Book Shelves on the Move: A Reading Renaissance?

Book Shelves

A Fresh Reading Start?

The Landing Book Shelves (the actual shelves that is, as opposed to the blog) have had a bit of a shake-up in recent weeks, because of some building work involving window replacement. The upshot is that one set of shelves is no longer on the landing, but in the hall. As other shelves have similarly moved around somewhat, many books are now in different locations and a certain amount of confusion and mixing of genres has arisen. On the other hand, this has been a great opportunity to re-discover overlooked titles and authors. It has also had the slightly depressing result of making me realise just how many books in the house (let alone on The Landing Book Shelves) remain un-read. I shy away from doing a serious count (as Cathy at 747 Books has bravely done) because I don’t want to lower my literary morale any further. Although I am now beginning to consider re-naming the blog ‘The Household Book Shelves’ since that is a more realistic picture of the challenge ahead. At this rate I may have to ban myself from going to the library.

More Book Shelves

Plenty of Penguins

In the spirit of a spring renaissance I have therefore decided to take a positive view of the un-read books and to try see them all as so much bookish potential, rather than as a task to be completed. I think that if I persist in treating them as items to be ticked off a list, then I might as well give up the whole enterprise, since it will no longer be any pleasure. With that in mind, I have been enjoying myself by making mental note of a few random titles that had previously slipped off my radar. So far, I have accumulated about half a dozen novels, belonging to either me or He Who Put The Shelves Up, that have been floating around for a while. Some of them, such as The Llangollen Ladies (Mary Gordon) and The Children of the Archbishop (Norman Collins) are Trinity Book Sale purchases from a couple of years ago. Perhaps it is no bad thing that we missed this year’s event due to a change in dates. The half-price Saturday could be a very tempting affair indeed and consequently, inestimably dangerous to the state of the TBR Pile.

A Small Book Shelf

Mainly Children’s Books

Therefore, the next few posts will I hope, feature some true examples unearthed from the TBR Pile because of the new shelf arrangements. It has been quite nice to discover books that have languished un-noticed for months (or even years). It has even been nice to do some very necessary dusting of books and shelves as everything was put back in place. Now, at least I have clean books to read! I have even been toying with the idea of creating a proper catalogue as an excuse to practice my very rusty data base skills. I have come as far as naming a file in this worthy enterprise and that’s about all.

I am not sure yet which title will feature in the next post, but I am leaning towards political skulduggery in the sixteenth century so I have a couple of options to consider. Drop by again soon if you want to see what pops up on The Landing Book Shelves.

Romans on The Landing: Ecce Romani

Today’s post is about a studious little side-project to my TBR Pile endeavours, though I am not sure whether it will be a long-lasting one or not. I have begun to tackle a cherished ambition to have a go at learning Latin, a language that I never studied at school. My impetus for this ambition fulfilment is that The Bookworm is taking Latin classes so I thought that I would keep her company. Now, to be absolutely clear about this, she is in her second year of Latin study, so it has taken me long enough to screw my courage to the sticking place and get on with a spot of conjugating. So, without even a thought of New Year resolutions, I have acquired a new Reading Challenge.

Ecce Romani

Four to go…

I am working from Ecce Romani: A Latin Reading Course, which was passed on to us by a friend, so I need not feel too guilty if this doesn’t work out. At least I won’t have spent a fortune on my texts. The edition I have is an older version rather than the more recently updated one, but I don’t think it will make much difference. After all, the language can hardly change, can it? The Scottish Classics Group wrote the series, originally published in 1971 (Oliver and Boyd, an imprint of the Longman Group). Longman reprinted the series many times, the edition I have being the seventeenth impression (2000). I am sure that many people must have memories, both good and bad, of studying along with Marcus, Sextus, Cornelia and Flavia. It reminds me of the Peter and Jane reading books from my school days.

I have Ecce Romani books one to four to work through and then I will see where to go from there (assuming I make it that far). Alongside, I thought that I might dip into the Cambridge Latin Course (Cambridge School Classics Project) series from time to time, as this is the text used by The Bookworm. Cambridge also has online activities to tie in with the books, which might be handy for vocabulary testing. Finally, if I feel truly brave I will tackle some poetry from the poetry anthology called Carpe Viam (The Classical Association of Ireland, 1993, 1998). I am not sure whether I will get as far as the Latin poetry any time soon but I do have good intentions.

Cambridge Latin

How far will I get?

