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General > Planning for our first 2015 read

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I want to get the decision made for next read, which starts in January, 2015, before the holidays come, and given that it takes several weeks for us to go through the process (the list of books chosen by the random generator and the moderator nominations is first posted for discussion and lobbying, then a poll is put up for the first round of voting, and usually we need a run-off, so it takes some time to get the right selection) it's time to start the process.

The list of books chosen by the random number generator and nominated by the moderators is listed below, alphabetically by author.

I don't usually reveal which selections are moderator nominations. In fact, I've never done it before. But this time I need to, because Thomas has nominated Joyce's Ulysses, and has agreed to moderate the discussion if it wins.

I know some people have sworn never to read Ulysses, and others have tried it and given up, but Thomas has read it several times (I don't know how many, but he says "it has been several years since I read it last"). If you have ever wanted to read it but been hesitant to, or even scared off, or have started it but just couldn't get through it, I can't imagine that you will ever have a better opportunity than to read it with this group and with Thomas moderating.

But there are plenty of other very interesting books on the nominations list too, so look over the list below and share any thoughts you have for the group to consider before we get to the poll.

BTW, we are operating under the weighted voting system that was set up some time back. In case you have forgotten or are a newer member, it's described and discussed (at length!) in this post:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

And so, to the nominations for our read starting in January, 2015.

Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine
Boccacio, The Decameron
Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
Butler, The Way of all Flesh
Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
Hardy, Jude the Obscure
Hobbes, Leviathan
Joyce, Ulysses
Kafka, The Trial
Trollope, The Way We Live Now
Virgil, The Georgics


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "Oh, this is a tough choice! "

And I'm not going to apologize for that! [g]

Every one of these books is worth reading, and indeed worth re-reading. It just depends where each of is in our intellectual journey which book at which particular time calls most strongly to us.


message 3: by Zippy (new)

Zippy | 155 comments This is great! I haven't read any of these (except for the first 17 pages of Ulysses) and so my vote is for whatever everyone decides! What luck!


message 4: by Linda (new)

Linda | 322 comments Some of these I have not heard of, but like Patrice said IF there ever was a time to try reading Ulysses, now would be the time with this group. I have never attempted Ulysses, but have definitely heard polarizing views of it. And there are a few others here that have been on my TBR list. The poll is going to be interesting!


message 5: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4570 comments Patrice wrote: "Everyman you made me laugh so! My husband's favorite book in the world is Ulysses. He has been pushing me to read it forever, I've tried... This has become an issue between us. He feels I have not tried hard enough ..."

Maybe, just maybe, the problem is not that you haven't tried hard enough, but that you're trying too hard.

Ulysses has a daunting reputation, and while that is richly deserved in one sense, the book is also a rollicking good ride. It's a little like listening to music from an unfamiliar culture -- something about it doesn't sound right at first. But the more you hear the music, the more it starts to make sense -- and this happens without analyzing anything, without commentaries, and without a lot of work. A little patience is required, probably, but it's very much worth it in the end.


message 6: by Genni (new)

Genni | 837 comments I love the Confessions and would love to read them again with this group. As Patrice says, it WOULD be perfect after reading Apuleius. On the other hand, I am enjoying reading all of these texts from antiquity (Plato, Apuleius, etc.) so I am really interested in reading Virgil's The Georgics. Tough!


message 7: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Genni wrote: "I love the Confessions and would love to read them again with this group. As Patrice says, it WOULD be perfect after reading Apuleius. On the other hand, I am enjoying reading all of these texts fr..."

The Confessions was my first read of 2010, and I remember thinking that I would be very happy if all the books thereafter were like it. I'm not so sure about a group read though. Perhaps it is better read in a more intimate and private setting than a large online forum.

I'd like to read Virgil's Georgics as well. I've enjoyed his other two works, Eclogues and Aeneid, but the agricultural themes might be tough to digest for a city mouse.


message 8: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany (ladyperrin) | 269 comments I'm not sure why but every time I look at the list I feel like I just want to hide in a corner and wait for someone to tell me what we're reading next. But I suspect that comes from the fact that I wouldn't attempt any of these books (expect Kafta) on my own. However, after Thomas's post about Ulysses, I'm feeling game to try it.


message 9: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments What is Ulysses actually about? I read the wikipedia entry but the overview explains nothing (eg. it is hard, it was controversial) - but what is it about?


message 10: by Linda (new)

Linda | 322 comments Tiffany wrote: "I'm not sure why but every time I look at the list I feel like I just want to hide in a corner and wait for someone to tell me what we're reading next."

