While I’m working on a further post about memories of Sartoriusstrasse, I thought I’d post a little update on my progress with some reading projects. I need to get busy (or find some short books!) because, to meet my goal of reading 40 books from the Guardian 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read by the end of the year, I have 18 books to go. Since I last updated in mid-June, I’ve only managed 6 of the books on the list, though one was quite long. Well, maybe 5 – more about that in a moment. The books (reviewed on Goodreads for anyone who’s interested) are:
July’s People, Nadine Gordimer
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
Regeneration, Pat Barker
The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
The Eye in the Door, Pat Barker
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
I mentioned before that the Guardian critics were annoyingly inconsistent about trilogies and long book series, bringing the total of books to more like 1070. The fifth book listed, The Eye in the Door, is the second in Pat Barker’s World War I trilogy which began with Regeneration. Before long I’ll be reading the last of the three, The Ghost Road. Set largely in England, the trilogy deals among other things with the treatment of what was then known as shell-shock. After reading All Quiet on the Western Front, I thought it might be good to concentrate on books that had something (in this case World War I) in common, but I got distracted by The Way of All Flesh and High Fidelity – which also have something in common in a way. In any case, there is no lack of interesting novels on World War I on this list. Among those I’ve acquired at various used book sales are Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s trilogy A Scots Quair; Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End (another trilogy!), and Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong (which I think is also part of some sort of series, but one has to stop somewhere.) When I tire of WWI I can go to books set during World War II, or Victorian novels, or perhaps dip into the French of Balzac or the India of Vikram Seth.
Besides this huge project, I continue reading the Edgar Award Winners for Best Novel. I started this last year, after realizing that I often was unfamiliar with the winning books although I read a great many mystery stories. I began with the first winner (1954) and am now up to the 1995 winner, Dick Francis’s Come to Grief. It looks as though with any luck I’ll be able to catch up to the awards by the time the next one is given out in May 2010.
To introduce myself to some new writers (new to me at least) I’m also reading a book set in each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. I’ve made it as far as Maryland, for which I’m in the middle of Identity Crisis, which the author, Debbi Mack, kindly sent to me upon hearing of my project on the DorothyL list. It’s a nice way of armchair travelling, and when I finish this I may very well embark on a worldwide “mystery tour.” Of course, while reading these books I’ve also discovered quite a few writers whose work I want to read more of. So many books, so little time!
I do read some non-fiction as well, although perhaps not as much as I should. We went to a book sale at the Topsham Public Library last weekend, and besides several books from the Guardian 1000 and a couple of mysteries, I picked up A.J. Jacobs’s The Year of Living Biblically, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I’m finding it interesting so far. Meanwhile, I need to get started on Charles Todd’s A Matter of Justice, which is due back at the library soon. I really enjoy this series set in the aftermath of World War I; I’m also eagerly awaiting a chance to read the latest of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. And then there’s my Netflix queue, which is again approaching the dreaded 500 mark.It’s no wonder I seldom watch television as such, although I’m making an exception for the Ken Burns series on the National Parks which started last night. I was somewhat distracted by trying to identify the hymn tunes which seemed to prevail in the soundtrack – definitely heard “This Is My Father’s World” and the Southern Harmony tune Land of Rest – which I know best as “In Solitude,” many people know as Brian Wren’s “I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord,” and, if you’re kicking it old school, you may remember it as one of the tunes for “Jerusalem, My Happy Home.” It’s a beautiful tune, which I heard in a fresh way in the soundtrack’s swingy, uptempo version.