My Century of Books Project Progress


When Lisa from TBR313 recently wrote about the progress she’s made on her reading projects I was prompted to examine my progress on my own project. The only ongoing project that I’ve committed to is the Century of Books challenge and, frankly, my progress has been pretty slow. This is the second year I’ve recorded all of the books I’ve read from 1900 to 1999 and I was really sad to see that I’ve only read 21 books published in the twentieth century in almost 2 full years. I could have sworn I’ve read more twentieth century books than that! Granted, I’ve not consciously chosen books for this project – I’ve just read what I wanted and then counted them if they fit into the parameters. Most of the books I’ve read are concentrated in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, which is no surprise as these are my favorite years to read in. I haven’t read anything from 1900-1922 or from 1977-1998. Obviously I need to try to deliberately choose books from those years to read if I’m ever going to complete the challenge.

Next year, I want to pay more attention to this challenge and to get to the half-way mark. I’ve been a bit disappointed with my reading this year as I haven’t read as many classics as I’ve wanted to or as I’ve needed to to make me a happy reader. I’m still trying to find the balance between reading what I want to read and what I feel obligated to read as a librarian. This year I feel I went too far on the contemporary/popular side so next year I need to come up with a different ratio. Perhaps one for one – one classic for every contemporary book I read. It’s a constant puzzle that I’m still trying to solve.

How have you done on your challenges or projects this year?

What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan


This delightful book is written by a Jane Austen expert, but it is in no way dry or academic. It examines twenty ‘puzzles’ or themes or curiosities that run through all of Austen’s novels, things such as ‘Is there sex in Jane Austen?’ and ‘Why is it risky to go to the seaside?’ The chapters are very in depth and use lots of quotes from the novels, yet they are short and snappy to read. I breezed through this book and really enjoyed the discussions that draw from each of Austen’s works. I definitely felt a desire to reread all of her novels with this new information in mind. Reading this feels like attending a class with that funny, warm, wonderfully brilliant favorite professor from college. I could listen to him all day.

Even if you’re not a rabid fan of Austen or a Janeite you’ll find much to like in this book. It delves into the history of social customs during this time period and also discusses aspects of her own life and experiences that affected her books. I found it to be insightful, witty and very entertaining.

Am I Becoming a Janeite?


I’ve always appreciated Jane Austen novels, of course, but I’ve never considered myself a Janeite. I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice one time – when I was 17. I remember thinking it was okay (however, I did stay up until 4 in the morning to finish it). At that time in my life I was more enamored of Madame Bovary or Tess of the d’Urbervilles – novels that are more tragic and melodramatic than Austen’s works. My next experience with reading her was when I was just graduated from library school, unable to find a librarian job and living with my parents. I was very discouraged and turned to books for escape. One of the most memorable of these books was Northanger Abbey. I remember spending days immersed in this novel. It did help to relieve my sadness. And then I read Sense and Sensibility when I was living in a small town in Arkansas, lonely and friendless. It was also a source of solace for me.

In subsequent years I’ve tried to read Emma and Mansfield Park several times, but have just concluded that I must not like Jane Austen all that much anymore – until now. Emma is such a good book. I absolutely love it. I’m a bit over half-way through and find myself sneaking paragraphs during the work day. It’s completely satisfying. And now I am very curious about Jane Austen herself, her life, her world and how she planned her novels. So, I’ve started What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan and have The Real Jane Austen by Paula Byrne on my nighstand. I’m also planning to read a few more, if not all, of her novels in the coming months. I’m waiting to make my selection until my book club chooses our 2016 books as there are three Austen novels up for consideration and I’ll work around whatever is chosen for next year.

This is the most excited I’ve been about an author or about reading in months. Thank you, Jane Austen!

Are you a Janeite? Which of her novels is your favorite?