Ha! Funny, Tiffany. :)

Well, there are only 4 books on this list that I've ever even heard of. My background in such literature is almost non-existent and the discussions that take place in this group tend to be WAY over my head, but I can't help but to try and read the selections even if I can't post very thought-provoking posts.

And Thomas' post about Ulysses actually got me pretty excited to try reading it.


message 11: by Zippy (new)

Zippy | 155 comments Cass, it was about twenty years ago when I picked it up, but all I can remember was thinking, "Oh. Word hash."


message 12: by Charles (new)

Charles Thomas wrote: "Ulysses has a daunting reputation, and while that is richly deserved in one sense, the book is also a rollicking good ride. It's a little like listening to music from an unfamiliar culture"

Gee whiz. You people read The Golden Ass and the Georgics and Ulysses is hard? It's a cakewalk in comparison with what is ordinarily attempted here. It's Virgil who sings the music of an unfamiliar culture, for me. It will be very interesting to see how the vote goes on this one.


message 13: by Charles (new)

Charles Cass wrote: "What is Ulysses actually about? I read the wikipedia entry but the overview explains nothing (eg. it is hard, it was controversial) - but what is it about?"

Well, that would be the point of the discussion, perhaps. Nominally, it's about Leopold Bloom's day (June 6th) going about Dublin. How it gets to be more than that is as interesting (but not moreso) as what it's about.


message 14: by Paula (last edited Oct 24, 2014 10:16AM) (new)

Paula (paula-j) | 129 comments i>Thomas wrote: Maybe, just maybe, the problem is not that you haven't tried hard enough, but that you're trying too hard.

Yes, this!

This is exactly what I did. I armed myself with Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses. And, speaking just for myself, it was such a mistake. Gilbert takes the book completely apart and all I ended up with was something that began as a lovely watch that had been so completely dismembered, you forgot it was ever a thing of beauty in the first place. Gilbert's dry, pedantic, posturing analysis left me cold and uninterested.

I understand this is a product of his time and his background, but I got the impression he was more interested in the dissection than the actual novel. I do understand that it is a guide, an analysis, but again, it just came across as a kind of autopsy. In a way, I felt he analyzed it to death - until all the life was gone.

I did try to read it in conjunction with Ulysses (chapter by chapter) but it continued to leech the energy from the book itself. I finally had to stop and I shelved both books. I felt I needed some distance and time before I tried again.

As a singer, I completely understand the concept of books that sing and I would love to experience that with Ulysses. To have Thomas moderate is too great an opportunity to miss, so I know how I'm voting :).


message 15: by Hock (new)

Hock Tjoa (hockgtjoa) | 7 comments On someone's advice I listened to the audio version of Ulysses, read with such lovely accents that I lost track of the book...


message 16: by Dee (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments A fascinating selection (as always). I don't know which one to pick. I've read The Pilgrim's Progress and Leviathan before, but many of the others are books I've been wanting to read for a while.


message 17: by Nicola (new)

Nicola | 249 comments I'll definitely vote for Ulysses. I started reading this a little while ago; found a fantastic audio on the Internet Archive and picked up two different annotated websites for the text and started. It was very enjoyable but then other reading came along and I stopped.


message 18: by Nicola (new)

Nicola | 249 comments Cass wrote: "What is Ulysses actually about? I read the wikipedia entry but the overview explains nothing (eg. it is hard, it was controversial) - but what is it about?"

As previously replied to Ulysses is about a single day in Dublin and the events that happen there and that truly is it! Leopold Bloom mostly but there are others. The book is very loosely based on the Homeric Odyssey and the running 'joke' is comparing the petty trials and tribulations of these ordinary Dubliners with the grand sweeping tale of the original.

Charles said that he doesn't understand how we can be intimidated by this if we read The Golden Ass. With the greatest of respect I really couldn't disagree more! Ulysses, without being a pretentious novel in language and direct scope (it's about as everyday as you can get) was/is a right headache to many (most) people because it's STUFFED!! with allusions to everything. Myths, novels, poems, events, religion, etc etc. The difficulty is working out what is going on.

That being said I didn't find it too hard once I started listening to it on the audio I found and the two websites did the rest. I was actually quite enjoying it :-)


message 19: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments David wrote: "I've read The Pilgrim's Progress and Leviathan before,..."

