The difference? I’m not really certain, to be honest, although I think part of it was just my finally accepting that while you can take the girl out of the academy, you can’t entirely take the academy out of the girl. Not that the majority of my posts at all resemble the kind of academic writing I used to do, but that for all my terrible experiences in grad school, I nonetheless developed a real taste for writing about what I read while there. I can’t quite remember why I ever felt this was something to be resisted or agonized over, but I don’t feel that way now. When I spent hours and hours writing about Romola, for example, I simply enjoyed it; and in the face of anything as intellectually complex as the writing of George Eliot, I will happily do the same, as exhausting as it was.
So, yes, the third year of Bookphilia has been the most fascinating so far. I’ve killed one feature (The Reading Lamp), continued with another that is both a writer and reader favourite (Curious/Creepy), and begun another two – there are my occasional musings on being a book-seller (The Sarazens head without New-gate), and then there are my newly hatched dreams of talking with the dearly departed literati (I Interview Dead People – look out for a new interview very soon!). But writing about the books I’ve read is still my primary focus and will remain so.
I’ve also begun my very own personal quest to learn about French literature, and I have read twelve books in the area during the last year. One book a month is pretty good for me in terms of providing some structure while still allowing me to dip into the random things that appeal to me. Total randomness is not so prevalent this year as it has been in the past, however.
Having finished my PhD, I’m finally able to check out all those fat Victorian novels I’ve been yearning for and the weightedness of my choices in favour of British literature is much, much higher this year than it has been in the past. I would say I’ll work on that, but you all know how ridiculously unable I am to follow through with any reading promises I make.
Now, of course, an anniversary calls for lists, and I am happy to provide.
Books begun but impossible to finish
- The Complete Poems of Ben Jonson – I would say it’s still too soon post-PhD, but frankly, I just wasn’t enjoying this collection.
- The Complete Works of Michel de Montaigne – Very sadly, ditto. Sigh. Maybe next year?
- Cryptonomicon – I will certainly try this again, because I’ve really enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s work in the past but the 50 or so pages I spent with this one had me tearing my hair and rending my cheeks the whole time.
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Again, not the right time and irritation was my only critical response. Blog year 3 was only for “normal” Murakami, it seems.
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Trying to improve upon perfection is, indeed, foolhardy.
- The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature – Sigh.
I would say that these are in no particular order, but the first four are definitely my ultimate favourites of the past year:
- Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope
- David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
- Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
- The Immaculate Conception, Gaetan Soucy
- Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (a reread)
- Old Goriot, Honore de Balzac
- Romola, George Eliot
- Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
- The Virgin in the Ice, Ellis Peters
- Dangerous Liaisons, Choderlos de Laclos
- Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
- Diary of a Bad Year, J.M. Coetzee
- Adolphe, Benjamin Constant
- Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
- Arthurian Romances, Chretien de Troyes
- The Snapper, Roddy Doyle
- Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon, Jorge Amado
- Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
- Silas Marner, George Eliot
These are the ones that still make me want to punch someone in the neck, preferably their authors:
- La Bete Humaine, Emile Zola
- The Possibility of an Island, Michel Houellebecq
- Run, Ann Patchett
- The Scarecrow and His Servant, Philip Pullman
- Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay
- A Heart So White, Javier Marias
- The Eyre Affair, Jasper Ffacking Fforde
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver