A Look at April’s Reading List

April is National Poetry month and the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club team has chosen to focus on poetry for our book club’s reading selections. They have curated a selection of poems for our main selection and paired that with 5 different poetry collection books as flight picks. In addition, they have two poetry classes on the schedule and I am really looking forward to them! Poetry has not been something I have always enjoyed. I have a handful of poets I enjoy reading: Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, some of Robert Frost, and a couple of others. But by and large, it is not something I pick up to read on a regular basis simply for enjoyment.

Honestly, some poetry intimidates me I think. I have especially struggled with epic poetry. Things like The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, Paradise Lost – these have all been works I have had on my list of things to read because I feel they are good for me to read but not because I necessarily just would love to read them. 🙂 I can now say I have read The Iliad and Beowulf both in their entirety. The Iliad….well…..yeah, no….didn’t enjoy it. But the translation of Beowulf I read this past year I found I actually did enjoy! I still need to tackle The Odyssey and Paradise Lost though.

Anyhoo….

Setting aside epic poetry, there is so much more to look at in the form of writing called poetry. I think that maybe I just don’t know how to read poetry well if it doesn’t rhyme. A little embarrassing to admit, I think, but there it is. Thanks to the nudge from the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club team, I’m going to take the opportunity this month to really dive into the art of poetry and try to learn how to better read various different types and styles of poetry; and maybe, hopefully then, enjoy it even more.

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With that in mind, I am planning to pair up our book club reading(s) with a couple of books I have on my shelf:

  • How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch
  • A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

I am fairly certain I won’t be able to get both of these read by the end of the month. But that’s okay. The goal is not to get them completely read in a certain time frame. The goal is to begin reading them and let them teach me. Let them help me learn more about poetry and maybe even fall in love with it. (Here’s hoping! 🙂 )

Along with these two books, I will of course read the specially curated collection of poems from the MMD team, as well as try to read some of the flight picks (I’ve already read one and it was phenomenal!) as well as any other poetry collections I may like to give a try. And as I already mentioned, I plan to join in for both poetry classes offered this month in the book club.

Aside from the deep dive into the realm of poetry, I have two other books I plan to read. First, I have been feeling in the mood to re-read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This book was my first time reading a Steinbeck novel and honestly, I didn’t care for it a whole lot. But after reading East of Eden last year and finding it to be a phenomenal book, I decided I wanted to give The Grapes of Wrath another try. And so I think I am going to begin that this week.

And second, my IRL book club has chosen A Moveable Feast by Hemingway for our read this month. I am so excited to read this! It’s on my classics TBR and I’ve heard very high praises of it. I will probably try to start that about mid-month. If I can wait that long! LOL I may just spread it out over the whole month. We’ll see!

Being the mood reader that I am, there could of course be adjustments to these plans. I’ve got the month pretty scheduled with very little room for reading on a whim. But I will try to listen in to my reading mood throughout the month and adjust if I feel the need to. 🙂

What do you have in your plans for reading this month?

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Length: 324 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Modern
My Rating: 4 Stars

From Goodreads Description:

This sophisticated and entertaining first novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

I chose this as my next read after finishing The Great Gatsby. And it proved to be perfect! I am a fan of Towles’ writing. I’ve now read all three of his novels and loved every single one of them. Rules of Civility starts out in 1966 then backtracks to New Year’s Eve 1937. We are transported to 1930’s New York for the telling of the story. A story of a life, of several lives in fact, but centered around Katey Kontent. Towles’ beautiful prose makes you feel like you are right there. And bonus, there are so many references to books and reading and authors! Because Katey is a reader. Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, E. M. Forster, Dickens, Agatha Christie…Walden Pond, Great Expectations, Anna Karenina, Les Miserables…..just a mere sampling of the authors and titles mentioned in this book. As an avid reader, I loved that aspect of the book!

Towles is really good at atmospheric writing; and in Rules of Civility, he definitely achieves this with rich descriptions and ambience. The writing is beautiful, sophisticated, and brimming with nostalgia.

