Semicolon Book Club for March

The theme for the Semicolon Book Club for March is biography/autobiography, and the particular selelction for this month is David McCullough’s Mornings on Horseback, a biography of Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. The subtitle is “the story of an extraordinary family, a vanished way of life, and the unique child who became Theodore Roosevelt.”

I very much enjoyed reading McCullough’s biography of John Adams last March, and I expect to enjoy this book just as much. TR is one of my favorite historical characters.

Come back to Semicolon after Easter (April 5th) for discussion of this most excellent biography.

Sunday Salon: Semicolon Book Club

The February selection for the Semicolon Book club was Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis. Till We Have Faces was Lewis’s last work of fiction, and he considered it his best. The particular “myth retold” is that of Cupid and Psyche. It’s a story Lewis considered retelling over the course of many years.

Lewis’s diary, September 9, 1923: “My head was very full of my old idea of a poem on my own version of the Cupid and Psyche story in which Psyche’s sister would not be jealous, but unable to see anything but moors when Psyche showed her the palace. I have tried it twice before, once in couplet and once in ballad form.”

He actually wrote the book in 1955, and it was published in 1956.

Links to read more about other readers’ responses to Till We Have Faces:
The Well at the World’s End
A Great Gulf Fixed: The Problem of Obsessive Love in C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces by Amelia F. Franz.
Till We Have Faces at
Heather’s not a fan.
Kevin Stilley on Till We Have Faces.
A library is the hospital of the mind: Till We Have Faces.
Further Up and Further In: A Way into Till We Have Faces.
Marian Powell at BookLoons.
Peter Kreeft on TIll We Have Faces (audio) Excellent, though long (sermon length), and well worth your time to listen.

A few questions to ponder:

According to Orual, the gods are unknowable, whimsical, cruel, capricous, nasty, mean-spirited, not trustworthy, demanding. Why do the gods appear to her in this way and to Psyche as the opposite? How can a rational, thinking person come to the point of faith? If God is good, why is he so mysterious and hidden?

How does Orual’s love for Psyche become something evil and hateful? Is this transformation true to life? Can our human love for spouse, family, and friends become obsessive and even evil? How and why?

Till We Have Faces ends the same way the Book of Job ends–with questions unanswered. Is this a satisfying ending? Why does God not answer Orual’s complaint? Why does God not answer Job’s complaint?

Applicable Biblical references:

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.
If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:25-26

Then Job answered the Lord and said,
2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
“Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
4 ‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
5 “I have aheard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
6 Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Corinthians 13:12

If you read Till We Have Faces, either this month or earlier, please leave your thoughts or a link to your post about the book in the comments. When I get back from my Lent break, I’ll add your links to this post.

Sunday Salon: Random Stuff

The 2009 Cybils Award Winning Books in all categories.

The Semicolon Book Club selection for February is Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. There will be a discussion post on the 28th here at Semicolon. So if you’re reading with us, it’s time to get the book and get reading.

I can spend a lot of time playing Lexulous (Scrabble) if I let myself.

I’m looking forward to my now-annual blog break for Lent. It’s not that I’m tired of blogging, just that I’m ready for an enforced break. Even a self-enforced break.

My sister, Judy, just started her book blog a few weeks ago, and it’s great. If you get tired of reading recycled Semicolon during the forty days of Lent, go over read at Carpe Libris.

I’m starting a new blog project while I’m on break: come back and read all about it on Tuesday, Mardi Gras. Do you do anything special on the Tuesday before Lent? Do you do anything special to observe Ash Wednesday?

Semicolon Book Club: Esther by Chuck Swindoll

This post necessarily combines thoughts about the book of Esther in the Bible and about Chuck Swindoll’s commentary on Esther, titled Esther: A Woman of Strength and Dignity. Mr. Swindoll’s book is the January selection for the Semicolon Book Club, and I chose it because the women of my church will be discussing and studying the book of Esther in early March at our yearly women’s retreat.

The first observation I read in any commentary, Bible study guide, or study of the book of Esther I picked up was that Esther is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God.

Ray Stedman (quoted in Swindoll’s Esther): “For many this little book is a puzzle, for it seems to be out of place in the Bible. There is no mention in it of the name of God; there is no reference to worship or faith; there is no prediction of the Messiah;there is no mention of heaven or hell–in short, there is nothing religious about it, at least on the surface.”

Matthew Henry (also quoted in Swindoll’s book): “But though the name of God be not in it, the finger of God is directing many minute events for the bringing about of His people’s deliverance.”

