Looking Ahead

Has everyone been having a lovely Christmas? I do hope so. Things have been very peaceful here, and we have been very lazy, just sitting about watching television and reading and eating and so on. I find there’s nothing like indolence to bring about a host of planning, and I’ve been thinking a lot about my reading for 2011. I love having reading plans, but I don’t like being hemmed in by too many specifics. I’m very fickle and change my mind from moment to moment about the precise book I’ll read next, but there are areas, and books on my shelves, that I particularly want to get to.

Victorian Literature

I know very little about British 19th century literature because this is what you study in school and college, and I was devoting myself to European literature at that time. Plus, I was never fond of Dickens, thought that Hardy was a misery and had been put off Eliot by too much religious thought, which seemed dull to me as a teenager. I would like to read less standard works and so at present am considering:

Mary Braddon – Lady Audley’s Secret
Margaret Oliphant –  Miss Marjoribanks
Ellen Wood – East Lynne

I’ve got the BBC adaptation of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell to watch, too. If anyone has any further suggestions for other books, I’d be glad to hear them.

Japanese Literature

Again, a huge omission in my reading. I’ve never read any, and must say I hadn’t been especially tempted. But just recently I came across a couple of modern classics that sounded family-saga-ish and therefore more approachable, and decided to give them a go (don’t tell Mister Litlove; the books are on their way).

Junichiro Tanizaki – The Makioka Sisters
Yukio Mishima – Spring Snow

I could use one more title to add to that list, but have no idea what to put in, again, if you have good recommendations, I’d love to know about them.

Fantasy Literature

This was supposed to be my run-up to Christmas reading, but you may recall the order hadn’t arrived in time. The books did turn up eventually – typically the last one came just as amazon had credited my account for it.  I had several books on the shelves already that I wanted to add into the reading, so there’s quite a few to choose from here.

Hans Christian Anderson – Fairy Tales
Michael Ende – The Neverending Story
Philip Reeve – Here Lies Arthur
Neil Gaimon – Stardust
Salman Rushdie – The Enchantress of Florence
Anthony Hope – The Prisoner of Zenda
Gregory Maguire – Wicked
Michelle Paver – Dark Matter

YA novels

I think YA is where all the interesting cutting-edge stuff is happening at the moment. I hope to read

Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games
Cara Hedley – Twenty Miles
Sarwat Chadda – Devil’s Kiss

Unusual Biography

I’m going to do a biography writing course online from February onwards and would like to do some reading in advance. I’m never going to write a biography all about one person – the story is always the same; interesting childhood, middle years of excessive busy-ness and then a sad ending and death. But I like the thought of doing something different, short form biography or group biography. That’s worth a bit of exploratory reading:

Katie Roiphe – Uncommon Arrangements. Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910-1939
A.  J. A. Symons – The Quest for Corvo. An Experiment in Biography
Jenny Diski – Skating to Antarctica
Michael Holroyd – Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers
Lisa Appignanesi – Mad, Bad and Sad. A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present
Sarah Bakewell – How to Live; A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

I’d also like to read some more crime fiction, as 2010 was distinctly lacking in it. I’ve half a mind to read through all the Miss Marple novels again – guaranteed pleasure. Has anyone read any really good crime this year? Cozies, please, or good thrillers, rather than the gritty, violent end of the spectrum (which never appeals to me in January and February).

I won’t promise to keep to all these plans, but this is the way my interests are moving. What are other people looking forward to reading next year?


31 thoughts on “Looking Ahead

  1. I’m signing up for challenges left and right as if I didn’t fail the ones I signed up for last year. But, I am organizing my reading shelves more and my reading schedule. Like you, I change my mind often and I won’t do anything that makes reading seem like a chore. I will give myself permission to read a Stephanie Plum mystery in between Little Women and War and Peace :)But, reading brings me such pleasure that I want to make it more of a priority this year than it has been in the last few years. I’m going to revisit classics as well, many traditional and some not so much… and several bestsellers from the last few years that I have on the shelf but have never gotten around to reading 🙂

  2. I’m a bit fascinated by Michelle Pavers too. Planning to give her books to my daughter for her birthday so that I can also read them. On the crime front, I am poised to dive into Margie Orford’s ouevre (#1 SA crime writer, whose work I have been avoiding for the last three years), so hope to be able to report good things.

