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Kathy's (kac522) 2019 Reading Projects

2019 Category Challenge

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Edited: Jan 28, 2019, 7:07pm Top

My 2019 Reading Projects

Welcome to my Reading Projects for 2019.

This year I’m taking a different approach to my reading, so I've decided to think of my reading as on-going "projects" rather than "challenges", inspired by LTer Liz (lyzard) and her many, many wonderful reading projects.

I want to make some progress on as many of my own reading projects (reading favorite authors, reading series, reading off the TBR) as I can. These will be the focus of my reading in 2019; perhaps not the widest-ranging in scope, but I think will make for a very enjoyable year of reading.

I’ll also be following some of the CATs (CalendarCat, RandomCat, SeriesCat, TBRCat) and the American and British Author Challenges, but make no promises and tell no lies.

Once again I’ll join ROOTS to rack up those TBRs. I’m also going to keep track of my non-fiction reading via the Dewey system, just to be sure I’m attempting to spread my non-fiction reading across subjects.

And naturally, I’ll have a “catch-all” category for those books that don’t fit anywhere else—from the “New Books” shelf at the library; book bullets; gifts; titles read for my RL book club; just because, etc. (you get the picture).

I’ll be keeping a chronological "book by book" list in the 75ers group here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/301404#
I also have a "decade by decade" thread in the Read It, Track It! Group here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/303114#

Thanks for stopping by. My projects begin below, in alphabetical order by author last name.

Dec 21, 2018, 8:35pm Top

Project Austen: Jane Austen, Belknap Annotated Editions

I own 5 of these gorgeous annotated editions; I’m only missing Emma. I read two in 2013—Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion. I hope to read the following two editions in 2019:

1. Sense and Sensibility, annotated and edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks
2. Northanger Abbey, annotated and edited by Susan J. Wolfson

Edited: Nov 5, 2019, 2:29am Top

COMPLETE: Project Brookner: Anita Brookner’s novels

I first read Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac in 1996 for a book club, and soon after started reading her novels in order. Somehow this project fell by the wayside some years ago, so this year seems a good time to finish off this project. These are the novels that I have yet to read, and which I hope to borrow from the library to finish this project in 2019:

✔ done 1. Undue Influence, 1999
✔ done 2. Leaving Home, 2005
✔ done 3. Strangers, 2009

There is also a 2011 ebook only, At the Hairdresser’s, which is Brookner’s last work. It doesn’t seem to be available from my library, so I am unsure if I’ll purchase it. Have to see how I feel after these final works.

Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 1:08am Top

COMPLETE: Project Dame Agatha: Agatha Christie Mysteries

In the last few years, I’ve dipped in and out of Dame Agatha, in no particular order (sorry, Liz!). I’ve decided to knuckle down and start reading the major books and short story collections I haven’t read yet, in publication order. I hope to do 6 of these in 2019, one every other month or so, assuming I can find the more obscure titles at my public library.

✔ done 1921 The Secret Adversary
✔ done 1924 The Man in the Brown Suit
✔ done 1925 The Secret of Chimneys
✔ done 1926 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
✔ done 1927 The Big Four
✔ done 1929 The Seven Dials Mystery
✔ done 1932 The Tuesday Club Murders Miss Marple short stories

Edited: Sep 7, 2019, 12:15am Top

Project Dickens: Charles Dickens' novels

I love Dickens. I’ve been slowly making my way through the major novels over several decades, with only a few left to go. I would like to read at least 2 of my 3 remaining books in 2019.

1. Barnaby Rudge (1841)
2. Dombey and Son (1848)
3. The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)
✔ done ♥ 4. Audiobook: David Copperfield (1850) read by Simon Vance; re-read, Apr 2019

Edited: Dec 9, 2019, 2:06am Top

Project Eliot: George Eliot's major works

Another favorite author, but I still have three major works to read, and several that I want to re-read. I hope to read 2 of these potential books in 2019.

✔ done ♥ 1. Scenes from Clerical Life (1857)
2. Romola (1863)
3. Felix Holt, the Radical (1866)
4. Daniel Deronda (1876)—a re-read

Edited: Dec 27, 2019, 5:35pm Top

Project Miss Read (Dora Jessie Saint): Reading Fairacre in 2019

Several years ago I discovered the delights of Miss Read and the Fairacre series. This past summer at the Newberry Library used book fair, I found a large collection of Fairacre and Thrush Green titles, and snatched them all up. I want to continue with the Fairacre series in 2019, and these are up next:

✔ done 1. Caxley Chronicles (contains The Market Square and The Howards of Caxley)--counting as 2 books
✔ done 2. Village Christmas and Christmas Mouse
✔ done 3. No Holly for Miss Quinn
4. Fairacre Roundabout (contains Farther Afield and Village Affairs)

Edited: Jan 1, 3:25pm Top

COMPLETE: Project Stevenson: Reading D. E. Stevenson

Recently finished and LOVED the Mrs. Tim series, so I am embarking on the Miss Buncle series. Between my own shelves and my public library, I have all 4 books. Down the road I hope to read more D. E. Stevenson, although her other titles are hard to come by in my public libraries. In 2019, I hope to read:

✔ done 1. Miss Buncle’s Book (1934)
✔ done 2. Miss Buncle Married (1936)
✔ done 3. The Two Mrs Abbotts (1943)
✔ done 4. The Four Graces (1946)
✔ done 5. Celia's House (1943)

Edited: Nov 14, 2019, 6:00pm Top

Project Taylor: Reading Elizabeth Taylor

Like Miss Read and D.E. Stevenson above, I learned about Elizabeth Taylor on LT. I own most of her books, but have a long way to go to read them all. The following are the next up for 2019:

✔ done 1. Palladian (1946)
2. A View of the Harbour (1947)
3. A Wreath of Roses (1949)
4. A Game of Hide and Seek (1951)

Edited: Dec 27, 2019, 5:38pm Top

Project Trollope: Anthony Trollope's novels

I've grown to love Trollope over the years. I've read the Barchester & Palliser novels, and am now filling in the gaps:

done 1. The Three Clerks (1858) April
done 2. The Bertrams (1859) October
3. Castle Richmond (1860)

done re-read: The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848), to participate in Liz's group read.

Edited: Nov 30, 2019, 3:53pm Top

COMPLETE: Project Virago: Reading Virago from my TBR

When I first started on LT in 2009, I stumbled upon the Virago Group, (https://www.librarything.com/groups/viragomodernclassics) and since that time I’ve slowly been collecting Virago editions as I find them at used book shops. I love the dark green covers! I have some 20 or 30 now, and hope to read a few of these in 2019 during the Virago Monthly reads, which will focus on the 1940s. I won’t tie myself down to individual books, but hope to read as least 4 in 2019:

✔ done 1. Mr Skeffington, Elizabeth von Arnim
✔ done ♥ 2. Little Boy Lost, Marghanita Laski (Persephone, 1949)
✔ done ♥ 3. Good Evening, Mrs. Craven, Mollie Panter-Downes (Persephone, 1999)
✔ done 4. Palladian, Elizabeth Taylor

Edited: Jan 1, 4:36pm Top

Project Monthly Reading: Reading the CATs and Author Challenges

I’m not making any commitments, but if a CAT or Challenge strikes my fancy in a month, I’ll record it here:

Reading Through Time: WWI--Good-bye To All That, Robert Graves
Reading through time Jan: I survived--The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, Ken Krimstein
AAC: The Chosen, Chaim Potok ♥
SeriesCAT--series in translation--The Shape of Water, Andrea Camillieri
1001 books list & RandomCAT--your name in print--The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien ♥
CalendarCAT--January author birthday--A Rogue's Life, Wilkie Collins

CalendarCat--Valentine's Day--Belinda, Maria Edgeworth
AAC: Pansies and Water-Lilies, Louisa May Alcott

Reading thru Time: Downtown--So Big, Edna Ferber ♥
CalendarCAT--St Patrick's Day and RandomCAT--Brexit--The Kellys and the O'Kellys, Anthony Trollope ♥
Virago: Reading the 1940s--Mr Skeffington, Elizabeth von Arnim
1001 books list, OCC--At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O'Brien

Reading thru Time: Between the wars: The Man in the Brown Suit, Christie
CalendarCAT--Mom's April Birthday: The Three Clerks, Trollope ♥
SeriesCAT--series to resume: Miss Buncle Married, D. E. Stevenson
RandomCAT--Tournament of books: On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan


CalendatCAT--"It's May, it's May!"
& RandomCAT--dance: "I could have danced all night": Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews
SeriesCAT--next by a favorite: The Secret of Chimneys, Christie
TBRCAT--book you stare at
& Virago 1940s--food: Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky


CalendarCAT--Father's Day--Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev
RandomCAT--pick a card--The Two Mrs. Abbotts, D. E. Stevenson
SeriesCat--completed--The Two Mrs. Abbotts, D. E. Stevenson
TBRCAT--BB-Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
Virago 1940s--The Two Mrs. Abbotts, D. E. Stevenson
BAC--Wilkie Collins--The Guilty River


CalendarCAT--July birthday--Nikola Tesla: The Last Days of Night, Graham Moore
TBRCAT--multiple books by author
Virago 1940s--Travel
Reading through Time--Time Travel
AAC--founding fathers


CalendarCAT--Augustine--A Very Short Introduction, Chadwick
SeriesCAT--not your country--The Second Worst Restaurant in France, A. McCall Smith
TBRCAT--much anticipation--The Market Square, Miss Read
Virago 1940s--Emigration--Little Boy Lost, M. Laski
Reading through Time--philosophy--The Best American Spiritual Writing 2008, ed. Zaleski
AAC--Gaines--The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
BAC--Brookner--Leaving Home

CalendarCAT--Classical music month--The Cello Suites, Siblin
SeriesCAT--cozies--The Department of Sensitive Crimes, McCall Smith
TBRCAT--classics--Heidi, Johanna Spyri
Virago 1940s--war--Good Evening, Mrs. Craven, Mollie Panter-Downes
Reading thru Time--Women pioneers
BAC--Biography/memoir--Letters from Lamledra: Cornwall 1914-1918, Marjorie Williams

CalendarCAT--Scary--The Night of the Hunter, Davis Grubbs
RandomCAT--parodies--Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
SeriesCAT--historical--The Caxley Chronicles book 2, Miss Read
TBRCAT--Visual appeal
Virago 1940s--post-war--Palladian, Elizabeth Taylor
Reading thru Time--Loss--Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
AAC--drama--Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters; Brighton Beach Memoirs, Neil Simon; Inherit the Wind, J. Lawrence and R. E. Lee

CalendarCAT--Eliot's birthday 200--Scenes from Clerical Life, George Eliot
SeriesCAT--female protagonist--The Tuesday Club Murders, Miss Marple, Agatha Christie
TBRCAT--gift book--Jen?
Virago 1940s--peace--A View from the Harbor?
Reading thru time--marginalised people--The Cut Out Girl, Bart Van Es; Quicksand, Nella Larsen
AAC--W. E. B. DuBois
BAC--Jewish authors--Brookner, Strangers


D--Death in a Tenured Position, Amanda Cross
E--Elizabeth Bowen, Allan Austin
C--Celia's House, D. E. Stevenson
E--The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim
M--A Man For All Seasons, R. Bolt
B---The Big Four, Agatha Christie
E--Enemy Women, Paulette Jiles (did not finish)
R--The Road To San Giovanni, Italo Calvino

SeriesCAT--New to you
TBRCAT--cheap book--A Man For All Seasons, R. Bolt
Virago 1940s--open
Reading thru time--Retro theme--The Poor Clare, E. Gaskell

Project Dewey: Reading Non-fiction

In an effort to see where my non-fiction reading takes me, I’ll record non-fiction titles here under the appropriate Dewey series:

028.9--My Ideal Bookshelf, LaForce & Mount
028.9--Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany, Mount

153.43--Think Like a Freak, S. Levitt & S. Dubner
189.2--Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, Chadwick


320.5092--The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, Krimstein



618--The Doctors' Plague, Sherwin Nuland

704.99498--Reading Art, Trigg;
704--The Art of Reading, Camplin and Ranauro
780--The Infinite Variety of Music, Leonard Bernstein
780--Johann Sebastian Bach: Play by Play/Cantata, Alan Rich, book & CDh
787--The Cello Suites, Eric Siblin
791--Home: a Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews

810--The Best American Spiritual Writing 2008, ed. P. Zaleski
812.54--Lost in Yonkers, Simon
813--A Cafecito Story, Julia Alvarez
823--Is Heathcliff a Murderer?, John Sutherland
823.7--The World of Jane Austen, Nigel Nicolson

940.48--Good-bye To All That, Graves
940.53--The Cut Out Girl, Van Es
973.04--The Best We Could Do, Bui ♥
973.93--Becoming, Michelle Obama

Edited: Dec 9, 2019, 3:15pm Top

DONE! Project ROOTS: Counting My TBRs in 2019

I'll be keeping count of every TBR I read that’s been added to my shelves before January 1, 2019 with the ROOTS Group. This will include any titles that are included in the challenges above.

