Listening to Radio 4’s In Our Time this morning, I was reminded of a guilty secret of mine, one which I’m ‘fessing up on now, and which I’ve decided to deal with this winter. I haven’t read Moby Dick. As an English teacher, and as a graduate of an American Literature degree, Melville’s book is one I’ve been bumping into for years. But, man, it’s long. And there are so many other books to read too. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is one of those books, one which has comes with its own fanfare. I need to see what the fuss is about.
Melvin Bragg’s discussion also made me think about other books that are jostling noisily on my ‘Really – you haven’t read this?’ pile. And so I’m setting myself my own Reading Challenge for 2018. Here’s what I intend to tackle:
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
‘The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.’
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
‘The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, The Name of the Rose is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.’
Dr Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
‘Doctor Zhivago is the epic novel of Russia in the throes of revolution and one of the greatest love stories ever told. Yuri Zhivago, physician and poet, wrestles with cruel experience of the new order and the changes it has wrought in him, and is torn between love for his wife and family, and the passionate, beautiful Lara.
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
‘David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr Murdstone; his brilliant, but ultimately unworthy school-friend James Steerforth; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble, yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora Spenlow; and the magnificently impecunious Wilkins Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations. In David Copperfield – the novel he described as his ‘favourite child’ – Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of the most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure.’
So there’s it is – a personal challenge for the new year. If you’ve already read any of the above, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What would be on your list?