf of my most visible bookshelf (it’s the one I see whenever I sit on the living room couch, so I often change the books in that shelf to reflect whatever I’m interested in reading then! Before this it was Victorian lit and comfort reads and awhile before that, 19th century French literature and history). So far they’re arranged randomly, but I’m a LibraryGirl, I’m sure they’ll be organized into categories before long.

I had started reading The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz as my first international read (he’s Polish) and I’m almost done, but when I got home, I ended up pulling The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle off my husband’s shelf, as so many people talk about Haruki Murakami and I wanted to read more contemporary new-to-me authors for this challenge. It’s not my typical read, but somehow the pages keep turning. The language is much simpler than the ornate 19th century prose I tend to love and there’s a surplus of bizarre characters and situations, while the hero and his life are fairly nondescript. Nevertheless, I’m glad I’m trying something new.

And now, a Teaser Tuesday sentence from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:

It was a color snapshot of two women. One was Malta Kano, and in the photo, too, she was wearing a hat — a yellow knit hat. Again it was omniously mismatched with her outfit.

Back to the idea of new and more challenging reading, which I started thinking about yesterday after looking at my list of books read over the last four years that I’ve put up here. I realized I’ve been too narrow in what I allow myself to try. Oh sure, I’ve covered most genres, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and chick lit, but if a more literary book seems ‘not me’ (ie, not a female author I can relate to usually, with a strong but quiet heroine ~ see Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, The Secret Garden, etc for books that are ‘me’), I often won’t try it. I like my comforting old fashioned mostly British writers. Yet I want to read the classics!

I’m looking to start changing that by reading more broadly, internationally, with an eye not just to the past but also the present. However, I also want to read more deeply as well.

I realized this morning that I have a list of classic authors whom I admire and want to read more of, but somehow hold back on. I’ve usually read one of their most famous books and want to read more, but find it hard to know where to start and am also put off because their other novels just might not be as good as the first! So I am challenging myself to read one more of their books this year. This is my own personal challenge, but anyone is welcome to join me.

Here’s my list of authors:

1. Charlotte Bronte: read Jane Eyre (plus everything her sisters wrote), own the rest of her novels but have difficulties committing to them. I’d like to read Shirley or maybe Villette.

2. George Eliot: read Middlemarch, would like to read The Mill on the Floss or Daniel Deronda

3. Elizabeth Gaskell: read North & South, want to read Wives & Daughters or Cranford

4. E.M. Forster: read A Room With a View and Howards End (thank you Merchant Ivory!), would like to read… well, more. I bought Where Angels Fear to Trend recently, maybe that.

5. Vladimir Nabokov: read Lolita, don’t know what to read next, it all looks intimidating, but his writing is so good! I kept lingering over Despair in various bookshops while we were on holidays and then didn’t buy it, book tease that I am.

6. Gustave Flaubert: read Madame Bovary, would like to read Sentimental Education or Salammbo or November

7. For a long time Virginia Woolf was on this list, I’d read To The Lighthouse and nothing else, but have now just finished Mrs. Dalloway. I don’t know if I’ll try to read another of hers this year, or if I’ll count her as covered for the year and come back for more later.

There are more I can add, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Bowen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I’m scared to add Henry James or Tolstoy, I don’t want to read more of them just now!), but maybe I will start with this.

I’d also like to read my first Anthony Trollope novel this year, since so many people seem to like him.

19 thoughts on “Teaser Tuesday (wait for it) and a personal reading challenge

  1. Amanda says:

    I’ve periodically read less-famous works, but they don’t work for me all the time. Like I hated Villette and finally abandoned it halfway through. I knew if I kept going it would lower my opinion of Jane Eyre. I had the same problem with The Iron Heel by Jack London and The Last Man by Mary Shelley.

    I love Nabokov and have read a good 12 or 13 of his books. Speak Memory is a memoir, not fiction, and I haven’t tried it, but Pnin was just okay for me. My favorites other than Lolita have been The Enchantress, King Queen Knave, and Invitation to a Beheading. My brother is also a big fan of Nabokov but he says Despair is his least fav novel. I haven’t read it yet. So far the only one I hated was Transparent Things. I tend to like his earlier novels, the ones he originally wrote in Russian, better.

    And here i am babbling about Nabokov. šŸ˜€ The next one I plan to read is The Gift. Hopefully this year.

