What I’ve Been Reading ~ January 2019

I always tend to start off a new year of reading with reading a lot in January. This year, though, I finished fewer books than I did in January of last year. As I already shared in a previous post, I’ve been approaching some books with the mindset of a slower reading pace and that is definitely reflected in the books I finished in January. I am actually reading quite a few books all at the same time. However, of the books I started in January, I’ve only finished six *in* January.

Books I Started *and* Finished in January

the fellowship of the rings

Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

I am really enjoying this series! My husband and I just finished watching the movie for this one and we’re now ready to start reading The Two Towers. I don’t plan to write much about the books until I finish the whole series.

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Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

This one definitely ranks as one of my favorites in the Narnia series. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is my other favorite so far.

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the daughter of time

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

I shared my thoughts on this book HERE.

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The Wide Window

A Series of Unfortunate Events:  The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

I’m working through this series little by little on my own. I wanted to read the series (1) to pre-read them to see if my daughter might like them and (2) because I watched the first episode or so of the new Netflix series and decided I wanted to read the books before continuing to watch the series.

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                                                                         Black Beauty     The Black Stallion

My daughter is all about horses right now and asked me to pre-read some horse books for her. So far, I read and finished Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.

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What books did you read in January?

 

 

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My Thoughts On Re-Reading Right Now

I’ve been thinking about the importance of re-reading. This year, I have already been approaching some of the books I read with the mindset of a slower reading pace *and* seeing if it’s a book I would want to re-read. I have plans to re-read a number of books this year and am looking forward to seeing what additional insights I will gain with reading those books again.

how to read a book

Which brings me to a book I’m currently reading:   How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. I had read a portion of this book a couple of years ago; so I decided to re-read and then finish the book this year. Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about this statement in the book:

“Most people, even many quite good readers, are unaware of the value of inspectional reading. They start a book on page one and plow steadily through it, without even reading the table of contents. They are thus faced with the task of achieving a superficial knowledge of the book at the same time that they are trying to understand it. That compounds the difficulty.” (How to Read a Book, pg. 19)

This particular quote is one that I’ve remembered from when I first read it a couple of years ago and I’ve even referenced it before. While this quote is found in the section about inspectional reading, it’s sparked a lot of thinking for me in regards to how I read various books as well as the importance of re-reading. Also…it’s made me think about which books to re-read.  (For some context, inspectional reading is basically like a quick reading or a skimming of a book. For me, though, I’m not thinking in terms of just skimming a book but rather in terms of the first reading of a book no matter how long or quick it takes reading the book. If that makes sense. 🙂 ).

In the same section of the book, we find this statement:

“Francis Bacon once remarked that ‘some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.’” (How to Read a Book, pg. 19)

In thinking about this, I’ve thought that some books are books that I’ll only read once.  In fact, many books will probably be books I only read once. These are the books that are “tasted.” I may really like them or I may not like them at all. There may be books that are the right book at the right time or I get completely swept away into the story and I swallow them down. Will I re-read them? Maybe….maybe not. And then there are books that are just going to be ones I may read much slower and even re-read. These would mostly (maybe not all….) probably fall into the category of those to be “chewed and digested.”

This then leads me back to this idea of gaining a superficial knowledge of the book and trying to understand it. It seems the authors’ point is that some books need that inspectional reading….that pre-reading/skimming to get the basic knowledge of the book but not trying to understand it all at the same time. Then that second reading is where the reader digs in and goes deeper with it, maybe seeing more nuances in the story, or noticing distinct character development, or gaining more insight into things that can be drawn from the novel, etc. For non-fiction,  it may mean that the second time reading it will help the reader grasp more of the information presented. For me, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill would fall into this category.

Re-reading can enable us to see and talk more deeply about a book and therefore help others see more in the book as well. As an example, Silvia is leading a read-along for Don Quixote right now and I’m participating in it. I can already see how I will probably not get all that can be gleaned from just one reading of this book. While it is my first time reading it, it’s not for Silvia. And because she has read this book a number of times, she can and is sharing lots of thoughts on this book which are helping me as I read it for the first time….helping me see things that I may not have seen. And that most definitely has been enhancing my reading experience with this book. (And, also, others who are reading it and sharing thoughts in the comments are sharing insights already that I didn’t pick up on.) So re-reading can give us more layers of understanding in the book that we may not pick up on when we read it the first time and we can help others see those layers as well.



