Eleven Classics in 2011: Momma Challenges Herself to Read the Classics

momma challenges herself to read the classics

Awhile back I talked about challenging myself to read more classics in 2011. Since then I’ve made a lot of lists, downloaded a lot of the free classics onto my Kindle and today I even got all dorktastic and made a button and stuffs! So if you want to read more classics in 2011, too, you can even play along! So there’s the little banner thing at the top of this post you can use and here’s the button:

momma challenges herself to read the classics in 2011

I know, my graphics skills are just blowing you away, aren’t they? Anyway, last time I blogged about this, I listed 30 classics I wanted to read and this morning I went through my bookshelves and found a few more that I own that aren’t even on this list. Basically, I’ve got a ton of options but I think I need to narrow things down a bit so I thought I’d be clever and make my goal: to read ELEVEN classics in 2011. Snazzy, no?

Those eleven books may or may not include:

  1. Peter Pan by J.M Barrie (I own it)
  2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  3. The Good Earth (House of Earth, #1) by Pearl S. Buck (I own it)
  4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (free on kindle)
  6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (free on kindle)
  7. The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald
  8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  9. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (free on kindle)
  10. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  12. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (free on kindle)
  13. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  14. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy (free on kindle)
  15. 1984 by George Orwell
  16. Metamorphoses by Ovid
  17. Anthem by Ayn Rand (free on kindle)
  18. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  19. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  20. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  21. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (free on kindle)
  22. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  23. Dracula by Bram Stoker (free on kindle)
  24. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  25. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (free on kindle)
  26. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (free on kindle)
  27. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  28. Night by Elie Weisel (I own it)
  29. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (free on kindle)

Plus the Anne of Green Gables books, which I’ll be reading in January especially for the L.M. Montgomery Challenge hosted by Carrie @ Reading to Know. Let’s be honest, folks, which 11 classics I read may change from month to month, some will be from the massive pile of classics that are taking up residence in my bookshelves. Some will be kindle reads. Some may come from other sources entirely. Regardless, when 2011 ends, my goal is to have read 11 classic works of fiction.

Who’s with me? If you don’t want to read 11, that’s fine, too – just pick a number and join in on the fun! I’ll plan to post an update on the last day of each month with any classics I’ve read and how I liked them.

Nightstand: December: A Year of Reading in Review

What's on Your Nightstand @ 5 Minutes for BooksAnother calendar year is about to come to a close, as well as another month and it’s time for my December installment of What’s On Your Nightstand? which is a blogging carnival hosted by 5 Minutes For Books. For anyone new to this carnival, the premise is fairly simple :

Write about whatever books you are currently reading, recently read and/or plan to read next.

Since this is the last Nightstand of 2010, the editors at 5 Minutes for Books have bent the rules a bit and added a few more options for the month:

You can do this the “normal” way, and tell us either what you have read this month or what you hope to get to in the coming weeks, or you can look at 2010 in review and tell us some of your stand-out reads of the year. OR give us a rundown of your reading goals for 2011.

I like the idea of wrapping up my year of reading in one pretty post, so I thought I’d take that option. Here’s a little recap of my reading for 2010 and my goals for 2011.

2010 Reading Highlights

Right now I am reading First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, Book 5) by Jasper Fforde. If I should finish it before Saturday, then I will have read 32 books in 2010. In 2009 I only read 28 so I guess we can say that I’m on an upswing and reading more, though certainly not by much. In 2011 I’d love to make my Read This Year count 40.

For a full list of the books I read in 2010 you can click here (that link will change in 2011 when I start a new running tally, but there should be a link at the bottom of the page then pointing to the official list for 2010). But here are some highlights of my reading year.

Top 5 Books Read in 2010 (in order of when I read them)

  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Finished April 16, 2010 – This book has sat on my bookshelf for years, waiting for me to read it. I can’t believe it took me so long, looking back – it is incredible. I loved every page, every paragraph. Gilbert is an incredible writer and her story was just as good – I almost can’t believe it’s nonfiction. I look forward to reading her other books. – full review
  2. Eating for Beginners by Melanie Rehak – Finished July 12, 2010 – This book reads like a good friend sharing her experiences and giving all the best information she can in the most accessible way. I love how expertly Rehak combines her parental anecdotes  with tales of restaurant and farm life – with some fun recipes and silliness thrown in! It had me laughing on a nightly basis, drooling over delicious descriptions of food, ear marking recipes and quoting passages out loud to my husband constantly! I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best books I’ve read this year and maybe ever – I want to share this book with everyone I know! – full review
  3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – Finished September 1, 2010 – This definitely goes down in the books as one of my favorites of all time. I am honestly surprised at how much I loved this book. I think everyone should read it. RIGHT NOW. – full review
  4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Finished October 1, 2010 – I was worried this book somehow wouldn’t meet my expectations but I needn’t have worried. It was perfect. The beginning started out a bit slow but it quickly picked up and sucked me in until the end. – full review
  5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – Finished October 24, 2010 – I can’t believe it took me so long to read this book – it was truly excellent. I think this is one of the best classic coming of age stories, with a little bit of everything. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

