Reading Projects2019-03-20T14:29:55-05:00

Reading on a Theme

Clusters? Lists? Series? So many projects…

Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna series sat on my grandmother’s bookshelves for years, the first volume the most worn. As a girl, I would take them off the shelf and replace them in their proper order, but whenever I began to read them, I got lost in the descriptive passages about the family’s journey overseas.

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16 / 16 Jalna books read

List of My Reading Projects, Past and Present. Whether reading lists or prizelists, recommendations or series: the smallest detail can spark a project.

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Until recently, I’ve been much better at beginning series than finishing them. In 2017, I finished Jane Smiley’s series. In 2018, Louise Erdrich. And, now?

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Having company while reading is sometimes lovely. Whether it’s reading in a group or with a single bookfriend.

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About Reading-project pages that I’ve been turning

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Mazo de la Roche’s Young Renny (1935; 1971)

When I began to read this series, I worried - needlessly - about keeping the characters straight: actually, the main character is Jalna itself. "Everything about the house had been put in perfect

Mazo de la Roche’s Mary Wakefield (1949)

There were “few openings for women in the nineties” and, so, Mary Wakefield is forced to consider work as a governess in the 1890s. She is fortunate, in fact, that Ernest Whiteoak is seeking

Ten at a time

My Stacks Are Messy and I have Big Ideas

When I was a girl, I had a complete set of Noddy books. I knew that a series could be complete. But at that stage, it was mostly about frustrated desire. Repeated visits to the library did not result in the proper Narnia book being on the shelf. Regular searching at the department store never yielded a Ladybird book in the same series. The Golden Books were numbered but not sequentially (or, not seemingly). My Paddington Bear box set looked to be complete, but the series spilled over onto the shelf alongside.

As an adult, with a wider world just keystrokes away, it seems possible to complete one’s plans now.  Beloved titles can be identified and gathered, missing volumes can be sourced. But just as one’s plans might seem more achievable, there are so many more lists and temptations. It’s possible that I am not a completist simply because I am not very good at completion. But it’s also possible that I have decided that a different aim is more desirable. That I have decided to be a Reader-in-Progress instead.

“Here is the great difference between reading and writing. Reading is a vocation, a skill at which, with practice, you are bound to become more expert. What you accumulate as a writer is mostly uncertainties and anxieties.”

Susan Sontag

“Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately in order to give a true account in his next excursion. I go to libraries because they are the ocean.”

Susan Howe