Top Ten Tuesday

Top Five Books On My Winter TBR

1) Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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I love reading Dickens in the winter. Big books are perfect for the long holiday, and Dickens’ dark humor goes well with the weather. While my favorite so far is Hard Times, I have not yet read the most critically acclaimed of Dickens’ works: Little Dorrit, Bleak House, or David Copperfield. I hope to enjoy Bleak House.

2) Ecclesiastes through the Centuries by Eric S. Christianson

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Most people have never heard of Ecclesiastes, but it is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I first read it when I was 14. I didn’t realize that the Birds’ song “Turn, Turn, Turn” was inspired by chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes. But I was the most surprised by the content of the book. I never thought I would find “there is nothing new under the sun” and “meaningless, meaningless” in the Scriptures. It has definitely become my obsession. I read it on the day Trump was elected. Anyway, Christianson’s book is a study on the reception history of Ecclesiastes. Jerome, Gregory the Great, Martin Luther, and even Voltaire and Henry James reflected on this book. This controversial book has inspired the most interesting biblical commentaries.

3) To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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Mrs. Dalloway is one of my favorite books, and I enjoyed Orlando. So, I look forward to reading To the Lighthouse. This will be a buddy-read with a fellow booktuber.

4) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

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Everyone and their brother has praised this book. This is historical fiction set in 12th century England and centers on the building of a gothic cathedral. When I was a child, I read The Ramsay Scallop by Frances Temple for school. That story follows two children on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. While the other students found the novel boring, I loved it. This was one of my first encounters with the Middle Ages. If The Pillars of the Earth mesmerizes me the way The Ramsay Scallop did, I will consider that a success. I don’t expect brilliant prose. But I do expect an engaging plot with complex characters. And lots of sinful monks.

5) The Secret by Francesco Petrarch

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The 14th century Italian Humanist Petrarch wrote three fictional conversations with St. Augustine. This is my most anticipated read. Even though the translation by Carol Quillen has been out for a while, I purchased the book at the end of May. Augustine was a great observer of human nature. From my understanding, Petrarch suffered from depression and even wrote about it. I wonder whether Petrarch will mention his mental illness in The Secret. This dialogue series seems like a cross between an Augustinian dialogue like On Free Will and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. In the latter work, Boethius imagines a dialogue with Lady Philosophy. In The Secret, Augustine and Petrarch dialogue before Lady Truth. It will be interesting to compare Petrarch to Boethius. I definitely have high expectations for this work.

Top Ten Tuesday

Ten Travel Books (Fiction and Nonfiction)

I’m currently reading We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen. I absolutely love books set at sea. This is one of the best nautical books. But today, I want to share with you ten books that deal with any form of travel (air, sea, or rail). The top three books on this list are my three favorite books of all time – in order! The rest of the books are in no particular order. This could count for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday.

  1. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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I’ve read this book so many times since starting this blog, but for some reason I haven’t written a review of it yet. The Little Prince is a reminder that great children’s literature isn’t just appropriate for children. In fact, it is best appreciated by an adult.

2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

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The cetology chapters are the best! Starbuck is the most righteous character in all of literature.

3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

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I read it nearly every year. Swift’s novel is fun but also a profound commentary on imperialism, human nature, and injustice.

4. The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting

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I definitely preferred the movie to the book, but Doctor Dolittle goes on a voyage. He also talks to animals. It won the Newbery Medal in 1923.

5. Terre des Hommes (Wind, Sand, and Stars) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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All of the stories are about flight, but the most moving one is autobiographical. Saint-Exupéry crashed in the Sahara Desert and almost died of thirst. Flight was so dangerous in the early 20th century. Even mail carriers risked their lives transporting mail. Despite all of the hardships he faced, Saint-Exupéry remained optimistic. He believed in the goodness of humanity. Unfortunately, he disappeared in 1944 while on a reconnaissance mission.

6. Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours (Around the World in 80 Days) by Jules Verne

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Again, the film is better than the book, but the book is pretty fun as well. The cover of this book is misleading. Phineas Fogg and Passepartout (name means master key) do not travel by balloon. They mostly travel by sea.

7. The Odyssey by Homer

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Duh

8. Locomotive by Brian Floca

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A beautiful picture book about the history of the locomotive in the United States. It won the Caldecott in 2014.

9. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

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There be cannibals.

10. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

Image result for lord jim joseph conradHow does a man who is supposed to exhibit the most exaggerated form of masculinity on the face of this planet deal with cowardice and guilt? Joseph Conrad basically writes prose poetry.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Bookish Resolutions For 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is an event hosted by The Broke and the BookishI have made a few resolutions for 2016, but not all of them are related to this blog. But here are 10 bookish resolutions that are relevant:

1) Read More

I did not read as much as I would have liked last year. I set my Goodreads challenge to 50 books for 2016. I think this is a reasonable goal.

2) Review More French Works

Since I am a French graduate student, I naturally read a lot of French works. However, I tend not to review those books on this blog. I will try to cover more French literature in 2016.

3) Revive Literary Flashback

I planned on reviving Literary Flashback in 2015, but I failed. In truth, I didn’t really know what I wanted this series to be about. I now have a clearer idea of what I want to post on Saturdays. Literary Flashback is basically the miscellaneous space on my blog. Each week I will discuss essays and letters written by famous authors, themes from books I’ve recently read and reviewed, or book-related trivia. I want to keep it informative and fun.

4) Keep Up With My Reading Challenges

I want to read more books on my Classics Book and Newbery Medal lists.

5) Add More Resources to Medieval Corner 

I want to read and introduce people to more medieval texts (secular and religious). There are also some secondary sources I’ve come across on such topics as Church/State and the Crusades that I would like to discuss on this blog (ex. Sacred Violence by Jill N. Claster).

6) Read Don Quixote

This is the year! I will finish Don Quixote.

7) Make More Reflection Posts

I sometimes read books with themes that I want to discuss further on this blog. This year, I will write more reflection posts so that those who have already read the book can join in the conversation. I will of course warn readers of spoilers. Some of the books I read (like The Diary of a Country Priest) contain religious themes that may not be appropriate for this blog. I will write reflection posts on such books on my religious blog. I will, though, review The Diary of a Country Priest on this blog because, like Gilead, I think this book could be enjoyed by anyone interested in spirituality and discussions about the meaning of life.

8) Read More Modern Works

I have been blogging long enough to know what books have come out recently. I have a reasonable list of modern works that I would like to read in 2016. I will try to get to at least 3 of them.

9) Post More Poems

I love poetry. I will post more poems that I love.

10) Read a Recently Published Young Adult Book.

When I was a teenager I did not read YA. I’ve always had a phobia of books marketed toward young adults. This is mostly because I can’t stand romance. However, I’m also aware of how irrational this phobia (like any other) can be. In 2016, I will try to read at least 1 recently published YA book. Currently, I’m interested in reading The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Reviewers whom I respect have given excellent reviews to this trilogy. I look forward to reading them this year.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 5 Books of 2015

I did not read nearly enough books to have a top 10 list like last year. But I feel very strongly about all the books on this year’s top 5 list. The books are listed in order, with #1 being my favorite book of 2015. So here it is:

1) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

This may have been my 4th or 5th time reading this book, but it still remains my third favorite book of all time (after Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville). I was first introduced to this book by my 8th grade English teacher. He mentioned the book in passing, and since I’ve always loved travel stories I checked it out from the library. Over the years as I have matured intellectually I have gained a greater appreciation of the book. But it was only this past year that I felt like I truly understood the overall message of Gulliver’s Travels. If you are interested and have already read the book, I wrote a spoiler-y reflection on Gulliver’s adventures in Houhnhnm Land where I talked about what I felt was the overall message of the book.

2) Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

This play reminded me so much of Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw. Thomas Becket and the four tempters are such memorable characters, and I loved that the play was written in verse. It was epic in the truest sense of the word. Thomas Becket represents way more than a martyr. In only 88 pages of verse, Eliot accomplishes the impressive feat of describing the history of the conflict between Church and State in England through the life of one archbishop.

3) My Antonia by Willa Cather

Can Willa Cather write a bad book? Death Comes for the Archbishop was my 3rd favorite book in 2014. My Antonia was just as incredible. The story is quiet but packs a real punch. It is the coming-of-age story of Antonia Shimerda and her friend Jim Burden (the narrator). The lifelike characters and the lyrical narrative combine to produce what I believe is one of the greatest works of American fiction.

4) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

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I don’t often read books that have come out in the past few years. Gilead won the Pulitzer in 2005, but I have only heard about it in the past year. Robinson’s writing reminds me so much of Cather’s. There is no real plot, but I found so many memorable passages in this book. In 2016, I plan on reading her book of essays The Death of Adam and the companion to Gilead, Lila.

5) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

As Dickens’ penultimate work, Great Expectations lacks many of the weaknesses commonly found in his earlier works. The characters are well-developed and there are no meaningless plot points. Hard Times is still my favorite book by Dickens but Great Expectations is a close second.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. These books are in no particular order.

1.  Little Man, What Now? by Hans Fallada

2. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

3. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

4. The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought by Marilynne Robinson

5. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

6. Drawn from Memory by Ernest H. Shepard

7. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (with this cover)

8. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

9. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

10. We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books of 2014

At the 6 month point, I posted a list of my top 10 favorite books of 2014. Now that the year is drawing to a close, I think it’s a good idea to jump on the Top Ten Tuesday bandwagon and post an updated list. So here it is:

1) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

This work blew my mind. In addition to the general review linked above, I also wrote three reflection posts on the book (here, here, and here). I now consider Moby-Dick as my second favorite book of all time. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is still #1. Some people are hesitant to name books they think everyone should read. I am, however, unashamed to admit that I think every person (at least every American) should read Moby-Dick at least once in his/her lifetime. Read it at your own leisure. I suspect that those who were forced to read it for school didn’t enjoy it. Binge reading Moby-Dick is not a good idea.

2) The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

These are almost unanimously considered some of the greatest fantasy works of all time. However, I struggled for years to appreciate The Lord of the Rings. People often ask in the blogging world whether rereading a work you didn’t enjoy the first time is a good idea. My answer is yes! If you have only seen the movies, do yourself a favor and read the books. No film can ever do justice to the beautiful prose and dialogue in this trilogy. I am now a fantasy snob. If it is not beautifully written, I just can’t get into it. I expect every fantasy book to read like The Lord of the Rings :D.

A spoiler-free review of The Fellowship of the Ring is here.

3) Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

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This is a beautifully-constructed work. Willa Cather creates some very memorable but human characters. All people (including religious leaders) are more than their flaws. Fathers Vaillant and Latour learn much about love, generosity, and courage through their work in the mission lands of the American Southwest.

4) Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw

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Is Joan of Arc a saint, traitor, or heretic? Written four years after her canonization, Saint Joan revisits the events that led up to the execution of the maiden of Orleans. The words of Luke 11:47-51 come to mind: “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them.  So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of you fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs.” I have since read a good portion of the well-chronicled trial of Joan of Arc. It is so hard to read because Joan couldn’t say anything to defend herself. Her accusers decided beforehand that she was a heretic and she couldn’t do anything to defend herself. She is rehabilitated after her death, but isn’t that too late? In Saint Joan, Shaw has a lot to say to those who simply dismiss Bishop Cauchon and the Inquisitor as exceptionally bad individuals. How would we treat Joan today?

5) Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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This work is notoriously hard to read but very rewarding. Mrs. Dalloway is purely a character study. The work asks (among other questions):”What binds people together?” and “To what degree can one know and understand another person?”

6) Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

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This is not just a character study, but also a study of the generation gap in pre-Bolshevik Russia. Fathers and Sons is the first Russian work I’ve ever read and I’m dying to read other books by Russian authors. No matter what you may feel about Bazarov the nihilist, you’ve got to admit that he is a compelling character.

7) The Call of the Wild by Jack London

This is not just a book about sled dogs but about the humans who employ them. The line that divides the tame from the wild is not always clear.

8) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

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This was the biggest surprise of the year. I did not expect to enjoy Anne of Green Gables. I expected Anne Shirley to be Pollyanna-esque, but she is one of the most relatable female characters in all of literature. From page one, I was hooked.

9) Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Dickens does two things really well in this work: 1) He avoids going on random tangents, and 2) His male and female characters are more than mere caricatures. I love Dickens, but I know the common objections to his works. If his other novels have disappointed you, try Hard Times. You will be pleasantly surprised.

10) Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate) by Alain-Fournier

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This work has a fairy-tale like vibe to it. Augustin Meaulnes’ coming-of-age story is in sharp contrast to the pastoral (verging on the romantic) setting of the novel.

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Summer Wrap-Up and Fall Plans

Summer Wrap-Up

I dedicated this summer to reading stories in which characters go on adventures, and oh did I go on adventures!

Here’s a list of the most memorable books:

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

The Hobbit  by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Not as great as the others but I would be remiss to leave out Treasure Island in a list of adventure books)

The first four books on the list are currently on my list of the Top Ten Favorite Books of 2014. Moby-Dick was phenomenal and is currently at #1!

 

Fall Plans

So, what are my plans for the autumn and winter seasons (basically until Jan. 1)?

1. saint-exupery-website

I hope to get through all the works of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by the end of the year. I have nearly finished Courrier Sud (Southern Mail) and will probably have a review posted by early next week.

2. 

I will be reading this one for the Newbery Medal Challenge. It won the award in 1923.

3.

It won the Newbery Medal in 1930.

4. 

Some stories by Washington Irving. I’ve never read anything by Irving, so I will probably start with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.

5. 

This is a classic of the historical fiction genre. Once I finish the book, I would like to watch the television series that was made in the 70s. Time Magazine included this series in its list of the 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME.

6. 

Yay for a modern book! Wolf Hall is the first book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. The last book isn’t out yet. I’ve been told that Mantel offers a fresh perspective on the lives of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. I read A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt last month and really enjoyed it, so I look forward to learning more about the Tudors.

7. 

I don’t care much for Halloween, but I do love the poems of Edgar Allan Poe. In October, I hope to read more of his poems and short stories.

8. 

I don’t know anything about this book except that it is a mystery. There is a severe lack of female characters in my reading repertoire, but I don’t know if that is something I should be bothered by. Anyway, I look forward to reading Rebecca.

9. 

I’ve heard that the eponymous archbishop is portrayed sympathetically. Now, that’s refreshing!

10. 

This is my favorite book of all time, and I will be hosting a read-along of it in December so stay tuned…

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 4 Under-Read/Out-Of-Print Favorites

Yesterday, during the long car ride to university, I was reminiscing about my favorite childhood books. Like other children, I loved Harry Potter, Beezus and Ramona, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But there were also other books that I loved as a child that are either under-read or out-of-print. My top 4 under-read/out-of-print favorites are listed below:

1) Richard Brown and the Dragon by Robert Bright

7144503-LI did not know this as a child, but Richard Brown and the Dragon is a retelling of a story by Mark Twain from A Tramp Abroad. Unfortunately, Richard Brown and the Dragon is out-of-print. Both the illustrations and the story are delightful. Richard Brown is a bucket-maker who is making a secret invention to destroy the dragon that killed Princess Rossile’s suitor and continues to terrorize Richard’s village.  This clever invention adds a humorous twist to the ol’ dragon adventure. You can purchase a used copy from an Amazon bookseller for 3-5 dollars.