And, of course, EVERYTHING ELSE, which will probably end up being my largest category!!

1. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, Alexander McCall Smith (Mar)
2. Othello, Shakespeare (Apr)
3. You Can't Get There From Here (poems), Ogden Nash, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Apr)
4. Hard Lines (poems), Ogden Nash (May)
5. Emmeline, Charlotte Turner Smith (Jun)
6. Scoop, Evelyn Waugh (Aug)
7. Audiobook: The Diary of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell (Sep)
8. Macbeth, Shakespeare (Nov)

Dec 21, 2018, 11:51pm Top

I am dropping a star here and look forward to following along with your various projects.

Dec 22, 2018, 3:43am Top

>11 kac522: I love Virago too! I have quite a few so will love to see which ones you are reading. If I see one of those green covers in an op shop, I grab it!
I love all your categories, so am dropping a star as well, so I can follow along.

Dec 22, 2018, 8:31am Top

Oh, so many favourite names here! I'll be watching out for your Trollope reading.

Dec 22, 2018, 11:11am Top

Welcome back and best of luck with your projects for 2019!

Dec 22, 2018, 12:08pm Top

>14 DeltaQueen50: Thanks for dropping by! I hope I'm a bit more "inspired" with these projects than I was with Challenges in 2018. Most of these books are on my TBR, too, so that is a big plus.

>15 JayneCM: Welcome! Have you checked out the Virago Monthly Reads Thread for 2019: https://www.librarything.com/topic/299242 The theme this year is the 1940s. And there's a link to a spreadsheet with books that fit the themes. I have about 6 that should fit, so hope to get some of those read this year.

Edited: Dec 22, 2018, 12:16pm Top

>16 MissWatson: I am so sorry it took so long for me to discover Trollope. He was one of my mother's favorite authors, and I never read any of his books until after she died, when I chose a few from her many, many books she left. Now I'm so sorry that I never was able to talk about them with her.

Liz (lyzard) plans to do a group read of The Kellys and the O'Kellys in January or February. It is one of Trollope's first novels, and set in Ireland. I'll post a link here, and hope that you can join us. Liz does such an awesome job of guiding through these kinds of works.

>17 rabbitprincess: Hi RP, thanks for stopping! I have great hopes for this year actually making a dent in the TBRs and things I really want to read.

Dec 22, 2018, 4:34pm Top

>18 kac522: No! I will have to check that out - 1940s is my favourite era!

Dec 23, 2018, 12:20am Top

>20 JayneCM: Great! The more the merrier! Note that the group has expanded to include Persephone authors, too.

And most important--you don't have to read a Virago/Persephone edition. The author just needs to have at least one work published by Virago or Persephone to qualify as a Virago/Persephone "author". For this monthly reading, though, it should be published in the 1940s, or be about the 1940s.

Dec 23, 2018, 12:43am Top

>21 kac522: Looking forward to joining in!
And I realised I have more VMCs than I thought as I was just looking at my green cover ones.

Dec 23, 2018, 3:01am Top

Good luck with your projects!

Dec 23, 2018, 2:38pm Top

>23 Tess_W: Thanks!

Dec 23, 2018, 4:02pm Top

Great categories! I'll be following along.

Dec 23, 2018, 4:34pm Top

>25 VivienneR: Thanks! I can barely wait to get started--is it New Year's yet?

Dec 23, 2018, 5:19pm Top

I will be following your reading especially the Agatha Christie books. I have read nearly Christie’s books But Before this year it had been at least 25 years since I picked one up. This year I decided to listen to them as audiobooks I managed to get through 35 including the last three on your list. I hope to get to your first three this year.

Dec 23, 2018, 8:37pm Top

>27 Zozette: I find audiobooks a great way to "re-read"--what a fun project for you! Any surprises for you this time around?

Dec 24, 2018, 1:30am Top

Interesting! There are some authors on your list that I haven't read and probably should. I did start last year reading Trollope. P. D. James had a character, I think in The Black Tower, whose favorite novel was The Last Chronicle of Barset, so I got it off Project Gutenberg and read it and liked it very much too. So I have read several others since then, but haven't got all the way through either of the major series yet (reading in the wrong order of course, but I don't especially mind spoilers.) And I would probably like Eliot too, and I should try Dickens and Agatha Christie again (didn't like them when I was much younger, but I might now).

Edited: Dec 24, 2018, 3:59am Top

>29 amaranthe: In Trollope's series, it's not so much spoilers, as it is the development of the characters. That being said, the Barsetshire books generally can be read alone, except the first two, which are related: The Warden (very short) and Barchester Towers. My favorite is Doctor Thorne. On the other hand, the Pallisers probably should be read in order to appreciate the development of the main characters (Plantagenet and Lady Glencora Palliser) over many years.

As for Eliot, Middlemarch is outstanding, but a huge commitment. Try Silas Marner to get a taste.

Opinions vary widely on the "best" Dickens, but certainly David Copperfield is a very accessible starting place. My two favorites to date are Bleak House and Little Dorrit, but these are his longest. I had a hard time making it through A Tale of Two Cities, but it is often cited as one of his most beloved novels by many people.

Christie is easy to get back to--you can polish off one of hers in a long evening. And Then There Were None is a masterpiece, certainly one of her best.

Dec 24, 2018, 10:54am Top

I am very much liking the project set-up. I am working my way through Georgette Heyer's romances in order, it's a good way to read a novelist. I', too, have plans to finish Dickens one day, probably in the far distant future.

Dec 24, 2018, 11:38am Top

>31 Helenliz: Thanks for stopping by--Heyer is actually on my list of projects as well! In the end I decided to put that on hold for this year so that I had a manageable list of things I could accomplish. I am just frustrated with myself, setting all kinds of challenges and goals, and not completing any of them. Also on my to-do list (for another year): the works of Willa Cather, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edith Wharton--of these I've read some, but want to read all the major works. As well as some series that I'd like to try (Inspector Montalbano, Aubrey/Maturin, Irish Country Doctor, etc., etc.)

Dec 26, 2018, 3:08am Top

>30 kac522: I am with you on Dickens - Bleak House is absolutely my favourite. Eliot, I would have to say The Mill on the Floss.
I have NEVER read Christie, so am planning to rectify that this year!

Edited: Dec 26, 2018, 5:39am Top

>29 amaranthe: >30 kac522: >33 JayneCM:

I would also have to say that Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities are my favorite Dickens. I just now quickly tried to count how many I've read.... about 8 of Dickens and I love Eliot--with Silas Marner being my favorite followed closely by The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda. I don't know why, but for some reason I quit reading Middlemarch...will have to give it a go again. As for Christie, I've tried twice and so far am not a fan.

Dec 26, 2018, 12:56pm Top

Love your project reading plans and thank you for reminding my that I still need to get back to D.E. Stevenson's Miss Buncle books! Good luck with your project reading!

Dec 26, 2018, 3:51pm Top

>35 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori! And I have been following your threads and have been so impressed with your reading accomplishments AND meeting your walking across Canada goal--totally, totally awesome and very inspiring. Maybe this will be the year I walk across my neighborhood!

Dec 31, 2018, 7:24am Top

Happy New Year and good luck with your reading goals...

Dec 31, 2018, 11:55am Top

Dec 31, 2018, 2:52pm Top

Dec 31, 2018, 4:43pm Top

>38 thornton37814:, >39 Tess_W: Happy reading in 2019!

Edited: Jan 1, 2019, 10:43pm Top

I've decided to "call it a year." Here are my 2018 final reading stats and thoughts:

Total books read: 60

Fiction: 41
Nonfiction: 19

Female authors: 31
Male authors: 29

Most memorable reads:

O Pioneers, Willa Cather
Mrs Tim books, D. E. Stevenson
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
A Month In the Country, J. L. Carr
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
The Newcomers, Helen Thorpe
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pushing Time Away, Peter Singer

Surprisingly good read: 41 Stories, O. Henry--I was only going to read "The Gift of the Magi" from this collection, but sat down to read a few more as an afterthought. A bit inconsistent in quality, but always clever and entertaining.

Well worth the re-read: audiobook of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens

Well worth the group read of lesser known works with lyzard (thank you, Liz):

Camilla and The Wanderer, Fanny Burney
The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House, Emily Eden

Dec 31, 2018, 8:16pm Top

I love your categories. I really want to re-read Miss Read sometime, but I don't think it will be this year.

Jan 1, 2019, 8:47pm Top

I love this entire challenge! I have all six of the Jane Austen Belknap editions, but so far I haven't read any...must rectify that soon. And I adored Miss Buncle's Book and Miss Buncle Married!

Jan 1, 2019, 9:37pm Top

>43 christina_reads: Thanks! I especially enjoyed the P&P Belknap (edited by Spacks), so I'm looking forward to S&S. They do take a bit longer to read, but well worth it!

Edited: Jan 1, 2019, 9:59pm Top

<41 Looks like 2018 was a good reading year for you. I want to read the Cather trilogy this year and I think that All The Light We Can Not See is perhaps the best book I have ever read. I also re-read 6 Wilder books last year, but have about 4-5 associated books to read this year.

Edited: Jan 1, 2019, 10:25pm Top

>45 Tess_W: If you like Wilder, you will love the Pioneer Girl book. It's huge--a coffee table book. It is the original manuscript (with TONS of annotations on the outside columns) that the books were based upon. Wilder had written her story in her 60s, for her daughter, who was also a writer. Her daughter tried to get the manuscript published, but didn't have any success, until an editor suggested that Wilder re-write the story from a child's perspective (rather than as an adult looking back telling her story). The rest, as they say, is history!

The notes are exhaustive (sometimes overly exhaustive), and they show the real events (like blizzards, real people, the family's movements from historical documentation and census records) in comparison to the original manuscript and the books. Most of the time, Wilder was very accurate in her remembrances of childhood events; sometimes she changed the order for dramatic effect. There are also the same passages quoted, from the manuscript and the books, to show how Wilder changed the wording from the perspective of an adult, to the re-written perspective of a child. It's an interesting look into the "writer's craft".

Jan 1, 2019, 10:40pm Top

>46 kac522: I don't think I have that one, because none of mine are that large.........but I'm going to go find it now!

Jan 1, 2019, 10:46pm Top

>46 kac522: Lucky for me our library has Pioneer Girl! I think I have borrowed it three times in the last year.

Jan 1, 2019, 10:46pm Top

>47 Tess_W: Ooops! Touchstone went to the wrong place. Fixed now--should be: Pioneer Girl: the Annotated Autobiography. It was edited by Laura Ingalls Wilder scholars.

Jan 1, 2019, 11:48pm Top

>49 kac522: Got it~

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 12:58am Top

First book of 2019 completed:

1. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1921
Type: mystery
Acquired: Library ebook
My Project: Dame Agatha

This 1921 mystery introduces Tommy & Tuppence. It takes us from the Lusitania to the post-war revolutionary world, which I found intriguing. The ending was not a complete surprise for me (for once! I almost figured it out!), but I liked all the twists and turns and the characters zipping around London. And I really enjoyed the banter between T & T; it added some chemistry to the piece. A fun read.

Jan 2, 2019, 4:47pm Top

>51 kac522: I love that Christie novel! Agree about the chemistry between Tommy and Tuppence.

Jan 3, 2019, 10:51pm Top

Love your projects set-up! I have a couple of categories that are like that this year - something different for me that I will likely expand.

Jan 3, 2019, 11:41pm Top

>53 LisaMorr: I hope it works. Last year, filling up the challenges just seemed a chore. I hope this set-up gives me more incentive.

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 12:58am Top

2. Village Christmas and Christmas Mouse, Miss Read
Year Published: 1966 and 1973
Type: fiction
Acquired: Library book
My Project: Miss Read

These are two separate stories/novellas. The first one was typical Miss Read: a baby is born on Christmas day, and two sisters of different temperaments sort of even each other out. But I did not particularly like the second one (Christmas Mouse), in which a Mrs. Berry seems to get away with being rather judgmental and almost harsh to a wayward boy. There was no tempering to her blunt opinions in the story, and I wonder if it truly reflects the attitudes of Miss Read. If so, I was disappointed, especially for a Christmas story.

