Category: 1001 Books

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #4: Friend Zoned

 Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

Another late post. Shall I grovel and apologize for my wasted life and lack of morals, a la Sydney? Nah, let’s just get to it! We read to the end this week. Are YOU finished?

Miss Pross, Like a Boss
My favourite character has been Madame Defarge almost the whole way through, UNTIL NOW. I always liked Miss Pross. Her wild exaggerations, her creepy devotion to “ladybird,” her even creepier idolization of her brother, and her complete disdain for the French make her a “character” in the same way that Jerry is. I loved that she and Jerry end up together, abandoned by the main players, and that Miss Pross saves everyone in the end and busts a cap in Therese’s ass – who saw that coming?

Friendzoned
First of all: the whole concept of “the friendzone” is gross and sexist. However. Sometimes the term just fits. And Sydney is in the Friend Zone like whoa.

Up until now, the only “friend zoned 19th century French literary character” I knew was Eponine from Les Mis. We all cringed for her as Marius used her to get to Cossette. But Sydney Carton takes it to a whole new level – he never even really confesses his love, and doesn’t even get to die in Lucie’s arms.

eponine

The End
We all knew how this was going to end. We all knew the last line. But it still had an impact. I rushed to the end, but slowed down on the last pages, and that last line hit me, big time. I may have cried (I totally cried.) I have to say, though, I don’t know if Clueless was correct in its analysis that Sydney meant “Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.” Sydney sacrificed himself for Charles, but, it was really all for Lucie, who he was obsessed with. I didn’t think this was really a “friendship” novel, at least, not the way I thought it would be.

it is a far

The Best of Blogs
I’m catching up on blogs, so if you aren’t here, link in the comments!

Tune in next Monday for: final thoughts and contest winner!

Did you cry at the end?

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A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #3: It Gets Better

 Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

I’m so late with this post, I considered just rolling it into next Monday’s. But, this section was important because it turned things around for me. I was feeling very “I’ve made a huge mistake” (say that in a Job from Arrested Development voice) about this whole thing until after page 200. But I swear, it kept getting better and better. I hope most of you are hanging in there!

Why I got back into #1Tale2Cities in this section:

1. Dr. Mannett & Mr. Lorry
I love the scene where Mr. Lorry talks to Dr. Mannett about this affliction, without actually talking about it. A predecessor of the “I have this friend…” I found these two charming in this scene, and I started to understand the role Mr. Lorry plays in their lives.

2. Madame Defarge and The Vengeance
Still bad-ass. First of all, we learn Mme. D’s first name is Therese, which is also my middle name. Then she acquired a sidekick named “The Vengence.” They also behead a couple people in this section. Madame D. also tells Lucie off, which is all good in my books. Lucie is begging for mercy for her husband and child because sisterhood or whatever and Mme. D is all, cool story, Citoyenne, but I will fully kill your husband in the name of la revolution!

coolstory

3. Sydney
Yes, his constant grovelling is annoying. In this section, though, I realized what his ultimate role was going to be – and having finished the book, I know I was right. And I love that. I love that this book is somewhat predictable. It’s a comfort read in a way. Pretty good for a book in which people are horribly killed and mutilated and what not.

4. The Grindstone
I just love this:

The great grindstone, Earth, had turned when Mr. Lorry looked out again, and the sun was red on the courtyard. But, the lesser grindstone stood alone there in the calm morning air, with a red upon it that the sun had never given, and would never take away.

But it’s not all good news…

1. Lucie
She still sucks.

That’s pretty much it. I like everyone else except Lucie. I might like Lucie, if I knew anything about her.

The Best of Blogs

Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:

If you write an update post this week, link it in the comments and I’ll update here in the main post.

Tales Heard Round the Internet

Tune in next Monday for: the end! 

Did anyone else think it got a lot better in this section?