There were a lot of great books that wouldn’t fit into a Top 5 list, frankly I enjoyed all 32 books, though some definitely more than others – the 5 above though were the real stand out reads. I didn’t include the several series books that I am reading and devouring right now, with the exception of Mockingjay which I felt deserved special recognition.

If you are on the lookout for a fun serial read, I highly recommend: The Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, The Spellman Files books by Lisa Lutz, the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz, The Mother Daughter Bookclub series by Heather Vogel Frederick, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan and The Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned the best of the best, but here are the:

Worst 4 Books I Attempted To Read in 2010

  1. Little Children by Tom Perrotta – Abandoned February 3, 2010 (about 100 pages in) – This book is being discussed in an upcoming book club I’ve been thinking about joining and I have heard some good reviews about it but I just could not bring myself to care about the characters of this story of suburbia, apparently unhappy marriages, and a blatant dissatisfaction with the life of stay at home parenting. I can understand that these topics are a reality for millions and it’s not that I cannot read a book that I can’t relate to personally – I can and have. And frankly there were things I could relate to but I could not seem to care about any of the characters at all. It was like watching a handful of sad people trapped in boxes they’d knowingly climbed into – and being forced to sit inside those boxes with them. The best part of this book was putting it down and being greeted by my own life, which is kind of the opposite of falling into a good book. I feel like I’m trying to make excuses for not finishing this book, like I’ve done some horrible misdeed but at the end of the day I have to remind myself that I have better things to do with my time than read a book I’m not enjoying, whatever the reasons.
  2. Cold Rock River by J. L. Miles – abandoned June 28, 2010 – I’d been looking forward to reading this for a local book club I’m planning to join but there is some subject matter in the first couple of chapters that I just couldn’t deal with. I found myself avoiding the book because the topic was just too painful for me. I’m not going into details because I don’t want to “spoil” anything but it was just too heavy for me.
  3. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak – abandoned September 17, 2010 – This just simply wasn’t the book I wanted it to be. I loved Eating for Beginners so much but this didn’t have that same fantastic wit that I’d grown to love in EFB and the book was much more about feminism and women’s suffrage than it was about Nancy Drew – not an uninteresting topic, just not what I’d been hoping to read and ultimately it felt more like that stodgy traditional “nonfiction” that I was forced to read in school.
  4. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo – abandoned September 17, 2010 – There were parts of this book that I liked a lot. His descriptions of the cape and family vacations there brought back a lot of nostalgia for me and had me googling lake house vacations at 3 a.m. But there were other parts of the book (the parts dealing with divorce and unhappy marriages) that felt a lot like being stuck in a room with two people who are fighting and all the good energy just gets sucked out of the room and even though you like those two people seperately, being forced in the same room with them together makes you want to find the happiest person on earth as fast as possible. And unfortunately there were a lot more of those passages than the nostalgic ones and I just couldn’t finish the thing – too much negative energy.

There were two other books I didn’t bother finishing this year, but they were nonfiction and I simply got bored of reading them as opposed to violently disliking them so I won’t bother listing them here. They are on my full running tally if you are interested though.

2011 Goals

That I suppose wraps up 2010 rather nicely. My reading goals for 2011 are, as I mentioned before, to try and read 40 books. I also would like to read more classics, especially more of the Anne of Green Gables series, so of course I will be participating in the L.M. Montogomery Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie @ Reading to Know in January.

I’m also planning a little self challenge specifically focused on classic books in general. I wrote more about this here, but essentially I listed 30 classic books that I have not read but would like to (sadly there are many, many more I didn’t list just because the list was getting too long). I do not think for a second I will read all 30 books, but I figured giving myself a plethora of options might be nice. In reality, I will be thrilled to knock off 10 of them in 2011 (or maybe 11? haha).

What are your reading goals for 2011?

