May and Milton in May in Review + Challenges Update and Reading Journal

It’s well into June and I haven’t done a “last month in review” post. Since I’m trying to simplify blogging, I’m going to do things a little differently from now on, I think. This is a review of my Milton in May project (which I finished last week). My next “project in review” post will be after my Victorian summer has ended.

I’ve finished my Milton project, although I’ll have to say I really started losing interest by the end. One month would have been plenty (I spent six weeks). There were even more Milton writings I wanted to read, like Samson Agonistes and Milton’s non-epic poetry.

My next project, my Victorian Summer, is well under way. Because I’m reading very long books (such as Armadale and Wives and Daughters) it may still be two weeks before I have a post for that. I’m also really enjoying the biography of Victoria and Albert. I think it was a great way to start the project.

Challenges

I’m rethinking the purpose of “challenges” for me. When I began blogging, it was a great way to organize my reading. Now that I have less time for blogging and reading, I have found that my reading is far too organized. I just need to read what I want to read when I want to read it.

Challenges should, therefore, be a challenge to me. I should join these public challenges to read things I don’t normally read. My goal in joining challenges is to then get in a habit of adding such books to my regular reading. For example, I joined the Japanese Literature Challenge last winter; I read The Pillow Book and then The Housekeeper and the Professor. I liked them so much, I gave myself a personal challenge to read more Japanese Literature in 2010. Now it’s a habit and I have a long list of books I want to read. The same thing is happening with the Orbis Terrarum Challenge, which is to read world literature. Now that I have lists of various books from the different continents, I have a huge desire to keep reading world literature. The challenge helped me develop a habit.

So from now on, I’ll be joining challenges that help me develop reading habits that I want to develop. But I’m going to try to resist challenges just for the sake of a challenge. I need less structure in my reading. I’m not joining any new challenges right now, not even the fourth annual Japanese Literature Challenge. Since I’m already in the middle of a Japanese literature book and I know which one I’ll read when I finish that, joining the challenge wouldn’t be a “challenge.”

This month, I’m calling a few challenges “finished.” The Once Upon a Time Challenge was to read fantasy, folklore, mythology, and fairy tales. I read three: The Two Towers by Tolkein (fantasy); Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee (folklore); and Paradise Lost by John Milton (mythology). For fairy tales, I was going to reread Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede, which was a favorite book of mine when I was a pre-teen. But, I started it and preferred the idea of reading my Victorian novels, so I stopped for now. Maybe it’s best kept as a childhood favorite without trying to revisit it. This challenge was for “fun.” I learned it’s important to just read something because I might want to (the Robin Hood story, for example). Counting Paradise Lost for this challenge was somewhat cheating since I was reading it anyway.

I’ve also read a  number of comics for the Graphic Novel Challenge. Last year, I think I read one all year, so I decided to read more this year. This year, so far, I’ve read the following graphic novels. You’ll note that these have a wide range of genres: classics retold, nonfiction, memoir, fiction, folktale story retold. I enjoy some more than others, and I think I’ll keep reading graphic novels when I need a break from something dense like, say, Armadale. My favorite was I Kill Giants but I also liked the Darwin adaptation a lot.

Finally, I’m calling myself done with the Women Unbound Challenge. See that link for the lists of books I’ve been tracking for that. So many novels I read feature women that it seems silly to keep tracking them all under the guise of a challenge. I do have a few more nonfiction books about women that I’d love to read. But now that I’ve been doing the challenge for a while, adding those books to my reading schedule does not feel like a challenge any longer! That is success.

Obviously, right now my focus is on Victorian literature. But I still intend to read some Sir Walter Scott for the Scottish Literature Challenge and a few more for the Black Classics Challenge as well. I’m undecided how I’m going to tackle poetry for the rest of the year. Drama and short stories have also gotten the shaft lately.

Reading Journal

In Progress: We Two: The Story of Albert and Victoria, Armadale, Wives and Daughters (all three for My Victorian Summer), Nineteenth-Century Russian Lit Sampler (for the Classics Circuit), and I Am a Cat (for my personal JLit Challenge).

Coming up: Inferno (for the Dante read-along; I still haven’t begun it!!), Love in a Fallen City (for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge/Asia), The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (for the Spotlight Series), and The Plague and The Stranger (the latter for my classics reading group for next month).

Finished Previously/Reviewed May

Finished Reading in May (and First Half of June)

I’ve linked below to anything I’ve already discussed on the site.

  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (250 pages; fiction)
  • God’s Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousame (240 pages; fiction).  Began in April.
  • I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura (about 180 pages; fiction/graphic novel)
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (250 pages; fiction)
  • The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (250 pages; fiction).
  • Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers (260 pages; fiction)
  • Great Short Stories by American Women (about 160 pages read; fiction/short stories)
  • Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, Sam Hart, and Artur Fujita (about 160 pages; fiction/graphic novel)
  • Hunger by Knut Hamsun (190 pages; fiction)
  • The Makioka Sisters by Junichuro Tanizaki (530 pages; fiction). Began in April.
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo (200 pages; fiction)
  • Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski  (240 pages; fiction). Read in June.
  • The Home-maker by Dorothy Canfield (290 pages; fiction). Read in June.
  • Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac (215 pages; fiction). Read in June.
  • Jerusalem: The Eternal City by David Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew Skinner (495 pages; nonfiction). Began in May.
  • Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy DeLisle (176 pages/graphic novel; nonfiction/memoir), Read in June.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (206 pages; children’s fiction). Read aloud to my son in June.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (375 pages; YA fiction). Read in June.

Milton in May: Milton-ish Works Read (with links if available)

See all my Milton-ish posts under the tag Milton in May.

Short Stories Discussed

I wasn’t a huge fan of reading so many short stories at once. Here are just the ones I mentioned on the site.

  1. “Sweat” by Hurston
  2. “Sanctuary” by Nella Larsen
  3. “A New England Nun” by Freeman
  4. “Trancendental Wild Oats” by Alcott
  5. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman
  6. “Smoke” by Djuna Barnes
  7. “The Stones of the Village” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
  8. “The Storm” by Kate Chopin
  9. “The White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett
  10. “The Angel at the Gate” by Edith Wharton
  11. “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather
  12. “A Jury of Her Peers” by Glaspell
  13. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
  14. “A Pair of Silk Stockings” by Kate Chopin
  15. “The Revolt of Mother” by Mary Wilkins Freeman

Children’s Books Reviewed

I need to review some more in the coming weeks. My son and I have been reading a lot!

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. I’m definitely changing the way I see/use challenges too. I’ve decided I’m better if I keep quarterly goals instead of yearly ones. I get tired after about a quarter of the year.

    I love that you read Narnia to your son at this age. The first time it was read to me, I was a senior in high school and the teacher read it, one chapter a day, as if we were a class of kindergartners. Needless to say I hated the book because of that and have never felt any desire to read anything else in the Narnia series. My son loved them when he was 6, though, when he read the whole series shortly after his birthday. The other two boys haven’t gotten into them, though. They’re less fans of fantasy.

    1. Amanda, yeah, the year long challenges are a bit too long for me, but if I focus on one challenge for a few months, then it’s more useful.

      I can’t imagine a high school teacher reading Narnia aloud! That’s ridiculous. My son enjoyed reading time and I had to do lots of “reminders” whenever we picked it up. (What happened when they walked through the wardrobe closet? Did they find Narnia!? Remember that Aslan is a lion? He’s good. The witch is bad, remember?) Maybe next summer he’ll be old enough to remember and love it on his own without so much coaching.

    1. Katy, I just finished WE TWO. Suffice it to say that The YOUNG VICTORIA (which I also loved) was Hollywood’s representation. Their marriage was much more complicated than that. Loved the book too, though.

  2. It’s so great that you’re reading CS Lewis to your son! My mother read the Narnia books to my sister and me starting when I was three and my big sister was four, and in a lot of ways I feel like they’re the foundation of my love of books. They are always sort of in the background of everything else I read.

    Although The Silver Chair scared the hell out of me. I still hardly ever reread The Silver Chair because I remember so vividly how frightening I found it as a kid.

    I love what you say about challenges – maybe I should start thinking about them that way too!
    .-= Jenny´s last post on blog ..Diana Wynne Jones Week: 1 August – 7 August 2010 =-.

    1. Jenny, I think he loved the reading with me thing. We started Winnie-the-Pooh next and he’s actually sitting on my lap for that. I suspect that will be the book he remembers as the foundation for his love of reading.

      I can’t remember my mother reading us THE SILVER CHAIR. I think that’s one I read on my own when I was older. It is a bit freaky…

  3. As I know I’ve said before, I’m not much of a challenge joiner because I know I would hit challenge burn-out too easily. I’m actually thinking the only one I’ve truly enjoyed being part of was/is the RIP challenge each fall partly because it lasts only one month :-).

    I think it’s so cute you’re reading Jez Alborough with your son. My kids really liked him when they were younger. My youngest son was given “Hug” when he was a toddler and we enjoyed that one a lot because “Bobo” or “Bo” is his nick name. As I understand it more Bobo books came out later on, right?
    .-= Valerie´s last post on blog ..“The Darling” by Russell Banks (for World Party Reading Challenge) =-.

    1. Valerie, I definitely appreciate the Challenge Burnout thing since that’s kind of where I’d been going. Yes, love the Bobo books. I think there are three, and my son and I have read two (HUG and TALL).

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