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #2: Two Mary Sues

 Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

I know a lot of us are struggling right now. Too many characters, too many storylines, too many WORDS (and this isn’t even a long book by Dickens standards!) Here are some resources:

  • The gold standard: Spark Notes. I do two things when I finish a chapter: read the end notes, and read the Spark Notes summary. Each chapter is summed up in about a paragraph, and there’s some analysis every couple of chapters. Plain language, no spoilers.
  • Reader-along Consumed by Ink wrote a great post just today that lists all the major storylines. She should write for Spark!
  • TOTC was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2010. There are a bunch of resources at the link, but my favourite is the super-succinct character list.

On to chapters 6 through 16, Book the Second, in which we meet even more new characters, but at least some of them die right away.

The Two Mary Sues
I know some of you are having a hard time connecting to the characters. I am too. I think it’s because the romantic leads (at this point, anyway) are such Mary Sues. Mary Sue comes from the world of fanfic (what? I have diverse interests) and means an idealized heroine. She’s beautiful, thoughtful, athletic, intelligent, resourceful, and boring as hell. Lucie is a total Mary Sue. She’s described as a doll a few times, and that’s how I feel about her: she’s just a shell. She’s the perfect daughter and every guy she meets falls in love with her.

Charles isn’t much better. He at least has some DEEP DARK secret, but he’s good looking, hard working, devoted, respectful. He’s a total Noel (WARNING link is a six-minute montage of Felicity and Noel moments and may cause nausea, dizziness, and extreme boredom.)

Hopefully Dickens won't try to make Charles interesting by having him go crazy and get a tattoo like a certain someone I know

Hopefully Dickens won’t try to make Charles interesting by having him go crazy and get a tattoo like a certain late-90s show did… ahem

I didn’t like how the courtship with Lucie is totally glossed over – we never find out how Lucie feels about Charles, because I guess it’s just obvious that she would love him? And her relationship with her father is a bit much. She’s always trembling and throwing herself on him and declaring her love. It’s kind of creepy.

There are some great, flawed, INTERESTING characters in this book and so far, when Lucie and Charles are on the scene, I just want to get back to them: Sydney and his alcoholism, Jerry and his grave-robbing, Stryver and his, well, striving.

Vive La Revolution
My favourite part of this section was the Marquis chapters. I usually don’t like it when a character is obviously there just for social commentary, and the Marquis is the embodiment of cruelty and excess of the aristocracy that lead to the revolution. But how can I resist a guy who requires four “lacqueys” to make his hot chocolate? And whose morning agenda appears to be sashaying around his palace? His cruelty is similarly exaggerated, and his offhand remark upon trampling a small child reminded me of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada:

“It is extraordinary to me,” said he, “that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children.”

miranda

I also really like Dickens’ use of repetition – of words, phrases, styles – to (I think) convey the grinding povery and hunger and injustice that just never ends.

Madame Defarge: Just Keep Knitting
Mme. D. is my favourite character so far. In this section, she is described as having “the steadfastness of Fate” and as seeing and hearing “something inaudible and invisible” so I’m pretty sure she’s got super powers.

The Best of Blogs

Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:

If you write an update post this week, link it in the comments and I’ll update here in the main post.

Tales Heard Round the Internet

Tune in next Monday for Book the Second chapters 7-24 and Book the Third chapters 1-3. 

What did you think? Who are your favourite characters so far?

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Knitting for Dummies

Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

This first section is, in a word, disorienting. The writing style, the cast of characters, the seemingly unrelated storylines, the mundane shoved up against the absurd, and of course, the movement between the two cities, are making my head spin. At the worst of times I wanted to put the book aside to give my brain a break. At the best of times I wanted to shove the book in people’s faces and say, “look! This is hilarious! This is unlike anything you’ve ever read, including everything that’s ever been called Dickensian!” I hope to get into a better groove in section two.

Knitting for dummies
The pattern on my edition of the book shows something (a scarf?) being knitted. So I can’t take credit for noticing the heavy symbolism of Madame Defarge’s constant knitting, but I’m thinking it has something to do with The Fates, who weave the fabric of a person’s life (and cut the thread when it’s done) and HOPEFULLY it means all the people and storylines introduced in this first section will be knit together into something coherent. There are a LOT of people, and things, and honestly I’m not always totally sure which of the two cities we’re in at any given point. I gather I’m not alone from some of the #1Tale2Cities tweets I’m seeing!

