Reading Plans for 2009

I love new reading plans, and thinking about 2009, I have a three-tier approach in mind. First of all there are a number of particular books I’d like to read:

The Master and Margherita by Bulgakov,
The Double by José Saramango,
The White Hotel by D. M. Thomas,
The Women’s Room by Marilyn French,
Atonement by Ian McEwan and
Speak, Memory by Nabokov.

Then there are canonical authors I haven’t read and would like to, most notably, Henry James. I’ve read and enjoyed his short fiction, Washington Square and The Aspern Papers, but this is Henry James-lite. Years ago I never made it fast the first few pages of The Golden Bowl, and I’d like to try again. Perhaps The Ambassadors, this time, or The Bostonians. I’m really keen to read around this historical and cultural era and try William Dean Howells (there’s a beautiful NYRB classic, Indian Summer, that I have my eye on), Willa Cather, Sarah Orne Jewett and (more) Edith Wharton. It’s funny; the British nineteenth century interests me not at all, but that slide out of the nineteenth into the twentieth in just about any other country is quite fascinating. It’s a kind of pre-modernism, I suppose, the moment before modern literature as we know it is born.

There’s also a number of modern canonical authors I’ve never read who represent significant gaps I’d like to fill. Among them are the American Richards – Richard Yates, Richard Ford and Richard Powers. Over in Europe, I’ve never read any Italo Calvino or Albert Cohen, nor any Isabel Allende. I’m keen to try something I have never, ever read before, which is classic science fiction, in the form of John Wyndham and Octavia Butler. And there are a number of wonderful authors I’d like to revisit and read more from, including Hermann Hesse, Borges and Georges Perec (in particular, Life, A User’s Manual).

Finally there are all the sheer fun books I’d like to read. Crime fiction-wise, I’ve never read C. J. Sansom and would like to try him next year, and I’ve only read one Barbara Vine and will be reading more. I’ve been saving up for a special moment when I want a treat or reward Margaret Forster’s Keeping the World Away, Jane Gardam’s Filth, Penelope Lively’s Consequences, Jonathon Coe’s The Rain Before It Falls, Mary McCarthy’s Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood, and Drusilla Modjeska’s Poppy.

Oh and I should mention also that I’m determined to read more in French next year. I’ve read shamefully little in 2008, and picking up a couple of novels just recently (one of which, Laurent Gaudé’s The House of Scorta which won the Prix Goncourt, the Booker equivalent in 2004 has been extremely enjoyable) has reminded me how much I enjoy it. I’ve hardly got any novels left that I have to read for my academic book, so I can just follow the dictates of pleasure.

First of all, though, I’ll be finishing off the reading I’d decided to do for the end of 2008 and the very beginning of 2009. I said I’d read the Slaves of Golconda shortlist, and I am working my way through that. There are also a number of books including The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington that are waiting patiently in line. I liked these plans a lot when I made them, and I’m sticking with them. There’s also the small matter of The Recognitions by William Gaddis for the group blog. It’s not an easy read, but it is a very rich and intriguing one, and I’m extremely glad to be tackling this with some wonderful book bloggers.

I do love looking ahead and making plans, and some of these will come off, even if some fall by the wayside. It doesn’t matter at all; reading is an Aladdin’s Cave, not a school syllabus, and who knows what will come out next year, or crop up in a blogger’s post and derail the best laid of plans (even my plan here developed extra layers in the plotting!). It’s a lovely prospect.


20 thoughts on “Reading Plans for 2009

  1. Litlove, I look at your list with nostalgia and admiration. Nostalgia, because I used to make up lists like that, but activities such as book reviewing and spotting new books made me disregard lists, and while I miss that, I do enjoy the spontaneous find or searched-for new book, such as what the post just brought, the _Rivers of Babylon_ trilogy by Peter Pist’anek, for review purposes.

    Admiration, because it’s a diverse list, and has such knowns and unknowns in it. My heart leapt when I saw Wyndham’s name, only to realize it wasn’t Wyndham Lewis.

    But may I say, having done a lot of reading of Henry James in a graduate course – you’ll never get the time back. If I could urge you to throw out every James book you have, or consider having, I would, no matter how freshly popular he is. That’s just me, though. I’m sure many others love James, just as there are those who could sleep through root canal work.