Jan 4, 2019, 9:52pm Top

Currently reading:

Good-Bye To All That, Graves
The Chosen, Potok

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 12:57am Top

3. Good-Bye to All That, Robert Graves
Year Published: 1929
Type: memoir
Acquired: Paperback Root since 2016
My Project: CATs and Challenges (Reading through Time--WWI); My Dewey (900s); 2019 Roots

Graves wrote this autobiography at age 34, before he left England (pretty much) for good. I didn't like the first third of the book about his torturous school years, but the war years kept my iņterest. Graves' detailed recall of the events during WWI make this a valuable document of trench war. However there was a lot of military jargon/slang that was lost on me, and there is a lot of unexplained jumping around from topic to topic. The last part of the book was less compelling, with some name-dropping. The little bits about visiting an elderly Thomas Hardy were amusing.

Edited: Jan 18, 2019, 1:09am Top

Just found this list of Literary Centennials:


and find that George Eliot was born 22 November 1819; thus giving another nudge to concentrate on my Eliot Project (>6 kac522: ), and almost 11 months to complete it before the bicentennial.

Currently reading:

Undue Influence, Anita Brookner (>3 kac522: )

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 3:11am Top

4. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
Year Published: 1967
Type: fiction
Acquired: Paperback Root since 2018
My Project: CATs and Challenges: January AAC; 2019 Roots

The Chosen portrays religious Jewish boys and their fathers in 1940s Brooklyn. One family is Hasidic; the other family is religious, but open to ideas and literature from the secular world. I loved how the boys were portrayed as they learn about each other and work to resolve their conflicts. I thought the Jewish history sections were well done, without being preachy. The theme of eyes and sight flows through the book. I especially enjoyed (nerd that I am) the chapter where Reuven works hard to prepare a specific Talmud passage, and all the commentary, and his teacher's response to it. That was the book's highlight for me--Mazel Tov, Reuven!

Knowing a few Orthodox families, this was very much in line with what I have experienced. I am only sorry it took me so long to finally read it. I have My Name is Asher Lev on the shelf, and I know I will get to it eventually.

5. The Shape of Water, Andrea Camilleri
Year Published: 1994
Type: mystery
Acquired: Paperback Root since 2016
My Project: SeriesCAT for January--series in Translation; 2019 Roots

Meh. I'm probably in a tiny minority that didn't enjoy this book. Yes, it's well-written, and probably well-translated, but I got lost quickly. I just wasn't that interested in the characters, who seemed stereotypes to me, except perhaps for the poor couple with the sick baby. I've been to Milano multiple times, but never to Sicily. This just seemed to emphasize all the creepy parts of Italian life, when there are so many wonderful aspects. At least I finally learned the difference between the Carabinieri and the Polizia. This was my first and probably last Camilleri.

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 12:55am Top

6. Undue Influence, Anita Brookner
Year Published: 1999
Type: fiction
Acquired: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Brookner

I love Anita Brookner, but I can only take her in small doses. It is intense reading, like Henry James, and I can only manage 30-40 pages at a time. We are always inside someone's head, as they go back and forth, analyzing and re-analyzing. In this book, twenty (or thirty?)-something Claire Pitt tells us up front that her memory and assessments may not necessarily be entirely correct or accurate. So we know we have an unreliable narrator from about page 2. Nothing much happens in a Brookner novel (this book is no exception), and many consider them depressing, but they don't depress me so much as sometimes overwhelm.

I think this review says it best--from the page of reviews on LT, attributed to Mark Thwaite:

An almost pathological writer, Brookner returns again and again to her notion of the inability of women to think of marriage as something that will rescue them--and yet they are pulled toward the ideal (one they easily deconstruct) of a romantic savior. A particular, melancholic despondence saturates her work, and disappointment dominates, despite the humor, erudition, and classical elegance of her prose. Brookner is a modern, bitter writer. Few novelists have the ability to create such complete characters and then dissect their motives so clearly.

I'll be thinking about Claire and how sometimes she was like me, and sometimes not like me, but I know this book won't stay with me. I have two more books to complete the reading of all of Brookner's novels; I'll be taking a long break before the next one.

Jan 25, 2019, 11:42pm Top

Currently reading:

The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien

Edited: Jan 26, 2019, 4:30am Top

>61 kac522: I use 2 chapters of that book when we study Vietnam---love it! (On the Rainy River and the one about Linda...can't remember the chapter title!)

Edited: Jan 26, 2019, 11:43am Top

>62 Tess_W: I read the first 6 stories last night, including "On the Rainy River." All are so compelling and authentic. I'm reading it for the January RandomCAT because there's a character with my name, Kathleen.

Jan 27, 2019, 12:16am Top

>59 kac522: - Good comments on the Camilleri book. I know there is a lot of love out there for the Inspector Montalbano books, me included. I tend to view them as fun escapism reads and yes, the characters are stereotypes or 'caricatures'. It is refreshing to read an opposing review, and you have raised some really good points!

Jan 27, 2019, 12:27am Top

>64 lkernagh: I really wanted to like Montalbano, Lori, especially after reading reviews like yours of the series. It just didn't happen for me. But Chaim Potok took me by surprise and I'll be reading the rest of his books in time. I was expecting to love Camilleri and hate Potok. Win some, lose some!

Edited: Feb 1, 2019, 12:28pm Top

Finished The Things they Carried, Tim O'Brien, and A Rogue's Life, Wilkie Collins.

Next up: Belinda, Maria Edgeworth, for lyzard's Group Read. which can be found here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/303254

Edited: Feb 12, 2019, 2:52am Top

Finished Belinda. Next up: The Cloister, James Carroll

Feb 12, 2019, 8:41am Top

>66 kac522: Did you like The Things They Carried?

Feb 12, 2019, 1:25pm Top

>68 Tess_W: I did! I haven't knuckled down to right a review, but among other things, I thought that the writing was excellent, without it feeling forced or like we had to notice it. Not sure I explained that correctly, but some writers are great, but you are acutely aware that they've worked hard to choose each word. This felt effortless.

And I appreciated the way he tied the characters together from story to story, sometimes repeating the same stories, but in a different way--so much like life, when we tell the same story over and over, but in different ways to different listeners. In fact, I think the book was as much about story-telling as it was about war, which is what made it so great. Guess my review is ready now!

Feb 12, 2019, 7:58pm Top

Love your projects, Kathy!

Edited: Feb 18, 2019, 1:27am Top

Currently reading:

The Cloister, James Carroll
So Big, Edna Ferber

Feb 25, 2019, 12:44am Top


So Big, Edna Ferber
The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, Ken Krimstein
Miss Buncle's Book, D. E. Stevenson

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 1:45am Top

Rounding up the January reads:

7. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
Year Published: 1990
Acquired: paperback from my TBR shelves
Type: fiction--short story collection
My Project: 1001 Books list; Random Cat: Jan--your name in print (character named Kathleen), R since before 2009

These are related short stories, centered around the narrator's experiences in VietNam, using many of the same characters in each story.

As I said above, I thought that the writing was excellent, without it feeling forced or like we had to notice it. Not sure I explained that correctly, but some writers are great, but you are acutely aware that they've worked hard to choose each word. This felt effortless.

And I appreciated the way he tied the characters together from story to story, sometimes repeating the same stories, but in a different way--so much like life, when we tell the same story over and over, but in different ways to different listeners. In fact, I think the book was as much about story-telling as it was about war.

For me this was a rare 5-star read.

Feb 26, 2019, 12:58am Top

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Feb 26, 2019, 1:14am Top

8. A Rogue's Life, Wilkie Collins
Year Published: 1879
Type: fiction; novella/short fiction
Acquired: Paperback Root on my shelves since 2017
My Project: CalendarCAT: Jan--author's birthday in January

This was a short, clever and amusing work told by a "rogue" who eventually gets caught at his own game, but it all works out in the end. Perfect light follow-up after the war stories.

Edited: Mar 1, 2019, 7:06pm Top

And now on to February reads:

9. Belinda, Maria Edgeworth
Year Published: originally published 1801; read the 1802 edition with revisions by Edgeworth
Type: fiction
Acquired: Paperback Root on my shelves since 2018
My Project: CalendarCAT: Feb: Valentine's Day; Virago Group Read with Liz

I enjoyed this book more than I expected. Having just read several books by Fanny Burney in the last year or so, I was surprised by how modern Edgeworth seemed in comparison, and how nuanced the characters were. This is a typical 18th century story of a woman contemplating marriage, and is mentioned in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.

Edgeworth gives us characters who aren't always perfectly good or perfectly horrid. They usually act in good faith; they make errors; they ponder; they change, a little. Belinda generally lets her conscience be her guide, as when she walks out on the woman who is her employer. Her admirer was not always so fond of her; he comes to it in bits and spurts. And there are unusual circumstances for the time: a woman openly acknowledges having breast cancer; there are interracial relationships; a good man "keeps" a young woman, Pygmalion-style, to mold her into his perfect wife-to-be.

The book is quite the page-turner, although I found the end rather farcical and not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book. I think Henry Tilney would love this book--he probably read it, too!

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 3:14am Top

10. So Big, Edna Ferber
Year Published: 1924
Type: fiction
Acquired: Paperback Root on my shelves since 2018
My Project: Reading Through Time: March--Downtown

Ferber is a completely new author to me; I'd only heard of her via crossword puzzles. But she was prolific, writing many novels (most turned into movies), plays, screenplays and short stories. She is probably best known for Show Boat, but she also wrote Giant and collaborated with George S. Kaufman on several plays. So Big won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925.

I enjoyed the book particularly because of the setting: Chicago and environs in the 1880s through early 1920s. The first half is about a strong woman, Selina, and the second half is about her son, nick-named "So Big." The writing is engaging, funny, and surprisingly modern for 1924. Lots of references to Chicago people and places, which I loved.

Ferber was born Jewish in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and suffered blatant daily anti-semitism growing up in Iowa. She champions the little guy and lets us see the contrasts: immigrant vs. native born; farm life vs. city life; poor vs. rich; back-breaking work vs. lives of indolence; hand-made plain and simple vs. the bought & polished.

I enjoyed the "Selina" first half of the book more than the "So Big" second half, but overall it was a great read. And it generated lots of heated discussion in my RL book club, and since we're all from the Chicago area, we each had AHA! memory moments in different parts of the book...like window shopping downtown, but then buying discounted stuff in the basement of Marshall Field's..or..the Stockyards...or...I could go on, but I'll let you read it.

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 2:34am Top

11. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth, Ken Krimstein
Year Published: 2018
Type: nonfiction graphic book, biography
Acquired: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library
My Project: Reading Through Time: Jan--I survived; Project Dewey--300s

This graphic biography of Hannah Arendt and her contemporaries was outstanding. Ken Krimstein, author/illustrator, is a local Evanston guy. Not only does the book give a full history of Arendt's life and some of her philosophy, it also puts her in her time, highlighting all the various thinkers, artists, musicians, scientists, etc., who were in her "circles": Berlin, Paris, USA. Gave me a really good feel for the times she lived through and people who influenced her. Let's just say Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin don't come off so well, to say the least. I was familiar with Heidegger before this, but I only vaguely had heard of Benjamin.

My only quibbles with the book are 1) I wish Krimstein had made it clear when he was paraphrasing Arendt, and when he was directly quoting her work, and 2) the footnotes were TINY. You'll need a magnifying glass. But it's clear he did mounds of research for this project.

Feb 26, 2019, 2:52am Top

And now for something completely different...

12. Miss Buncle's Book, D. E. Stevenson
Year Published: 1934
Type: fiction
Acquired: Paperback Root from 2018
My Project: Project D. E. Stevenson

A comic novel about a book within a book within a book....or something like that, set in a small busy-body English village. I loved Stevenson's "Mrs Tim" series; Miss Buncle is clever and tongue-in-cheek, but it didn't quite come up to Mrs. Tim. I do plan to read the rest of the Miss Buncle books; they make a perfect change of tone from more serious books.

Feb 26, 2019, 2:53am Top

Currently reading---
Scenes From Clerical Life, George Eliot, in my quest to finish reading all of Eliot's major works in 2019, which is the 200th anniversary of her birth. Besides "Scenes" (which are 3 novella-length stories with related characters and setting), I have Romola and Felix Holt left to read of her major works.

Feb 26, 2019, 6:49am Top

>79 kac522: I've never heard of the Mrs. Tim series, but if you are raving about it being better than Miss Buncle's Book, which so many here praised and which I hope to read before too long, I need to seek that series out.

