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Cecrow - 2019 TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge

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1Cecrow
Edited: Feb 12, 1:31pm Top

Primary List:
1. Memoirs of Hadrian - Marguerite Yourcenar (2019/01)
2. The Histories - Herodotus
3. Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self - Claire Tomalin
4. Passages from the Diary of Samuel Pepys - S. Pepys
5. Tom Jones - Henry Fielding
6. Spangle - Gary Jennings
7. Lives of the Noble Romans - Plutarch
8. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
9. Seven Gothic Tales - Isak Dinesen (a.k.a. Karen Blixen)
10. Sophie's World - Jostein Gaarder
11. Anathem - Neil Stephenson
12. Not Wanted on the Voyage - Timothy Findley

Alternate List:
1. The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
2. Smilla's Sense of Snow - Peter Hoeg (2019/02)
3. Hothouse - Brian Aldiss
4. She - H. Rider Haggard
5. Cosmicomics - Italo Calvino
6. Paula - Isabelle Allende
7. The Invention of Morel - Adolfo Bioy Casares
8. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter - Simone de Beauvoir
9. A Separate Peace - John Knowles
10. I Am Legend and Other Stories - Richard Matheson
11. Vathek - William Beckford
12. The Human Stain - Philip Roth

2Cecrow
Edited: Dec 18, 2018, 10:53am Top

Eighth year of the challenge! First I'm going to smash away at all seven slippery titles that escaped me during the past two years, since the last time I was all caught up. The remainder either serve other reading goals (Dickens, Greece/Rome, gothic, 1700s, sci-fi, Canadiana) or respond to instances in 2018 when I was caught saying "it's in my pile but I haven't read that yet".

I've the vague idea that in future I'd like to include at least one title I've read before; there might be something to this re-reading idea. But that feels impossible to consider while there's still this knock-down, drag-out battle among all the titles I haven't yet read.

3LittleTaiko
Dec 18, 2018, 11:55am Top

It's funny, I had forgotten that I own Tom Jones until I saw your list. Thanks for nudging that title back into my consciousness. Hope you enjoy Bleak House, I remember liking it though it may have been a little slow in the beginning. Cosmicomics was fun even if I didn't understand most of the math references. There was a story in there about the moon that I loved.

Lots of other authors/titles that are familiar to me but haven't read yet. Really intriguing list!

4Cecrow
Dec 18, 2018, 12:45pm Top

I could have forgotten about Tom Jones too, I've had my copy for so long. I meant to read it before Vanity Fair, just didn't get there in time so I'm making up for it now. If only I could stop humming "Bye, bye, my Delilah!" every time I look at it.

5billiejean
Dec 18, 2018, 10:18pm Top

I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of Anathem, also a tbr for me. I liked Bleak House quite a bit. I can't recall Tom Jones at all, so a reread does seem like a good idea. I liked Smilla's Sense of Snow and A Separate Peace, also. A wonderful list!

6Cecrow
Dec 19, 2018, 9:15am Top

I've way over-prepared for Anathem. I somehow got it in my head that I oughta read any other monk-themed work in my TBR pile that preceded it first, like A Canticle for Leibowitz and Magister Ludi. And I'm putting Sophie's World right in front, so I'll have all the philosophy stuff fresh in mind. It's overkill, but I'm aiming to catch as many references that might crop up as I can.

7billiejean
Dec 19, 2018, 9:28am Top

Have you read any other Stephenson?

8Cecrow
Dec 19, 2018, 9:42am Top

Just Cryptonomicon, but that was enough to keep him on my radar. Looking over his others I'm interested in Snow Crash and maybe The Diamond Age, too.

9billiejean
Dec 19, 2018, 6:17pm Top

I don't think I have read any of his books, but I have several of them hanging around. I think I mostly have ebooks, but Anathem is a real book. Very large.

10Petroglyph
Dec 19, 2018, 7:59pm Top

Ooh, nice list!

From this list I've read Sophie's world, as a teen, so uselessly long ago; Seven Gothic Tales, for this challenge in 2017; a whole bunch of Flannery O'Connor stories, who is great at alienation; Smilla's sense of snow (twice); She; and Vathek, which is bonkers. All interesting choices!

On my tbr: Yourcenar and Herodotus (the books on this list) and Stephenson, de Beauvoir (other books). Let's see if you can nudge me to pulling these exact authors off the shelf. I'll most likely be reading The invention of Morel this year as well, so if you want to read it in tandem, let me know!

11Narilka
Dec 19, 2018, 8:15pm Top

Oooo, you're tackling one of the Greeks. One day I'll attempt that :) Following along for another year.

12Cecrow
Edited: Jan 18, 2:34pm Top

It’s great that we’re all coming back, and it’s always great to have the company no matter how varying our reading gets.

I’ve got a few Greeks and then Romans in TBR so I figured I’d line them up chronologically. But I’ve been stalling on Herodotus for a while now; this year I’ve pushed him near the front of the line with Plutarch in the wings for good measure.

13LibraryLover23
Dec 30, 2018, 3:52pm Top

I read A Separate Peace earlier this year, that should be a short, easy one to cross off your list!

14.Monkey.
Jan 5, 3:16am Top

Interesting list! I have the Pepys diary, 1935 copy, not read yet though. Not read anything from list 1, though a few others are also on my eventually will get there list, lol. The Matheson is great, duh, he was awesome. Vathek is...interesting. The story itself is fine, but the repetition didn't go over well for me. I've read a few of Roth's, but not that one.