Swindoll: “When I come to this book that never mentions God, I see Him all the more profoundly and eloquently portrayed throughout it. It’s there in invisible ink. Just like life. I’ve never seen skywriting that says, ‘I’m here, Chuck. You can count on me.’ I’ve never heard an audible voice in the middle of the night reassuring me, ‘I’m here, My son.’ But by faith I see Him, and inaudibly I hear Him on a regular basis, reading Him written in the events of my life–whether it be the crushing blows that drive me to my knees or the joyous triumphs that send my heart winging.”

It’s probably not an original thought with me, but one of the things this “God-in-the-background”, God as the Silent Orchestrator of all things, made me think of was the writing of fiction by Christian authors. Why wouldn’t the book of Esther be a wonderful model for Christians who write fiction?

I’m not saying that the book of Esther is a fictional account. I believe it’s true history. I also see the hand of God very clearly in the events that are recounted in Esther. However, the human author of Esther felt no need to point out to his readers that God was the one who moved the heart of King Xerxes to love and listen to Esther, that it was God who preserved the Jewish people from annihilation by their enemies by manipulating events and moving people to do His will. And yet it’s so obvious. God is the main character in the book of Esther without his ever being named.

Wouldn’t it be a challenge to a Christian author to see if one could write a God-permeated book without ever mentioning God or prayer or worship or faith? Even better, what about a book filled with the teaching and person of Jesus that never tells the reader exactly what to think and what words to use and how to define Jesus’ presence in the world?

I’m not talking about a book with some vague new-age spirituality. I just wonder if a book that presented the gospel of Jesus Christ without ever telling the reader exactly what it was doing and what to think about it might be more of a paradigm shifter than a book that preaches explicitly. Fantasy can do something like this if it’s done skillfully (Tolkien, C.S.Lewis), but I believe it can be done with regular realistic fiction, too. I just don’t know of very many Christian authors who are writing that kind of book.

So Esther made me think about how we write and read and present stories. It also made me think about how God works in our wold and how often we can miss His presence if we’re not looking with eyes of faith. God is at work all of the time. But we don’t always have eyes to see or ears to hear. I have people I’m praying for who seem as lost as they’ve ever been, in whose lives I see nothing of God’s hand. That doesn’t meant that God isn’t at work. But it may be a while before I can see it. I may never see the complete picture this side of heaven. Esther may not have had any idea that God was at work in her elevation to the position of queen. But He was.

Key passage from the book of Esther: Esther 4:12-16

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Where has God placed you for just such a time as this? What is He calling you to do?

If you read Esther, either the book in the Bible or Mr. Swindolls’ commentary or both recently and posted about it, here’s a linky where you can leave a link to your post. (Scroll down for the Saturday Review.)

Semicolon Book Club: Off to a Slow but Steady Start

I’ve been trying to get a book club going, both online and in person, for a couple of years now. Last year I got people committed and chose books for each month, and then stuff happened. January and February went fairly well, and then March got crazy, and in April my dad died. Then sometime in May or June I lost all of the information on my computer, and when I got it back, it didn’t include the email addresses and the list of book club participants. And things went downhill from there.

However, although I may not be consistent, I am persistent. So I’m ready to start over again. If you would like to participate in the Semicolon Book Club, here are the possibilities for 2010. We’ll be discussing the books here at the blog Semicolon on the dates indicated. We also may meet at my house for tea and discussion, if I get any takers who live here in Houston. If you want to read with us, email me (sherryDOTearlyATgmailDOTcom) with your choices for books in the months that have more than one book listed. I’ll tabulate the votes, and get back to you with the final list based on what people choose.

Then, on the dates indicated, I’ll have a post (with Linky) where you can leave comments and links to your thoughts, and where you can read what I have to say about the book of the month. I’m looking forward to it.