  3. These sound like wonderful reading plans! The Makioka Sisters is such a great read. I would also recommend Yasunari Kawabata for some Japanese literature. You know I love mysteries and I would recommend books by Tana French and Louise Penny. I can’t remember if you’ve read them but if you haven’t then maybe you’ll add them to your list 🙂

  4. Glad to hear your Christmas has been so relaxing (tv, food and family games are the only things we’re really doing – so nice). You might try Never Let Me Go by Kazo Ishiguro, although he’s a Japanese/English author (moved to Britain when 6 I think) and the setting of his stories are very British influenced. A moving book I thought. I’m looking forward to trying I Am a Cat by Natusme Soseki next year.

    I know what you mean about 19th century lit. It always sounds so interesting, then I get started and I’m reminded of school (strangely the same doesn’t happen when I read Shakespeare, which I like).

  5. The best YA I read is Thirteen Reasons Why but I like Graceling too, fits fantasy and YA. I really want to read The Hunger Games. I didn’t particularly like Mishima, his esthetics are a bit too bizarre for me. Don’t you like Murakami?
    There is a very effortless challenge on In Spring it is the dawn’s Blog. Regarding unusual biographies, Gretchen Rubin’s 40 Ways to look at Winston Churchill seems a good idea. I started but can’t say yet how good it is but it seems ineteresting to look at a complex perosn from every possible angle. I am organizing a Literature and War Readalong, maybe you would like to join for one or the other book. I posted the list. There is one Japanese author on it, Endo.

  6. I’ve been meaning to delve further into Japanese literature as well. I would highly recommend “Shipwrecks” by Akira Yoshimura (and anything else by the author for that matter.) I’ve also heard great things about “Teach us to outgrow our madness” by Kenzaburo Oe.

  7. I’d vote for dropping some Somerset Maugham in among the Victorians … Of Human Bondage is incredible, though of course it’s very well-known. However, also highly recommend Liza of Lambeth , a portrait of a working-class girl who wants more … it manages to be familiar without ever being cliched, and Cakes and Ale , a delightful satire based on Thomas Hardy’s questionable marriage.

  8. Well, it figures that I’m all in favour of your plans to read more 19thC novels! The ones you’ve listed all seem like good ideas if you want to get off the beaten track a bit, though East Lynne is certainly one of the more uneven novels I’ve ever read. If you don’t mind something in the doorstopper category, I’d put in a word for Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right. It’s a deliberate, very Victorian, reworking of Othello, a multi-plot monster about the wide-ranging effects of a husband’s conviction that his wife is behaving improperly. Also, if you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I agree with you on Hardy but if you want to give Eliot another go, start with The Mill on the Floss, and for Dickens, if you want to get over the sour school taste, I can’t imagine a better choice than David Copperfield (which is what I think Oprah should have chosen as well).

    Have you read Kate Atkinson’s crime novels? They aren’t really cozy, but they are very smart, just a little quirky, with a dark undercurrent.

  9. Wonderful plans Litlove! And I am glad to hear you are finally getting to relax. I read some Mishima short stories a couple of years ago and really liked them. Perhaps you might want to give Murakmi a try? Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World is quite surreal. I’ve got plans for 2011 but won’t be posting about them until later in the week just in case I decide to revise a little 🙂

  10. As you probably know, I love Victorian literature. I think the most off-beat Victorian is something like THREE MEN IN A BOAT by Jerome K Jerome. But have you already read that? It’s as opposite of Dickens and Eliot as you can get. I also am a huge fan of Wilkie Collins, who has these complicated suspenseful mysteries. Have you read WOMAN IN WHITE? Also very different from Dickens and Eliot and I haven’t read Hardy, but I suspect quite different from that too.

