Category Archives: Reading Projects

A Self-Education

Civilization

The Story of Civilization on my bookshelf.

When I was 16 years old my father gave me the complete set, which at that time was 9 volumes, of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. I was both thrilled with and overwhelmed by the gift. I love history, as did my Dad, but 9 volumes (soon to be 10, and then eventually 11) with fine print just overwhelmed me. Although I’ve used them like an encyclopedia, looking up information needed, in all this time I’ve never read them cover to cover, although they have traveled with me through every move and have survived every purge of books in my lifetime, thus far.

You will understand, then, when I tell you why I am extremely proud of my son. In the last few years, our son, Dan, has had a long commute to work. He has made that time spent in the car both productive and bearable by listening to audiobooks. He has just completed a huge project listening to the complete unabridged set of the 11 volumes of The Story of Civilization!  If I added correctly, that’s over 424 hours of listening time! But it’s more than that because along the way on his historical journey, he took many “side roads” and listened to much of the classic literature of the time period he was immersed in.

We have had the most wonderful and fascinating long talks with him about the different historical time periods, about the amazing people involved, about human nature and culture, and about the writing of this epic life’s work by Will Durant and his wife, Ariel. What an amazing education Dan is giving himself over the miles! I know my college professor Dad would have been incredibly proud of him, too, and they would have had amazing discussions about all that Dan has learned. The pleasure of learning is certainly a powerful gene in our family, and I’m so very proud of the self-education Dan is giving himself through his reading.

“Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.”

— Will Durant

Our son, Dan, reading to his son…

The Classics Club

Reading the classics has always been a joy for me. So I am very happy to finally 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. I will also add to this list occasionally as I find other classics I’d really like to read for this challenge. Those books will be added as alternates. My goal for completing my reading of 50 books is March 2022!  That sounds so far away, but I know that five years goes by in a flash. What pleasurable reading years they will be!

Progress = 26/50

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope
  3. Death Comes For the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  4. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
  5. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  6. The Railway Children, Edith Nesbitt
  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. Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie
  12. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  13. The Rainbow and the Rose, Nevil Shute
  14. Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
  15. Night, Elie Wiesel
  16. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  17.  A Very Easy Death, Simone de Beauvoir
  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. Death in the Castle, Pearl S. Buck
  23. Pollyanna, Eleanor H. Porter
  24. This Star Shall Abide, Sylvia Engdahl
  25. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  26. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  27. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  28. The Moorland Cottage, Elizabeth Gaskell
  29. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  30. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
  31. The Oregon Trail, Francis Parkman
  32. Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
  33. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin
  34. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  35. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  36. The Spectator Bird, Wallace Stegner
  37. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  38. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  39. Kindred, Octavia Butler
  40. The Sussex Downs Murder, John Bude
  41. The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  42. Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
  43. The Unicorn and Other Poems, Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  44. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  45. Crooked House, Agatha Christie
  46. Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
  47. Light in August, William Faulkner
  48. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  49. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, Eleanor Perenyi
  50. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell

Alternates:

  1. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the CIty, Italo Calvino
  2. Cider With Rosie, Laurie Lee
  3. The Sea Runners, Ivan Doig
  4. The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman
  5. The Outermost House, Henry Beston
  6. The Door in the Wall, Marguerite de Angeli
  7. Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset
  8. Sons, Pearl S. Buck
  9. A House Divided, Pearl S. Buck
  10. The Red Pony, John Steinbeck
  11. Kew Gardens, Virginia Woolf
  12. The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie

Making Progress

Treebeard

Illustration by Alan Lee — from The Two Towers.

I am slowly making progress on my rereading of The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R.Tolkien. It’s a very enjoyable reading project that I started in November as a retreat from the election stresses and strains. Perhaps I’m reading it slowly because those stresses and strains have gotten worse rather than better! But really I’m reading it slowly so that I can enjoy and savor the wonderful writing as well as the terrific adventure of it all. It’s been my evening read, just before I go to bed at night, and it’s a great way to end the day. I’m about 3/4 of the way through The Two Towers so at this time I am traveling with Frodo and Sam, and Gollum, getting closer to Mordor. I am very glad to spend time in their company.

the-two-towers