classics

Feeling Overwhelmed | New Reading Plan

Keep_Calm_smallOne of the most stressful parts of being a reader and librarian is that I want to feel “on top of everything” when it comes to literature. I want to know what’s coming out, have a good understanding of which books did well in the last few years, and have a full grasp of the classics for my personal growth as a reader. This feels close to impossible lately. I had lists of “must read” classics and then I find that every one of those authors has a back list longer than I imagined. For instance, I was told to read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, and suddenly I find myself deep in Jamaica Inn, The Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and The House on the Strand….and wait…there’s more. That’s just one example of a “modern classic.” But every year there are new books that people are consuming, recommending, and loving. I am thrilled to have so many choices, but also extremely overwhelmed.

I decided to make a sort of selection based on yearly awards for a while. I read Nobel Prize winners, and their back-list (which kept growing), CBC Canada Reads, and the Pulitzer Prize. But then…there’s the British Book Awards, the Women’s Bailey’s Prize, PEN prize, the Irish Book Awards, The Hugo, The Nebula, The Arthur C. Clarke. The next question was, should I just read the winner or the shortlist? For instance, last year in the Women’s Bailey’s Prize Our Glorious Heresies won, but the synopsis that got my attention most was another title from the shortlist: The Portable Veblen. I get extremely overwhelmed and have a fear of missing out. Simultaneously I don’t want to miss out on the core staples of literature when it comes to classics, and modern classics. I feel like I’m sprinting through and reading fast, and then I get ARCs for early review, which leaves me hardly any down time for reflecting on poetry. Last month I received and read more ARCs than I expected and while I did enjoy writing reviews and reading things pre-publication, I didn’t feel like all of them were what I would call substantial. There is also a lot of pressure because I need to be able to articulate a proper review and even if I don’t like it, I owe an explanation as to why not. It may feel presumptuous that I “must” read ARCs but I want to know what to invest in for collection development.

I don’t want to create a TBR list each month because I want there to be room for surprises.

Long story short: I had to set up some rules…or guideline…that can make me feel like I’m on the right path without freaking out.

So here are my monthly reading goals as of now:

Every month I will read:

  • One Classic (Western Canon, Russian Lit, and other Global Classics)
  • One Modern Classic (post 1950): currently reading The Marriage Plot by Eugenides
  • Three to Five ARC Fiction Novels and/or nonfiction for Early Review however they wi
  • Two in the Sci-fi and Fantasy category (can include ARCs but preferably printed)
  • One-Two books that have come out in the last two years and won or was nominated/shortlisted for a significant award. Currently on my radar and list: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Our Glorious Heresies, The Underground Railroad, The Essex Serpent,
  • One Short Story anthology/collection (Can be ARC)
  • One Poetry Book (can be ARC)

I think that this guideline will make me feel like I’m on top of new things but keeping up with building my library and knowledge base, as well as being connected to the canon.

If you have had a similar experience and have advice or think I should incorporate something else in the list all recommendations are welcome!

May Wrap-Up | 2017

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Books I read for Reviews (with links)

  • Drinks with Dead Poets by Glyn Maxwell. A poet/professor wakes in a town where he must teach a syllabus on dead poets, and the dead poets come to life (To be published in August of 2017)
  • Matter & Desire by Andreas Weber. Academic text exploring the relationship between our existence and nature through erotic experience (To be published August 3, 2017)
  • The Man Who Loved Libraries by Andrew Larsen. This is a very short children’s book about Andrew Carnegie (to be published August 15)
  • Thin Places by Lesley Choyce. Free verse poem telling the story of Declan Lynch who can hear voices and follows them. (To be published July 29, 2017)
  • The Excursionist by J.D. Sumner. This is a travel satire with a very grumpy main character (published May 17)
  • The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle. A collection of new fantasy short stories (to be published August 18, 2017)
  • Scion of the Fox by S.M Beiko. Young adult book with magic, battles, family traditions and history, and is very much entwined with the natural realm (out for publication October 17, 2017)
  • Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume. Pleasant children’s adventure about Ewan Pendle who receives a special education. (published)
  • How to Read Nature by Tristan Gooley – book on navigating through nature and reviving the connection between ourselves and the natural realm (out for publication August 22, 2017)
  • Of Men and Women by Pearl S. Buck – short essays comparing the American household to that of China, published/written in 1941, currently being republished in a newer, updated eBook edition (out for publication June 27, 2017)
  • Ex Libris – Anthology of Sci-fi and Fantasy short stories with Librarians, Libraries, and Lore (out for publication July 11, 2017)
  • The Cloud Versus Grand Unification Theory by Chris Banks – poetry collection (out for publication Sept 5, 2017)
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay – a memoir; a history of Roxane Gay’s body and experience with weight gain (out for publication June 13, 2017)
  • Up Against Beyond by Jason Holt –Poetry collection (out for publication July 20, 2017)
  • Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid –academic book, short biography, close analysis/reading of Iain M. Banks and his works published both as ‘Iain M. Banks’ and ‘Iain Banks’ (out for publication May 30, 2017)

Books I read for Myself

I had a great reading month mostly because I had all the time in the world: no work, no school, no exams.