Can you imagine reading this in weekly installments, as it was serialized in 1859? I would have forgotten everything in between!

That Madame Defarge. What a hipster.

That Madame Defarge. What a hipster.

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Start Reading!

Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

Have you started reading? I’m on page 12, so there’s plenty of time to catch up. As we get down to business, let’s check in on a couple of things:

Editions
Editions abound for a classic like this, that’s been around so long and has been assigned reading for countless students. The ebook selection was overwhelming, so I decided to go old school with the clothbound Penguin Classics. It’s got a nice weight to it, and a built-in bookmark, and lots of introductions, appendices, and notes. It also bit my two-year-old’s thumb today, according to him. Please note that I did comfort him before grabbing the camera.

What edition are you reading?

 

Henry reviews TOTC: "My thumb. Ow. Don't like book."

Henry reviews TOTC: “My thumb. Ow. Don’t like book.”

Read-Alongers (Readers-Along?)
The master post is updated with the list of participants, but I wanted to give some shout-outs today, because there are some awesome bloggers joining us!

  1. Tony: My brother-in-law. Please address any complaints about book choice to him.
  2. Cait at 1227 Miles: My sister. Oh and by the way – Cait and Tony are officially engaged as of this weekend! Congrats!
  3. ebookclassics: I love how CJ digs up the most interesting and random tidbits about books. I also love her celebrities in classics series – let’s say we have similar tastes (90s forever.)
  4. Cedar Station: We recently bonded over our love of The House of Mirth. OMG – Wharton read-along next?
  5. Consumed by Ink: A serious reader of CanLit and big supporter of book blogs – she writes the best comments!
  6. Romanoir: A new-to-me blogger who has a seriously intimidating Classics Club list, heavy on pre-1600 lit.
  7. Amanda’s Weekly Zen: New-to-me blog, but based on the recent post of Wuthering Heights quotes which contained many of my favs, I think we’ll get along juuuust fine.
  8. Doing Dewey: Best blog title and concept I’ve seen in a while. Reading her way through the Dewey decimal system!
  9. Jayne’s Books: Super prolific reader and Moby-Dick read-along alumni.
  10. Reading in Winter: Partly responsible for this blog being what it is today. Yay Kristilyn!
  11. Lost Generation Reader: A celebrity in the classic-lit-bloggers world. Really excited to have her AND her Dickens action figure joining us!

Tales Heard Round the Internet
This is a regular feature with news and notes about A Tale of Two Cities or Mr. Dickens. Today, I found out that the ubiquity of “A Tale of Two Cities” as a catchy title makes it real hard to do a proper Google search. I did manage to find out that The Invisible Woman was released on DVD in Canada last week. This looks like something I need to watch immediately. Psst, CJ, have you done Ralph Fiennes in your Celebrities in Classics yet?

Happy reading, and see you next Monday for our first check-in!

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Master Post

Get ready for the best of times and the worst of times, with the whitest and deadest of Dead White Dudes, Mr. Charles Dickens, and his Tale of Two Cities.

#1Tale2CitiesButton

Why A Tale of Two Cities?
My brother-in-law threw down the challenge. Yes, this is exactly how the Moby-Dick read-along came about. I feel like he really wants to be a book blogger, but doesn’t know how to start. Poor guy. Maybe we’ll convert him this year.

I was less than excited about his choice at first. But then I realized that I don’t know if I’ve ever read Dickens, really. I own some books, but I don’t know if I actually read them, or I just think I did because I’ve seen adaptations, or just know the stories because they’re part of our culture. At 33 years old, I think I should know whether I’ve read any Dickens or not, you know? Time to get serious!

And as much as I support things like #readwomen2014 and reading diverse authors and local authors, sometimes, you gotta hand it to the dead white dudes. I understand this Dickens fellow was pretty good at writing.

I actually have no idea what TOTC is about. But with that opening line, and that title, I’m thinking it’s got to be good. Or at least, make for some good mocking.

