Back to the Classics

Reading from the Mountain, Playing Mystery Bingo and Back to the Classics

January 08, 2014

It’s reading challenge time again. In 2014, I’m signing up for two challenges, ones I’ve done before, and using a third challenge as inspiration: the Back to the Classics Challenge.  Reading is practically my favorite thing, and I’ve decided to use that to gently step outside my usual comfort zone.

I’m returning to Bev’s (My Reader’s Block) Mount TBR Challenge in 2014, but stepping it up to the Mt. Vancouver level (36 books) because Something Must Be Done about the state of my bookshelves. This will truly be a challenge because I barely squeaked by with my 24 from last year, even after I got off to a good start. I’ll need to average three books a month from my own shelves to reach my goal. Fortunately, I’m well-equipped for this, and I’ll use books from my stash for my other two challenges. Now if only I can keep from being too distracted by the intriguing books I’ll hear about this year….

2014 Vintage Mystery BINGO Sign-UpVintage mysteries are my favorite, possibly because I grew up reading Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Erle Stanley Gardner, and this will be my third vintage mystery challenge. This year, I’m playing Vintage Mystery Bingo, also hosted by Bev. I’m doing the Golden level, and might consider the Silver level as well if I find myself reading enough books from that era without putting strain on the other two challenges. I’ve already finished Georgette Heyer’s A Blunt Instrument and have started Sheila Pim’s Creeping Venom. This will be by far my easiest challenge—these books are the equivalent of eating cookies: delicious and comforting. 

And finally, I’m using the Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate, as inspiration for reading more classics. (I’m not officially signing up because I’m not planning to write a blog post about each classic that I read—I’m just going to use the categories as guidelines.) I’ve wanted to read more classic literature but haven’t been able to discipline myself to do so, even though “classic” doesn’t have to mean difficult, long or boring. (Pride and Prejudice is a classic and one of my all-time favorite books, for example). This challenge seems within my reach, with six required books, and four more optional choices. Of course, I have a number of unread classics on my TBR shelves to choose from. (Thank you to Danielle at A Work in Progress for linking to Karen’s challenge.) 

It’s likely I’m biting off more than I can chew—but it’s a new year and everything seems possible! Even putting a dent in my (almost literal) mountain of unread books. (See the sidebar left for a link to my 2014 reading challenge log.)

Will you join any reading challenges in 2014?


Book(ish) Ends

December 23, 2013

I did it! I completed both the reading challenges I joined in 2013. 

I got off to a strong start with my Mount TBR challenge, and actually read more than 24 books from my own shelves, but the rules said I could count only those books that were on my shelf prior to Jan. 1, 2013. I continued to buy books throughout the year (possibly ending up with more than I started with—I’m afraid to count) and read quite a few of those during 2013, too. I will continue to read from my shelves in 2014, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the only way I’ll be able to make any real headway in reducing the stacks will be if I put myself on a book-buying fast for a few months. I may do this, though I know I’ll find it quite painful!

While I came it at “just” 24 (my goal) for the Mount TBR challenge, I exceeded my goal for the Vintage Mystery Challenge. It was so much fun! I loved the different categories, with names like “Colorful Crime” (“a book with a color or reference to color in the title”) or “Country House Criminals” (“a standard—or not so standard—Golden Age country house murder”). I plan to join 2014’s Vintage Mystery Challenge, which has a Bingo theme. (Click here for a complete list of the books I read for each challenge.)

I’m down to two books left to finish for my year-end reading, Personal Pleasures and Wherever You Go, There You Are. I don’t think I’ll finish them by the end of the year, but you never know. I plan to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to relax and do some extra reading

Other than the two books mentioned above, what will I be reading? I’m so glad you asked!

I went a little crazy with the library holds, which, of course, all came in at the same time. (I don’t expect to finish all these within my three-week borrowing period—I’m sure several of them will have to be renewed.)

Here is the book bounty:

Unpacking My Bookshelves—Writers and Their Books, Leah Price. I can hardly think of a more appealing book to a nosy book fiend like me. This book will probably inspire a post all on its own. 

The Heroine’s Bookshelf, Erin Blakemore. I’ve only just flipped through this book, but already I wish I had written it.  

Thin Is the New Happy, Valerie Frankel.  I’m already halfway through this memoir of Frankel’s efforts to “exorcise her bad body-image demons, to uncover the truths behind what put them there, and to learn how to truly love herself.” 

Ten Dollar Dinners, Melissa D’Arabian. I am always looking for creative and inexpensive ways to feed the family. 

The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky. Subtitled: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does.” I’m looking forward to reading this book that “empowers readers to look beyond their first response, sharing scientific evidence that often it is our mindset—not our circumstances—that matters most.”

Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives, edited by Verna Dreisbach. I can’t wait to read this collection of essays exploring the ways horses have enriched the lives of the contributors, including Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries. With an introduction by Jane Smiley.

You’re probably wondering where the fiction is. I’m already reading Every Secret Thing by Susanna Kearsley, and I’ll pick something else from my own overloaded shelves when I finish that. 

So you see I’ll have plenty to occupy me as the 2013 reading year comes to an end. I’m looking forward to curling up with a cup of tea or coffee and immersing myself in some of these.

