11

Japanese Literature Challenge 12 TBR

Created by the wonderful Dolce Bellezza, Japanese Literature Challenge has become one of the reading challenges I eagerly anticipate every year and one I can guarantee I can participate, since Japanese literature is always included in my yearly reading.

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This year’s Japanese Literature Challenge runs from January until March. You can view the announcement post here where you can find more details about the challenge, as well as the giveaways that will be running for the participants.

The books I plan to read for the challenge are:

  • Masks by Enchi Fumiko
  • A Midsummer’s Equation by Higashino Keigo
  • And Then by Soseki Natsume
  • Three Japanese Short Stories by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Nagai Kafu and Uno Koji (Penguin Modern Classics #5)

I also plan to read Poison Woman: Figuring Female Transgression in Modern Japanese Culture by Christine L. Marran, an academic non-fiction book, throughout the duration of the challenge.

Since in 2019 I want to stop being afraid of reading in Japanese and have decided to start reading a short story every one or two months, I decided to add that to the challenge, as a little extra for myself. The book I will be reading the short stories from is 20の短編小説 [20 no tanpen shosetsu], an anthology of 20 short stories by various contemporary Japanese authors that centre around the theme of “20” in one way or another.

Are you participating in this challenge? If yes, what do you plan to read? Don’t forget to use the hashtag #JLC12 on Twitter and Instagram if you do participate!

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0

Project Twenty Update

We are only halfway through July, but I thought that I would write my first update post detailing how I am getting on with my Project Twenty challenge.  The idea behind it is to get my to-read pile down to between fifteen and twenty books, and keep it that way.

It will, I’m sure, surprise very few people who have followed such challenges of mine in the past to find out that it hasn’t quite gone to plan.  I have been keeping a list of how many books I own, both physical and those bought on my Kindle, at the outset of each month.  I have then recorded how many books have been added, splitting them again into physical and Kindle purchases.  The most important part of my challenge was to endeavour to read as many books from my own TBR as I could; I have therefore temporarily stopped borrowing books from the library, and am more selective about what I choose to read from Netgalley.

Let us begin with my progress – or lack thereof – in May.  I read 14 physical books and 4 on my Kindle.  18 in total does not sound too bad, but one must factor in that I purchased 17 physical books throughout the month.  My total TBR at the end of May consisted of 36 physical books, and 7 Kindle books, 43 in total.

During June, my TBR went from 43 total books to 78.  I celebrated my birthday during the month, and as mentioned in my original TBR Goals post, received the entire box set of all fifty of the new Penguin Moderns series.  I also purchased 8 books, 4 in physical copies, and 4 on my Kindle.  I read 19 books and 4 Kindle books during the month, but those 23 did not make much of a dent in my TBR pile.

I have been making more of a concerted effort during July not to buy much; saying that, it is only the halfway point of the month, and I have already added 2 physical books, 2 Kindle books, and 2 review copies to my collection…  Thus far, I have read 23 physical books, and no Kindle tomes.

Going forward, I think I’m going to focus less upon how many books I’m reading and adding to my TBR pile.  I will still strive to get to the fifteen to twenty book mark eventually, but I still want to have a nice varied collection to pick from.  Added to this is the fact that some of my to-read books are currently with me in Scotland, and others are at my parents’ house back in England; thus, it is rather difficult to get down to my chosen number.

I’m sure that when I do, finally, shrink my TBR, I will post about it, perhaps with some advice on how to shrink your own to-read pile.  For now, however, I will try and steer away from bookshops and online book sales, and just savour the reading material which I have.

6

Books Set in New Zealand

Reading Rose Tremain’s wonderful The Colour has made me realise quite how few books I have read which are set in New Zealand.  This is clearly an oversight on my part; New Zealand has always been very high on my travel list, and I am fascinated by the culture there.  Katherine Mansfield, born in Wellington, is one of my favourite all-time authors, and I also very much enjoy the work of Janet Frame, Lloyd Jones, and Eleanor Catton.  I clearly need more works set in New Zealand on my to-read pile, and thus have made a list of tomes which I am very much looking forward to picking up in the next year or so.

5271891. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge (I’m hoping to read this for the 1944 Club in October)
A haunting love story set in the Channel Islands and New Zealand in the 19th century.  William, whose hypnotic, masculine presence made two women adore him… of Marianne, moody, passionate, brilliant, by whom William was both fascinated and repelled… of Marguerite, Marianne’s beautiful sister whom William wanted with all his heart.  They had both loved him for years. Now they were waiting for him to return from his journeys and claim his bride.

 

2. Blindsight by Maurice Gee
Alice Ferry lives in Wellington, and keeps an eye on her brother, though he doesn’t know it. Alice as narrator begins telling us the story from their childhood, but there are things she’s hiding.  When a young man shows up on her doorstep, claiming to be her brother Gordon’s grandson, things get complicated.