On with the next chapter of my challenge…


A Landing Word Blight

I have been struggling to keep motivated with my Landing Book Shelves project lately, as you might have noticed. There has been a distinct lack of words appearing in the blog stream over the last couple of months. The reading part of the Landing Challenge has been making some progress but then the writing aspect has been falling by the wayside. Whether this has been to do with the so-called winter blues (I know it is supposed to be spring now but you cannot tell for the wind and rain), trying to tackle another project or life generally getting in the way, I am not sure. The sum total is a sad lack of posts written up for the Landing blog. I am not doing much better with the Landing’s sister blog Curiously, Creatively either. I am clearly being neither curious nor creative and that will have to change ere long.

Maybe I should have added that (in all honesty) a tendency to become sucked into reading the daily news on various online newspapers is also responsible for my poor output. The only thing that stops the rot is that the Irish Times limits the amount of free articles that one can access in a week. Once I reach my weekly quota then I have had it, no more news. While I appreciate that the company’s primary motive is pecuniary, I am grateful that the Irish Times cares so much about its readers wasting their time online that it blocks their viewing  after ten articles. Without that consideration, I would be wasting even more time than I do already. Sadly, the Guardian and the Telegraph are not so public-spirited and I could lose myself in news and comment threads for hours.

Having said all of that, I should point out in my own defence that I have entered a couple of writing competitions this year. Therefore, all is not yet lost as I inch my way through 2015.

Nevertheless, as we move into spring, I intend to ‘up’ my blogging game somewhat, so watch this space….



Maugham on Fiction: An Inspiration for an Essay Reading Challenge

Maugham early in his career

An early career author picture

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been reading some of William Somerset Maugham’s essays from Ten Novels and their Authors (1954, 1978). I skipped through the book to pick out authors that I have read so far for The Landing TBR project. The collection has also reminded me (as if I needed it), that I have many books on the shelves that I have not yet tackled. Perhaps this essay collection will give me the impetus to explore writers, such as Balzac and Dostoyevsky that remain on the TBR Pile. Maugham includes Tolstoy and War and Peace in his Ten Novels selection and attentive Landing readers will recall that I finally got around to reading War and Peace last year. Reading Dostoyevsky would enable me to continue the Russian literature theme that developed after my reading of Tolstoy’s novel. Maugham also writes about Emily Bronte and Wuthering Heights, which caused me to want to re-read that novel, as well as to dig out the Juliet Barker biography of the Bronte family from the back bedroom stash to check a few facts.

What I do have in mind for this year however, is to begin a new Landing Challenge to explore some of the essay collections scattered around the house (not all of them live on The Landing). I was thinking of dipping into a few collections rather than solidly reading all of them. Some collections belong to me (and I am more likely to have read some of these) but the ones belonging to He Who Put The Shelves Up are largely still on my mental ‘to read sometime’ list. My plan would be to tackle a few of the essay collections spaced out over the year, in between reading other books. I might set out to cover (no pun intended) some literary essays first, since chance led me to the Maugham collection.

Ten Novels

A bargain at 90p!

I have been trying to read up a little on Maugham’s life and career but have found several apparent contradictions in online sources so I won’t give you more than brief biographical details here. I am however intrigued enough to attempt to track down a definitive account so when I do, I will post up about it. Somerset Maugham was born in the British Embassy in Paris in 1874 and died in Nice in 1965. His father Robert was a lawyer and his mother Edith Snell was a writer. Orphaned by the age of ten, an aunt and uncle in England brought him up. Maugham was a homosexual at a time when it was still illegal and therefore dangerous to admit publicly, though his orientation was accepted in the literary circles he frequented. He did however enter into what proved to be a short-lived marriage with interior designer Syrie Barnardo and had a daughter, Liza. But more of Maugham’s life and times when I have researched further.

Of the subjects in Maugham’s collection, I have read Pride and Prejudice, David Copperfield, Wuthering Heights and War and Peace, so I will read his essays on these books and talk about them in my next blog post.

And then there’s the remaining five novels that he discuses…..back to the TBR Pile!

The Landing (The TBR Pile) Spring Clean

Recently I have been contemplating the prospect of tackling a spring-cleaning session in the magic realm known as  The Landing. Note, that I used the word contemplating which could suggest that my approach to cleaning is thoughtful and measured. It also quite plainly tells you that I’m procrastinating on the shelf cleaning front. Every time that I pass the shelves on my way either up or down the stairs, I sigh and say to myself, ‘I really must clean those shelves’ or ‘Look at those cobwebs’ or similar such sentiments. But has it done any good at all? The answer is no, it has done not one scrap of good. The dusty tomes of the TBR Pile on the bookcases still cry out for a little TLC (applied with a duster).

