Monday, December 22, 2014

Books Read, 2014

Books! Books! I read a lot of books this year. I will attempt to say a few words about a few of them, as if I am delivering a eulogy, apparently. Though few of these books are dead despite the less-than-ideal physical condition of many of their authors. I digress.

Chekhov and Shakespeare are always a delight; I wish I'd read more Shakespeare but we saw a good number of plays performed so I don't feel deprived. We're seeing "Three Sisters" in January sometime, and that'll be swell I am sure. I continue to digress.

The Confessions of St Augustine was well worth reading again, after lo so many years. It was instructive to see how his initial difficulties with faith were based upon fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of God, rather than differences with actual Christian theology. He was repulsed by his imagined God that was nothing like the God of Christianity. One encounters this sort of unintentional straw-manning all the time.

I seem to have been heavily influenced this year by Tom at the Wuthering Expectations blog. Tom invited people to read along with him through the great Russian novel chain of Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, Nikolai Chernyshevky's wacky What is to be Done?, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground. I kept going on past these books, reading The Devils (a lot of fun though less mad, perhaps, than it's made out to be) and finding some connections between all of this and Anton Chekhov's story "An Attack of Nerves." So I've had a good time with the old Russians this year. Next year I'll read Chekhov's nonfiction book about the prison colonies of Sakhalin Island. At that point I will have run out of Chekhov. Perhaps next year I'll finish reading all of Shakespeare's plays, too. I've read most of them by now. I think I have eight left. We'll see. Another digression.

Tom of Wuthering Expectations also read Robert Browning's masterpiece The Ring and the Book, and his posts led me to also read it, and I don't exaggerate when I say that it was a life-changing event. A long and difficult book in verse, full of all sorts of surprises and delights and horrors too, yes. Excellent.

This year I discovered Danish author Henrik Pontoppidan, and I read two of his novels including his long brilliant Lucky Per, which you should read if you can find it at a library (or if you can spare the $50 to buy a copy). I have an early Pontoppidan novel on the shelf at home, waiting to be read. Maybe in 2015. Lucky Per is great stuff.

I want to read more Latin/South American books in 2015, and more Japanese books, and more poetry. I also have a lot of Ruskin waiting in the wings to be read next year, which is good to know. Comforting. More French books, more African books. More of everything.

Mighty Reader and I have briefly discussed a simultaneous reading of Proust's In Search of Lost Time novels, tentatively over the summer. She read the whole thing a couple of years ago, and I've only read Swann's Way but have long meant to read all of it. The fly in the ointment of that plan is that we'd need to purchase a second set of the seven novels to accommodate two readers. Are we that mad? Maybe.

I continue to read mostly old books. I don't know quite why that is; I follow the scent of the reading and it leads me where it will. It's all discovery, and very little intent.

And now, the dull as dirt actual list:

