Sunday, December 24, 2017

Final Reminder: Back to the Classics Challenge Ends in One Week!


Just one more week to submit links for the Back to the Classics Challenge! I'll be traveling for a week the day after Christmas, so this will be your final reminder before the links close just after midnight, December 31. 

Approximately 35 people have posted links (including myself, but don't worry, I'm not included in the prize drawing) out of more than 200 people who signed up originally. Odds are still pretty good -- you only have to link posts to six different book reviews to qualify for the $30 (U.S) gift certificate to Amazon.com OR The Book Depository!

Complete rules are here, and don't forget, you MUST link to a wrap-up post WITH LINKS to your reviews to qualify for the drawing. Links to the individual categories are on the sidebar of this blog. If you don't have a blog and are posting your reviews on Goodreads, just write a short-wrap up with all the links and corresponding categories in the comments section on the Final-Wrap Up Post page. If you do have a blog, post your link to your final wrap-up HERE to be included by midnight, December 31, 2017.

Thanks again to everyone who participated this year! I wish everyone happy and bookish holidays and I look forward to awarding the prize during the first week of January when I return.

Back to the Classics 2017: My Final Wrap-Up


I'm finished! It took me almost the entire year, but I did finish on time. Here's what I read for this challenge, with links to my reviews.


19th Century Classic: Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondely -- great, under-appreciated Victorian novel by woman author.



20th Century Classic: A young man is stuck living in Jerusalem at the end WWII in a boarding house with quirky characters. 

Classic by a Woman Author:  The Trail of the Serpent by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. A great Victorian sensation novel.

Classic in Translation: The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky.

Pre-1800 Classic:  Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. 



Romance Classic: Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer 

Gothic Classic:  A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott. Another Victorian sensation novel -- written by the author of many beloved children's classics! Who knew?


Classic With a Number in the Title: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers. 

Classic About an Animal (or Animal in the Title): Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau. 



Classic Set in a Place I'd Like to Visit: The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O'Brien (Ireland). 

Award-Winning Classic: Kristin Lavransdattar, Vol. I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset.


Russian Classic: Journey Into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg. A fascinating yet horrifying look at life in a Russian labor camp.

I picked some really good reads for this year's challenge. My favorites were Kristin Lavransdattar, The Trail of the Serpent, and Red Pottage, though Deerbrook was also really good. Least favorites were Journey Into the Whirlwind and The Country Girls, simply because they were rather dark and depressing, though both were very well written. Overall I'm really pleased with all the books I chose, especially because I managed to fulfill the challenge reading a majority of books by women, and six were from my own shelves. Next year I'm going to try to read more of my own books for this challenge as those TBR piles are pretty big.

And well done to everyone who participated! Congratulations and thanks for joining!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Holiday Surprise in the Deutsche Post


Yesterday I had a lovely surprise via Deutsche Post -- a present for ME that I had completely forgotten with all the holiday bustle! About a month ago, Adam at Roof Beam Reader generously offered a lovely giveaway from The Folio Society -- a brand new illustrated edition of Mansfield Park! Naturally I entered and was absolutely delighted to find out that I'd won! I gave him my address and with all the holiday excitement, promptly put it from my mind until the doorbell rang with a package from me that I didn't recognize.

To my delight, the package included the beautiful copy of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, plus a few extras! Here's what was inside:




First, a little note saying they were "Handpacked by Emma" -- how appropriate!




This GORGEOUS hard-cover volume of Mansfield Park, in a slipcase. Isn't the cover pretty?
(Yes, that is Star Wars gift wrap.)


What lovely illustrations! And the introduction is written by Lucy Worsley. 


There's Fanny with her uncle Mr. Bertram. 
I suspect he's unhappy because she won't marry Henry Crawford. 


And there were some extra surprises in the package as well:


Some beautiful bookish notecards -- they are so pretty I probably won't mail them to anyone!


And finally, this beautiful 2018 planner! It has gorgeous illustrations reproduced from the 13th and 14th centuries-- almost to beautiful to mar with my terrible handwriting!