January: Nonfictional inspirational
Discussion date: Saturday, January 30, 2010
Esther by Chuck Swindoll. Everyone loves a transforming story. Rags to riches. Plain to beautiful. Weak to strong. Esther’s story is that, and much more. It is a thought-provoking study of God’s invisible hand, writing silently across the pages of human history. Perhaps most of all, it is an account of a godly woman with the courage, wisdom, and strength to block an evil plot, overthrow an arrogant killer, and replace tragedy with joy in thousands of Jewish homes. Through Esther’s courageous struggle to help her people, Swindoll explains the power of divine providence in volume 2 of the best-selling “Great Lives” series. (Publisher’s blurb)

February: Christian classic novels
Discussion date: February 27, 2010
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Graham Greene explores corruption and atonement through a priest and the people he encounters. In the 1930s one Mexican state has outlawed the Church, naming it a source of greed and debauchery. The priests have been rounded up and shot by firing squad–save one, the whisky priest. On the run, and in a blur of alcohol and fear, this outlaw meets a dentist, a banana farmer, and a village woman he knew six years earlier. Always, an adamant lieutenant is only a few hours behind, determined to liberate his country from the evils of the church.
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. This tale of two princesses – one beautiful and one unattractive – and of the struggle between sacred and profane love is Lewis’s reworking of the myth of Cupid and Psyche and one of his most enduring works.

March: Biography/History
Discussion date: March 27, 2010
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough. A biography of Teddy Roosevelt.
The Raven by Marquis James. A biography of Sam Houston.
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen.

April: Poetry Month
All poems are about God, love or depression. ~Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Educated Mind.
Discussion date: May 1, 2010
Paradise Lost by John Milton. “Recommended edition: The Signet Classic paperback, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, edited by Christopher Ricks. (New York: Signet Books, 1968, $7.95) This edition has explanatory footnotes at the bottom of each page. These are extremely helpful since Milton uses archaic expressions and hundreds of obscure classical references.” (SWB, The Well-Trained Mind) Paradise Lost is Milton’s retelling of the story in Genesis 1-3 of the Creation and the Fall.
(We were supposed to read this poem in 2009, but I didn’t do it. This year I am determined.)

May: YA or Children’s award winner
Discussion date: May 29, 2010
Wait and see what books win the Newbery and Printz awards and honor books this year. Announcement is January 18th.

June: Chunky Classics
Discussion date: June 26, 2010
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. “The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, where-in all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates. Written by Himself.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. Though he was gentle and kind, it was Quasimodo’s crime to have been born hideously deformed. But one day his heart would prove to be a thing of rare beauty. His inspiration was Esmerelda. The victim of a coward’s jealous rage, she is unjustly convicted of a crime she didn’t commit. Her sentence is death by hanging. Only one man can save her–Quasimodo.

July: Just for Fun and Adventure
Discussion date: July 31, 2010
Goodbye Mr. Chips by James Hilton. The novel tells the story of a schoolteacher and his long tenure at Brookfield, a fictional boys’ public boarding school. Mr. Chipping eventually conquers his inability to connect with his students, as well as his initial shyness and becomes an inspirational and much-beloved teacher.
Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson. Barbara Buncle, a spinster in her mid 30s lives in the small and close-knit English village of Silverstream. Finding herself in need of a new source of income, Miss Buncle, passes over the idea of raising chickens or taking in borders and instead writes a novel.

August: Shakespeare play
Discussion date: August 28, 2010
Twelfth Night. (comedy) To be performed at Shakespeare at Winedale in August 2010.
Hamlet (tragedy that we were supposed to read in 2009, but didn’t)

September: Prize winning adult novels
Discussion date: October 2, 2010
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. Lyman Ward, a retired history professor and writer, returns to his grandparent’s home in Grass Valley, California – wheelchair bound and facing a progressive, crippling bone disease. His intent is to research his grandmother’s life through the news clippings and letters of her past. To write her story, Ward must fill in gaps, imagine conversations, and uncover the truths which lie hidden in Susan Burling Ward’s history. During this one hot, dry summer in a quest to know his grandmother, he will discover the meaning beneath the shadows of his own life.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. The book is told in stream of consciousness writing style by 15 different narrators in 59 chapters. It is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family’s quest—noble or selfish—to honor her wish to be buried in the town of Jefferson.

October: Love to Laugh
Discussion date: October 30, 2010
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. Scoop is a comedy of England’s newspaper business of the 1930s and the story of William Boot, a innocent hick from the country who writes careful essays about the habits of the badger. Through a series of accidents and mistaken identity, Boot is hired as a war correspondent for a Fleet Street newspaper. The uncomprehending Boot is sent to the fictional African country of Ishmaelia to cover an expected revolution. Although he has no idea what he is doing and he can’t understand the incomprehensible telegrams from his London editors, Boot eventually gets the big story.
(Supposed to have been read in October 2009)

