Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

2017 Plans and Projects

More short stories, more indigenous authors, more series completed and updated, more from my own shelves and more non-fiction: my reading goals for this year.

Gallant Other ParisReading Alice Munro’s short stories lasted from 2011 to 2015, reading two or three collections a year, no more than a story a week.

Last year I enjoyed Alistair MacLeod’s stories the same way, but quietly and in a solitary fashion. (I’m not sure why: maybe because there was a lot of weeping involved.)

This year, I will begin to methodically explore Mavis Gallant’s short stories. I’ve read three collections and some odd stories, but I am planning to reread them and explore beyond.

For now, I’ll begin again with an early collection, The Other Paris (1956) followed by The Cost of Living (titled Going Ashore in Canada), which collects some early and uncollected stories.

I’m imagining a story each week, with some breaks between collections. I haven’t thought much more about it, except that I want to make sure I read out of pleasure rather than duty.

Here is a link to the Mavis Gallant Reading Project page, if anyone would like to read along, for a collection or for a single story.

I’ve also got a list of indigenous writers whose works I am counting towards the 10th Canadian Book Challenge. My sign-up post discussed some of the works which inspired me to choose this theme.

Since then, I’ve read seven books towards the thirteen-book challenge, including Robert Arthur Alexie’s Porcupines and China DollsPaul Seesequasis’ Tobacco Wars Harold Johnson’s Charlie MuskratEditor Hope Nicholson’s Moonshot: Indigenous Comics, Tracey Lindberg’s BirdieRichard VanCamp’s Angel Wing Splash Pattern, and the Summary Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. (I’ve read others, but haven’t reviewed them, so they don’t count towards the challenge.)

Right now I am rereading and reading Marilyn Dumont’s poetry, and I’m aiming for a Richard Wagamese after these.

This is related to my plan to read more non-fiction this year, for I’ve done the math and last year’s reading was comprised of only 10% non-fiction, most of these being bookish/literary/writerish choices. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that my first – and only  – non-fiction read of this year was Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals.

This year, I’m aiming for 15%; it’s not much more, but I’m just as concerned with diversifying my choices, which will probably make it easier to increase the numbers next year.

Erdrich TracksOne challenge on this matter is it’s in conflict with one of my other goals, which is to read more often from my own shelves. Because I not only read but buy far more fiction, so I don’t have many tantalizing non-fiction choices on my own shelves.

And, in fact, less than 5% of my reading this year has been from my own shelves so far. And it’s clearly not because I’m reading more non-fiction and bored with my home selection, because it’s just been me and Sylvia so far for non-fiction reading.

No, it’s my quest to finish reading series and the very projects I’ve chosen for this reading year. For instance, this is the year that I am finally going to begin properly with Louise Erdrich’s novels, but I don’t own them all, not even the first one (in chronological order, that is, not publication), Tracks.

For more than five years, I’ve been intending to do this, having loved a couple of the novels and her collected stories (some of which appear in Tracks, it seems).

Every time Kat has mentioned one of them on “Mirabile Dictu”, I trot out my good intentions but then proceed to read other books instead. And I’ve mentioned it more recently, and more regretfully, on Naz’s site too.

But for how long can one claim to feel a strong connection to an author’s works without actually reading them? Eventually, you simply must sit down with the words.

It’s been even longer that I’ve entertained the possibility of reading Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna series. Even as a girl, I remember them sitting on the shelves of my older female relatives (a great aunt, a grandmother).

I loved to pull them from the shelves and look at their illustrated covers (some of which seemed delightfully risque) and then rearrange the set in the proper order once more. (They had to be in the proper order, of course.)

These will be quite a contrast to my other reading projects: the stuff of colonization with all the women in their proper places, hands pliant and soft on the shoulders of their men-folk. Not only best-sellers, but they were also made into a film in 1935 and a mini-series in 1972; I’ve got a better chance of watching the documentary of the author’s life which was made in 2012.

The books cover a hundred years in the history of the Whiteoak family (in this sense, it will be interesting to compare the Jane Smiley trilogy) although they were not written in chronological order and can apparently be read out of sequence.