Quotes

It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation than one person alone with a book, even if it is a foolish romance…” (p. 79)

It’s a bit of a cliché to refer to someone as a chameleon: a person who can change his colors from environment to environment. In fact, not one in a million can do that. But there are tens of thousands of butterflies: men and women like Eve with two dramatically different colorings – one which serves to attract and the other which serves to camouflage – and which can be switched at the instant with a flit of the wings.” (p. 117)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Length: 182 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics
My Rating: 5 Stars

From the Goodreads description:

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing, and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby—young, handsome, and fabulously rich—always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

The Great Gatsby has been on my classics TBR for quite some time. And when my IRL book club began discussing what we might want to read next, I was excited that this book was picked! One of the members talked about Fitzgerald’s wonderful writing and I couldn’t wait to dive into the book. Well, it did not disappoint! I annotated the heck out of this book! 🙂


See what I mean? LOL I noted illusions to direction, dust, the overseeing “eyes”, things that stood out to me, and more. The last part of this edition I have is actually the short story Winter Dreams that Fitzgerald wrote. I read that it was the inspiration behind The Great Gatsby. And I definitely saw whispers of the novel in the short story.

Fitzgerald’s writing in this classic is beautiful, skillful, deep, smart. Truly phenomenal! There is so much that can be discussed. So many layers. Themes, motifs, connections to other literature. So. Much. There. In. These. Pages. In fact, our book club discussion went really long!

Fitzgerald wrote some very complex main characters. Gatsby, Daisy, and Nick all were so much more than they seemed on the surface. He also managed to really capture the spirit of the Roaring Twenties with all the grit and glamour. And his descriptive writing? Amazing! Here’s just a sneak peak at some of the beautiful descriptive language:

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees – just as things grow in fast movies – I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” (p. 3)

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding cake of the ceiling – and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.” (p. 6)

This novel is a glittering, stunning achievement in my opinion and one I will be reading again (and maybe again and again….)

The Classics Club Spin #29

It’s time for the Classics Club Spin! This is my first time participating in it and I’m quite looking forward to seeing which classic will get chosen from my list. I have listed a variety of titles from shorter to longer works…from fantasy to nonfiction to regency romance…from books I am itching to read to books that I’ve wanted to read again.

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For The Classics Club Spin, you are to write a post listing 20 titles from your Classics Club list by March 20th. So here’s my list:

1 – The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

2 – I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

3 – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

4 – Far from the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy

5 – Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

6 – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown

7 – At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

8 – The Giver by Lois Lowry

9 – The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

10 – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

11 – Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

12 – Middlemarch by George Eliot

13 – Frederica by Georgette Heyer

14 – Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

15 – Greenmantle by John Buchan

16 – Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

17 – Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

18 – The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

19 – A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

20 – The Road from Home by David Kherdian

And there ya have it! I can’t wait to see what book will be picked!

Bookish Chat – Reading with Others and Re-reading

The other night, my IRL book club met. We started meeting virtually when the pandemic began and have kept it virtual ever since. It works well for our group. So, we had our Zoom meet-up to discuss our February book, Brideshead Revisited. Now, I already posted my thoughts on this book HERE. But if you read that post, you know that I chose not to give the book a star rating and that I felt like I’d missed things when listening to the audio.

As we were discussing the book last night, various things were brought up. Things like symbolism, how society was at that time, and so much more. I learned so much from hearing the other group member’s thoughts and insights. And our discussion brought out so much more in the book that I didn’t see in my own reading of it. We also talked about the benefit of re-reading and how that can help the reader make more connections in the book, see more insights, peel off more of the story’s layers. As the discussion progressed, I found myself saying more than once – “Gosh, I want to read this again right now!” There’s just so much to ponder with this book!

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This is why I love reading with other people. Being able to talk about what we’ve read…hearing other people’s thoughts and perspectives….hashing out confusing parts to see if we can understand them more….learning more about connections or the storyline or the characters that maybe we didn’t pick up on in our own reading of the book….and so much more.

But often other sideline topics might come up in relation to the book. Take re-reading for example. We were talking about how Brideshead Revisited could definitely stand up to multiple readings. And that led to discussing the benefits of re-reading. Many classics definitely seem to be ones that, dare I say, need re-reading in order to plunge the depths of the layers in the stories. Of course, I think we will all have different books we want to read more than once. And some books may not be ones that will stand up well to a re-read.