November: Love to Think
Discussion date: November 27, 2010
Home Economics by Wendell Berry – A warning against the biases of free market capitalism and an exhortation to home economy.
The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle. “’The Great Emergence’ refers to a monumental phenomenon in our world, and this book asks three questions about it. Or looked at the other way around, this book is about a monumental phenomenon considered from the perspective of three very basic questions: What is this thing? How did it come to be? Where is it going?”
Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. Winner, who wrote about her conversion to Christianity in 2002’s acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, draws on the Orthodox Jewish rituals that shaped her young adult life to rediscover the richness of those customs in her life as a Christian today. Through her personal reflections on 11 spiritual practices, including keeping the Sabbath, prayer, fasting and candle-lighting, Winner illuminates the profound cultural and religious significance of each practice within the Jewish community and modifies those practices to enrich the lives of Christians

Sunday Salon: Twelve Projects for 2010

The Sunday Salon.comFor the last couple of years, instead of resolutions, I’ve been thinking in terms of projects, lots of projects that I wanted to complete during the year. I wouldn’t say I was any more or less successful with my projects than most people are with resolutions, but I like the tradition anyway and plan to to continue it this year. So here are my twelve projects for 2010, with evaluations of how I did on some of the same projects in 2009.

1. Bible Reading Project. Last year’s Bible reading project was a qualified success. I didn’t read every day, and I didn’t study the books and passages I chose as intensely as I wanted, but I did read and study some. This year’s Bible reading plan is the same as last year’s: choose a book or part of a book of the BIble for each month of the year, read it daily, and study it using some good study tools. Take notes in my Bible and maybe this year in a journal, too. The selections for this year:

January: Esther. The women of my church are going on retreat in early March, and we’ll be studying the book of Esther. So I thought I’d get a head start.
February: Revelation 1-11. My pastor is preaching through Revelation this spring, so I thought I should be reading it. Revelation is my least favorite book in the Bible, so I’ll need some major self-discipline and encouragement from the Holy Spirit to finish this project.
March: Exodus 1-12 in preparation for Resurrection Sunday (April 4, 2010) and remembering Jesus, our Passover lamb.
April: Revelation 12-22.
May: Exodus 13-20.
June: I Timothy
July: Exodus 21-30.
August: II Timothy
September: Exodus 31-40.
October: Titus
November: Psalms 11-15.
December: Psalms 16-20.

2. Pulitzer Project. This year for the Pulitzer Project I read Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor and found it very absorbing and thought-provoking, one of the best books I read this past year. This next year I plan to read March by Geraldine Brooks and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

3. My Newbery Project for last year was also something of a bust. I think I got stuck because the winners for 1925 and 1926 were both story collections, and I don’t like story collections. I may skip the storybooks and get back on track this year.

4. Homeschooling Project: I need to focus on homeschooling the three remaining students in our homeschool.
Karate Kid (age 12)
Betsy-Bee (age 10)
Z-Baby (age 8)
You’ll see posts about how that project is going, plans for school and reading and science and history and field trips and all manner of educational schemes and visions. Perhaps you’ll also see a few desperate pleas for HELP! Just because I’ve graduated four students doesn’t mean I know how to homeschool the rest of the bunch.

5. Operation Clean House. I thought last year that if I took a room or area of the house and concentrated on that section each month, I might get somewhere with the de-cluttering and cleaning. Maybe. I didn’t. So this project is a repeat.
January: My closet and dressing area.
February: The rest of my bedroom.
March: Front hallway and entryway.
April: Living Room.
May: Kitchen.
June: Laundry room.
July: Half of the gameroom.
August: The other half of the gameroom.
September: Front bathroom.
October: Z-baby’s bedrooom.
November: Karate Kid’s bedroom.
December: Sit back and enjoy my reorganized home?
I might even, if I’m brave enough, post before and after pictures to keep myself motivated.

6. LOST Reading Project. I really want to get back to this project this year. I read Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin, enjoyed it, and tried a couple of others on the list that I didn’t care for at all (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien).
This year I think I’d like to read Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabakov and perhaps, Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor. I’m not sure I’m sophisticated enough to “get” Flannery O’Connor, but I’ll give it a try.

7. The U.S. Presidents Reading Project has a list of all of the U.S. presidents and suggested reading selections (non-fiction) for each one. The challenge is to read one biography of each one. Last year I read biographies of George Washington, John Adams, James and Dollie Madison, and Alexander Hamilton (I know, not a president, but closely related). This year I plane to continue with biographies of James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson, not necessarily in that order. I skipped Jefferson because I don’t like him very much.
8. Tournament of Reading Project. Probably the only reading challenge I sign up for this year, The Tournament of Reading is a challenge to read nine medieval books in three categories: history, medieval literature, and historical fiction. Most of these books that I plan to read come from my TBR list anyway:
Byzantium by John Julius Norwich.
Justinian’s Flea: The First Great Plague and The End of the Roman Empire by WIlliam Rosen.

