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Jennifer's 2019 Reading (japaul22)

Club Read 2019

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Dec 29, 2018, 7:32am Top

Hi everyone! I'm back again to share my reading and get inspired by all of your reading threads. My name is Jennifer and I live outside of Washington D.C. I have two kids, boys age 9 and 6. I play the french horn in the U.S. Marine Band.

My reading is fairly predictable. I like the classics and use the 1001 books list to push my reading out of my comfort zone. I also read new fiction where I tend towards "literary fiction" by women authors. I also usually have a nonfiction book on the go, usually historical biography or cultural studies. To lighten things up, I read the occasional mystery or historical fiction.

Thanks for visiting my thread! I welcome all book discussion!

Edited: Jan 14, 1:09pm Top

Reading Plans:
Augustus by John Williams
group read of Ada by Nabokov
group read of Pilgrimage
The Stone Angels

Library Holds:
An American Marriage
Becoming (audiobook)
The Feather Thief

Reading Outloud with my Kids
William (age 9):
The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket

Isaac (age 6):
Dragon Masters #7, #8

matutinal - of, relating to, or occurring in the morning
exiguity - the quality or condition of being scanty or meager
abstruse - difficult to understand
prurient - characterized by an inordinate interest in sex
perspicacious - having or showing penetrating mental discernment; clear-sighted
integument - a natural outer covering or coat, such as animal skin or a membrane
palaver - idle chatter; talk intended to charm or beguile
coeval - originating or existing during the same period; lasting through the same era
sartorial - of or relating to a tailor or tailored clothing
ignominious - deserving shame or disgrace
liminal - intermediate between two states or conditions; transitional or indeterminate
revenant - one that returns after a lengthy absence or after death
pabulum - intellectual material that is bland, trite, or insipid

Edited: Dec 30, 2018, 7:44am Top

These lists are to help me pick books when I don't have a "next book" in mind. They will also give you an idea of the kinds of books I enjoy.

Contemporary Authors that I follow (i.e. I'll probably read any new novel they put out and am reading any backlog I haven't gotten to yet):
Hilary Mantel
Kate Atkinson
Eleanor Catton
Eowyn Ivey
Amor Towles
Tana French
Marilynne Robinson
Hannah Tinti
Barbara Kingsolver
Ann Patchett
Kamila Shamsie
Chimamanda Adichie
Margaret Atwood
Madeline Miller

Series/Mysteries that I follow:
Robert Galbraith, Cormoran Strike mysteries
Tana French
Jane Harper
C.J. Sansom
Sharon Kay Penman

Classic authors I love (reading novels I haven't read yet or rereads):
Jane Austen
the Brontes
Virginia Woolf
George Eliot
Thomas Mann
Haldor Laxness
Sigrid Undset
Scandinavian classics

Edited: Jan 13, 4:16pm Top

Books Read in 2019

1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
2. Quicksand by Nella Larsen
3. SPQR by Mary Beard

Jan 9, 3:27pm Top

Hiya! Star dropped on top for a ticket to ride! Enjoy your year. =) Both BFBs and lesser counts. Many ingredients make for intriguing flavours and aromas from a full soup pot!

Jan 9, 8:36pm Top

>5 frahealee: Welcome! Glad to see you here.

I've finally finished my first book. It seems to happen every year that I'm reading something long - often because I take vacation days over the holidays and can read something "non-portable". In this case, I read (well, reread) Crime and Punishment in a beautiful Folio Society Edition that I received last Christmas. Fantastic illustrations and a beautiful oversized hardcover edition.

Jan 9, 8:47pm Top

#1 Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I started off 2019 with a reread of a favorite that did not disappoint on a second reading. This book centers around Raskolnikov, a young student who is poor, ill, depressed, and possibly a bit insane. He decides to murder an old woman that he has pawned some items with and steal her stock and cash. Most of the novel concerns the aftermath of this event - how Raskolnikov deals with his fear of being caught, his guilt, and his changing life.

For a big, Russian classic, this book is a page turner. Though there is a lot of interior thought and some over-dramatic, long conversations, the story moves along pretty well. It's a book that I don't think you could read too many times; there is always something new to ponder or a new theme to follow. This time I was really interested in the way some of the characters were set up to parallel each other and then diverge in how they handle life differently.

I'm glad I took the time to reread this and highly recommend it for the first or second time to anyone.

Original publication date: 1866
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 512 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: folio society edition, gift
Why I read this: reread

Jan 9, 9:06pm Top

>7 japaul22: This is a book that I keep meaning to read. I think that I will try to get to it this year. Thank you for the push.

Jan 9, 11:11pm Top

>8 NanaCC: Me, too!

>7 japaul22: It's always sort of scared me, but your review makes it sound almost accessible, so thank you! :) Maybe this is the year...

