A plume with a hue

Setting my reading intentions for 2023

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My reading changed considerably in 2022 as it took on new directions: reading the classics, reading multiple books simultaneously, listening to audiobooks. With this in mind, here are my reading intentions for 2023.

Read fewer books

Although I slowed down my reading this year, the fact that I scheduled more time to read meant I got through more books. However, I’m often drawn to shorter novels and novellas, which obviously increases the quantity. I have started to pick up some longer works (Anna Karenina, Ulysses, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell are amongst these) and this is something I plan to continue in 2023. Naturally, this means that the number of novels I read will decrease, but that really does not matter. Reading is not about quantity but about the quality of the experience.

Curate quarterly/monthly reading lists

With a view to becoming more intentional about the novels I pick up, I will create quarterly and monthly reading lists. I belong to the Hardcore Literature Book Club and we have a somewhat ambitious list of works that are scheduled for the year (it includes the complete works of Shakespeare as well as some weighty tomes such as War and Peace). I don’t want to feel pressurised in any way but instead relax and enjoy the experience so I will plan my reading with plenty of room for flexibility. However, these quarterly and monthly lists will just be a guide, acting as a memory aid, and can be changed or discarded as circumstances require.

Deep dive and journal

This year, I’ve been diving deeper into the work I’ve read, following up references, and journaling on ideas and quotations, and this is something I want to continue in 2023. I’d also like to undertake an overall summing up of each novel, perhaps with some general thoughts on what I liked and didn’t like in the form of a bullet point list, with examples to make it more meaningful.

Explore poetry

I’ve discovered some poetry podcasts and I would like to widen my appreciation of poetry. I’m not entirely sure how I will approach this and whether I’ll focus on particular poets or specific periods. This is something that will develop as the year progresses.

Read the books on my shelf

As far as possible, I want to go to my shelf before I go to the bookshop. I don’t expect only to pick books that I already have but I do want to reduce the number of unread books that I own.

Review these intentions quarterly

The problem with setting intentions at the beginning of the year is that our circumstances, interests and desires can change over the course of twelve months. With this in mind, I plan to review these intentions quarterly and maintain, adapt or discard them depending on how they suit my reading life.

I feel quite relaxed about these intentions as I’m not viewing them as a rigid set of goals to be ticked off but more as a reminder of the direction I would like my reading to take. Instead of being restrictive, they feel liberating, and I’m excited to see how my reading experience develops over the course of the forthcoming year.

What are your reading intentions for 2023?

My reading plans for January 2023

I am attempting to be more intentional about my reading this year, considering carefully what I want to read, how long it will take, bearing in mind I am to slow down and read fewer books, to think about how books will complement each other, and to work on long-term projects. I now tend to have one classic, one contemporary, and one audio book on the go simultaneously, in conjunction with the projects. Taking this into account, here is my proposed list for January.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I am to read this over twelve weeks and have just started this very long novel.

The Memory Box by Kathryn Hughes – This has been chosen for my January book club.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – I started this towards the end of last month and am about one fifth of the way in.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare – I’m reading and watching this in preparation for an upcoming theatre trip.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare – Not so much a read but a follow-along as I watch the Globe Theatre’s production starring Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry, which is an absolute joy.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – I’m reading this in line with the original serialisation schedule, which ran from January to August.

Selected Poems by Tennyson – This is part of my conscious exploration of poetry.

First Love by Ivan Turgenev – I’m about halfway through listening to this novella, which is free with an Audible membership.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare – I studied this play, which I believe was his first, at school. Part of the Hardcore Literature Book Club’s schedule this year is to read Shakespeare’s complete works, although I may run this over into next year, depending on how I get on.

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust – This is a very long-term project and I’m about 40 pages into the first volume, Swann’s Way.

There is no pressure to complete these and I would imagine I will also read some additional contemporary fiction but we’ll see how I get on and how the mood takes me. Another aim is to favour fluidity and flexibility over rigidity.