Feb 26, 2019, 11:02am Top

>76 kac522: Great review! Belinda has been on my to-read list for a while, but you've motivated me to bump it up -- especially with your comment that Henry Tilney would enjoy it! :)

Edited: Feb 26, 2019, 12:20pm Top

>81 thornton37814: Miss Buncle is fun, but I think Mrs Tim is closer to Stevenson's heart. Mrs Tim of the Regiment is the name of the first two books as one volume, which is how it's published now, I think. I loved it, and I think it's partly based on her own experience as a military wife. The later books are actually during the war. One of the reasons I love these books is because they're partially set in Scotland, and Stevenson does such a marvelous job on her own beloved turf.

>82 christina_reads: I read Belinda for a group read with Liz, and we are still discussing it...stop by for a taste of what you'll find, and an excellent introduction to Edgeworth and her times: https://www.librarything.com/topic/303254

And be sure you are reading the Oxford World's Classics Edition with 1802 text (or the Everyman edition with the 1801 text), as Edgeworth made many substantial revisions under pressure for the 1810 edition. Liz talks about that right away on the thread.

Feb 26, 2019, 1:10pm Top

>83 kac522: Thanks for the link to the group read! I have a free ebook edition from Girlebooks (http://girlebooks.com/ebook-catalog/maria-edgeworth/belinda/), and I don't know what edition it's based on, but I suspect it may be the 1810. :( I'll see if my library has the Oxford World's Classics edition.

Feb 26, 2019, 6:44pm Top

>84 christina_reads: Even if you haven't started, check out the thread, just to get some background info on the book. Also, I think Liz is planning an Anthony Trollope group read for March--The Kellys and the O'Kellys--one of his early Irish novels.

And Liz has done group reads of Fanny Burney's novels (Evelina, Cecilia, Camilla, The Wanderer) which you may find of interest.

Edited: Mar 1, 2019, 7:13pm Top

Liz's (lyzard) Group Read of Anthony Trollope's The Kellys and the O'Kellys is starting here:


This is one of Trollope's earliest novels and is set in pre-famine Ireland, where he was living at the time of writing.

All Welcome!

Mar 6, 2019, 9:06pm Top

13. Pansies and Water-Lilies, Louisa May Alcott
Year Published: 1887
Type: fiction, 2 short stories
Acquired: Hardcover Root from before 2009; published in 1902
My Project: AAC Challenge February: Louisa May Alcott

This little volume contains two longish stories. The very old book I have was printed in 1902, and the publication page gives the original date as 1887, which was the year before Alcott died. The first story provides discussions of what a young girl should read. And the second is the tale of a hard-working girl of very humble roots who captures the heart of a very eligible sea captain.

They are for young people, most probably aimed at teenaged girls. They do have morals and it's pretty plain to see who a young person of that Victorian era was supposed to admire.

I enjoyed the first story more than the second; three teen-aged girls discuss what they are reading. One girl is reading a "trashy" novel purely for pleasure; a second is reading Eliot's "Romola" to improve her mind; and a third is reading a travelogue from Italy. An elderly lady joins the discussion and we hear mentions of authors and books that would be considered correct reading for a young woman of the era: George Eliot, Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Sir Walter Scott.

Quote from "Pansies", in which the elderly lady gives advice to the girl who wants to "improve her mind":
"It is a very sensible desire, and I wish more girls had it. Only don't be greedy, and read too much; cramming and smattering is as bad as promiscuous novel-reading, or no reading at all."

Sounds like perhaps a young lady can be _too_ smart in this woman's (Alcott's?) mind.

Mar 11, 2019, 11:09pm Top

14. The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui
Year Published: 2017
Type: nonfiction, graphic memoir
Acquired: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library
My Project: My Dewey--900s

Thi Bui came to the US from VietNam as a 3 year old with her refugee family. Through research and her family's memories, in this graphic book memoir she tells her parents' stories before the war, during the war and their dangerous escape; their lives in their new country; and Bui's anxiety about the future for herself and her own child.

As much as this is a refugee story, it's also a universal story of families. Bui begins her book with the birth of her first child, and the memories and fears that come out with that birth. This is a memoir about children and parents: what we give, what we demand, what we resent, what we take for granted. And what is the legacy from our parents, and what is the legacy we give our children. Sometimes, as the title suggests, it's the best we could do. Powerful stuff.

Mar 11, 2019, 11:09pm Top

I found these two books on the library's "New Books" shelf, sitting side-by-side. Since they are very nearly about the same topic, I thought I'd see how they compared:

15. Reading Art: Art for Book Lovers, David Trigg
Year Published: 2018
Type: nonfiction, Books in Art
Acquired: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library
My Project: My Dewey--700s

16. The Art of Reading, Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro
Year Published: 2018
Type: nonfiction, Books in Art
Acquired: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library
My Project: My Dewey--700s

Both books were originally published in the UK in 2018, and both include works of art throughout the ages that feature the image of a book or of someone reading. There is some overlap of works featured between the two books.

David Trigg's Reading Art includes all types of art forms, including sculpture and large format conceptual art installations. The book is a smaller format, but features glossy pages so that the pictures are clear and colors vivid, but the book is very heavy. It has a brief introduction (9 pages); a handful of the works have additional detail or comment, but most just list the title, artist, year, and where held. There are over 300 plates; they seem to be organized, but it's not clear how; there are quotes about reading scattered throughout the book. This is a wonderful book for just browsing, and indeed I finished it two evenings.

In The Art of Reading Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro have provided a book focused just on the portrayal of books and reading in paintings only, so there are about 170 pictures. The book format is a bit larger; the pages are heavy paper, but the images are larger and show more detail than in Trigg's book. Camplin & Ranauro have provided almost 70 pages of introductory information about books and printing throughout history, and how that is reflected in paintings of each age. Each painting includes commentary, putting the image and artist in context. The book is organized into several themes, and the works of art are generally chronological in each section. This took several days to finish, and I learned much more about books and painting and artists from this book.

Edited: Mar 14, 2019, 11:59pm Top

17. The Kellys and the O'Kellys, Anthony Trollope
Year Published: 1848
Type: fiction
Acquired: Hardcover from the NEIU library
My Project: Project Trollope, R from 2012

I enjoyed this re-read more than the first reading. This is Trollope's second novel, but at age 33 Trollope could already write a good story, with interweaving plot lines. The book is set in pre-famine Ireland during the Daniel O'Connell trial (1844). But the story centers around two young men, a lord and a tenant farmer, who cross paths and are probably related. I was still in terror near the end of the book when the Doctor must confront the evil Barry Lynch. There are good guys and bad guys, lords and farmers, lovers and a happy ending with weddings.

However, my take-away this time is that the characters of the main males are well-done; the older women (Mrs Kelly and Lady Cashel) are delightful and real; but I was disappointed in the two young heroines. Perhaps Trollope hadn't fully understood young women at this point, but Anty and Fanny seem to lack "agency", for lack of a better word. After reading "Belinda" by Maria Edgeworth, I was expecting more from them. Still, each young woman does have her shining moments, but it's a long way from Lady Glencora and Madame Max of Trollope's "Pallisers."

Although I have an ebook version of this novel, I borrowed the Oxford World's Classics edition from the library, and the introduction & endnotes were extremely helpful. I'm still considering this a "root", since I own the book in another format.

Edited: Mar 15, 2019, 12:03am Top

18. Mr Skeffington, Elizabeth von Arnim
Year Published: 1940
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelf, LOVE the cover!
My Project: Project Virago, R from 2018


Although we're not told the exact year, it is around 1939 in Britain. Fanny Skeffington is seeing the image of her wealthy Jewish ex-husband, Job Skeffington, everywhere. Fanny, always beautiful, has recently had a devastating illness, approaching 50 with great anxiety, and has lost much of her good looks. During the 20+ years since her divorce, Fanny has had many relationships, but never re-married, as her husband has left her a substantial legacy. In a series of events to combat her feelings that she is no longer attractive, Fanny meets her ex-lovers and admirers, but none seem to her satisfaction, and none can stop the images of Mr. Skeffington. In the end, her cousin George (also a sometime admirer), re-unites Fanny with her ex-husband, who has suffered at the hands of the Nazis, and is now old, penniless and blind. Like Jane Eyre, Fanny 's "Mr. Rochester" Job (dog and all) can only recognize Fanny by her voice, and cannot be disappointed in her looks. We feel that Fanny has been "saved" by being able to "save" Job.

The book was written in 1940, and the "European situation" is a sometime background noise to Fanny's life, which most of her set are trying to avoid. Von Arnim is witty and fun most of the time; the middle sections somewhat dragged for me and seemed repetitious, but the end brought tears, albeit a bit over-dramatic. I didn't really like Fanny all that much, but von Arnim made me care (a little) about what happened to her.

And here is where my thinking went way off the rails, so bear with me. Would appreciate feedback, if you've read this book:

After I closed the book, I started wondering if Von Arnim had a larger perspective in mind. This was her last published work; she died a year later in 1941. Was Fanny representative of Britain, or perhaps the powerful European monarchies of the time: long held as the ruler of Europe, they had been largely financed by wealthy Jewish bankers.

Fanny's divorce comes just at the beginning of WWI--which coincides with a change in the axis of power in Europe for Britain and the other major powers. Fanny has a devastating illness--perhaps representative of the Great Depression/Great Slump--which changed the country's position and Europe's financial strength. Despite youth, religion, title, and some of the other aspects of life in Britain (represented by Fanny's ex-lovers), there is a growing "European situation."

And finally the Jews of Europe: the wealthy and intellectual elite (especially in Austria and Germany) who made Britain's and Europe's wealth possible (as Job made Fanny's), used as a scapegoat by the Nazis and are now left penniless and ghosts of their former selves. I think Von Arnim in 1940 might have been trying to warn Britain and western Europe that in order to save themselves, they will need to save the Jews. Not heeded in time to save millions.

This may all be a bunch of gobbledy-gook, but looking at it this way makes the book a lot more meaningful than just a selfish woman worried about losing her looks at 50. ">

Mar 15, 2019, 6:42pm Top

19. The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis, Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.
Year Published: 2003
Type: nonfiction, medical history
Acquired: hardcover from my shelf
My Project: My Dewey 600s, R from 2016

Short (190 pages) look at the life and work of Ignac Semmelweis in his quest to rid the world of puerperal fever (childbed fever and death). Semmelweis discovered in the late 1840s that women were dying in childbirth due to the germs of doctors and medical students with unclean hands, usually having just completed autopsies on patients who had died from the same fever. Unfortunately, Semmelweis was unable to convince others of the benefits of this practice. Nuland goes into some depth explaining how Semmelweis at times was his own worst enemy, since he did not do controlled experiments or publish his findings in a manner to convince others in the profession. Very interesting, and it boggles the mind to think that doctors went directly from dead bodies reeking of illness to delivering babies, without a thought to cleanliness.

Mar 18, 2019, 1:05pm Top

20. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, Alexander McCall Smith
Year Published: 2017
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardcover from my shelf, acquired in 2019
My Project: Everything Else

I have read lots of McCall Smith's books, but I almost stopped reading this one. The first half is a pleasant enough love story set during WWII, and when the title dog (Peter Woodhouse) becomes a "mascot" for the American pilots, I almost gave up, as I'm not much of an animal story reader.

But then McCall Smith shifted the action--the pilots (and their dog) are shot down over German-occupied Holland. Put into hiding, they are discovered by a German soldier who takes pity on them and does not report them, putting himself at risk. And here is where McCall Smith (in my mind) is at his greatest--presenting us with situations where people have to engage in ethical questions and decisions. The second half of the book focuses on immediate post-war Germany, and how every-day Germans questioned what they had done, what they failed to do, and how they struggled to move forward with their lives. All told in McCall Smith's easy, gentle, simple (but never simplistic) prose. Will have me thinking for a while.

Mar 24, 2019, 3:59pm Top

>91 kac522: I've got that one in my VMC collection, so I skipped over your comments - but I'll have to come back once I've read it!

And I'll take a BB for >93 kac522:!

Edited: Mar 24, 2019, 7:02pm Top

>92 kac522:. I believe I saw a movie about Semmelweis many years ago. It could have been ‘Semmelweis’ (1994). It was very interesting and I have now put the book on my Wishlist.

Edited: Mar 24, 2019, 7:48pm Top

>94 LisaMorr: Would be interested to hear your comments about von Arnim once you've read it. And hope you enjoy the McCall Smith!

>95 Zozette: I'll have to look up the film; the book is not long, and it helps that Nuland is a medical doctor. He did some original research, including looking at Semmelweis' autopsy (he died in an insane asylum). The accepted cause of Semmelweis' "madness" at the end of his life has always been attributed to syphilis, but Nuland suggests that he may have had severe Alzheimer's, based on his symptoms.

Apr 19, 2019, 10:03am Top

Hmm......RL has seemed to interfere (in both good ways and not-quite-so-good ways) with my reading the last month or so. But am happily back on track:

Currently Reading:

The Three Clerks, Trollope

Currently Listening:

David Copperfield, read by Simon Vance
Becoming, read by Michelle Obama

Coming Soon:

Edited: Apr 25, 2019, 1:23am Top


The Three Clerks, Trollope
Othello, Shakespeare

Currently reading:

Miss Buncle Married, Stevenson

May 2, 2019, 6:10pm Top

April has been and gone, and a third of 2019 has passed me by. Here's what I've been reading the last 2 months or so:

21. At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien
Year Published: 1939
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardcover from Evanston Public Library
My Project: 1001, book club

Absurd. Supposed to be funny, but I didn’t get it. The story of a writer who is writing a book about a writer, who is writing a book about a writer…..you get the picture. I skimmed a lot; didn’t understand much. Supposedly a great book in the Irish fiction tradition, a la James Joyce. Our book club discussion helped some, but not much.

22. The Man in the Brown Suit, Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1924
Type: mystery
Acquired: ebook from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Christie

Part thriller, part romance, part adventure, part boring...unusual for me with Christie, I actually stopped reading mid-way. Did go back and finish up, but didn't find the characters (a Christie stand-alone) or the story terribly compelling, or particularly believable. Ah well, an early one (1924)...on to the next one.

Edited: May 3, 2019, 12:30pm Top

23. The Three Clerks, Anthony Trollope
Year Published: 1858
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: Project Trollope; CalendarCAT—April—My mother’s birthday was in April, and Trollope was one of her favorite authors; R from 2015

Except for making myself finish the Agatha Christie (above) because it was due at the library, I had a month of non-reading, mostly due to RL issues, both good and annoying. I just couldn’t get my reading mo-jo up. For whatever reason, the next book in my quest to fill in my Trollope gaps called to me, and I sat down with The Three Clerks.

Reader, can I confess that I did not want it to end? I was hooked on this book from the beginning. It’s the story of 3 young twenty-something men who work for the British Civil Service, and of course their entanglements with 3 sisters of similar ages. Trollope is very much our narrator, and he clearly favors one young man and one young woman in his tale. Sources say that young Charley is partly based on Trollope’s own early working life. Toward the end we are introduced to the lawyer Mr Chaffanbrass, who will come back to rescue Phineas Finn years later. You can feel Trollope enjoying himself as he’s writing. And Trollope is reminding you throughout that it is a story, and he’s (somewhat) in control.

There are, of course, bumps along the road for our heroes and heroines, and a particularly evil character, Undy Scott, weaves his way throughout. It is a sweet story, with trials and a little politics and a lot of love. Trollope wrote this in 1858, about 8 years after Dickens’ David Copperfield, which I happened to be listening to at the same time. There are similarities, but there are great differences, too. There were some other “Dickens” spotting in the book: the slovenly Mrs Gamp of Martin Chuzzlewit makes an appearance, and a reference is made to a visit to Madame Mantalini, the dressmaker in Nicholas Nickleby. But most surprisingly Trollope spends the better part of an entire chapter comparing the evil Bill Sykes (of Oliver Twist fame) and Trollope’s own evil character Undy Scott, arguing that Undy was by far the greater evil.

I loved this book; probably most others will find it simple and predictable, a bit sentimental, and except for young Katie, the women seem rather dull. But this book is a keeper for me. And it was just the right book at the right time, because I’m back reading again.

24. Othello, William Shakespeare
Year Published: abt 1603
Type: drama
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: Book Club; R from before 2009

Intense. Dark. Difficult to read, and even more difficult to watch a performance afterward (I rented a DVD with Ian McKellen as Iago). Our book club discussion helped to break it down a bit, but it seemed like line after line of negativity and evil. Way too much like the news of today. Spoiler alert: (almost) everybody dies in the end.

May 2, 2019, 6:12pm Top

25. You Can’t Get There from Here, Ogden Nash, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak
Year Published: 1957
Type: poems
Acquired: hardcover purchased at library sale April 2019
My Project: Everything Else
My dad wasn’t much of a book reader. Of course, he read the newspaper every day, but I can’t recall ever seeing him sit down with a book. He had a handful of books on his dresser: The Caine Mutiny, Lorna Doone, a Robert Benchley. But we all remember one particular book: Versus, poems by Ogden Nash. He would occasionally read a few to us or recite specific lines--“Consider the Lapel, Sir”:

Have you bought a suit at Spand and Spitz?
They won’t let you wear it unless it fits.
When here comes Spitz and here comes Spand,
They look at you like a swollen gland.

So when I found You Can’t Get There from Here a few weeks back at a library sale, I had to pick it up. It is an old copy from the 1950s, with delightful illustrations by Maurice Sendak. These poems are about 15 years later than Versus; several discuss the pros and cons of being a grandparent.

I’m not one much for poetry, but these were mostly fun, although I’m sure I missed many contemporary references. There’s an “ode” of sorts to Lincoln, and the final poem says much:

Senescence begins
And middle age ends
The day your descendants
Outnumber your friends.

Edited: May 3, 2019, 12:38pm Top

26. Audiobook: David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, read by Simon Vance
Year Published: 1850
Type: fiction
Acquired: Audiobook from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Dickens (re-read)

I believe I’ve only read David Copperfield once, about 10 years ago. I don’t recall being particularly impressed with it, but it was good, although a bit strange and sentimental. Listening to the book being read (brilliantly by Simon Vance) was a different experience than reading. I think I felt the characters more, the dialogue, and less the sentimentality. I was weary of Dora, but didn’t hate her. I think the listening (30+ CDs) gave the book a breadth and scope which I missed the first time around.

Copperfield is said to be the closest to Dickens’ own life of all his novels, and it is told in the first person, so that we feel close to our narrator. I found the strongest part of the book his remembrances as a child, through a child’s eyes. It reminded me of my own fleeting memories of childhood people and places and events.

As David becomes a man, it is all the surrounding characters that take over. There are the ones too good to be true (Agnes and Sophy); the lovable ones (Mr Dick and Traddles); the unusual characters (the Pegottys and Ham); the evil ones (Murdstones, Miss Dartle, Steerforth); and the TRULY evil Uriah Heep. And above all there is the wonderful Aunt Betsey Trotwood, who I think one of Dickens’ best female characters. She is strong, she is practical, and loving in her own way, yet she has weaknesses and nearly falls to them.

Since I was reading Trollope’s The Three Clerks at the same time that I was listening to David, I couldn’t help but compare how the two writers fashioned the story of their younger lives for their readers. Trollope’s characters one could meet anywhere, and yet he always tells us this is a story. Dickens’ characters and events are so unusual and out of the norm, that it is hard to conceive meeting with a Mr. Pegotty on the road. And yet they are memorable, too. And both stories have the “heroes” dabble into writing at the end and characters in both books end up in Australia, that land of hope and promise. In the end, I think I knew Trollope’s Charley better than I knew dear Mas’r Davy. But no matter—it was a delightful re-read.

27. Miss Buncle Married, D. E. Stevenson
Year Published: 1936
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: Project Stevenson; R from 2018

I picked this up immediately after finishing Othello—which was a very good antidote. I found the second book not quite as funny as the first (Miss Buncle’s Book). It seemed to wander here and there—Miss Buncle is married, they move to a new town. I did love when she “explored” her new home and imagined how it could look. The story of Jerry and Sam didn’t do much for me. It was a pleasant read, and I’ll continue with the series, but I have to say these books just don’t come close (for me) to the Mrs Tim books. I’m not giving up on Stevenson so soon, without giving some of her other books set in Scotland a fair shake.

May 2, 2019, 6:14pm Top

Stats through the first third of 2019:

Total books = 27; on track to finish 75 at year's end

Fiction = 20
Nonfiction = 6
Poems = 1

From the library = 10
From my shelves (Roots) = 15; well on my way to my goal of 40 for the year
Purchased & read this year = 2
Audiobook = 1

15 Male authors
12 Female authors (will need to tackle some Virago to set this right)

Across the centuries:

pre 1800 = 1 book (Othello)
1800 - 1899 = 6 books
1900 - 1939 = 7
1940 - 1999 = 7
2000 - 2019 = 6

Currently reading:

On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
My Ideal Bookshelf, La Force and Mount

May 2, 2019, 8:50pm Top

>100 kac522: I just downloaded Othello from Audiobook Sync today. It's one of the free titles this week.

May 2, 2019, 10:11pm Top

>104 thornton37814: It is very intense. It is hard to find anything positive to take away. But I can say that McKellen's performance as Iago was pure evil, especially with a bit of brogue rolled in. I have not seen Kenneth Branagh's Iago, which is also supposed to be superb.

May 2, 2019, 10:23pm Top

>105 kac522: I've read Othello a couple times so I know what to expect.

May 3, 2019, 4:14am Top

>100 kac522: Thanks for the Trollope review. I'm really looking forward to it now.

May 3, 2019, 12:32pm Top

>107 MissWatson: I hope you enjoy it! It was the right book at the right time for me.

Edited: May 12, 2019, 12:42am Top

Irving Berlin would be 131 years old today. Here's a thoughtful re-work of one of his most famous songs by Gary Nicholson:


Thanks to Rich Warren for playing this tonight on WFMT's The Midnight Special (www.wfmt.com).

May 31, 2019, 11:05pm Top

Time to summarize May reading:

28. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
Year Published: 2007
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardback from my shelves
My Project: RandomCAT April--Tournament of Books; R from 2016

A disastrous wedding night. McEwan's narrative of the event left me cold, but he does excel in the back stories of the bride and groom. These were so much more interesting than the present. Plus the brief wrap-up at the end only follows the groom; disappointing.

29. Hard Lines, poems by Ogden Nash
Year Published: 1931
Type: poetry
Acquired: hardback from my shelves
My Project: R from 2014

Tattered first edition, that I believe was Nash's first complete volume of poems. A young Nash in these poems, and were fun reading.

May 31, 2019, 11:05pm Top

30. My Ideal Bookshelf, Thessaly LaForce and Jane Mount
Year Published: 2012
Type: books about books
Acquired: hardback from Chicago Public Library
My Project: My Dewey 028.9

An interesting concept: a handrawn illustration of each featured person's favorite books on a "shelf". I enjoyed reading each person's thoughts on books and reading. Interesting to see the selections of writers. However, I would have liked a broader base of people--these seemed mostly creative East coast types. And way too many chefs.

31. Bibliophile: An Illustrated Bibliophile, Jane Mount
Year Published: 2018
Type: books about books
Acquired: hardback from Chicago Public Library
My Project: My Dewey 028.9

I wanted to love this book. I liked a lot of things about it: Organizing by topic; side pages on interesting bookstores and libraries; wonderfully illustrated by Mount. But the choice of books left a lot to be desired (for me, anyway). Seemed like 90% of the books were from 1980 and later; THIRTEEN pages on food and cooking; only TWO pages on history; NO pages on art, music, philosophy, religion, little on the sciences--so many topics left out. If you were born 1970 or later, you'll probably love this book, but to me it was missing a lot.

May 31, 2019, 11:06pm Top

32. Lost in Yonkers, play by Neil Simon
Year Published: 1991
Type: drama
Acquired: paperback from Chicago Public Library
My Project: My Dewey 800s (812.54); for my RL Book Club

Often considered one of Simon's best plays, this was funny, yet with an underlying note of hopelessness. The characters are fantastic; the lines are snappy; but the underlying serious, no nonsense mood is set by Grandma, a woman who fled Germany when Hitler came to power. The "showdown" between "simple" daughter Bertha and Grandma is electric.

33. The Secret of Chimneys, Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1925
Type: mystery
Acquired: ebook from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Agatha

Although I certainly didn't have this one figured out, I was able to follow the details and characters much better than the previous Christie (The Man in the Brown Suit). This book introduces Inspector Battle. Nice diversion with likable characters, for the most part.

May 31, 2019, 11:07pm Top

Well, if I don't get distracted, I should be half-way to 75 books by the end of June, so I'm satisfied. Just need to be sure most of them are "Roots."

Currently reading:

Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky

Half-way through listening to:

Becoming, Michelle Obama

Some possible upcoming reads:

The Two Mrs. Abbotts, D. E. Stevenson
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews
Emmeline, Charlotte Smith

Jun 3, 2019, 11:46am Top

>112 kac522: I've always had a soft spot for The Secret of Chimneys. The Seven Dials Mystery is sort of like a sequel -- it features a couple of the minor characters from Chimneys, and Superintendent Battle has a prominent role.

Jun 3, 2019, 4:09pm Top

>114 christina_reads: Ahh. Thanks! I've been trying to read them "in order" for the most part, but perhaps a slight diversion is called for here, while I still remember most of "Chimneys."

Jun 3, 2019, 6:36pm Top

>115 kac522: I'm not sure you need to have the events of Chimneys fresh in your mind, so I'm hesitant to recommend that you disrupt your reading order! There are characters in common, but not really any plot events that overlap, as I recall.

Edited: Jun 6, 2019, 11:27pm Top


Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky (solid 4 stars)

Currently reading:

Emmeline, Charlotte Turner Smith
The Infinite Variety of Music, Leonard Bernstein (transcripts of a selection of television programs circa 1958-1965)

Still listening:
Becoming, Michelle Obama

Next up:
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews

Edited: Jul 25, 2019, 7:01pm Top

Annual Newberry Library book sale this weekend! Out of the 150,000+ books, I acquired these 10:

The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West -- I read this in 2016 (library copy) and wanted my own
Madame de Treymes and Three Novellas, Edith Wharton

Two Elizabeth Bowens:

Death of the Heart
Stories by Elizabeth Bowen, a collection of 18 stories from prior collections

Two Anthony Trollopes I didn't have:

John Caldigate and Harry Heathcote of Gangoil

and four Virago editions:

The World My Wilderness, Rose Macaulay
One Fine Day, Mollie Panter-Downes
An Unsocial Socialist, Bernard Shaw (a novel!)
Summer Will Show, Sylvia Townsend Warner

Also some sheet music:
The Weavers Songbook
Tom Paxton: Ramblin' Boy and Other Songs

and a really interesting 1935 songbook:

Rebel Song Book: 87 Socialist and Labor Songs for Voice and Piano, Compiled by Samuel H. Friedman of Rebels Arts, issued by Rand School Press, NY.

Has a lot of union, IWW and protest songs, set to folk tunes, hymns and spirituals. An interesting piece of history--some titles of the songs:
"Hail, Working Class"
"Paint 'Er Red"
"Solidarity Forever"
"Song of the Lower Classes"
and many more like these.

Jul 26, 2019, 3:20am Top

Yay to a successful book sale! Those are very intriguing titles.

Edited: Sep 4, 2019, 10:29pm Top

Now that September is here, time to report on my Summer reading:


34. Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky, translated from the French by Sandra Smith
Year Published: 2004; written 1941-42
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: Root from before 2009

First published in 2004 by her surviving daughter, Nemirovsky originally conceived this work in 5 sections. She was only able to complete 2 sections in 1941-42 before she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1942. The first section follows several families as they flee Paris; the second section focuses on a small town where some of these Parisian had fled to, but was now occupied by German troops. This is more about the various levels of social class and rank in French society that reaches a crisis point during war. She explores the nationalism/patriotism of the French vs the animosity between the classes...at times they are at each other's throats and yet at times any Frenchman is better than a despised German. She explores the mentality of the occupier vs. the mentality of the occupied. The book has many levels. And everywhere there is a running thread of the obsession, hoarding, stealing and dreaming of food. It often takes over every other instinct. Fascinating novel; one can only imagine what a masterpiece the full work might have been.

35. Emmeline, Charlotte Smith
Year Published: 1788
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: Root from 2015

An interesting step in the history of women's writing, but overall a rather tedious read. The characters got confusing, the plot was sometimes odd, and the end was at break-neck speed. However Smith does point out the many ways women's every movements were ruled by men and/or society’s rules, and often abused. Liz's group read kept me plugging along, but I doubt if I'll read another Charlotte Smith novel.

36. The Two Mrs. Abbotts, D. E. Stevenson
Year Published: 1943
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Stevenson

I enjoyed the third installment in the “Miss Buncle” books more than its predecessor Miss Buncle Married. Set during WWII, Barbara Buncle Abbott is more of a background figure, while other characters come in and out of the story. So far, I enjoyed the first book the most, but there is still one more book (The Four Graces) in the series.

37. The Infinite Variety of Music, Leonard Bernstein,
Year Published: 1966; this edition 1993
Type: essays on music and musical analysis
Acquired: paperback from Chicago Public Library
My Project: My Dewey (700s)

This is a compilation of several transcripts of Bernstein’s TV programs from the 1950s, several essays, and detailed musical analysis of several symphonic works. I loved it. I was even able to find on YouTube one of the original TV programs so that I could watch and listen as well as follow the transcript in the book. Bernstein is so accessible and has such wonderful rapport with his audience. Being the nerd that I am, I really delved into the very technical musical analysis, especially the Brahms Symphony, which I have heard dozens of times. Bernstein highlighted how Brahms states, re-states, and develops themes, using just 2 or 3 notes, to create a melodic and dramatic whole. Got this from the library, but I might hunt down my own copy.

38. Fathers and Son, Ivan Turgenev, translated from the Russian by Richard Freeborn
Year Published: 1862
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: Root from 1980

A very readable novel of 19th century Russian values, and how the younger generation rebels against the values of the older generation. Not much happens; there’s a lot of political and theoretical dialogue; but there’s a story line, too. Short, powerful, and well worth the time put in to read this masterpiece.

Edited: Sep 6, 2019, 10:31pm Top

More Summer reading:

39. The Guilty River, Wilkie Collins
Year Published: 1886
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: BAC for June; Root from 2016

Short novella that starts out with lots of atmosphere and mystery, but the end was confusing and disappointing.

40. Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
Year Published: 1957
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: TBRCAT for June; Root from 2015

Just loved the references to the town and environs, knowing that it was based on Waukegan. The boys' young lives in the 1920s were a joy to read. The book feels to have been written as short stories or vignettes, but the final product does hold together pretty well. A great summer read.

41. The Seven Dials Mystery, Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1929
Type: mystery
Acquired: e-book from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Agatha

I do like Superintendent Battle, but as always, I was completely befuddled in this mystery. Dame Agatha kept me off the track once again.

42. The Last Days of Night, Graham Moore,
Year Published: 2016
Type: historical fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: CalendarCAT July—Nikola Tesla’s July birthday; RL Book Club

This book is historical fiction about the light bulb patent controversy, and ultimately, the race to spread electricity throughout the USA, featuring Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. A very readable book, although much is imagined by the author. However, I appreciated his endnotes, which outlined what was historical fact in the book, what was changed in time, and what was made up by him. The book is told from the point of view of Paul Cravath, Westinghouse's lawyer. But I still found the imagined dialogue irritating, as well as his imagined relationship with his girlfriend Agnes. I think I would rather have read a non-fiction version of this period in history.

Sep 6, 2019, 11:55pm Top

Rounding out My Summer reading:

43. Home: a Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews
Year Published: 2008
Type: memoir
Acquired: hardcover from my shelves
My Project: My Dewey nonfiction (700s); CalendarCAT May; TBRCAT May; Root from 2017

I don’t read a lot of celebrity memoirs, but Julie Andrews has always been one of my favorite performers since I was a young girl. Andrews had a difficult young life, and yet her attitude seems upbeat and strong. She performed with her parents from an early age, and was often traveling. It gave me some idea of what my own grandfather's young life must have been like with his performing parents in early 20th century Britain. Not too much name-dropping and mostly positive, this was an interesting look at the performer's life, without feeling gossipy.

44. The Market Square, Miss Read
Year Published: 1966
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelves
My Project: Project Miss Read; TBRCat August; Root from 2018

Enjoyed the first book ("The Market Square") of the Caxley Chronicles which covers two families in the fictional English market town of Caxley circa 1901-1930. Particularly interesting was the way Miss Read describes the subtleties of class division within the small town of Caxley at the turn of the 20th Century. The next book covers 1939-1945.

45. Leaving Home, Anita Brookner
Year Published: 2005
Type: fiction
Acquired: e-book from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Brookner; BAC August

I’m winding up my reading of all Brookner's novels. As in most of her novels, not much happens and the characters are almost too normal. But what we are reading is the Henry James-like inner workings of the mind, how people think through and analyze their situations, sometimes for the best, sometimes not. And often how people re-think and re-consider, over and over and over again. You can’t read many of these novels in a row, but if spaced out, they can be a very rewarding experience of how the average person works out life's challenges and inconsistencies.

46. The Second Worst Restaurant in France, Alexander McCall Smith
Year Published: 2019
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardcover from the Chicago Public Library
My Project: SeriesCAT August

A follow-up to McCall Smith's My Italian Bulldozer, with the same lead character, Paul. The usual sweetness of McCall Smith, weaved into ramblings on ethics and love. Paul finds himself in a small village in France, where he hopes to finish his current culinary book, but ends up involved in rescuing a local restaurant from certain demise. Not life-changing, but comforting.

47. Little Boy Lost, Marghanita Laski
Year Published: 1949
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback purchased this year
My Project: Virago/Persephone Read the 1940s

At a library sale earlier this year I spotted this book published by Persephone. Title and author were completely unknown to me, but the blurbs on the cover suggested a WWII story. What a powerful little book, about a British soldier tracing his lost son in post-war France. Vivid descriptions of the people and devastation after the war. So many ethical issues raised in 220 pages, and yet a compelling, emotional story, too. Quite the page-turner, and yet a story with meaning and raising important questions about war, loyalty, family, love.

48. Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
Year Published: 1937
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from Chicago Public Library
My Project: RL Book Club

Apparently, this is Waugh poking fun at 1930s journalism and British colonialism. The satirical beginning and ending sections in England are very funny. The attempts at humor in Africa are embarrassing, if not downright offensive for their blatant racial slurs and stereotypes. Supposedly references to the newspaper biz and what we would today call "fake news" is spot-on, but I was turned off by the racist language from the beginning. I seemed to be the only one in my book club group (6 of us) who found the book extremely offensive—most shrugged it off as typical of the time. I just couldn’t ignore it.

49. The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece, Eric Siblin
Year Published: 2009
Type: nonfiction; music; biography
Acquired: paperback from Chicago Public Library
My Project: My Dewey nonfiction (700s); Root from 2018

I’ve always loved several of the Cello Suites (or various movements played alone), in particular those played by Segovia on guitar. So I had high hopes for this book about J. S. Bach, the cellist Pablo Casals and the Cello Suites. I was expecting a detailed musical analysis of Bach's Cello Suites (a la Bernstein—see my books in June). But, this was not to be. Author Eric Siblin is a rock/pop music writer, who can play some chords on guitar, but has never been a classical music buff. Somehow, he became enraptured with these solo cello pieces of Bach and with their "discoverer", Pablo Casals. Despite my disappointment with a writer who can't read music, he still weaves interesting stories of Bach's life and musical career, Casals' life & discovery of the Suites, and Siblin's own discovery of classical music. Probably fascinating for those with a passing interest in classical music, but who have never rigorously studied it. But I was wanting more than these short histories of Bach and Casals and their times.

50. Becoming, Michelle Obama, read by the author
Year Published: 2018
Type: memoir
Acquired: audiobook from the Chicago Public Library
My Project: My Dewey nonfiction (900s)

Michelle Robinson Obama takes us through the story of her life. I particularly enjoyed her memories of childhood, her family, and growing up in Chicago. I was less interested in the political hurdles, but her vision is clear. She talks straight and her family comes first. Little anecdotes about living in the White House told from her no-nonsense middle-class urban upbringing were eye-opening for those of us far, far removed from that arena. But always driving her is a vision for women, girls and people out of the mainstream white society. Just listening to this audiobook, which was read by the author, was comforting during these stressful times.

Sep 7, 2019, 12:14am Top

Stats through the second "third" (middle trimester? first eight months?) of 2019:

Total books = 50; on track to finish 75 at year's end

Fiction = 35
Nonfiction & memoirs = 12
Poetry & plays = 3

From the library = 21
From my shelves: Roots = 25; a little short toward my goal of 40 for the year--will need to work on this, and stay away from the library!
From my shelves: Purchased & actually read this year = 4 (don't let this fool you; I've purchased MANY more than 4 this year)
Audiobooks = 2

26 Male authors
24 Female authors (will need to tackle even more Virago reads to set this right)

Across the centuries:

pre 1800 = 2 books
1800 - 1899 = 8
1900 - 1939 = 11
1940 - 1999 = 14
2000 - 2019 = 15--I'm always amazed at how many "current" books I read; I feel like I'm mostly reading older books, but it's just not true.

