My Classical Re-Education Part 2

February 14, 2013 at 5:56 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , )

Kiddo and I started the year reading The Confessions over breakfast… we got caught up in The Magic Tree House Adventures and that got put on the back burner, but I intend on putting a good dent in this list this year, so we need to get back on it. Feel free to join me.

well

The Story of Me: Autobiography and Memoir

PART TWO of The Well-Educated Mind

Augustine – The Confessions
Margery Kempe – The Book of Margery Kempe
Michael de Montaigne – Essays
Teresa of Avila – The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself
Rene Descartes – Meditations
John Bunyan – Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
Mary Rowlandson – The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration
Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Confessions
Benjamin Franklin – The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Henry David Thoreau – Walden
Harriet Jacobs – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself
Frederick Douglas – Life and Times of Frederick Douglas
Booker T. Washington – Up from Slavery
Friederick Nietzche – Ecce Homo
Adolf Hitler – Mein Kampf
Mohandas Gandhi – An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
Gertrude Stein – The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Thomas Merton – The Seven Storey Mountain
C.S. Lewis – Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X
May Sarton – Journal of a Solitude
Aleksandr I. Solzhenistyn – The Gulag Archipelago
Richard Rodriguez – Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
Jill Ker Conway – The Road from Coorain
Elie Wiesel – All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs

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Books I Read in 2012

December 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm (In So Many Words, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , )

book love

Book Love Art

Every year I post a list of the books I read.  It helps me wrap my brain around the year that has passed and put in my mind what I’d like the next year to look like, and it gives people an idea as to what books were reviewed and discussed when.  Kids picture books are not included on this list this year as we read so many (usually a minimum of 7-10 new titles a week) the list would have become ridiculous, young adult/teen titles are included.

1. How to Buy a Love of Reading – Tanya Egan Gibson (January)

2. Mysterious Affairs at Styles – Agatha Christie (January)

3. House of Mirth – Edith Wharton (January)

4. The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald (January)

5. Murder on the Links – Agatha Christie (January)

6. Swan Thieves – Elizabeth Kostova (January)

7. Human Happiness – Blaise Pascal (January)

8. Holiday Grind – Cleo Coyle (January)

9. Inhale – Kendall Grey (February)

10. Poirot Investigates – Agatha Christie (February)

11. Tales from the Jazz Age – F. Scott Fitzgerald (February)

12. Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie (March)

13. Roast Mortem – Cleo Coyle (March)

14. The Big Four – Agatha Christie (March)

15. Stonehenge – Aubrey Burl (March)

16. House at Riverton – Kate Morton (March)

17. The Mystery of the Blue Train – Agatha Christie (March)

18. The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco (April)

19. The Key to the Name of the Rose (April)

20. Peril at End House – Agatha Christie (April)

21. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen (April)

22. Birds of Selborne – Gilbert White (April)

23. Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon (April)

24. Voice of Conscience – Behcet Kaya (April)

25. Lord Edgeware Dies – Agatha Christie (April)

26. Napoleon’s Wars – Charles Esdaile (May)

27. The Trial – Franz Kafka (May)

28. Seed Savers: Treasure – S. Smith (June)

29. The Map of Time – Felix J. Palma (June)

30. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (June)

31. Three Act Tragedy – Agatha Christie (June)

32. The Planets – Dava Sobel (June)

33. The Stranger – Albert Camus (June)

34. Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare (July)

35. City of Bones – Cassandra Clare (July)

36. City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare (July)

37. City of Glass – Cassandra Clare (July)

38. The Naked Olympics – Tony Perrottet (July)

39. Clockwork Prince – Cassandra Clare (July)

40. For Women Only – London Tracy (July)

41. City of Fallen Angels – Cassandra Clare (July)

42. The Book of Lilith – Koltuv (July)

43. Ruling Planets – Renstrom (July)

44. Working Days – John Steinbeck (August)

45. Animal Farm – George Orwell (August)

46. Through a Glass Darkly – Karleen Koen (August)

47. Number the Stars – Lois Lowry (August)

48. City of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare (September)

49. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison (September)

