Friday, 24 June 2011

Spring is officially over

Midsummer's Day or the first day of summer or Summer Solstice depending on how you look at it, has come and gone, and can you believe that we are almost at the end of June?

Back in March, I saw a post on S's blog (Snaps and Snippets) where she had decided to join a reading challenge she'd found on the Callapidder Days blog 

... and, ever the copy cat, I promptly decided to join in.

I love reading - with a passion when the time is right - but as I've got older, I read less and less. At my peak,in my early teens I'd read a book a day and worked my way through the teenage section at the library and the school library, before starting on my parents' bookshelves. I devoured everything I could get my hands on!

Then came the time in the past when I was also a bit of a book collector, buying more and more but never actually reading them, which means I have LOADS on my bookshelves that have never been read. The reading challenge seemed a great opportunity to attack a few of them.

So I duly selected 7 books and posted this blog post (here) for my reasons why.

Well, Midsummer's Day was the end of the challenge and to finish off, here is my round-up post.

I haven't been totally successful, completing only 2 with another 3 partially finished. Two are untouched, but not forgotten. However, I really think that this is much more than I would've managed without the challenge.

Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

As you can see, this is a well-loved edition of the book. It's falling apart but that's all part of it's charm. There appears to be a new edition available at Amazon to celebrate its 75 year anniversary.

First on my list and an obvious starting point as I'd just completed a layout about my love for Rhett which had reminded me I needed to go back to this, my most favourite book, again after an absence of many years.

It was every bit as wonderful as I'd remembered. I couldn't put it down and savoured every one of the 799 pages. Of course, I picture the actors from the film as the characters, but for me that's ok - part of the attraction maybe. There's quite a few differences in the book to the film and a whole lot more detail on the Civil War which I tried to pay more attention to this time around.

I often read too fast, especially when I love the book as I do this one, so I deliberately tried to slow myself down a bit and that helped me with all those details.

This epic love story has lost none of its power over me through the years and it remains my favourite book of all time - go read it!

The Heart of the Antarctic - Ernest Shackleton

I tried to track this down on Amazon but couldn't find it - only the second book he wrote. But if you can find it, it's worth the read.

In case you don't know, Ernest Shackleton was an Antarctic explorer, originally from Ireland but carrying out expeditions in the name of the King Edward VII (and later King George V) of England in the early 20th century.

This book covers his attempt to reach the South Pole between 1907 and 1909 and was the first of two books he wrote about his travels. He'd travelled to the Antarctic with Scott in 1901-4 and was happy to lead his own expedition to conquer the South Pole on the whaling boat Nimrod. He and three others walked 1,755 miles across the ice to within 97 miles of the Pole (88'23"S) only to have to turn around and head back to camp in order to save all their lives (which he did).

FASCINATING stuff! I loved it and the fact that it was written by Shackleton himself made it much more interesting than if it was a current novel using their diaries and records.

If you are at all interested in historical non-fiction, this era is worth looking at. When you read about the hardships these men endured in the name of King and country, it makes you think about your comfy bed in a totally different way!

I've made it through to page 124 but it's gripping and I can't wait to finish it!

Yes, another Shackleton book. This was his third expedition from 1914 to 1916 where he'd hoped to be able to cross the continent on foot, the South Pole having been reached by Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, back in 1911. The Endurance exploration was considered at the time to be the final unclaimed prize and after two failed visits south, Shackleton was determined to win this accolade.

However, the Endurance got stuck and then destroyed in the pack ice and the crew were left stranded for 22 months until their ultimate rescue. Every member of the crew survived thanks to Shackleton's leadership and his reputation is considered by some to be more heroic and worthy than Scott who was beaten to the pole at the last minute by Amundsen and who died, along with his crew, on the return to camp. Over the years, Shackelton's leadership and the incredible stories around his explorations have become legendary.

Another wonderful part of this book is the stunning photography by Australian, Frank Hurley who managed to hold onto the negatives throughout this ordeal and even captured some of the most incredible photographs with a pocket camera and a single roll of film. Makes me feel guilty taking all those digital photos today, none of which compare to any of the incredible photos in this book!

This is a book I'd scanned as part of my MBA research and was full of notes, underlines, bookmarks and comments which were almost as interesting to read (being nearly 12 years old) as the book itself.