    As for Japanese literature, I’ve read a few in the past year. See my tag. For classics, I’ll second THE MAKIOKA SISTERS which is so well done. Not a fast book, mind you, so take your time enjoying it. I also will put a word in for THE OLD CAPITAL by Nobel Prize winner Kawabata. I’ve tried others by him and just couldn’t get into them, but that one was very satisfying. For newer Japanese, THE HOUSEKEEPER AND THE PROFESSOR by Yoko Ogawa.

    PS David mentions Maugham, he’s actually 20th century British, not Victorian….but definitely a fresh breath after Dickens (and I LIKE Dickens).

  11. The Sarah Bakewell Montaigne biography is on my list as well. In fact, I think I might make it my first book of 2011 – – a book titled “How to Live” seems like a fitting start to my 24th year…yikes. And I’ve been considering reading The Hunger Games, too. On a train to New York last week, I noticed a young girl reading the third book in the series. When she fell asleep, her mom picked it up, and seemed totally absorbed for the next hour and a half.

  12. It sounds like a wonderful list. I like the idea of lists, all kinds of lists, and I’m kind of a goal oriented person, but I don’t do well with reading goals. I can’t make myself read anything I think I should and I can’t tell in advance if I’m going to like any particular book or be in the mood for it. So I just add books to various forms of lists–goodreads, tasks on gmail, bits of physical paper, odd little notebooks, in no particular order and this random method seems to work.

  13. Interesting set of potential books, Litlove,

    How about: fantasy – Mervyn Peake’s Titus books; and for the 19th century, but not english or Victorian – The Confidence-Man, by Herman Melville? I’ve heard only good things about the Oliphant book. Would Gissing suit you?

    Have fun in 2011.

  14. I like to sample from the crime novels of the past at random, and I enjoy finding new approaches to the genre. The best so far have been the Ellery Queen novels: they are exactly what crime novels should be, logical and witty. The Edmund Crispin novels are interesting in that the detective is an English Professor. And the Ngaio Marsh books can be entertaining because they are so odd, written for an audience that no longer exists.

  15. Great plans! I’m very interested in unconventional biographies, so I’ll look forward to your posts on those books, and I’ll have to investigate the ones you mention that I’m not familiar with. I think Holmes’s Footsteps would fit nicely in that list as well. I adored the Jenny Diski, and thought the Symons was fabulous. As for Japanese literature, I highly recommend Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book. It’s old, but it doesn’t read as though it were — it’s charming and fun.

  16. Patti – Stephanie Plum is on my list of books I really must get around to! And I love variety in my reading, and feel I have to have a different sort of book each time. So definitely, the more demanding reads have to be interspersed with fun and pure pleasure. I’ll look forward to hearing about your choices for next year!

    Charlotte – she always seems to manage to do something different whilst pleasing the mainstream, which is pretty impressive no? Do report back on the SA crime – I’ll be most interested.

    iliana – I read the first Tana French but haven’t returned to her (and should! I’d like to!) and I own an unread Louise Penny. I will definitely give them both a go. Really delighted to hear you loved The Makiota Sisters and thank you for the Kawabata recommendation – I’ll check him out.

    Jodie – oh your Christmas sounds lovely! And I’ve been meaning to read Never Let Me Go for years now and somehow never getting to it. So, definitely, must read in 2011. And glad it’s not just me who gets transported back to the classroom at the first whiff of a starched sentence! 🙂

    Caroline – ah that’s easy: I’ve never read Murakami! He’s written several novels now, and I hesitate every time in the bookstore as I don’t know where best to begin. Thank you for the YA recommendations, and as you’ll see, I’ll definitely be reading along for some of your literature and war challenge list.

    Chad – thank you so much for those recommendations! I’m really grateful as I don’t know where to begin.

    David – preaching to the converted here – I love Maugham. I think of him more as an Edwardian, but I really love his storytelling. I’ll gladly read more of his work in 2011!

    Rohan – wonderful suggestions, thank you! I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall when I was about 15 and loved it; can’t recall it at all now, so perhaps should reread. Trollope is one of the few Victorians I do read and I was thinking I should include him. I believe I saw the BBC adaptation of He Knew He Was Right several years ago and it was very good. George Eliot I should definitely try again (did love Middlemarch). And good call on Kate Atkinson.