    • afewofmyfavouritebooks says:

      I had to read The Iron Heel in a university class! Was pretty annoyed at the professor for choosing such a write-off book. The other novel I had to read for that class was Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent, which is also not well known next to Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, but it was really good. So I guess it works sometimes.

      Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Ada or Ardor both look a bit much to me. I haven’t heard some of the ones you mentioned, maybe I will look at them as well and see what catches me. Speak, Memory or Laughter in the Dark I have considered before but got distracted from. Now that I am looking at his stuff on Amazon, his short stories look interesting too and maybe easier to start with… Thanks!

  2. Becki says:

    This has been a challenge of mine, too: reading more widely. My husband has suggested that I read the Pulitzer list next year — yes, the ENTIRE thing. I find the idea just a bit depressing and intimidating, so I probably won’t be doing that.

    I’ve also tried listing my books and reading them in the particular order in which they were originally listed, regardless of personal feelings at a particular point in time. I almost stopped reading after Wicked as a result because I simply did not want to read Revolutionary Road. I’m glad I chose to read the Yates regardless, but now I’m jumping around more and allowing myself to read whatever I want.

    All that being said, you can’t be well read if you read only the classics, either. There’s something that I think is undeniably snooty about that kind of an attitude, and I keep running into it on Shelfari and Amazon. “If you’re smart, you’ll like this book” or “only morons like Twilight.” The entire attitude is a bit ridiculous and it makes me wonder why people don’t want to branch out into new and better experiences.

    As for me, Anna Karenina went onto my list recently. I’ve read it twice, but it’s a male author writing a book that generally does speak very well to women.

    I read mostly American though, so beyond that, I don’t know whether or not I can help you. Slightly more men than women, but it isn’t obscene. What about perhaps trying A Tale of Two Cities? (Dickens, English)

    I got here from the Teaser Tuesdays post, so I thought I’d leave you my link. I hope it hyperlinks correctly, I’ve forgotten whether or not wordpress.com allows hyperlinking in comments since it’s been so long since I used it!

    Teaser from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

    • afewofmyfavouritebooks says:

      Thanks for coming by, Becki! I’m usually a random reader, so I’m glad for a few reading challenges to actually make me commit to something more difficult and outside of what I’d normally read and finish.

      Reading the classics is what I really want to do, it’s just my thing, but I’ve also read Twilight and Harry Potter and a lot of mystery novels and I’m certainly not the booksnob I used to be! I’m willing to try most types of books, but for me, the classics are the classics for a reason. And the reason I particularly want to read more of Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf is because they are strong female authors who paved the way for so many of the women writing today. Twilight in particular owes a big debt to a lot of Victorian fiction like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and obviously Dracula, so what’s wrong with reading the originals?

      (That said, I’m not much of a Dickens fan! I keep meaning to read more of him, but Tale of Two Cities bothered me, Great Expectations bored me and I’ve only finished Bleak House. Maybe when I’m old and grey! I do love Anna Karenina though.)

      My international reading is a way to branch out, as you say, and try something new that gives a wider view of the world than my small North American ‘we’re all safe and rich over here thanks’ attitude. I’m not trying to be snooty, just to see things from other less priviledged points of view.

      (And congrats on reading Revolutionary Road! I thought about it, but it looks too sad)

  3. Amateur Reader says:

    What a range of opinions on Nabokov. The Gift is brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but it’s a bit long, so I don’t usually put it at the top of my recommendation list.

    The key to Villette, or a key, is to read it like it’s a Nabokov novel – Trust No One.

  4. Allie says:

    I have to agree with you! Part of the reason I am doing what I am is that I want more exposure to a lot of authors I feel like I “should” be reading. The problem is, now that I have read a lot of great things by new-to-me authors, I want to read more of their work! It is never-ending!

    I love George Eliot! The only novel I haven’t read is Daniel Deronda. I finished The Mill on the Floss back in…February and LOVED it. It moved a little more than Middlemarch, but was still excellently written. She has a gift for description.

    I haven’t read any Charlotte Bronte. Wuthering Heights was my first experience with any of the Brontes, and now I know I need to read more.

    Good luck!

    • afewofmyfavouritebooks says:

      I want to read The Mill on the Floss but the dialect looks difficult… maybe once you get into the story it’s not so bad? I keep seeing good reviews of it though.