15Cecrow
Edited: Feb 15, 9:30am Top



#1 Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

This is well-regarded historical-fiction-slash-fictional-memoir, by a French author and published in 1951. In anticipation, I was likening it to works by Margaret George and thinking this would be something relatively light to start with - big mistake. This dense and deliberate book slowed me to non-fiction speed. Before reading it, I only knew that Hadrian was an emperor of Rome and had a wall named after him. I'll trust the extolled research enough to assume I've learned what else he did, even if the conveyed fictional sentiments are suspect. Hadrian was very liberal and pragmatic in his views, judgemental of tyrants who assumed the office before him and rectifying their errors as much as possible. He also was aiming (less successfully, as we know) to set a course for the future that would make Rome more robust if it again fell prey to weak men risen to power. Some of his reflections feel a step too far, hinting at a too-accurate perception of the future's course. Even some of his wilder visions are wildly accurate, an artificial way for the author to enable Hadrian to compare his present with ours. Even with those bits, it's a very impressive work. All kinds of inserted facts are conveyed entirely naturally without dumping them on the reader's head, and she does an excellent job of making Hadrian feel like a real person.

That might be all I get done this month, but I've made some headway with the O'Connor and Matheson stories, halfway through Smilla, and I'm also planning to start Herodotus.

16billiejean
Jan 23, 3:21pm Top

Nice review!

17.Monkey.
Jan 23, 5:56pm Top

Ooh, my husband read that one a couple years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit as well. I want to check it out eventually, too. :)

18Petroglyph
Jan 23, 9:10pm Top

>15 Cecrow:
That one's on my TBR list. Maybe I shouldn't wait much longer...

19Cecrow
Edited: Feb 15, 9:30am Top



#2 Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Perfect book to read during Canada's coldest months. I'm not generally attracted to the mystery/thrillers but I try now and then, and this was worth it. I've long wondered about the relationship between Greenland/Denmark and this is the first novel I've read that explores it. There's similarities here with Canada and the Inuit of our northern territories, the same challenges of culture clash and racism. I really liked the portrayal of Smilla, a Greenlander in Denmark society. Smilla inevitably perceives the world differently from those born in Denmark, in ways that only someone with a similar background who hasn't fully integrated can understand. Most significant for this story, she has an intimate relationship with ice and snow. No footprint can fool her. They tell her things the authorities miss, and the mystery begins. Now I need to track down the 1997 movie.

More than halfway through Herodotus, still reading O'Connor, and I'm going to introduce myself to Brian Aldiss.

20billiejean
Feb 15, 6:07am Top

I enjoy thrillers myself. I guess I didn't really think of that one as a thriller, but I guess it is. I also liked it. Really interesting characters.

21frahealee
Edited: Feb 15, 8:18am Top

These titles are of interest to me, either this year or next:

Tom Jones - Henry Fielding
Bleak House - Charles Dickens
Seven Gothic Tales - Isak Dinesen (a.k.a. Karen Blixen)
The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
She - H. Rider Haggard
Vathek - William Beckford
The Human Stain - Philip Roth

Roth will be a new author to me, and I've been advised to start with THS. I hope to read Tom Jones and Fanny Hill back to back, since the former is mentioned in Becoming Jane (2007) by James McAvoy, and the latter in Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) by Henry Fonda. =D

Flannery O'Connor was unearthed in my dip into Faulkner, with research also pointing to Eudora Welty. I have zero knowledge of the Southern Gothic but hope to persevere since many story lines are disturbing. 'She' was on the 1001btrbyd list and I thoroughly enjoyed King Solomon's Mines last year. 7GT will be read after I find and finish Babette's Feast. Dickens is set for Aug/Dec since Sep/Oct/Nov will be King/Davies/etc. I think Hard Times is shortest, so will start with that, with BH after. Then Edwin Drood in Dec since it's said to be a gothic story, plus it's on the 1001 list. The overlap can get confusing but if a book is good, that's the bottom line, not length or subject matter.

All the best with your pursuit of purpose!

22Cecrow
Feb 15, 9:30am Top

>21 frahealee:, I thought I was a strict reading organizer, but I think you might have me beat! :)

O'Connor has definitely disturbed me a couple of times already.

23LittleTaiko
Feb 15, 11:16am Top

>19 Cecrow: - That sounds like something I would enjoy since I do love a good mystery/thriller.

24Petroglyph
Edited: Feb 16, 1:57pm Top

>19 Cecrow:
You seem to be one of the many people who enjoyed Smilla's sense of snow.

Unfortunately, I wasn't. I'll copy/paste what I wrote about Smilla in another thread:
I'm in two minds about Høeg myself: I think he's got some good ideas, but he doesn't take them far enough. I'd enjoy his books more, I think, if he didn't stop too early, just when things are getting well underway. [...] Smilla I felt was approaching an area of sense-making, but again stopped short after making a few very obvious points. [The book] could have taken [its] thoughts a bit further but ended prematurely. [...] I even re-read Smilla eight or so years after the first time. People kept gushing about it, and I'd spent more time in Denmark at the time, so I figured things might have gone over my head the first time round. I still feel pretty meh about it. I think the book doesn't have as much to say about Danish colonialism as it thinks it does, nor does it go as deep.


Edit to add:
Nothing wrong with liking Smilla; it just wasn't my cup of tea.

25Cecrow
Feb 19, 8:54am Top

>24 Petroglyph:, I'd agree it wasn't strong on message, my attraction was to the characterizations. I liked this portrayal of alienation, of being alone in the middle of society, maintaining one's one code rather than assimilating under all that pressure. I've a weakness for characters who can largely defy the "no man is an island" mantra, provided it doesn't tip too far past believability. Several of the supporting characters were also of this type, succeeding/failing to various degrees, inviting the question of why Smilla was able to persevere while they were not.

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