50. The Bookaholic’s Guide to Book Blogs (September)

51. The Symposium – Plato (September)

52. Emma The Twice-Crowned Queen – Isabella Strachon (September)

53. The Lost Continent – Bill Bryson (September)

54. The Customs of the Kingdoms of India – Marco Polo (October)

55. Parnassus on Wheels – Christopher Morley (October)

56. Possession – A.S. Byatt (November)

57. So Many Books, So Little Time – Sara Nelson (November)

58. Rich Fabric Anthology – Melinda McGuire (November)

59. Flatland – Edwin A. Abbott (November)

60. Unrecounted – Sebald & Tripp (November)

61. The Lit Report – Sarah N. Harvey (November)

62. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren (November)

63. The Magician’s Elephant -Kate DiCamillo (November)

64. Kenny & the Dragon – Tony DiTerlizzi (November)

65. Seed Savers: Lily – S. Smith (November)

66. Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay (All Year)

67. The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens (December)

68. Julie & Julia – Julie Powell (December)

69. Gone – Michael Grant (December)

**. All Our Worldly Goods – Irene Nemirovsky (did not finish)

70. A Homemade Life – Molly Wizenberg (December)

71. The Case for Astrology – John Anthony West (July -December)

72. Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger (December)

73. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (All Year)

74. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination – Elizabeth McCracken (December)

Visit Books I Read in 2011.

Click to purchase from Amazon.com.

*This post is subject to change until December 31st, 2012.*

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So Many Books

November 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading

Author: Sara Nelson

Publisher: Putnam

Length: 242 pages

Ironically, when I find myself so overwhelmed by my mountainous TBR pile I become crippled and damn near illiterate, I find that the perfect cure is a book about books.  More specifically, a book with lots of lists and descriptions and lengthy lamenting of how many books there are in the world that are begging my attention.  So my latest reading slump (if anyone but me were keeping tabs, they’d see I only read two books – other than children’s books – in the whole of October) I picked up a copy of Sara Nelson’s quasi-memoir  detailing a year in the life of a professional book reviewer.

It’s short and sweet, and has a lovely methodical layout.  Each chapter is dated, and dedicated to a week of time (I am assuming, as the whole purpose of the project was to read a book a week and write a bit on her life as she read said book, but I didn’t count the chapters and they are un-numbered).  It was a pleasant read, I enjoyed the simplicity and quickness of it.  But it also made me think, I found myself journaling after I finished every chapter.

She has a little segment on Then & Now, discussing the great reads of her adolescence and what she thought the first time she read it versus how she feels as a grown up and I found myself solidifying my plan to have my kiddo journal and document her own reading experiences throughout childhood to remember the titles and authors as well as her true feelings on the subject matter.  Of course, we’ll keep it age appropriate, at first she will only be able to summarize briefly, but then she’ll have proof of the process of change and growth as a literary being.  I’ve journaled my whole life, but not always with purpose.  Purpose is a delightful thing to have.  The ability to later compare your thoughts and feelings about literary ventures with such clarity would be such a treasure.

The chapter reminded me of my re-reading of The Great Gatsby earlier this year, and how much I truly enjoyed it.  It reminded me of a need to re-read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which I always hated, but feel I was just too immature and boisterous to care about a man fishing.  Typically, my Then & Nows are quite vague, but with all this recent documentation of my reading life, I’ll have a better view of my lit-brain when I’m 80.

