I am so delighted to announce that I got to interview Allie from A Literary Odyssey for Book Blogger Appreciation Week! Allie was a fellow finalist on the short list for Best Classics Book Blog, and I certainly know why. She has a wonderful blog, and it’s been fun to join in her odyssey of reading through the classics. Because we both read mostly classics, it was really fun to hear her answers.
Read her responses to my questions below the jump. Also, check out her blog today for a post with my answers to her questions!
(1) You say you started your odyssey of reading through 250 of the classics because, like Homer’s Odysseus, you related to “fighting to find a purpose for [yourself] in the world.” How has the past two years of reading and blogging done that for you?
I have always loved The Odyssey since I first read an abridged version for class as a ninth grader. I find Odysseus’ trek home inspiring. I think that many of us, being far from home and fighting monsters, would give up or turn away for an easier path. Instead, he continues to push onward through losses and heartbreak to find his home in Ithaca. Ithaca is what inspires him and encourages him to keep going, even when it seems completely hopeless.
For myself, reading has always been an escape. I read for many years to be entertained and find comfort in words, but it wasn’t until I felt hopeless that I realized reading could also teach me. I think I am pretty honest about why I started blogging in the first place – I was unemployed, frustrated, and felt like even though I had done some things, I had never done something solely for myself. That is when I created my list and began reading the classics. Like Odysseus, I needed to come home, and that home was in books.
Over the past two years, I have read and experienced things I never would have had I not undertaken this journey. I can now say that in addition to improving myself by reading these books, I am also reaching other people. While I still may not have a physical classroom of my own, I do have my blog. That has allowed me to forge my own path and create a place to leave a little piece of myself behind as an inspiration (or so I hope). I think I still have a long way to go, to find the answers I was looking for when I began, but I know that I am on the right path and eventually, I will finally find a permanent place.
(2) As you started your reading journey, you wondered how many other books you’d relate to on a deeply personal level. Which books have you found that you do relate to well?
I have actually been surprised by the large number of books that I have loved during this process. I never thought I would be a person to read titles like this and love them, you know? I find that I relate to a lot of books about ordinary people. I am most drawn to stories that seem truthful and honest. It takes a great writer to be able to turn ordinary people into inspirations, and I am finding that many of the writers on my list are great writers.
One title that I read early on and absolutely adored was The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow. Most of the novel takes place in Detroit during WWII. As someone who lives north of the city, it was interesting to see the grand place Detroit used to be. But what really drew me into the story were the characters. I felt an intense connection to the main character, who continually sacrifices herself for her family, that it brought me to tears a number of times while read it.
Another title I related to was Villette by Charlotte Bronte. While I also read and loved Jane Eyre, it was my first experience into Charlotte’s writing that has really stuck with me. I found Lucy Snowe, the protagonist in Villette, similar to myself in some of personality quirks. It made reading her story all the more real.
The last title I have to mention (I could really talk about all of them), is A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. As an amateur writer and professional woman, I felt like Woolf was speaking directly to me. There was something … refreshing in the way she discussed a woman’s need to write and be heard.
(3) Which books have you read for your 250 books project that you’d suggest to others?
There are so many. Like I said before, I am continually surprised by the titles that I do fall in love with as I finish them. I would suggest a lot of the heavier titles, because I have found that they are really more approachable than people think. I have absolutely adored the Russian titles I have read on my list so far: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky; War and Peace and The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy; and Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. I was always scared of those books, but they are some of the best novels I have read off my list. A few other favorites include Germinal by Emile Zola, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, and The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.
(4) How do you balance your daily life (family, work, etc.) with your reading and blogging life?
My husband is not a reader. Where I read close to 100 books a year, he maybe finishes one, if he tries really hard. 🙂 He doesn’t find the escape in books that I do, but it works out for us. Matt enjoys playing video games, surfing the web, and “tinkering” so that gives me plenty of time to read. There are many, many nights that I am in our armchair with a book and he is on the couch playing a game or watching football. It works out wonderfully and he knows not to bug me when I am reading. What I really love about this arrangement is that even though he won’t read on his own, he lets me tell him about what I am reading. I often bounce ideas off of him when I am writing posts or composing my thoughts, and he seems to enjoy it.
As for work, I use my lunch break as a time to recharge. Sometimes I head down to the staff lounge in the school I work at to mingle, but I usually spend at least 2 days/week reading over lunch. It gives my mind a break from students and lets me recharge. Since my current position (and those in the past) isn’t permanent, I do have less responsibilities than some other teachers. This allows me a little more freedom when I come home.
Lastly, I always set aside time for reading. I used to have a rule that I would read for an hour everyday, and most days I hit that number. Sometimes I am too tired, sometimes I don’t have the time to spare, but reading is really a part of my everyday life.
As for blogging, I fit it in when I can. There are some days that I read and comment on every post I see. Some days I just browse. I do what I can in the time that I have, but I do set aside more time on weekends to “catch up.”
(5) Just for fun: What would be your desert island book if you knew you’d be stranded somewhere tomorrow? And/or, What would be your last supper if you were to die in the morning?
My desert island book would probably be … Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Where some other books would also be great to have with me, Whitman has been a constant presence in my life since I was in high school and first read “Song of Myself.” He gives a little bit of everything in his poetry, and I can picture many nights on the beach screaming “O Captain, My Captain” at the top of my lungs (wouldn’t that be glorious?).
And if I were to die in the morning, my last supper would have to include macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, and seafood. It would be … delicious. And I would stuff myself. 🙂
Thanks so much Allie! You’ve really inspired me to find my volume of Whitman and give him a try. I love “O Captain, My Captain,” but must admit I’ve never read Leaves of Grass yet…