    Stefanie – I know just what you mean about revising! And thank you for the Murakami recommendation – I never really know where to start with him. Yes, having a lovely relaxing time now – hope you are continuing your reading-fest as well. 🙂

  17. Rebecca – I’m so grateful for these lovely recommendations, thank you! I haven’t read Three Men In A Boat, and whilst I have read The Woman in White (years and years ago), I was toying with the idea of reading The Moonstone. I’ll be checking through your Japanese recommendations very carefully – this is an area I really hope to spend time on this year.

    mbolit – love that story! I really have to get to The Hunger Games, I can see. And delighted to know you’ll be reading the Bakewell, too. It looks so good!

    Lilian – that’s why I have such huge lists! I need lots of wriggle room for the whim of the moment. 🙂

    David – just found a cheap copy of that – it’s headed my way.

    Jeff – thank you for more wonderful ideas. I hesitated over Gissing as I was afraid he would be too melancholy – it’s partly the relentless misery of some Victorian novelists that I hold against the era overall. But given I’ve never read him I could have him wrong! Melville I’ve never read, nor Mervyn Peake, although we used to sell a LOT of Gormenghast novels in the bookstore where I worked!

    Karyn – I’ve been looking up Ellery Queen and his books are very hard to get hold of. But there are a few copies about, so I’ll definitely give him a go, as I’d love to. Ngaio Marsh I’ve read a lot of already (and liked her, mostly) and Edmund Crispin is someone else I really must try. Thank you!

    Dorothy – more excellent thoughts! I must add in that Richard Holmes (given that I do own it!)and I remember you reading The Pillow Book and thinking how intriguing it sounded. I do love recommendations, although Mister Litlove may lament their effect on the tbr pile! 🙂

  18. I’m also hoping to read East Lynne and Mad, Bad and Sad next year – or if not, one of these years 😛 Both have been on my wishlist for ages. Also, I can’t wait to hear what you make of Lady Audley’s Secret! Mary Elizabeth Braddon has become one of my favourite Victorian authors – her books are so full of the kind of ambiguity and subversiveness I have fun thinking and writing about. Finally, I’m excited that you’re planning to read more fantasy and YA! I haven’t read any of the YA novels you mentioned, but I suspect you’re going to make me want to.

  19. It is fun making reading plans–I always do the same and then generally go off and read something else, but it’s nice thinking about it anyway. And you never know–next year might actually be different. I’ve read a few of the books on your lists–Lady Audley’s Secret is great–I’d like to read more of her work and as always Wilkie Collins. I hope to read North and South, but then have the film on my list to watch (am hoping the fact that Richard Armitage is in it might move things along…). I think you already know my favorite cozy mystery writers–Carola Dunn is very fun and very light and I’m working my way slowly through the Miss Marples. You might like Mignon Eberhart–she was a Nebraska author and wrote about the same time as Agatha Christie. I’m not sure how easy she is to get in the UK but her early books are nice cozies. I also would like to read Michelle Paver’s new book–I’ve heard lots of good things about it and have the Roiphe biography on my pile to read as well. I’ve read very little Japanese authors, so I am noting the titles you have listed and the suggestions! Hope you continue to enjoy your break–why do free days go by so quickly?!

    • Oh! I hqve access to MANY Mignon Eberhart books – all in large print from the nursing home whereI volunteer, and it is a treat to see her mentuined as I was wondering abt her books. Nifty!

  20. Great reading plans! I’m with you on the “Mad, Bad and Sad” and have just added the Diski, Bakewell, Gaiman and Suzanne Collins to my TBR list as well. I’d love to hear how you do with those biographies and I love your idea of writing non-conventional biographies. Happy reading!