But above all, the chapter reminded me that there is value in my re-reading.  Often, my TBR pile is so high, I feel guilty when compelled to read something I have already read.  Should I really be doing this? I wonder.  I know Persuasion nearly by heart, shouldn’t I be tackling Bauer’s Ancient History, a book I’ve been slowly pecking through, and loving it, for almost a year and a half now.  Shouldn’t I be immersed in George MacDonald’s Lilith, a book I’ve had for ages, but keep only relishing in the first chapter and never moving on – over and over again?  The list goes on.  And yes, there is a physical list in my own writing, with not nearly enough checked off titles because I continually pick up others.

Then Sara Nelson says, “If you want to make the book god laugh, show him your reading list.”  I nearly died.  YES!  However, every so many weeks, I find myself sitting down to write a new one anyway.  I find them therapeutic, refreshing, even mysterious as I tend to write them haphazardly allowing my subconscious to take over and just see what spilled out of the ink pen next.  What has been hiding in the recesses of my bookshelf that my brain remembers is calling my name?  I think that’s why book lovers revel in their lifestyle so much.  Whether they care a lick about the mystery genre, every book lover enjoys a good mystery.

Being a patron of libraries and used bookstores, I often find myself in the middle of a mystery.  Whether it be a random scribble in the margins: Secret meeting in the place at 8, password candles, or some such nonsense, highlighting or dog-eared pages, when a book shares owners all sorts of questions arise.  Most specifically, for me, I often find stashed bookmarks in the books I read.  Sometimes at the start of a chapter, or in the middle of randomness where someone either wanted to savor a line or simply gave up reading the book; sometimes it’s a receipt or a thank you note, birthday cards, and even checks… things people stashed and forgot about, or possibly the item just slid into the pages when the book was stashed into a purse or bag.  I often wonder which of these is the story for whatever scrap I find.

SMB,SLT had a small post-it stuck between pages 54 and 55, the beginning of February 27th, chapter: The Clean Plate Book Club.  Did they run out of time and have to turn a nearly over due book back into the library? Did they give up because they hated it? Or give up out of principle, because the chapter is about seasoned readers having the power to give up on a book if they aren’t interested in it, wanting to prove something to themselves?  Did they simply mark the chapter because the ideas within its pages spoke to them?  We may never know.  It keeps the mind reeling, though.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea that mature readers, seasoned readers, are the only ones who can give up on a book part way.  Nelson describes it as a reader’s rite of passage.

“Allowing yourself to stop reading a  book –  at page 25, 50, or even less frequently, a few chapters from the end – is […] the literary equivalent of a bar mitzvah or a communion, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult.  I can make my own decisions.”

Funny, I always thought of it as something slackers do in high school.  Post motherhood, I thought it was something I did because I killed brain cells while being pregnant and having a baby.  Quitting kills me every time, but there are times that I feel compelled to do it, mostly because I either plan to finish it when I’m in a different mood, or I discover the author is what Paul Collins would describe as someone who writes ‘unequivocal crap.’

It seems, then, I am a late bloomer in, yes, even reading.  I thought at least I had escaped that title in one thing in life, having been a very early reader.  But apparently not.

The most interesting chapter for me, though, where I might leave a small post-it myself, is March 15th: Eating Crows.  It’s all about recommending books to friends and how it can possibly damage the friendship.  What if one likes it and the other doesn’t? What does this say about each person? How does this new information you have gathered about your so-called friend change the friend dynamic.

This is where I found myself saying, ‘Oh, hell.’  I’ve been around book nerds, book people, bookstore staff, customers, friends, family, the whole shebang, and this is the first I’ve heard about this dilemma.  I recommend books to people all day, every day.  It’s my favorite thing to do.  If I recommend a book it is because I either liked it, or I truly think you may like it.  May is a big word in this sentence.  If you don’t like it, that’s your own business, but I’d love to discuss why and learn more about the world around me.  It isn’t going to make me not want to be friends with you, that’s just shallow and dumb… even though I may secretly think that what you read is shallow and dumb, I know that somewhere someone is thinking the same thing about what I read – so why should it matter?

