It’s easy to pick twenty books from my list that I haven’t read yet since I just started. I’ve only read ONE so far! But which books to choose? I started by eliminating any book I already have on my shelf. Yeah…I’m giving myself an excuse to buy a new book! Then I eliminated books I’ve read in the distant past. And then I eliminated doubles, only one play and one book of poetry.
I’m excited to read any of these books next, so here we go!
Flatland by Edwin Abbott
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? By Edward Albee
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
The Plague by Albert Camus
Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Reflecting on the gift of choice as I close the final pages …sigh…
I finished East of Eden. Ten days, 778 pages in 18.58 hours. Nearly two hours a day I spent in that book, and that’s a lot because I’m currently reading two other books. I loved it so much. The story covers three generations, and I never thought the story dragged. I never ached to know what was happening next. I never thought, “Why in the world is this chapter here?” I just watched it unfold, and every chapter was beautiful.
When I got to the end of the book, I paused before I turned to the last page. Please, please, please don’t destroy my dreams with your words, Mr. Steinbeck! It was gorgeous.
So, what’s the book about? Choice. Every single one of us has a choice in life. Do we do good for ourselves and those around us? Or do we do them wrong? We are all good and evil combined. It’s what we do with our lives that counts.
Chapter 24. around halfway through the book, was my “Ah-ha!” moment.
Lee explains to Adam his study of the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis. Word translations come into play, something I’ve spent time questioning myself. When we translate something from one language to another, it isn’t an easy task. One small tweak of a word and the whole thing changes tone. We also put our own background and culture on top of the words we’re translating, not to mention all the time that has passed between the original manuscript and our current work.
I don’t think the following quote will spoil anything, but if you want a pure reading, maybe save it for later and skip to the bottom.
“Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel – ‘Thou mayest’ – that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For it ‘Thou mayest’ – it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’”
“Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”
“It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there.”
We all have choices to make every single day.
It reminds me of last year when I cut my finger chopping onions for a sauce. I learned a lesson that day: always cook first, or at least finish using sharp tools, and then get a nice adult beverage. Never the reverse!
It’s rare that I hurt myself badly enough to need a visit to Urgent Care, but after holding it for thirty minutes the blood just came gushing back the minute I let go. I needed stitches. My husband drove me down to town and was thrilled to find out that, due to Covid restrictions, he didn’t have to go inside with me. He hates that kind of thing. Poor guy. I wouldn’t have made him anyway.
Once inside, the nurse took me in, numbed the pain, and then sewed up my finger. The process was fascinating to me, and I took the sharp pain of the needle without complaint. Once it was numb and she started sewing, I loved watching. I’ve never had stitches before. It was exciting.
I told the nurse what a great job she was doing, and I was so thankful that she was around to help me through my stupid moment. Everyone makes mistakes, right? Good thing there people around to help you through the pain of fixing them.
She was so grateful. She said most people come in angry when they are hurt. They snap at her as she tries to clean a wound and give them the means of healing it. “Why would they do that? We aren’t animals.” I commiserated. Everyone’s on edge lately.
Animals don’t have a choice to behave better. They only react to the present moment. They can’t see the bigger picture. We can if we take the time to calm ourselves and see it. We can respond instead of reacting. A large dog bred to fight, doesn’t think, “It’s in my blood and training to fight strong and win, but what if I don’t want to?” But a human has something animals don’t, that choice within them. It may be hidden away under years of experience and trauma, but it’s there. Which leads me to another track: my mediation this morning. But that’s another post.
I’m glad I found East of Eden at that used bookstore. I didn’t know I wanted to read it, only knew the title because I was sure it was an old movie, and Steinbeck. He’s famous, right? It was my first read from my Classics Club five-year reading challenge post. Not a bad start!
I’m so excited! Why? Two big reasons of which I shall now elucidate!
First of all, thanks to Laurie at Relevant Obscurity, I have discovered The Classics Club! What?! A blog that links together other classic readers?! Yes, please! I know, I get excited about the strangest things, but it’s not often that I find other people that are reading the same kind of books that I read.
As per their rules for membership, this post is a declaration of sorts. I’m listing fifty classic books that I promise to read between now and August 29, 2027. Five years to read fifty assigned books is perfect for me because it let’s me read many of the other glorious books that come across my path at the same time. But what to choose?!
The first thing I did was print their list and find the books I had already read. That was a little disappointing. It turns out I KNOW more of the titles on the list than I have actually read, but I’ve read quite a few, so I’m not unhappy, I’m inspired.
The second thing was to look on my TBR shelf for any books from the list that I have already bought. I found ten, so that takes me well into the first year of the challenge. And it gave me the nice picture for this post!
The last thing to do was put a mark next to any book on the list that I had heard of and was planning on reading already.
And now I have my list! Are you ready?
Flatland by Edwin Abbott Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? By Edward Albee Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs The Plague by Albert Camus Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Tom Jones by Henry Fielding Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster Faust by Johann Goethe Lord of the Flies by William Golding The Maltese Falcon by Dashiel Hammett A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne Catch-22 by Joseph Heller A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The Iliad by Homer The Odyssey by Homer The Alchemist by Ben Jonson The Dubliners by James Joyce Ulysses by James Joyce The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka The Man Who Would be King by Rudyard Kipling Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe The Misanthrope by Moliere The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Red and the Black by Stendhal Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson Candide by Voltaire The Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut The Once and Future King by T.H. White Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A formidable list to be sure, but at less than one book a month, it is doable even when the book gets hard or I have other books I MUST read or else perish. Yeah, feeling a tad dramatic. I’ll be coming back and linking any post that I write about these books as I read them, so stay tuned.
But Michelle! You said there were TWO reasons you were excited. What is the other reason?
Oh, yeah! Well, it pertains to this list, the blog, and spending countless hours reading and writing in general. You’ve probably read something from me along the lines of angst and broodiness since my sons have deserted me…I mean grown up like they were supposed to and struck out on their own. I’ve been a housewife and mom for over twenty years now. What am I supposed to do with all my time now that I’m not raising other humans?
I thought about getting a job to fill the time. Didn’t sound very exciting, and amazingly it’s not as easy as it sounds, even in today’s economy (at least the one reported on the news). It seems that the old story (which I do not understand) is true, businesses aren’t keen on hiring people that haven’t worked in years. Maybe they’re jealous, I can’t say. But I’ve put out ten applications in my town and only one called me back, but still no work. I decided to take it as a sign that I was needed elsewhere.
I love reading and writing about things, but it doesn’t pay at all. I’m not published, and this blog isn’t all the popular. I get discouraged. What’s the point of spending all this time?! And then it dawned on me.
I’m happy and content with my life. Why do I feel like I need to be paid to be making a difference in the world?! And I do make a difference here, in small ways. So that’s what I’m doing. I’ve been reading more blogs like mine, branching out, talking to people, and then this classics club shows up in my feed and I’m off to the races!
My husband laughed at me as I sat at one of my bookshelves with a printed list of books.
“What are you doing? You look like you’re on a mission.” Glasses on, pencil in hand, on the floor running my finger across the spines. “I joined and book club of sorts and I’m finding books to add to my list and write about. They read books like I do!” “That’s what I love about you. You get so excited about things.”