Jan 10, 6:08am Top

>7 japaul22: I read it in high school and am not sure I got much out of it, or at least not what was there to be gotten. The books I read at that age that moved me really did so on such a visceral level, and that one didn't. So I imagine it would be a good one to revisit as an adult.

Jan 10, 9:38am Top

Great book to start off the year with! Also inspiring me to give it a go!

Edited: Jan 10, 2:16pm Top

Me too. It came as a free download from Kobo/ebook last year, alongside War and Peace, so I hope to tackle both before the year is out. I have only ever read The Idiot and Tolstoy's short stories, so am looking forward to diversifying. Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov (supposedly in the gothic strain) are also on my TBR list. I usually support 'underdogs' and these selections are so well known that I have avoided them intentionally. Now it's time to chip away at them. Anyone else read these beasts recently/in past?

Zola was brought to my attention in a CanLit option about the art world in Paris, called The Painted Girls by Buchanan. Her novel made me want to seek him out, and study this realism thing. ; )

Jan 10, 11:54am Top

I am accually currently reading a series of unfortunate events right now


Jan 10, 1:02pm Top

possibly a bit insane - possibly? Great book to kick off with. Curious which translator you used (and how they translated that opening paragraph).

Jan 10, 1:33pm Top

>12 frahealee: I avoided Anna Karenina forever, and then I read it about five years ago. It was terrific, and not as intimidating as I thought it would be. I haven’t read the others, so can’t comment on those.

Jan 10, 1:48pm Top

Excited to inspire some contemplation of reading or rereading Crime and Punishment! I think it well worth it. I think it's much, much easier than The Brothers Karamazov. That one I need to reread sometime because I didn't get a lot of it.

>14 dchaikin: Dan, the translator for this edition was David McDuff. He did this in the 1990s, I think for Penguin Classics. I thought it read smoothly and I didn't notice often that it was translated. (You know how sometimes you can just tell it's not "right" or "original" - I didn't feel like that with this). Thinking too much about translations, especially for the Russians, makes me crazy. There are SO MANY translations out there and they really read very differently.

McDuff's first paragraph:
At the beginning of July, during a spell of exceptionally hot weather, towards evening, a certain young man came down on to the street from the little room he rented from some tenants in S--- Lane and slowly, almost hesitantly, set off towards K---n Bridge.

Edited: Jan 10, 1:59pm Top

Thanks for posting the whole paragraph. They key for me is how they set up the atmosphere and the instability of Raskolnikov by this “almost hesitating.” Just an aesthetic, maybe. It should be hot and he should be unsteady, but not in a way casual observers (or readers) will notice.

Totally agree about C&C vs TBK, TBK is work. C&C is a rush.

Jan 10, 2:11pm Top

>17 dchaikin: I'm curious if you have a certain translation in mind that you think doesn't do this well? When I read this the first time I read Constance Garnett. I actually really like her Anna Karenina translation, but I don't think she works as well for Dostoevsky.

Jan 10, 2:59pm Top

>18 japaul22: I wasn’t paying attention to translators then... I think it was Constance Garnet. I didn’t mind or even think about the translation at the time, though.

Edited: Jan 10, 3:46pm Top

I think not noticing a translator is the highest compliment you can pay them. I recently read The Song Of Bernadette and found it a completely smooth read with respect to its language; on the other hand, my edition of The Road Back was full of British-isms that kept jerking me out of the narrative. Both from the German but a very different standard of translation.

ETA: Oops, just realised I haven't posted here before---so, welcome back, Jennifer! :)

Jan 11, 7:12am Top

>17 dchaikin: "At the beginning of July, during an extremely hot spell, towards evening, a young man left the closet he rented from tenants in S----y Lane, walked out to the street, ans slowly, as if indecisively, headed for the K----n Bridge."

Pevear & Volokhonsky translation

I thoroughly enjoyed TBK, even the dreaded "Grand Inquisitor" chapter fascinated me.

Jan 11, 1:08pm Top

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.

Constance Garnett. David Magarshack had the exact same opening. !! ?? I’m thinking I used an old paperback inherited/taken from my childhood home and my fuzzy memory recalls the word “garret” - and that connected my memory, hazy mind you, to an introduction by Magarshack. So, I suspect that is what I used.

Jan 11, 2:36pm Top

I love seeing all the different translation openings. They do all have a different flow and emphasize things differently. I have to admit to not being a fan of the P&V translations. I think they translate so literally that it always feels stilted to me. But I know many experts love them, so maybe I'm missing something!

>20 lyzard: Hi Liz - always good to see you here! Yes, a bad translation is a noticeable translation to me.

Jan 11, 8:16pm Top

>4 japaul22: Crime and Punishment as an opener? Tip o' the hat to you!!!!!

>20 lyzard: Oh, I just love the movie of The Song of Bernadette! Completely corny now, but so delightful, and such great character actors (Vincent Price, Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper, even Lee J. Cobb, although he'll always be the gangster in On the Waterfront for me.)