      When I first found your blog, I was tempted to try something similar! I have sort of a lifetime reading list at the back of my mind, that eventually I’ll read everything these authors I like have written (I own almost all of Virginia Woolf’s novels for just such a time), but I like to be random too. Your reading list is good though, I like that you include plays in it. I used to do some acting and playwrighting and so used to read more plays than I do now. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is really great as well as Streetcar Named Desire, those were two of my favourites.

      • Allie says:

        I’m really enjoying my project, but I also miss reading some other things. I am a huge fantasy and science-fiction fan, and I am really missing reading those genres. I also miss being able to just fly through a book in an afternoon and be done with it. But, I love what I am doing and it has really changed how I view reading and what I pick up to read.

  5. Lucy says:

    Hey what a lovely blog you have! Thanks for joining my challenge:) I’ll be writing you an email with more info-
    talk to you in a bit,

  6. Care says:

    Very impressive. I like personal challenges – I have too many going on. I, too, tend to not read more of an author I admire; I always intend to but keep reaching for the new-to-me stuff instead. For example, Neil Gaiman. I keep saying I need to read The Graveyard Book or Anasi Boys or American Gods and I just keep skipping them. Margaret Atwood is one exception but that’s because I seem to have collected a few of her books in house so she is harder to put off.
    Good luck to you.

    • afewofmyfavouritebooks says:

      Nice to meet you, Care. (My name is Carolyn, so I have had people call me Care as a nickname!) I was excited to see the global reading challenge on your blog and will be joining it. I also like your John Cusack reading challenge idea and have actually read The Rites of Spring for a university history class! It does have very interesting ideas in it about how our Western society has developed due to the changing events of the early 20th century and I still have my copy of it.

      I’ve read Alias Grace by Atwood and I’ve also collected a few more of her books but for some reason, I’m not too fired up to read them. I told myself at one point I had to read at least one Atwood and one Dickens and I’ve done that, so maybe that’s that.

      • Care says:

        I think I will learn A LOT from my Cusack challenge. I was just so surprised at his list and that I hadn’t read any that I knew it would be good for me to do so. (on second thought, I shouldn’t have been surprised – he’s not ‘fluffy’ by any means.)

        What I like about Atwood is that she is so diverse; entertains AND makes me think.

        (I’m so glad you are WP – makes it so easy to find replies to comments, wouldn’t you agree?)

  7. Karenlibrarian says:

    I loved, loved, loved Wives & Daughters! I’d seen the BBC adaptation and loved it, and the book is just as wonderful. I also read Cranford last summer — it’s good but not quite as wonderful. (I think I actually liked the BBC adaptation better).

    And I’d like to read more Flaubert also — I thought Madame Bovary was just wonderful (she was a trainwreck, but I still really liked it). I’ve heard Sentimental Education is good.

    • Karenlibrarian says:

      Oh, I forgot about the Brontes! I loved Jane Eyre, hated Wuthering Heights, liked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall pretty well. I’m supposed to be reading Agnes Grey for a book club but haven’t started it yet.

      Bleak House is by far my favorite Dickens, but I really liked Oliver Twist. I just started the Old Curiosity Shop but haven’t really gotten into it yet.

    • afewofmyfavouritebooks says:

      For some reason I haven’t been able to get into Wives & Daughters, not the way North & South drew me in right away (even before I saw the miniseries). But I would like to read it and I’m glad the BBC brought her books more attention.

      I enjoy Flaubert too, but after all the talk about how he tried to find the exact perfect phrasing (‘la mot juste’?) for everything, I keep wondering if maybe translations don’t do him justice.

      I read Jane Eyre years ago and only recently read Wuthering Heights, which I didn’t look on as a romance exactly (I love the bit in one of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books where all the characters in the book try to have counseling together!) but ended up finding quite fascinating, at least for its crazy drama! I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall years ago and liked it at the time (due to the miniseries at least in part), but I don’t think I’d ever reread it. Agnes Grey is easy to read, but has more overtly christian elements, so certainly a bit different from Wuthering Heights, although she has a few moments of passionate similarity to Jane and Emily!

      I can’t decide about Dickens. So many people like him, I keep thinking I must read more/all of his books, just because I like many other Victorian authors, but I really had to drag myself through Bleak House (again because of the miniseries! It helped me visualize it all and somehow wanting to be with the characters again got me through).

      So nice to talk about books again. šŸ™‚

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