Thank you again to Adam, The Folio Society, and to Emma for packing my box! It was such a lovely holiday surprise! I hope everyone has such wonderful bookish gifts under the tree this holiday season. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Lemuel Gulliver Never Learns To Stay Home


I don't know WHAT I was thinking when I came up with the Classic Published before 1800 category for the Back to the Classics Challenge last year. Give me a long-winded Victorian triple-decker and I'll devour it, but any time the publication predates 1800, it is a real struggle. Years ago I read Shakespeare in college for a literature credit, and liked it, and I truly enjoyed Candide, but this category was a real struggle for me. I originally meant to read Jane Austen's Love and Freindship (sic). JA is possibly my all-time favorite author and I still couldn't get into it. But I did own a beautiful Penguin Deluxe Hardcover Classic of Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726! Not a woman author, but a book from my own shelves -- plus, it's not too long, a bonus in December!

So. All I knew about Gulliver was that he was shipwrecked and wound up in Lilliput, where everyone is about four inches tall. There are images everywhere of Gulliver tied down by tiny people, so this was not a surprise. But I was surprised to learn that Gulliver is his last name (his first name is Lemuel).


Gulliver  quickly learns the language and eventually wins the trust of the people. In one memorable anecdote, he even saves the tiny palace while it is engulfed in flames, using, um, a very practical if questionable method. 


Yes, Swift doesn't shy away from describing how Gulliver copes with the day-to-day issues of life as a giant. (I found this surprising but I admit I did wonder about how the Lilliputians would feed him).

However, I didn't realize Gulliver's stay in Lilliput is only about a quarter of the book. Things eventually take a turn for the worse in Lilliput, and eventually, Gulliver makes his way back home to England. And I figured from the title that he had some more journeys, but seriously, though, wouldn't you have learned your lesson after the first shipwreck? Better to stay home. His wife must have been most displeased. 

His second voyage leaves him stranded in the land of Brobdingnag, where Gulliver has the exact opposite problem -- now he's the tiny one, in a land of giants! It's interesting to see Gulliver experience life from the Lilliputian perspective, and I think this was my favorite part of the book. He's basically a moneymaker for the family that find him and care for him, until he makes his way to court and becomes a plaything for the Queen until circumstances return him back to England.

Again, you'd think he'd stay off ships. But nope, back he goes again in Part III, visiting the strange lands of Laputa, Balnibari and . . . Japan! (This was rather disappointing, as I've actually lived there. Gulliver doesn't find it particularly strange, though they ask him to renounce his Christian beliefs and "trample on the crucifix." I don't think Swift actually ever went there.)

Despite his vows never to leave England, he makes one last journey, and the ship is overtaken by pirates who dump him in the land of Eventually, he makes his way to the land of the Houyhnhnms, a race of intelligent talking horses who are served by the sub-human Yahoos. He lives quite happily there for years as the only intelligent Yahoo, until forced to return home to his disappointment.

Overall I mostly liked this book but I did find the third section really dragged, mostly because it was a lot of politics and satire, and I'm not that familiar with that era of history and philosophy. I do prefer everyday life, which is why I liked the first half better.  I did quite like the final section where he lives with the intelligent horses. And I do always find it a little jarring when a book is published in the original 18th century Style in which all Nouns are Capitalized. (Fun fact: this is still the correct writing style in Germany, though my German is very poor so it's really not an issue).

Anyway, I'm glad to have finally read this -- and I probably won't be including this category in the Back to the Classics again!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Back to the Classics 2018: My List


It's always tough but fun for me to make my own list for the Back to the Classics Challenge -- I've read a lot of classics in the past ten years or so years, so my choices are getting a little more obscure. Last year I tried to read all women authors and nearly succeeded (the pre-1800 challenge is not my favorite -- what the heck was I thinking?). I'd love to read all women authors again but I am desperate to try and read more books off my own shelves -- my list of of owned-and-unread books is creeping dangerously close to the 200 mark. And I only read 33 of my own books so far this year! It's disgraceful. 


