Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Classic Literature Year in Review

This isn't me. I'm a boy.
Twenty-eleven is nearly in the books (pun intended), so it's time for my annual Year in Review post.  This year, my goal of reading two books a month is not going to happen.  This goal was only really reached last year, but I was hoping to extend it to two years running.  Initially, I figured my failure this year had to do with my reading of some huge tombs like War and Peace and currently, The Tale of Genji... but as I glance down the list I see quite a few short ones as well... so I'm not going to use this as an excuse.  I'm not even going to use a 'busy life' as an excuse, because that has been pretty constant... but I know that a large amount of personal change and growth has been the culprit - and I am fine with this.  I would rather have books enrich my life, than be my life.

I finished 18 books so far this year, and I'm going to attempt to get through one more in the next week and a half.  I actually have 9 days off in a row (only took 2 vacation days) and so far for Christmas, I think I only have one day or so accounted for.  I may actually be able to get a fair about of reading in. 

Anyway, here is this years list:

Aeschylus. The Oresteia
Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth
Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood
Confucius. The Analects of Confucius
His Holiness the Dalai Lama. How To See Yourself As You Really Are
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe
Foot, David K. Boom, Bust and Echo
Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet
Homer. The Iliad
Homer. The Odyssey
James, Henry. Washington Square
London, Jack. The Call of the Wild
London, Jack. The Sea-Wolf
London, Jack. White Fang
Steinbeck, John. Tortilla Flat
Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace
Vonnegut, Kurt. Jailbird
Wells, H.G. The Time Machine

This list makes me smile looking back, because it reflects a few changes in my thinking this year.  It was really bothering me that some of the books we were reading for book club were not atop my list of books that I really wanted to read.  I had hoped to read Capote and Buck and James (all new authors to me), but I continually felt as if my time in this life was short and I should probably start to read some of the older works that really set the foundation of literature.  So we changed the book club strategy and now I have read a lot more of the ancient Greeks.  Throw in the finishing of a more modern epic, War and Peace, and I really felt like I was realigning my book reading priorities. 

There are also a couple of more spiritual books that I read in the spring after some personal things in my life, and the books really stand out above.  The works by the Dalai Lama and Khalil Gibran are there... although Confucius was read by the book club at a later date.

There are also a few books that I should have read in childhood by Jack London and H.G. Wells, that I finally got around to.  All were popular books in North America about a hundred years ago.

And finally, there are a couple of random works thrown in this year like Vonnegut and Steinbeck... the former always providing me with comic relief and the latter generally providing me with constant pleasure (though, not in this case).

Biggest Disappointment of 2011: Tortilla Flat
I'm going to say that Steinbeck disappointed me for the first time since reading 'Cannery Row', and I while I can still remember a lot of the plot... I didn't really enjoy the book.  There was meaning, but the whole experience did not resonate well with me.

Most Difficult to Read in 2011: How To See Yourself As You Really Are
I'm sure that most people in the book club will say Confucius here, but I had a difficult time with this book by the Dalai Lama because I was expecting it to be a little more simplistic and less technical.  I had to read it very slowly to get what I wanted to get out of it.  It wasn't an easy read, but I was glad to have plugged through because there were a lot of useful ideas on how to perceive yourself and the world around you.

Best Book of 2011: War and Peace
This is such an easy choice that I don't even have to consult the list. War and Peace cracked my top 5 all-time, because it just had everything in it with little to no fat at all. I never would have believed that I would have been sad when the book ended, not for the characters, but simply due to the fact that there was no more story left. A truly beautiful, haunting and enlightening read.  Honerable Mentions: The Sea-Wolf by Jack London and The Iliad by Homer.
New Authors Discovered/Explored in 2011: Aeschylus, Buck, Capote, Confucius, Defoe, Gibran, Homer, James, London, Tolstoy

Author I wish To Read More Of in 2012: Tolstoy, Gibran... and anything from Ancient Greece.


*ೃ༄ Jillian said...

Congrats on an awesome year! I'm glad you're feeling more comfortable in your book club. :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comment on books enriching life. I try to remember this as well when I get discouraged about the # of books I've read. It's better to go at whatever pace we can manage rather than rush through and not gain as much from the experience.

I hope to get to The Iliad and The Odyssey in 2012. I'm thinking of starting January off with a bang and plunging into the Iliad as there's a Goodreads group that has chosen it for their selection. We'll see if I'm still feeling as ambitious on Jan. 1 . . . :)

Eclectic Indulgence said...

Hi Jillian,
I have always felt really comfortable with my bookclub - the people are all around the same age, they all live in the same area and all love classics. Despite a very democratic book list in the first four years, I'm more comfortable reading from the beginning of recorded time... I find I feel as if I'm making better progress and all that I learn from older works seem to be enhanced when I read newer works that cite them.

Eclectic Indulgence said...

The Iliad was my favourite, though I find most people enjoy The Odyssey more. Regardless of enjoyment level, both with enrich your life. There are so many references which would have been over my head prior to reading both these works.

Have fun with them... and happy holidays.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

I don't think you need an excuse for reading just 18 books. Dude, you read War and Peace this year. No excuse needed. LOL. Good luck with your reading plans for 2012. Also, have you read The Pearl by John Steinbeck? It disappointed me in the same way that Tortilla Flat probably disappointed you.

Eclectic Indulgence said...

Hi darlyn,
I didn't read the pearl, but I did also read cannery row and I was disappointed in that one too. I may try the pearl yet, just because it is short and I may have a copy lying around. It's not tops on my list though.

Good luck with war and peace next year. I hope you finish and am interested in hearing your thoughts.

Jair said...

If you want more Tolstoy, you'll have to read Anna Karenina next year! I read it a year ago and I think it's now my favorite book. I haven't read War and Peace yet... someday I will.

Emily said...

That is a really impressive book list. I've been meaning to read The Iliad and The Odyssey for a long time now. Maybe I'll get around to it next year. Reading War and Peace is a serious achievement. I'm glad to hear that you liked it. I'll have to put it a little higher on my To-Read list.
Congratulations on a great reading year. Good luck on your goals for next year.

Anonymous said...

I may have to give "How to See yourself as You Really Are" a try. (I must be crazy to go straight to the pick you list as your most difficult read of the year!)

I've heard the Dalai Lama speak in person a couple of times too (once late in 2009 just before the Y2K "event" which I remember him describing as likely to be just "another day and another night."). His brother was for quite awhile the director of the Tibetan Cultural Center in Bloomington, IN (if I'm not mistaken, he has since passed away) and that brought His Holiness through central Indiana a few times.


Rebecca Reid said...

Looks like a great reading year! And cut yourself some slack on your reading progress ...`tackling War and Peace really does take a lot of energy. (I liked it well enough when I read it earlier in 2011, but it wasn't a top 5 for me.)

Cath said...

Sounds like a very eclectic year indeed!

Tortilla Flag literally hurt me to read. I thought it was SO BORING, but then, I am not a Steinbeck fan to begin with, so...

Aarti said...

It looks like you really liked Jack London this year! Or that your book club chose him a lot? I've never read him, but perhaps I'll give him a try. Right now I'm reading Middlemarch, so I'm unlikely to pick up War & Peace any time soon, but I'm glad that you really enjoyed it and didn't find that it was wordier than it needed to be.