September in Review

In an effort to simplify my blogging life, I’ve decided I will no longer host the quarterly Martel-Harper Challenge. That challenge was to read two works per quarter from the list of books that Yann Martel sends to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Dewey started the project in October 2008, the month before she died, and I wanted to continue it in her memory. However, there has been little interest in the project and I don’t feel able to “advertise” it properly. I still personally intend to read books from the list, but from now on, I’m considering it a personal project rather than a public challenge. If anyone else wants to take lead of the quarterly challenge, please let me know. I’d be happy to send links your way.

At the same time, I made my life more complicated by starting The Classics Circuit. The first author tour will be Wilkie Collins (sign up by Saturday morning), followed by Elizabeth Gaskell (sign up begins next week).

My reading this month was more subdued, meaning I read more classics and not much nonfiction or modern stuff. I also read less because BBAW got me busy blogging and not reading! BBAW gave me a confidence boost I felt I needed and I look forward to the future of Rebecca Reads. I’ve added tons of new bloggers to my Reader and I am so excited to “meet” so many people through the community projects that I’m a part of.

Although I finished just nine books in September (as opposed to August’s 16 books), I feel it was a great month, and I think it’s good to slow down my reading occasionally.Continue Reading

Reading Journal (30 Sept): The Gift of Choice (Thoughts on Banned Books Week)

When I was a teenager (probably aged 13 or 14), I selected a book on the freshman reading list with an interesting title: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. My English teacher pulled me aside. There was a disturbing scene in it, she warned me, and I should think about it and ask my mother if it would be okay to read. I mentioned it my mother, and I don’t think she blinked an eye.

“I think that would be a great book for you,” she said. (She, an English post-grad student, knew the book.)

I read it. Yes, there was a troubling scene in it. But the overall message of that book, and the overall impression I received after I closed it, was one that I still haven’t forgotten. I remember feeling strongly that others should read the book to get a sense of what it means to be discriminated against. Besides all that, I left feeling amazed at the power of a life where, even while she feels caged, even when she has been abused, Maya Angelou felt she had a reason to sing. I loved the book.Continue Reading

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

In the end, I sighed with satisfaction. Yes, everything would be alright in Miss Matty Jenkyn’s town of Cranford.

I wasn’t sure I liked Elizabeth’s Gaskell’s Cranford for most of my reading, and to be honest, the snippets of life in the town of Cranford irritated me at first. But in the end, it all comes full circle for me and I almost want to reread the portions that irritated me in the beginning. Some day, I think I’ll revisit this book. I definitely want to read more of Gaskell’s writing.

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist surprised me.

Oliver’s story is familiar to me: I watched the musical many times as a young girl (my mother fast forwarding past That Scene). I loved the music and found the characters delightful. I always loved Artful Dodger!

And yet, when I read the book, I was surprised.

I expected this book to elegantly written, engrossing, complicated, and suspenseful, and I won’t say that it wasn’t those things at various points. I really enjoyed reading it, and I really loved some of the characters. However, to me, most of Oliver Twist was convenient and pretty ordinary. I felt Dickens had a little bit of genius, and yet something was missing from the novel as a whole. As I reviewed his list of novels this morning, I realized that Oliver Twist was one of his first. I wonder, then, if Dickens was still working toward a masterpiece.

The bonus of Oliver Twist being “convenient” is that I don’t think anyone should be intimidated by it. Although it is Dickens’ wordy writing (and that takes a little getting used to), Oliver Twist is easy to follow, the characters are delightfully described, and the plot is not overly complicated. Plot-wise, it felt like a modern novel. It was a best-seller of its day, and I’m not surprised.Continue Reading