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.)

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