What are your plans for year’s end, reading or otherwise?


It's Summer--Let's Read!

June 24, 2013

Remember those summer reading lists we used to get when we were in school—books that were either required or “recommended” for us to read before school started the next year? Even though I’ve always loved reading, I used to hate those lists. Rarely did they contain something I wanted to read, and somehow it took some of the fun out of reading when it was assigned. Even now, I’m an extremely random reader—drifting from book to book as suits my mood. I don’t often plan out a course of reading, though I admire those who do, and I love to see other people’s reading lists (like Danielle’s at A Work in Progress) and summer reading recommendations (click here for some fun ones).

This summer, to make the most of what I hope will be extra reading time (when most people are preparing to get outdoors more in summer, here in central Florida, I’m planning ways to stay indoors as much as I can—it’s just too dang hot and humid), I thought I’d try making up my own reading list in an effort to read more widely and carefully instead of just reading more.

I started my list with books from the pattern that has emerged the past couple of years. For instance, every summer, I read a biography or autobiography of a writer. In past years, I’ve read about Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louisa May Alcott and Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. This summer, I’ve picked up a volume of L.M. Montgomery’s journals (she’s the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, see below), and I think I might also tackle Mark Twain’s autobiography

Interestingly, for the past two summers I’ve read a book by Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone and The Woman in White). This year, it’s No Name, the story of Magdalen and Norah Vanstone, who find themselves orphaned and penniless when their inheritance goes to their uncle.

I also like to pick up a classic. I’m already working on The Three Musketeers (which I started months ago—not a reflection on the story, but on the fact that I’m reading it on my tablet, which I dislike for reading). I’m also considering Eudora WeltyDelta Wedding, which is described on Amazon as “A vivid and charming portrait of a large southern family, the Fairchilds, who live on a plantation in the Mississippi delta. The story…[is] centered around the visit of a young relative, Laura McRaven, and the family’s preparations for her cousin Dabney’s wedding.” I’m just discovering Welty’s work, and so far I’ve loved everything I’ve read.

I’ll continue with my vintage mystery challenge—with Ngaio Marsh’s Spinsters in Jeopardy—what a great title!—up next.  I’ll probably also sneak in another Georgette Heyer mystery. I’m working my way through the Sourcebooks Landmark editions with their terrific vintage covers.

What would summer be like without a comfort reread (or two…or more!)? I’m thinking of revisiting Mary Stewart’s The Moon-Spinners (especially for the Cretan setting), and Anne’s House of Dreams, the fifth book in Anne of Green Gables series. And I think it’s about time I reread an Agatha Christie mystery. 

And lest you think I’m eternally stuck in the past, I also want to read Barbara Kingsolver’s newest novel Flight Behavior, I’m working on the fourth Maisie Dobbs mystery, Messenger of Truth and I’m already more than halfway through Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. (Jenny is better known as The Bloggess.) 

My summer list also includes Dave Barry’s I’ll Mature When I’m Dead and Val Frankel’s memoir, It’s Hard Not to Hate You, as well as Debbie Macomber’s Between Friends and Patricia Wentworth’s The Catherine Wheel, another vintage mystery.

Whew. That should more than take me through the summer! And if it doesn’t, I still have quite a mountain of choices on my shelves, despite my efforts to whittle them down. (Tip: in order to effectively reduce one’s total “mountain” of books, one must quit buying books. So much easier said than done.)

What will you read this summer?


I Accept: Reading Challenges in 2013

January 04, 2013

Even though I read a lot in 2012 (112 books!), I was unorganized about it, I didn’t read the classics I wanted to read, and I allowed my to-be-read (TBR) stack to proliferate ridiculously. I also didn’t participate in any reading challenges, and I missed that. I don’t need prodding to read, but I like the feeling of working towards a goal. So this year, I’m going to participate in two reading challenges, both sponsored by Bev at MyReader’s Block.

I desperately need to do another “Off the Shelf” challenge, and there are several floating around out there with varying degrees of rigor. I chose Bev’s TBR challenge because it’s simple, I like the button and the mountain references! I’m shooting for the Mont Blanc level: 24 books from my TBR pile, and if it goes well, I might upgrade to the Mt. Vancouver level (36 books). Even so, I really am going to have to put myself on a book-buying diet. Even 36 books will barely put a dent in my stack. Perhaps it’s time to go through and purge the piles again.

Vintage Reading  Challenge 2013 Signup
The second challenge is another Vintage Mystery Challenge. I participated in Bev’s VMC in 2011 and loved it. I found some great, new-to-me authors (and revisited some old favorites). This year, Bev has come up with categories that sound like lots fun.  To be eligible for a prize, there’s an eight book minimum using the categories she’s provided, which include things like “Colorful Crime: a book with a color or reference to color in the title” and “A Calendar of Crime: a mystery with a date/holiday/year/month/etc. in the title.” I haven’t chosen all my titles yet, but I think my first choice will be Gladys Mitchell’s Spotted Hemlock (“Murderous Methods: a book with a means of death in the title”). I’m planning to look for new authors and books instead of just rereading old favorites…though I’m sure one or two will sneak in.

Do you participate in reading challenges? Which ones? Do you have any reading plans for 2013?