What do I have to do?
Nobody has to do anything. But it would be super cool if you did some of the following:

  • Sign up by leaving a comment on this post.
  • Grab the button and put it on your blog.
  • Swing by on Mondays for my weekly recaps.
  • If you are so inclined, post your thoughts on your own blog too.
  • Visit other read-alonger’s blogs. I’ll update the list right here in this post.
  • Tweet your thoughts/frustrations/Simpsons references at #1Tale2Cities

When do we start? (Schedule and links to update posts)

What’s in it for me?
You knew there would be some swag (bribes.)  I’ll randomly choose one participant to win a sweet TOTC shirt from Out of Print Clothing. For some reason, which I’ll assume is sexism, it’s only available in men’s sizes, but, you know, it’s a t-shirt. I think it’ll be okay. Or you can choose a different shirt, whatever.

totcshirt

If you want even MORE Dickens swag, check out this Book Riot post.

Still not convinced?
How about shout outs in both The Simpsons and Clueless?

“It was the best of times, it was the… BLURST of times? Stupid monkey!” in reference to, of course, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

via lesimpsons.tumblr.com

via lesimpsons.tumblr.com

“It’s like that book I read in the 9th grade that said “’tis a far far better thing doing stuff for other people.'” A reference to “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

via clothesonfilm.com

via clothesonfilm.com

How about Emma Donoghue naming Dickens as her favourite author?

That’s all I got for now. Tell me in the comments, why are you excited to read A Tale of Two Cities?

Who’s Reading Along?

 

In my bed: March 2014

You know you’re in a blogging slump when: a monthly update becomes quarterly. At least I came up with a sassy new name?

Reading has trumped writing lately, and I blame all the wonderful books. In the first three months of 2014, I’ve read three five-star books, one that was ever so close, and many that rate a solid four-stars.

Recommended reading
I’ve read 17 books to date this year. Here are a few that I would recommend to almost anyone.

dadeosorendaVillette Charlotte Brontemadhopebridgeofbeyond

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick. See my guest post over at ebookclassics and get ready to have your mind blown.
  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Check out me Bronte fangirling here.
  • The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. I knew this one was special after the first 15 pages and was a wreck after the last page. Review to come.
  • Mad Hope by Heather Birrell. Seriously cannot wait to reread this when I review.
  • The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart. My favourite of this year so far. As much for the translation as for the author’s work. It’s unbelievable that this was not written in English, because the language just soars.

Reading diverse
It was enlightening to count up the diversity (or lack thereof, sadly) in my reading last year, so I thought I’d track it more often in 2014. Of the 17 books I’ve read so far:

  • 10 written by women
  • 5 written by people of colour
  • 3 written by Dead White Dudes (and just 1 by an Alive White Dude. Hi Todd!)
  • 7 Canadian, 4 American,  4 British,1 Russian, and 1 Caribbean

So, still heavy on Canada/US/UK and heavy on white authors. A work in progress.

Reading local
I read some great local Edmonton books recently. Reviews for these are all to come.

theshoregirlcomebarbariansfolliespast

  • The Shore Girl by Fran Kimmel: Complex and satisfying.
  • Follies Past by Melanie Kerr: Unexpected and authentic.
  • Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak: A cross between Le Carre and Irving.

There are also some great recent and upcoming events in Edmonton:

  • Sadly, Richard Wagamese (author of Indian Horse) couldn’t make it to the Macewan Book of the Year event, so it’s being rescheduled.
  • I attended my very first CanLit Book Club at Jasper Place Library, and Indian Horse was the March pick. I think a full blog post is in order, but I’m so happy to have found this group! Our next book is Emma Donoghue’s Astray. 
  • This week, I’ll be staying up past my bedtime to attend Green Drinks: Local Literature. I’m not sure exactly what will go on, but I’ve been told it involved “literati,” possibly “glitterati,” and also high-fives. I will attempt to take selfies with the likes of Jason Lee Norman (Americas, 40 Below Project), Matt Bowes (NeWest Press), Diana Davidson (Pilgrimage), and Alexis Keilen (13, She Dreams in Red.) There are 24 tickets left as of 10:30 Monday night. Get on it!