My plan for reading War and Peace

One of my first new projects for 2023 is to read the weighty tome, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. To help me to accomplish this in twelve weeks with ease and to alleviate pressure so that I can thoroughly enjoy the journey, my strategy is to split it into sections as follows:

Week 1 – Volume 1 – Part 1 (approx 100 pages)

Week 2 – Volume 1 – Part 2 (approx 100 pages)

Week 3 – Volume 1 – Part 3 (approx 100 pages)

Week 4 – Volume 2 – Parts 1 and 2 (approx 130 pages)

Week 5 – Volume 2 – Parts 3 and 4 (approx 130 pages)

Week 6 – Volume 2 – Part 5; Volume 3 – Part 1 (approx 170 pages)

Week 7 – Volume 3 – Part 2 (approx 125 pages)

Week 8 – Volume 3 – Part 3 (approx 125 pages)

Week 9 – Volume 4 – Parts 1 and 2 (approx 100 pages)

Week 10 – Volume 4 – Parts 3 and 4 (approx 110 pages)

Week 11 – Epilogue – Parts 1 and 2 (approx 100 pages)

This leaves one week for flexibility. Some weeks I may read more, some less, but for me this feels achievable, and if it transpires that it takes longer, it really doesn’t matter. I anticipate reading it first thing in the morning when my concentration levels are at their highest and my mind at its most fresh.

When I read Anna Karenina last year, I began with an allocation of two chapters a day but I became so engrossed in this work (to the point of even taking it on holiday with me!) that I found myself reading more until I felt I must ration myself to four chapters a day as I didn’t want it to end. I’ve also just listened to The Death of Ivan Ilych, which was also a 5-star read for me, so in some way I am ‘in simpatico’ with Tolstoy’s work. As a result, reading War and Peace is not as daunting as it might otherwise have been.

During the first three months of the year, I will also be enjoying contemporary fiction, Shakespeare, and poetry. I find being a ‘polygamous’ reader means I alway have a book on to go that suits my mood, time of day, level of tiredness, amount of effort, and so on. I used to read one novel at a time but if I didn’t feel like picking it up, then I didn’t read at all and sometimes my reading stalled for weeks or months when I was struggling with a book for whatever reason.

To sum up, I’m optimistic about not only reading War and Peace but also enjoying the experience as much as I enjoyed my dive into Tolstoy last year.

What do you think? Do you do something similar? Would this work for you?

What I read in December 2022

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Here is a list of what I read in December. Those marked with an asterisk are 5-star reads.

Two Lives – William Trevor (this volume contains two novellas: ‘Reading Turgenev’, an exploration of a difficult marriage, and ‘My House in Umbria’, a story of survivors of a terrorist attack)

Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse (a spiritual journey of enlightenment)

As You Like It – William Shakespeare (one of his most famous comedies, which I read in preparation for a theatre trip next year)

Snow – Orhan Pamuk (some beautiful descriptions and profound ideas, but a little too heavy on political battles for me)

*The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse (my third reading of this appropriately seasonal and sensitive story of love, loss and grief)

Ulysses – James Joyce (finally completed this long-term project; a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, which I feel was probably more fun to write than to read, although it had its moments)

The Ice Palace – Tarjei Vesaas (a unique and atmospheric exploration of grief in the snow-covered, frozen Norwegian landscape)

The Hero With A Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell (an interesting, but overly long, exploration of the hero’s journey in mythology)

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James (a ghostly, psychological exploration of a strange governess)

*The Death of Ivan Ilych – Leo Tolstoy (a dying man reflects on his life and death)

The Winter’s Tale – William Shakespeare (irrational jealousy has devastating consequences in this tragi-comedy)

Babel – R F Kuang (an interesting exploration of translation and colonialism, language and power in an imaginary 19th century Oxford, and a rare dip into fantasy for me)

Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky (the existential ravings of one of literature’s most unlikeable narrators)

And that’s it for 2022 – happy New Year!

Reading classic literature – 2022

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This year, I made a concerted effort to read some of the classics and, looking at the list, I’m surprised at just how many are on it.

