Middlemarch coverHappy New Year!

I’m not much for making reading goals, and I’m much less for actually keeping them! I don’t like to feel beholden to the person I was at the beginning of a new  year — what did he know! But I do need some direction in 2016, so I’m putting together ten reading goals. There are a few books that, for a decade, I’ve been wanting to read but have been putting off for stupid reasons. And there are some authors I have wanted to delve into but I’m waiting for that rainy, lazy day to dig in . . . which is not going to happen.

If you’ve got some goals of your own, I’d love to hear them! If not, I understand! I’ll probably be kicking myself for doing this come February!

Here are my specific goals, to be completed while doing my typical reading this year.

  1. I’m finally going to read Middlemarch this year. I started this book in 2006 and got through the first 100 pages quickly. And then my wife and I moved across country to New Jersey. In that move, I lost track and have not gone back, though I’ve wanted to. I just keep telling myself soon . . . well, soon has arrived in 2016. I hope to get some legs under this in this final week of 2015 even.
  2. Read at least 25 stories by William Trevor. For Christmas this year, my wife got me the beautiful two-volume giftset The Collected Stories of William Trevor. I want to start it and keep moving through it. If I don’t, I will put it off for tomorrow over and over again. Trevor has become one of my favorites, and it’s time to tackle him chronologically as I’m doing with Alice Munro.
  3. Read at least 25 stories by I.B. Singer. I just got the three-volume LOA set of I.B. Singer’s short fiction, and while I’ve read quite a bit of his work over the years it has long been a goal to approach him from a more disciplined angle.
  4. Read a book — any book — by Barbara Pym. I have a feeling I’m going to really like Pym’s work, but I don’t know, since I’ve never even read one.
  5. Read three books by J.M. Coetzee. I’ve read most of Coetzee’s work, and I’ve got all of his books on the shelf just waiting for me to dig in again.
  6. Read three books by Penelope Fitzgerald. I love Fitzgerald, and there all of her books sit on the shelf, next to the Coeztee’s, and it’s time I fulfilled my goal to read all of her work.
  7. Read six novels by Muriel Spark. All of her books are sitting on the shelf above my Coetzee and Fitzgerald, and I’ve read many with the goal to read all of them, so basically ditto the two goals above but with Spark’s name instead.
  8. Read four novels by American women writers who were writing before 1980. Several of my favorite books are by Welty, Wharton, O’Connor, McCullers, and Cather. It’s time I got back to them and read more, and I hope I discover a few others.
  9. Read six other books from my old-time TBR pile, which includes 100s of books acquired more than five years ago. I’ve culled dozens of times and gotten rid of 100s of books over the years that I once was certain I’d read. The many I’ve kept are still with me because that certainty is, against all odds, still there. I need to read at least six of them. I need to do another cull of the rest.
  10. Read Seiobo There Below, a book by an author I love and that is rightfully intimidating.

I will undoubtedly fail at a few of these, but I think it would be great if I succeeded. That’s just 25 books and 50 short stories, which is far from insurmountable. The problem is all of the stuff that comes in and all of the whims of the year. But the purpose of these goals is to keep me thinking about what I’ve been neglecting due to new books and whims.

Wish me luck!

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By |2016-01-01T17:17:44+00:00January 1st, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Roger January 1, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Good luck! If you read McCullers’s Ballad of the Sad Cafe, I hope you’ll post your thoughts. I found it engrossing but also baffling.

  2. Greg January 1, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    It’s great to see that William Trevor is on your list!

    A few years ago I got through his Collected Stories by committing to one story before bed almost every night.

    It felt so good to enjoy Trevor’s wise voice before falling asleep at night!

  3. Adrienne January 1, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    I, too, have been sidetracked while reading Middlemarch…

    I am frustrated by the limitations of being a reviewer! But I am working on expanding what books my editors will consider, so hopefully that will leave room for the intriguing and classical…

    Thanks for posting these, Trevor, Makes me think about my own “goals” for reading…

  4. Ann Graham January 1, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    I’m so happy you’ve selected William Trevor. He’s a treasure! And, what a wonderful gift from your wife!

  5. Anton January 2, 2016 at 6:46 am

    An interesting list Trevor. I am not familiar with all of the books/authors you mention. Actually, I am committing to thinning out my collection this year. I have always told myself I have to re-read my favourites and the classics (the Russians, Conrad, …) but have been putting this off for my retirement days when the money is shorter (short). Hence I am prepared slim down the collection. There are definitely a lot of books there that I will never, ever read again.
    On the subject of new books, I was reading about Lucian Bergman and downloaded a sample from I-tunes (a great way of getting a flavour of a book). I will be ordering her collected stories. In a review of her work, someone said she reminded them of Richard Yates, who I have never heard of (I am English, if that is any excuse) although I did see the film Revolutionary Road. I sampled his short stories and the two I read were splendid, so he is also on my list.

    Apart from that, I wish you all a very happy New Year and very pleasant reading.