The next chapter about borrowing or loaning books is also silly to me.  I don’t loan it if I’m not ok with not getting it back – usually.  If that’s not the case, then I’ll tell you PLEASE PLEASE GET THIS BACK TO ME one day, and that only happens with someone who has already established a good track record.  If I don’t say that, you may bring it back, or just consider it a gift if you fall in love with it.  I don’t care.  I have plenty of books, and multiple copies of some of my favorites.  A book will not ruin our friendship unless you write one about me that is awful, spilling the beans that you’ve actually hated me all these years but haven’t said so because… Then, we might have issues.  That hasn’t happened to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.  And no, I don’t have anyone in mind, I’m just used to being surprised by what people think of me.

All in all, Nelson you served your purpose.  I have a new list of titles to tackle, nothing you mentioned in your book because we have entirely different reading tastes.  That’s not true.  They are similar in the way a Venn diagram is similar.  Not a Venn diagram, more like if there are four quadrants of reading (I, II, III, and IV), and I & II are two different kinds of book snobs and III & IV are polar opposites of I & II who read varying kinds of ‘unequivocal crap’, we are readers I & II.  Still, we may not have the same, identical tastes, and in real life you would probably never want to be my friend, but I enjoyed your book and it has made me voracious for the piles and piles on my own shelves again.

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Knowledge is… what exactly?

June 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm (Education, In So Many Words) (, , , , )

Despite that old saying that knowledge is power, lately I have found that the more knowledge I obtain, the less I feel I know about anything at all.  Sit down and read a book, immediately you are bombarded with at least ten other books you now need to read.  Les Miserables part one and two led me on a month-long adventure studying Napoleon.  While reading Napoleon, I felt like I didn’t understand much about any of the French wars.  I started buying up all sorts of French history despite the fact that I don’t really care much for French history, I just feel the need to know.

Well, that was last month.  This month something sparked an old interest, an idea I had about ten years ago that I never pursued.  I want to discover where the fine line between historical and relevant Astrology and the horoscope divination stuff actually lies.  I think the planets influence the world at large in a ‘the universe is one well oiled machine that works somewhat as one’ kind of way.  But divination and prophecies kind of give me the willy-nillies.  So I found myself reading The Case for Astrology by John Anthony West.  Of course, he is incredibly detailed and I realized I didn’t have a clue about half of what he was talking about.  So I started with the basics and picked up Dava Sobel’s The Planets, a couple of Stargazer books that I will hold onto for the kiddo (all great stuff for about age ten), and a number of other things.  So here I am now, reading anything and everything I can get my hands on from Astronomy to the mythology and literature that are the star’s namesakes.

Frankly, as exciting as it is to learn something new – it’s also a bit exhausting.  Each new little piece of the puzzle reveals 1000 pieces you never knew existed.  It’s the same in any subject.  When I was studying Egyptology I buried myself in Ancient Egypt everything for nearly a year.  12 months of research later, all I managed to uncover was how much more there was to research.  Even now in my Astrology/Astronomy stint, I’m uncovering how interconnected much of it is to Egyptian history, myth, and mystery, that it’s just added another 20 books to my TBR pile.

It is endless.

And when it all ends, when I die, where does all this knowledge go?  Unless I become a world renown writer (doubtful) or some kind of famous historian (highly doubtful), it will all be lost.

That could be a really depressing thought.  Except for one tiny little detail: It’s not so much about the knowledge, but the journey.

It’s about the diligence it takes to sift through information and catalogue not just the facts but thoughts about those facts.  It’s about using your mind and thinking through reality and your world view of that reality.  It’s about understanding human nature and God’s nature well enough to be the best possible human you can be.  It’s about knowing that when you die, you spent your time wisely, keeping your eyes open to the nuances and the tiny details of everything.

It doesn’t matter what I die not knowing when it comes to factoids and dates and the names of things.  It matters that I lived a life of pursuit.