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain (easier to listen to than read)
  • Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen (a brilliant satire on the gothic novel)
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson (raising questions about the role of science and the duality of man)
  • Persuasion – Jane Austen (her final novel highlighting the dangers of allowing others to influence your actions)
  • The Seagull – Anton Chekhov (a dramatisation of romantic and artistic conflicts)
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë (an atmospheric tale of love and suffering)
  • Three Sisters – Anton Chekhov (a family live in dissatisfaction as they dream of returning to Moscow)
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (a satirical look at English society and its relationships)
  • A Sicilian Romance – Ann Radcliffe (a typical example of early gothic in all its sensationalism)
  • Lady Susan – Jane Austen (characters revealed through correspondence)
  • The Odyssey – Homer, translated by Emily Wilson (surprisingly accessible epic tale)
  • Much Ado About Nothing – William Shakespeare (a comedy with a dark turn)
  • To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf (a stream of consciousness meandering)
  • Dubliners – James Joyce (tales of Dublin’s characters)
  • Flush – Virginia Woolf (a charming ‘biography’ of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel)
  • Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf (one day in the life of Clarissa as she prepares for her party and reflects on her life)
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread – E M Forster (the story of an unsuitable marriage)
  • The Years – Virginia Woolf (scenes from family life, focussing on a different day in each several years)
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (an absorbing masterpiece exploring the psychological complexity of its characters)
  • An Inspector Calls – J B Priestley (an exploration of actions, consequences, selfishness and redemption)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (as funny as ever and an absolute joy of confusion)
  • The Lottery – Shirley Jackson (a shocking tale of small-town life)
  • Dracula – Bram Stoker (epistolary tale of good versus evil)
  • Olivia – Dorothy Strachey (a gem of a coming-of-age novella by a member of the Bloomsbury set)
  • The Lost Stradivarius – John Meade Falkner (a haunting tale of possession)
  • Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E Frankl (a sobering and inspiring account of survival in the most horrific of circumstances)
  • Othello – William Shakespeare (jealousy with tragic consequences)
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Charles Dickens (the unfinished and thus inconclusive final novel)
  • A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (a heartwarming story of reflection and redemption)
  • Siddhartha – Herman Hesse (a spiritual exploration of how to live)
  • As You Like It – William Shakespeare (a comedy of love and identity)
  • Ulysses – James Joyce (a challenging and awe-inspiringly clever stream of consciousness novel charting a day in the life of Leopold Bloom)
  • The Turn of the Screw – Henry James (a psychological and ghostly story of a strange governess)
  • The Death of Ivan Ilych – Leo Tolstoy (reflections of a dying man on his life and his death)
  • The Winter’s Tale – William Shakespeare (senseless jealously and its consequences)
  • Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky (the existential ravings of an unpleasant narrator)

Considering that prior to 2022, I tended to avoid the classics and instead focus on contemporary fiction, I’m pleased to report that I enjoyed my journey through some of these enduring works, an exploration that I’m looking forward to continuing in 2023.

Women’s Prize for Fiction: reading the shortlist

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This year, I decided to read the Women’s Prize shortlist. Here are my thoughts on the contenders. There is one novel that I haven’t read yet, ironically the one that appeals to me the most: The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, the reason being that I am waiting for it to be published in paperback.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (4 stars)

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. The taverna is the only place that Kostas and Defne can meet in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic and chilli peppers, creeping honeysuckle, and in the centre, growing through a cavity in the roof, a fig tree. The fig tree witnesses their hushed, happy meetings; their silent, surreptitious departures. The fig tree is there, too, when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, when the teenagers vanish.

Decades later, Kostas returns – a botanist looking for native species – looking, really, for Defne. The two lovers return to the taverna to take a clipping from the fig tree and smuggle it into their suitcase, bound for London. Years later, the fig tree in the garden is their daughter Ada’s only knowledge of a home she has never visited, as she seeks to untangle years of secrets and silence, and find her place in the world.

Shafak is a great storyteller who manages to combine history, philosophy, tragedy and romance within a gripping plot. I learnt a lot about the relatively recent conflict in Cyprus and the plight of the people it affected. The various strands of plot and philosophical insights sit comfortably together in what is a very accessible novel.

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (4.5 stars)

Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets.

So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?

Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people. Or maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain. Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.

There is so much to enjoy about this novel. The characters, even when not acting their best, are sympathetically drawn and I was invested in them from the outset. The slow-paced narrative moves backwards and forwards in time, and I liked the way the story gradually unfolded and was revealed. There were points where it made me laugh and moments that brought tears to my eyes. All-in-all, it’s an excellent exploration of what its like to live with mental illness.

The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini (4.75 stars)

Alethea Lopez is about to turn 40. Fashionable, feisty and fiercely independent, she manages a boutique in Port of Spain, but behind closed doors she’s covering up bruises from her abusive partner and seeking solace in an affair with her boss. When she witnesses a woman murdered by a jealous lover, the reality of her own future comes a little too close to home.

Bringing us her truth in an arresting, unsparing Trinidadian voice, Alethea unravels memories repressed since childhood and begins to understand the person she has become. Her next step is to decide the woman she wants to be.

The audiobook is beautifully narrated by the author, who is also a poet, and this serves to bring the story alive and makes the experience quite personal. Although there are some truly harrowing events, the protagonist doesn’t allow them to crush her spirit but keeps driving herself forward with strength, and thus the novel never loses its sense of hope. It is set mainly in the present but the chapters are interspersed with scenes from a week in her childhood, which serve to illuminate our deeper understanding of the main character. Overall, the novel has a vibrant feel to it considering it deals with the darkest of themes.

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki (4.5 stars)

After the tragic death of his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house – a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.

At first Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, he falls in love with a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many.

And he meets his very own Book – a talking thing – who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

This is my first encounter with this author. I enjoyed this novel but not quite as much as I thought I would, although it still received a high star rating. I personally wouldn’t have chosen it as the winner, perhaps because I read it directly after Great Circle, which felt more unique and engaging.

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (4.75 stars)

From the days of giant passenger ships sliding past Arctic icebergs, to the daring pilots of WWII, to present-day Hollywood and its malcontents, at the core of this story is the indomitable Marian Graves and her twin brother Jamie who are twice abandoned by their parents. Marian and Jamie grow up roaming Montana forests, more comfortable with landscape than with people.

When a pair of aerobats take their exhilarating show to a nearby airfield, Marian’s life is changed forever. Watching them roll, dive, and loop in their mini plane, she can think of nothing else but flying. As she grows into a woman, she sacrifices everything to command the breathtaking sense of freedom, of utter control over her own fate, that she feels when in the air. She becomes one of the most fearless pilots of her time, and in 1949 she sets out to do what no one has done before: fly the Great Circle around the earth, north to south around the poles. Shortly before completing the journey, her plane disappears, lost to history.

In 2015, Hadley Baxter, former child star and poster girl of the blockbuster Archangel franchise, has just been fired for cheating on her on-screen boyfriend. Struggling to escape the fury of the fans, she grasps at an offer for the comeback role of a lifetime: to play the famed female pilot Marian Graves in a biopic. From the first pages of the script, she feels an instant connection with Marian, a woman who refused to be bound by gravity or any of the other strictures of her time. After filming is complete, her bond grows stronger as she begins to question whether the Great Marian Graves really did die at all.

Of all the Women’s Prize shortlisted novels, this was the one that appealed to me the least, unfortunate as at 670 pages, it was also the longest. I took a chance and packed it as a holiday read. I truly needn’t have worried as I found it absolutely engrossing. I loved the characterisation: I had a lot of sympathy with Marian, and admired her determination to pursue her passion in a male-dominated world, and the occasional dips into the history of aviators complemented the plot in an interesting and illuminating manner. Unusually for me, I was less interested in the present-day Hadley Baxter storyline, which reminded me slightly of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (unlike everyone else, I didn’t enjoy that novel). However, as the journey progressed, its importance become ever more relevant, and the dual timeline came together beautifully at the end. This turned out to be a perfect holiday read for me as I enjoyed the novel’s length and slow pace, which gave me the opportunity to spend an extended period of time in the company of these unique and interesting characters.

