Reading Journal (26 Aug): Focused Reading

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I like to read lots of books at once so I can choose which to read at any particular moment. But there is something so wonderful about focused reading.

I spent a few nights just concentrating on architecture. First, I finished the last 60 pages (which took longer to read than I’d like to admit) of the book about the Chicago school, and then I started another book about architecture. I really like to look at a picture of a building and learn what it is about it that makes it so majestic or useful or beautiful. I like learning the technical terms.

And then I focused on John Donne. I’m still not done with Donne, even though I’ve finished the slim Barnes and Noble volume. I was all prepared to hate his poetry, especially after I found myself confused so often. I had to keep rereading a poem because my brain had just kind of glossed over it. And then I read the Divine Sonnets. Oh, I love that poet! I’m going to go back and read those sonnets again. Now I know what Helene Hanff (in The Duchess of Bloomsbury) was so interested in John Donne and his sermons. I loved the personal struggles he writes about as he tries to reconcile himself, a sinner, to God. I can relate. Those sonnets are so well done.

I finished a number of other books, but they weren’t intense books; I’ve been reading/listening a little every week. In the coming week, I look forward to finishing Gulliver’s Travels, which hasn’t been too bad stretched out, and starting Beloved, which is one of my favorite books. I’m feeling like focusing on fiction for a few weeks!

Do you focus your reading? What are you focusing on now?

I’m going out of town for Labor Day, and I don’t want to have posts going up when I’m not able to moderate comments and what not. Do you mind double posts in one day? I try to avoid them, but I’m afraid I’m going to have a book review backup during BBAW; I don’t want to clog your Google Reader that week! It may be a non-issue since I’m not sure I have time to post more than one post each day; I’m just curious what you think about double posts from the same blogger.

Finished Reading

See my notes by each book below.

  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury by Helene Hanff (145 pages; nonfiction). FINISHED! The sequel to 84, Charing Cross Road.
  • The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area, 1875-1925 by Carl W. Condit (220 pages; nonfiction). FINISHED! I am seriously excited to go to downtown so I can see these buildings in person.
  • The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon (trans. Ivan Morris) (265 pages, plus 140 pages end matter; fiction). Returned unread. For The Japanese Literature Challenge. It’s with heavy heart that I return it unread. I really do want to read it, but I haven’t started in three weeks. I’ll have to request it in a few more weeks when I’m sure I’ll get to it! I will read it by the end of January, just not this month.
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (about 11 hours total, audiobook; fiction). FINISHED! For the Take a Chance Challenge, chance number 1, random book selection. My requirements: fiction audiobook section, second aisle, third column form the right, third shelf down, tenth book in from right.
  • An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward (210 pages; nonfiction/reference). FINISHED! For The Spice of Life Challenge. I’ll review the book once I use it to help me sharpen my knives. Unfortunately, reading about sharpening knives is still pretty over my head. I’m still intimidated.
  • The [Barnes and Noble] Poetry Library: John Donne (98 pages; poetry). FINISHED! My current poet. Still studying a little more, even though I finished this volume.

My Books

I’m excited to get in to Beloved this week.

  • The Stories of John Cheever (20 of 61 stories, 820 pages total; fiction/short stories). Part of my Pulitzer Challenge. On hold for the next week.
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift (290 read of 355 pages; fiction). For My Children’s Literature Project. I’m aiming to finish the book this week.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (25 read of 275 pages; fiction). For the Beowulf on the Beach Challenge, the Summer Lovin’ Challenge, and The RIP IV Challenge. I started this book last night and I am so excited to read it again! I love this book.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker ( audiobook, 27 segments, about 16 hours total; fiction). For the RIP IV Challenge. I just downloaded this yesterday, and I’m excited to start listening! Post on that challenge to come soon.
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (8 read of 190; children’s fiction). I just started reading this to my son.

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.

  • Bloom’s Major Poets: John Donne (15 skimmed of 110 pages; nonfiction/critical analysis). To help me make sense of Donne’s poetry.
  • The Soul of Wit: A Study of John Donne by Murray Roston (220 pages; nonfiction/critical analysis). To help me make sense of Donne’s poetry. Not begun.

New Library Loot

I got a few new books this week.

  • Nineteenth-Century Mormon Architecture and City Planning by Mark Hamilton (50 read of 140 pages, plus 50 pages of notes; nonfiction).  As I read about Chicago architecture, I felt a curiosity to learn about early Mormon architecture (like the style of the Salt Lake Temple). I skimmed some of the early material on city planning, but the architecture info is fascinating to me.
  • Gulliver’s Travels: The Politics of Satire by Ronald Knowles (150 pages; nonfiction/literary criticism). To help me in my reading of Swift.
  • Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels: Modern Critical Interpretations edited by Harold Bloom (195 pages; nonfiction/literary criticism). To help me in my reading of Swift.
  • Twentieth Century Interpretations of Gulliver’s Travels edited by Frank Brady (115 pages; nonfiction/literary criticism). To help me in my reading of Swift.
  • Bloom’s How to Write about Toni Morrison (200 pages; nonfiction/literary criticism). I may skim the section on Beloved.