Currently reading:

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Gaines
Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, Chadwick
Is Heathcliff a Murderer?: Great Puzzles in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Sutherland
The World of Jane Austen, Nicolson

And coming soon:
Good Evening, Mrs Craven, Panter-Downes

Sep 16, 2019, 11:11am Top

I'll take a BB for Little Boy Lost.

I hope you like Good Evening, Mrs Craven - I enjoyed that one!

Edited: Sep 16, 2019, 1:58pm Top

>124 LisaMorr: Thanks for stopping by! I got a lot out of Little Boy Lost; made me think of the war from perspectives I had not thought about before. I need to see if my library has any other books by Laski.

And I'm looking forward to Molly Panter-Downes; I've read the intro, but am holding off on the book until I finish a few others.

Sep 16, 2019, 2:16pm Top

Oct 21, 2019, 10:22pm Top

September and October are turning out fairly productive, at least--(knock-on-wood)--so far:

51. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest Gaines
Year Published: 1971
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardcover from my shelves
My Project: AAC; R from 2016

This is an important book about the social history of slavery and its aftermath, and should be part of every school's curriculum. That said, I did not find the narrative as compelling as Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying, and I have to admit several times my interest waned. But we need this book as part of our history.

52. A Cafecito Story, Julia Alvarez
Year Published: 2001
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardcover from my shelves
My Project: Dewey 800s

This is a very small book about the growing of coffee in South America. 4 stars for the woodcuts. Story is interesting, but not sure it merits an entire book. Or make the text a bit simpler and it could be a middle-school book.

53. Audiobook: The Diary of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell, read by Robin Laing
Year Published: 2017
Type: memoir
Acquired: audiobook from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Everything Else

This was a lot of fun to listen to, and worked out well in the car. Bythell organizes the book by each day, giving the till total, customers served & events of the day, so it was easy to stop & start, and not lose the train of thought. Robin Laing was a wonderful reader, with spot-on Scottish dialogue for the various customers. Learned a lot about the book-selling business and some about Scotland. Bythell is a bit of a curmudgeon; don't think I'd like to work for him, but I hope one day I can visit the shop.

54. The Department of Sensitive Crimes, Alexander McCall Smith
Year Published: 2019
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardcover from the Chicago Public Library
My Project: SeriesCAT September

McCall Smith writes a "Scandi blanc" detective book, set in Malmo. Swedish sensitivity and ethical behavior and werewolves, all in one book. Fun stuff.

55. The Best American Spiritual Writing 2008, Philip Zaleski, editor
Year Published: 2008
Type: essay collection
Acquired: paperback
My Project: R from 2009

I found the essay selections uneven; all pieces were taken from magazines or journals in 2007. I especially enjoyed Walter Isaacson's essay on Einstein, essays on growing up Orthodox by Ben Birnbaum and Noah Feldman, Paul Elie's essay on Reinhold Niebuhr, the essay on a Shanghai priest by Adam Minter, Oliver Sacks' description of a musical amnesiac and Richard Rodriguez's short rant. Most I have completely forgotten or didn't quite see how they fit the spiritual writing theme. I wish the essays had been organized in some thematic fashion, instead of alphabetical by author.

Dec 2, 2019, 3:09am Top

It's Small Book Month!

After I finish my current read (Scenes from Clerical Life, George Eliot), I'm hanging out with little books that are 200 pages or less. Hoping to get more books outa here before the New Year.

Dec 2, 2019, 4:17am Top

>128 kac522: Sounds like a great plan to fill in the gaps before the end of the year!

Dec 2, 2019, 4:21am Top

>127 kac522: I have both of Shaun Blythell's books on my list for next year as well as Three Things You Need To Know About Rockets in which the author goes to work in Shaun's bookshop.

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 12:41pm Top

>130 JayneCM: Our library doesn't have Bythell's second book yet. I'll have to look out for the other one--it's new to me--thanks!

Dec 2, 2019, 5:41pm Top

>131 kac522: My library does have the second book but there is a LOONG wait on it - I may not get it for months!

Dec 2, 2019, 7:03pm Top

Catching up here--October reading:

56. Augustine: A Very Short Introduction by Henry Chadwick
Year Published: Originally published 1986; this edition 2001
Type: biography, theology
Acquired: R from 2017
My Project: MyDewey: 100s

Much of this was over my head, but did learn that Augustine was heavily influenced by Ambrose of Milan, whose church we visited in Milan.

57. Heidi by Johanna Spyri; William Sharp, illustrator; Helen Dole, translator
Year Published: 1880; this edition from 1945
Type: children's fiction
Acquired: R from before 2009
My Project: TBRCat September: Classics

As a child, I owned an edition very much like this one; more "religious" than I remember it, but many good thoughts, intentions and actions. A pleasure to read.

58. Good Evening, Mrs Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes by Mollie Panter-Downes
Year Published: Stories originally published between 1939 and 1944; this collection published 1999
Type: short stories
Acquired: R from 2017
My Project: Virago Read the 1940s

So utterly English. Each story is insightful and well-crafted. Many of the stories from the point of view of upper-middle class dealing with war, shortages, loss, change and evacuees.

59. Is Heathcliff a Murderer? by John Sutherland
Year Published: 1999
Type: literary essays
Acquired: R from 2017
My Project: MyDewey: 800s

Fun stuff. Sutherland explores puzzles and apparent inconsistencies in 19th centurry novels. I especially appreciated the genealogy charts of Middlemarch, and may need to re-read Middlemarch (again) to totally understand all the relationships.

60. The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope
Year Published: 1859
Type: fiction
Acquired: R from 2015
My Project: Trollope

Similar to The Three Clerks, this story follows three young men (and two young women) as they choose careers and navigate love. I can't say I really liked any of these characters a whole lot. Each seems to have a sort of tragic flaw that gets in the way of what they want out of life. As Trollope generally is for me, it was a page-turner, but I don't think it's going to stay in my long-term memory, except for the foreign scenes in Jerusalem and Cairo.

61. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
Year Published: 1915
Type: dramatic poetry
Acquired: R from before 2009
My Project: AAC October (American drama)

Technically not a play, but a series of poetic monologues, often performed like a drama. Set in a small town cemetery in turn of the century Illinois, the deceased speak their poetic epitaphs. I could have used a professor to explain the poetic lines. I maybe understood about half of it. It also seemed cynical, but maybe I wasn't reading the lines as they were meant to be delivered.

Dec 2, 2019, 7:04pm Top

Even more October reads:

62. Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon
Year Published: 1983
Type: drama
Acquired: Paperback from my shelf bought in 2019
My Project: AAC October (American drama)

Funny, yet poignant. Simon thinly veils his youth; set in 1937, one can feel the generational & pre-war tensions in the family as concern is raised over Jewish family still in Europe.

63. Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence & Robert Lee
Year Published: 1955
Type: drama
Acquired: R from before 2009
My Project: AAC October (American drama)

Loosely based on the Scopes trial, of the 3 plays I read, this was the most powerful and still seems relevant these many years later.

64. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Year Published: 2006
Type: novel
Acquired: R from 2015
My Project: Reading Thru Time: Loss

A book about the power of story and memory, using Dickens and Great Expectations, set in 1991 Papua New Guinea during war. Despite the unlikely pairing of a tropical island setting with 19th century London, this story worked. But I was not expecting the last third of the book to be quite so intense. Some extreme violent events in the book disturbed me, and although probably very true, I'm not sure they were necessary to the impact of the novel as a whole.

65. The Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubbs
Year Published: 1953
Type: novel
Acquired: Chicago Public Library
My Project: my RL book club; CalendarCAT: October

The original novel is loosely based on a real-life serial killer during the Depression, which has connections to my hometown, Park Ridge, Ill. I've never seen the thriller movie starring Robert Mitchum made from the book, but the novel was very scary. Particularly effective was that the book is told from a young boy's perspective.

66. Think Like a Freak by S. Dubner & S. Levitt
Year Published: 2014
Type: nonfiction, behavioral economics
Acquired: Chicago Public Library
My Project: MyDewey: 100s

Follow-up to Freakonomics, this book covers much of the same territory by showing examples of how to evaluate long-held assumptions about economics and human behavior. I love Dubner's Freakonomics Radio podcasts, so this was fun for me.

67. The Howards of Caxley, Book 2 of the "Caxley Chronicles" by Miss Read
Year Published: 1967
Type: novel
Acquired: R from 2018
My Project: Project Miss Read

The next in my series reading of Miss Read, this installment covers the WWII years in Caxley Village, and follows the Howards as life changes, war and progress touch the town.

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 7:05pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Dec 2, 2019, 8:09pm Top

>134 kac522: I may need to borrow your Miss Read project idea. I have been wanting to read all her books for a while. Maybe 2021!

Dec 2, 2019, 9:10pm Top

>136 JayneCM: I started a few years ago, based on BB here on LT. But I had a hard time finding a complete set of the books in libraries here. But as luck would have it, someone made a huge donation of an almost complete set of Miss Read books to an annual used book sale at the Newberry Library here in Chicago. Amongst the 150,000 books at the sale, I managed to find at least 12 or 13 that I had not read yet, so now I have almost a complete set. Just missing one or two!

Dec 3, 2019, 12:33am Top

>137 kac522: How lucky! They are probably lovely editions too - I love older books.

Dec 3, 2019, 9:37pm Top

>137 kac522: Great score! :D

Edited: Dec 3, 2019, 10:05pm Top

>139 rabbitprincess: Thanks! This was in 2018. The sale is so huge and popular that the guy who runs it writes a blog, where he peaks your interest by luring you with interesting donations they've received throughout the year. One day he mentioned the Miss Read donations a few months before the sale. The sale runs 5 days in July, and I had to go twice to find them all, but I was very, very happy.

Edited: Dec 9, 2019, 2:47pm Top

November reading, part 1:

68. Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor
Year Published: 1946
Type: fiction
Acquired: Paperback R from before 2017
My Project: Taylor

Written in 1946, this little book pulls in elements of Austen, Bronte and Wilkie Collins. Orphan Cassandra Dashwood is hired as governess at a country manor house by a widowed father to teach his daughter. The house is in disrepair, the family that live there are also in disrepair, and yet they are all drawn to this house. We hear from both upstairs and downstairs folk. In fact it is the downstairs folk who mention the outside world (Technicolor, "Pride and Prejudice" playing at the local cinema), so the setting is probably circa 1940. But as far as I recall the war is never mentioned. Our heroine is a shy Fanny Price type with Catherine Morland gothic images in her head. But the bulk of the story revolves around the family that lives there and is slowing disintegrating. Every sentence is well-crafted, but the characters are hard to like.

69. Strangers by Anita Brookner
Year Published: 2009
Type: fiction
Acquired: Chicago Public Library ebook
My Project: Brookner; BAC Jewish Connection

Anita Brookner is never an easy read. She is always inside the head of her main character in a Henry James sort of way, confronting insecurities, loneliness and in this book, approaching the last years of one's life. These are psychological books that have to be read slowly, and in the right mood. In this book, her last full-length novel, Paul Sturgis, 72, finds that his newly unbusy retired life has revealed how little time he has spent in his life forming relationships with others. And there is a restlessness in his own home, sort of uncomfortable in his own skin. I have reached the last of Brookner's novels, each bringing that unique introspection which is enlightening, but also wearying.

70. The Cut Out Girl by Bart Van Es
Year Published: 2018
Type: nonfiction: memoir/biography
Acquired: Chicago Public Library
My Project: Reading through Time: Marginalized Peoples

This is a memoir/biography in which Van Es (born in the Netherlands, now living & teaching in the UK) researches his Dutch family's role during WWII to save Dutch Jewish children, but finds the story (and the Dutch resistance in general) is not exactly as it seems. The book focuses on one girl that was hidden by his grandparents, who the author was able to interview at length in her 80s. A side of the Holocaust that was new for me, and, despite the personal nature of his story, told with compassion and candor from the author.

71. Letters from Lamledra: Cornwall 1914-1918 by Marjorie Williams
Year Published: 2007; original letters form 1914-1918, and several pieces from 1940s.
Type: nonfiction: collected letters
Acquired: paperback purchased in 2019
My Project: BAC: memoir/biography

from Marjorie Williams' sketchbook at the Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall

Collected by Williams' granddaughter, these letters are (mostly) from Marjorie tending the farm in Cornwall to her husband, Sir John Fischer Williams, who was working in London during WWI (and later to become a major player in the formation of the League of Nations). Marjorie Williams (1880-1961) became a well-known artist in Cornwall in both painting and embroidery. These letters are chatty and comforting, but never forgetting the "real" world of war. You can feel she is trying to give her husband some sense of normal day-to-day living in Cornwall, with updates on the children, the flowers and vegetables, the upkeep of the buildings, the neighbors, the weather and the changing landscape. I picked up this little book at a small used bookshop on Lake Superior (how it managed to get there, I'll never know) as an afterthought, and it's turned out to be one of my most enjoyable reads of this year: so engaging and genuine. Perhaps one day I'll get to view Marjorie Williams' work in person at the Falmouth Art Gallery in Cornwall.