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My Classical Re-Education

May 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm (Education) (, , , , , , )

As some of you may know, I am a sucker for the classics.  I’m also a sucker for lists.  In addition to that, I plan to homeschool my daughter.  What better books for me then are those of Susan Wise Bauer?

“Using the techniques and systems of classical education, this new guide will give you greater pleasure in what you read, and greater understanding of it.” – from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind

I am a college graduate who has had the pleasure of working for a bookstore for some years now and doesn’t want my “education” to end with a Bachelor’s degree in Business.  I want to go through Bauer’s list while I pay off my student loans before going back to school. Bauers covers five genres worth of lists of books that people need to read to be fully and classically educated.  Many of these a lot of us have already read, and many of these we’ve always heard referenced and talked about reading but have never actually done it.

Lately, in the blog world, I’ve been coming across a Classics Challenge, and was reminded of the fact that there may be others out there who would like access to this list and discussions where other people are reading these books.

For the last few years I have been leisurely strolling through her list provided in The Well Educated Mind: The Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. Because I’ve been reading through it in order at a snail’s pace, I’m still in the first list of books – novels.  (The other lists are included in the Shelfari group: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions.)

I am also the admin of a Shelfari Discussion Group called Classical Re-Education and I post reviews and commentary on my reading in that group, links for each book discussion are provided.  Of course, I also share my reviews here on my blog.

Cervantes – Don Quixote

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/89445/Don-Quixote—Cervantes

Bunyan – Pilgrim’s Progress

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/90600/Pilgrim-s-Progress—Bunyan

Swift – Gulliver’s Travels

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/91884/Gulliver-s-Travels—Swift

Austen – Pride and Prejudice

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/96506/Pride-Prejudice—Jane-Austen

Dickens – Oliver Twist

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/98621/Oliver-Twist—Charles-Dickens

Bronte – Jane Eyre

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/102210/Jane-Eyre—Charlotte-Bronte

Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/104538/The-Scarlet-Letter—Nathaniel-Hawthorne

Melville – Moby Dick

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/105905/Moby-Dick—Melville

Stowe – Uncle Tom’s Cabin

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/121736/Uncle-Tom-s-Cabin—Stowe

Flaubert – Madame Bovary

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/148024/Madame-Bovary—Flaubert

Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/165633/Crime-and-Punishment—Dostoyevsky

Tolstoy – Anna Karenina

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/212374/Anna-Karenina—Tolstoy

Hardy – The Return of the Native

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/233628/The-Return-of-the-Native—Thomas-Hardy

James – The Portrait of a Lady

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/239963/Portrait-of-a-Lady—James

Twain – Huckleberry Finn

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/319203/Huckleberry-Finn—Mark-Twain

Crane – Red Badge of Courage

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/319206/Red-Badge-of-Courage—Crane

Conrad – Heart of Darkness

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/324295/Heart-of-Darkness—Conrad

Wharton – House of Mirth

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/324297/House-of-Mirth—Wharton

Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/324292/The-Great-Gatsby—Fitzgerald

Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/420041/Mrs-Dalloway—Virginia-Woolf

Kafka – The Trial

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/435148/The-Trial—Kafka

Wright – Native Son

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/443717/Native-Son—Wright

Camus – The Stranger

Orwell – 1984

Ellison – Invisible Man

https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/blasted-book-bouncing/

Bellow – Sieze the Day

Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude

Calvino – If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Morrison – Song of Solomon

Delillo – White Noise

Byatt – Possession

https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/the-ultimate-possession-a-book-by-byatt/

As you can see, I just recently finished Kafka’s The Trial and will soon be starting The Native Son.  I’d love for others to join me.

Have you read any of these lately?  Which were your favorites? What would you add to the list if your goal was to walk people through the History of the Novel, as Bauer’s has done?

P.S. Susan Wise Bauer will be lecturing at the  Texas Home School Coalition Southwest Convention The Woodlands, Texas, Thursday-Saturday August 2-4.

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