    Anton

  6. Tredynas Days January 2, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Happy new year, Trevor! Like you, I’m not keen on reading targets, but found your list of goals intriguing. I was given that Trevor box set a couple of years ago; I’ve read several of his story collections, but have not got round to tackling this collection. His novels and novellas are also superb. I’m sure you’ll enjoy him. I recently treated myself to some bundles of novels on offer from a UK online bookseller: Pym and Wharton were among them, plus 8 Hemingway titles – and 3 by Barbara Comyns. I’ve just finished Our Spoons Came from Woolworths, which is odd but fascinating. So I have plenty to get through this year. Meanwhile I’ve also got Seibo on the pile, along with Satantango. I picked up Daniel Deronda the other day, but baulked at its 800+ pages, so opted at random for Ivy Compton-Burnett’s Family and Fortune, which I finished today: it’s another oddity, a kind of lighter version of H James tinted with Jane Austen and E Waugh. No reading targets for me, then, but a TBR pile that continues to grow faster than it dwindles…

  7. Dan January 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Those are some very ambitious goals. Good luck! I read three by Krasznahorkai last year, and Seiobo was my least favorite (I liked The Melancholy of Resistance best, followed closely by Satantango). There were some amazing, beautiful passages, but as you know it’s not really a novel, or even a collection of novellas–more like a set of long prose poems. That’s fine in its own way, but the form demanded too much sustained attention from me!

    As for pre-1980 female American writers, I think you really can’t go wrong with Shirley Jackson. Her “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” is absolutely one of the ten best books I’ve read in the last decade.

  8. Anton January 3, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Does anybody have any thoughts on Bergman and Yates to offer please?

  9. Trevor Berrett January 3, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Thanks, everyone, for your well-wishing and for the good lucks! I wish you all a wonderful new year — filled with good reads! I’ll keep you all posted on my progress, or lack thereof . . .

  10. Max Cairnduff January 4, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Good thoughts, I haven’t formed my equivalents yet. Yours looks fairly packed.

    Re Pym, I reviewed her A Glass of Blessings recently at mine. It’s excellent and I really do think you’d like it.

    Ballad of a Sad Cafe is great too, in a very different way.

    Anton, I’ve two Yates reviewed at mine (https://pechorinsjournal.wordpress.com/category/yates-richard/) and there’s a very good review of his The Easter Parade here (https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/the-easter-parade-by-richard-yates/). Hope those help.

    Happy New Year Trevor!

  11. Passage à l'Est! January 4, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Happy New Year Trevor! Those are ambitious goals considering you also read a lot of new publications, good luck with reading all you’ve planned. I’m interested in pretty much all the authors you’ve listed (with Trevor in first place) but it will take several years before I get round to reading all of them.

  12. Lee Monks January 4, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Villette has been bumped up the list, as have Miss Macintosh, My Darling, Women and Men and The Making of Americans…if I read any of those last three in 2016: result. I will definitely read the aforementioned Bronte, A Month in the Country, Giovanni’s Room, Akenfield and The Waves in the next few weeks. I can’t put anything else down as I know I’ll probably want to read a certain type of thing by February, whatever it turns out to be. That’s why I hate rigid year plans – Elmore Leonard will need to be slotted in somewhere, I just don’t know where yet.

    I’ve no choice, though, but to read the Knausgaard – I’m four books in and it’s extremely addictive stuff. I no longer have any real idea if any of it’s much good, but the idea of NOT reading it fills me with dread. How far into those are you, Trevor?

  13. Trevor Berrett January 4, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Anton, I don’t know anything about Lucian Bergman, but I’ve posted a few thoughts on Yates’ Revolutionary Road (here) and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (here).

    And wonderful to see you pop in, Benedicte! I hope all is going well. I think I’ll be able to handle the new material with this older stuff. This goal of 25 books accounts for around 1/3 of my reading this year, so I’m hopeful that the other 2/3s will be a mixture of old and new!

    Lee, I am only through the first two Knausgaard books. I think they’re remarkable works, though not for the reasons we often expect from our masterpieces. I am anxious to get through the next few to catch up! I’ll be quite curious to see if my plans for 2016 turn out to be too rigid for my future self. I think I’ve got enough flexibility in them (and they’re mostly short books by authors I already know and love).

    To give a brief update, I’m a story into both Trevor (“A Meeting in Middle Age”) and Singer (“Gimpel the Fool”), and I should finish Sparks’ The Abbess of Crewe today or tomorrow. Current self is still pleased with my self from a few days ago!

  14. Trevor Berrett January 4, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Max — just saw your comment needed moderating (probably due to the links) — thanks for the links for Anton and for me with the Pym. And happy new year!

  15. Anton January 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks for your replies.

  16. Ian Curtin (@IanCurtin1) January 5, 2016 at 7:41 am

    With you 100% on Middlemarch, Trevor. So determined am I that I was going to *start* the year with it, but have got into the habit of reading a story collection first up and couldn’t resist Lucia Berlin.

    My other goal is probably to finish 2666, which stalled (for no good reason, other than being overwhelmed possibly) just before The Part About The Crimes. At least I have your read-along pieces to help with guidance through the terrain.

  17. Anton January 5, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Ian, what do you think of Lucia Berlin? The one sample story I read on I-tunes was excellent.

    I have to confess I have never been that tempted by classical novels but I have been through all of Hardy, Victor Hugo, Zola,… My own passion for reading as a young adult (I read the usual literary fare as a child) was kindled by the Penguin modern classics back in the late 1960s. Jane Austen, for example, I have never read (I know all the works though owing to the various dramatisations). All of your enthusiasms have, however, whetted my appetite for Middlemarch.

  18. Ian Curtin (@IanCurtin1) January 5, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Anton, I’ve read (or rather – galloped through) 10 stories and am completely hooked. They are marvellous, so far. She seems to be a writer of immense quality and talent.

    Which one did you read as a sample?

  19. Anton January 5, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    OK, Ian, I will order my copy tomorrow

  20. winstonsdad January 8, 2016 at 2:00 am

    Love the way you’ve choosen goals that are obtainable but also across the board I love Trevor stories rob was going through his a few years ago not read singer but have one of his books on my shelves

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