Category Archives: The Classics Club

A River Runs Through It

Norman Maclean was a wonderful writer. My father really admired him as an author and read his book, A River Runs Through It, twenty-six years ago shortly before he died. I remember that he loved it, and I have kept my father’s copy of the book on my shelf for all these years. I decided to put it on my reading list for The Classics Club as one of my fifty-books-in-five-years, so I would finally read it.

from the publisher:

From its first magnificent sentence, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing”, to the last, “I am haunted by waters”, A River Runs Through It is an American classic.

Based on Norman Maclean’s childhood experiences, A River Runs Through It has established itself as one of the most moving stories of our time; it captivates readers with vivid descriptions of life along Montana’s Big Blackfoot River and its near magical blend of fly fishing with the troubling affections of the heart.

I can only guess now the things my father liked about this book. My father was also a writer, so I know he appreciated the beauty of the writing. He and Norman Maclean also had a sense of place in common — Norman Maclean grew up in Montana, and my father grew up in Wyoming, so they shared similar landscapes and boyhood experiences of place. This book is based on Maclean’s family and memories from his younger years; my father was also writing of his own memories and family history.

It would be nice to talk with my father about this book because, in all honesty, I didn’t like it as much as he did. The first half of the book dragged a bit for me. The second half was much more engaging and the story he told of a family tragedy was very moving. The beauty of his narrative through that part of the book really touched me. But I also felt that it was more of a “man’s book,”  although I realized that it was actually an honest depiction of the life and times and culture of that day.

I had previously read Norman Maclean’s other book, Young Men and Fire, which is an amazing account of the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana where 13 young Smokejumpers were killed. It was a terrible tragedy, and Maclean’s meticulous research and exquisite writing, brought the story right to this reader’s heart. That was a book that has had a lasting impact on my life!

So, although A River Runs Through It didn’t touch me in the same way it touched my father, we were both touched deeply by the beautiful writings of Norman Maclean, and that’s a connection I treasure.

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Montana.

 

Classics Club Spin, #24: The House on Mango Street

“She thinks stories are about beauty. Beauty that is there to be admired by anyone, like a herd of clouds grazing overhead. She thinks people who are busy working for a living deserve beautiful little stories, because they don’t have much time and are often tired.”

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is a beautifully written series of vignettes, very poetic and poignant, about a young Hispanic girl growing up in Chicago. These short little narratives of so many episodes in her life, create a clear view of the culture she grows up in and the struggles she faces in coming of age. It’s not an easy life, but she is one who observes closely and learns from her experiences. She is often lonely on her road to self-discovery, but is also surrounded by family and friends. She seeks beauty and a life beyond where she is growing up. And she describes it all as a poet would.

“Someday I will have a best friend all my own. One I can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them. Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.”

The House on Mango Street was one of my choices for my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

.

 I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Illinois.

Kindred

I actually read Kindred, by Octavia Butler, last year, but did not review it when I finished it because there was so much from the story to process and absorb. What I’ve discovered in the months that have passed since I finished it, is that it was a powerfully haunting experience to read it. I’ve thought a lot about it and don’t know when a book has stuck with me, haunted me, quite like this one. It was a powerful reading experience because Octavia Butler, being such a gifted writer/storyteller, makes you feel as if you are right there with her main character, Dana, throughout all her experiences, in the past and in the present. Those experiences were profoundly life-changing. Experiencing firsthand the life of her enslaved ancestors, being catapulted back and forth to the time of her ancestors and then back to her life in present times brought an incredible depth to Dana’s understanding of her own life experience. And it had a powerful impact on those of us who traveled with her. It is definitely a book I would highly recommend, although it is not an easy story. And for anyone wanting to gain more understanding of the black experience in this country, this is a creative and fascinating book to read.

from the publisher:

Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.

During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

Author Octavia E. Butler skillfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice with an exciting science-fiction, romance, and historical adventure.

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Maryland.

Classics Club Spin #24

It’s time for another Classics Club “Spin!”  Here’s how it works:

At your blog, by August 9th, 2020,, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your “Spin List.”

You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.

Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you have been putting off, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favourite author, re-reads, ancients, non-fiction, books in translation — whatever you choose.)

The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 30th September, 2020.

During this time of continued quarantine for Covid-19, I am enjoying a lot of reading. So here I go again with a list of  books from my 50 books to read before March, 2022.
Please check back here soon to see which of these books I will be reading for the new Spin!

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope
  3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  4. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  5. Night, Elie Wiesel
  6. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  7. Heidi, Johanna Spyri
  8. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  9. Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  11. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  12. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
  13. Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
  14. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  15. The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  16. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
  17. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  18. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

  19. Sons, Pearl S. Buck
  20. Barracoon, Zora Neale Hurston

Around the World in Eighty Days

“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager.”

Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne, is a classic that I was familiar with, watched the movie version, but had never read the book. So I  put it on my “Fifty books in five years” list for The Classics Club. It was so much more fun, and funnier, than I expected! It’s a wild mad dash around the world!

The story is that Phileas Fogg makes a wager with his gentleman’s club members that he can circle the world in just eighty days. He and his French valet, Passepartout, set out from London to win this wager, and have every kind of adventure, and obstacles to overcome, that can be imagined. To add to the adventure, although he didn’t realize it at the time, he was pursued by a detective due to a misunderstanding that he was a criminal on the run.

“It’s really useful to travel, if you want to see new things.”

This novel was full of humor and fun. I must read more of Jules Verne’s books!

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Classics Club Spin #23: Excellent Women

I read Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym, many years ago. It was the first book I read by her and I remember liking it very much. Since then, I have read many of her other books, but it had been so long since I read this one that I decided to include it on my list of 50 books to read in 5 years for The Classics Club. Last month, it came up as my “Classics Club Spin” book for May. I’m glad I reread it, and I’m happy to spend time reading anything written by Barbara Pym.

Excellent Women” is a term referring to unmarried women who are considered spinsters. In this story, which takes place in the 1950s, the main character, Mildred Lathbury, is just over 30, and well established in the community as a spinster. As the daughter of a clergyman, she devotes much of her time to helping at her church, and just helping people in general. She is capable and independent, and quite satisfied with her life as a single person. But new neighbors, a married couple, complicate her predictable daily existence, and she gets drawn in to the drama of their lives. She is good friends with the pastor of her church and his sister, (who has always taken good care of him), but when he gets engaged to the widow of another clergyman, that further complicates Mildred’s ordered life.

Throughout this story, I felt that Mildred was the only “adult in the room.” Everyone else was needy in one way or another, or selfish and unable to really care about others. I felt sorry for Mildred because of the demands placed on her, and when others took advantage of her I wanted her to stand up to them and just say “No.”  It took her quite awhile to be able to do that, but she weathers all the demands and drama, and in the end appreciates her single life, her solitude, and her independence even more than before.

I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people’s business, and if she is also a clergyman’s daughter then one might really say that there is no hope for her.

There is always a lot of subtle humor in Barbara Pym’s novels, which is very entertaining. I liked the main character, Mildred Lathbury, more and more as the book progressed and appreciated her intelligence and her insightfulness into the humans around her. This was a novel well worth re-reading.

 

Excellent Women was one of my choices for my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren, has long been on my list of books to read because I didn’t read it as a child, although that little girl with red hair and strange braids was always in the periphery somewhere. But I thought since she is just a little bit older than me, she is 75 years old this year, (to my 71 years), that I should celebrate by finally reading the book.

It is a beloved book worldwide, but I didn’t fall in love with it. I mostly enjoyed it, and could certainly see why it would appeal to many people young and old…and I admired the strength of this nine-year old girl and her goodhearted but quirky nature. But I felt like I was missing some of the cultural context of the book…things that might be more humorous and/or meaningful in the original language and culture. (Or maybe it was just that my sense of humor has been quarantined a little too long this spring?)  She was not a boring character, and she had spunk! I think she actually might just be the quintessential spunky character.

from the publisher:

Pippi is an irrepressible, irreverent, and irrefutably delightful girl who lives alone (with a monkey) in her wacky house, Villa Villekulla. When she’s not dancing with the burglars who were just trying to rob her house, she’s attempting to learn the “pluttification” tables at school; fighting Adolf, the strongest man in the world at the circus; or playing tag with police officers. Pippi’s high-spirited, good-natured hijinks cause as much trouble as fun, but a more generous child you won’t find anywhere.