You mentioned before that you didn't like Leviathan, if I remember correctly. What's your opinion on The Pilgrim's Progress?


message 20: by Thomas (last edited Oct 24, 2014 11:40AM) (new)

Thomas | 4570 comments Cass wrote: "What is Ulysses actually about? I read the wikipedia entry but the overview explains nothing (eg. it is hard, it was controversial) - but what is it about?"

Imagine you were to write down every thought that came to you in the course of a day. All of them, from the totally mundane to the slightly embarassing to the most sublime realization about the one person you love most in the world. That's what Ulysses is about -- it's a chronicle of the thoughts of an ordinary and extraordinary Irishman as he toodles about Dublin on one day in 1904.

It was controversial, in part, because it was completely honest and open about the ordinary things that we normally suppress and keep to ourselves. Bodily functions, sexuality, pecadilloes and imperfections, all the thoughts and feelings of this character are laid open on the page. (Joyce is a bit like Tobermory the cat in the Saki story.)

So there isn't a conventional "plot" per se, but there is a lot going on.


message 21: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4570 comments Paula wrote: "This is exactly what I did. I armed myself with Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses. And, speaking just for myself, it was such a mistake."

Yes! That's exactly what I would recommend not doing the first time around. It's easy to see why one would want to do it though... but don't give in to the temptation! (At least not the first time through the book... Gilbert has some interesting things to say, if only because Joyce helped him with the analysis, but I think it's best left aside for later.)


message 22: by Roger (last edited Oct 24, 2014 12:00PM) (new)

Roger Burk | 1743 comments I'm rooting for Pilgrim's Progress, once the post popular English book after the Bible, the location of the Slough of Despond, the Vanity Fair, and many other places we've all been, essential to understanding the devleopment of English and American religion, but now sadly out of fashion.

I read Ulysses many years ago, and all I can say is that that's a week of my life I'll never get back.


message 23: by Linda (new)

Linda | 322 comments Thomas wrote: "Imagine you were to write down every thought that came to you in the course of a day. All of them, from the totally mundane to the slightly embarassing to the most sublime realization about the one person you love most in the world. That's what Ulysses is about..."

I was quite ambivalent about Ulysses, but the more Thomas describes it the more enticing it becomes.


message 24: by Dee (last edited Oct 24, 2014 02:09PM) (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments Nemo wrote: "David wrote: "I've read The Pilgrim's Progress and Leviathan before,..."

You mentioned before that you didn't like Leviathan, if I remember correctly. What's your opinio..."


I did not like Leviathan. I'm currently reading through the Objections and Replies to Descartes' Meditations, and must confess I wasn't much taken with Hobbes' contribution to that either. Although in that case, it is no doubt because Descartes gives him very short shrift in his responses.

As for The Pilgrim's Progress, it is a very long time since I last read it, but loved it. A quote which sums it up really well, I think, is from Fadiman's The New Lifetime Reading Plan: "Of the writers... who had preceded him, Bunyan had read not a line. He merely quietly joined them." The book's influence is undeniable, and goes far beyond the narrow sector of Christianity which spawned it, which is no doubt due in part to the beauty and simplicity of the story. It was a favourite of the agnostic Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the opera based on the book is in my opinion one of his greatest works.


message 25: by Genni (new)

Genni | 837 comments Nemo wrote: "Genni wrote: "I love the Confessions and would love to read them again with this group. As Patrice says, it WOULD be perfect after reading Apuleius. On the other hand, I am enjoying reading all of ..."

:-) I do know what you mean about the Confessions. However, I was thinking that reading it, with this group in particular, would bring out different ideas and discussions than the obvious. You are right though. Generally, I think it is of such a personal nature that reading it singly is how the majority approaches it. I just thought reading it with a group would be a singularly different experience. Maybe I am just strange. [g]

As for The Georgics, when I read about the agricultural themes, I thought it would be, again, a completely different reading experience. It is not a subject I am typically interested in, which is why I began wondering if Virgil could make it so. :-)


message 26: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1743 comments I read the Georgics a few decades ago, and I found them really charming. Virgil develops the pastoral conceit that rural life is all honest labor and celebrating harvests. We may know that subsistence farming is really unremitting toil punctuated by crop failure and famine, but when reading Virgil we don't care.


message 27: by Catherine (new)

Catherine (yarnmama10) | 5 comments Jude the Obscure is one of my favorites and I would love to read it again or Pilgrim's Progress. It has been quite a long time since I first read that one and I feel like I barely mined it's depths the first time through. Ulysses is not my cup of tea. I have tried to like books like that many times and I just can't get into the whole "stream of consciousness" style of writing. Just my opinion of course. :-)


message 28: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments David wrote: " I'm currently reading through the Objections and Replies to Descartes' Meditations, and must confess I wasn't much taken with Hobbes' contribution to that either..."