I got to page 103 within the time of the challenge and I love it. I read with a pencil in hand and made sure that I really thought about what I was reading and what I considered about the viewpoints put forward. I found a few new words for my personal dictionary along the way: froward, recusant, exegesis (does anyone out there know what they mean? I had to look them all up!) and really enjoyed the process of working while reading.

One writer, (G Thomas Tanselle), was talking about the shelves of books from his childhood home and the impact they had had on him,

"What role all these books, arrayed prominently, indeed unavoidably, on both floors of the house, had on my life is not easy to say, but I am convinced it was important, even fundamental." 

This got me thinking about how I used to scour our shelves at home and as an early teen, I read Aldous Huxley, Tolkein, Thomas Hardy, H E Bates, Margaret Mitchell and quite a lot of non-fiction. A lot of these were not exactly books "suitable" for my age but I loved them all. I may not have understood all I read, but it certainly instilled a love of books into me at that age which still sits with me today. I think that bookshelves demand attention, wherever they are. You cannot ignore them if you are a reader and you'll automatically find yourself straining to see what's there on the shelf and what that says about the people who read them. Interesting stuff!

The book had me:
  • nodding in agreement ("... Readers can be quiet and enjoy themselves in solitude; readers have lively minds...." Ann Thwaite); 
  • frowning with worry ("... to a book lover there is something slightly disquieting today about the way in which television has ingested not only the literary classics {.....} but the whole spectrum of reading matter..." John Bayley); 
  • smiling in amusement, ("... books, at least as company, are really superior to friends. One need engage in no small talk with a book {...} no sense of obligation exists. We are with them only because we absolutely wish to be with them..." Joseph Einstein); 
  • and generally got the grey matter working, ("... loney children {...} read books..." Joseph Einstein) Was that me as a child? 

I found that many of the original notations I'd made were still relevant but with the time I could devote to it this time around, there are a lot more underlines and comments. I felt I was having a conversation with most of the writers. There was definitely an exchange of views. Looking forward to finishing it.

An excellent collection of very varied views about this topic - highly recommended!

The Romance of the Book - Edited by Marshall Brooks

I've also speed read/scanned this book before as part of my MBA dissertation and I know that I have read several of the edited essays in this book during this challenge. Maybe even 40% of the book. However, it's very peculiar but I've just flipped through the book and I can't find where I read up to and  I can't recognise any of the essays I must've read in the last couple of month. So I obviously need to go back to the beginning and try again!

It's a book containing a collection of excerpts from books and specifically written essays relating to books, reading and literature. From zealous readers to passionate book collectors, from Collette, Pepys and Poe - everything is covered. I know this is interesting but I must've done something wrong in my reading. I'll return it to the pile of unread books and try again!

All in all, a very interesting challenge that got my brain working again and helped me to realise that I really need to devote more time to this activity that I enjoy so much.

I'll be tagging along on S's new summer reading challenge in the hope of finishing off the books I started and adding a couple more to the list to be read. I'll keep you informed.

What have you been reading recently?


  1. When I was a teenager I was reading like that too - as well as all the teenage fiction in the library I was reading Hardy (Tess is still a favourite), Arnold Bennett (have you read Riceyman Steps?) Somerset Maugham, anything else my mum had in the house!

    Lately I have been going back in time again - Cold Comfort Farm; Lucky Jim; Great Expectations

  2. Fabulous post, and I'm with you, when I was younger I'd read anything I could lay my hands on. Then when travelling to work on the train I'd always had a book. But recently the only reading is magazines, so like you I set myself a challenge and took myself back to the library, and you know I'm loving it. Mostly they're fun easy read books, but I cso love biographies :)

  3. After reading this post I just remembered a challenge I set for myself with Shimelle's "10 Things", that I would read 100 pages of the current book on my nightstand...I haven't picked it up!! LOL! I have really slowed down on the reading and I'm a bit sad with that, but my mind is on so many other things :) I enjoyed your reviews!

  4. I used to read quite a lot when I was the kids take up so much of my energy that by the time its night I'm too tired to this challenge really made me 'make time' to read...

  5. At least you were reading and that's the main thing, right? I've never read Gone with the Wind. I just might have to tackle that one of these challenges myself.


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