What’s next on Reading in Bed
frogmusicredallournamesataleoftwomadameb

  • Guest hosting on Write Reads: I haven’t been much into podcasts until I realized that my gym has free wifi and I can listen to them while I work out. I listened to Write Reads this week, and soon enough, I’ll be guest hosting with Tania and “Kirtles” (that’s what Tania calls him. I don’t know if I get to call him Kirtles right off the bat or not!) with my choice for Canadian New Release month:  Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music.
  • Reading for The Afterword Reading Society: The National Post books section came up with a quasi-book club of it’s own. Each week there’s a new book, and members can request a chance to read. 25 are picked and you get a review copy of the book and a set of questions to fill out. The results are summarized in the paper. I’ve been trying for months and finally got picked to read Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names. One of the questions asks, “what would you ask the author?” I had a real hard time coming up with something more intelligent than “why are you so awesome?” I’ll post all my answers on the blog soon.
  • #1Tale2Cities Readalong: Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is the first readalong I’ve hosted since Moby-Dick. Watch for a sign up post soon! We’ll start reading on April 20th.
  • Madame Bovary Readalong: I feel like living on the edge, so I’m signing up for this readalong the day before it starts. ebookclassics, Cedar Station, and a scandalous heroine? Yeah, I’m in. Sign up here, soon.

How about you, book bloggers and readers? Are you reading diverse or local or anything else we should know about?

 

A Very Bronte Blog Post: Villette and A Bronte Burlesque

Do you have a favourite Bronte novel? If not, go read some of their stuff. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Villette Charlotte BronteThe perceptive Rory at Fourth Street Review suggests that many readers identify strongly with either Jane Eyre (Charlotte) or Wuthering Heights (Emily), but not both. I’ve been a Wuthering Heights girl since I read it 17 years ago, but I’ve broadened my Bronte horizons of late: I read my first Anne book, Agnes Grey last fall, I read Charlotte’s Villette last month, and just recently saw a play based on the Bronte’s lives.  I’m still Team Emily, but it’s time for me to give Charlotte her due: Villette is her masterpiece (sorry Jane fans) and she’s the most interesting of the siblings.

I didn’t even get around to reviewing Agnes Grey last year. It definitely had it’s moments, but the biggest impression it left was my wonder at how things were so different in Anne’s time; mostly in terms of the qualifications needed to educate children (be female, be unmarried, have a pulse?) Villette made me wonder about this stuff too, but I also felt the universality of Lucy’s situation. She could be anyone, at any time, not just a 19th century teacher, whereas Agnes was trapped in time. Indeed, if you have ever loved someone more than they love you, you’ll identify with Lucy Snowe.

Villette reminded me of a smaller-scope Middlemarch. Both novels are named for a city and are about the divisions between classes and sexes and have wonderful feminist perspectives. Middlemarch has much more going for it, from politics to academia to satire – so much, in fact, that I’m paralyzed to write a proper review. Villette is more of  a character study – a convincing portrait of Lucy and her world. It’s a tragedy, and at times gothic and romantic. It’s odd in its construction – a straightforward narrative most of the time, but then, BAM, there’s a stream of consciousness account of Lucy’s severe depression. Or a delerious description of Lucy tripping out after being drugged. An anti-Catholic rant. A ghost nun. And so on.

Jane Eyre is great, but it just wasn’t this ambitious or this awesome. I made the mistake of finishing Villette over lunch time at work, and spent that afternoon in a state of bewilderment. I may have said “oh no she DIDN’T” aloud. It’s pretty much the opposite of the satisfying “Reader, I married him,” but to me, the ending was more satisfying for being so ambiguous.

Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Anne via https://www.facebook.com/sendinthegirls

Send in the Girls in A Bronte Burlesque: Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Anne via https://www.facebook.com/sendinthegirls

Villette was the perfect preparation for seeing A Bronte Burlesque, a production of local theatre company Send in the Girls. Charlotte is the star, and we first meet her on her deathbed, her siblings having all died years earlier. Villette is never mentioned, and not often referenced (it’s all about Jane Eyre) but dying Charlotte, bitter and alone, put me in mind of Lucy Snow immediately.

