The Classics Club

While watching the first episode of Jamestown, my wife made a comparison to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

“I haven’t read it,” I said.

She’s often surprised by what I haven’t read. My reading history has the strangest gaps in it. Many of the books commonly assigned in high school were somehow never assigned in my classes. When I was approaching the end of high school, the school’s College Counselor suggested St. John’s College in Annapolis might suit. The school offers a single program, called the Great Books Curriculum, in which students study Greek, French, and a course of classics of Western thought; at the end, they earn a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts.

This idea was vetoed after family discussion, as I was expected to major in something more career focused.

The joke was on me, though, since my degree is a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences (my final major was actually Rhetoric, which sounds fancier than “Creative Writing”), and I still haven’t read The Odyssey. Or Animal Farm. (I read 1984 on my own the summer before I started Library School.) Or, as I’ve mentioned before, any Austen at all.

I’ve read two books on this Bustle list of 14 Classic College Books You’ll Want to Read Again as a Real Adult: Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein, both of which I read on my own sometime after finishing grad school.

I see Camus’ The Stranger on lists of “classics you should read” all the time. I haven’t read it. But I did read The Plague for AP English. I have a vague recollection that I read it over Winter Break in order to be able to discuss it as soon as we came back in January. Festive, eh?

Actually, speaking of vague memories, I think I may have read part of Frankenstein in college, along with “selections from” Homer. I did take a pair of classes to satisfy a Western Civilization requirement, but as with many survey courses, we read bits and pieces of lots and lots and lots of things, never really getting to delve into the nuances of any one.

I’ve toyed with the idea of working through the St. John’s Reading List as a way of filling in those gaps. While I was trying to figure out a couple of unfamiliar names (there are quite a few science essays in there), I stumbled on the Classics Club Blog.

I love this.

From the site, the club basics (short version):

  • – choose 50+ classics
  • – list them at your blog
  • – choose a reading completion goal date up to five years in the future and note that date on your classics list of 50+ titles
  • – e-mail the moderators of this blog with your list link and information and it will be posted on the Members Page!
  • – write about each title on your list as you finish reading it, and link it to your main list
  • – when you’ve written about every single title, let us know!

They also have some mini-challenges and games, like the Classics Club Spin, to shake up any reading ruts.

I have been working on my list, with a start date of January 1st, 2019. And, yes, The Scarlet Letter is on there.

Are there classics you wish you’d read? What’s on your Reading Bucket List?

This post is part of the 2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!

Reading Along with Lil Miss

My daughter – who has long been known on the Internet as Lil Miss – started the sixth grade this year. When I was in the sixth grade, way back in the last century, we were the Big Kids of the Elementary School, but now sixth grade is the beginning of middle school. Lil Miss suddenly has a locker and changes classrooms five times a day. I have to admit, getting from room to room on Back to School Night was a challenge for me! She seems to have the hang of it, though.

Recently, her English class has started reading Boy of the Painted Cave by Justin Denzel.

Tao is an outcast. Unlike the great hunters of his clan, Tao does not want to kill the wild bears or woolly mammoths of the hunt. Instead he wants only to paint them. But only Chosen Ones can be cave painters. What’s more, Volt, the clan leader, violently despises Tao. And when the other clan members discover Tao’s secret talent, they cast him out into the wilderness alone. There, he befriends a wild wolf dog named Ram, and the mysterious Graybeard, who teaches him the true secret of the hunt.

The book was first published in 1988 (which happens to be the year I finished sixth grade and moved on to Junior High myself), but I hadn’t heard of it before. I did find a copy of it hanging out on the library shelf, though, so I checked it out to read along with Lil Miss.

I don’t remember my parents ever reading something just because I was reading it in school; did your parents do that? If you’re a parent, have you read a book because your child was reading it in school? Or do you plan to, if you haven’t reached that age yet?


This post is part of the 2018 Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight.

#BookishBloggersUnite – Women’s History Month Kick-Off

Bookish Bloggers Unite was formed when a group of like-minded writers decided they want to talk about books together.

This week’s #BookishBloggersUnite is hosted by Doddy About Books, and the topic is:

Favourite Women Writers Across Multiple Genres. Pick your favourite genres and tell us about your favourite female authors writing within them (or around them or across them!)


Lyndsay Faye

I heard Lyndsay Faye speak before I actually read her work. She was at the 2013 Sub-librarians Scion meeting in Chicago, and she gave the toast to Kitty Winter. Her Holmes stories are my first recommendation to new readers looking to explore pastiche. Her Timothy Wilde trilogy is a fantastic read, and Jane Steele is just so clever. Her writing is atmospheric and detail-rich, with characters who seem ready to step right off the page.

Graphic Novel

Alison Bechdel

Okay, I know that “graphic novel” is a format, not a genre. Alison Bechdel’s work covers fiction and non-fiction in her singular style. I fell in love with Bechdel’s long-running “Dykes to Watch Out For” comics series in college, collecting the paperback compilations over the years. I was a little sad to see the end of the regular run, but, of course, Fun Home and Are You My Mother? are excellent memoirs.

Children’s Fiction

Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time is one of the beloved books of my childhood. In elementary school, a friend and I must have spent hours talking about how to “square the squared square”. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie with my daughter, who is just about the age I was when I read the book (and her teacher read the book to her class this year).

Historical Fiction

Sarah Waters

Waters’s novels are full of period detail and fascinating characters. Among her books, my favorites are the ones set in the Victorian era, with Affinity perhaps just edging out the others.

(Lyndsay Faye could have gone in this category, too!)


Emma Donoghue

I will read almost anything Emma Donoghue writes. (I say “almost” because I cannot bring myself to read Room. Which is all to do with me, not with her.) I especially enjoy her historical fiction, but I have her new children’s series on my TBR, as well as some non-fiction.

Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is one of my desert island books. I found my copy at a flea market in Florida when I was in college. I fell in love with the narrative voice. It’s a book I’ve gone back to again and again over the years. Winterson plays with style and structure in her writing, creating a distinctive voice that I find really appealing.

(I maybe cheated a little bit, putting two authors in here, but Fiction is a broad field.)

So, who are your favorite women authors who I’ve missed here?

#BookishBloggersUnite – Introduction

Welcome to #BookishBloggersUnite!

In the words of Katy @ The Bookish Cronk, this week’s host:

Bookish Bloggers Unite was formed when a group of like-minded writers decided they wanted to talk about books together. We hope you’ll join us!

This is the first week, so it’s only natural that our topic this week is introductions. Katy answers the full list of questions on her blog; I’ve selected some of them to answer myself.

Who/What got you into reading?

I’ve been reading as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in our basement, reading a tiny little book of Peanuts comics.

My parents were (are) both readers, and our house was full of books of all kinds.

There’s a photo of me as a toddler, sitting on the floor, “reading” a copy of Ringer’s Winning Through Intimidation. I also happen to have a washcloth on my head, proving that I have always loved books and always had questionable fashion sense.

What are your favorite genres?

Historical fiction, mystery, and some fantasy. I’ve been on a cozy mystery kick of late. I used to be slightly obsessed with Arthurian-inspired tales. And, of course, I’m completely obsessed with Sherlock Holmes.

On the non-fiction side, I enjoy memoir, social science, and history, especially the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

What are your least favorite genres?

As a teen, I was really into horror, but I’ve found that as an adult (and particularly since becoming a parent), I just can’t read it anymore. The big-name thriller novels are also generally out for me. I like my mysteries cozy, historical, and/or “soft-boiled”, as I once heard them described.

If you had to choose between bringing a mediocre book series or one great standalone book to a deserted island, which would you pick?

One great stand-alone, please. Something I can read again and again and keep finding interesting things to think about.

How do you organize your bookshelves? Do you even have any organizational system?

As a Librarian, I am deeply horrified at the idea of not having an organizational system for my books. (Just kidding. Mostly.)

My books are loosely organized by subject, and sometimes then organized by author. My knitting/crochet/spinning books are all together and usually alphabetized. I have a small(-ish) bookcase that is all Sherlock Holmes books, with scholarship and pastiches in their own sections, plus another shelf with books about Arthur Conan Doyle and Victorian England, and a small shelf of Holmes adaptations/pastiches in graphic novel format.

When I have a lot of books by one author, I put them together and organize them by title.

What’s the next book on your TBR that you’re excited about?

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor – I heard about this a while back, thought it sounded interesting, and then kind of forgot about it until it was named a Printz Honor book.

Have you ever gone to any book signings? Which was your favorite?

I’ve been to several signings for Neil Gaiman, including one at ALA Annual Conference first thing in the morning the day after the Newbery/Caldecott Award Dinner in 2009. He was scheduled to sign at the publisher’s booth at 9am, when the Exhibits Hall opened for the day.

I got to the Convention Center and was waiting outside the closest door to the booth at 7am. (At 7:05, the girl next to me in that photo arrived with her mom. The first thing she said was something like, “See! I told you there’d be people waiting!”)

Around 8:30, one of the HarperCollins employees brought out signs for the beginning and end of the line that was by then quite long. The one I’m holding says, “Neil Gaiman line starts here”. He signed it for me (along with my book); it has been under the glass top on my desk ever since.

Another ALA signing with a special place in my heart was in 2012, when Jeanette Winterson was in the Exhibit Hall signing ARCs of her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Her first book, Oranges are not the Only Fruit, is one of my absolute all-time favorite books. Of course, I didn’t manage to bring my beloved original copy with me to the conference, so I had to buy a new copy there. (Yes, “had to”.) Which is why I now have two copies of Oranges (I used to have three, actually – my original copy, a second copy I picked up at my local used bookshop, and the copy I bought that day and had signed) and two copies of Why Be Normal (the signed ARC and the hardback that I got as soon as it published).

Hardcovers or Paperbacks or eBooks or Audiobooks?

Yes, please! I will have all the books, thanks. I love a nice hardback book, but library ebooks might be stealing my heart.

What is the ideal reading day for you look like?

Me, a pot of tea, some yummy snacks, and a cozy spot under a blanket on the couch. (I actually did this on a day off work, while my daughter was at school, and read Dan Brown’s Origin. It was lovely.)

What book are you most excited about in 2018?

All the Perverse Angels, by Sarah Marr, which released yesterday!

I got to read the book when it was still in manuscript. I’m so excited that it’s finally out in the world!

(Full disclosure: I got to read the book pre-publication because Sarah is a good friend of mine. She is also a fantastic writer, and the book is amazing.)

This is a beautiful book about love and loss and art and feelings and stories. It is powerful and smart and original, and you should read it.


Now, I’m off to read some more #BookishBloggersUnite via the link-up in Katy’s post.

A Disappointing Start

It’s been a bit of a rough start to my reading year here in 2018. I had high hopes for the first book I read this year, but it was not quite what I expected. I knew going into the second book that I hadn’t loved the book to which it was a sequel. And the book was okay, but that’s it.

Both books count for the Mount TBR challenge, and one counts for the TBR Pile challenge. Neither one satisfies a Read Harder task, so I ought to get cracking on that. I really need something good, too. (I am also reading A Study in Scarlet as part of my personal Canon Reading project, but that’s a known quantity.)

How is your reading year going? Are you working on any challenges? Did you choose a book specifically to be your first book of 2018?