Category Archives: Challenges

Classics Club Spin #17

It’s time for another “Spin” with The Classics Club! I am enjoying my reading of the classics I chose for my 5-year reading plan even though I’m running behind on writing my reviews. It’s a very enjoyable, non-pressured challenge, so if you are wanting to read more classics, you should join up!

Here’s how the “Spin” works:

Choose 20 books from your list of classics TBR and post that list on your blog before March 9th. On Friday, March 9th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 30, 2018. 

So here is my Spin List.  It will be fun to see which number (and which book) is chosen in the “spin” on Friday, and I’ll return to this post then to highlight the book chosen.

Classic Spin #17:

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  3. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz 

  4. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  5. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  6. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  7. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  8. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  10. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  11. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  12. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  13. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  14. The Lost Prince,  Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  16. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  17. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  18. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  19. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  20. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

A Very Easy Death

A hard task, dying, when one loves life so much.

A Very Easy Death, by Simone de Beauvoir, is a beautifully written, powerfully emotional account of her mother’s death and her own emotional journey through her mother’s illness and death.

At age 78, her mother fell and broke the top part of her femur. She was hospitalized and during examination, the doctors found that she had cancer. It was a highly aggressive sarcoma, and her illness and decline were rapid. Simone and her sister, Poupette, spent most of their time at the hospital with their mother throughout that time, and Poupette was there the night she died.

This is a story that so many of us have gone through with a parent or loved one. Because the journey through illness and decline is a familiar one, I was acutely aware and appreciative of the honesty with which de Beauvoir shared their story — the story of two daughters in the process of losing their mother, and of their mother’s struggle to LIVE while dying.

Before reading the book, I thought that the term “an easy death” meant that the person didn’t have to suffer very much before dying. My family used that term about my father’s passing. He didn’t suffer long with his illness, and we were so grateful for that. But that is not what de Beauvoir meant by “an easy death.”  On the contrary, her mother suffered terribly before she died, but she had her daughters with her throughout the decline, and they helped her, advocated for her, and shared courage together in facing the inevitable. That was a luxury that de Beauvoir felt many people don’t have at the end of their lives.

With regard to Maman we were above all guilty, these last years, of carelessness, omission and abstention. We felt that we atoned for this by the days that we gave up to her, by the peace that our being there gave her, and by the victories gained over fear and pain. Without our obstinate watchfulness she would have suffered far more.

She and her sister were with her mother constantly during her illness, so de Beauvoir also describes the very painful reality a loved one faces in going through the agony of cancer.

…In this race between pain and death we most earnestly hoped that death would come first.

…Friday passed uneventfully. On Saturday Maman slept all the time. ‘That’s splendid,’ said Poupette to her. ‘You have rested.’ ‘Today I have not lived,’ sighed Maman.

…Nothing on earth could possibly justify these moments of pointless torment.

And she poignantly details the final aloneness of death.

…The misfortune is that although everyone must come to this, each experiences the adventure in solitude. We never left Maman during those last days which she confused with convalescence and yet we were profoundly separated from her.

All the way through this book, I thought of my own mother.  Simone de Beauvoir’s mother was 78 when she died, which seems so young to me from my vantage point now. I am incredibly fortunate to still have my mother who is 98 years old and still very much alive and well! But she and I are also very aware that time is getting short, which gives a special aura to every conversation, every visit, every moment we share. She and I talk about the end quite often, and our shared hope is that it is quick and painless. I live 800 miles away from my mother, so I know it is possible I won’t be with her when that time comes, to help ease her final journey, and that is hard for me.

Nothing prepares any of us for death. Even if fighting a terminal illness, Simone de Beauvoir said: “A hard task, dying, when one loves life so much.” Her mother clung tenaciously to life:

What touched our hearts that day was the way she noticed the slightest agreeable sensation: it was as though, at the age of seventy-eight, she were waking afresh to the miracle of living.

And on the finality of death itself, de Beauvoir said:

There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.

Simone de Beauvoir was a gifted author and influential existential philosopher. This was the first book I read by her, but I am very anxious now to read more of her work. I was so impressed with the beauty of her writing and with her deeply thoughtful honesty. With this book, she has touched my heart and mind like no other author has done in a long time.