In real life, Charlotte was newlywed and pregnant at her death, though this is never mentioned in the play. So, the story is manipulated, but what story isn’t? A Bronte Burlesque is confined to the insular world of the four Bronte siblings: Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell, the underachiever brother who I didn’t even know about till I saw the play.

It’s about exposing (get it?) the real Charlotte, how her ambition drove her to betray her siblings. She’s successful, but haunted by the past. Emily and Anne are laid bare as well – Anne and her jealousy, Emily and her depravity.

I had always wondered about Emily: how did she write so convincingly about obsession and loss, living such a short and isolated life? This play suggests that there was some Flowers in the Attic action going on up at Haworth, which made me question my teenage obsession with Wuthering Heights for a second before realizing this is a work of fiction about another work of fiction and every interpretation is as valid as the next – icky or not.

The burlesque element was fun, and worked well on a metaphorical level – you know, exposure, identity, femininity -but sometimes I would remember that they were supposed to be related and it got a a little weird. Or a lot weird. Seeing Emily throw herself at her own brother to the strains of Radiohead’s “Creep” was one of the more bizarre experiences of my life. This play was not exactly date night material.

The set, music and costumes were gorgeous. I was entertained and I gained a serious appreciation for Charlotte Bronte. And I simply love the fact that there’s a local theatre company doing something like this with literature and history! I never read biographies, but now I’m on the lookout for a good one – maybe Elizabeth Gaskell’s  on Charlotte, or Daphne Du Maurier’s on Branwell.

Tell me, are you Team Emily or Team Charlotte? Is there a Team Anne? Branwell?? 

2014 Preview: Diversity, CanLit, Classics, and Second Chances

I’m still catching up on 2013 reviews, but 2014 reading is well underway. Here’s what you can expect this year on Reading in Bed.

Diversity!
I am pretty dismayed that off all the books I read last year, only 12% were by authors of colour. Here are some of my current and planned reads that will help tip me over 25% this year:

orendabridgeofbeyondinside outsixmetres

  • The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. It’s my current read and HOLY CRAP IS IT GOOD.
  • The Bridge of the Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart. nybooks.com says: “This is an intoxicating tale of love and wonder, mothers and daughters, spiritual values and the grim legacy of slavery on the French Antillean island of Guadeloupe.” Yeah. Plus, that cover.
  • Inside Out: Reflections on a Life So Far by Evelyn Lau. An excuse to write about how Lau’s first memoir, Runaway, changed my life.
  • Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor. My favourite calendar girl in Bare it for Books.

Follow book blogger Leonicka for lots of resources on diversity in Canadian literature. She’s going all out and reading 85% authors of colour this year!

Local Authors!
My next local read will likely be Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak. As for new #yegwrites stuff, so far I’m looking forward to Marina Endicott‘s fourth novel, Falling for Hugh and Laurence Miall‘s debut novel Blind Spot.

Here’s a great roundup of Edmonton books in 2014.

CanLit!
Apart from the Edmonton stuff, here’s my most anticipated CanLit:
frog musicthegirlwhocrimeagainstmy

  • Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. She’s got a way with titles. I loved Room and Slammerkin, so my expectations are high.
  • The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill. I’ve been waiting eight years for O’Neill to write another book. Bring it on!
  • Crime Against My Brother by David Adams Richards. Apparently brings the main character of Mercy Among the Children back – one of my favourite books of all time.

I will also solider on with the Storytellers Book Club challenge. It helps that I won a set of all five books in their contest last year!

Classics!
I haven’t forgotten about The Classics Club! In fact, I’m right on pace. I chose 50 books to read over five years, and approaching the one year mark, I’ve read eleven.

I’m also contemplating Behold the Star’s Russian Literature Challenge. Krisitlyn of Reading in Winter gave me War and Peace for Christmas, plus I hear reading Chekhov can improve your life.