Asking Myself Important Questions

One of my regular meme suppliers, Jen @ Stuff Jen Says, just posted her answers to 7 Important Questions To Ask Yourself Before The Year Ends which she found at Dumb Little Man Tips For Life. Since there are never enough memes in my life and this one seemed all poignant and relevant and less frivolous than what might seem normal around these parts, I thought I’d play along. You should, too! Then we can be all thought provoking and clever together!

Anyway, let’s get this party started, shall we?

On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with 2010?

I think on the whole this has been a very good year with very little in the way of Big Sad Events. Although there are things in my life that I aspire for or desire, I have good health, a happy family that loves me, incredible friends and good things going on. I don’t think I could give this year and my life in general much less than a 9 out of 10.

Why did you score that way?

Oh I’m an over achiever and kinda answered this already. I mean if you threw in obscene amounts of money and home ownership, maybe a new car, I’d have given 2010 a solid 10. But I’m pretty happy with the current status of things over all.

What are your biggest accomplishments this year? Include business achievements, relationships, health and fitness, etc.

Um… I survived? MM is nearly potty trained, as in wears underwear all day and this morning woke up with a dry pull up. I think when 2010 was ringing in, I wasn’t entirely certain that was going to pan out. So that’s pretty cool. We are actually in the process of buying our first home, again, not something I was entirely certain would pan out but now seems largely… likely. Also, we’ve started making friends and feeling more at home here, which is kind of rocking.

What are the biggest lessons you learned this year? We can let the things that happen pass us by, or we can stop to understand and draw lessons from them; this can make us wiser than we were before.

I had a pretty easy going time of it in 2010 frankly and can’t think of any huge lessons I’ve had to learn. Except that you cannot force a child to potty train until they are ready, no matter how hard you might try or how clever you or they are, they are not going to go until they have to and want to go. I kind of learned that one kicking and screaming though. I also learned that my son can go a month without watching tv with very little issue. And that I can survive most of the day without Internet, though I would rather not.

What are your biggest goals that you want to achieve next year? How can you make next year your best year ever? In other words, if it’s December 31 of next year, what do you want to see in your life? What will it take to feel a 10/10 satisfaction level at the end of next year? Make these things your goals for 2011.

I would be very disappointed if I rang in 2012 not owning a home and while I’d survive if this happened, becoming a homeowner next year is one of my biggest priorities, although that is largely a matter of time now and not very much is left to be done other than waiting. My other big priority is getting back on the weight loss wagon. I did really well in 2009, less well in 2010. In 2011 I need to do much better, before I become completely lazy and unmotivated permanently.

What new habits do you want to cultivate?

Healthier eating and a more active lifestyle.

What are your immediate next steps to achieve them? What do you have to do to get the ball rolling? Writing down specific dates for these actions can help motivate you.

I think the best thing I can do is exercise regularly, move more, drink lots of water and do the best I can – and go easy on myself when I do less than that. But not too easy!

How about you? What are your goals for 2011? Feel free to share them in the comments section below or on your own blog!

Fall into Reading 2010: The End

Fall Into Reading 2010 @ Callapidder DaysAccording to the calendar, today is the first day of winter, which means the Fall into Reading Challenge hosted by Kat @ Callapidder Days is officially over.

So how did you do? Did you read all the books you set out to read?

I picked out 7 titles to read at the beginning of the challenge and successfully read all of those books. There were a few other “maybes” that I mentioned I might read, and I did read two of those as well, but the original 7 were read so in my mind, I finished this challenge on November 18th when I finished The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. Since then I was also able to finish reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (my first Kindle read) which was a pretty big accomplishment in and of itself.

So in total I read 9 books this fall and started a 10th, First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, Book 5) by Jasper Fforde which I wasn’t able to finish before the end of the challenge (no big surprise there, Fforde’s books are fantastic but never a quick read for me).

Here are a few things of note about those nine books and the challenge in general (questions prompted by Kat):

FAVORITE BOOK READ THIS FALL: Definitely Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I read a lot of good books this month, but this was by far the best. (click here for my full review)

Runner up: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montogmery – this book just blew me away and I am anxious to read the rest of the series on my Kindle soon.

LEAST FAVORITE BOOK READ THIS FALL: This book wasn’t on my original challenge, and technically I abandoned it before the challenge began, but my book club discussed how terrible it was a few weeks after I abandoned it, so I feel compelled to state: That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo sucked so bad, so so horribly bad. Really, it was awful.