William Shakespeare The Tragedy of Richard II
Angela Thirkell August Folly
Charles Dickens Bleak House
Michelle Argyle Catch
D.H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers
Henrik Pontoppidan The Apothecary's Daughters
Michelle Argyle Out of Tune
Leo Tolstoy Cossacks
Hans Christian Andersen Tales
Ivan Turgenev Fathers and Sons
Henrik Pontoppidan Lucky Per
Thomas Bernhard Concrete
John Ruskin The Stones of Venice (abr.)
St Augustine of Hippo Confessions
Reinhold Messner My Life at the Limit
Nikolai Chernyshevsky What is to be Done?
Rebecca West The Return of the Soldier
Cesar Aira Ghosts
Gabriel Garcia Marquez Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Benito Perez Galdos My Friend Manso
Angela Thirkell Summer Half
Fyodor Dostoevsky Notes From Underground
Anton Chekhov Tales of Chekhov, Vol 9 (trans. Garnett)
Francois Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel
Anton Chekhov Tales of Chekhov, Vol 5 (trans. Garnett)
Anton Chekhov Tales of Chekhov, Vol 2 (trans. Garnett)
Franz Kafka The Trial
John Cowper Powys Weymouth Sands
Iris Murdoch The Sea, The Sea
Harold Bloom The Anxiety of Influence
Yasunari Kawabata The Sound of the Mountain
Fyodor Dostoyevsky The Devils
Felisberto Hernandez Piano Stories
Michael Hearn (ed.) The Victorian Fairy Tale Book
Graham Greene The Heart of the Matter
Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov, Ann Dunnigan, trans.
Anton Chekhov The Shooting Party
Angela Thirkell High Rising
Heinrich Boll Billiards at Half-Past Nine
Gabriel Garcia Marquez Collected Stories
Henri Troyat Daily Life in Russia Under the Last Tsar
Robert Browning The Ring and the Book
Benito Perez Galdos Nazarin
Saul Bellow Henderson the Rain King
Orhan Pamuk Snow
James Joyce Dubliners
Anton Chekhov Three Sisters
Knut Hamsun Mysteries
Elie Wiesel Night
E.T.A. Hoffmann The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
Wilkie Collins The Woman in White
William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet
Robert Browning The Shorter Poems*
John R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit*

There are some pretty good books in that list.

* As I write this post, I'm still reading these two books, but I assume I'll have finished both of them by the end of the month. They are short books and I have over a week, after all.


  1. Very pleasing to read this.

    African, South American, Japanese, even French - good ways to avoid my influence, since next year will be heavy on Italian literature, although I Hope to follow your lead and get to The Devils. Simultaneous Proust is the good kind of madness.

    1. I'm pleased to have been so well influenced this year. A lot of things I would never have read, a lot of great stuff I'd have missed. My TBR stacks are full of books people have blogged about over the last couple of years.

      If I read anything Italian this year, it'll probably be Dante. The Devils is sure worth reading. Mighty Reader has read it in several translations and she gives the new one by Pevear and Volokhonsky (they call it Demons, I think) a strong recommendation. She laughed all the way through it. I read McAndrews, and it was pretty good.

      The Proust idea grows on me. Why not? With luck, we'll have just come back from Paris when we start the project.

    2. That's exciting! Next year, I vow to take a big vacation either to Japan or to France. I vow it! I've been studying both languages in preparation.

    3. That's also exciting! Have you been practicing your Washingtonian, too?

  2. What a good, interesting list... I had a thin reading year, really, but hope to have a fat one next year. Too many events, too much ferrying, too much travel, etc.

    1. You had a busy year with writing and promoting (and you have those children and that treacherous weather). I don't know how you get so much done as it is.

    2. I am usually satisfied well enough, but not so much this year. Too much scrambling about! I'll have to make some resolutions...

  3. Adelaide Uni has all of Proust online in the Moncrieff/Hudson translation, if you're using that one. Cynthia Gamble's book on Proust as Interpreter of Ruskin might be a thing to read after you've finished.

    1. I had written the most witty reply, but Blogger ate it.

      The Gable book looks like a natural, ta. I don't know what translation of Proust I'll read, but I'll want it in paper and ink because I read on the bus and at lunch and I like to mark up my books, too. Anyway, what's another seven books at my house? We wouldn't even feel the added bulk, I'm sure. Hell, I'll bet I've brought home at least seven books in the last two weeks already.

      The Adelaide University has an amazing online collection, doesn't it?

    2. No witty reply here, but that site is one of the three places that I go to when I'm looking for a book online, along with Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. It's very nice.

  4. I always appreciate you listing your read books, Scott. It inspires me.

  5. I confess that your brief note on Augustine compels me to revisit The Confessions. I think my earlier readings decades ago are in need of repair. Lord knows that I am in need of repair!

    Note: This is the magic of book blogging. A reader like me finds something to read just in the nick of time. If it were not for book blogging, how would poor saps like me find the next title to include on my "bucket list" ?