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I think Adler was on to something when he talked about inspectional reading in his book How to Read a 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)

Oftentimes, I think we read books finding out the storyline and what happens but also trying to understand everything about it as we go. Like Adler said, “that compounds the difficulty.” Choosing to re-read allows us to see our first read differently. We can come to the first reading of the book from the start knowing we aren’t going to concern ourselves with trying to understand every little thing. We are just going to read. Find out what happens. Learn about the characters. Then, when we come back to the second reading, we already know what happens. So we can focus in on making more connections, understanding the characters more, peeling off more layers of the story.

I went into Brideshead Revisited with this mentality – I wouldn’t get hung up on things I might miss. I would just read for the story, picking up on whatever I pick up on along the way. And even though I wish I had stuck to reading it just in print instead of switching to the audiobook like I did, I still got a general idea of the storyline. And what’s interesting is that, when we discussed the book last night, I discovered that I didn’t miss as much of the storyline as I thought I might have missed! Still, when I read the book again, I will read it ALL in print. 😉 And thanks to my wonderful bookclub friends, I was able to see so much in this novel which made me even more excited to read this book again.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately – January/February 2022

I feel like I’m still lagging a bit after getting sick towards the end of January. I am not sick anymore and feel fine. But my energy levels are up and down. So I am behind in posting. I kept looking at my laptop thinking – I need to write a post. I need to get a video made. And it felt too daunting. But here I am now. And here’s to hopefully being back to more regular posting now.

I got quite a bit read in January but not much read this month. Part of the reason for that is because I’ve been working on some projects. But another reason is because I’m in the thick of reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. And I am taking my time. I am finding that it’s a book that I want to read quickly to find out what happens; but I want to read it slowly to make it last. Ever have a book you felt that way about? I am sticking with the read-it-slowly inclination. Some days only a few pages; other days more than few pages. I also have taken time to do a bit of research along the way as well. That’s what I love about reading historical fiction; you can go down rabbit trails looking up all sorts of events and people and just information in general that make the novel come even more alive.

Anyhoo….Here’s what I’ve finished reading in January and in February so far.

I’m sure you know by now that I am a fan of Fredrik Backman’s books. I had not tried to read Beartown until this year when it became an option to choose for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club Pick-Your-Own month in January. It did not disappoint! Solid 5 stars. Many reviews I’ve read talk about how this series felt like a departure from what most are used to in Backman’s books. Maybe it is. But to me, the qualities of human connection, of how he writes realistic characters, that is very present. I feel Backman is a very skilled writer who has the ability to evoke the readers emotions with his brilliant writing. Click HERE to read my review of Beartown.

Hiroshima by John Hersey tells the story of six people who survived what has been called the greatest single man-made disaster in history. The edition I have is an updated edition that includes a section where the author went back 40 years later to see what had happened to those same six people. This book not only chronicles their lives, but gives you a look at what exactly happened and the impact it had. This is one book I think everyone should read. Click HERE to read my full review.

All of the Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels I’ve read so far I would describe as quietly written, but very reflective and meditative. An Artist of the Floating World is largely focused on the narrator, Mr. Ono, and his looking back and reflecting on his life and the choices he made. But, in my opinion, it is also a great deal about the dynamics of family and friendships. I think that Ishiguro executed the skill of writing in this novel well. Click HERE to read my full review.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde was my pick for the February Classics Club Challenge. For what Wilde intended this play to be, a satire and farcical comedy, it is successful. For me, though, I didn’t particularly love it. It was just simply okay. Click HERE to read my brief review.

This was the February selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. The Unseen World is both a coming-of-age story and a family saga. Ada and her father, David, have had a peaceful life. But then things start popping up that cause Ada concern. She eventually is made aware of David’s hidden diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and little by little, she unearths things about David and his past that turn her world upside down. This was such a good read! Click HERE to read the rest of my review.

This was February’s flight pick for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. It had been on my TBR for a long while so I was excited to finally read it! Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore has mystery, intrigue, and an odd bookstore that stays open 24 Hours. It’s definitely a plot-driven novel. It’s fast-paced, fun, and easy to read. If you love books about books and bookstores and are looking for a lighter read, this might be a good pick for you.

This was the February pick for my IRL book club (that has been virtual since the pandemic started). Brideshead Revisited was my first Waugh novel and it had been sitting on my classics TBR for quite some time. In my opinion, this novel is largely a sweeping family saga. Click HERE to read my thoughts on it.

