Book 328: A Jane Austen Education – William Deresiewicz

Deresiewicz, William - A Jane Austen EducationWarning: Goodreads rant – skip to second paragraph. I’m not sure what jumped up everyone’s butts on Goodreads (I shouldn’t really be surprised), but this book doesn’t deserve as much vitriol as it has received on the site. So many people trashed it without even finishing the book, many obviously had read the synopsis (Amazon Affiliate link) and yet were shocked at what they read.

The book definitely deserves a lot of the criticism, but it doesn’t deserve the pure vitriol that Goodread’s reviewers thew at it. Sure, I wanted to smack Deresiewicz for being an insufferable grad student, but it’s very clear in the synopsis that the book was going to be full of naval gazing. He made a couple of questionable sexist and classist comments and he may have reduced a lot of Austen’s genius down to basics, but it would definitely work for people who are not familiar with Austen. Seriously, if you can’t find the good in a book, why bother finishing and trashing it? Just move on to the next book.

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Book 326: What Matters in Jane Austen? – John Mullan

Mullen, John - What Matters in Jane AustenNeither a bad end to 2014, nor a bad start to 2015, this was well worth the read. It wasn’t all I thought it would be, but considering it was a galley I got ages ago (2012 I think) and never read (Sorry!) I’m glad I finally read it. I think I’m going to spend a lot of time with Austen this year. A few friends and I are doing a Jane Austen book club and I have quite a bit of non-fiction I’m looking forward to reading about Austen and her life. I hope everyone sticks with me throughout! I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and received nothing in return for my honest response.

What worked best for this book was the selecting of 20 themes and then talking about them across Austen’s novels. I’ve read all of her novels at least once and a few of them much more. You can look at the chapter titles to see the themes, but the ones that stood out most to me where when Mullan spoke about Austen’s mastery of novels and groundbreaking skills as a writer.

“She did things with fiction that had never been done before. She did things with characterization, with dialogue, with English sentences, that had never been done before.”

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Book 71: Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal – J.K. Rowling

Rowling, JK - Harry Potter y la piedra filosofalI’ve had a copy of this book on my bookshelf since undergrad. I bought it when I was still taking Spanish classes and could probably have read it a hell-of-a-lot easier back then that now, but I never made it past the first few chapters no matter how many times I tried. This time, with my 30th birthday looming and it being one of the final three items on my 30×30 list I pushed through and finished it!

I’ll talk more about reading it in Spanish in my 30×30 item post, this is just a recap of the story. This is the second time I’ve read the first Harry Potter book while blogging, the first was back in July 2012. And as with every time I re-read the first novel in the series I’m amazed at how much world-building (adapting) Rowling does in such a short novel. Sure she spreads it out over the first few, but introducing so may ideas and people within such a short span AND telling a story wow.

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Book 70: The Return of the King (LOTR #3) – J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien, J.R.R. - LOTR3 - The Return of the KingWith this book, and my previous reading of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, I’m one step closer to finishing my 30×30 list. What better way to start off my response than with Treebeard/Fangorn’s words to Galadriel: “It is sad that we should meet only thus at the ending. For the world is changing: i feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air. I do not think we shall meet again.” (290)

It’s so true though! What a sad, beautiful and perfect ending to this epic novel (apparently it’s counted as one in a lot of lists). I mean I knew it was great and I remembered a lot of it, but nowhere near as much as was included in the book. I even read Appendix A which gave the brief history of the race of men and Gimli’s heritage which was excellent to learn more about them. I didn’t go into the other appendices as they were a bit too technical for my liking, but I did seriously consider buying a few more Tolkien Middle-earth books when I saw them at the used bookstores last weekend and I may yet!

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Book 68: The Two Towers (LOTR #2) – J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien, J.R.R. LOTR2 - The Two TowersI’m still reeling at how fast I read The Two Towers and yet excited that it was so much better than I remembered. I hope I haven’t misspoken over the past 10 years and that the next book was the boring one. If I did, I have a long trek before me. Having read The Fellowship of the Ring and now this, I’m 2/3 of the way through another 30×30 list item!

Even though I still find Tolkien’s descriptions incredibly heavy and often times dampening, this time I felt as I read the descriptions increased and bogged you down the further I read. I guess Tolkien is an even greater writer than I ever gave him credit for. (Shocking I know right?) The only time I found it hard to continue reading was as Frodo and Sam began their journey as I was so daunted by my memories of reading the book that before I knew it I was over 300 pages into the book and then I’d finished.

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