Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is an event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. These books are in no particular order.

1) Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way) by Marcel Proust

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This is the first book in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time series. I have to read it for school.

2) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

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3) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

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4) Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

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5) The Waves by Virginia Woolf

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6) Selected Letters From a Stoic by Seneca

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7) The Nature of Things by Lucretius (prose translation)

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8) Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

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9) A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift

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10) Vol de nuit (Night Flight) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Blog Update: Favorite Books So Far

I have read 18 books so far this year. Now that I am on Spring Break I hope to read a lot more. I haven’t reviewed much of anything, but I thought to update you on my favorite and least favorite books so far in 2017.

Favorite Prose Fiction

Le Colonel Chabert by Balzac

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A colonel returns from war only to discover that the political regime has changed, his society thinks he’s dead, and his wife has married a count. He finds a lawyer to defend him, but some people would prefer he were dead.

Favorite Verse Fiction

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Keith Harrison

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A mysterious knight challenges Sir Gawain. It was the perfect book to read on New Year’s Eve since the mysterious green knight challenges Sir Gawain on New Year’s Eve. Such an atmospheric poem. The translation was brilliant. I only wish I had read it out loud.

Favorite Philosophical Work

The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

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Boethius was a 5th century statesman under King Theodoric. Unfortunately, he was convicted of treason and placed under house arrest. He wrote The Consolation of Philosophy while awaiting execution. It is a dialogue with Lady Philosophy about good and evil and fate and free will.

Favorite Nonfiction

The Art of the Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter

The Art of Biblical Narrative

This is the kind of scholarship Erasmus would have loved to have access to. This work is a good introduction to the narrative language of the Hebrew Scriptures. Type-scenes are analyzed linguistically to reveal the tensions and ambiguities of the stories. Repetition, far from being a scribal error, is a deliberate device employed by Biblical authors to reveal and conceal important information about the characters in the story.

Top Five Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I’m excited to complete this week’s challenge, because I often read lesser-known or underrated works. These books were not published in the the last year.

1) Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff (review is forthcoming)

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This play is a romance between a hearing and a deaf person. It also brings awareness to the challenges deaf people face in a society that considers deafness a disability.

2) Terre des hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A memoir about flight, friendship, hope, and loss. Definitely not as read as Le petit prince, but just as exquisitely-written.

3) Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw

Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw

Unfortunately, I didn’t review this play after I read it, so I’ve forgotten a lot. But I remember enjoying it. The dialogue is strong and witty. It has a lot of ratings on Goodreads, but I don’t think it is as widely-known as Pygmalion. This is my third Shaw play. Saint Joan (another lesser-known play) is my favorite, but Arms and the Man is still fantastic. I hope to read/reread more of his plays in 2017.

4) The Albigensian Crusade by Jonathan Sumption

The Albigensian Crusade by Jonathan Sumption

I am putting this book on the list to bring attention to the author. Sumption is not only a justice on the UK Supreme Court but also an author of popular histories. He is most known for his multi-volume history of the Hundred Years War. But his history of The Albigensian Crusade is an engrossing introduction to one of the greatest atrocities in Western history. The Albigensians were dualists living in southern France in the 13th century. The crusade launched in the region was basically a genocide. A disturbing book, but very well-written. Unfortunately, I never reviewed this book.

5) Julius Exclusus by Erasmus

The Julius Exclusus of Erasmus by Desiderius Erasmus

Erasmus is known for his Praise of FollyJulius Exclusus, written before Folly, is not only a critique of Pope Julius II but also a commentary on politics and leadership. It is quite funny though the satire is a bit too in-your-face. Erasmus claimed that he never wrote it, but his contemporaries and modern scholars believe that he did.

The New Jim Crow on MLK Day

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of ColorblindnessThe New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander is a reminder to white Americans that racial injustice is alive and well in the United States. Martin Luther King Jr Day should not simply be a day when Americans remember and celebrate the life of a civil rights activist – as if the Civil Rights Act fixed everything. It should also be a time when we reflect on how far we have yet to go. Martin Luther King’s dream has not yet been realized. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, but racism still exists in America.

But most of it is more subtle and more structural. Certainly, there are Americans who still hate blacks (ex. the Charleston massacre), but most would like to think that they are colorblind. Michelle Alexander argues convincingly in her book that our criminal justice system is not colorblind. The War on Drugs has perpetuated racial discrimination in this country, but non-black Americans have no problem with a prison system almost entirely made up of blacks. Whites do drugs at the same rate or at a higher rate as blacks, but police do not patrol their neighborhoods. Whites are not stopped and frisked for drugs, so whites are not found with drugs. Black men are shot down by the police who have been trained to associate blacks with violence. Unfortunately, because the Supreme Court assumes that our country is colorblind, claims of racism are dismissed. Our unjust structures are not considered unjust by our courts, so the system continues unchallenged. This is the new Jim Crow because like the old Jim Crow, black men with a prison history lose their voting privileges (often, for life), cannot get employment, are disqualified for food stamps, and may not even be able to get housing. Our country found the perfect way to strip blacks of their rights without overtly discriminating against them.

On this MLK Day, consider purchasing or borrowing from the library The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. We are not colorblind. Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope things will get better under Trump.

“Although drunk driving carries a far greater risk of violent death than the use or sale of illegal drugs, the societal response to drunk drivers has generally emphasized keeping the person functional and in society, while attempting to respond to the dangerous behavior through treatment and counseling. People charged with drug offenses, though, are disproportionately poor people of color. They are typically charged with felonies and sentenced to prison.”

