Deal me in!

Fellow blogger “Prongs” – of the Padfoot and Prongs blog fame – posted recently about an idea she had. Her goal is to read 52 books this year (not coincidentally, that’s one per week, isn’t it?), and she already has a list of books she plans to read and has left room for a few “wildcards.” This last term is quite appropriate, as it ties in with how she is going to randomly select which book to read next. She has assigned each book to a particular card in a standard deck of playing cards and will “draw” them one at a time to determine her reading order. (isn’t that great!) At the rate of one per week she’ll be done by the end of the year.

I was inspired to somehow adopt this idea myself, but I wasn’t sure how. I am very “protective” of my reading schedule and don’t like to be bound to mostly obligatory reads. This is why I don’t often participate in challenges or read alongs. Also, I don’t often have a whole year planned out in detail; sure, I have a TBR list a mile long (like most of us), but it is in no recognizable order (possibly ALSO like most of us 🙂 ). So, I thought doing fifty-two books this year was too restrictive for me. Then I thought, “Well, why don’t I just read (draw one card) once every four weeks and read the related book?” that would let me go through the entire deck in just four years. But then I thought, “Jay, you know you could never stick with any project for FOUR YEARS!”

Then it hit me. Short stories! I love the short story form, and I must’ve read about fifty of them last year anyway! So, I could adopt this (way cool) idea for 2011 and apply it to reading short stories WITHOUT seriously affecting my normal reading pattern. Brilliant!! (lol)

My thought is this, I’ll have each suit represent a category of stories – maybe one suit could be stories that are already in my queue (e.g. The last two Stories in Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars collections). Another might be sci-fi or fantasy, another might be re-reads of favorites (ooh, I like that one), but I would definitely want one “suit” to be “Recommended by Others.”

So now I’m off to work to come up with a list, but here’s where I NEED YOUR HELP: please comment and leave me a short story recommendation. I’d love to have one fourth of my stories be recommended by my fellow bloggers. Heck, suggest more than one if you want to. I’ll probably just crate a new page on my blog with the list of what card equals what story as I begin to fill it in. The first two weeks of 2011 I can “cheat” and just finish my Stephen King stories, but after that it’s “game on!”. Who’s with me?

Next Year’s Project/Progress Report

PART I

I need help! Suggestions, input, recommendations, anything. You see, each year I try to have a personal reading “Project” where I focus on a particular author or genre or subject. Like 2008’s “Project: Shakespeare” or this year’s “Project: Civil War.”. I have a few ideas for next year but nothing definite yet. Some things I’ve kicked around:

1) Project:Kerouac (or would that more appropriately be called “ProJack Kerouac?”) I almost did this a few years ago, but wasn’t organized. On the down side, I’ve already read a lot of his books (not that I wouldn’t enjoy reading some again). On the upside, I would really, really enjoy it, as I love his writing.

2) Project:Scotland (or Project:Sir Walter Scott) where I focus on Scottish authors or books set in Scotland, or even Scottish History. I really enjoyed the Sir Walter Scott books I’ve read this year, but on the downside, they were very tough going for me. Worth the effort, but I worry that I will lack the perseverance to slog through some of his work. On the upside, I’ve become really interested in Scotland of late and am eager to learn more…

3) Project: History of England – here I would make it a point to read several books on English History, which is a relatively weak spot for me (often pointed out when I’m watching Jeopardy! on tv, or participating in Buzztime trivia at the local bars). Downside: reading non-fiction is not as entertaining as reading fiction. Would I stick to it? Upside: I’d really like to fill in this embarrassing gap in my knowledge of history and this might “force” me to do it.

4) Project: Epic Poetry. Now this would be really ambitious. Read or re-read The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and maybe throw in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Song of Roland, the Epic of Gilgamesh (I’m not sure all of those would qualify, but how cool would it be to be able to say I’ve read all of those?) downside: how HARD would it be to read all of them?!?

Help me out with some recommendations please. 🙂

PART II

I need to get cracking if I’m going to complete my “required reading” for this month. I have two books to read for book club commitments. The first is Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night, form which we are having a meeting next Thursday, 11/18. At this point I am still hopeful that I can attend (I’ll read the book whether I do or not, though) as I have some software training related to a systems upgrade at work. The training is currently scheduled for 11/15-11/18, so I would have to miss part of the final day’s session and I’m not sure how that would fly at the office, or even if I should ask to be excused from it. I guess I’ll kind of play it by ear and see how things look next week. I would really hate to miss a meeting, though.

The second is for my personal book club’s meeting on 11/23. For that we’re reading P.T. Deuterman’s Darkside, which is 407 e-pages long. My fellow book club members assure me it’s a quick read, though, so hopefully I can knock it out out late next week and weekend.

Completing those two would give me four books for the month (my “par score”) and I would feel pretty good about my November reading accomplishments. What’s missing is my 11th Civil War book, though. My goal of finishing one Civil War-related book per month in 2010 may be in jeopardy. The book I’ve chosen has been ordered from Borders, but I may not receive it for another couple weeks. Hopefully I’ll get it in time to read over the long thanksgiving holiday weekend. Well, I guess I’m working that Friday (sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a banker), but I’ve been toying with the idea of taking Monday the 29th off. That would give me “plenty of time” to read my Civil War book. We’ll see…

Remembering 2008’s “Project: Shakespeare”

I’m not sure now what my original impetus was, but toward the end of 2007, I came up with the idea for a 2008 reading project, the goal of which was to read all of Shakespeare’s plays over the course of the year. I should probably confess right away that I did not complete the project, BUT I did make an honest effort that resulted in my getting through about 2/3 of them.

I created a schedule/syllabus that spread the reading over the year, which comes to about three plays a month. I found a trusted guide for my project in Isaac Asimov’s book, Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. This book includes all the plays and two of Shakespeare’s lyrical poems. It presents them in two volumes, in “chronological” order – the chronology in this case being that of the time of the setting of the plays. Creating the schedule was somewhat empowering, as “that’s only three plays a month!” didn’t seem so bad as looking at the huge, I mean HUGE, copy of The Complete Works at I have.

My scheme for reading was:
A) First read Asimov’s chapter on the play, to gain some background knowledge (this helped tremendously when I got to the ‘reading the play’ step, as I “knew what was going on” even if the language was difficult. B) Read the actual play
C) seek out other commentary/discussion on the play. (eventually, for this step, I settled on a book, Shakespeare After All, by Marjorie Garber, which I found to be a scholarly yet helpful companion to my project.

If anyone is interested in viewing the remnants of the online chronicle I almost kept for project Shakespeare, the ruins of its web page still reside in the subdirectories of my book club’s web page at the following URL.

http://ircbookclub.wetpaint.com/page/Project%3A+Shakespeare

I thought that, once completed, the project could be continued or “refreshed” with subsequent three year projects, where I would review and revisit the plays at a more leisurely pace of one a month, completing the entire set every three years, and so on. I have also since learned that Isaac Asimov also wrote a similar “guidebook” for the bible. I bet that would make interesting reading as well. I also, just this year, discovered a website where an erstwhile blogger and Shakespeare fan was working on a “38 Plays in 38 Days” project. Now THAT is ambitious.

What about you? Do you devise reading projects and goals for yourself or you read more ‘randomly,’ picking up whatever strikes your fancy?

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