Personal Canon

Note: These are the books that have had a lasting impact on me. The ones numbered 1, 2, and 3 are my three favorite books in descending order. After the third book, the rest of the books are in no particular order. This list is pretty specific. I consider everything I read that’s any good (4 or 5 stars) as important for my personal and/or intellectual development, and therefore a part of my personal canon. These are the best of the best.

Fiction
1) Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
2) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
3) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman (both) by Harper Lee
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate) by Alain Fournier
Mrs. Dalloway and Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Journal d’un Curé de Campagne (The Diary of a Country Priest) by Georges Bernanos
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
Don Quixote by Cervantes
Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw
My Antonià by Willa Cather
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Molière
Le Petit Nicolas a Des Ennuis (Little Nicolas Gets in Trouble) by René Goscinny (the first French stories I ever read)
La Tristesse du Cerf-Volant by Françoise Mallet-Joris (the first French novel I ever read by myself. I read it on my own time. There’s no better way to learn a language. It’s also a great piece of literary fiction)

Spiritual (You knew that would be a category)
Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of John in the Bible
Confessions by Saint Augustine
Revelation of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich
The Life of Antony by Athanasius of Alexandria
Works of Love by Kierkegaard

Studies (Also mostly related to religion)
The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter
Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown (excellent biography)
Sacred Violence by Jill N. Claster (best study on the crusades)

Top Five Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book

The title of this post is slightly misleading because I don’t want to mention all the things that “instantly” turn me off to a book. I am keeping the title because that’s the theme for today’s Top Ten Tuesday. If you follow my blog it should be obvious that I’m not into erotica or zombie fiction. This blog is called Exploring Classics for a reason. I am not “absolutely” turned off by the following things, but I need a good reason to read the book if it contains any of them. I may, for example, read a 14th century in-your-face allegory because it has historical significance. I will read nearly anything if it has historical significance or if it’s old enough. Who wouldn’t want to read zombie fiction from the 9th century?

Without further ado, here’s my list:

1) Pure Romance

I am OK with some romance in a novel, but I don’t like “romance” novels. I tend to avoid even well-written romances like Pride and Prejudice. Romances don’t do anything for me. I must be a block of wood 😉

2) Poor Writing

I am definitely not a great writer, but I am a language student. I have difficulty overlooking bad writing. I wish I could read a popular work without criticizing its writing style or plot structure. Unfortunately, I can no longer read books without analyzing the hell out of them.

3) Plot-Driven Books

Plots don’t do much for me. I read for theme and character. Consequently, I prefer books that most readers find torturous. Yes, I know I come across as pretentious, but that’s not my intention.

4) In-Your-Face Allegory

Allegory should be subtle. I enjoy exploring fiction. I want to be surprised and delighted when I discover a hidden allegory. Fiction should invite the reader to engage critically with the work. I can’t engage critically with obvious allegory.

5) Books By Celebrities

Movie stars and musicians tend to be poor writers, or they hire ghost writers. They clearly write books to make money. It’s all just materialism.  Blech! I’m glad they became rich and famous, but I don’t want to be rich and famous. I just don’t care about the lives of most celebrities. I don’t look up to them or care about their teachings. Cults of personality disgust me. Rich and famous people pretend that they are in solidarity with the poor so that they can remain rich and famous. It’s all just posturing. They pretend that the wealthy necessarily work harder than the poor. (Can you tell that this aspect of American society makes me angry? I’d better stop here.)

Amazon Fraud

I made a short video to talk about something that sellers have been allowed to get away with on Amazon. This is fraud! I ordered the two books mentioned in the video by ISBN number so I could get the editions my professor wanted us to order. Instead I got editions that are nothing like the ones most of my classmates received. While the words are more or less the same (there are sentences missing) the paragraphs aren’t. There are also no spaces between paragraphs, so it takes me a good 15 min to find a passage.

Apologies for the portrait layout of the video.

Look at one of the images in the book. You see the thing beneath it? The image must be a screen shot!

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.

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