Cover Collection: Emma


I started reading Emma on Thursday night out of sheer desperation. I’m suffering from the reading blahs right now and can’t find anything to hold my interest or anything that doesn’t sound like something else (why does so much historical fiction have to employ the dual narrative these days?) so I thought I’d try a classic that I’ve never read all the way through and force myself to stick with it. Later this year it’s the 200th anniversary of Emma‘s publication and it feels like the perfect time to read it. And I’m not having to force anything! I truly do like it and am savoring every paragraph. I guess Jane Austen is just what I needed.

My copy is the one on the top left, but I do love the bottom middle – and how stunning is the bottom left? Which of these covers do you like best?

*I totally and completely forgot that I already posted an Emma cover collection last year – am I losing my mind or what??*


One Book, Two Book, Three Book Meme

This photo has nothing to do with this post. I just like it.

I don’t have much to blog about lately as I am in a frustrating reading slump and can’t seem to stick with any book for longer than 25 pages. There are signs that this slump is on its way out the door, but in the meantime I remembered this meme that Simon at Stuck in a Book introduced many years ago and thought it would be fun to share a few tidbits from my bookish life lately (such as it is).

  1. The book I’m currently reading: The Virago Book of Ghost Stories edited by Richard Dalby and The Whirlpool by George Gissing – Every year I check out The VIrago Book of Ghost Stories from the library yet, sadly, I never read any of the stories. This year will be different! I’ve already read 4 of the stories and am determined to work my way through them all by the end of the month. Authors who have stories in the book include Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth Jenkins, Winifred Holtby, Rose Macaulay, F.M. Mayor…pretty much all the authors we love. I’ll be sure to report back on my progress. And also, again thanks to Darlene, I just started reading The Whirlpool by George Gissing.
  2. The last book I finished: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – I can’t really write about this in any detail since it won’t be published until January, but I can say that I loved it. If you like spare, lyrical writing and completely realistic and memorable characters keep this one on your radar.
  3. The Next Book I Want to Read: Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters – This has a bookshop, old letters, WWII, and family secrets – I hope it turns out to be as good as it sounds.
  4. The Last Book I Bought: Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll – I own almost all of the Persephone Classics, but this one has never appealed to me as much as some of the others. However, I’d like to have a complete set so I recently sent away for it.
  5. The Last Book I was Given: Life at Thrush Green by ‘Miss Read’ – My lovely friend Sara brought an old Penguin edition of this back from England for me.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be back with more regular posts soon!

All Virago/All August



This month the LibraryThing Virago group is hosting the All Virago/All August event. The goal is to read as many Viragos (or Persephones -they’re included) during the month as you can or as you want. It’s a great opportunity to read those classics that you’ve been putting off or that have lingered on your shelves for years and years. I know we all have a few of those! At first I planned to only read Vs & Ps, but there are a couple of contemporary novels that I am looking forward to (like this one) that I’ll slip in among the green and the grey. I’ve already finished The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes and Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski (reviews coming soon) and have a few others in mind. Here are the titles that are top of the list right now:

Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden

The Echoing Grove by Rosamond Lehmann

The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Saplings by Noel Streatfeild

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Tea By the Nursery Fire by Noel Streatfeild

Have you read any of these? Will you read any Vs or Ps in August?

Reading Re-set

Click photo for credit.

July hasn’t been a good reading month for me. I’ve only finished two books (out of dozens tried) and have not been enthused about my reading life. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve applied the ’50 page rule’ to this month and then have listlessly let fall from my limp hand after feeling utter disinterest and ennui about those 50 wasted pages. Yes, I’m being melodramatic. But it has felt like a reading tragedy.

Yesterday I realized that I need to lower my expectations, return to reading books I actually want to read and take a little break from reading galleys for a while. I deleted all my ‘Currently Reading’ books from Goodreads and decided to start over. Then I listened to my  heart and discerned that what I really feel like reading right now are Victorian novels and other classics. I love new, I love contemporary, but I think I have overdosed in the past few months and need to return to the land of old-fashioned delight that I truly enjoy.

