I’ve been a bit all over the place with my reading the last two years. In 2013, I set a goal of reading 40 books and beat it, and in 2014, I seriously surpassed my goal of reading 52 books by reading 91 (my numbers have been greatly bolstered by reading plays, in case you were wondering).
Since I’m in an English Literature graduate program, I obviously do plenty of reading, but I think I went back to my goal of 50 books in 2015. Though this number might be a bit low based on 2014’s results, I stay plenty busy with my school reading and don’t always have lots of time for recreational reading. I ended up exceeding that goal by reading 69 books in 2015, an achievement I’m pretty proud of. Here’s my full list of reading from 2015–for reference, the titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Live From New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
Looking for Alaska, John Green
Sanctuary, William Faulkner
It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally
Brother to Dragons, Robert Penn Warren
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
Paddle Your Own Canoe, Nick Offerman
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, William Inge
Come Back, Little Sheba, William Inge
Bus Stop, William Inge
The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount and Thessaly la Force
Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines
Wait for You, J. Lynn
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
Airships, Barry Hannah
Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Joe, Larry Brown
Wolf Whistle, Lewis Nordan
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches, Tony Kushner
Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Paper Towns, John Green
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Shame, Salman Rushdie
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
Vita Nuova, Dante Alighieri
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon
We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Césaire
Three weeks into the semester and things are up and running. I’m at a point where I’m reading at least one book a week, trudging my way through The Divine Comedy, and filling all the other time with “scholarly” reading and drafting new sections of my thesis.
Suffice it to say that I have no shortage of assignments to occupy my time.
This weekend’s reading was Chinua Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart. I first read this novel as a high school sophomore seven years ago (yeesh!) in an AP World History class, so I was glad to have the chance to reread it from a literary perspective. I remember feeling like Things Fall Apart was one of the first pieces of “real literature” I’d ever read because it exposed me to the type of tragic ending that’s exemplary of so many classic literary works.
This time around I was less enthusiastic about the book. Achebe’s writing is perhaps deceptively easy to understand, but I felt bored by the narrative structure. There’s hardly any style to his writing, so it feels like someone sharing a fairly straightforward account of some stuff that happened in a tribe in Niger around the turn of the 20th century. The novel is also incredibly sexist and I don’t (yet) know enough about Achebe to know if that’s reflective of his personal opinions, but it made it difficult for me to have much sympathy for Okonkwo as a protagonist.
To me, the strongest part of the novel is Part III, when white colonists begin to invade the lives of the indigenous peoples and attempt to spread Christianity. What begins as a respectable cause turns quickly as both sides become violent. This section feels like the only time we see actions of major consequence, and I wish it encompassed a larger part of the book’s action.
So, though I have mixed feelings about this novel, I don’t have to spend much more time thinking about it. Now I’m on to the next one.