I'll definitely be following you this year.

Jan 12, 11:18am Top

>24 auntmarge64: Thanks! I feel like I always start off the year with a big book because I'm home from work so can choose something "non-portable"!

I'll be following you as well!

Jan 12, 11:36am Top

#2 Quicksand by Nella Larsen

This was a great find from the 1001 books to read before you die list. The brief googling I did about Nella Larsen made me interested to read her work. She was an American writer in the 1920s and is considered part of the Harlem Renaissance. She was mixed race, with a black father, possibly of Caribbean descent, and a Danish immigrant mother. I had never heard of her, which I find sad.

Quicksand is largely autobiographical and explores Helga's search for identity. When the novel opens, Helga is teaching at a black college in the South. She quickly becomes disillusioned, though, and wonders what this closed community is really achieving or even trying to achieve. This disillusionment will follow Helga through all of the different communities she subsequently belongs to. She first goes back to Chicago, where she was raised, thinking she will get aid from her white Uncle who has helped her in the past. But he has a new wife who won't acknowledge Helga at all. Helga is helped by a wealthy black woman who gives her some connections in Harlem and Helga moves to New York. There she is happy at first, living among educated and creative black society, but she again becomes disillusioned, partially with their isolation from wider American culture. She travels to Denmark to live with her Aunt. There she is fully welcomed, but realizes that she is treated mainly like a novelty. At first she appreciates the freedom she has to fully participate in Danish society, unlike in America, but again she becomes disillusioned. So she returns to New York.

At the end she falls into the most common and expected trap of religion, marriage, and childbearing. A sad and disappointing ending for this bright and yearning young woman.

I found the writing beautiful and mature and the themes of race and belonging explored deeply and subtly. This was a really excellent surprise and I look forward to reading Nella Larsen's other novel, Passing.

Original publication date: 1928
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 132 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle edition, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books group challenge

Jan 12, 2:07pm Top

>26 japaul22: sounds wonderful, also sounds partially autobiographical. Noting Nella Larsen.

Jan 12, 4:40pm Top

>26 japaul22: Glad to see you enjoyed Quicksand, because I have Passing on the TBR. The author sounds interesting to read about as well.

Jan 12, 8:55pm Top

>25 japaul22: I'm home from work so can choose something "non-portable"!

And therein lies the joy of a Kindle :)

Jan 12, 9:23pm Top

>29 auntmarge64: I have a kindle that I love and use a lot, but I also like to read traditional format books. And I’ve been waiting to reread Crime and Punishment until I would have time to read my enormous but beautiful Folio Society edition. I do love my kindle, though - I just got my third one for Christmas this year.

Jan 13, 11:33am Top

I read Crime and Punishment in college, so it's time for a reread. I love the translation discussion. It reminds me that if a certain translation isn't working, to try another. There are lots of good ones available now. And it's nice to see translators get more credit than they used to.

I loved Passing but haven't read Quicksand. It sounds like a winner. It is too bad that Larsen isn't well known, probably mostly read in African American Lit classes.

Jan 13, 4:26pm Top

Glad to drum up some new and/or renewed interest in Nella Larsen - she definitely deserves to be more widely known.

#3 SPQR by Mary Beard

Mary Beard has put together an intelligent, in depth, and readable book about at ancient Rome. She covers Rome's founding, the changing politics (predominance of the Senate shifting to the Emperors), some of the famous (or infamous!) characters, and also the lives of the middle and lower classes. She really gives a good overall picture of the empire - it's people, politics, and how it hung together for so long. I really liked how she didn't get bogged down in any one famous person.

I think this is one of those books that, while I won't remember all the specific details, it will inform my awareness of all things Roman. I really didn't know much going in, so it was great to get a better picture of this long-lasting and influential empire.

Definitely recommended.

Original publication date: 2015
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 608 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: interested in the topic

Jan 14, 12:29pm Top

>2 japaul22: I've decided to keep a list here of words that I encounter in my reading that I need to look up to understand. Some of these are familiar and I feel like I get them, but I look them up to be able to verbalize the meaning. I think it will be interesting to see all the new words I learn in a year. I will go back and add the definitions as I have time.

Edited: Jan 14, 12:40pm Top

>32 japaul22: Happy to read this. I was looking forward to your comments on this. Can’t count how many times I’ve thought about picking it up

Jan 14, 12:41pm Top

>33 japaul22: love the word list!

Jan 16, 2:14pm Top

>26 japaul22: Passing is so good, even better than Quicksand in my opinion. I can recommend the audio version, read by Elizabeth Klett on LibriVox!

Jan 16, 5:40pm Top

>30 japaul22: Well, I'll admit that a Folio edition makes a difference. I have one for The Worst Journey in the World and the next time I read the book I'll pull out that copy. They are indeed lovely.

Group: Club Read 2019

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