The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

the daughter of time

Title:  The Daughter of Time
Author:  Josephine Tey
Length:  206 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Classics, Mystery
Content Notes:  Language


About This Book

Alan Grant, an inspector at Scotland Yards, is bedridden in a hospital due to a broken leg. While he’s there, he becomes quite bored. A friend suggests he try to take up some sort of project that would be feasible for him to do. One day she brings in a bunch of pictures, amongst which is one of the notorious Richard III. As he looks at this particular picture, he is shocked by how noble Richard III looks and finds himself intrigued. With the help of some friends, Grant sets off on an investigative journey to find out the truth:  Did Richard III really murder his two nephews?


My Thoughts

Over the course of 2018, I read The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill. In December, I finished up the last chapter which was all about Richard III. After reading that chapter, I knew it was the perfect time to pull my copy of The Daughter of Time off my shelf and give it a read. I’m so glad I did!

The Daughter of Time is cleverly and engagingly written; and I found it absolutely fascinating. Through the investigative work done by the main character Grant and his friend Carradine (who is an employee at the British Museum), the author masterfully retraces the events surrounding a well-known crime in history; and consequently, the novel leads the reader to consider the plausibility that Richard III may have actually been innocent of the crime. This is an engrossing read that will have you turning the pages to see what Alan Grant discovers in his quest to uncover the truth about Richard III.

My Rating:  4 Stars

 

This and That ~ January 11, 2019

Awhile back, I talked about the practice of re-reading. That post was a post where I pondered various bookish thoughts. But the idea of re-reading and the benefits of it, well, I have continued to think about that more. So much so that it’s one of my goals this year. I am aiming to re-read more. Adler says in How to Read a Book:

“Skimming or pre-reading is the first sub-level of inspectional reading. Your main aim is to discover whether the book requires a more careful reading.” (pg. 32)

I’m thinking a lot about this. Now as I read a book, I’m seeing if I think that book could be beneficial to re-read.

I have more thoughts on this topic that I might do a post about soon. For now, I know there are at least a handful of books I’d like to re-read this year. 🙂

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don quixote

Are you looking for a nice long book to snuggle up with right now while it’s winter season? Silvia has invited others to join her in reading Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. I’m joining in. Want to join in too? Head on over and check out Silvia’s  invitation to read Don Quixote as well as her Don Quixote page.

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I decided to make my own personal reading challenge this year based on my reading goals. The focus is on reading widely. I had a similar goal for 2018 and did reach those goals. But I am expanding my goals for 2019 and trying to incorporate more books in subject areas from history to science to poetry. I also want to do some re-reading as I already mentioned and I want to work on reading books from my classics list and from my own shelves. The idea occurred to me to create a printable for myself to have a pretty checklist printable. So I did!

2019 simply reading challenge graphic

You can grab a copy of this printable checklist HERE.

I’ve adapted the checklist a bit from my original list in THIS post for those who might want to join in. My personal goal is to read at least 6 classics from my classics list but for this checklist I put down to read two classic literature books. If you have any interest in joining me with this challenge to read more widely in 2019, feel free to grab this checklist printable and let me know in the comments that you’re joining me. 🙂

 

 

Reading Goals for 2019

I’m a checklist kind of gal. So it is just sort of innate in me to want make a list and check things off that list. And that goes for my reading life too. I think that’s why I like reading challenges. 🙂 Last year, I set some goals for my reading and found that I really liked doing that. It was a list. LOL But more importantly, it helped me achieve things in my reading life that I wanted to achieve. (I talk about last year’s reading goals HERE.) So I want to set goals for my reading in 2019. I was planning to participate in the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge but I don’t think I will this year. I’m considering my 2019 reading goals as my own personal reading challenge. 🙂

reading goals 2019 graphic

Here are my goals for my 2019 reading:

  • Read at least one history book.
  • Read at least one science book.
  • Read one poetry book.
  • Read a book about poetry.
  • Read one essay collection.
  • Read one play.
  • Read at least one memoir or biography.
  • Read at least two books from my own shelves.
  • Continue to read books on my list of classics to read. (Try to read at least 6 titles if possible. I’d really like to aim for 12.)
  • Choose one book I’d like to re-read.

There you have it! And since it’s my own personal reading challenge, I can make the rules. Ha! So books can count for more than one category. 🙂 I have titles for some of these already in mind.

