Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The 2016 Reading Challenge

This comes from the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. The Reading Challenge asks you to read:

  • a book published this year
  • a book you can read in a day
  • a book you've been meaning to read
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller
  • a book you should have read in school
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF
  • a book published before you were born
  • a book that was banned at some point
  • a book you previously abandoned
  • a book you own but have never read
  • a book that intimidates you
  • a book you've already read at least once
I am off to a good start.  Right now, I'm reading a book one of my daughters gave me for Christmas, from my extensive Amazon wish list.  It's The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History.  Technically, I'm no longer a student, since I've finished my late-in-life collegiate studies, having received my Master of Liberal Arts in Florida Studies from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg just this past May.  However, we are all -- or should be -- lifelong students.  And we historians are constant, inveterate, and total students.  I'm enjoying the book.  It has given me information on aspects of history and historical study of which I was unaware.

I am also working on a book that intimidates me.  It is Michel de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life.  It's a theoretical work, and therefore it makes my head hurt.  But I'm slogging through it.  He speaks of everyday practices of everyday people.  I just wish he had used everyday language in which to do it!  I am getting something out of it, but probably not as much as is there, alas.  Highfalutin' language and theory always make my head hurt.

As to a book published this year, I'll have to hunt for one.  A book I can read in a day?  I may have a few of those on my shelves, but not very many.  Maybe one of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books.  I love those.  They're delightful.

I have a number of books I've been meaning to read, and for that I think I'll choose fiction.  I will read my friend Lisa Peppan's Somewhen Over the Rain Clouds.  Maybe tomorrow when I take my sister-in-law to the library I'll ask for a recommendation from the librarian.  I like mysteries, so I'll see what she may have to say of something in that field.  A book I should have read in school.  H'mm.  Heh.  Do I want my professors to possibly see this?  Well . . . Okay, I'll fess up.  Dr. Charles Clossman, now chair of the Department of History at the University of North Florida, forgive me.  I didn't read Jack Temple Kirby's The Mockingbird's Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South in class.  I will read it this year, as part of the challenge.

I have a lot of books published before I was born, even though I was born a long time ago!  They were printing by that time.  Gutenberg showed me an advance copy of his Bible!  Okay, kidding aside, as a historian, I have a lot of old books.  My college housemate (FSU, 1965-66) Judith West sent me a book she had held onto since childhood.  This book was published in 1892, and she thought that, as a Florida historian, I'd be interested.  Indeed I am.  The book is Historical Sketches of Colonial Florida, by Richard L. Campbell.  It deals mainly with what was called West Florida, of which Pensacola was the capital in Spanish times, while my studies are mainly of East Florida, of which St. Augustine was the capital.  However, I can certainly read it for Judith, and in honor of my mother, as both were raised in Pensacola.

I have rather a fetish for reading banned books.  It is a way to thumb my nose at the prudes and arrogant bluenoses who ban them.  I must have a banned book in my collection; at least one.  I will check the American Library Association's website for their banned books list.  The website discusses banned and "challenged" books.  I'm sure I can find something fascinating on their lists.

A book you previously abandoned.  That is a tough one.  Usually, when I abandon a book, it is because I just cannot proceed any further in it, for a variety of reasons.  These are the books that I may feel so disgusted at that I throw them against the wall.  I have done so in the past because of execrable writing, terrible plotting, and disgusting characters.  I will have to work on that one.

A book you own but have never read.  I have a few of those.  I shall just peruse my bookshelves and pick one.  To be announced.  A book you've already read at least once.  Oh, that could be such a pleasure, for I have books that I have so thoroughly enjoyed I have read them again and again.  Thomas P. F. Hoving's The King of the Confessors is probably number one on that list.  It is a wonderful story, full of intrigue, telling how Hoving tracked down the elusive Bury St. Edmonds Cross.  This artifact was lost for many years.  It is an elaborately carved cross and is stunningly beautiful.  I also immensely enjoyed E. J. Priz's Cosa Nosferatu:  Capone.  Ness.  Cthulhu.  Yes, you read that right.  It was such big fun!  (Note that on the website, accessible from the above link, the second quoted review, the one in red letters, is mine!)

So that is the challenge, and how I plan to meet it.  I'll comment on these books as I finish them, and tick them off the list.

Take up the challenge!  Read some good books!  After all, we have the whole year, right?