According to my Audible App I also spent about 8 Hours listening. The listening included a variety of dramatizations of classics, or some audiobooks for the things listed below where I would follow along in the text while listening to an audiobook.

I read two short stories:

“The Machine Stops” – by E.M. Forster which already made it onto my ‘favourites’ list. The story is written in 1909 but it’s highly prophetic and describes a time where people are glued to conversation machines and lose touch with the organic. It’s like a “pre-WALLE” critique of our attachment to screens.

“The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe. This story took me a while to get into, mainly because I wasn’t sure what was happening for the first few pages. A man wakes up tied, in a pit, where a pendulum swings above him (one of those with a blade) and he doesn’t know why. He spends the story figuring it out. It didn’t really strike me in any way and it’s not as memorable as “The Black Cat.”

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

9200000000656014I then read my monthly classic. This month I chose The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Again, this didn’t sit with me quite as well as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. What I’m saying is: I can see why it’s important, I can engage in conversation about many aspects of it BUT reading it wasn’t a very exciting experience. Anne looked at domestic abuse and the ways women would put up physical barriers like Wildfell Hall itself. I liked the many perspectives in this work but I had one major issue with this novel and that was the characterization of Gilbert Markham, the first narrator. Gilbert as a first narrator to me was so feminine that I had a hard time imagining this man as a (straight) man. Everything he said was something I could never picturing a man caring about like the way a woman’s eyebrows look like, or the fabric of their clothing. It sucks that in my head I kept comparing Markham to manly Rochester and Heathcliff but one cannot help but lump the Brontes together. I would have no problems with bending gender norms and stereotypes but I think in this case Anne Bronte just didn’t know how to capture a masculine voice. I did enjoy that Helen was a painter and the descriptions of her paintings got to me in a very heartwarming way. Helen’s character is very interesting.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

sleepinggiantsI am not sure how to describe the synopsis without spoilers. I’m going to briefly borrow parts from the synopsis at the back. Rose Franklin falls through the earth when she is a child and ends up in the palm of a giant metal hand. She spends her life studying physics and gets involved with a military/science team in search for other remaining parts of these giant metal giants which are scattered worldwide. The book is written in interview format. Interviews are conducted with Rose connecting her personal experience to the expeditions, with Kara Resnik (a military leader on this mission), and with other members involved in this investigation. I sort of imagined it as someone from the Pentagon interviewing all the people involved or around anything relating to these robot parts showing up all over. There are romances hidden, mysterious components to the robots or “giants” and it’s definitely not boring. I read this book with the text in hand and with the audiobook. It is an experience I recommend mainly because audible has different voices for the different characters and you really experience their presence. Lastly, I couldn’t help but be reminded of A Monster Calls, The Iron Giant, and most of all the giant guardians that are dormant in Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I don’t know if anyone remembers those but as a kid I watched Atlantis so many times and the moment when the giants pop out from the ground to protect the city is a scene forever ingrained in my memory. I don’t know if I’m alone in making this association.

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River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

river-of-teethThis is a small novella that just got published by Tor.com. In the early 20th century America had a plan to import hippos to supplement the meat shortage. The plan was scrapped but Sarah Gailey re-imagines an alternate 1890s where hippos are present in the U.S. It’s a weird hybrid of fantasy and a westerner. This is the story of Winslow Houndstooth who rides his hippo. Every rider in this book has a hippo. Tor.com published an article introducing every hippo by name here. The novella is only 170 pages and a very easy read. The cover art is done by Richard Anderson and designed by Christine Foltzer. I’ll put together a better review for this on Goodreads later tonight.

Concluding Thoughts and Announcement

My favourite reads this month were Drinks with Dead Poets by Glyn Maxwell and Ex Libris: Libraries, Librarians, and Lore. I’ve also been reading Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan which I have not yet finished so it will be featured in next month’s wrap-up.

announcement-clipart-cliparti1_announcement-clipart_09BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! Along with Ennet House I will be reading Infinite Jest from June 1 to September 18 (along other books of course). If you would like to participate there is still time to get the book and join our community. More details on this HERE. Everyone is welcome!