    Whatever you read, I’ll be an interested observer, always curious about what you think. And I’ll be quiet whenever you discuss James.

  2. I love reading others reading plans. I’ve already been making lists all over the place, so I suppose I shouldn’t make too many more plans before 2009 even arrives. There are several books/authors on your list that I would love to read as well–Edith Wharton, Henry James, Willa Cather and I want to read that Margaret Forster novel as well. Isn’t it funny that I tend to ignore American authors in favor of British authors and you do the reverse (there must be something appealing in their ‘foreignness’?). I do hope to read more American lit next year, though. I look forward to hearing about the books you do pick up and read in the coming year!

  3. Just have to register my opinion as a James lover!! I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love his characters and his prose. Love Wharton too. And Cather.

  4. If you could hear me while I was reading through your plans you would have heard lots of of “oh! I want to read that!” and “oh! I bet she’ll have an interesting take on that!” I really enjoyed The Women’s Room and Atonement. And I suspect you will love Willa Cather and Sarah Orne Jewett. I look forward to what you make of Calvino. Are you going to read Allende’s House of Spirits? I think that is one you will really like. I am so excited you are planning on reading science fiction! Butler is amazing. I’ve not read all her books yet and you have inspired me to include at least one in my plans for next year.

  5. I really enjoy Henry James, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and Indian Summer by Howells is a favorite–one of those books nobody seems to know about. Looks like you have a solid plan for 2009. Somehow this time of year paralyzes me, and I’m having trouble looking back and discussing what I’ve read, and looking forward and making a plan for the year. But your list is definitely inspiring 🙂

  6. I love this Aladdin’s Cave! I’ve read some of these books and authors and thoroughly enjoyed them. And I’d like to read some of the others next year too – eg The People of the Book. Henry James is also on my list – but then he has been for years. I’ve started The Turn of the Screw twice now and got bored!!

  7. JB – I will give up listing if the day comes when I am the happy recipient of enough unexpected books in the post! I feel a little uncertain about Wyndham Lewis because he was writing during a period in which quite a lot of the fiction didn’t do much for me. But then, that’s really no reason not to try him at some point. I laughed about Henry James and root canal! I get the impression he’s a love or hate author, with not much in between. I’m delighted to think you are involved in my reading process – and I give you permission to say what you like about James. I’m sure he can take it. 🙂 Danielle – I’ve been loving your lists, only they do seem to transfer so many books onto mine! 😉 I never read any American fiction at all before I started blogging, so I have some catching up to do. And I do like the clear, unfussy language that American authors use – it’s really powerful sometimes. I love the fact you read so many British authors. It means I often know who you’re reviewing, which is lovely for me. Alessandro – really? How lovely -thank you so very much! I will email you later today. Thank you! Emily – ah, extremely useful advice. Thank you – I’ll do that. Yogamum – how lovely to see you and thank you for the vote for Henry! And his friends – I’m really looking forward to Cather, in particular. Stefanie – lol!I just loved this comment. I’m so very glad you like my reading plans, and I am sure it’s you who put me onto Butler in the first place. I may well be asking your suggestions for a good place to start. And yes, House of the Spirits I think, for Allende. I have a copy on my shelves! Gentle Reader – you have my every sympathy for finding this time of year paralysing – thinking about books I will read is about all I seem able to do! 🙂 I’m also delighted to hear you say you enjoyed the Howells. I’m looking forward to that one myself. Booksplease – yes, I am hoping James is more like Washington Square than Turn of the Screw (which is fun to analyse, but not so much fun as a straight read-it-for-pleasure book), but I’ll have to find out! I’m also looking forward to The People of the Book. I’ve nearly started that several times recently, so its moment is coming closer!

  8. My teenaged years were an interesting mix of Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer and classic Science Fiction (I raided my mother’s bookshelves). The genre was simply Science Fiction in those days and new novels and short stories were eagerly awaited from authors such as Wyndham, Azimov and Clarke. Olaf Stapledon also wrote a novel, “Siruis”, which was much under-rated.