Back from the DNF

tristramcovertinkerThe English Patient by Michael Odaantjehouseofsandfifthbusiness

I might set this one up as a challenge hosted here on the blog. I’ve abandoned a few books over the years, and this is the year I give them another shot. I’m including books that I straight up DNF’d (did not finish) and books that I finished, but didn’t really appreciate, often because I read them too young. Here is a sampling, with my excuses for not finishing in the first place. Watch for an introductory post soon (and if anyone wants to help me design a button, that would be cool…)

  • Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne: Pregnancy brain
  • Tinker Tailor Solider Spy by John LeCarre: Baby brain
  • The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje: Too young. Attempted at 22 or so and got really lost.
  • The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubuois III: Too young. Read at age 20.
  • Fifth Business by Robertson Davies: Too young. Forced to read in high school, I hated it. Read a description of it recently and it sounds AMAZING.

This sounds like a lot of books, but I’m leaving room for random books, recommendations, read-alongs, and review books; you know, the four Rs. 

Obligatory end-of-post question: what are YOU planning to read this year?

 

Reading in Bed Year in Review #4: Best Books and Blog Stats

I love statistics. You’re probably sick of them by now, what with the many end-of-year blog posts, but I love how they’re both meaningless and mean everything; how “numbers don’t lie” but they can tell whatever story we want them to tell. Here are the numbers that made up my year of reading.

…but first, a public service announcement: Goodreads has a sweet stats thiny that shows you how many books you’ve read, how many pages you’ve read, how you rated your books, and more! Go to “My Books,” then “stats” which is on the left side in tiny font, then click “details.” It’s magic! Here’s mine. You can also export your books to Excel to do EVEN MORE analysis – click “import/export” in that same tiny, left hand menu.

Books ReadFavs

  • Books read in 2013: 52 (Book a week!!)
  • Books read in first six months: 12
  • Books read in last six months: 40

I knew my reading picked up after I finished Moby-Dick this summer but I didn’t realize the extent till now. I never thought I’d read 50 books in a year, but it looks like I could reasonably go for 75 next year!

About the Author

  • 35 Female (67%) 16 male (31%) 1 various (2%)
  • 22 Canadian (42%) 16 American (31%) 9 British (17%) 2 French (4%) and 1 each: Columbian, Russian, Irish. 
  • 48 white (88%) 6 visible minority (12%)

I didn’t restrict myself to female authors this year, but I did stack the deck a bit by choosing female authors on the Classics Club list, and, by accepting review copies from independent presses – I have a feeling that female authors are over represented in smaller publishers. I won’t set any specific goals for next year, but I’d love to read more books by minorities.  I’m sure I’ll still read lots of CanLit, butI gotta read some more World Lit too, beyond the States and the UK. Anyone got any good world lit reading challenges happening? I’ll probably do the Russian Lit one but would love to broaden my horizons even further…

Genres and Lists

  • 18 classics (35%), 25 contemporary lit fic (48%), 3 non fiction (6%), 3 YA (6%), 2 romance (4%), 1 anthology (2%)
  • 11 1001 Books for a total of 115 read
  • 11 Classics Club picks for a total of 11

Ratings

  • 10 five star reviews (19%), 19 four star reviews (37%), 14 three stars (27%), 3 two stars (6%), and 2 one star reviews (4%).

Compared to the average Goodreads rating…

  • I rated 22 books higher. The most underrated book was The Testament of Mary, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.56 rating.
  • I rated 28 books lower. The most overrated book was Dragon Bound, which I rated a 1, compared to average 4.19 rating.

Blog Stats

discostu

  • 17,000 page views in 2013. Compare that to 900 in 2011 and 3,500 in 2012. As Disco Stu would say, “if this trend continues, HEY!”
  • Most viewed post of 2013: What’s The Deal With Infinite Jest? It’s a year later and I still don’t know what the deal is! It’s funny because I wrote it in a very unplanned, stream of consciousness style, which I don’t often do. I’m just happy to share the WTFness and the DFW love.
  • Most viewed post that was actually written in 2013: The Fault in Our Stars: Use Your (Literary) Allusion. I get searches for “Fault in our stars allusions” on a daily basis, particularly in the summer, which tells me that a lot of students write papers on TFioS, and makes me realize how different writing papers must be these days.

And now, on to the good stuff: my best and worst reads of the year!

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