2) Bearskin by Howard Pyle

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Like Richard Brown and the Dragon, I did not know that Bearskin belonged to an anthology of Howard Pyle fairy-tales called The Wonder Clock. It is also a more child-appropriate retelling of a Grimms’ tale of the same name. The edition that my mother bought me contains illustrations by the Caldecott Medal winner Trina Schart Hyman (a sample is above). Bearskin is about a miller’s son who is raised by a bear and therefore has the necessary courage to fight a three-headed dragon. But he needs more than just his strength to defeat the monster and win the hand of a princess.

3) The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom

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The Secret Language got me through many sleepless nights as a child. The story is about a girl named Victoria North who goes to boarding school for the first time and experiences home-sickness. But her miseries come to an end when she meets Martha Sherman. Martha and Victoria soon become friends and invent a secret language to communicate with one another. We all need a good friend to get us through the sad and frightening moments in our lives. Once again, The Secret Language is out-of-print, but used copies are available.

4) My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

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Elmer Elevator runs away from home and climbs aboard a ship with the express purpose of saving a baby dragon he heard about in a story. This one also got me through sleepless nights. My Father’s Dragon won the Newbery Honor in 1949, and is available in the public domain. It is also the first book of a trilogy. Book 2 is Elmer and the Dragon and Book 3 is The Dragons of Blueland. I believe I have read all three books. Here is a sample of the illustrations from My Father’s Dragon (the illustrator is Ruth Chrisman Gannett):

 

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Top Ten Tuesday

Why I Support Libraries

The Columbus Metropolitan Library
The Columbus Metropolitan Library

I don’t usually participate in Top Ten Tuesday, but I enjoy reading other bloggers’ lists. Today’s challenge was to list the ” Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From”. This challenge convinced me to write the blog post I’ve wanted to write for quite some time. This is a post in which I explain why I support libraries.

There are many books in my family’s house, but most of them were bought at library book sales. Others were bought for high school and university (yes, my high school made me buy all of my school books). Many bloggers and booktubers almost exclusively buy books either online or at brick-and-mortar bookstores. There seems to be a general consensus that buying books is better than borrowing books. I, however, am a huge fan of libraries and the services they provide for people who wouldn’t have access to books otherwise.

I own considerably less books than you’d think based on my reading habits. My parents are not readers, but my mother took me and my siblings to the library every summer. During the summer, the library hosted library challenges for all age groups. I loved reading fantasy books and non-fiction books about insects. My mother wanted me to read non-fiction books from time-to-time so that I could learn something about the world. My mother had difficulty convincing me to check out a non-fiction book on something other than insects. I organized what I learned about insects in a personal “science journal” because at the age of 9 or 10 I decided that I would become an entomologist. The “science journal” was my personal project and one that I started thanks to the books I borrowed from my local library. My dream to be an entomologist is still alive and well as I will be attending graduate school in insect toxicology in the fall.

There are so many bloggers and booktubers who rave about bookstores, but there aren’t many who speak out in support of libraries. The services libraries provide for families are indispensable. Libraries made me the avid reader that I am today. Books are expensive, and my mother wasn’t interested in spending 10-20 dollars on a book.

Books will always be sold. It is estimated that over 200,000 books are published each year in the United States alone. But libraries are facing serious cuts; many librarians in my hometown have been laid off. When you support libraries, you support reading. So please consider visiting your local library. I still buy books from time to time, but libraries are a resource that I would like my children to have access to someday.

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books I Read This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is an event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I have never participated in the event before, but I scrolled through my blog feeds this morning and noticed that a few bloggers were listing their top ten favorite books they read this year. I thought, “Why not? I’ll make my own list” So, here is my list:

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

2. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

3. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev, translated by George Reavy

4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

5. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

6. Sacred Violence by Jill Claster

7. Beowulf translated by Michael Alexander

8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

9. La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) translated by Joseph Bédier

10. Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate) by Alain-Fournier

 
I am currently reading some fantastic works. I have a feeling they will wind up on my Top Ten list by the end of the year.