 

3. The Bone People by Keri Hulme 460635
In a tower on the New Zealand sea lives Kerewin Holmes, part Maori, part European, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality. Out of this unorthodox trinity Keri Hulme has created what is at once a mystery, a love story, and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet, clash, and sometimes merge. Winner of both a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People is a work of unfettered wordplay and mesmerizing emotional complexity.

 

4. An Angel at My Table: An Autobiography by Janet Frame
This autobiography traces Janet Frame’s childhood in a poor but intellectually intense family, life as a student, years of incarceration in mental hospitals and eventual entry into the saving world of writers.

 

237252755. The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns
Marriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant — The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.  Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities — these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.

 

6. The Piano by Jane Campion
In the award-winning film The Piano, writer/director Jane Campion created a story so original and powerful it fascinated millions of moviegoers. This novel stands independent of the film, exploring the mysteries of Ada’s muteness, the secret of her daughter’s conception, the reason for her strange marriage and the past lives of Baines and Stewart.

 

7. A Respectable Girl by Fleur Beale 3768628
It is 1859 in the raw township of New Plymouth where Hannah Carstairs walks between two worlds. She finds that both her worlds are changing. First there are the disturbing hints about her dead mother’s past. Then, the tensions between the Maori tribes and the settlers boil over into war.

 

8. A Land of Two Halves by Joe Bennett
After 10 years in New Zealand, Joe Bennett asked himself what on earth he was doing there. Other than his dogs, what was it about these two small islands on the edge of the world that had kept him—an otherwise restless traveller—for really much longer than they seemed to deserve? Bennett thought he’d better pack his bag and find out. Hitching around both the intriguingly named North and South Islands, with an eye for oddity and a taste for conversation, Bennett began to remind himself of the reasons New Zealand is quietly seducing the rest of the world.

 

Have you read any of these books?  Which are your favourite works set in, or about, New Zealand?

Purchase from The Book Depository

6

TBR Goals

Some of you may remember that I embarked on Project Read My Own Books (post here) a couple of years ago, in order to reduce my looming to-read pile.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and vowed that I would endeavour to keep my TBR as small as I could afterwards.  I have had a tendency in the past to buy lots whenever I go book shopping, and then do not tend to get around to picking up those tomes for quite a while afterwards.  The same happens on my Kindle; I have a few purchased books on my device which I have yet to read, as with the likes of Netgalley, they sometimes get sidelined.

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From http://www.pinterest.com; largely representative of the size of my current TBR…

I have therefore set myself some TBR goals.  Whether this will work or not, I do not know at this juncture, but I have been trying to read through all of the books which I own before buying any more.  My birthday is next week, and I know full well that I am receiving the box set of the fifty new Penguin Mini Modern Classics (yay!), so my TBR count will spiral considerably.

However, I want to get myself to around the 15-20 books mark on my to-read pile as soon as I possibly can.  I think with a manageable number such as this, which will hopefully never exceed the 20 (here’s hoping!), that I will be able to manage the books which I own a little better, and get through them within weeks of adding them to my pile, rather than months (or years…).  This marker will also stop me having to put myself on book-buying bans, which, let’s face it, never work, and simply make me more eager to browse and buy!  I will also be able to concentrate on reading a lot of the books which I have earmarked on various to-read lists, and have not yet got to.

In order to chart my progress, I will be making monthly, or bi-monthly posts detailing the number of books on my TBR on the first, the number of books read from it, and the number added.  How do you think I will fare with having a smaller TBR?  Do you have similar goals yourself?

6

Summer Reading Plans

I have been so good for the last month whilst on a book-buying ban, but ended up being sucked in with cheaper prices on AwesomeBooks, as well as a 20% off discount code on Monday.  I could have been far more restrained – as is evident from the fifteen books which I ordered – but whilst looking at my to-read list, I found that I had hardly any books which seemed like summer-appropriate reading.

I tend to read on whims, picking up what I want to as and when, but have had some rigidity in my reading life this year, what with my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge.  I have a few holidays and trips away planned over the next few months, so thought it might be a nice idea to make a list of those books which I am planning to read over the summer, and my reasoning for them.

Madame Solario by Gladys Huntington is yet another gorgeous Persephone book  9781906784355which my parents bought for me last year, and which I’ve not yet read.  It is set in Italy – one of my favourite holiday destinations – in 1906, and looks like the perfect immersive read for summertime.  Likewise, Margaret Forster‘s Diary of an Ordinary Woman has been on my to-read shelf for quite a while now, and I so adored her novel Have the Men Had Enough? that I want to pick it up soon.  Treveryan by Angela du Maurier is set in Cornwall, one of my favourite reading locations.  I am so intrigued by the lesser-known du Maurier’s writing, and how it may compare to Daphne’s. Eden’s Garden by Juliet Greenwood is set in Cornwall too, as well as in Wales, and I am waiting for the perfect sunny day in which to devour it in one sitting, as I pretty much did with her novel We That Are Left.

