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The Walks of Life Reading Project

ThingI was given a copy of The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say about the Stages of Life by Edward Mendelson for birthday. The book has sit idly on the shelve since it was free from the gift wrap. In addition to the June read-along of The Tale of Genji, I’m planning to read books that are discussed in Mendelson’s book. Jane Eyre, which I read last fall, is selected for close examination of transition from childhood to adulthood. I do not plan to re-read it, but will draw relevant passages to suit Mendelson’s discussion. The full list of titles in Mendelson’s discussion:

Birth: Franksenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Childhood: Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Growth: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Marriage: Middlemarch, George Elliot
Love: Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
Parenthood: To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
The Future: Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf

As you see, Virginia Woolf dominates the list with three titles. Most likely I’ll read all of hers and part of George Elliot. The goal is to explore how great works of fiction reveal the human beings live lives. As for these titles, it’s so easy to overlook their original, moral context.

20 Responses

  1. Very interesting list. I’ve only read the two Brontes. I would love to be able to get to all of those titles sometime, in chronological order.. hm?

  2. this should lead to some very interesting and thought provoking posts by you!! Can’t wait!

  3. hmm – sounded interesting until you listed the books. I would have perfered more variety in choice of authors rather than three by the same. It is interesting that they are all classics by female authors though – I wonder if gender has any impact on the path of discussion in this book.

  4. I’ve only read Wuthering Heights. Virginia Woolf scares me a little. I’m not convinced I would appreciate her style of writing…

  5. I’ve read Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, and am currently in the middle of Jane Eyre. Interestingly, I’ve read the books in the order of life they respresent.

    Frankenstein is great! You’re in store for a treat!

  6. Like everyone who has already commented I think this sounds like a really interesting reading project – looking forward to hearing your reflections.

  7. What a fascinating idea! I need to read this book, and then read (reread some of them) the books on that list! I look forward to reading your posts on these books!

  8. I love the premise of this book and may need to check it out for myself (I am particularly interested in reading the first 5 stages).

    I think I am more excited to read your posts after you have read and analyzed these books according to Mendelson’s discussion. I always enjoy your insights.

  9. It does sound like a very interesting reading project and I look forward to reading your thoughts on the different stages. Virginia Woolf – she scares me as well.

  10. Claire:
    I have only read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre fairly recently. I’ve got one more Bronte sister to go! 🙂

  11. Staci:
    To The Lighthouse would be next selection, and this project would be very challenging consider how dense the prose is. 🙂

  12. Christina:
    I agree that the weight should be evenly divided among different authors. But I’m very interested in reading To The Lighthouse, and also Middlemarch, which I had started last year but made very little progress.

  13. Sandy:
    Maybe I should do a Virginia Woolf read-along and dissect the book together? 🙂

  14. Eric:
    You’re already half way through this list–that’s very impressive! So would you read the Woolf selections? What do you think of the Bronte sisters in term of the writing?

  15. Karen:
    This would be quite a literary and reflectory experience for me….I have always wanted to explore the meaning of life, for example, how life is lived, and not from a philosophical point of view. This will provoke many thoughts.

  16. Robin:
    I’ll be reading along to compare the notes and discussion. The book is like a syllabus, a guidance, and a teacher. 🙂

  17. Molly:
    Thank you Molly. I’ll be working on this project for the rest of the year, maybe highlighting a book or two every month. 🙂

  18. Michelle:
    I think Virginia Woolf just takes time, and undivided attention. Once you get into her rhythm and rich prose, you will find it very pleasant. She’s a great story teller.

  19. I am very excited about reading A Tale of Genji with you. This Walk of Life list looks great, too. Wuthering Heights is on my list for the year. I have not read any of the books mentioned except Frankenstein, which I never would have thought to put on this list, but which fits nonetheless. I agree that this should lead to very interesting posts and discussions. Yay!

  20. Rebecca:
    Frankenstein would be a good diversion from my usual reading. I’ve been very tempted with The Tale of Genji and that many of you will join me is so exciting. You all can keep me in check. 🙂

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