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

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.

Top 5 Favorite Books of 2016

This is certainly my favorite post of the year. I read 47 books in 2016. Below is a list of my top 5 favorites, with my most favorite book at #1. I also included 2 honorable mentions.

1)  Journal d’un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest) by Georges Bernanos

I read this book at the start of 2016, and upon finishing it I knew that this would be one of my favorite books of the year. This is “slice of life” literary fiction at its best. The Diary of a Country Priest is the journal of an unnamed country priest living in France between the two World Wars. This is a thought-provoking and moving look at parish life in the wake of one of the greatest atrocities in history. Our country priest is neither exceptionally holy nor exceptionally sinful. He is simply human. This is a book that I know will stay with me for the rest of my life.

2) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

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This is definitely the most important book I read in 2016. I never understood why racial justice activists were so concerned about the War on Drugs until I read The New Jim Crow. Michelle Alexander exposes the racial bias in the American criminal justice system. I am pleased that this book is on many reading lists. I regret not having reviewed it earlier. Alexander demonstrates convincingly that the War on Drugs grew out of white resistance to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After incarceration, Blacks often don’t have their voting rights restored to them. Due to their prison record, they can’t find employment, get housing, or receive food stamps. This is the New Jim Crow. Every American should read this book.

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

This is one of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s flight memoirs. Airplanes today are quite safe. Plane crashes are rare. For the holidays I’m sure many of you flew to meet loved ones or to get away from the cold. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a pilot for the airmail carrier Aéropostale at a time when air travel was dangerous . It was not uncommon for pilots to lose friends in the business. This memoir is a celebration of life and friendship. It is the most hopeful book I read all year.

4) Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

This book is part mystery, part philosophy, part literary theory, and part Franciscan history. The detective is a Franciscan friar named William of Baskerville who allows his knowledge of the philosophy of William of Ockham (a 14th century scholastic) to inform his investigation. This is the finest historical fiction I have ever read. This is a dark and twisted story in more than one way.

5) Augustine of Hippo: A Biography by Peter Brown

St. Augustine was the bishop of Hippo Regius (modern-day Annaba, Algeria) in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. He is without doubt the most influential figure in Western Christianity. But it’s Peter Brown’s storytelling that makes this biography so wonderful. I definitely will be rereading this work in 2017. Augustine was a complex and controversial man. Brown’s biography made me feel like I was in Augustine’s basilica hearing him preach. A great accomplishment. It convinced me to listen to Augustine’s 1184-page City of God on audio book.

Honorable Mentions

1) Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

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This is a book about Orlando, a gender nonconforming poet and playwright. The biography begins in the 16th century and ends in the 19th century. Orlando has to navigate a world of strict gender and sexual expectations. But this book is not exclusively about gender and sexuality. It is  also an exploration of Renaissance and early modern historiography and storytelling. How should Orlando’s life be told? Can we ever know who Orlando really is? Virginia Woolf’s works are challenging, but this book is one of the most accessible.

2) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

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I must include this book on the list. Although it was longer than I would have liked, Don Quixote was both an entertaining and thought-provoking work. It is metafiction about the lives of a knight errant named Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza. If you are trying to tackle this book, I suggest you think about it as a short story collection rather than a giant novel. Edith Grossman is an incredible translator.

5 Goals for 2017

Image result for fireworks new yearI set myself a 50-book goal in 2016. I read 46 books. I could read a few picture books or something to reach my goal, but I won’t. I am OK with the number of books I read. I will probably keep my Goodreads goal at 50 books with the understanding that I may not reach it again in 2017 and that’s OK. I am not including my 50-book goal as one of my goals in 2017 because I simply don’t care how many books I read next year. I prefer quality over quantity, and number goals often prevent me from reading bigger books. I didn’t reach my 50-book goal this year, but I read Don Quixote and listened to Augustine’s City of God.

If you have been following this blog you know that I have a particular interest in late medieval hagiography (i.e. saints’ lives) and religious rhetoric of the Late Middle Ages. The books I read are either too niche or are only available in research libraries. Therefore, I didn’t review most of the books I read this year on this blog. In 2017, I will continue to write reviews only for books I think are appropriate for this blog, but I want to encourage more people to study medieval, Renaissance, and early modern history and literature.

1) Write short reflection posts

This goal goes along with what I wrote above. We all love reading. If you are following my blog you probably also love reading books that are considered “classics”. But I believe it is important to step back and consider the social, political, and religious movements that inspired the works that have come to be known as “classics”. In 2016, I wanted to make more literary history and analysis posts, but I didn’t. Because I wanted to do so much, I ended up abandoning the project. In 2017, I hope to post on the topics that interest me, but they will not be in-depth studies. They will simply be short observations (my own or others’) on something literary or concerning the period that I study.

2) Read 5 books that have been published since 2000.

On Goodreads, I probably have a list of at least 50 books that have been published since 2000. I know that this blog is dedicated to the classics, but hundreds of books have come out in the past few years that could easily become classics someday. I want to read at least 5 contemporary works in 2017.

3) Read more books relevant to current events.

This is a broad goal. I am not very well-informed when it comes to contemporary politics. I know enough, however, to be upset about the results of the 2016 presidential election in the United States. We Americans simply don’t know enough about the world. I believe that education is the key to overcoming prejudice. I began reading more diversely in 2016, and I want to do more of that in 2017. The reason why I didn’t make reading diversely a goal this year is because I don’t want to read a book simply because it contains diverse characters. I want to read a book because it is important. There are books on my Goodreads to-read list that cover the refugee crisis, gun violence, ethnic/racial tension, and gender/sexuality. These are very important topics that I don’t know enough about. They concern current events. I hope to read and review more books about such topics in 2017. They don’t have to have been written in the last decade (i.e. they could be classics), but they should concern contemporary questions.

4) Read Les Misérables in French.

In 2016, I met my goal of reading Don Quixote. For years, I have wanted to read Les Misérables. 2017 will be the year.

5) Get more involved in the book-blogging community

We all love thought-provoking reviews or reflection posts. But I also enjoy more light-hearted posts that engage with the book-blogging community. I will never be someone who does tags all the time. They often take too long, and I hate tagging others. But I will try to do more tags or participate in more challenges. I don’t like making promises because I am bad at keeping them. But I will try to do more of the Classics Club blog challenges, particularly the spin challenge. I won’t do any buddy-reads because I just can’t commit to finishing the books when I’m supposed to. In general, I need to reconnect with others in this community.

I think these are very manageable goals. Happy New Year to all! My top 5 favorites of 2016 will be posted soon.