9780307947697The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart is a novel which I’ve had my eye on for such a long time, and I was finally able to find a heavily discounted secondhand copy a couple of months ago.  Her books are amusing and intelligently written, and perfect to race through on holiday.  I have a review copy of Non Pratt‘s Truth or Dare to read, which tells the same story from two different perspectives, and looks wonderfully intriguing.  Fenny by Lettice Cooper is about a schoolteacher who , but I was so eager to pick up a copy after reading Ali‘s review; it’s only taken me six years to do so!

I like to read crime and thrillers over the summer particularly, and have a few to choose from: Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie, Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh, My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart, and The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.

Other novels I really want to get to during the summer are Ursula, Under by Ingrid 9780143035459Hill, about a young girl who becomes trapped in a well; The Big House by Helena McEwen, This House of Grief by Helen Garner, and Devotion by Nell Leyshon, all of which are about loss; The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud, as I have so enjoyed her short stories in the past; Panic by Lauren Oliver, as I feel that she does thoughtful thrillers rather well; The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, as I loved her latest novel, The Burning Girl; Maria Semple‘s Where’d You Go Bernadette, which many fellow readers have loved; and Louise O’Neill‘s Asking for It, which seems to have been all over my Goodreads and Booktube feeds of late.

9781408802816I am aware that there is no non-fiction on my list thus far, so I am including Eudora Welty‘s One Writer’s Beginnings, which I hope will give me a much-needed kick to focus on my own creative writing (well, once my thesis is out of the way, that is!).  I also have a copy of the much-anticipated Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys, which many reviewers whom I admire have raved about.  Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Girlhood Friend by Hannah Goslar and Alison Leslie Gold is also highly anticipated.

I have focused on rather easy reads, it seems, but whilst in the midst of University work, it is nice to know that I’ll be able to pick something a little easier up than dense theoretical books.

Have you read any of these?  Which books are on your summer wishlist?

Purchase from The Book Depository

1

Showcasing the TBR

As I’m sure a few of you will remember, I ran a project during 2016 to cull my TBR list to just one or two tomes.  I managed it alongside reads for my Master’s course, but the number of unread books on my shelves has crept up steadily since, and is now consistently at around the fifty mark (oops…).  I thought that I would take this opportunity to showcase ten of my unread tomes which I am most looking forward to.

1. Time Will Darken It by William Maxwell 18176595
The decision to invite his Southern relatives to stay proves a fateful one for Austin King. By the time they leave, his reputation and his marriage have suffered irreparable damage.  Against the perfectly-drawn background of small-town Illinois at the turn of the twentieth century, Maxwell uncovers the seeds of potential tragedy at the heart of a happily-established family.

 

2. Madame Solario by Gladys Huntington
A novel of period and place, of mood and manners, tells its story in three parts:- the first and third, through Bernard Middleton, a young Englishman on tour, which sees the beginning and the end of Madame Solario’s stay at Cadenabbia, on Lake Como; and the second through the unrelenting questioning of Madame Solario by her brother, Eugene Harden.   It is 1906 and Cadenabbia’s visitors are ending the summer. Their many nationalities, titles, money, and idle chatter make a new world for Bernard, while Count Kavonski’s pursuit of Madame Solario gives him a chance to protect the woman who has infatuated him. The antagonism between the two is dissolved when Eugene appears, and envelops Madame in his plans for an opportunist alliance with wealth.

 

12552113. The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West
In these four short novels set in America, England and Paris, Rebecca West explores the lives and relationships of rich women and men who are ruled by ‘the harsh voice we hear when money talks, or hate‘. There is Josie, a flower of American girlhood with boundless ambition for wealth. There is Etienne de Sefavenac, a dilettante French aristocrat whose courtly stratagems are intended to ensnare Nancy Sarle – a plain American businesswoman. There is Alice Pemberton, a sensible Englishwoman – the very salt of the earth – in her own estimation. And lastly there is Sam Hartley, an American businessman who has fought his way to riches with his wife at his side, but whose life is now haunted by visions of beautiful young women.

 

4. Selected Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner
In the selection of her stories from 1932 to 1977, the author casts a kind but piercing eye on human quirks and passions, as well as chronicling the events of Elfland. A brother and sister, shattered by the horrors of war, find solace in a tender, incestuous ‘marriage’. A wife, bored and rancorous, stitches a widow’s quilt. An old level-crossing keeper watches over his speechless, disfigured niece. In this magnificent selection of her stories, ranging from 1932 to 1977, Sylvia Townsend Warner casts a compassionate but piercing eye on the oddities of love. There’s the joyously farcical story of the mouse and the four-poster bed, the strange fugue of a sad woman and her doppelganger cat, the composer unexpectedly spending an afternoon ‘living for others’. And finally, there’s the skein of stories reporting on the events of Elfland, precise, witty and strange. Readers who know this author’s work will be delighted, while newcomers will find the perfect introduction to a writer of incomparable style and substance.