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the new world
History Book
I plan to read The New World by Winston Churchill which is the next book in his series The History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

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essays by e. b. white

Essay Collection
I plan to read Essays of E. B. White which I already have.

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Play
I will most likely read either Our Town by Thornton Wilder or The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Both of these are on my list of classics I want to read. 🙂

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talking as fast as i can

Memoir
I am definitely planning to read Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham. I just recently bought it and can’t wait to read it!

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Classics
I do want to be sure to read at least 6 titles on my classics list. However, I am not limiting myself to only reading classics on my list. And my list will likely continue to grow as I find other classics I might want to read. 😉 I do know that there are a couple on my list that I will be reading:

  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien – I just started reading The Fellowship of the Rings on January 1st. My husband and I are reading these together.
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes – This is on my list. When Silvia announced that she was going to host a book club discussion for this novel on her blog, I knew I wanted to read along with her. So I am making it fit into my reading right now. 🙂
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – A book club read
  • I would like to try to cross off another ancient literature selection from my list. But we’ll see. That would mean one of the following:
    • Paradise Lost by John Milton
    • The Aeneid by Virgil
    • The Odyssey by Homer

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Re-reads
I will most likely read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society at some point this year because it’s one I have read each year since I first read it. For this category, I will pick something else. Some of the ones I’m thinking about re-reading are:

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  • At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
  • The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
  • The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

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Have you set any reading goals for 2019? Please share in the comments!

*Update:  I created a printable checklist for my personal reading challenge and talk about that HERE.

A Look Back at My 2018 Reading Year

It is hard to believe that today is the last day of 2018! It’s been a good reading year for me. I set a couple of goals this year:

  • Read more non-fiction (memoirs, biography, history, science, etc.)
  • Try to read at least one play and one collection of essays
  • Read 100 books

I am excited to say I met all my goals! I read exactly one play and one collection of essays. Ha! But I read 14 non-fiction books. Most were memoirs. And I did read one history book (I finally read The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill which is the first in his series A History of the English Speaking Peoples. I’ve been wanting to read through this series for awhile now!) And finally, I ended up reading 106 books this year. That’s actually a lot for me. When I consider my reading goals for 2019, though, I don’t think I’ll be setting a numerical goal. But I won’t discuss 2019 reading goals for now. It probably needs it’s own post…plus I’m still thinking about my goals! 🙂

Today, I want to share highlights from my reading year. I will break this down into just a few categories. First I will share my three top favorites for the year. Narrowing down favorites to share is not easy! However, these top three are all hands-down 5 star reads. Then I will share other favorites in the following categories:  Fiction (General, Historical, and/or Contemporary), Non-Fiction, Classics, and Children’s. I’m not including re-reads in this list except for the Narnia books. I’m listing the Narnia books because this is my first time reading these since I was a kid. (My parent’s read the series to my sister and I when we were kids.)

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Top Favorites

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – In my opinion, this is an example of a well-written, character-driven book. I kept telling people about this one after I read it. A good sign of a 5 star book for me. 🙂

Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon – I really do think that this was a case of the right book at the right time! I absolutely loved this….from the gorgeous pictures, to looking through all the recipes, to some of the many thoughts and reflections Witherspoon shared. This was another one I kept telling people about after I read it.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis – Absolutely magical!

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Fiction Favorites

I have a lot of favorites from what I read in contemporary fiction this year. From the more character-driven, contemplative to the lighter, more breezy. I enjoy a really good lighter novel (not necessarily lighter as in fluffy, but in more hallmarky-has-a-good- ending type novel even if it tackles some heavy topics). So I think I will break this one down in sub-categories.

General Fiction

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger – If you like The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (which I read last year and really liked), I think you will like this one. I think this one could fall into the category of character-driven and plot-driven.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – This was one of my picks for the reading challenge for the banned book category. I read that this book was banned because of profanity. So heads up, there is a good bit of language, including strong language. But this story drew me in and I felt that the author created a character that could help readers understand a little bit more about the world of autism. I read this in a day.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan – This novel is considered historical fiction. However, I think Callahan did a great job using the fiction platform to tell Joy Davidson Lewis’ story. I tagged a number of statements and passages in this book.

Lighter Reads

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller – This book, along with the Allen books listed next, are ones I would describe as a Hallmark meets Gilmore Girls type book. They’ve got the happy endings. They can be a bit edgy at times. However, these are not fluffy novels. They each tap into some heavier topics.

Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, and The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen – See comments above. 🙂

The Austin Escape by Katherine Reay – This was just a plain fun read! I really liked it!

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Non-Fiction Favorites

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother and Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey, and France by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor – I really loved this book! Being in mid-life myself, I think I especially appreciated this book because of the mother’s story….her journey with mid-life and faith.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel – This was so fun to read! As a reader and book nerd, I could totally relate to some of the things Bogel talks about in this book. If you are a lover of books and reading, I think you’d enjoy this book.

Reading People by Anne Bogel – I love reading about personalities and that’s what this book is about.

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Classics

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – Why did I wait so long to start reading these books???? I really enjoyed The Hobbit and can’t wait to begin The Lord of the Rings series. (I plan to start Fellowship of the Rings this week!)

Dracula by Bram Stoker – This was one of just a handful of books that took me by surprise. All I knew going into this book was that my hubby and another friend said they were surprised how much they liked it; and my husband even described it as frighteningly good. It’s probably one of my top favorite classics I read this year.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I can’t say that I love all the Dickens’ books I’ve read or even that Dickens is a favorite author; but I do have a great appreciation for his works. However, I did really like Great Expectations. I felt that Dickens’ writing in this novel was much more concise. In other words, he wasn’t nearly so wordy! 🙂

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I think I have to describe this book as, well, interesting. But it was one that I had a hard time putting down.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – This was another novel that took me by surprise. I had no idea what I would think about this one before I read it. I knew from all I’d seen from reviews that people seem to either love this book or they hate it. I fell on the love side. It is NOT a happy story by any means. But I felt that Brontë did an excellent job crafting the story and creating her characters. And I had to keep reading to find out what happened!

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers – This is the other book that surprised me. I typically don’t like to read crime novels/mysteries/detective type stories. But I read this one and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It made me realize that I think I probably would like lighter mysteries.

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Children’s Literature

I tend to read a LOT of children’s fiction because my youngest is a voracious reader and I’m always trying to find good books for her to read. Plus we also do read-alouds. I will narrow this list down to just a handful of favorites I either pre-read or read as a read-aloud.

The Horse and His Boy and Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis – We are currently reading through the Narnia books as a family read-aloud right now and we just finished with Prince Caspian today. These have all been very good. We won’t start the next book in the series until tomorrow or Wednesday…which will be 2019.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – I loved this book and so did my daughter!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place:  The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood – This book had my daughter and I both laughing out loud.

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What were some of your favorite reads in 2018?

 

 

 

 

Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

This has been the third year I’ve participated in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I was able to complete all the categories and even could have filled more than one book title I read this year in several of the categories. In the end, I am only listing one book per category (with just a couple of exceptions) and then will hopefully do a post next week with a review of my 2018 reading year.

Without further ado, here’s what I read for each category. I gave ratings to some, but not all, of the books I read this year. I’m trying to do better at rating each book. It’s a work in progress. 😉 If I rated a book, I will share how many stars I gave it. I also make a few comments here and there as well.

 

MMD 2018 Reading Challenge

A Classic You’ve Been Meaning To Read
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
*The author succeeded in crafting a good suspense story. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the novel and definitely like the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie production of the novel much better. Still, this novel makes a great book club selection because there are many topics that could be discussed. I gave this one 3.5 stars.

A Book Recommended By Someone With Great Taste
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
*I enjoyed this novel and would definitely consider reading another title from this author. 4 Stars for this one.

A Book In Translation
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A Book Nominated for An Award In 2018
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

A Book Of Poetry, A Play, Or An Essay Collection
Poetry – Felicity by Mary Oliver
Play – She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith
Essay Collection – Upstream:  Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

A Book You Can Read In A Day
The Novel on the Tram by Benito Pérez Galdós
*I enjoyed this novel and would definitely consider reading another title from this author.

A Book That’s More Than 500 Pages
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
*This is one of two longer books I read this year. The other was Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for either of these titles and only gave 3 stars to each of them.

A Book By A Favorite Author
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
*This is a new author I discovered this year. I read her book The Sugar Queen at the recommendation of a friend and enjoyed it. So then I read The Girl Who Chased the Moon next and Garden Spells after that. I would describe these books I’ve read from Allen as kind of a combination of Hallmark meets Gilmore Girls with some magical realism thrown in. I gave 4 stars to all of these titles.