I enjoyed the diversity of this shortlist and am glad I decided to work my way through it. I’m looking forward to reading the final contender when it is released in paperback, and will do so at some stage in 2023.

Review of Readings Intentions for 2022

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Back in December 2021, I set my reading intentions for 2022. How did I get on? Here are my original intentions and a review of the results.

One: Slow Down

What I originally said: I felt driven to read in 2021 but I’m not sure that the speed at which I am reading is conducive to the experience. There were lot of books I ‘had’ to read by certain dates for book clubs and courses but this created a certain degree of pressure. In 2022, I would like to read at my own pace and not feel compelled to whizz through one novel and then start the next, merely in order to meet a deadline.

How I got on: Whilst I did slow down my reading, paradoxically I’ve read more books than I did in 2021! This has happened because I’ve changed my reading habits. I have several books in progress simultaneously, the more challenging ones I read first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh, the less demanding after lunch or before bed. Also, through silent book clubs, I’ve also improved my ability to concentrate for extended periods of time.

Two: Complete the 52 Book Club 2022 Reading Challenge

What I originally said: This might seem to go counter to my first intention but I enjoy matching the novels I read to the categories in the challenge and as I have read well over 52 books this year (105 at the last count), I can easily slow my pace and still complete it. I rarely select books specifically to fulfil a category but simply match my reading to the categories, which sometimes requires a bit of creative imagination and a fair amount of poetic licence!

How I got on: I completed this with relative ease, aided by a very loose interpretation of the prompts!

Three: Keep a more detailed reading journal

What I originally said: I started off 2021 by keeping a detailed reading journal but tailed off along the way. It does, however, make me think more about what I’m reading and so I want to try this again in 2022.

How I got on: This is a work-in-progress and I’m trying different methods. I have been writing a little more than I had previously but I still haven’t found the best way to approach this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Four: Use the library

What I originally said: Before March 2020, I regularly borrowed books from the library but never went back to doing so after it reopened. I daren’t think what I’ve spent on books this year – it’s been one of my guilty pleasures – and I really need to get back to borrowing books. It’s somewhat frustrating because it’s not a big library and they rarely have the specific books I’m looking for. However, this does force me to read ones that I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered and which turn out to be gems, such as Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter.

How I got on: I’ve been using the library more and have come across a few gems there, such as ‘Piranesi’ by Susanna Clarke and ‘The Inseparables’ by Simone de Beauvoir, both of which I took a chance on, which paid off.

Five: Explore authors in greater depth

What I originally said: A few of times last year I went on YouTube to find out more about specific authors: Elif Shafak, Christy Lefteri and Mohsin Hamid come to mind. These interviews certainly enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of their novels and it would be beneficial to do this more often in the forthcoming year.

How I got on: Occasionally, I will watch an author interview but I haven’t done this as often as I could have. What I have done is join the Hardcore Literature Book Club, Benjamin McEvoy’s Patreon-based series of lectures and interactions, which has been a game-changer for me.

A year is a long time and I do think that setting goals is problematic as our wants and needs can change dramatically during this time period and we need to remain adaptable, realistic and responsive. Overall, I’m happy with the intentions I set last December and am currently considering what my aims will be for the forthcoming twelve months.

The StoryGraph Reads the World 2022 Challenge

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Here are the list of countries and the books I read.

  1. Brazil: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept – Paolo Coelho
  2. Haiti: Blue – Emmelie Prophete
  3. India: Amnesty – Aravind Adiga
  4. New Zealand: Sorrow and Bliss – Meg Mason
  5. Palestine: Mornings in Jenin – Susan Abulhawa
  6. Russia: The Seagull – Anton Chekhov
  7. South Korea: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam Joo
  8. Turkey: The Island of Missing Trees – Elif Shafak
  9. Vietnam: The Sympathizer – Viet Than Nguye
  10. Zimbabwe: Nervous Conditions – Tsitsi Dangarembga

I enjoy these challenges as it forces me to seek out books I wouldn’t normally come across and explore some new-to-me writers.

My reading plans for December

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I’m trying to be more intentional about what I read. Here are my plans for December:

Two Lives – William Trevor. I’ve read the first story ‘Reading Turgenev’ in this two story volume and have just started the second one ‘My House In Umbria’.

Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare. This is currently my favourite Shakespeare play and I will be rereading this along with the Hardcore Literature Book Club. I may also watch the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre production starring Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry, which is available online via the Shakespeare’s Globe website. It’s perfect.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke. I read Piranesi earlier this year and absolutely loved it so I’ve been saving this novel to read from my birthday in mid-December and into the Christmas period.

The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse. I’ve read this a couple of times in the past and have chosen it for my December book club as it seems a fitting time of year to read it. I’m going to take it very slowly, one short chapter per day, and journal around it to deepen the experience.

Snow – Orhan Pamuk. I’ve had this on my shelf for a while, having read ‘My Name is Red’ in December 2020. Winter seems like the right month to dust it off.

As You Like It – William Shakespeare. I’m reading this in preparation for a theatre trip in January next year. I think I saw it many, many years ago but can’t remember anything about it.

My ongoing reading projects (the first five of which are via the Hardcore Literature Book Club), which I will continue in December are:

Ulysses – James Joyce. The next two sections to read are ‘Oxen of the Sun’ and ‘Circe’, which I hear are even more challenging that some of the other sections. Once completed, they will take me to page 703 of 933.

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James. This is a slow listen in line with the serialised publication schedule and is scheduled to complete by the end of the year. I am finding this protracted approach difficult as I don’t have a hard copy but just the audiobook.

In Search of Lost Time – Marcel Proust. This is a very, very long ongoing project, which I’m taking extremely slowly. Ideally, I’d like to catch up with the reading and lectures by the end of the year so I can follow along in ‘real time’ from next January.

Siddharta – Hermann Hesse. This is from the HLBC backlist and I should finish it this weekend.

Sonnets – William Shakespeare. This is part of a project to read all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I’ve read the first four and plan to read another six during December.

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov. This is an ongoing buddy read with a friend.

This is far less ambitious than my usual plan and if achieve more or less all of these aims, I will be very happy. I want to be ready for the 2023 Hardcore Literature Book Club programme, which has just been released and is somewhat daunting, starting as it does with Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece, ‘War and Peace’, at a whopping 1400 pages!

If you are tempted by the Hardcore Literature Book Club, with its excellent programme and outstanding lecture series, you can discover more about it here:

What I read in November 2022

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Here are the books I finished in November, with those asterisked receiving a rare 5-star rating from me. It was a good month, possibly because I am choosing my reading with more care.

The Lost Stradivarius – John Meade Falkner (an eerie tale of possession)

The Paper Palace – Miranda Cowley Heller (chosen for my November book club and a dual timeline narrative set over one day and 50 years)

Lean Fall Stand – Jon McGregor (an Antarctic experience leads to a difficult recovery)

*Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E Frankl (the book everyone should read)

Treacle Walker – Alan Garner (for me, a very disappointing Booker prize winner)

*Elena Knows – Claudia Piñeiro (an exploration of grief compounded by Parkinson’s Disease)

The Inseparables – Simone de Beauvoir (my first experience of this writer and I will most definitely be reading more of her work)

The Shining – Stephen King (uncanny goings-on at the Overlook Hotel; I’m new to King’s writing and am enjoying it)

*Othello – William Shakespeare (a reading in preparation for a theatre trip; true villainy in action)

Last Night in Montreal – Emily St John Mandel (the story of a woman who keeps leaving; another dual timeline narrative)

*The Road – Cormac McCarthy (savagely emotional, dystopian, father and son battle to survive novel)

Vox – Christina Dalcher (more Dystopia with an excellent premise but poor execution)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Charles Dickens (his last, unfinished novel)

Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller (the mystery of the disappearing mother by one of my favourite authors)

*A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (a wonderful seasonal and uplifting story, beautifully written)

I had a book buying embargo in November and managed to get my TBR shelf down from 93 to 78 through a combination of reading and unhauling those I know I do not want to read. Time is precious and needs to be spent wisely so I’m considering in an end-of-year reflection how I want to approach my reading in 2023 and what I want to get out of it.

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