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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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

Top Ten Bookish Resolutions For 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is an event hosted by The Broke and the BookishI have made a few resolutions for 2016, but not all of them are related to this blog. But here are 10 bookish resolutions that are relevant:

1) Read More

I did not read as much as I would have liked last year. I set my Goodreads challenge to 50 books for 2016. I think this is a reasonable goal.

2) Review More French Works

Since I am a French graduate student, I naturally read a lot of French works. However, I tend not to review those books on this blog. I will try to cover more French literature in 2016.

3) Revive Literary Flashback

I planned on reviving Literary Flashback in 2015, but I failed. In truth, I didn’t really know what I wanted this series to be about. I now have a clearer idea of what I want to post on Saturdays. Literary Flashback is basically the miscellaneous space on my blog. Each week I will discuss essays and letters written by famous authors, themes from books I’ve recently read and reviewed, or book-related trivia. I want to keep it informative and fun.

4) Keep Up With My Reading Challenges

I want to read more books on my Classics Book and Newbery Medal lists.

5) Add More Resources to Medieval Corner 

I want to read and introduce people to more medieval texts (secular and religious). There are also some secondary sources I’ve come across on such topics as Church/State and the Crusades that I would like to discuss on this blog (ex. Sacred Violence by Jill N. Claster).

6) Read Don Quixote

This is the year! I will finish Don Quixote.

7) Make More Reflection Posts

I sometimes read books with themes that I want to discuss further on this blog. This year, I will write more reflection posts so that those who have already read the book can join in the conversation. I will of course warn readers of spoilers. Some of the books I read (like The Diary of a Country Priest) contain religious themes that may not be appropriate for this blog. I will write reflection posts on such books on my religious blog. I will, though, review The Diary of a Country Priest on this blog because, like Gilead, I think this book could be enjoyed by anyone interested in spirituality and discussions about the meaning of life.

8) Read More Modern Works

I have been blogging long enough to know what books have come out recently. I have a reasonable list of modern works that I would like to read in 2016. I will try to get to at least 3 of them.

9) Post More Poems

I love poetry. I will post more poems that I love.

10) Read a Recently Published Young Adult Book.

When I was a teenager I did not read YA. I’ve always had a phobia of books marketed toward young adults. This is mostly because I can’t stand romance. However, I’m also aware of how irrational this phobia (like any other) can be. In 2016, I will try to read at least 1 recently published YA book. Currently, I’m interested in reading The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Reviewers whom I respect have given excellent reviews to this trilogy. I look forward to reading them this year.

Top 5 Books of 2015

I did not read nearly enough books to have a top 10 list like last year. But I feel very strongly about all the books on this year’s top 5 list. The books are listed in order, with #1 being my favorite book of 2015. So here it is:

1) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

This may have been my 4th or 5th time reading this book, but it still remains my third favorite book of all time (after Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville). I was first introduced to this book by my 8th grade English teacher. He mentioned the book in passing, and since I’ve always loved travel stories I checked it out from the library. Over the years as I have matured intellectually I have gained a greater appreciation of the book. But it was only this past year that I felt like I truly understood the overall message of Gulliver’s Travels. If you are interested and have already read the book, I wrote a spoiler-y reflection on Gulliver’s adventures in Houhnhnm Land where I talked about what I felt was the overall message of the book.

2) Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

This play reminded me so much of Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw. Thomas Becket and the four tempters are such memorable characters, and I loved that the play was written in verse. It was epic in the truest sense of the word. Thomas Becket represents way more than a martyr. In only 88 pages of verse, Eliot accomplishes the impressive feat of describing the history of the conflict between Church and State in England through the life of one archbishop.

3) My Antonia by Willa Cather

Can Willa Cather write a bad book? Death Comes for the Archbishop was my 3rd favorite book in 2014. My Antonia was just as incredible. The story is quiet but packs a real punch. It is the coming-of-age story of Antonia Shimerda and her friend Jim Burden (the narrator). The lifelike characters and the lyrical narrative combine to produce what I believe is one of the greatest works of American fiction.

4) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

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I don’t often read books that have come out in the past few years. Gilead won the Pulitzer in 2005, but I have only heard about it in the past year. Robinson’s writing reminds me so much of Cather’s. There is no real plot, but I found so many memorable passages in this book. In 2016, I plan on reading her book of essays The Death of Adam and the companion to Gilead, Lila.

5) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

As Dickens’ penultimate work, Great Expectations lacks many of the weaknesses commonly found in his earlier works. The characters are well-developed and there are no meaningless plot points. Hard Times is still my favorite book by Dickens but Great Expectations is a close second.

 

 

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This Year

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

1.  Little Man, What Now? by Hans Fallada

2. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

3. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

4. The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought by Marilynne Robinson

5. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

6. Drawn from Memory by Ernest H. Shepard

7. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (with this cover)

8. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

9. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

10. We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

 

 

Top Ten Books of 2014

At the 6 month point, I posted a list of my top 10 favorite books of 2014. Now that the year is drawing to a close, I think it’s a good idea to jump on the Top Ten Tuesday bandwagon and post an updated list. So here it is:

1) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

This work blew my mind. In addition to the general review linked above, I also wrote three reflection posts on the book (here, here, and here). I now consider Moby-Dick as my second favorite book of all time. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is still #1. Some people are hesitant to name books they think everyone should read. I am, however, unashamed to admit that I think every person (at least every American) should read Moby-Dick at least once in his/her lifetime. Read it at your own leisure. I suspect that those who were forced to read it for school didn’t enjoy it. Binge reading Moby-Dick is not a good idea.

2) The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

These are almost unanimously considered some of the greatest fantasy works of all time. However, I struggled for years to appreciate The Lord of the Rings. People often ask in the blogging world whether rereading a work you didn’t enjoy the first time is a good idea. My answer is yes! If you have only seen the movies, do yourself a favor and read the books. No film can ever do justice to the beautiful prose and dialogue in this trilogy. I am now a fantasy snob. If it is not beautifully written, I just can’t get into it. I expect every fantasy book to read like The Lord of the Rings :D.

A spoiler-free review of The Fellowship of the Ring is here.

3) Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

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This is a beautifully-constructed work. Willa Cather creates some very memorable but human characters. All people (including religious leaders) are more than their flaws. Fathers Vaillant and Latour learn much about love, generosity, and courage through their work in the mission lands of the American Southwest.

4) Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw

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Is Joan of Arc a saint, traitor, or heretic? Written four years after her canonization, Saint Joan revisits the events that led up to the execution of the maiden of Orleans. The words of Luke 11:47-51 come to mind: “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them.  So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of you fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs.” I have since read a good portion of the well-chronicled trial of Joan of Arc. It is so hard to read because Joan couldn’t say anything to defend herself. Her accusers decided beforehand that she was a heretic and she couldn’t do anything to defend herself. She is rehabilitated after her death, but isn’t that too late? In Saint Joan, Shaw has a lot to say to those who simply dismiss Bishop Cauchon and the Inquisitor as exceptionally bad individuals. How would we treat Joan today?

5) Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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This work is notoriously hard to read but very rewarding. Mrs. Dalloway is purely a character study. The work asks (among other questions):”What binds people together?” and “To what degree can one know and understand another person?”

6) Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

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This is not just a character study, but also a study of the generation gap in pre-Bolshevik Russia. Fathers and Sons is the first Russian work I’ve ever read and I’m dying to read other books by Russian authors. No matter what you may feel about Bazarov the nihilist, you’ve got to admit that he is a compelling character.

7) The Call of the Wild by Jack London

This is not just a book about sled dogs but about the humans who employ them. The line that divides the tame from the wild is not always clear.

8) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

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This was the biggest surprise of the year. I did not expect to enjoy Anne of Green Gables. I expected Anne Shirley to be Pollyanna-esque, but she is one of the most relatable female characters in all of literature. From page one, I was hooked.

9) Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Dickens does two things really well in this work: 1) He avoids going on random tangents, and 2) His male and female characters are more than mere caricatures. I love Dickens, but I know the common objections to his works. If his other novels have disappointed you, try Hard Times. You will be pleasantly surprised.

10) Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate) by Alain-Fournier

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This work has a fairy-tale like vibe to it. Augustin Meaulnes’ coming-of-age story is in sharp contrast to the pastoral (verging on the romantic) setting of the novel.