72. Johann Sebastian Bach: Play by Play by Alan Rich, book and CD
Year Published: 1995
Type: nonfiction, music, JS Bach
Acquired: CD and small hardcover purchased in 2019
My Project: MyDewey: 700s

This is a nifty book/CD combo I found at a library sale. The book is the size of a CD case containing 150 pages of material, and a sleeve for the CD in the back. The two works on the CD are J. S. Bach's Cantata 147 (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring) and Cantata 80 (A Might Fortress is Our God), performed by The Bach Ensemble, Joshua Rifkin, conductor. Alan Rich's book gives background chapters on the Baroque era, Bach's life, and the development of the cantata form. Then follows "play-by-play" chapters that walk through main ideas of each work (with appropriate time markers on the CD, so you can follow along). Such a neat idea--I hope I can find a few more of these--supposedly several were made in the series.

Dec 9, 2019, 3:36pm Top

November reading, part 2:

73. The World of Jane Austen by Nigel Nicolson, photographs by Stephen Colover
Year Published: this edition 1997; original text published 1991
Type: nonfiction, Austen
Acquired: Oversized Paperback purchased in 2019
My Project: MyDewey 800s

Interesting way to follow the life & times of Austen through photographs and accompanying text of the places she lived, may have visited and/or influenced her works. A useful addition to my Austen books, and fun to just browse the pictures and dream of places to visit.

74. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Year Published: 1606; Folger paperback edition 2013
Type: drama
Acquired: paperback from my shelf R from 2015
My Project: My RL Book club; Everything else

Generated lots of good discussion at my RL book club. As with any Shakespeare, one is always surprised by all the well-known quotes and lines. I also viewed the dark, minimalist 1979 RSC TV production with Ian McKellen/Judi Dench, and directed by Trevor Nunn.

75. The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1932
Type: mystery, short stories
Acquired: Chicago Public Library hardcover
My Project: Christie; Series CAT: female protagonist (Miss Marple)

Miss Marple stars in these 13 stories from St. Mary Mead's "Tuesday Night Club." I like Christie in the short story format; I even guessed the correct villain in one of the stories--a first for me!

76. Quicksand by Nella Larsen
Year Published: 1928
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback purchased in 2019
My Project: Reading through Time: Marginalized people

This is the first short novel by Larsen, which has many autobiographical elements. Larsen was born in 1891 in Chicago to a white Danish immigrant mother and an African laborer from the Danish West Indies; the character in the book, Helga Crane, has a similar background. The novel explores Helga's experiences and attitudes on class, race and sex, and how her bi-racial status makes her feel out of place everywhere she goes. Shockingly honest for 1928, this very short book packs a big punch.

Dec 9, 2019, 3:44pm Top

Currently reading:

Minor Works, Jane Austen (re-read)

Coming up:

--The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
--The Four Graces, D. E. Stevenson
--Selections from The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries for my RL book club

Edited: Dec 24, 2019, 12:01pm Top


--The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Christie
--The Four Graces, Stevenson
--10 selections from The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries
--The Poor Clare, Elizabeth Gaskell
--The Big Four, Agatha Christie
--Elizabeth Bowen, Allan E. Austin
and ♥ the wonderful The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim

Currently Reading:

No Holly for Miss Quinn, Miss Read

Coming Up:
--Enemy Women, Paulette Jiles
--The Road to San Giovanni, Italo Calvino

Jan 1, 6:40pm Top

Reading in December:

77. A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
Year Published: 1960
Type: drama
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; R from 2015
My Project: RandomCAT

Parallels to our current political situation; do we have a man of conscience in 2020? An interesting exchange of ideas, even if the real Thomas More was not quite the saint made out to be.

78. Death in a Tenured Position by Amanda Cross
Year Published: 1981
Type: fiction, mystery
Acquired: paperback from my shelf R from 2017
My Project: RandomCAT

Yuk. Why I don't read books from the 1980s--the very stereotyped portrayal of the first woman professor at Harvard and most of the other characters left me rolling my eyes more than once. Amazing that this book won a Nero Award, as the mystery seems to be solved by the PI on mere hunches and intuition. And the story is very much the author's own life.

79. Scenes from Clerical Life by George Eliot
Year Published: 1857
Type: fiction; 3 novellas
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; R from before 2009
My Project: Project George Eliot

I enjoyed these 3 novellas, but didn't find them compelling as stories. They are wonderful portraits of village settings, life and people, and the complicated relationships between the clerical men, the people in the village and their institutional religion. This was Eliot's first attempt at fiction, and are less successful than her full novels as stories.

80. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1926
Type: fiction, mystery
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; R from 2018
My Project: Project Agatha

One of those mysteries where at the end you'll shout "not fair!" Really launched Christie's career, so worth your time to read it, if you haven't.

81. The Four Graces by D. E. Stevenson
Year Published: 1946
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback acquired in 2019
My Project: Project Stevenson

Charming. I think I liked this best of the "Buncle" series. Perhaps not as funny, but full of warmth and love. An excellent December read.

82. The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Gaskell
Year Published: 1856
Type: fiction; novella
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; R from 2018
My Project: December Reading Through Time Challenge--retro

Novella length ghost story/gothic tale that has some basis in 18th century life. The Poor Clares were a monastic group of nuns who did have a house in Antwerp. The story presents the tensions between Catholics and Protestants in England, and also class issues. The settings are more fascinating than the ghostly story line. First appeared in Dickens' Household Words. This edition is part of a series "The Art of the Novella" by Melville House, featuring shorter works that are often over-looked because of their abbreviated length.

83. The Big Four by Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1927
Type: fiction, mystery
Acquired: paperback from my shelves; R from 2017
My Project: Christie; December RandomCAT

Meh. The first Agatha Christie I've read that was rather boring, without a real mystery to solve. The criminals are known, and Poirot and Hastings have to remain one step ahead of them until the bad guys are brought to justice. Went on way too long for me--could have ended 100 pages earlier.

84. Elizabeth Bowen by Allen E. Austin
Year Published: 1971
Type: nonfiction, literary analysis/criticism
Acquired: used hardcover purchased in 2019
My Project: December RandomCAT

Written in 1971 before Bowen died, but after her last novel, this was the first major review of Bowen's work. I read about half this book right now--the introduction and analysis, the criticism of the 3 Bowen books I've read, and some summary material. I'll keep this book to review as I read the other 7 novels and stories.

Jan 1, 6:41pm Top

Reading in December, part 2

85. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Year Published: 1922
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; R from 2018
My Project: RandomCAT

Probably one of the year's favorites. Charming, funny, and oh so many flowers! FYI: the movie did not do the book justice.

86. No Holly for Miss Quin by Miss Read
Year Published: 1976
Type: fiction
Acquired: hardcover from my shelf R from 2018
My Project: Miss Read

This was a nice read for the holiday. Miss Quinn is a spinster who likes her time alone, but when duty calls, she enjoys her time with family. A nice comfort read.

87. The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino; translated by Tim Parks
Year Published: 1990
Type: memoir/essays
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; R from 2017
My Project: December RandomCAT

These are 5 pieces written between 1962 and 1977, which Calvino's spouse collected and had published in 1990. Calvino called them "memory exercises", and that is an apt title, as they tend toward a reflection on memory, and bringing past experiences to the front of one's consciousness. The first piece is from his childhood, and almost stream of conscience. The second piece was a light-hearted look at his memories of going to the movies as a child, but drifts into an analysis of Fellini, where I got lost. The third piece is from the author's war experiences, and he explores how we bring back dark memories long buried. The fourth piece is truly an exercise in which he provides any and every meditation on taking out the trash. The last piece, "From the Opaque", was beyond my scope, although beautifully written as always.

88. Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles
Year Published: 2002
Type: fiction--did not finish
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; R from 2017
My Project: December RandomCAT

It's been a long time since I consciously stopped reading a book, but I could not continue with this book, which takes place in Missouri during the Civil War. Much of the writing is very poetic, but after 90 pages I had had enough. I wanted to enjoy this book, so I need to justify why I didn't like this book.

1) The heroine did not seem real to me, and the dialogue did not seem genuine. Our heroine talks like a teenager in a modern TV sitcom--always a wisecrack remark that did not seem to fit a young woman of her era, certainly in the beginning. I can see how _possibly_ she may have morphed into this smart aleck tone after her many adventures, but not at the beginning. Even old Abe Lincoln, raised in backwoods poverty, would have been more respectful to his elders.
2) Like some other readers, I found the lack of quotation marks confusing. I have read other books without quotes and have been able to follow along quite easily, but this author did not smoothly transition from quotes to text. It was difficult to read & follow because of this.
3) The overt violence and anger and nastiness just wasn't what I wanted to read; it was over and above what was necessary to the story.

There was one aspect of the book which I did enjoy & appreciate--the obvious extensive research the author did on the area during the Civil War, and the quotes from historical documents at the beginning of each chapter to set the mood. After reading the first 90 pages, I continued reading these introductory documentary passages, as they were more interesting and revealing. Too bad she didn't write a nonfiction book exploring some of these themes with real documentation and real people; I would have enjoyed it more.

89. Celia's House by D. E. Stevenson
Year Published: 1943
Type: fiction
Acquired: paperback acquired in 2019
My Project: Project Stevenson

Wonderful--and even more entertaining as Stevenson clearly made this an homage to Jane Austen, as this novel is an early 20th century Scottish update of Mansfield Park. Read it and let's compare notes of all the parallels we find!

Jan 1, 6:59pm Top

My Favorites in 2019 (in order read this year):


The Chosen, Potok
The Things They Carried, O'Brien (short stories)
So Big, Ferber
The Kellys and the O'Kellys, Trollope
The Three Clerks, Trollope
David Copperfield, Dickens--audiobook read by Simon Vance
Little Boy Lost, Laski
The Enchanted April, von Arnim
Celia's House, Stevenson

Honorable Mention--these books were almost as good, or made me think in a new way

Dandelion Wine, Bradbury
Fathers and Sons, Turgenev
Good Evening, Mrs Craven, Panter-Downes (stories)
Quicksand, Larsen
Mister Pip, Jones
Scenes from Clerical Life, Eliot


The Best We Could Do, Bui (graphic nonfiction)
The Infinite Variety of Music, Bernstein (essays)
Becoming, M. Obama
Diary of a Bookseller, Bythell, audiobook
The Cut Out Girl, Van Es

In 10 years, I hope I remember all of these books.

Edited: Jan 1, 8:36pm Top


Total books = 89

Fiction = 56
Nonfiction & memoirs = 24
Poetry & plays = 9

From the library = 29
From my shelves: Roots = 47; surpassed my goal of 40!
From my shelves: Purchased & actually read this year = 13 (out of too many purchased to admit to here)

Audiobooks = 3

47 Male authors
42 Female authors

Across the centuries:

pre 1800 = 3 books
1800 - 1899 = 12 books
1900 - 1939 = 17 books
1940 - 1999 = 32 books
2000 - 2019 = 25 books

And on to clearer 2020 vision: https://www.librarything.com/topic/314431

Jan 1, 10:15pm Top

I love The Enchanted April too. I wonder if you have read an Australian book called The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart? If you like flowers, it is about an Australian flower farmer who teaches her granddaughter the language/meanings of Australian native flowers. I loved it.

(The touchstones aren't working which is annoying!)

Jan 1, 11:09pm Top

>149 JayneCM: Never heard of it, but will add to my wishlist.

Jan 2, 11:06am Top

>146 kac522: I love D.E. Stevenson but didn't realize she'd written a retelling of Mansfield Park! Adding Celia's House to my TBR list now!

Edited: Jan 2, 12:24pm Top

>151 christina_reads: I need to go back and read the last couple chapters of MP--it seems to me that Stevenson was more free with the ending, although she did have the Fannie/Edmund parallel characters marry each other, and live in a small village house (the Edmund character in Celia's House is a doctor rather than a clergyman). Certainly Celia's House covers a much longer time span than MP--starts in 1905 and ends in 1943. But it was fun to find the parallels and how Stevenson updated them for the 20th century. It was well-done; not clunky at all, and I think only avid Austen fans would catch it straight away.

Group: 2019 Category Challenge

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