Historical Fiction:
The King’s Daughter by Sandra Worth.
The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner.
The Master of Verona by David Blixt.

As for actual medieval literature, I’ll have to ask Eldest Daughter to suggest something.

9. Poetry Project: I would like to continue having my urchins memorizing and reading poetry. I would like to read and memorize poetry. I would like to have more Poetry Parties. Poetry Friday is the place and time to get an update on the Poetry Project. Plus, I’ll be celebrating Poetry Month again in April.

10. Prayer Project. I need to spend some daily concentrated time in prayer and meditation. My plan is to pray and read my Bible before I get on the computer each day so that I can bathe all these projects and all my children and my husband in prayer.

11. Book Club Project. I’m re-starting my book club this year. If any of you are interested in participating (virtually), email me at sherryDOTearlyATgmailDOTcom, and I’ll send you the details. I’ll also be posting the book club selections for each month of 2010 here at Semicolon soon. I’m also leading a middle school girls book club at our homeschool co-op, and I’ll be posting the book list for that club before long.

12. Advanced Reading Survey Project. I decided last year that on Mondays I was going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid that the thirty year old spiral notebook in which I wrote these entries may fall apart ere long. I may offer my more mature perspective on the books, too, if I remember enough about them to do so.
Texas Tuesday Project. I also plan to keep posting about books set in or published in or related to Texas on Tuesdays. Or at least on most Tuesdays.

Bonus Project: I’ll keep blogging, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, and I’ll keep you all updated on all my projects for 201-.

Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor

The front page of the copy of this Pulitzer prize-winning novel that I got from the library says that MacKinlay Kantor “planned the writing of Andersonville, his masterwork, for twenty-five years.” I can believe it. The novel is 750 pages long and almost unbelievably detailed in its treatment of the Confederate prison of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. The style of writing is a little odd. The book is mostly made up of short story or novelette length vignettes of the experiences of different people, mostly men, in and around the prison. A few characters persist throughout the entire book–the Claffey family who own a plantation just outside the prison, another family of poor whites who live nearby. The Yankee prisoners themselves and the prison guards and Confederate officers who run the prison move through the book, making appearances, telling their own stories, but mostly they don’t survive. Sometimes we read from the perspective of one of these prisoners, and then the writing becomes almost esoteric, as the reader partakes of the stream of consciousness, muddled thoughts and actions of disease-ridden and psychologically confused, sometimes delirious, men.

What I took away from the book was a reminder that there really is evil in the world, that Auschwitz and the killing fields of Cambodia, are sadly not the only examples of men treating men like animals, and worse. Interestingly, although Kantor seems to have some sympathy for the Confederates caught on the losing end of a war that they saw as a battle for the survival of their way of life, nowhere does the book make the excuse for Andersonville that I have read before: that the Confederates themselves were malnourished and drained of resources and could not adequately feed or house thousands of Yankee prisoners. In the book, at least, there is plenty of food, just outside the prison walls, and the Claffeys and their neighbors even offer to help provide for the prisoners. But the cruelty of a few officers overrides any attempt to alleviate conditions at Andersonville. In this novel the infamous Captain Henry Wirz, commander of the prison, is a stupid, cruel German (reminding me again of Auschwitz) dictator whose wish is for all of the Yankees to die. And Wirz’s supervisor, General Winder, who is in charge of all of the Confederate prisoner of war camps, is even worse, if that is possible. The two of them make no excuses for their behavior; they are fighting their own war, against the Yankees, even those in prison. (No Geneva convention here.)

Andersonville won its Pulitzer Prize in 1956, several years after the horrors of the Holocaust of Hiter’s Germany had been revealed and somewhat assimilated, so I imagine that the echoes of those WW II atrocities are not unintended. The stories of how some of the Yankee prisoners at Andersonville kept some kind of human dignity even under the most degrading circumstances, and of how some became evil predators themselves, parallel stories of Hitler’s concentration camps and the conditions and choices made there. Andersonville is a disturbing book, but worth slogging through for the lessons and reminders it gives: evil can happen here, and good people can become enmeshed in that evil.