DISCOVERED AUTHOR OR GENRE: Brunonia Barry I think deserves a shout out here. It was mentioned at our book club meeting discussion of her book, The Lace Reader, that she actually self published this book originally because nobody would pick it up (I’m not certain this is true but it does seem plausible given the really complex plot). The story is a little out there, but really I thought it was just excellent, terrifically well written and it even had a plot twist (or several) that I didn’t see coming until the end, which is always a nice treat. I really recommend this book, it was enjoyed by the majority of my fellow book club members, too.

WHAT I LEARNED THIS FALL: I’m really tired of trying to force myself to read a book just because of some sense of obligation to finish it, or because it was a Best Seller or has a Good Message or whatever. I’ve read a lot of amazing books this year and some not so great, and unfortunately some terrible. Somewhere along the way, I stopped trying to force a book that wasn’t picking up for me and I have to say, it was a good change. There are so many amazing books out there, I don’t want to waste my time reading something that I’m not enjoying.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE FALL INTO READING CHALLENGE: I really like that this challenge helps me to organize my reading goals and get through the books on my nightstand and some high priority books that I’ve maybe been putting off up until the challenge starts. It’s a little extra kick to read more and stick to the stuff I’ve set out to read more.

How about you?

FIR '10: The Final Questions

Fall Into Reading 2010 @ Callapidder DaysAs part of the Fall Into Reading Challenge, Katrina @ Callapidder Days decided to post a weekly question related to the challenge.

She writes, “I thought it would be a great way to keep Fall Into Reading participants connected throughout the course of the challenge.”

This is our last Weekly Question before FIR ’10 ends! It seems like just yesterday we were just starting the challenge and now it is almost over, there is snow on the ground and winter is knocking at our door!

There are actually four question for this week:

  1. Do you write in your books?
  2. Can you read in the car?
  3. Does the rest of your family enjoy reading?
  4. What’s the longest you’ve gone without reading?

Here are my answers:

  1. No, I do not write in my books. I’ve occasionally thought that a good quote might merit it, particularly in college with textbooks, but it was just never a habit that sat well with me. I never felt my thought needed to be marring someone else’s book. I have made notes on a sticky note and put said note in the book – and have made a few highlight type note things on my Kindle but that’s as close as I go.
  2. I do not often read in the car, but I am capable of it. I know some people get motion sickness when they try, but I don’t think I’m afflicted with that particular travesty. That said, I’m rarely in a car long enough to read and when I am, I’d usually rather talk to my husband or listen to the radio (though I have been known to pull out a book if I’m sitting in the parking lot with a sleepy baby and was clever enough to anticipate that and bring along reading material.
  3. We are definitely a family of readers, although the youngest might be too young to say that with certainty. My husband doesn’t read with quite as much zest as I do, but that’s mostly just because he’s far pickier. My son loves to “read” books and be read to and I look forward to him learning to actually read and seek out books of his own choice.
  4. I don’t think I can even answer that question to be honest.

So, in one week the Fall Into Reading 2010 challenge will be over? How did you do? Have you met your goal yet?

I read all of the initial books from my FIR’ challenge list and 2 others. I’m now working on a 3rd book which was not on my initial list either, but no less exciting as it’s in a series that I love (the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde). What are you reading right now?

FIR' 10: Question #11: Skipping to the End

Fall Into Reading 2010 @ Callapidder DaysAs part of the Fall Into Reading Challenge, Katrina @ Callapidder Days has decided to post a weekly question related to the challenge.

She writes, “I thought it would be a great way to keep Fall Into Reading participants connected throughout the course of the challenge.”

Here’s the question for this week:

Do you ever read the end of a book before you actually get there? Have you sneaked a peek at the last page or two to find out what happens? Or do you faithfully avoid the final pages until you’ve “earned” them by reading to that point?

This used to be a weakness of mine, as a teenager especially. Reading a great love story with lots of drama, I’d tell myself I just needed to know how it all worked out. If there was going to be a happy ending or not and with whom. Sometimes the book might accidentally open to pages ahead of where I was and I’d sneak a peek at a few passages.

Back then I was also kind of a fickle reader though, prone to skipping “boring” passages and skimming others. I read what I wanted and ignored the rest and one thing I learned looking back is that habits like that don’t lead to actually knowing a story. I missed a lot of details that I had no idea were there and might never know about if I never picked up the book again.

So I try to read a lot more faithfully now – not spoiling the end anymore because that never really brings any satisfaction in the long run to a story. It’s more like a cheap thrill that could even potentially ruin the story for you.  I’ve also had to work very hard to avoid that awful habit of skim reading and have fortunately gotten much better about both bad habits and I have to say, I’m enjoying the books I read more now, probably because of that.

How about you? Do you ever sneak a peek at the end of a book you are reading?