It makes me laugh just to think back on it. Descartes must be rolling his eyes and saying to himself, "Why am I wasting my time with this guy?"


message 29: by Genni (new)

Genni | 837 comments Roger wrote: "I read the Georgics a few decades ago, and I found them really charming. Virgil develops the pastoral conceit that rural life is all honest labor and celebrating harvests. We may know that subsis..."

Thanks, Roger! I may just have to squeeze it in to my own personal reading if it doesn't win. :-)


message 30: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments I was sampling the audiobook versions of Pilgrim's Progress at audible.com, when it suddenly came back to me why I didn't get far into it on my first attempt: I couldn't (and still can't) relate to the feelings and thoughts of "Christian". What exactly motivated "Christian" to embark on the journey to the "Celestial City" seemed alien to me, whereas I have no problem relating to Dante's and Augustine's journey. Not sure why.


message 31: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I should have said earlier that my comment on Thomas and Ulysses was never intended to shut down the support for other nominated books, any of which would also be great choices. I realize that my comment might have been seen as endorsing Ulysses, which it wasn't -- frankly I'm not even sure yet which book I will vote for, there are so many great choices.


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "I was sampling the audiobook versions of Pilgrim's Progress at audible.com, when it suddenly came back to me why I didn't get far into it on my first attempt: I couldn't (and still can't) relate to..."

Perhaps you should think about voting for PP in order to finally find out whether you still find a difference between his reason for his journey and Dante's (which I think is every bit as much unexplained), and if so why. Doesn't this unresolved question nag at you?


message 33: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Everyman wrote: "Doesn't this unresolved question nag at you? ."

Yes, it does indeed. :) However, I'm beginning to think that maybe it is one of those things where you have to experience to understand it. Maybe Bunyan's target audience have the same experience as he, and the popularity of his book dwindles because they are becoming fewer.

Anyway, I already bought an audiobook of Pilgrim's Progress on the recommendations of Laurele, Everyman and Roger in the last "planning" thread, and I just might put my weighted vote behind it this time.


message 34: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments Charles wrote: "Cass wrote: "What is Ulysses actually about? I read the wikipedia entry but the overview explains nothing (eg. it is hard, it was controversial) - but what is it about?"

Well, that would be the po..."


Thanks Charles. I didn't want to vote for a book just because everyone says you should read it. Sometimes I think even the occasional classics are guilty of blowing hot air. I want to be actually interested in the story.


message 35: by Charles (last edited Oct 26, 2014 08:17PM) (new)

Charles The Trollope is a sleeper, something like a Victorian Upton Sinclair, critical of financial sleaze and corruption of England 1875. His longest novel, a complex in subplots as a Dickens. A lot of people have not read much Trollope, except maybe Barchester Towers. His political novels are first rate, his characters are sympathetic, including the women, he even wrote a detective story (The Eustace Diamonds). This would be a fun read, with enough meat to it to give us lots to talk about.


message 36: by Charles (new)

Charles The Kafka is to me the odd one in this list. It is not a novel in the way the Joyce and the Trollope are, it is not an allegory like Pilgrim's Progress, it is not an argument like Hobbes. It is really a thing unto itself, a powerful modern parable about guilt, atonement, and punishment. Unequaled anywhere for it's presentation of the contemporary human condition. Much meat for thought.


message 37: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Nicola wrote: "it's STUFFED!! with allusions to everything. Myths, novels, poems, events, religion, etc etc. The difficulty is working out what is going on.
.."


An excellent reason to want to read it with a group such as this. So many different points of view and a wealth of knowledge here.


message 38: by Charles (new)

Charles Theresa wrote: "An excellent reason to want to read it with a group such as this. So many different points of view and a wealth of knowledge here."