Simone de Beauvoir with mother and sister…

This was a book that was on my list of 50 books to read for The Classics Club, and was also on my TBR Pile Challenge list.

Simone de Beauvoir

Today is Simone de Beauvoir‘s birthday. She is an author I have long been interested in but have not read any of her work, although I have two of her books on my shelf — The Second Sex, her great feminist manifesto, and A Very Easy Death, the story of her mother’s death. Both books have traveled with me through a number of moves because I really do want to read them.

When I signed up for Adam’s (@roofbeamreader.com) Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, I put A Very Easy Death on my list. I intend to start it soon. Today, on her birthday, would be perfect!

My TBR Pile

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge is hosted by Adam (@roofbeamreader.com). This challenge is a fun way to read books you already own and that have been sitting on your bookshelves for a long time just waiting for you to decide it’s time to read them! It’s time!

Click on the graphic above to read Adam’s rules for the challenge. And check back here to follow my links to the books I’ve finished and reviewed.

My TBR Pile:  Some of these books have been on my shelf for a very long time!

  1. The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  3. The Princess Bride, by WIlliam Goldman
  4. A Very Easy Death, by Simone de Beauvoir (completed January 2018)
  5. This Star Shall Abide, by Sylvia Engdahl
  6. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  7. The Joys of Motherhood, by Buchi Emecheta
  8. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  9. Clandestine in Chile, by Gabriel García Márquez
  10. Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry
  11. Death in the Castle, by Pearl S. Buck
  12. Dipper of Copper Creek, by Jean Craighead George

Alternates:

  1. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
  2. Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, by Marta McDowell

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, dear friends! I am so happy to leave 2017 behind and make the great leap into 2018!  I am looking forward to my 2018 reading, and am planning on taking on some longer books that have been waiting on my bookshelves forever.

There are a few reading “resolutions” I’m going to make for 2018. One is to read at least 10 of the classics on my Classics Club list of 50 books to read in 5 years. I’m also going to focus on my TBR pile of already owned books. To help with motivation and accountability, I’ve decided to join Adam’s (@roofbeamreader) TBR Pile Challenge. I will post about it shortly.

I plan to blog as often as I can, knowing that when the weather warms up and I can get out into the garden or work on my training for 5k races, I won’t have as much time to sit in front of the computer. It’s funny how at this stage of life (retirement), I absolutely love being outdoors and am spending much more time out there than I have since I was a child!  It feels like a really healthy thing to do…and it’s fun!

I’m also looking forward to seeing what your 2018 plans are and what books you choose for your first reads of this new year.

Happy reading, dear friends!

Painting by Charles James Lewis. “Reading by the Window, Hastings.”

The Best Sequel of 2017

“Best Sequel I Read” is the prompt for day 3 of the “All the Books of 2017” challenge hosted by @annreads on Instagram.. This year’s best was Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling. I’m enjoying a slow, leisurely re-reading of the Harry Potter series, and this time around, I absolutely loved The Prisoner of Azkaban! It was just so much fun!

My favorite quote from the book is, of course, “…when in doubt, go to the library.” But the former teacher in me also got a big kick out of this quote:

History of Magic was the dullest subject on their schedule. Professor Binns, who taught it, was their only ghost teacher, and the most exciting thing that ever happened in his classes was his entering the room through the blackboard. Ancient and shriveled, many people said he hadn’t noticed he was dead. He had simply got up to teach one day and left his body behind him in an armchair in front of the staffroom fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since.

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The Shortest Book of 2017

Shortest book I read in 2017” is the prompt for day 2 of the “All the Books of 2017” challenge hosted by @annreads on Instagram. I looked closely at my list of books read so far in 2017 and found that the book I posted about yesterday, We Should All Be Feminists, was actually the shortest one I read this year. So instead, I am posting about the second shortest book.

Ajax Penumbra 1969, by Robin Sloan, is the prequel to the very popular Mr. Penumbra’s 24- Bookstore, a book which has been on my TBR list for years! But when I realized there was a prequel, I decided to read that first, and then the novel. I enjoyed both books, but actually liked the prequel better.  I think the reason for that is that 1969 was a very important year in my own life — my husband and I got married in 1969!  So I got a real kick out of the time setting of this book, as well as the location setting — 1969 in San Francisco. We were there!

These are both books for book lovers, and both are very enjoyable reads.