I have been slowly working my way through the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. I haven’t read one in quite awhile. And now that my daughter has picked up the books to read for the first time, I need to get a move on it and get the rest of the series read before she snags the rest of them off my shelf. LOL The Vile Village is #7 in the series and the village is just that, a weird, “vile” village that the Baudelaire children end up at. I have to tell ya, I’ve really enjoyed this series so far. What I particularly like is the clever, witty writing. And I just have to say, having Patrick Warburton play the narrator/Lemony Snicket in the Netflix series is absolute perfection! We are watching the series as my daughter reads. So when she finishes a book, we watch the episodes that take us up to the next book.

And that wraps up what I’ve read so far this year. What have you been reading lately?

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Length: 400 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics

From the Publisher’s Description:

The wellsprings of desire and the impediments to love come brilliantly into focus in Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece – a novel that immerses us in the glittering and seductive world of English aristocracy in the waning days of the empire.

Through the story of Charles Ryder’s entanglement with the Flytes, a great Catholic family, Waugh charts the passing of the privileged world he knew in his own youth and vividly recalls the pleasures denied him by wartime austerities. At once romantic, sensuous, comic, and somber, Brideshead Revisited transcends Waugh’s early satiric explorations and reveals him to be an elegiac, lyrical novelist of the utmost feeling and lucidity.

Gosh. I really don’t know what to say. This really isn’t going to be much of a review unfortunately. I started out reading this book in print then went to audiobook. I think it was a mistake to switch to audiobook. I keep trying to increase my listening ability of fiction on audio. The Unseen World by Liz Moore really worked well for me on audio; but I thought maybe it was because I literally did nothing else while I listened to it. I listened to it at night before going to bed. I literally got in bed, turned on the audiobook, and just laid there and listened for awhile. So I thought maybe I found the key to listening to fiction on audio for me. I did the exact same thing with Brideshead Revisited and sadly enough, it just didn’t work for me. I really enjoyed the book starting out but after I switched to the audiobook, it seemed that I started to get bored with it. But not just that, it seemed harder to follow. I felt like I was missing things here and there so I would rewind and listen again. So the conclusion I’ve come to is that it might be one I need to read again at some point…and only read it in print. No audiobook. I’m thinking part of this could be a timing thing. So I’m going to put the book back on the shelf and leave a re-read of it for another time.

Having said all that, let me say just a wee bit about the book. This novel felt very somber and melancholy; although there was a bit of humor here and there. The blurbs I read about this book seem to all describe it as a look at the world of English aristocracy. And yes, I guess it does that. But what I got the most was that it was a family saga which is also character-driven. There were characters I definitely felt sorry for. There were things that frustrated me. But all in all, the writing style was good.

I am not rating this book because I really think I can’t do so until I’ve read it again. Has anyone read this book? What are your thoughts?

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

The Unseen World by Liz Moore
Length: 451 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Modern
My Rating: 4 Stars

The Unseen World is both a coming-of-age story and a family saga. Ada and her father, David, have had a peaceful life. But then things start popping up that cause Ada concern. She eventually is made aware of David’s hidden diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and little by little, she unearths things about David and his past that turns her world upside down. This book is beautifully written. When you start reading this novel, you think the story is going to be centered on one thing. Then things shift and it becomes even more layered and nuanced. It is poignant. It is thought-provoking. It is heart-breaking.

I listened to the audiobook and had the Kindle e-book to follow along with as well. Both I checked out from my local library. Well crafted and compassionately written, this is one book that I plan to buy in print to have on my shelf as it is one I know I want to read again.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Length: 76 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Play
My Rating: 3 Stars

From the Goodreads description:

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gwendolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest’s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

I was looking forward to a good comedy when I decided on this play by Oscar Wilde for my Classics Club February challenge. Being a play, I decided to go with an unabridged dramatized audiobook. Honestly, I was disappointed. I love a good comedy; and I did laugh out loud a couple of times at Wilde’s witty banter written into the dialogue. But mostly, I found the humor to be a bit too silly. I think this was what Wilde intended. After all, it has been described as a farce. So to that I think Wilde succeeded brilliantly. I will say that the dramatized audiobook I listened to was excellent! The actors did an outstanding job and made listening to the play more enjoyable in that respect. For what Wilde intended this play to be, a satire and farcical comedy, it is successful. For me, though, I didn’t particularly love it. It was just simply okay. However, I am looking forward to reading another one of Oscar Wilde’s works – The Picture of Dorian Gray!