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Reading Deliberately

The friendly sky was indeed friendly: sans turbulence, cordial service of FAs, flat bed, champagnes and good food. Sleep whiled away first half the 14-hour light, reading the entire Jay McInerney book took up the other. Here is an update for this deliberate reading list that is part of the bigger plan for the year. Jessica from The Bluestocking Society originally drafted this fun and diverse reading plan.

1. Jane AustenCompleted. Read Emma. Persuasion is next.
2. Charles Dickens—Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith inspires Oliver Twist.
3. Ian McEwanCompleted (and also left me very appalled). Read The Comfort of Strangers and The Cement Garden. Done with him for now.
4. John SteinbeckCompleted. Read East of Eden, which is my #1 favorite book so far this year. Bought Grapes of Wrath.
5. J.R.R. Tolkien—this remains the most interminable goal.
6. British Mystery or Comedy—adopt Jenny’s advice and will read Dorothy Sayers
7. Russian author-–this one is a regular ritual of mine. I’ll either re-read The Master and Margarita or tackle In the First Circle.
8. Old Classics—Dickens, Faulkner, Joyce, Lawrence, etc.
9. Nonfiction—follow Tom and CB James’ advice, will read An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman and City of Quartz by Mike Davis, a history and geography of Los Angeles.
10. Poetry—another challenge because I’m totally not conversant in poetry. Pablo Neruda would suit me well. Walt Whitman?
11. Pulitzer Winners—One book stands out and catches my attention: March by Geraldine Brooks.
12. Published in 2010Completed. Read One Amazing Thing and will begin The Little Stranger by my new girlfriend favorite author Sarah waters.

Even though I fly so often, and consider that the pre-boarding preliminaries (security, waiting around) could be hassle, I still enjoy flying, and reading while I fly. Diminishing marginality doesn’t exist for me in flying long-haul. There is something inexplicably romantic about being up in the air with a drink and a book.


25 Responses

  1. Congratulations on the progress. 🙂 And I think your quip about Sarah Waters being your, erm, girlfriend, is one of the best recommendations of her I’ve had so far. :]

    For poetry, since you’re still thinking about your prospects, might I suggest that you check out Billy Collins and/or Mark Strand and/or Richard Siken? They’re my top three favorite poets–all three leave me breathless. :]

    • Sasha, you’re the one person who comes up with the most poets whom I have never heard of. I am writing their names down as I type now. It’s my weakest category in literature.

  2. This looks like such a nice, firm plan! I wish I wasn’t so scattershot. Le sigh.

    Enjoy your travels!

  3. There is nothing better than a long flight with a good book!

    • I think part of the reason for flying long haul is to be free of the daily trouble (and interruptions of phone calls and text messages) and to indulge in a book. 🙂

  4. I second Billy Collins, but you should also check out Kenneth Rexroth for poetry.

    And I agree – train travel is tops for me in terms of romance, but a drink in flight with a book makes me feel classy. I love the feeling of being in an airport with my luggage. I always feel a little outside of myself. I didn’t fly until I was 23, so I have very specific images of myself flying – what to wear, luggage, carry-on items. Do I sound ridiculous? Oh well. I’ve even thought of starting up a separate travel blog.

    • Keep these poets coming, yay! I will check out Kenneth Rexroth because I trust an English/literature teacher’s opinion.

      I recently did the Amtrak and found the experience very romantic indeed. I purchased an onboard upgrade to a “rommette” where I can have more privacy and storage. But I spent most of the time reading and sipping wine in the lounge car as the scenes of California petered out.

      Okay I confess: I always find an outfit for the plane, to make sure I look at least sharp if not classy. 🙂 I have a thing for British linen type of colors.

  5. I vote for Walt Whitman!

  6. First class with a drink and a book may be romantic….

    I often think, when I see a plane in the sky, “where are they going. I wish I was going there.” but the reality is often not quite like my dream.

    I really need to read something by Waters.

    • Caite, actually that was business class. 🙂

      I often fantasize that my special someone would just take me on a plane without telling me where we are heading for vacation. I enjoy sipping a drink and reading a book, for this recent flight the cabin was pretty empty and that felt like a very private space.

  7. Ugh, I’m terrible with Russian literature. May I suggest you fudge a bit and read Lolita? It’s by a Russian dude! Or also Dr. Zhivago is pretty good. And I hope you enjoy Dorothy Sayers! She is wonderful!

    • I was browsing a bookstore here in Hong Kong before meeting a friend and found these great titles by Nabakov. The Defense, which is about a child who falls in love with chess, sounds great. Another one is called The Laughter in the Dark. I’m going for Nabakov! 🙂

  8. Here are some quick notes from me:

    Love Austen, hate McEwan. Love Steinbeck, am rereading Tolkien for the umteenth time. OMG read the Lord Peter books (***IN ORDER***). — as I told Nymeth, I wish I could read them again for the first time. Russian authors … eh, no advice. Old Classics — so many wonderful books to pick from. Nonfiction — those look good. Have you thought of John Adams? Wonderful read. Poetry — no advice there either. I liked March, so good choice. I should read Sarah Waters…


    • Thanks for the headsup Beth.

      Is the Lord Peter book written by Tolkien? I thought Austen, Dickens, Joyce, and Faulkner have pretty much covered the old classics. Don’t you think? Like I told Jenny, I discovered two new titles by Nabakov: The Defense and The Laughter in the Dark. I will take your advice and look for John Adams as well.

      Read Sarah Waters–so I have told everyone! 🙂

  9. I would vote for Walt Whitman or perhaps Robert Frost. Good luck on the Tolkien, I just cant relate at all to that whole story at all (must be a deficiency on my part). I think you need to add “Of Mice and Men” and “Cannery Row” to your Steinbeck list. Perhaps you should read “City of Quartz” while in Los Angeles.? Hope the reading is going well!

    • Dave, do you have any Walt Whitman at home that I can read?

      I might defer Tolkien to the end to wrap up, that would give me more of an incentive because it’s the one last thing. I read Of Mice and Men in high school but am putting Cannery Row on my list. Do you know that a new bar/art district in Kula Lumpur, Malaysia is named The Cannery Row? I don’t think John Steinbeck had ever visited Malaysia, do you?

      I can’t wait to read City of Quartz and the book on gay LA. I can’t wait to see you in LA. 🙂 x

  10. Oh, wow! You’ve made a lot more progress on this than I have. I’ve recently delved into a little Sherlock Holmes, which was one of my categories. I’m also planning on a reread of East of Eden, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

    • Jessica, I’ve been having lots of fun reading through this list. I just bought a couple books by Dorothy Sayers for British mystery, and The Defense by Nakabov for Russian author. 🙂

  11. Poetry is never complete without Rimbaud. When Nabokov was once asked in an interview what he read and enjoyed his response was simply: “Kafka and Rimbaud… that’s all there is to it.”

    Give him a try.

  12. […] year saw a lot of bloggers going to the woods because they wanted to read deliberately (to love deep, to suck out the marrow, etc), and more than one blogger […]

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