Category Archives: Reading Projects

A Self-Education

Civilization

The Story of Civilization on my bookshelf.

When I was 16 years old my father gave me the complete set, which at that time was 9 volumes, of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. I was both thrilled with and overwhelmed by the gift. I love history, as did my Dad, but 9 volumes (soon to be 10, and then eventually 11) with fine print just overwhelmed me. Although I’ve used them like an encyclopedia, looking up information needed, in all this time I’ve never read them cover to cover, although they have traveled with me through every move and have survived every purge of books in my lifetime, thus far.

You will understand, then, when I tell you why I am extremely proud of my son. In the last few years, our son, Dan, has had a long commute to work. He has made that time spent in the car both productive and bearable by listening to audiobooks. He has just completed a huge project listening to the complete unabridged set of the 11 volumes of The Story of Civilization!  If I added correctly, that’s over 424 hours of listening time! But it’s more than that because along the way on his historical journey, he took many “side roads” and listened to much of the classic literature of the time period he was immersed in.

We have had the most wonderful and fascinating long talks with him about the different historical time periods, about the amazing people involved, about human nature and culture, and about the writing of this epic life’s work by Will Durant and his wife, Ariel. What an amazing education Dan is giving himself over the miles! I know my college professor Dad would have been incredibly proud of him, too, and they would have had amazing discussions about all that Dan has learned. The pleasure of learning is certainly a powerful gene in our family, and I’m so very proud of the self-education Dan is giving himself through his reading.

“Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.”

— Will Durant

Our son, Dan, reading to his son…

The Classics Club


Why haven’t I joined The Classics Club before now? I’ve been interested in it and thought about doing it for years! I lurked around their web site… started my own private reading challenge of 50 books à la The Classics Club but without joining… read lots of classics…  But I was afraid of not being able to finish the commitment I would make because I’m just awful at finishing challenges these days.

But, this morning I read a post by Melissa @Avid Reader’s Musings, and was so inspired by the fact that she just posted her last review and finished her 5-year challenge with The Classics Club! Congratulations, Melissa!  I wish I had simply joined 5 years ago when I first heard about it and was both fascinated by and fearful of it. Five years goes by quickly and I, too, would be finishing my last book from my list of 50 classics. So no more hesitating. Inspired by Melissa, I have decided to just go ahead and join. I am proud to become a member of The Classics Club!

My list is a mix of novels, short stories, and poetry, a combination of adult and children’s literature. Many of these books are already on my bookshelves or on my Kindle. My goal for completing my reading of these books is March 2022!  That sounds so far away, but I know that five years goes by in a flash. And what pleasurable reading years they will be!

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  3. Death Comes For the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  4. The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
  5. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
  6. The Railway Children, Edith Nesbitt
  7. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  8. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  10. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  11. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz
  12. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  13. The Rainbow and the Rose, Nevil Shute
  14. Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
  15. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  16. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  17. A Very Easy Death, Simone de Beauvoir
  18. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  19. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  20. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  21. The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett
  22. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. This Star Shall Abide, Sylvia Engdahl
  24. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  25. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  26. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  27. The Moorland Cottage, Elizabeth Gaskell
  28. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  29. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
  30. Kinfolk, Pearl S. Buck
  31. Ask Me, William Stafford
  32. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin
  33. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  34. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  35. The Spectator Bird, Wallace Stegner (read March 2017)
  36. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  37. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  38. Kindred, Octavia Butler
  39. The Sussex Downs Murder, John Bude
  40. The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  41. Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
  42. The Unicorn and Other Poems, Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  43. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  44. Crooked House, Agatha Christie (read March 2017)
  45. Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
  46. Two on a Tower, Thomas Hardy
  47. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  48. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, Eleanor Perenyi
  49. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  50. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the CIty, Italo Calvino
  51. Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays
  52. Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  53. The Sea Runners, Ivan Doig

 

Making Progress

Treebeard

Illustration by Alan Lee — from The Two Towers.

I am slowly making progress on my rereading of The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R.Tolkien. It’s a very enjoyable reading project that I started in November as a retreat from the election stresses and strains. Perhaps I’m reading it slowly because those stresses and strains have gotten worse rather than better! But really I’m reading it slowly so that I can enjoy and savor the wonderful writing as well as the terrific adventure of it all. It’s been my evening read, just before I go to bed at night, and it’s a great way to end the day. I’m about 3/4 of the way through The Two Towers so at this time I am traveling with Frodo and Sam, and Gollum, getting closer to Mordor. I am very glad to spend time in their company.

the-two-towers