    Yet to gain an insight into the golden age of SF, it is necessary to go to the source of so many careers. The SF Magazines. “Amazing Tales” and “Analog” were my two favourites. Those of us who haunted the magazine shelves of the local newsagents waiting for the new issues were considered quite strange.

    As for “The People of the Book”, read it soon. Brilliant, wonderful and thought provoking.

  9. What a fantastic list of books to take up in 2009. As you already know, I’m planning to get a good chuck of French reading done this year too, so I will be looking out for your titles and see what I can add to my own list. And I’ll be interested to see what you make of the American Richards – I sampled each of them once this year and am planning to add a second title very soon.

  10. Wow, and this is the pre-year list. Modjeska should be a treat after The Orchard (which I’m enjoying slowly) and I’m amazed that I’ve read (and enjoyed) two of these already (Atonement and the Jonathan Coe). Interested to hear your views on Washington Square. And here’s to some derailment of best-laid plans as well!

  11. I second Stefanie’s recommendation – House of the Spirits ranks among my top ten favorite books ever. As for Richard Ford I’ve never been able to engage with his work in any real way, although I tried several times…maybe you will give a different perspective!

  12. Okay, that’s it: I’m hereby declaring you my ‘Book Butler,’ Litlove, whether you like it or not. I often fantasise about having a butler, any butler, to smooth the way, any way, and here you are with a readymade list of reading musts. Fabulous – you’ve just saved me so much time! Thank you! It’s not quite meeting me at the door with a martini, but hell, it’s pretty close.

    p.s. Atonement started a rush of McEwan reading in me…and any Nabokov is bound to be a treat (however troubling). I’ll be interested in your Calvino verdict, too.

  13. Can recommend the Barbara Vine canon without any hesitation. Rendell steps up a gear from all of the Wexford stuff and moves to a darker more complex story. When you finish a Vine book you feel a mix of utter satisfaction and craving for more – is that combination possible?

  14. Great plans! I think it’s true about James that you love him or hate him — I love him; Hobgoblin hates him. The Bostonians is on different level than The Ambassadors or The Golden Bowl — it’s much more straightforward and accessible. Actually, The Ambassadors defeated me, and I wouldn’t mind returning to it to try again. I love James, but he’s not easy! But you have so much else that’s great — it sounds like a fantastic year of reading!

  15. Archie – yes, I can see the legacy of Christie, sci-fi and Georgette Heyer working strongly within you! 😉 Your mother clearly had wonderful book shelves. And I will pick up the Geraldine Brook next – I only needed a little push! Verbivore – I will let you know (even if no one else!) what I’m putting on my French reading list. I am considering matching the Richards with some Johns (Cheever and Updike at the moment) – I’m looking forward to them! Pete – I really hope you enjoy the Modjeska. I do love the way she writes. There are loads of big holes in my reading as I only ever get around to the notorious books years after everyone else has read them! And I am sure my plans will be derailed, but only in favour of better ones 🙂 Courtney – I think I’ve heard you say you had trouble with Ford before. I’ll approach him cautiously! But The House of the Spirits is shooting up the tbr pile with yours and Stefanie’s recommendations. Doctordi – I am rather honored to be your book butler! When I worked in a bookstore my most favouritest job ever was to help people preparing for a holiday to choose their reading. So I have some practice in the field. I’d have a lot more trouble putting a martini together :). Very interesting to know you got into McEwan, and Nabokov has been on my to-read list for FAR too long. 2009 is his year. Bob – I like that combination, and I’m pretty sure that only books can produce it! Delighted to have your endorsement of Vine. I remember seeing a few adaptations on the television years ago that I enjoyed, and I imagine the books will be much better. Thank you for your comment! Dorothy – it is interesting how James, whilst writing in ostensibly the same style, manages to create such different reading experiences with his books. I really loved the shorter fiction, but the long novels have always daunted me. I’m so glad you like my list – I’m just worried that life might get in the way of reading sometimes! 🙂 LizzySiddal – (great name, btw) – any experimenting with James should be applauded, I think. Even James-lite isn’t exactly easy! I’ll be interested to follow your link and see how you’ve got on.

  16. Looks like you’ve got some great stuff ahead in 2009. One of the best things about getting past Christmas is knowing that I will soon have a whole new year of reading to look forward to! (Now, if I can just get through Christmas!).

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