  21. Most people are writing about what they’ve done in 2010 rather than what they’re going to do in 2011 so this is refreshing list. The biography writing course sounds fascinating – good luck with it. In the fantasy genre, I plan to read the Brother’s Grimm again which should be an interesting read – your list in this genre is a good one

  22. So admirably organised, litlove! I would definitely recommend Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series for your YA read (‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ is the first book.) I read a lot of children’s/YA lit for work, and this honestly is one of the most striking, intelligent and humane books (and not just YA books) I’ve read over the past few years.I was going to recommend some other titles for your other categories too, but am going to just leave it here in the hope that this one recommendation wll consequently have more force!

  23. Nymeth – yay! It’s great to know that we’ll be sharing some reads next year and I’m delighted you loved Lady Audley’s Secret (I’m hoping to come to that one in the very near future). I am so new to YA I’m not sure where I’m going with it, but these books look really powerful reads, so at least I’ll have something to blog about! 🙂

    Danielle – do you sometimes find that making the plan almost gives you the feeling of having read the book? I have to laugh at myself as I am so capricious with what I want to read next. And you are so right – why do the holiday days just whizz past? (Although I no longer have any idea what day of the week it is….). I am also a fan of Carola Dunn, and delighted to think that there are loads of her novels I’ve yet to read. I’ll look out for Mignon Eberhard although she can be hard to get hold of (I tried the first time you mentioned her), but not impossible. And I’ll let you know about the Paver and the Roiphe. It’s always lovely to think other blogging friends are interested in the same titles.

    Care – how great to have another source of books on hand – if you read a really good one, let me know the title of it!

    Pete – and happy reading to you too! I will look forward a great deal to comparing notes with you on some of those books. 🙂

    Tom – I so nearly picked the Brothers Grimm rather than Hans Christian Andersen, and then I went for ‘sad’ rather than ‘bad’. I think the Snow Queen swung it for me! I’ll look forward very much to hearing how your reading of those fairy tales goes.

    Baker’s daughter – it’s nice of you to find this organised, rather than obsessive…. 🙂 I hear you on the Patrick Ness and will definitely get hold of a copy and read it. I glanced through the reviews on amazon and it had a stunning amount of five star ones. But don’t hold back on the other recommendations! Whatever Mister Litlove may say, my shelves are broad!

  24. I don’t know if anyone else had recommended it, but “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Ogawa was beautiful. Lots of math in it that really added to the story and the characters. Btw – I HATE math.

    “Hunger Games” is one of those rare books I have literally heard nothing bad about (well, except for those upset about content, but those comments I ignore) so I look forward to your review as well; thinking it might be a fun one to take on in the new year. “Wicked” was okay, strangely didn’t move very quickly while still being interesting. If you’ve seen the musical try and forget as much of it as possible before beginning it. To say they’re different in scope and tone doesn’t quite do it justice.

    Hope you had a good holiday, LL!

  25. It sounds like you have some wonderful reading plans for 2011. I have vowed to sit down and think about what I will read and focus on in 2011. So far I haven’t done it but it isn’t January 1st yet so I still have time!

  26. Very good fantasy choices. I affirm your discernment, particularly on The Enchantress of Florence. Might you consider adding Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series? It’s very good! (I just got them for Christmas.)

  27. What fun plans. I read Spring Snow ages ago and have fond if vague memories. The Makioka Sisters has been on my mental list for a while now so I look forward to seeing what you think of it. And I hope you enjoy Stardust as well; it is darling. A nice little dash of sugar into a reading list.

  28. I’m curious to know what you will think about Lady Audley’s Secret. I read it a couple of years ago and I remember not being too impressed. It just seemed a bit dull compared to other classics of Victorian literature.

  29. I’m putting in my 2 cents a bit late, but your plans sound fantastic, I’m looking forward to hearing about all these books! East Lynne was a bit uneven, if I were you I’d put a Wilkie Collins to compensate (but I’m not you ;)). I’m also quite interested in YA novels as I plan to eventually read Harry Potter in 2011! About Japanese lit, I must say your choices are not really obvious. I hope you’ll like them, but don’t let them deter you from the rest of Japanese lit if you don’t: you might have better luck with K Oe, Banana Yoshimoto, Haruki Murakami, and yes, Shipwrecks by Yoshimura is excellent. Great discoveries ahead!

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