Well, this is the group to tackle it. I'll be behind the donkey cart pushing when I can.


message 39: by Linda (new)

Linda | 322 comments I might end up not voting myself and just see what ends up winning. I glanced at Ulysses tonight at the second hand store, but not long enough to decide whether I would want to tackle it or not - but if it wins I probably won't want to pass up the opportunity.

I've only read one Kafka, and have The Trial waiting in the wings.

And I've watched the TV version of The Way We Live Now before I knew anything about Trollope and got sucked into the show so much to look up and find out it was based on a book, so that one also has my interest.

The only other one that has my initial interest is Jude the Obscure, but I have been cautioned that it is probably not ideal to start with it as a first-time Hardy read.


message 40: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4570 comments Theresa wrote: "Nicola wrote: "it's STUFFED!! with allusions to everything. Myths, novels, poems, events, religion, etc etc. The difficulty is working out what is going on.
.."

An excellent reason to want to read it with a group such as this. So many different points of view and a wealth of knowledge here. ..."


Stuffed is a good word for it. Joyce said that he wanted to put so much detail into the book that if the city of Dublin disappeared from the Earth, it could be reconstructed with his book.

This level of detail is what makes Ulysses a great book to read with people who have read widely. The Homeric references are built into the structure of the book. Shakespeare recurs over and over again, especially Hamlet. Biblical allusions, popular music references, Irish history, World history, philosophy, and on and on. Recognizing the allusions is part of the fun of the book, but it should also be noted that not recognizing them doesn't take anything away.


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The poll has now been posted, and will be open for a week. To find it, select Polls from the right hand menu on the group home page.

I worry a bit about whether I put too heavy a finger on the scale mentioning Thomas and Ulysses, so if Ulysses wins, I'm thinking that, since this is a really great set of choices, we might just choose the runner-up as our second 2015 book. Haven't finally decided that yet, but it's an idea I'm considering.


message 42: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments You made me giggle... Reading the winner and the runner-up of our polls as become a bit of a thing... and to be honest, I kind of think it is a pretty good outcome.


message 43: by Clarissa (new)

Clarissa (clariann) | 215 comments I don't think anyone has mentioned Chaucer yet? I am very fond of him, there is so many layers and such richness in his work. The language can be a little difficult, but then I don't think this group minds difficult :)


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Clari wrote: "I don't think anyone has mentioned Chaucer yet? I am very fond of him, there is so many layers and such richness in his work. The language can be a little difficult, but then I don't think this gro..."

Good point. You're right, we don't at all mind difficult when it's worth it.


message 45: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments Everyman wrote: " we might just choose the runner-up as our second 2015 book.."

Shouldn't it depend on how close the vote is? I don't like planning my reading too much in advance... Whatever the second runner up is, couldn't it just be added to the bottom of the next 'random' poll? Assuming that the people who voted for it are still around to vote again?

Just an idea. I'm ok with anything on that list, and I think, even have a hard copy of all those books on my shelves. But Ulysses intrigues me, and I think it would be perfect for a winter read. The other books will still be around for future polls.


message 46: by Dee (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments The poll doesn't appear to have a closing date set. Is that intentional? or have I missed it?


message 47: by Dee (new)

Dee (deinonychus) | 291 comments Clari wrote: "I don't think anyone has mentioned Chaucer yet? I am very fond of him, there is so many layers and such richness in his work. The language can be a little difficult, but then I don't think this gro..."

Chaucer is wonderful. I've not read Troilus and Criseyde but would love the chance to do so if it wins. Although at the moment my vote is with The Pilgrim's Progress, Troilus would be a very close second, and I may yet change my vote.


message 48: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1743 comments We should add the runner-up to the next poll. Then it can be voted in if the interest is still there, or postponed again if something even better turns up.

Its many votes show that there's more interest in it than in most books in the vast to-read pile. We shouldn't thrown that information away by just returning it to the pile.


message 49: by Clarissa (new)

Clarissa (clariann) | 215 comments Everyman wrote: "Good point. You're right, we don't at all mind difficult when it's worth it.
"


It looks like Ulysses is the favourite from the comments here, and personally I think it is the hardest novel on the list to read, so if it does go that way hope that I have time to read it with the group, as think it is a novel that benefits a lot from discussion, or just support to keep going with it :)


message 50: by Peter (new)

Peter (teacherman) | 3 comments I'm ok with Ulysses, The Confessions (and, indeed, City of God).

Has the Group already read Dante's Comedy?


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