Fantastic Finds

In addition to the books I mention below, I’m working on my RIP list. I’ll share soon. Most of the nonfiction came below from various searches for specific books.


  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. Life is a Patchwork Quilt read this and compared it to the movie. I liked the movie, and she liked the book better than it, so I should give it a try.
  • if nobody speaks of remarkable things by Jon McGregor. Julia at Echoes of Narcissus says it is “simply beautiful — it makes you think in poetry.”
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. book I done read thinks her younger self would have loved it even more.
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Nymeth’s new favorite Atwood.
  • After by Amy Efaw. Amanda at the Zen Leaf could just keep gushing about this YA novel about a pregnant teen.
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Lezlie at Books N Border Collies found this classic easily accessible


  • The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. Lezlie says it’s an interesting book about “the reading life, what it’s like to be a dedicated reader.”
  • Writing Chicago: modernism, ethnography, and the novel by Carla Cappetti. Found on LibraryThing search.
  • Encyclopedia of the Chicago Literary Renaissance by Jan Pinkerton. Found on LibraryThing search.
  • Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City by Tristram Hunt. Recommended by Jason of 5-Squared.
  • The Great Equations: Breakthroughs in Science from Pythagoras to Heisenberg by Robert P. Crease. I saw this on a library shelf and don’t want to forget about it. I don’t know much about math, and this looks like it’s at my level.
Reviewed on August 26, 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.

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  1. I don’t understand why people get so upset by double posts… it certainly doesn’t mess with my Google Reader! So post away guilt-free; I can’t wait to read your thoughts on what you’ve been reading!

  2. Yay for double posts 🙂 The more the merrier.

    I definitely do a lot of focus reading. I’m trying to focus on classics that I haven’t read and really want to, and finishing off my summer reading challenge.

  3. I’m glad the consensus is it’s okay to double post. I just don’t want a huge backlog of reviews. I have to say though, that when I first started blogging and I added every blogger I found into my reader, I did find one blogger that posted four or five times a day hugely annoying, so I deleted it from my reader. But maybe that’s just because I wasn’t interested in that blogger’s reviews, I don’t know.

    Lezlie. thanks for the intriguing reviews!

    Steph, some of my reads have been pretty good!

    Bella, oh good, I’m glad that’s your attitude! I should focus on challenges, but I’m not! I’m focusing on other things instead. It’s all good.

  4. Um, I didn’t mean to post that, lol. The ‘enter’ key didn’t do what I wanted it to! 🙂 Anyway, it’s cool to read people’s thoughts on double posting. I try to avoid doing it for the same reason as you (a blogger who posted a ton of reviews and really annoyed me), but I’m still trying to figure out how to catch up with all the reviews from my latest blogging break. *sigh* There were so many good books!

  5. Ooh, the Witch of Blackbird Pond is really good – I hope you like that one! I read it for the first time last summer.

    I don’t mind double posting as long as it’s not all the time, and as long as its not doubling up memes and stuff. If somebody posts 2-3 Monday memes all in the same day, that gets really annoying to me. However, if periodically a blogger has to put up a couple posts a day for a little while because of circumstance, that doesn’t bother me a bit. Like you, I try to make sure I don’t do more than one a day, but sometimes I have too much going on and I end up posting twice. I try not to do it too often though. I don’t want to annoy people.

  6. Eva, I’ve reread Beloved about a half dozen times and it’s been a few years since the last! I’m still loving it, from the first ten pages, I was so excited!

    I don’t think many people would mind if you double posted, Eva! Everyone loves hearing from you, and I”m personally very excited to hear about all those good books!

    And it sounds like most people don’t mind it ever. 🙂

  7. Amanda, I think we had Witch of Blackbird Pond when I was growing up and I don’t remember ever reading it!

    Yeah, I think it’s the doubled up memes that annoy me. But I just have so many reviews to post, plus I’m going out of town, plus BBAW is coming, I might have to put up double posts. Plus I’m excited to share my RIP list. Still working on it. I need about a year to read them all!

    Sigh. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.

  8. I recently read “Lovely Bones”. I enjoyed it a lot and thought it was told from a very creative perspective. I have her second novel “Almost Moon” in my TBR pile and hope to get to it this year.

  9. I’m pretty much a monogamous reader, since I’m no longer in school. I have started listening to books on CD again, but mostly that is when I’m working out, ironing, or cooking or something else that is laborious and takes awhile.

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