Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Year of Austen

So, um, this post has nothing to do with food or travel. :)

Around this time last year, I was feeling a little odd. I like to read. I read a lot. I read a lot of blogs, magazines and news (it's the way I prefer to get news unless it's PBS Newshour, which I LOVE (and don't watch enough)!! Support PBS*!!). HOWEVER, I was realizing that I didn't read books. I was also reading all of these blog posts last year from many fellow bloggers mentioning all of these books that they were reading. Books? Err? I think I maybe read one or two books all of 2010. ***Hangs head in shame*** It's not because I don't like books. I just find it hard to figure out what's out there, and I feel annoyed if I've invested in a book that I end up not really liking. Plus, buying books can add up (getting an e-reader doesn't necessarily help this either), and they take up space in an already full apartment.

Unlike this year, where I have no idea what I would even ask for for Christmas, I knew last year that I wanted an e-reader. I hoped that by getting an e-reader that it would at least get me to read more than two books for the year. At least I hoped. Well, I can safely say that not only have I read more than two books, I will have read at least nine by the end of this year (maybe ten if I push it a little)! That's a fairly big increase if I do say so myself. :) I know for many of you that's nothing; but for me, that's probably the most books I've read since grad school!

Not me and just swap in a Kindle, but I do smile when I read

One of the first books that I read after getting my Kindle from Husband J was Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. While I love the 2005 movie remake (I know there are many people who prefer the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth), I realized I hadn't read the book since middle school. I enjoyed it so much that I thought, "Why don't I read all of Jane Austen's novels except Emma?" Why not Emma? Well, I am a lover of English period movies, and I had just seen a newer PBS Masterpiece Classic production. While I loved the movie, the Emma character bothered me. I know she's supposed to bother you, but I didn't think I could make it through a few hundred pages of her.

As of last week, I've completed my goal of reading Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion with a few other books thrown in. I really feel like I learned so much about early nineteenth century England. After reading each book, I treat myself to the movie version. I'm currently looking for a good version of Mansfield Park, since I hated the one I tried to watch last weekend.

I'm thinking that maybe I should set some other literary goal for next year now that I've gotten into reading again. I have a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (who I love)...should I plug through that? Some Anna Karenina or War & Peace from Tolstoy? Is he hard to read? They're making a movie version of Anna for next year starring guess who...

Keira Knightley (as Elizabeth Bennett) reads, too. :)

I would love to hear what book reading project you think I should take up next. If you're interested, I can post my progress throughout next year (can you believe we're talking about next year already? Sighh...). Also I'd love any book suggestions in general, although I don't want to read or I'm not sure I want to read the following: The Help, The Hunger Games trilogy, or books that are very violent and preferably nothing super sad. :)

What books have you been reading this year? Have you ever done a reading project?

*For those of you that don't know, PBS is the U.S. public broadcasting station. It tends to have a more educational and cultural focus in its programming.


Grace said...

Ohh I love reading (and Jane Austen). Have you tried Anthony Trollope? He's very much like Austen (slice of life romances among the English middle and upper classes), but slightly later (mid-nineteenth century I think). You might start with The Warden. Several of his books have been made into high quality BBC miniseries too. Dickens isn't bad either (although I personally like Trollope better as his characters are more realistic/less grotesque). David Copperfield is really good.

Tolstoy is of course great but sad (since he's Russian, they are all sad). If you want cheerful I would stick to English or Americans. Have you read Mark Twain? His travel writing is really funny, and he went everywhere (even South Africa!): The Innocents Abroad and Following the Equator are both good.

Hope this helps and happy reading!

Erin said...

I just read the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy. While it was definitely violent, it was interesting. Are you only looking for fiction? In the last year or so I got into travel essays/books and have really started enjoying them. I think Bill Bryson's books are beyond funny. He has one on England, which you might enjoy as an Anglophile.

Dead Flowers said...

I've recently been setting reading goals for myself (in 2009, 100 books, this year, 50), and even though I haven't really come all that close to completing them, it gives me extra incentive to read!

I suggest signing up for an account on where you can list books you've read, are currently reading, and want to read. You can also read reviews from other readers that are pretty helpful for getting recs for new books! Also, you should join a book club in your area if you can find one! I joined one this year and it's really helped me to read more and forced me to read things outside my comfort zone.

Right now, I'm really loving the author Jeffrey Euginides. He wrote The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, and I'm reading his newest book, The Marriage Plot. He makes a lot of references to Classic lit, so I think you'd like it. Also, he's really good at writing from a female perspective, which I think a lot of male authors struggle with. I would also recommend my fave author, John Fowles, since you like Brit lit. He's a 20th Century postmodern author, who wrote The French Lieutenant's Woman, one of my favorite books of all time. He's a little "out there," but I love it.

Recently, I read a book for book club called A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egans. It won the Pullitzer in 2010, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

As for more Classic lit, I am currently reading Little Women, and I recently read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Oh, and if you haven't, check out David Sedaris. All of his writing is hysterical and yet heartwarming at the same time. Love love love him.

Melinda said...

In undergrad, I took a class on Austen and we read all of her novels in chronological order. I loved that exercise because I felt like I grew along with her and watched Austen reveal more and more of herself.

For your next book, I definitely recommend Tolstoy. Maybe a bit harder to read, but the complications are worth it.

Melinda said...

Oh and just read @Dead Flowers comment - completely agree with her! Wish I lived near y'all to do a book club!

Sara said...

Curious as to why you wouldn't want to read The Help. It is really a fantastic book.

I'd second Little Women.

I just finished reading a trilogy by Tana French about the Dublin Murder squad. I wouldn't say the books are very violent but they are about detectives so there is obviously some crime references.

I also recently read J. Courtney Sullivan's two books Commencement and Maine. I second Jefferey Euginides.

If you're looking for a challenge I'd say Shakespeare is a good one. I was an English major in college and one of my favorite classes was actually Biblical and Classical Lit where we read the Bible as a book. Not as a religious book. Just a book. As my professor said, "It is the world's first soap opera."

I'd be interested to see what you tackle

Try Anything Once Terri said...

@Grace - Hmm..Anthony Trollope. I've never heard of him. I'll have to do some research. I really like the Mark Twain idea. I've never really Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

@Erin - I need to read more travel essays and books. Good call.

@Dead Flowers - 100 books! Oh my! I LOVED Middlesex. LOVED it. I read the sample of The Marriage Plot and am intrigued. I may add that to the list as well. sounds like a great site. Thanks for the tip. I LOVED Little Women when I was a kid. Louisa May Alcott is great.

@Sara - Re: The Help, I am sure it is a great book; I just can't get behind a few aspects of it. I like your professor's line about the Bible. He/She is totally right!


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