Maybe I won’t get too far after all, but this will, at least, be the year of trying. I’m late starting, because I had so many entrancing graphic novels borrowed over the holidays, and then didn’t spend all that much time reading after all.

And, then, there is the matter of tidying up the past year, bringing logs and charts up-to-date and copying lines from spreadsheets. (This year marks my first full year of logging films – I started midway through last year – and television shows too. Because there are so many good stories and they’re not ALL written down.)

It’s not until I’ve gotten the past year in order that I feel I can sink into the next year’s reading. How about you? Did your 2017 begin on time?

Do you feel like this reading year is off to a promising or faltering beginning?

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23 comments to 2017 Plans and Projects

  • My mother used to love Mavis Gallant. I got a collection of short stories from her. Unfortunately in a German translation. Now I wouldn’t mind reading it but it’s always trciky to find the titles.
    I’m so curious to hear what you think of House Made of Dawn. I thought he’d write more like Louise Erdrich but he’s far closer to Tini Morrison.

    • Some of the short stories have been renamed too, it seems, so I have decided to start with a little biographical reading as well, to see if I can sort out some of the compilation confusion; however, it’s also clear that some of her best-known stories have been reanthologized many times, so at least those will be easy to recognize.

      Thanks for mentioning the stylistic expectations about HMoD because I actually paused in reading it to finish the Erdrich (fearing I might confuse them) but if he’s more like Toni Morrison, then I need to think about it quite differently. Good to know: expectations can really influence my reading!

  • Heh, my 2017 began on time but my 2016 didn’t end on time 😉

    Good plans you have for the year. Tacks is a good book! I think no matter what sort of plans we make, all we can do is try. The thing that matters most is that we enjoy our reading and the journey it takes us on.

    • Oh, I know, right? It seems like these should be simple matters. But…. 😀

      Tracks wasn’t quite what I was expecting, based on Last Miracle at Little No Horse, which I absolutely loved, and some short stories (two of which I’d read in Red Convertible before finding them in Tracks again). So it took me longer to read than I thought it would (I found LMaLNH unputdownable and the stories made compelling reading). It was more poetic and left some key things unexplained, and I might go back and reread it once I get to know some of the characters better via the later books in the series.

  • For some reason, this year, I feel like I need to make short term plans, rather than long term ones. Or maybe I feel stuck because my A-Z Project is so close to being finished. So, I’m planning to finish that, but hoping it won’t take the whole year! Maybe when it’s done, I’ll feel plan-ish. And there’s Emily, of course. And Canada Reads is coming up. And I’m hoping to keep focusing on Atlantic Canada. Other than that, I’m wide open! (Which is also kind of a plan…)
    I’m embarrassed to say that I still haven’t read any Mavis Gallant (I don’t even own any!). Maybe your project will inspire me to change that.

    • I wasn’t ready to get serious about plans until recently, too, so I get it. Things don’t always align tidily with calendar pages. And I really did feel like I needed to finish some things before I could think of starting others, which isn’t like me, really, in that I usually start more and then come around to the idea of finishing them up in time. Which does happen, because as much as I appreciate having several books on the go, eventually they begin to muddle (especially if there are similarities in theme or characters) and then I simply have to pare down, review, and try again. So I can certainly see where you might feel like you have to finish your A-Z and Emily before you can get any more specific. In the meantime, I will do my best not to distract you with Mavis-Gallant-goodness. *looks innocent*

  • Mavis Gallant has been on my ‘to read’ list for quite a while. I have a lovely NYRB collection of some of her stories tucked away somewhere so I shall have to dig it out. Glad to hear you are a fan of her work.

  • Nice plans! I am having no plans which is working quite well for me! I do have a Mavis Gallant novel I think – must dig it out!

    • Yes, you do! As soon as my copy of the first collection came in, via ILL, I recognised it as matching the novel you picked up a couple of months ago. (I hadn’t realised she’d written a novel!) No-plan plans are sometimes essential, I agree.

