Reading Journal (16 December): A Classics Circuit TBR List from Wilkie Collins to Harlem

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  • Reading Journal (16 December): A Classics Circuit TBR List from Wilkie Collins to Harlem

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This week, I didn’t get as much reading done as I’d thought I would. I also failed to keep up with blogs yet again, as I’d intended. That was mainly because compiling the information for the February 2010 Harlem Renaissance took me about five times longer than I’d anticipated!

I did enjoy the experience. It was one of those “do I have to?” jobs that, once I began, I enjoyed every day. I added tons of books to my TBR as I read about each author – and now I can’t decide what to read for the Circuit!

Here are my options for February (and what I decide kind of depends on what others decide, as I’m hoping the tour has variety and I want to add to it!).

Which do you think I should read and write about?

Are you going to sign up? How can I tempt you?


  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson (1912). Semi-autobiographical; this sounds like an important book.
  • Charles W. Chesnutt Stories, Novels and Essays (published by Library of America; 950 pages). A Collection of the most important works in one volume. I’m very interested in Chesnutt’s work: the The House Behind the Cedars and The Marrow of Tradition sound particularly good!
  • Cane (1923). As the first significant novel of the Harlem Renaissance, Cane is a mixture of sketches, poems, songs, and stories about life in the Black South. I’m curious to see how it’s done.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). I listened to the audiobook years ago, but reading all the other reviews made me want to revisit it!
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939). “A retelling of the Moses story found in Exodus through the lens of black history in America.” Sounds like fun!
  • Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral by Jessie Redmon Fauset (1929). “When a black girl in Philadelphia discovers she can pass for white, she flees to New York City in the hopes of a life without discrimination, only to find that being a woman still has its complications.” It sounds interesting and well written!
  • The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman (1929). “Thurman’s first novel focuses on discrimination among black people.”
  • Infants of the Spring by Wallace Thurman (1932). “A thinly disguised memoir of Thurman’s unhappy experiences during the Renaissance, making of fun of characters such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.” Wouldn’t it be fun to learn how things really happened during the Renaissance?
  • Quicksand by Nella Larsen (1928). An “autobiographical portrait of a biracial woman’s quest for self-identity and acceptance offers a cautionary tale of an individual lost between two cultures.” (via Amazon).
  • Black No More by George Schuyler (1930). “An African-American physician discovers a formula for making blacks appear white; eventually, Max Disher discovers the “absurdities” of racial identity when the realities of white culture doesn’t quite measure to what he expected. (via Amazon). I love the sound of this dystopian science fiction novel! And I know what happens in the end and it sounds so clever.


  • God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse by James Weldon Johnson (1927). I love the sound of “A volume of poetry with the musicality of spirituals (via Amazon).”
  • Langston Hughes’ notable poems. I haven’t ever read them. No time like the present!
  • Poetry of Claude McKay. Same.
  • Countee Cullen’s poetry. Same.


  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois (1903).  Since this was one of the books that helped get the movement underway, it seems like one I should read!
  • Along This Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson (1938). It sounds like the most interesting autobiography of all the Harlem Renaissance people.
  • A Man Called White (1948). Walter White’s autobiography. He had an interesting life. He often passed for white in the South so he could learn the inner workings of white racist society. Then he wrote exposés about it.
  • Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters, 1925-1967 . Can you imagine what those two had to say to each other?
  • Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston (1935). “A collection of black oral history, including songs, sermons, sayings, and tall tales of growing up in the South.” Sounds so interesting!


  • The New Negro edited by Alain Locke (1925) The anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays published during the early years of the Renaissance and greatly impacted the subsequent flowering of Harlem.
  • American Negro Poetry, edited by Arna Bontemps. So I can get a good background in the poets mentioned above!
  • Golden Slippers: an Anthology of Negro Poetry for Young Readers, compiled by Arna Bontemps ( 1941). Out of print. An anthology for children. I found it at my library consortium so I’m going to read it!
  • I Love Myself When I Am Laughing…and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (edited by Alice Walker). A general reader of Hurston’s work, so maybe I wouldn’t have to feel the need to read everything else! (Maybe.)

Other Options

  • Two picture books by Countee Cullen: The Lost Zoo (poems for children about animals that didn’t make it on to Noah’s Ark, narrated by Cullen’s cat) and My Lives and How I Lost Them (A child’s story of a cat who goes through his nine lives rather quickly.)
  • Jazz History. Langston Hughes wrote a book for children called The First Book of Jazz (first published 1955). And I could read about Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, etc., plus listen to the music and find some of the dances. Then I could also read Toni Morrison’s Jazz, which is apparently all about the Harlem Renaissance era.

Wilkie Collins TBR Additions

Last week, the Wilkie Collins tour ended. Here are the books that I now want to read, thanks to that tour and your reviews!