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All the Books of 2017

 

A new challenge appeared on Instagram this morning, and I thought it looked like a lot of December fun! It’s called “All the Books of 2017” and is created and hosted by Ann, from @annreads on Instagram. So I will be posting for the next 15 days on the books I’ve read so far in 2017.

Prompt #1 is the “first read of the year.”  My first read of 2017 was an intelligent little book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists, and was a great book to start out the new year. It was a very positive and important book, and I think should be required reading for everyone! Click here to watch her presentation of the book on Ted Talks.

Spinning

I joined The Classics Club earlier this week and have immediately found a fun way to pick my first book to read from my list of 50-classics-to-read-in-5-years. Every so often, the club has a special event called the “The Classic Spin.” It works like this:

Choose 20 books from your list of classics TBR and post that list on your blog before March 9th. On Friday, March 10th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by May 1, 2017. 

So here is my first Spin List.  It should be fun to see which number (and which book) is chosen in the “spin” on Friday! That’s where I will start my five year classics journey!  I’ll return to this post on Friday and highlight the book chosen.

Classic Spin #15:

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
  3. The Railway Children, Edith Nesbitt
  4. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  5. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz
  6. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  7. Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
  8. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  9. A Very Easy Death, Simone de Beauvoir
  10. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  11. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  12. The Moorland Cottage, Elizabeth Gaskell (started on 03.10.17)

  13. Ask Me, William Stafford
  14. The Spectator Bird, Wallace Stegner
  15. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  16. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  17. Crooked House, Agatha Christie
  18. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  19. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  20. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the CIty, Italo Calvino

 

The Classics Club


Why haven’t I joined The Classics Club before now? I’ve been interested in it and thought about doing it for years! I lurked around their web site… started my own private reading challenge of 50 books à la The Classics Club but without joining… read lots of classics…  But I was afraid of not being able to finish the commitment I would make because I’m just awful at finishing challenges these days.

But, this morning I read a post by Melissa @Avid Reader’s Musings, and was so inspired by the fact that she just posted her last review and finished her 5-year challenge with The Classics Club! Congratulations, Melissa!  I wish I had simply joined 5 years ago when I first heard about it and was both fascinated by and fearful of it. Five years goes by quickly and I, too, would be finishing my last book from my list of 50 classics. So no more hesitating. Inspired by Melissa, I have decided to just go ahead and join. I am proud to become a member of The Classics Club!

My list is a mix of novels, short stories, and poetry, a combination of adult and children’s literature. Many of these books are already on my bookshelves or on my Kindle. My goal for completing my reading of these books is March 2022!  That sounds so far away, but I know that five years goes by in a flash. And what pleasurable reading years they will be!

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  3. Death Comes For the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  4. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad (completed January 2018) review pending!
  5. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
  6. The Railway Children, Edith Nesbitt (completed in March 2017)
  7. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  8. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  10. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  11. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz
  12. Persuasion, Jane Austen (completed December 2017) review pending!
  13. The Rainbow and the Rose, Nevil Shute (completed 2017)
  14. Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne (completed 2017) review pending!
  15. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  16. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  17.  A Very Easy Death, Simone de Beauvoir (completed January 2018)
  18. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  19. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  20. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  21. The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett
  22. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. This Star Shall Abide, Sylvia Engdahl
  24. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  25. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  26. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  27. The Moorland Cottage, Elizabeth Gaskell (completed in April 2017)
  28. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  29. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
  30. Kinfolk, Pearl S. Buck
  31. Ask Me, William Stafford
  32. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin
  33. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  34. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  35. The Spectator Bird, Wallace Stegner (completed in March 2017)
  36. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  37. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  38. Kindred, Octavia Butler (completed February 2018)
  39. The Sussex Downs Murder, John Bude
  40. The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  41. Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
  42. The Unicorn and Other Poems, Anne Morrow Lindbergh (completed in April 2017)
  43. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  44. Crooked House, Agatha Christie (completed in March 2017)
  45. Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson (completed in April 2017)
  46. Two on a Tower, Thomas Hardy
  47. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  48. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, Eleanor Perenyi
  49. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  50. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the CIty, Italo Calvino (completed February 2018)
  51. Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays
  52. Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  53. The Sea Runners, Ivan Doig