  • I hope to follow your thoughts of Erdrich. I have not read the author. But have heard very good reviews for many of the books

    • I’m really looking forward to them, as it seems like she has quite a variety of styles of story-telling, with some common themes across the body of her work to date (particularly a focus on women’s relationships and community).

  • Oh, I do love Mavis Gallant! Maybe I’ll do some rereading alongside you.

    And I also love Louise Erdrich — I picked up Tracks in an airport bookstore, of all places, many years ago. I read it with no knowledge or expectations and loved it. I’ve fallen behind on reading her last few though. Should catch up, as I like her writing. Just so many books!

    My plan this year is just to keep reading Canadian but also to spread out a bit and go back to some of my older TBR as well. Reading fairly plan-less this year, by choice.

    • I’ll keep you posted on the Gallant stories. I’m really looking forward to re-reading the Montreal stories and discovering her Paris Notebooks.

      Isn’t it remarkable how different the fiction that one can buy in an airport (or grocery store) seems to be now? Used to be you’d find a mix of literary and commercial fiction, but now it’s all pageturners (not all bad of course, but it doesn’t encourage people to reach for something different).

      I like the no-plan plan, and you’re not alone. Maybe you and Karen should make a mini-club!

  • Looks like you have some great reading plans for the year. I am also hoping to read a bit more non-fiction. Good luck with your plans!

  • Wendy

    My 2017 plan is to alternate between reading a new book and an old favourite. Now that I’m in my 50’s it’s like reading the favourite book for the first time! It will be interesting to see if they “hold up” to the first reading some fifteen/twenty or so years ago! I also plan on on reading all that Sarah Waters and Tim Winton have to offer! thanks for sharing your plans!

    • That’s a great idea, Wendy. I always say that I want to make a more concerted effort to reread: alternating would ensure it. Are the Wintons and Waters’ books all rereads or fresh reads, or a combination? I have a few Wintons on my shelf that I’ve been saving – for what? I’m not sure…maybe this year! Sarah Waters is one of my MustReadEverything authors, but I haven’t read her latest yet.

  • You have some great goals! Hope you can meet them. I am still trying to read at least 1 indigenous author a month and I have no shortage of short story collections to read. Nonfiction is one I always struggle with. I already own many I want to read, but finding the time to read them along with the literally dozens of others books I own that are on my TBR, I often forget to read nonfiction. I’ll try to be better about it in 2017. ;/

    • I’ve been saying for a few years that I want to read “more non-fiction”, so I’ve set myself a percentage to aim for. General intentions didn’t work, and trying to choose a single topic to focus on didn’t work (I read everything but), so I’m taking it down to numbers. When I can see that I’ve read 20 books (which might sound like a lot: it includes graphic novels and children’s books), and that includes 1 work of non-fiction, well, it’s hard to avoid the reality that I’m not breaking my fiction-habit. If I don’t change my habits this year, I’m going to simply accept that my interests must truly lie elsewhere and stop lamenting! We can only read so much, right? 😀

  • Wow I really love your goals! I’m going to have to follow along because I need to read more First Nations authors, and you’ve listed some really great ones here already. Two years ago I read a few non-fiction books by Native American authors. In case you’re interested, I really enjoyed Taking Back Our Spirits: Indigenous Literature, Public Policy, and Healing by Jo-Ann Episkenew and We Share Our Matters: Two Centuries of Writing and Resistance at Six Nations of the Grand River by Rick Monture. And of course always Thomas King.

    • Thanks, Amy: neither of those is on my list (apologies if I missed your reviews of them)! They sound a little academic, but I’m guessing that they’re accessible/invting if you particularly enjoyed them and still remember them a couple of years later. (Not that I mind the occasional academic read either. Just that it’s not my first inclination these days.) And yes, yes, yes: always Thomas King. I’m actually set to reread The Inconvenient Indian (partly because I never reviewed it — because I loved it so much that I didn’t want to stop to take notes – you know that feeling)!

  • […] on the afternoon I began to read the first Jalna book, finally, great sprawling flakes were falling, fiercely for a spell, then a gap of nearly an hour, […]

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