Catching up on Classics (and lots more!) discussion

Personal Challenges > Jon Does 2017

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message 1: by Jon (last edited May 15, 2017 01:35PM) (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments 2016 came and went with most of my reading goals incomplete. I read a decent 99 books, and though I would normally aim one higher for the following year I don’t feel that’s realistic. 2016 was an ideal year from a reading standpoint, and this year reading is going to have to take a back seat to writing goals so although I will nominally be aiming for 100, I'll be happy if I get 60ish:

✓ = Read
✘ = Started
- = TBR

5. Read 12 Works of Proper Nonfiction

By which I mean over 200 pages and not just biography or essays, but substantial ideas or facts. I have some titles in mind, but will wait til I’ve perused to put down my preliminary list.

1. ✓ Measurement by Paul Lockhart
2. ✘ The Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol 1, Richard Feynman
3. ✓ The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, Richard Dawkins
4. - The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore
5. - Developmental Biology: A Very Short Introduction, Lewis Wolpert
6. - TBC
7. - TBC
8. - TBC
9. - TBC
10. - TBC
11. - TBC
12. - TBC

4. Catching Up on The Classics Cont’d

This was an old list, the aim of which was to give me an overview of the Classics with a focus on the British novel. In date order the books left on that list as at the start of 2017 (I added Herodotus cus I got a copy for Xmas) are:

✘ 600-100BC, The Old Testament, King James Authorised Version
- 600-100BC, The Apocrypha, King James Authorised Version

✘ 440BC, The Histories, Herodotus

✘ 100-400, The New Testament, King James Authorised

- 1399, The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

- 1767, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne

✓ 1851, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, Herman Melville
- 1862, Fathers and Sons, Turgenev
✓ 1865, Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
- 1871, Middlemarch, George Eliot

- 1885, Germinal, Emile Zola
- 1891, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

- 1904, Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
- 1915, The Rainbow, D H Lawrence
✓ 1916, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

✘ 1300-1994, The Penguin Book of English Verse, Paul Keegan

3. The Shelf of Half-Read Books

That shelf of old books started but never finished, currently looks like this in order of length...

✘ 816pp, Collected Stories, Vladimir Nabokov
✘ 680pp, The Oxford Book of Essays, John Gross
✘ 548pp, The Complete Western Stories, Elmore Leonard
✘ 502pp, Selected Short Stories, D. H. Lawrence
✘ 384pp, Smoke and Mirrors, Niel Gaiman
✘ 368pp, Hang-Ups: Essays on Art, Simon Schama
✘ 368pp, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories, Washington Irving
✘ 336pp, Plain Tales From The Hills (Penguin Popular Classics), Rudyard Kipling
✓ 318pp, Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other stories, Annie Proulx
✘ 306pp, How to Be Alone, Jonathan Franzen
✘ 259pp, Short Stories, Anton Chekov

I did not complete any of them as part of my goals last year.

2. Research Books for A Novel

The highest priority list I am working on is research for the novel I am working on. These include books that are stylistically similar to my novel, deal with similar themes, have historical information in them that I need, or which I think will be otherwise helpful to my thinking about the novel I am working on.

I've trimmed the list a little from last years. There were a few that just didn't feel as necessary as they did when I first made this list. I've also added The Sacred Willow, another Xmas gift.

The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Ngyuen
The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family, Duong Van Mai Elliott

- American Pastoral, Philip Roth
- Pettibone's Law, John Keene
- Libra, Don DeLillo
Underworld, Don DeLillo

- The Information, Martin Amis
- The Black Book, Orhan Pamuk
- The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
- Catch-22, Joseph Heller
- The Beach, Alex Garland
- Point Omega, Don Delillo

I also want to read the following Shakespeares. Hopefully joining the appropes buddy reads as and when:

1. Jon’s Shakespeareance

Although I have seen or listened to performances of these nine plays, I haven’t actually read them. So for completion’s sake, I’m gonna do that this year. Then I have read the lot.

The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare
As You Like It, William Shakespeare
The Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare
Coriolanus, William Shakespeare
Cymbeline, William Shakespeare
Hamlet, William Shakespeare


- The Rape of Lucrece, William Shakespeare

Total Count for Jan: 7 books.
Total Count for Feb: 9 books
Total Count for Mar: 9 books
Total Count for Apr: 6 books
Count for Year to 15th May 2017: 38 books.

message 2: by Terris (new)

Terris | 947 comments It looks very organized, and you have a goal! And some good books there, too! Enjoy :)

message 3: by Pink, Old School Classics (new)

Pink | 5638 comments Mod
Loving your list! Good luck with your reading, no matter how many you finish.

message 4: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 1996 comments Good luck with your reading and your novel, Jon. I'm working on a novel too, and realizing what a long-term effort it is ...

message 5: by Bat-Cat (new)

Bat-Cat | 1302 comments Very impressive list, Jon - lots of luck with it!!! ;-)

message 6: by Jon (last edited Jan 29, 2017 05:08AM) (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments January

First update coming into the end of Jan. Got one challenge book off my plate by finishing listening to the Big Read audiobook of (1) Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.

I also listened to Jezza Irons reading Eliot (who is the bestest) on the BBC, since he read several complete collections I can count the following books as read via my earholes:
(2) Prufrock and Other Observations
(3) Poems
(4) Four Quartets

For entertainment I read Peter Watts existentially challenging hard sci-fi novel (5) Blindsight which was fun and full of interesting non-fiction ideas, whereas (6) Geography: A Very Short Introduction – which is actual non-fiction – did not.

The only other proper classic I've got through this month was the rather uninteresting (7) Theogony/Works and Days by Hesiod, the far less interesting or fun coeval of Homer.

message 7: by Squire (new)

Squire (srboone) | 152 comments Good luck with your list! That's quite an impressive load.

message 8: by Pink, Old School Classics (new)

Pink | 5638 comments Mod
January looks great. Did you like Moby Dick? I'm not surprised to hear that Theogony wasn't very interesting, it looks rather dry, which is why I keep putting it off myself.

message 9: by Jon (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments I really liked Moby Dick. It felt like being told a tale tale by an eloquent and verbose drunk. Just a great voice piece.

Plus I like those books that have non-fiction digressions in the way of Victor Hugo or Michael Crichton. That book must be about 10% plot which is doubly great because of how solid that short plot is.

message 10: by Pink, Old School Classics (new)

Pink | 5638 comments Mod
That's pretty much how I felt about it. I've seen so many people say they hated the digressions, but I loved those parts, learning about different classifications of everything whale related!

message 11: by Laurie (new)

Laurie | 927 comments Moby Dock could be subtitled "Everything You Want to Know About Whaling But Forgot to Ask". I can't imagine what the research must have been like.

message 12: by Pink, Old School Classics (new)

Pink | 5638 comments Mod
Haha, yep it's certainly a Whaling 101.

message 13: by Jon (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments Laurie wrote: "Moby Dock could be subtitled "Everything You Want to Know About Whaling But Forgot to Ask". I can't imagine what the research must have been like."

I was also impressed that he wore my down on the language. I barely sniggered at all at the word 'sperm' by the end of it.

One of my favourite asides was the chapter about how now matter how hard you hunt them, the whale can never go extinct. In the Big Read version they have David Attenborough narrate that one to maximise the irony.

message 14: by Jon (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments Feb Reading

I started the month by finally sending Underworld to the underworld. It is probably one of the easiest difficult books I've ever read. DeLillo manages to be stylish and lyrical and funny without making you have to work at reading his prose. He makes it look easy. The bastard. Underworld was great.

I like to read books about writing and the rather whiny (and in places kind of creepy-nerdy Vita Nuova by Dante filled that slot this month. The translation I read seemed to have sapped all the joy from the verse. Not the best read. But interesting as a historical document. Also in the books about books camp was Kingsley Amis' New Maps Of Hell: A Survey Of Science Fiction his review of the state of sci-fi back in the fifties. Interesting to see where the medium has changed, and where the perception has not.

For non-fiction I finished Measurement this month. One of the most mind-expanding books I've read in a long time. This is a maths professor's successful attempt to make maths interesting. He teaches you how to create proofs then sets you off to do them yourself. I had the closest thing to a religious experience reading this book.

Necronomicon was the somewhat fraudulent audiobook which though marketed as being the unabridged audiobook of the collection of the same name, is in fact heavily abridged and according to the editor's website, not affiliated with the lovely leather-bound edition he curated. Good, if formulaic, creepy stuff.

I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World's less predictive and interesting cousin, as well. Orwell's vision of the power growing from language has suddenly become prescient thanks to Kelly Anne Conway. Double plus good read apart from the documentary stuff.

I also read the two plays of ol' Bill's that I've seen the most after Lear: Hamlet (great) and Twelfth Night (alright).

message 15: by Pink, Old School Classics (new)

Pink | 5638 comments Mod
February looked like a great reading month for you!

After years of telling myself I wouldn't be interested in Underworld and always mixing up Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon in my head, I'm starting to become interested in their books. I'm glad to hear you liked Underworld, an easy, but difficult book sounds right up my street.

message 16: by Darren (new)

Darren (dazburns) | 1006 comments Jon - welcome to the Underworld appreciation society! our compare books rating is creeping ever higher - now you just need to 5-Star The Information... ;o)

message 17: by Jon (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments Pink wrote: "After years of telling myself I wouldn't be interested in Underworld and always mixing up Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon in my head, I'm starting to become interested in their books..."

Do. Delillo is probably one of the more important living writers. He would not have been undeserving if he'd beaten Bob Dylan to the Nobel Prize.

message 18: by Jon (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments Darren wrote: "now you just need to 5-Star The Information... ;o)"

The odds are pretty good. I love me some Martin Amis and rank the other two in the London trilogy pretty highly. Then again I rank pretty much everything I've read of his pretty highly.

message 19: by Jon (last edited May 15, 2017 01:48PM) (new)

Jon (JonPill) | 125 comments I’ve left this rather longer than usual but I have got through the following in the last few months. The list below brings me up to the 15th May 2017.

The following Shakespeares:
As You Like It
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Comedy of Errors
Antony and Cleopatra

So he’s all done with apart from a little bit of the verse. I got lucky with these, there was a lot of downtime at work, where I was able to read most of them online.

I also read the following short story collections:
All the Rage
Brokeback Mountain
The Gambler/Bobok/A Nasty Story

And these comic book collections thanks to a deal giving me a free month on Marvel Unlimited:
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 2
Darth Vader, Vol 1: Vader

I read these novels (Ulysses was a reread):
Our Mutual Friend
The Sympathiser
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

This poetry, lent to me by the author Simon Turner. They’re all really good if you like modern verse. Give him a try #plug:
You Are Here
Difficult Second Album
Works on Paper

And these light non-fiction books:
Devilfish: The Life & Times of a Poker Legend
Becoming a Writer

Because of the volume I haven’t put any details up. Will link to blog posts as I write them. But in the meantime ask below if there’s any you’re super interested in :)

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