“When black youth find it difficult or impossible to live up to these standards – or when they fail, stumble, and make mistakes, as all humans do – shame and blame is heaped upon them. If only they had made different choices, they’re told sternly, they wouldn’t be sitting in a jail cell; they’d be graduating from college. Never mind that white children on the other side of town who made precisely the same choices – often for less compelling reasons – are in fact going to college.”

Literary Miscellanea: The Diary of a Country Priest Book-to-Movie

Image result for journal d'un cure de campagne filmThe Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos was my favorite book of 2016. Unfortunately, it seems like the English translation is not very good. I have noticed that, in general, French does not translate well into English. If you can read French, I highly recommend you read this novel.

There is, however, a 1951 film adaptation of the novel. The director is Robert Bresson. Although it is a French film, you can watch it with English subtitles. Journal d’un curé de campagne (film) is a black-and-white, slow-moving drama about an unnamed country priest who tries to minister to a wealthy family in the village. He is pious and somewhat of an idealist. The people he tries to help are not interested in religion. The curé’s spiritual director and the other parishioners are convinced that our country priest is a womanizer and a drunk.

Because the roman is a series of diary entries, there are numerous voice-over segments in the film. I didn’t mind the voice-overs. So much of what the priest experiences cannot be shown on screen. There were scenes in the book I wish were more emphasized in the film. For example, the curé’s spiritual crisis is pretty underwhelming.

Perhaps, the most irritating aspect of the film is the presentation of the country priest. He doesn’t have a personality. His facial expression remains the same throughout the film. Even a suffering man experiences different emotions from time-to-time. The country priest is pitiable but not very memorable. I prefer the priest in the book.

The cinematography is exquisite. A black-and-white film is perfect for the story because Journal d’un curé de campagne is a character-study. I prefer character-centered and philosophical films in black-and-white.

Overall, Journal d’un curé de campagne (film) is a beautiful production in its own right, even though I personally prefer the book.

Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read

I have a few books to review this week, but today I’m going to do the Top Ten Tuesday tag hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The theme is: “Top Ten 2016 Releases We Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To (But TOTALLY Plan To)”. My blog is dedicated to the classics, but I do want to read more modern books this year. My 2017 goal is to read at least 5 published since 2000. I’m not going to go into why I’m interested in each book. You’ve probably heard of them, but I will link the titles to their Goodreads pages in case you haven’t. They were all published in 2016.

1) The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss (hyped but probably for good reason)

The Tidal Zone

2) Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (true stories of people killed by gun violence during a 24 hr period in America)

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives

3) My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (fiction that deals with race and adoption)

My Name is Leon

4) The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine Di Giovanni (all about the Syrian civil war)

The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria

5) Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (a memoir about the author growing up in a white working class family in America)

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

6) The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby (fiction about the refugee crisis)

The Optician of Lampedusa

7) Homegoing by  Yaa Gyasi (it has been so hyped that I’m a bit scared to read it)

Homegoing

8) Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M.N. Eire (clearly my kind of book)

Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650

9) Charlemagne by Johannes Fried (I briefly reviewed his book on the Middle Ages last year; again, this is my kind of book)

Charlemagne

10) The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (a memoir about the author’s relationship to a gender fluid individual)

The Argonauts

Bookish Pet Peeves Tag

Tags seem perfect for the start of a new year. A book I recently finished prompted me to do the Bookish Pet Peeves Tag. I don’t like tagging people because I don’t want to annoy anyone. If you want to do the tag, feel free to do it and put the link to your response in the comments. I think this tag was created by The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday. Without further ado, here are my 5 bookish pet peeves:

1) Books with deckled edge paper

I utterly loathe deckled edges!! My copy of Don Quixote had deckled edge paper. Because the pages stuck together, I couldn’t flip through the book to find my favorite passages. It is useless to underline and write in the margins of books with deckled edge paper.

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2) Dust jackets

I mostly buy paperback books not only because they are less expensive and lighter than hardcover books but also because they don’t come with dust jackets. Dust jackets easily slip off.

3) Obnoxious highlighting in used books  

I generally don’t care about the condition of my books. I will buy used copies with highlighting, marginal notes, or broken spines. I underline and write in the margins of nearly every books I read. I believe in reading with a pencil. However, I don’t want the whole book highlighted. Obnoxious highlighting not only makes the book look ugly, it is a counterproductive practice. Highlighting alone doesn’t help you study. You must take notes if you want to remember anything you’ve read. Highlighting is only appropriate for marking favorite passages. But what is the purpose of highlighting the whole book?

4) Introductions with spoilers

Many of the works I read come with very informative introductions. I know now to read them after I finish the classic, but I wish editor’s essays came at the end of the book rather than at the beginning. They almost always give away the whole plot. Maybe the editor could include a spoiler warning in appropriate sections of the essay. I understand that a note about historical context might be appropriate in the introduction to a classic, but I don’t want to know the whole story before I read it. I do appreciate, however, the work editors and translators do to make a particular classic accessible to a modern English-speaking audience.

5)Now a major motion picture” on non-movie covers

I am not opposed to movie covers. If I like the film adaptation, I sometimes buy the book with the movie cover. But, if the book does not have a movie cover, I don’t want the cover to remind me that the book is now a major motion picture. If I didn’t buy a copy with a movie cover, I may not have liked the film adaptation. For example, I bought a Lord of the Rings box set without the movie covers because I don’t like the films. However, the cover of The Hobbit has a note saying that it is now a major motion picture. I don’t want to be reminded of the movies when I pick up The Hobbit. The box set is beautiful except for this irritating note. I have even considered replacing my copy of The Hobbit.

What are your bookish pet peeves? I didn’t discuss writing style or plot. That’s for another post.