A Book Recommended By A Librarian Or An Indie Bookseller
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
*This was one of my favorite books I read this year. I gave it 5 stars.

A Banned Book
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
*I’m listing two because I chose to read a modern and a classic for this category.

A Memoir, Biography, Or Book Of Creative Nonfiction
Memoir – Traveling with Pomegranates:  A Mother and Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey, and France by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
*Of the seven memoirs I read this year, this was one of my favorites.

A Book By An Author Of  A Different Race, Ethnicity, Or Religion Than Your Own
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

I plan to participate in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge and am looking forward to thinking about what titles I might want to read for each of the categories!

 

 

What I’m Enjoying Right Now

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted….too long in fact. I thought I’d kick off getting back into the swing of writing here by sharing some things that I’ve been enjoying this winter season. And I’ll be back soon to share a wrap-up of the reading challenge I completed, a review of my reading this year, and a look ahead at reading in 2019.

#1 – Christmas Movies

I love watching Christmas movies! This year, there have been a handful of Hallmark Christmas movies that have been especially heartwarming and good. And of course, there’s also good old standby Christmas favorites…some that have fantastic music, some that make me laugh out loud, some that are more serious. Shown above are just a few of my Christmas movie favorites. (I like a ton of Christmas movies!)

 

#2 – My Sweatpants

I love to feel cozy. And my sweatpants are just that for me. Nothing speaks comfort to me more than being able to put on a pair of my sweatpants and a comfy t-shirt or sweatshirt, slip on my slippers, and curl up on the couch to read or watch a movie or favorite show.

 

#3 – Sangria

Reggae Sangria

I discovered this brand of sangria recently and it has become a favorite. I’m pretty particular in my tastes when it comes to wine; in fact, I don’t like a lot of wines. But this sangria is so, so good.

 

#4 – Hazelnut Creamer

I love coffee. And I enjoy my coffee with a good creamer. Right now, I’ve been enjoying hazelnut creamer. And sometimes, if we have it on hand, I’ll top it with a dollop of whipped cream. Yum!

 

#5 – The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

I am reading this book right now along with my husband. I’m reading it in paperback; he’s listening to the audiobook. We’ve been discussing it as we go along. Then we plan to watch the movie again once we both finish it. I’ve never read this book or the Lord of the Rings series; but I have seen the movies and love them. My husband, on the other hand, has read this series many times and they are special books to him. I think he is a wee bit excited that I’m finally reading them. 😉 I’m really enjoying reading The Hobbit and am looking forward to reading The Lord of the Rings series. But I am especially enjoying reading this series for the first time with my husband!

What are some things you’re enjoying right now?

 

The Remains of the Day Book Club Wrap-Up Post

In the last discussion post, we discussed the key themes of duty and dignity. Today, this post is for sharing any general thoughts about the book and any favorite quotes. Here are just a few little tidbits I wanted to share.

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The Remains of the Day was made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Here’s a clip:

 

Have you watched the movie? If so, please share your thoughts on how you think the book and movie compare.

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Did you catch where the title made it’s appearance in the book? It’s not the exact wording of the title but you’ll find it in Day Six – Evening:

“Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day.” (pg. 244)

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The subject of bantering provides some lightness to the novel; but I think that it also plays a part in Stevens growth. In fact, the novel starts out talking about bantering in the Prologue and ends with Stevens’ thoughts on bantering in the last chapter.

Stevens employer, Mr. Farraday, seems to want to have these miscellaneous, light-hearted discussions and Stevens feels he is just not good at it. He is not used to joking around or having light-hearted discussions with his employer; what he’s used to is everything being proper and showing no emotion. He tries to improve on this though.

How does this contribute to Stevens’ growth? Towards the end when he’s at the house where several people have gathered and are talking, he sees the warmth and liveliness of the conversation. He says:

“Listening to them now, I can hear them exchanging one bantering remark after another. It is, I would suppose, the way many people like to proceed. In fact, it is possible my bench companion of a while ago expected me to banter with him – in which case, I suppose I was something of a sorry disappointment. Perhaps it is indeed time I began to look at this whole matter of bantering more enthusiastically. After all, when one thinks about it, it is not such a foolish thing to indulge in – particularly if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth.” (pg. 245)

Here he realizes that this type of light-hearted conversation very well may be “the key to human warmth.” (pg. 245) In other words, he begins to see that these types of conversations seem to add to the friendliness and kindredness amongst the people having the conversations. He decides to practice the art of bantering with renewed effort and I think this holds the potential to helping Stevens show more emotion.