Bottom Shelf

Starting at the bottom

However, the time has come to gird my loins and fetch out the Mr Sheen in the interests of maintaining housekeeping standards on The Landing. Lovingly dusted and arranged on equally dust free shelves is no less than my books deserve. It’s just that I do wish modern science had managed to discover a method of banishing dust once and for all. No sooner do I finish cleaning all of the shelves in the house with their resident books then it’s time to start over. The literary equivalent of painting the Forth Bridge (I know that is really just an urban myth but as a child I used to believe it) goes on relentlessly.

The real problem with dusting bookshelves is, as you might have guessed that as I remove books from the shelves I get distracted. Very distracted…. I know that I began this blog to chart my voyage around the uncharted Landing territory (see The Prologue) but I do need to separate cleaning time from reading time. All too often I’ve found myself sitting on the stairs, duster in one hand and book in the other as I browse. This slows the spring/autumn/whenever cleaning down considerably. This inevitably exacerbates the Forth Bridge impression. And that’s before I get to tackle the bookshelves that don’t fall under The Landing project’s range.

Having said all of that, perhaps a good cleaning session will be the perfect way to decide what to cover on the blog in the next month or so. Rather like shops having a clear out that result in a summer sale, perhaps I should have a summer read as a by-product of my clear out. I’ll venture upstairs, with cloth and furniture polish in hand and see what turns up. Who knows what long forgotten novel might be awaiting my attention?  Whether my browsing (sorry, I meant cleaning) will reveal another Landing Eight remains to be seen.

Perhaps I might aim for a more modest ‘Spring Cleaning Four’ ? I’ll be back in due course, armed with the spoils of dusting…


Doctor Zhivago: More Russian Literature

Doctor Zhivago

My Christmas Present…

This reading year is beginning briskly with Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (Vintage Books) which is a new resident on the Landing Book Shelves. Pasternak’s epic novel was a Christmas present from He Who Put The Shelves Up to enable me to continue my Russian reading period after finishing War and Peace. I just managed to finish the latter on the cusp of the New Year and I can still feel a modest glow of success at that achievement. Now that I’ve finally read War and Peace I would like to go on to read more of Tolstoy’s work, so perhaps that might be a possibility for later this year.

I haven’t yet set any aims for this reading year but my broad plan will be to continue to tackle long neglected novels (and perhaps auto/biographies too). I was interested to come across a similar challenge on Twitter where writer Lynn Shepherd is inviting people to join her in reading Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa beginning tomorrow. A mammoth literary task if ever there was one (see @Lynn_Shepherd for more information and to join in).

I hope to tie up War and Peace with one more blog post (if I can manage to write something without plot spoiling) and I will give an update on the Doctor Zhivago progress as soon as possible. I’m toying with a couple more ideas for future reads as well, so watch this space!

Meanwhile why not drop me a line below to let everyone know about your 2014 reading challenges. Happy New Reading Year to one and all!

Tolstoy: The Next Landing TBR Pile Challenge

War and Peace

Cover shows detail from ‘The 1812 Retreat – The Battle of Borodino’ by Vereschagin

I promised you an announcement on the next stage of the Landing Book Shelves Reading Challenge and here it is at long last. As you will no doubt guess from the illustration, the challenge is the reading of War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, 1828 -1910) a big hurdle if ever there was one. This worthy challenge has been put on the Landing Book Shelves agenda because it also happens to be my book group’s project at the moment, this killing the proverbial two birds. I’m not sure how long it will take me to read War and Peace (or how long it will take my fellow book clubbers for that matter) but I undertake to offer my blog readers reasonably regular progress updates. Weighing in at 1444 pages, this lengthy tome will be read in stages in between various other books.

It is just as well that the idea of reading War and Peace for book group came up as it is likely that it would have sat on the Landing Book Shelves almost indefinitely. I say ‘almost’ because I really and truly meant to get around to reading it sometime. I bought my copy in May 1992 with the intention of reading Tolstoy’s epic during my summer holidays. After all this time I can’t recall what I did read that summer, but it certainly wasn’t Tolstoy. So, it’s better late than never on the Russian classics front I suppose.

War and Peace was first published in 1869 (I’ll fill in the publication history in a future post) and the paperback edition that I have on The Landing was first published by Penguin Classics as a two-volume edition in 1957. The one volume edition came out in 1982; the translation is by Rosemary Edmonds from 1957 with revisions in 1973. I’m by no means an expert on the virtues of one translation over another so I will have to trust to the reliability of Penguin Classics in this instance. There are more recent translations available (for example from Penguin Classics and Vintage), but as this is the copy I have on The Landing, I’ll go with this one unless any reader out there tells me that I would be better served with a different translation.

I will be embarking for nineteenth century Russia just as soon as I’ve finished my library book and a couple of review books….I promise…