So this year, I swear that every single book for this challenge must be from my own shelves -- except the children's classic, since I don't own any that I haven't read. And without further delay, here's my tentative list: 


1.  A 19th century classic. Who Was Lost and Is Found by Margaret Oliphant. She was a fairly prolific Victorian writer, but this book has exactly ZERO ratings on Goodreads. I found it at John King Used & Rare Books in Detroit, and it's an 1895 edition! I think it's the oldest book I own. 



2.  A 20th century classic. Whisky Galore by Compton MacKenzie. I love wartime stories and I've heard this is quite funny. Also, there's a tiny chance I might go to Scotland next year -- it would be a perfect read for the trip!

3.  A classic by a woman author. Edith Wharton! I have four of her books on my TBR shelves, but I think I want to read The Children; The Fruit of the Tree; or Hudson River Bracketed. 




4.  A classic in translation.
 A Love Story by Emile Zola. I haven't read any Zola in ages, and there's a new translation from Oxford World's Classics that the publisher was kind enough to send me for free.




5. A children's classic. Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery. I finally got around to reading Anne of Green Gables about 10 years ago and couldn't believe I'd taken so long to read it -- and then promptly put off reading the rest of the series. I've wanted to read this one for years! (This will be the exception to my read-my-own-books rule)





6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. Definitely fiction! I bought several British Library Crime Classics last year on a trip to London -- how could I resist those covers? 




7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. Mark Twain -- I own both Roughing It and Letters from Hawaii. Or possibly Orient Express by Graham Greene -- I'm guessing it has little in common with the Agatha Christie mystery, but I've mostly liked his work so far so I'll give it a try. 





8. A classic with a single-word title. Westwood by Stella Gibbons or Peony by Pearl S. Buck. I also have a Virago Modern Classic that looks really good, Crossriggs by Mary and Jane Findlater.




9. A classic with a color in the title. Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple. Or maybe Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxeley.



10. A classic by an author that's new to you. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane, a German language classic. I have a newly published Persephone edition, and I feel like I should actually read something German while I live here in Germany.




11. A classic that scares you.  Les Miserables, by far the longest book on my TBR shelves. I have two different copies, the Penguin Hardcover classic and also a mass-market Signet paperback. (They have different translations but I haven't decided which one, so I'd love recommendations if anyone's read either of them.)



12. Re-read a favorite classic.  I haven't read Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell in ages, and it's one of my all-time favorites! Or maybe I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

I have yet to finish this challenge reading the original books on my list, but you never know, this could be the year! I'm really looking forward to tackling this list. Can't wait to see what everyone else is reading!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Back to the Classics 2018


It's back! Once again, I'm hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge.  I hope to encourage bloggers to discover and enjoy classic books they might not have tried, or just never got around to reading. And at the end, one lucky winner will receive a $30 (US) prize from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!

Here's how it works:


The challenge will be exactly the same as last year, 12 classic books, but with slightly different categories. You do not have to read all 12 books to participate in this challenge!

  • Complete six categories, and you get one entry in the drawing
  • Complete nine categories, and you get two entries in the drawing
  • Complete all twelve categories, and you get three entries in the drawing

And here are the categories for the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge:


1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.


2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.


3.  A classic by a woman author


4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Modern translations are acceptable as long as the original work fits the guidelines for publications as explained in the challenge rules.


5. A children's classic. Indulge your inner child and read that classic that you somehow missed years ago. Short stories are fine, but it must be a complete volume. Young adult and picture books don't count!


6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. This can be a true crime story, mystery, detective novel, spy novel, etc., as long as a crime is an integral part of the story and it was published at least 50 years ago. Examples include The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, In Cold Blood, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, etc.  The Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list is an excellent source for suggestions. 


7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. The journey itself must be the major plot point -- not just the destination. Good examples include The Hobbit, Around the World in 80 Days, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, Kon-Tiki, Travels with Charley, etc. 

