February

It’s February already, and we’re sitting under 40 cm of freshly fallen snow here in southern Ontario. I love snug and cozy days like this, days where we stay at home and drink hot chocolate, read books and feel protected from the harsh cold of winter.

Feb

The beginning of February also reminds me of my three reading goals for 2015. Here’s how things are looking so far:

1. My first goal was to read ten classics from the Top 100 Novels of All Time. I’ve read two of the ten so far, Adam Bede by George Eliot and Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. Adam Bede was simply splendid, a thoughtful, character-driven novel with beautiful reflections on life. I loved it. Oscar and Lucinda is billed as a dramatic love story – and it was, sort of. More thoughts on this one to come. Next up: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

2. My second goal was to read a handful of non-fiction books I’ve received as gifts and haven’t completed. I’m half-way through Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art by Roger Kimball and it’s laugh-out-loud funny (in a ‘this is so preposterous it can’t be true – do people actually think like this??!’ kind of way).

3. And my third goal was to read one canto a day of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’ve read 22 cantos so far and the book is fascinating, gruesome and very, very thought-provoking.

2015 Reading Goals

Well, well, well!  Here we are at the end of 2014 and I’m spending a bit of time contemplating the year ahead, setting goals to shape the coming 365 days. My husband and I are expecting baby #3 in July, so I’m tempering my reading plans, keeping them modest.

Collage 2015

My three goals for 2015 are:

1. To read ten classics from the Top 100 Novels of All Time. Many of the books I’ve read on the list so far have been by familiar authors (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens), so over half of the books I chose are by authors whose works I’ve never read (or possibly even heard of) before.

  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
  • Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot (The Guardian lists Daniel Deronda, but I’ve already watched the BBC version, and have read Middlemarch, so I’m going with Adam Bede instead, which was included in a wonderful list of Five Secular Books That Changed My Life over on The Christian Pundit.)
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

2. To read a handful of non-fiction books I’ve received as gifts and haven’t completed. I’m much more partial to fiction than non-fiction, but I’d like to push myself to finish these books that are just sitting there on my shelf, waiting to be read:

  • Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art by Roger Kimball
  • Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl
  • A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Ostyn
  • Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
  • Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior

3. To read one canto a day of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’ve been wanting to complete the Divine Comedy for ages, but I don’t have the same patience for poetry as I do for fiction. There are 99 cantos in total, so by aiming for a manageable goal of one per day I’ll have completed the book by mid-April.

Top Ten Favourites of 2014

Collage 2014 Reads

  1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell –  I was hooked right from the beginning of Gone with the Wind; it’s both immensely readable and moving without sacrificing depth of character. It gave me a literary hangover – I languished for days after finishing it, heartsick – but it was so, so good.
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (reread) – my favourite novel of all time (thought I’m putting in second place here because of the wild experience it was reading Gone With the Wind).  Jane might be unassuming in appearance, yet her spirit is so alive! I love Jane’s spirited conversations with Mr. Rochester, and I greatly admire her moral fortitude.
  3. Emma by Jane Austen (reread) – the perfect blend of love, family problems and social commentary, all delivered with a wittiness that makes you think Jane Austen was chuckling to herself whilst writing this fine story.
  4. Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery – the story of a young girl who can’t bear change growing up. I loved the many neighbourhood tales told by Pat’s housekeeper, Judy, and the way Pat’s heart slowly opens up to new experiences.  It’s a sweet and tender story.
  5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (reread) –  I’ve read and re-read Anne of Green Gables many times already, but it’s just as lovely and stirring the tenth or twelfth time as it was the first.  I love Anne, her penchant for large words and her delightful capacity for appreciating beauty – not to mention her amusing misadventures.
  6. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery – What can I say, I love Emily almost as much as I love Anne!  She takes the same tender delight in the things of the earth (anthropomorphizing everything in sight), and she’s bright, engaging and charming.  Wonderful read.
  7. Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – I enjoyed the second book in the Emily series just as much as the first.
  8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott –  started off a little preachy and starchy, but blossomed into a wonderful coming-of-age story replete with absolutely lovely characters and friendships.  Definitely a story to read with my infant daughter in ten years!
  9. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster –  a novel of letters between a lively orphan and her mysterious benefactor.  Spunky, charming and so very readable. (And nothing to do with the insect, in case you were wondering.)  Devoured it in one evening and really, really enjoyed it.
  10. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay – despite the title, which makes you think the book is a spin-off of Emma, this is actually a modern retelling of Daddy Long Legs. I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning finishing this book – so yes, it’s captivating and entertaining. The parts where it veered from the original were unsatisfying, though.

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for other favourite books of the year; head on over to find more books to put on your wish list! 🙂

What I Read in 2014

Snooping through other people’s reading lists can be such fun!  So, for your reading pleasure, this is what I read in 2014 (with brief reviews in parentheses).

Woman Reading in a Forest by Gyula Benczur

Woman Reading in a Forest by Gyula Benczur

FICTION

Classic Novels
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (absorbing)
Emma by Jane Austen (excellent)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (favourite)
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (thorough)
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (a bit slow at times, but worthwhile)
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford (intriguing)
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (depressing)
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (gut-wrenching)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (fun)
The Warden by Anthony Trollope (enjoyable)
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (witty)
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (tiny denouement)
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (scathing)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (thought-provoking)

Assorted Books
Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken (disappointing)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (empty)
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (fun, if your expectations aren’t too high)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (lewd)
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (one-sided)
Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers edited by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon (very enjoyable)
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley (fluffy)
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay (unputdownable)
Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers (lacklustre)
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (charming)

Book Club Reads
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (unremarkable)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (preachy)
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (lacking a moral compass)
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (sweet)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (vapid)

Children’s Books and Novels
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen (classic)
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (fun)
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall (fun)
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (flat)
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges (inspiring)
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (romantic)
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (delightful)
Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery (tender)
A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery (entertaining)
Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery (syrupy)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (delightful)
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery (delightful)
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery (nerve-wracking)
Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery (delightful)
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (wonderful)
Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (wonderful)
Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery (nerve-wracking)
Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery (delightful)
Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery (delightful)
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (sylvan)

NON-FICTION
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges (thought-provoking)
Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson (encouraging)