Saturday, January 30, 2010

My 10/10/10 Challenge

Deciding on categories of books to read this year, I've been consulting numerous book blogs/tweets and other worldly internet sources.  I think I am finding a nice path to follow, and also to feel "organized" in some way about which books I'll be reading in 2010.  One blog "challenge"/read-a-long is the
10/10/10, I'm going to "cut and paste" the instructions for the challenge, and am also including a link to the blog so you can see for yourself what categories people will be choosing.  I feel lucky to have discovered the reading/writing/reviewing/publishing/library-ing/editing and the "everything to do with books world" that is vibrantly humming along in cyberspace via twitter and blogging-it's definitely inciting me to grow as a reader and a thinker.  Here is an excerpt about this challenge from Melissa:

Greetings, intrepid bookish friends! I am Melissa, and I'm happy you've decided to come check out the 10-10-10 Reading Challenge. This was introduced to me via Twitter, which has developed a fantastic community of book people--authors, readers, publishers, editors and agents. Kalen Landow, (@kalenski on Twitter) introduced us to this link from Library Thing ( She upped the ante a little by suggesting 10 books in 10 genres/categories by October 10. Although this is a very audacious goal, I know I feel excited about ratcheting up my reading by an order of magnitude. I, like many, tend to gravitate toward one or two categories of books (for me, mysteries and literary fiction)--so to branch out will be a great goal on its own; to read 100 books by Oct 10 will be a very challenging benchmark.

Here are the basic "rules"--which are free to be modified in any manner that works for you. To me, this challenge is about branching out in reading, not a checklist of do and don't.
1. Choose 10 different categories or genres.
2. Start reading books from these categories, with a goal to read 10 books of each by 10/10/10.
2. 10 books may count as multiple categories: i.e., if I choose "mystery" and "authors I've never read" and read a book by Joseph Wambaugh, that may count as two categories.
3. Catalog your progress by emailing me at I will add your categories/genres and books read as I receive them.
If 10 books is too audacious of a goal, make a goal that is reasonable for you--perhaps one book in each of 10 genres, or 5. The point again is to branch out.

I think I'm going to closely copy Kalen's categories-they can overlap if need be, and I'm sure to find that useful !  Here they are :

Kristine's 10/10/10

8, 9, 10 (Books pubbed in 08, 09, or 10)
Indie presses

Classics I need to read/re-read
Guilty Pleasures/brain candy
Authors That Are New to Me
Short Stories


Friday, January 15, 2010

Woolf in Winter: Mrs. Dalloway

In the beginning of the month, I read about a reading challenge on a lovely blog called "Nonsuchbook", one in which the author along with 3 friends were going to read and discuss four of Virginia Woolf's novels: Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando and The Waves. They would begin the online discussions in the blogosphere starting with Mrs. Dalloway on January 15th. So being a fan of VW, and having not a lot of opportunity to discuss her fiction for quite some time (my current bookgroup shies away from stream of consciousness fiction), I thought it would be fun to join in and see how it went with the online version.

I have no time to describe my plans. I should say a good deal about The Hours, & my discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect, & each comes to daylight at the present moment

-Virginia Wolf, in her diary, August 30, 1923.

I first read Mrs. Dalloway in a 20th century fiction course in college. The opportunity to be led through her difficult writing style by my professor was marvelous, and forever changed the way I read books. I have not encountered many novels in which the entire plot occurs over the course of one day, and I often wonder why not. Mrs. Dalloway is so beautifully constructed and leads us through Clarissa's whole life, it would seem an ideal model to follow. Of course I was surprised and thrilled to read The Hours by Michael Cunningham many years later, where he contructs a modern day Clarissa Dalloway and a party she is preparing. Cunningham thus does employ "the model", with prose also extraordinary in it's resonance. I'm sure if I tried, I might find more examples.

What I loved about Mrs. Dalloway was the bringing together of the worlds in England, the upper classes, post WWI and struggling with change, and those who would begin to lead England into a more modern and less restrictive society. This is how sublte a writer does things, creates the description of one small world, and in doing so lets us see a larger whole. Woolf at her best does this over in over in her writing.

(link to for the Woolf In Winter reading challenge instructions) for the January 15th discussion

Addition on Jan 16th:

a partial list of those blogging about Mrs. Dalloway from Emily at

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pennsylvania is calling. . .Fiction on the map

I went to college in amish country, Lancaster Pennsylvania to be exact. While I was toiling away in the geology lab and the stacks of the Shadeck-Facknethal library at F&M (Franklin and Marshall college), I really had no idea that to the west of me lay a gold mine of literary treasure. Apparently, the trend continues, as noted in this recent article written for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In 2009, no less than 25 new novels use Western Pennsylvania as their setting. Apparently in the first decade of this new century, there have been over 200 Pittsburgh novels published. Although I don't make many trips to Pennsylvania anymore (it's about 8-9 hours by car from Boston), I'm glad I'll be going there via a few of these stories--Peter Oresick's article has made me jot down a few of these new titles:

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Article "25 Novels Use Western Pennsylvania as a setting in 2009"

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Zen in 2010

Ah, the peace and quiet of a house with family out of it. MJA took the boys to Home Depot to build a calendar (the monthly project-happens the first Sat. of every month), and I am still not dressed, sipping coffee and watching the snow fall. I'm glad we're getting some now, the fact that it melted and there was nothing to sled on (plus it was way too cold to be outside anyway) made for a long Christmas week off from school. We're all in one piece, and luckily no one was sick. New Years was fun, just the four of us, some lobster and a great Buche de Noel (my first) which has been heartily enjoyed by all. Thinking about creating a bucket list for 2010-which is not a resolutions list by any means-more of a writing down of the dreams of things to do, visit, create and enjoy.

And now for some reading goals: got two great art books for Christmas- one about Kandisky, and the other the catalogue of the Georgia O'Keefe show I took the boys and my mom to see in October at the Whitney Museum in NYC. Time to open them up and enjoy !