  • Armadale
  • No Name
  • Poor Miss Finch
  • The Law and the Lady
  • The Frozen Deep

Finished Books

This is the one book I finished this week.

  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Fenyman by Robert Fenyman (10 discs, about 11 ½ hours total; nonfiction/science).

Abandoned Books

I returned unread or partially read a few books this week.

  • The Ultimate Preschool Playbook by Dorothy Einon. I flipped through this. Not very original; I already do most of the games!
  • Games to Play with Two Year Olds by Jackie Silberg. Like the other one, I already do lots of similar activities with my son.
  • One Dough, Fifty Cookies by Leslie Glover Pendleton. Fun to drool over.
  • One of Ours by Willa Cather. I’m not going to get to it right now.
  • O Pioneers by Willa Cather. I’m not going to get to it right now.

Currently Reading

Each week, I list my progress so I can see how my reading compares week to week. I did make a little progress on some of these.

My Books

Little progress, but it’s okay.

  • Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and Their Messages by Karen Lynn Davidson (92 read of 455 pages; nonfiction).
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (on chapter 20 of 30, about 150 pages, from Project Gutenberg; children’s fiction). For My History of Children’s Literature Project.  Not as engaging as Treasure Island was.
  • Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage (510 read of 735 pages; nonfiction). My December priority. I’m making steady progress and I was right: it’s perfect for immersion during the month of December!
  • The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (44 read of 350 pages; fiction/really old classic).  I didn’t read as much as I expect this weekend beyond Talmage’s volume, so I still haven’t begun yet!

Old Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

New Library Loot

I grabbed a few more books from the Parent-Teacher Collection. Can you tell I’m thinking about starting a pre-pre-school with my little son?!

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight : A New Verse Translation trans. Simon Armitage. Because Eva enjoyed this translation so much.
  • Growing a Reader from Birth : Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy by Diane McGuinness (120 read of 220 pages; nonfiction). Very interesting thus far. It focuses on the essential skills of language development as a key part of learning to read.
  • Raising a Reader: Make Your Child a Reader for Life by Paul Kropp
  • Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book Leonard S. Marcus
  • The ABCs of Literacy
  • Brain Games for Babies, Toddlers & Twos by Jackie Silberg
  • How to Teach Reading by Edward Fry
  • Hooked on Learning. Colors, shapes and more
  • Story Stretchers for infants, toddlers, and twos by Shirley Raines
  • Children’s Book Corner by Judy Bradbury
  • Phonemic Awareness by Lucia Kemp Henry
  • The Story Road to Literacy by Rita Roth
  • Phonics from A to Z : a practical guide by Wiley Blevins

I will list blog finds next week! That’s my goal in the coming days: to once again get caught up!

Reviewed on December 16, 2009

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.

  • OMG Rebecca you are a dynamo. I am tired just reading about your reading.
    I’m still a newbie to the book blogosphere — can you explain how the Classics Circuit works?

  • I think Plum Bun sounds really good for a read. Also great for Unbound challenge, if you’re participating in that!

    I’m really looking forward to this tour! So excited to finally participate in the classics circuit.

  • Suzanne, yeay for signing up! And this is mostly books I want to read, not ones I have already read…

    Nymeth, Oh I was hoping you all could help ME choose too!

    Amanda, yeay!

    Aarti, maybe I’ll have to read that one!

    Teresa, already tons of sign ups and lots of variety!

  • I vote for ‘Black no More’ which sounds like an interesting
    sci-fi satire. I signed up just now, really like the idea of a themed tour this time to break up the author specific tours.

  • I’m definitely signing up for the Harlem Renaisance tour. 😀 A lot of the authors on your list aren’t in my library, but I can always ILL them. I feel overwhelmed by choices, though, LOL.

    Yay for Sir Gawain! 🙂 My niece started going to daycare this year, because my sister’s in school full-time and her fiance works full-time, so basically niece has started preschool (she’s almost 4 now). I think she’s really enjoying it! She knows her alphabet and her numbers, and she’s really into spelling words she sees and trying to read the clock. So I bet she’ll start reading soon. 😀 I learned to read when I was 4; I started kingergarten a bit early.

  • You should read Their Eyes Were Watching God! It’s one of my favorite books. It’s a very moving story, and the characters are fascinating and it’s well written. I had a teacher recommend it in high school and I thought it was great, and have reread it several times since then. I know you’re familiar with it since you listened to the audiobook, but I would say to give the book a try.

  • Jodie, I’m so glad you’ve been tempted to join!

    Eva, I’m overwhelmed by choices too! I think that’s why it’s just easier to do authors, but I think this is going to be great!

    I’m looking forward to Gawain; still haven’t started and awesome about your niece and learning to read. this is going to be fun!

    Lindsey, I would love to see how it’s written, since listening was a completely different experience with the dialect!

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