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What are your overall thoughts of this book? Do you have any favorite quotes? Please share in the comments below.

Also, this is the final post for this book club discussion. Feel free to continue the discussion in the first discussion post for this book  and in the comments of this post.  🙂

The Remains of the Day Book Club Discussion Post #1

Welcome to the discussion of our book club title The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m so excited to discuss this with you! This was the first title by Ishiguro that I’ve read. If you didn’t get a chance to read the Introduction post, you can do so by clicking HERE.

We’ll have two separate posts for discussion (which is explained more later in this post). I hope that this will make discussing the book easier in this blog format.

The Remains of the Day

As I already mentioned in the Introduction post, Stevens is a butler who goes on an automobile holiday to the west country of England. During this holiday, we learn what’s presently going on which takes place in the 1950s, as well as Stevens’ past as a butler and various events that occurred in that time which goes all the way back to right before World War II. Stevens also relates his own thoughts, feelings, and impressions about a variety of things; but principally, his thoughts on dignity and his job as a butler are foremost. Therefore, two of the biggest themes in this novel are duty and dignity. Let’s discuss those themes today. And then on Wednesday, I will put up a post for everyone to share their overall thoughts of the book along with any favorite quotes. That post will be kind of the general catch-all post for sharing various thoughts and insights on the book.

Today, let’s consider these two questions as we discuss the themes of dignity and duty:

Question 1 – Throughout the novel, Stevens relates his thoughts on the issue of dignity. These thoughts progress through the novel and we see how his thoughts on dignity change. Did you notice the changes in Stevens’ perspective on what dignity is as you read the book?

Question 2 – Stevens’ job as a butler and how that job is performed is of utmost importance to him and is a key aspect of this novel. How does his view of his role as butler and his perspective of dignity intertwine?

Stevens feels that a great butler has dignity. He spends a lot of time hashing out just exactly what this means…what dignity is, what greatness is. So we see this progression of his thoughts and beliefs as we read the book. Stevens starts out at the beginning of the novel sharing how he was a really good butler. He felt he had every reason to be proud of how he performed his duties. But then as he thinks back on some scenarios, he begins to see that some of what his employer did was regrettable. Yet, he still felt he did what he could do. In his mind, he was just the butler. He thought, what could he have done really? By the time we reach the end of the book, we see this transformation in his thoughts on dignity and his role as a butler culminate to where he finally begins to think that the essence of dignity as a butler really is about taking responsibility of one’s own choices.  Towards the end, he makes this comment about what dignity is:

“But I suspect it comes down to not removing one’s clothing in public.” (pg. 210)

I think what he’s trying to say here is don’t cover up who you are in public. Be the real you. In other words, the person you are in public should be the same as the person you are when you’re alone. And isn’t that the essence of authenticity? About being real?

I think that in this whole process Stevens goes through in his thoughts throughout the book, he sees what he once thought slowly being dismantled. So what was meant to be a simple automobile holiday for some time away, turns into a time for introspection of long held beliefs/thoughts.

Here are a just a few quotes relating to the discussion of these themes.

“And let me now posit this:  ‘dignity’ has to do crucially with a butler’s ability not to abandon the professional being he inhabits….The great butlers are great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost…” (pgs. 42-43)

“It would seem there is a whole dimension to the question ‘what is a “great” butler?’ I have hitherto not properly considered…” (pg. 113)

“A ‘great’ butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman – and through the latter, to serving humanity.” (pg. 117)

“A butler of any quality must be seen to inhabit his role, utterly and fully; he cannot be seen casting it aside one moment simply to don it again the next as though it were nothing more than a pantomime costume.” (pg. 169)

“’What do you think dignity’s all about?’ The directness of this inquiry did, I admit, take me rather by surprise. ‘It’s rather a hard thing to explain in a few words, sir,’ I said. ‘But I suspect it comes down to not removing one’s clothing in public.’” (pg. 210)

Let’s continue the discussion in the comments. 🙂 But before we do, I want to make a few comments regarding discussion. I think it goes without saying that we want to all have an enjoyable experience discussing books. The reading world is a wonderful place. There is such diversity in thoughts and opinions and that’s what makes it so wonderful! I ask that everyone please be kind and respectful in your comments. 🙂