Category Archives: The Classics Club

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!

 

 

Looking Back at 2019


Looking back at 2019, I am happy with my reading year. In addition to my usual reading,  I took on a number of challenges and enjoyed the books I read for each one. I love the journey of each challenge and the exposure to new authors, genres, and ideas that really expand my world.

Turning seventy years old felt like a big milestone and I wanted to celebrate it in some special way. So I put together a self-challenge called “EMBRACING SEVENTY.”  I created a 1949 list of books and movies– anything to do with 70. It turned out to be a fun research project. Here are the books I read, and the one movie from 1949 that my husband and I watched:

”WANDERLUST” was another self-challenge I put together this year in an effort to read more international literature. I read both children and adult books and liked the glimpses into other cultures. I will continue this challenge in 2020 and beyond.

For a second year in a row, I signed up for Adam’s 2019 OFFICIAL TBR challenge. Last year I read 4 books for his challenge, and this year I did the same. That’s 8 books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for far too long, so I’m happy to have been motivated to finally read them. Thank you, Adam, for hosting this challenge. I’ll miss it! Here’s my list of books read in 2019:

Dolce Bellezza’s JAPANESE LITERATURE Challenge always calls to me, and in 2019 I read one book and watched three Japanese films. Meredith always puts together a really classy challenge! My 2019 books and movies:

Films:

I had good intentions when I signed up for Rachel’s (@hibernatorslibrary) A YEAR of SHAKESPEARE Challenge this year. I was going to read three Shakespeare plays, but I ended up only reading one (which I enjoyed very much!). But I also read a lot of different books about that play, so it really was an immersive experience, and a lot of fun. Here’s what I read for this challenge:

A Shakespeare Comedy : The Winter’s Tale

READERS IMBIBING PERIL- XIV was a great challenge this fall! It’s one of my favorite challenges each year, and I enjoy it more and more each year!  I love mysteries and suspense novels, good book series and good TV mystery series, so I had lots of fun reading and watching movies!

PERIL the FIRST:

  1. The Lost One, by Mary Stewart
  2. The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler
  3. Christmas in Absaroka County, by Craig Johnson
  4. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  5. The Religious Body, by Catherine Aird
  6. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten
  7. The Case of the Famished Parson, by George Bellairs
  8. Rose Cottage, by Mary Stewart
  9. The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier
  10. Trouble in Nuala, by Harriet Steel
  11. Whiteout, by Ken Follett

PERIL on the SCREEN:

  1. 4:50 From Paddington
  2. Murder at the Gallop
  3. The Mirror Crack’d
  4. Murder Most Foul 

I joined THE CLASSICS CLUB in March of 2017 and agreed to read 50 Books in 5 Years. This is a great challenge, so well organized and with fun activities. I’ve always loved reading classics so it’s a perfect fit for me. As of right now, I’ve read 28 of my 50 books list. This year I read these classics:

Having time to read is such a precious luxury for me and this year has been full of reading joy. And now I’m looking forward to my 2020 reading.

For all my reading friends, may 2020 be a year of joyful reading for you, too!

Classics Club Spin #22

 

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

At your blog, before next Sunday 22nd December 2019, 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.)

On Sunday 22nd December, 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 31st January, 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! So here I go again with a list of  books from my 50 books to read before March, 2022. (I’m weighting a couple of them a little heavier this time!)

My List for Spin #22:

  1. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
  2. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, by Jose Fernandez
  3. The Sussex Downs Murder, by John Bude
  4. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  5. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
  6. The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner
  7. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  8. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  10. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  11. Night, by Elie Wiesel
  12. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  13. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons of the City, by Italo Calvino

  14. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
  15. The Ramayana, by Bulbul Sharma
  16. The Lost Prince, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  17. The Measure of My Days, by Florida Scott-Maxwell
  18. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  19. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  20. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf

Classics Club Spin #21

Hooray!  It’s time for another Classics Club Spin!

How it works:

  • Before next Monday 23rd September 2019, 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.
  • On Monday 23 September, 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 31st October 2019.

My Spin #21 List:
(stop back here after September 23rd to see which book I will be reading for this CC Spin!  I’ll highlight it in red.)

  1. Death Be Not Proud, by John Gunther
  2. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
  3. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, by Jose Fernandez
  4. The Sussex Downs Murder, by John Bude
  5. The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad (Did not finish.)

  6. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  7. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
  8. The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner
  9. The Sea Runners, by Ivan Doig
  10. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
  11. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  12. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  13. Night, by Elie Wiesel
  14. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  15. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons of the City, by Italo Calvino
  16. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
  17. The Ramayana, by Bulbul Sharma
  18. The Lost Prince, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. The Measure of My Days, by Florida Scott-Maxwell
  20. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, by Eleanor Perenyi

This challenge is a fun recurring event of The Classics Club. Click here to see my list of 50 books to read in 5 years.

Jane Eyre

 

Thank you to my big brother, Curt, for telling me 57 years ago that he thought I’d like the book he’d just finished reading: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I read his copy and it’s been my favorite book ever since. And having just finished listening to the audiobook version, fabulously narrated by Thandie Newton, I can say without reservation that it is still my favorite book!

from the publisher, Penguin Random House:

Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel describes the passionate love between the courageous orphan Jane Eyre and the brilliant, brooding, and domineering Rochester. The loneliness and cruelty of Jane’s childhood strengthens her natural independence and spirit, which prove invaluable when she takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But after she falls in love with her sardonic employer, her discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice. Ever since its publication in 1847, Jane Eyre has enthralled every kind of reader, from the most critical and cultivated to the youngest and most unabashedly romantic. It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and as a moving and unforgettable portrayal of a woman’s quest for self-respect.

I know from experience that this is a classic that should be reread at different times in one’s life. Each time I read it I see something new, receive the story in a different way. This is the first time I’ve listened to it read aloud to me, and my narrator did an incredible job! Thandie Newton’s narration was an absolute gift…so perfect, so insightful. It added a whole new dimension to the story for me.

Charlotte Bronte’s writing, though, is superb. I didn’t want to miss one word of it as I listened.  Her plot is compelling with an amazing level of detail about Jane Eyre’s experiences and her responses to them. I know that when I first read it I was carried away by the romance of it, and it is a deeply romantic book. This time, I was completely carried away by her struggle for independence and for her right to live her life by her strong sense of right and wrong, without compromise. That was a personal strength that was in her from a very young age, strength that  helped her survive an incredibly cruel childhood, a difficult pathway into adulthood, and was the source of her courage and resilience as an adult seeking to find her place in the world.

Once again, after finishing this reading of the book, I find myself deeply admiring Charlotte Bronte. She created a complete and totally engrossing world in this novel, and she created a main character that continues to inspire me.

 

I chose this book to read for The Classics Club, as one of my 50 books in 5 years. I also count it as one of the books on my list for R.I.P.-XIV.