I’m currently in Malta, Europe, with some time to think and write about my reading life for 2018. I have yet to write my annual post in which I list the year reads, and highlight my favorites. There’s still some days before 2017 ends, and most likely I’d be able to finish two of my current books, Why Read the Classics?, by Italo Calvino, and The House of the Seven Gables, by Hawthorne. Why Read the Classics? starts with Calvino’s essay by the same name, and continues with other essays on classics such as The Odyssey, Tirant Le Blanc, Orlando el Furioso, and many more. Calvino has a delightful style, very well informed, and at the same time, it feels like a reader talking to another fellow reader. He is never obscure nor condescending. It makes me want to read Xenophon, Pliny the Eldest, and every author he talks about.
Like C.S. Lewis, there’s no practical nor utilitarian reason to read the classics in Calvino’s eyes. Ultimately, we read them just because it’s a pleasure, it’s better to read them than not!
In his essay about Nizami Ganjavi, the Persian poet, he gives us a mesmerizing presentation of the difference between the Orient and the Occident and their literary traditions. He does it through talking to us about the content and structure of his poem, The Seven Brides. His whole book is so worth it. It not only talks about literature, but literature cuts across life, history, and philosophy. And, if you are wondering, the book is not dense but substantial and delightful. It’s actually deterred me of my other read, the Classics Spin book. At the Classics Club, they sometimes host a spin edition, where they ask you to pick 20 from your classics, and in a week they publish a number. Number 7 was The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I committed to read it before the year ends. I am 60 some pages into it, and I’m very intrigued by the old lady, Hepzibah Pyncheon. But this is a paper copy, and Calvino’s book is a kindle read that I can do in the night with the built in light, so it won my attention.
About Hawthorne’s book, I can tell that this is Hawthorne extraordinaire. He is pompous but tender, wordy and humorous, an astute observer of the society of the times. We shouldn’t forget that this book was published in 1851. It’s a male American version of Jane Austen, or maybe Dickens’s counterpart? I’m not knowledgeable, my only experience is a reader’s opinion. I do like Hawthorne, but I can see how his traits as a writer are polarizing.
Back on track, these last four or five years, my readings have only gotten better, and I believe it’s because I’m now surrounded by great readers from which I pick up recommendations, and I also plan and device lists and do challenges that fit my reading preferences but which challenge me as well. I also read with my dear friend Kim, and I’m part of a book club. All this provides me an excellent guide.
My 2018 list, first draft:
- Re-read Don Quijote
- Re-read Meditations on Don Quijote, by Ortega y Gasset
- Monsignor Quixote, by Graham Greene
- Re-read Rayuela (Hopscotch), by Cortázar
- Re-read Guzman de Alfarache, Mateo Aleman
- Re-read La montaña mágica
- Re-read The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer
- Re-read Dandelion Wine
- Re-read La colmena, Cela
- Re-read Sinuhé el egipcio, Mika Waltari
- Re-read Alice in Wonderland
- Re-read Tractatus Logicus Philosophicus, by Wittgenstein
- East of Eden, Canary Row, more Steinbeck
- The Unconsoled, by Ishiguro (this would be a summer book club I’ll host at the blog)
- The House of Mirth, maybe Summer, Edith Warton
- The Sound of the Fury (one book at least by Faulkner, even if not this one)
- I Capture the Castle (though I’m not sure if I’d be a fan of it)
- War and Peace, Tolstoy
- Laurus, Eugene Vodolazkin
- The Master and Margarita (many Russian books for sure!)
- Gone with the Wind
- Virginia Wolf,
- Henry James,
- Zola (I don’t know which one from these three, if you have a favorite, please tell)
- Graham Greene
- El camino del cisne, Swan’s Way, Proust
- El Ulises, Joyce, yes, I’m going to try it
- More Benito Pérez Galdós
- La vida exagerada de Martín Romaña, Alfredo Bryce Echenique
- Cuentos fantásticos, Kafka
- Howards End, E. M. Forster
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I have not mentioned the books I read with my friend Kim, (which I publish in an independent post), nor the book club reads I do locally with a group of friends. I still have the ever growing Classics Club list, and hopefully I’ll also participate in the next edition of Back to the Classics.
I’ll keep adding as you suggest me titles, and as other books come across my path. Please, feel free to give me some ideas or direction.