I’m also going to keep my Goodreads ‘Currently Reading’ list to only five titles. This might seem a lot to some people –  I’ve never been the ‘one book at a time’ kind of person yet having 20 books on my currently reading list is a bit much. So, five is a good number for me.

And now I’m excited about reading again and can’t wait to share my thoughts!

Do you ever have to press the re-set button on your reading life?

My Reading Life Lately

I know I haven’t been around the blog much in the past few months and I miss it. I honestly don’t know why my posts have dwindled off, but I suspect it has something to do with my new reading habits. Back in April I decided to really devote myself to reading galleys, participating in the LibraryReads nominating process and to becoming a well-rounded readers advisory expert in my library system. This means that I’m not reading the type of books that I’ve read in the past or the authors that I normally devote myself to. Also,  I’ve been reading books about 2-3 months in advance of publication and find that many publishers, when granting access to a digital galley, ask that you not write about the book until 1 month before the book is released. As I’m not a very organized person when it comes to scheduling blog posts I completely forget all about writing about a book that I read 2 months ago when its publication date is near.

Though I love reading new books and am pleased with the difference it’s made in my approach to my job and my satisfaction in fulfilling my duties as a librarian, I don’t want to abandon this space or stop reading my true loves (all those Persephones, Viragos, and other British classics). So I just need to find a way to have better balance in my reading life and to incorporate all of my interests into the mix. I also want to write reviews for the new books I’m reading so I can not only share my opinions with you, but remember them better when I suggest them to patrons. Overall, returning to posting on the blog on a regular basis will be a good thing!

And I also hope to set aside time every week to catch up on my blog reading.

Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend and here’s to a lovely week to come!

Forgotten Photos from England

I took two cameras on my trip to England back in October – my primary camera and my backup camera. On the day we went to Westminster Abbey, the Churchill War Rooms and Kensington Palace I was very glad to have that backup. My number one camera failed to charge the night before (user error I’m sure) so I pulled out my second camera and didn’t have to miss taking photos that day. As you can see it was a pretty grey and rainy day and I ended up not taking as many photos as I usually do as I was huddled underneath an umbrella trying to stay dry. And that might have been why I forgot that I had these at all. I downloaded a few when I got back, but just remembered on Saturday that I had more on this camera than I had thought. I thought I’d share them here to remember what I lovely time I had and as a reminder to start being more frugal so that I can afford to go again next year.









Great Book Suggestions for Book Clubs


Thank you so much for all of your excellent feedback and suggestions for book club books. I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to choose for our May discussion, but now I have a fantastic list to select from and also have a surplus of titles to consider for future months. I’m going to share this list with the rest of my book club members in case they need suggestions as well. It’s always easier to decide on a book when the field is already narrowed to a list of reputable titles. Below, I’ve compiled the titles into an alphabetical list and also included recommended authors – hopefully, this will help others looking for good discussion books or just a good read for themselves. Thanks again!

Specific Titles

Coral Glynn – Peter Cameron

The Cutting Season – Attica Locke

Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather

Excellent Women – Barbara Pym

Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

The Hollow Land – Jane Gardam

Jim the Boy – Tony Earley

Listening Valley – D.E. Stevenson

Little Century – Anna Keesey

A Lost Lady – Willa Cather

A Month in the Country – J.L. Carr

Murder Past Due – Miranda James

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood

The Rosemary Tree – Elizabeth Goudge

The Scent of Water – Elizabeth Goudge

Secret Daughter – Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Silas Marner – George Eliot

The Solitary Summer – Elizabeth Von Arnim

Someone – Alice McDermott (Twitter suggestion)

The Soul of Kindness – Elizabeth Taylor

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis

Vanessa and Her Sister  – Priya Parmar

The Young Clementina – D.E. Stevenson


Tove Jansson

Penelope Lively

Emily St. John Mandel

Edith Wharton

Dorothy Whipple