Sunday Salon: The Pulitzer Project

The Sunday Salon.comI’m supposed to be working on reading, or at least trying out, all of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels. I even joined this project to accomplish that very thing, but I haven’t posted there in a long time. Here’s my list of books I had read when I first joined the project in 2007:

2005 – Gilead (Robinson) Semicolon review here.
1986 – Lonesome Dove (McMurtry) Well, sort of, at least I tried. Unappreciative Semicolon review of the part I finished.
1975 – The Killer Angels (Shaara) One of my Best Books Ever.
1967 – The Fixer (Malamud) I read this one a long time ago when my mom was taking a course in Jewish American literature.
1961 – To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee) One of my Best Books Ever.
1953 – The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)
1952 – The Caine Mutiny (Wouk)
1947 – All the King’s Men (Warren) Semicolon review here.
1937 – Gone with the Wind (Mitchell)
1928 – The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Wilder)
1925 – So Big (Ferber)
1921 – The Age of Innocence (Wharton) One of my Best Books Ever.
1919 – The Magnificent Ambersons (Tarkington) Semicolon review here.

Since then I’ve read The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty (1973), but I didn’t review it because I couldn’t think of much to say. I started A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, but I found it absurd. I have enough absurd in my life already. And this month, this week dare I say, I’m going to read Andersonville by Mackinlay Kantor, a 750 page novel about the horror that was the Confederate prison of Andersonville during the Civil War. Andersonville is also the Semicolon Book Club selection for this month, so it’s a two-fer. And I’ve been wanting to read it for a while because I like historical fiction. So that’s three reasons.

The Underneath and Me

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt was the Semicolon Book Club selection for May, and Amy at Hope Is the Word is on top of it. She’s right in pointing out that this book was somewhat controversial in its treatment of cruelty to animals, and I agree with her that the book is for older children and young adults.

Because I had already read The Underneath and because I loaned my copy to my mom and because I sometimes uses excuses like those to procrastinate, I didn’t get around to re-reading The Underneath in May. My local book club didn’t meet because I got so involved in graduation for my daughter and in hymn survey that I couldn’t manage the book club, too. (Another excuse.)

Anyway, here’s a link to my review of The Underneath, a book I think deserved the Newbery Honor it received and then some. The Semicolon book club selection for June is David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I’m not going to procrastinate on the one because if I do I won’t get it read. If you want to join me in reading Dickens’ semi-autobiographical opus, then get reading. I’m making it a goal to post every Tuesday about my progress in re-reading David Copperfield—just to keep myself on track.

The book club meeting, for those of you who live in Houston, will be at 2:00 on Monday, June 29th rather than on the previous Saturday. Anyone who’s even finished part of David by that date is welcome to come over to my house and discuss. Then on Tuesday June 30th, I’ll post a wrap-up with link to those of you online who manage to read and write about Mr. Copperfield.

Come on and give it a try. Summertime is made for long, hefty, chunky classics.

Sunday Salon: Gleaned from the Saturday Review and Other Places

The Sunday

These books are the ones I’m adding to my own unmanageable reading list. I can hardly wait to read them all plus the 100+ others on my list. Thanks to everyone for all of the great suggestions.

The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide. Recommended by Dawn at 5 Minutes for Books. I’d like to read this one and compare it with a couple of other books about death and dying that I’ve read lately: Tender Graces by Jackina Stark and Passage by Connie Willis.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Recommended by Carrie at Books and Movies.

Every Eye by Isobel English. Recommended by Fleurfisher. This “quiet story” from Persephone Books sounds delightful.

The King’s Daughter by Sandra Worth. Recommended by Deanna at Mom Musings.

The English Patient by Michael Odaatje. Recommended by S. Krishna.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Recommended at Civil Thoughts. This one sounds, well, elegant.

The Great Emergence by Phyllis TIckle. Recommended by Raima at Complexity Simplified.

Also Laura reviews Tea TIme for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith’s latest No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency saga, and I’m looking forward to it. And I also want to get my hands on a copy of Tuck, the third in the King Raven trilogy by Stephen Lawhead.

The Semicolon Book Club selection for May is a children’s book that I thought should have won the Newbery Award. Instead, it was a Newbery Honor book: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. Here are my thoughts on the book after I read for the first time last October. I’ll be interested to see what others who read it this month think about it. It provoked pretty strong opinions, both pro and con, among the kidlit bloggers who read it last year. Leave me a comment or email me and I’ll be happy to link to your review of The Underneath anytime in May.