Astrid Lindgren has created a unique and lovable character, inspiring generations of children to want to be Pippi. More than anything, Pippi makes reading a pleasure; no child will welcome the end of the book, and many will return to Pippi Longstocking again and again. Simply put, Pippi is irresistible.

So the book experience for me was okay, but I was much more interested in the author, Astrid Lindgren, who appealed more to me than the character she created. She was a humanist and committed advocate for children and animal rights, and through her writings and advocacy work, she was able to help bring changes into law that prohibited violence against children (she was very much against corporal punishment) and promoted animal rights. You can read more about her work here on her website.

I’m sorry to all of you who grew up absolutely loving Pippi. Perhaps I should reread it at some point down the road to see if it was just my state of mind right now, or if the book just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Classics Club Spin #23

It’s time for another Classics Club “Spin!”  Here’s how it works:

At your blog, by April 19, 2020,, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your “Spin List.”

You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.

Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you have been putting off, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favourite author, re-reads, ancients, non-fiction, books in translation — whatever you choose.)

The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 1st June, 2020.

My record for finishing my Spin books for the Classics Club isn’t great, but I always like to give the book a try! This time, being in the middle of our period of self-isolation for Covid-19, I am in need of comfort reading. I’ve picked a few from my list that fit that description and am listing them numerous times so that one will be chosen for sure.

So here I go again with a list of  books from my 50 books to read before March, 2022. Please check back here to see which of these books I will be reading for the new Spin!

UPDATE:  The spin number chosen was 6 !

  1. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  3. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  4. Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
  5. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  6. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym

  7. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  8. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  10. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  11. Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
  12. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  13. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
  14. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, by Jose Fernandez
  15. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  16. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  17. Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
  18. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  19. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
  20. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim

Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the City

Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the City, by Italo Calvino, is a book that was recommended to me by my Argentine “sister” (my dear friend that I lived with as an exchange student to Argentina many years ago).  It’s one of her favorite books and so I put it on my list for The Classics Club. It’s a fun book to read, 20 short stories that are so very human. It is full of humor and pathos as one recognizes the character, Marcovaldo, as one of us…a bumbling, misguided, well-intentioned, basic human being. He was a country person living in the city, always out of his element and not quite understanding everything going on around him.

from the publisher:

Marcovaldo is an unskilled worker in a drab industrial city in northern Italy. He is an irrepressible dreamer and an inveterate schemer. Much to the puzzlement of his wife, his children, his boss, and his neighbors, he chases his dreams-but the results are never the ones he had expected.

Italo Calvino touches something deep inside us with these stories. With this thin volume and with just the right amount of words, he focuses a light on the human experience.

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club. It was the book that was chosen from my list for The Classics Club SPIN #22!

 

 

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book that takes place in Italy.

Looking Forward to 2020

With the year 2020 almost here, it’s time to share some of my plans for my reading year. I do love the planning part of a new year! On January 1st, I’ll be ready to launch right into my new year of reading!

For 2020, I’m going to continue reading books by my favorite authors and track them on my Reading Journeys page. Reading about gardens and gardening is something I love to do, so I’m making My Garden Reading a focus for the year.  I will also continue with my international reading by continuing with my Wanderlust self-challenge.

When Autumn arrives, I will welcome the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge once again. And I look forward to Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thons (no link). I know I will enjoy my continuing participation in The Classics Club. I have finished over 1/2 of the books on my list of 50 Books in 5 Years — my goal for 2020 is to read at least 10-12 more of the books on that list. And I mustn’t forget about my GOODREADS reading challenge. I keep track of all my books on Goodreads, and this year have read 143 books. It’s been a long time since I read that many books in one year. We’ll see what happens in 2020.

I’m excited about this upcoming reading year. I hope you are enjoying your planning, too!

Happy 2020 reading, my friends!