Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tolle Lege 2013

This will be the year I will begin keeping a list of books read. Soon after I made this decision, literature professor, author,  and now, blogger at The American Conservative, Alan Jacobs, posted his apologetic for not keeping a book list this year. Just when I thought I was joining the club! Still, I will make a list. (Tolle lege, "Take up and read" on my right tool bar.)

I anticipate receiving a lot of satisfaction from this list. I've never kept one before, and honestly, my reading has been sporadic over the past few years. Nothing to list about. But this year, I am feeling optimistic and motivated. And, I have my Kindle.

I don't have any numerical goals, but I do have a couple of genre goals: fiction, poetry, and short stories. I was pleased to see that Alan Jacobs also aspires to read more poetry and short stories. He even mentioned one of the poets I hope to read: Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz (no, I don't know how to pronounce his name yet, and I still have to check how to spell it.). I downloaded the Chekhov short stories, per Jacob's to-be-read mention, onto my Kindle for a mere $1.99. I will shamelessly include poems and short stories alongside full-length books on my reading list!

More reading aspirations for 2013:

Fiction. I must read more fiction. I say things like, "I strongly believe in the power of story to convey truth, goodness, and beauty." I've even experienced that power in my own life. But then why do I gorge myself on non-fiction? I wonder if it is because I like to read quickly, and fiction--at least good fiction--does not allow such undisciplined speed. When I read Marilynne Robinson's Home last year, I knew I had to read every word, perhaps not slowly, but certainly not quickly. Fiction slows me down, but then, my life is slowing down a bit, so it should be a good fit. Besides reading Marilynne Robinson's other two novels, I'd like to read a G.K Chesterton novel,  Leif Enger's Peace Like a River (true confession that I haven't yet read this yet, though all my children have!), and several other titles that I've culled from friends' reading lists. Presently, I'm reading The Silence, by acclaimed Japanese author Shusaku Endo.

Poetry. Tayta is my poetic muse, inspiring me to practice what I preach and read more poetry. At least she's been practicing what I preach. I've already mentioned Czeslaw Milosz. Another poet whose work I hope to grasp, yea even enjoy, is T.S. Eliot. References to his Four Quartets seemed to come at me from a number directions this past year, culminating in a beautiful art exhibition catalog of works which parallel this poem, QU4RETS, given to me for Christmas by Artist Son. I'm savoring it, a little at a time.

Short Stories. I had only more Flannery O'Connor on my list, but thanks to Alan Jacobs, I now have Chekov as well. There is a particular Leo Tolstoy story I'd like to read, but I don't recall the name just now...

These are three genres I'd like to lower myself into, taking the time to soak in all the metaphor, illusion, symbolism, truth, beauty, and goodness to be found in them.

Finding new non-fiction reads won't be a problem--I seem to discover new titles to be read almost daily. I've a couple that I won't let myself even begin until I finish the The Silence 

This past year I've been on a serious Arab/Israeli conflict and Middle East/Foreign Policy bender, which is showing some signs of slowing down--it's all just too depressing at times, particularly now with suffering Syrian refugee's flooding into Jordan in unprecedented numbers, Israelis looking to elect the most radical right, hawkish government ever, and Jordanians predicting that the parliamentary elections to be held tomorrow will amount to no substantial change in the country's well-being. Books on education, theology, history, writing, biographies, etc., etc. will fill out my reading list. I also plan to finish my two-year bible reading plan. I'm almost on schedule.

I'd also like to challenge myself to write a little bit about the books I read. Now, that will be the real challenge, and my blog posts may not amount to much more than an annotated bibliography trying to pass for a review, but I need to start somewhere.

Finally, I'm excited to be reading books together with my family in our newly founded Kindlings family book club. I recently finished our January read, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, by Izzeldin Abuelaish, for the second time. More on that book and the Kindlings in another post.


Holly Newman said...

Hi Melissa, I have read your blog sporadically over the years, and find your writing inspirational and stimulating! I listened to Marilynne Robinson's Gilead on my iPod without realizing what I was getting into, and absolutely loved it. You're so right though that it takes real time to read something like this, even to listen to it. Sometimes I would turn it off and just think for awhile, I felt I must. Now I have Home to read, looking forward to it.

Laura A said...

What a nice start to your book list! And you just reminded me that I've been meaning to read Silence for years. How do you like it?

I did read a book of Chekov short stories a couple of years ago, and enjoyed them. I find that a good translator makes a big difference. I don't know if Pevear and Volokonsky have translated these, but I'm gradually reading all their work, because I think their translations are quite lively.

I'll look forward to checking on this list as the year progresses!

Quotidian Life said...

Thanks for your comment and encouragement, Holly. I'm looking forward to reading Gilead. I think it will by my fiction read after I finish Silence.

Laura, I'm just half-way through and I get the feeling that the stage is now set for the rest of the book. I perceive there has been some foreshadowing but I don't yet know how it will all play out. I first heard of this book last year when I was reading Wolfe's, Beauty Will Save the World. I mentioned it to Andrew, who just happened to have just finished reading it for one of his classes at Gordon! He brought home his copy for me since it's not on Kindle. Nice :)