8. A classic with a single-word title. No articles please! Proper names are fine -- Emma, Germinal, Middlemarch, Kidnapped, etc.


9. A classic with a color in the title. The Woman in White; Anne of Green Gables; The Red and the Black, and so on. (Silver, gold, etc. are acceptable. Basically, if it's a color in a Crayola box of crayons, it's fine!)


10. A classic by an author that's new to you. Choose an author you've never read before.


11. A classic that scares you. Is there a classic you've been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now's the time to read it, and hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!


12. Re-read a favorite classic. Like me, you probably have a lot of favorites -- choose one and read it again, then tell us why you love it so much. 


And now, the rest of the rules:

  • All books must be read in 2018. Books started before January 1, 2018 do not qualify. All reviews must be linked to this challenge by December 31, 2018. I'll post links for each category the first week of January which will be featured on a sidebar on this blog for the entire year. (The exception is the Final Wrap-Up link which I'll post later in the year, to avoid confusion).
  • You must also post a wrap-up review and link it to the challenge no later than December 31, 2018. Please include links within your final wrap-up so that I can easily confirm all your categories. If I cannot find your reviews, I will not enter your name in the drawing. Also, it is OK to rearrange books to fit different categories in your wrap-up post. Most books could count toward several different categories, so it's fine if you change them, as long as they are identified in your wrap-up post. If you do not have a blog and wish to link your reviews on Goodreads, you MUST post a wrap-up in the comments section of the Final Wrap-Up Link.
  • All books must have been written at least 50 years ago; therefore, books must have been written by 1968 to qualify for this challenge. The ONLY exceptions are books published posthumously. Recent translations of classics are acceptable.
  • E-books and audiobooks are eligible! You may also count books that you read for other challenges.
  • Books may NOT cross over within this challenge. You must read a different book for EACH category, or it doesn't count. 
  • Multiple books by the same author are also acceptable. 
  • Children's classics are acceptable, but please, no more than 3 total for the challenge; and please, no picture books.
  • Single short stories and short poems do not count, but you may use full-length narrative poems like The Odyssey and short story collections like The Canterbury Tales, as long as it is the entire book.
  • If you do not have a blog, you may link to reviews on Goodreads or any other publicly accessible online format. For example, if you have a Goodreads account, you could create a dedicated list to the challenge, and link to that with a tentative list (the list can change throughout the challenge). If you do use Goodreads, make sure you indicate in each review or in your wrap-up which book corresponds to which category, otherwise I will not count it.
  • The deadline to sign up for the challenge is March 1, 2018. After that, I will close the link and you'll have to wait until the next year! Please include a link to your original sign-up post, not your blog URL. Also, make sure you add your link to the Linky below, NOT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION. If I don't see your name in the original Linky, YOU WILL BE INELIGIBLE. If you've made a mistake with your link, just add a second one and let me know in the comments. It's no problem for me to delete an incorrect link.
  • You do NOT have to list all the books you're going to read for the challenge in your sign-up post, but it's more fun if you do! Of course, you can change your list any time. Books may also be read in any order. 
  • The winner will be announced on this blog the first week of January, 2019. All qualifying participants will receive one or more entries, depending on the number of categories completed. One winner will be selected at random for all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $30 (US currency) from either Amazon.com OR $30 worth of books from The Book Depository. The winner MUST live in a country that will receive shipments from one or the other. For a list of countries that receive shipments from The Book Depository, click here
So what are you waiting for? Sign up at the linky below! I'll be posting my list of possible reads for 2018 in the next few days. Happy reading!


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Only 30 days left for the Back to the Classics Challenge!



There are only 30 days left for the Back to the Classics Challenge! Did you sign up for the challenge? Have you completed six or more books? There is still time to complete the challenge and qualify for the prize drawing by posting a short wrap-up and linking here.

So far only 15 people have linked to wrap-up posts so odds are in your favor! You have until midnight, December 31 (PST) to post. What are you waiting for?