Progress, for a change 

So, I have been reading a lot this week. I took a couple of months off during the spring, which forced me to abandon my annual Goodreads reading challenge and my stated goal of reading 120 books thus year. That was painful, as part of my “I am managing quite well, thank you” identity is based on being able to read quickly and thoughtfully. 

But I had realized that reading a hundred and twenty ordinary novels a year was not actually making me happier or healthier or a better person. Mostly, the books were forgettable and I have little recollection of a large percentage of them. It was basically a substitute for watching television and not any more memorable than most episodes of a typical tv show. 

So, I stopped reading junky novels and I am happier. My to-read pile is monumental, however, so I am working hard to whittle it down.

I read Virginia Woolf’s first novel, Mrs Dalloway. It was actually very moving, mostly because I know that she eventually lost her battle against bipolar disorder and drowned herself in the river near her home. The interwoven stories of the various people in the book are interesting, and her style is just so sharp and bright that it makes the other postmodern hero, Joyce, seem like a conceited ass. I liked Mrs Dalloway very much.

The other novel I finished, A House for Mr Biswas, by V S Naipaul, was a good deal more difficult to love. It’s so episodic, and the main character such an unlikable jerk, that I had to read it in chunks. I think it’s an important work in terms of exploring the notion of mortality and family and the purpose of life, but it is not a book for the typical reader. Most people will quit long before the 650 pages are finished. I know, I quit it several times myself before finally pushing through to the end! I will probably go on to read more by Naipaul, however, as this book is supposed to be the only one with this weird structure. In the end, and interesting book, but maybe not a great one.

Next up is finishing Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence. I am about 2/3 of the way through it and it’s been a powerful experience so far. I think I would have finished it earlier if not for reading the Woolf novel, because Lawrence’s very elaborate, elegant, and slow images just were too much to handle after Woolf’s crisp style. 

Anyway, back to the fray. I think I will go in for something lighter after this, maybe Saul Bellow. I think reading Henry James right after Lawrence would be too much.


So, I have been updating my reading lists and found out that I am 27 titles short of finishing the Modern Library Top 100 novels list. 

I am going to try to make it through the list. I may not finish a few of them– Stegner’s Angle of Repose comes to mind– but I have learned a lot from working my way through the list. I may learn more if I finish it.

One thing that I have found, however, is that their particular list misses out on a ton of amazing literature. So, I have begun working through a list some Norwegians made by polling world class authors worldwide. It’s a much richer list, packed with books I have never even heard of before as well as plenty of Dostoyevsky and whatnot. I feel happy to have a new source for books to add to my unending to-read list. But, first, to finish those 27!

What I did wrong last year 

So, it’s that time of year, where the siren song of new curriculum is wooing the homeschooling mom with visions of educational bliss. And, sadly, also the time where you look at what you did in the previous year and grimace at your failures. My failures for the year are pretty simple, and I hope to avoid them next year. 

  1. I didn’t buy nearly enough school supplies in advance. It’s no fun to run out of markers and glue and have to pay the terrible non-sale price for replacements. This fall, I am going to buy crayons and markers by the case.
  2. I didn’t push through on bad days and get the basics done. We took a lot of days off for sickness and doctor visits and such, for me and their siblings both, which put us way behind on grammar and math. We’re still catching up. Next year, we will be doing the three basic subjects every day unless the kids are sick themselves. 
  3. I pushed my 6 year old too quickly and we ended up butting heads over everything. Stress on both of us. This year, I think he is ready for reading and math, but I will not push the extras if he can’t handle them. I want him to enjoy learning. 
  4. We didn’t do enough fun science! More science, all the time.
  5. We didn’t spend enough time outside. More time outdoors!

I think this year will be better. I am excited. And Amazon is just waiting for my money, hah.