The 10 Book Project
I have considered banishing the word “project” from my vocabulary (seriously, somehow you convince yourself that projects keep you busy but then, wham! The second you refer to the dreaded “it” as a project…everything halts). So, with that in mind, when my semester ended in December, I decided that I wanted to read something I did not need a lesson plan for. Of late, I have not had the time to read like I like and I was determined to read ten books in January.
This is a massive undertaking considering somewhere in the middle of the list I had The Decameron (which, I will confess, is still not finished). Then I told my mother and my sister this plan. Lo and behold, it became a project. Then, the semester started…books one through five took a little more than two weeks. The next five trudged on like the Little Engine that Could but couldn’t because he’s stuck in the mud.
With that in mind, my ten books in one month turned into ten books in two months – with a flurry coming at the end because I thought I was done and realized a book that was in the pile did not belong there. So…I stared at the bookshelf and picked #10. (I finished it in less than a day, which counts for something). I also noticed when compiling this list that I have an insanely distinct literary genre. I apologize in advance if you have an aversion to England, fog and…dead people – whether literally or metaphorically. The books are listed in the order I finished them – not necessarily the order I started them.
Note: Click the covers or titles below to see more reviews for each book on Amazon.com and if you buy the book, we get a little donation!
1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013) This book immediately grabbed my attention because of the backdrop of The Met and calling the main character flawed is an understatement. People die (shocker) and there are certainly some unsavory characters, like the main character’s father. It is a lengthy book with small print (very small print) but is worth the read.
2. The Yard by Alex Grecian (2013) Book #1 of Victorian London murders. Compare to The Goldfinch this book was a cakewalk but certainly worth the read nonetheless. Far more than just a detective story post Jack the Ripper, The Yard focuses a lot on the psychology of why as well when murders hit a little too close to home.
3. The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman (2013) I will admit, I finished this book and was still slightly unsure what actually happened. There’s magic, murder (again) and an odd obsession with the main character’s mustang. Often, it reads as if you’re reading a spell book from who knows when in a language you think you know, but don’t. However, it was interesting and I bought another book by the author, so I liked it.
4. The Trial of Fallen Angels by James Kimmel, Jr. (2012) I love Dante. I love Milton. The title of this book is what struck me; it is an interesting perspective on dying and forgiveness. The characters are all flawed in so many ways but their lives all intersect into a beautiful conclusion. While you might assume the ending is obvious, it is not.
5. Saving Mozart by Raphaël Jerusalmy (2013) If you have a short trip, read this book. I believe I finished it in a few hours – tops. I also have a strange attraction to World War II history and this book is an interesting perspective on a solitary event during the war. It also deals with Mozart so you can’t really go wrong here.
6. Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (2014) The assumption that Poe is weird is a pretty wildly held view, which he is. But this book looks at him more as the man he was before Baltimore and the bench. Don’t assume that Mrs. Poe is his wife, it isn’t and this is historical fiction but it is also an easy read and very enjoyable and Poe looks like less of a shmuck, which is always a plus – although you might hate “The Raven” by the end.
7. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2004) I liked her second book so much that I read her first; it too is long with small print (I guess she assumes her readers have “young eyes”). However, unlike The Goldfinch, this book focuses on the psychology of a group of college students studying the Classics with a professor that I hope never to have – or be. The book deals a great deal with human motivations and mind games. Oh, and a murder.
8. Something More than Night by Ian Tregillis (2013) The only problem with this book is if you do not know Christian theology well, you will have to look up a few premises, which I did. Needless to say, Gabriel, the archangel, dies. The rest of the book reads as an old, black and white, noir crime novel/movie complete with the language and the cigarettes – and it is often quite comical and the ending is unexpected.
9. The Western Lit Survival Guide By Sandra Newman (2012) Weird choice, I know. However, every so often I enjoy these books because it reminds me why we should read The Classics (or not, depending on whether or not Newman likes them). She is hysterical in her writing and brutally honest. I earmarked pages of books that I do not have and now want to get. It’s also a very easy read that can be read in the middle of all the dreary death and murder (although every author she mentions is, in fact, dead).
10. The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd (2013) We are back to London…and Victorian England. However, Shepherd relies heavily on references to Dickens’ Bleak House. I hated that book but I loved this one. Whether you know Bleak House or not, does not matter. It is an excellent murder mystery and detective story with the imagery and language of London in 1850…and Shepherd has already written the second book in the series.
Through all of this, I realize that, regardless of your profession, it is important to always take the time to read for yourself – even if it is macabre. Whether it was with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, I often found myself sitting for hours and reading. It is perhaps the best way to clear your mind of all the clutter and lists and, most importantly, the projects. Find a genre you like and stick to it, veer off into the Classics or pick up the shiny cover that you see when you walk into the bookstore. Whichever way you choose – reading will always be one of the best ways to pass a day and expand your mind and your own personal library.
If you were to take on this project, which books would be on your list?
ABOUT REBECCA: Rebecca Campbell has her MA in Secondary Teaching from NYU and BA in English Literature from the University of Maryland. She is a New York, New Jersey and Maryland certified secondary English education teacher. Rebecca has been teaching college-level English since 2009 and hopes to enhance her students understanding of literature and works to develop and maintain a high standard of excellence in their writing.
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