 

5. Strait is the Gate by Andre Gide 716381
A delicate boy growing up in Paris, Jerome Palissier spends many summers at his uncle’s house in the Normandy countryside, where the whole world seems ‘steeped in azure’. There he falls deeply in love with his cousin Alissa and she with him. But gradually Alissa becomes convinced that Jerome’s love for her is endangering his soul. In the interests of his salvation, she decides to suppress everything that is beautiful in herself – in both mind and body.

 

6. Therese by Francois Mauriac
From the moment she walks from court having been charged with attempting to poison her husband, to her banishment, escape to Paris, and final years of solitude and waiting, the life of Thérèse Desqueyroux is passionate and tortured. The victim of a hostile fate, Thérèse, as Mauriac said of her ‘belongs to that class of human beings … for whom night can end only when life itself ends. All that is asked of them is that they should not resign themselves to night’s darkness.’ Thérèse’s moving and powerful story affirms the vitality of the human spirit, making her an unforgettable heroine.

 

12199497. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
Set in Penang, 1939, this book presents a story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love.  The recipient of extraordinary acclaim from critics and the bookselling community, Tan Twan Eng’s debut novel casts a powerful spell. Set during the tumult of World War II, on the lush Malayan island of Penang, The Gift of Rain tells a riveting and poignant tale about a young man caught in the tangle of wartime loyalties and deceits.

 

8. The Innocent Mrs Duff and The Blank Wall by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding (omnibus edition)
Two novels of suspense in one volume. Long out of print, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding wrote popular suspense novels in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Raymond Chandler was among her fans. The Innocent Mrs. Duff is from 1946, The Blank Wall from 1947.

 

9. A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse 7998632
Ivan, a one-time world traveler, and Francesca, a ravishing Italian heiress, are the owners of a bookstore that is anything but ordinary. Rebelling against the business of bestsellers and in search of an ideal place where their literary dreams can come true, Ivan and Francesca open a store where the passion for literature is given free reign. Tucked away in a corner of Paris, the store offers its clientele a selection of literary masterpieces chosen by a top-secret committee of likeminded literary connoisseurs. To their amazement, after only a few months, the little dream store proves a success. And that is precisely when their troubles begin. At first, both owners shrug off the anonymous threats that come their way and the venomous comments concerning their store circulating on the Internet, but when three members of the supposedly secret committee are attacked, they decide to call the police. One by one, the pieces of this puzzle fall ominously into place, as it becomes increasingly evident that Ivan and Francesca’s dreams will be answered with pettiness, envy and violence.

 

10. The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule by Joanna Kavenna
A legend, a land once seen and then lost forever, Thule was a place beyond the edge of the maps, a mystery for thousands of years. And to the Nazis, Thule was an icy Eden, birthplace of Nordic “purity.” In this exquisitely written narrative, Joanna Kavenna wanders in search of Thule, to Shetland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Greenland, and Svalbard, unearthing the philosophers, poets, and explorers who claimed Thule for themselves, from Richard Francis Burton to Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen. Marked by breathtaking snowscapes, haunting literature, and the cold specter of past tragedies, this is a wondrous blend of travel writing and detective work that is impossible to set down.

 

If you’re interested, you can see my working TBR, which consists of physical books and those which I have purchased on my Kindle, on Goodreads.

How many books are on your TBR?  Which are you most looking forward to reading?

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The TBR List: No More Additions

I have been keeping lists of books which I want to read since the age of fifteen.  Every time I saw a wonderful-looking tome in a bookshop, on my library’s catalogue, or whilst scrolling through Goodreads, blogs, and literary articles, I made a note of it.  Six filled notebooks later, I have decided that 2017 will be the year of searching out and reading books already on my TBR list. Things are getting a little out of control already, and if I continue to add to my list, I can see myself never getting through it! tumblr_static_tumblr_static_pile-of-books

This isn’t to say that I won’t be adding the odd tome here and there when it comes highly recommended, or when I read a particularly persuasive or intriguing review.  I just want to cut back almost entirely, and stop writing down hundreds of books every month (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but at least that’s what it feels like I’ve been doing!).

I will be choosing every book from my list at random, but have decided to give it a little structure by starting with my earliest notebook, and going ahead almost chronologically.  I won’t be making a note of which books I have read from which notebook other than on my yearly challenge, but hopefully this way forward will work well, and will make me feel as though all of my reading is manageable.

How many books make up your TBR list?  How do you keep track of it?  Do you actively search for books from it, or are you like me, preferring to write new tomes down as soon as you find them?