Back in 2000, I decided to devote myself to reading literature written only by women. That's the year Rob bought me Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling, the thickest book he could find by a woman. He didn't know it was the fourth book in a then unfinished series.
And so I dedicated 2001 to reading only literature written by women.
It was an interesting challenge I gave to myself, one I enjoyed more than I could have anticipated. I didn't realize how hard it would be to find interesting books on the bargain shelves. Most of the bargain books I found written by women were fluffy romances or about how I, too, could be thin and youthful forever. These would be sitting side-by-side with books like collected works of Nietzsche or the essential Carl Jung and you can see why I found the dearth of quality literature disheartening.
Thank goodness for libraries!
So here I am, ten years later, and this past year (2010) I read fifteen books that had been sitting on my shelf as part of a different challenge: The Read-It-Or-Get-Rid-Of-It-Challenge. Okay. So I didn't read all of the books. I still have a few weeks before the end of the year but I can already tell you that a couple of the books will go unread. Or unfinished anyway.
This year, I am doing both challenges. Not only will I be reading only books by women but I am also going to read or get rid of fifteen books I've had on my bookshelves for a while. Below is a list of the Fifteen in 2011. I'll also be reading (or rereading, as the case may be) Jane Austen. Ooooh . . . ahhhh . . .
And stick around for Lent. I have already decided what I will be giving up for the Lenten season.
Be Your Own Life Coach by Diane Scholten
I picked this up years ago after my mother and I went to a presentation by a life coach who works out of upstate NY. Needless to say, in a one hour presentation there's only so much a life coach can teach. I bought this book on a whim and loved it immediately and then . . . misplaced it. I think I put it on the wrong shelf or it ended up buried in a pile of other books or something. Whatever happened, the book remained unread and this seems like as good a year as any to commit to reading it and applying the teachings to my own life.
The Temple Bombing by Melisssa Fay Greene
This is an autographed copy I picked up while still in college after hearing her speak about her then latest book. This one had already been published and popular, addressing issues of anti-semitism in the south.
I've avoided reading this book not because I don't find the subject of great interest (and even urgency) but because I know it will distress me at some level. It is not a topic one approaches lightly and, therefore, the poor book has been sitting on my bookshelf, neglected, for over a decade.
Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene
Again, it isn't that I didn't want to read this book. After all, I bought it for a reason. But I didn't know if I could face a nonfiction account of racism in rural Georgia. Especially not one that took place in the 1970s rather than the distant past of racism. I think distance may have been easier for me.
Nevertheless, this is the year when I will bit the bullet and face the stories of Georiga's not too distant past. I am prepared to do so and that is truly a part of the battle where such stories are concerned.
Desperanto by Marilyn Hacker
I honestly can't tell you a thing about this book. I can't recall buying it or how I acquired it. Did someone give it to me? It is possible. Did I see it on a bargain bookshelf and grab it? Also possible.
I know this much, the author's name is completely unknown to me so I can safely say that I didn't read a poem or story or other writing by Hacker and want to read more. I simply have no idea where, how, or why this book came to be on my bookshelf.
All the more reason for me to commit to reading it this year, don't you think?
The Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath (ed Ted Hughes)
I tried to read this but felt such a deep sadness when I began that I had to set it aside. Then the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath was released. Hmph!
What I plan on doing is borrowing the unabridged version and reading the two side-by-side, to see what has been edited out. Of course, I'll have to (once again) mentally prepare myself to read these journals because I already know that they will leave me feeling sad.
(If it weren't another Year of Women Writers for me, I would juxtapose reading Plath's journals with Terry Pratchett. Oh well.)
A.D. by Kate Millett
I picked this up on a whim, a bargain book that had an interesting cover. I thought it was a science fiction novel about a dystopian future. Imagine my surprise when I realized that it is actually a memoir. And about growing up gay in the 50's. And about family relationships and love.
Really, this is why I have to occasionally commit to going through my shelves and reading those books that have been neglected because this one ranks very high as one that I clearly have neglected for far too long. I expect this is one I'll enjoy to the utmost.
Some Personal Papers by JoAllen Bradham
Have you ever heard that story about the medical professor who asked his students to tell him the name of one of the cleaning staff for the university building in which these students had been studying pre-med for a number of years? None of the students could name one.
When I went to college I knew the names of many of the facility employees and befriended more than a few. One of them, upon my graduating, gave this book to me as a gift. The author was a professor at Kennesaw State University at the time. I didn't read it for before because it stirred up much sadness in me. But now I'm ready and eager to read this book and remember some good times.
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
I tend to avoid some books because I know that they will stir up certain feelings or ideas I already hold. I mean, do I really need to fan my feminist flames into an inferno? Probably not. And yet, I bought this book so it is time for me to buckle down and read it.
Not sure what to expect but no doubt, when I do read this, you'll know because I'll be thinking along more strongly feminist lines. Or maybe you won't be able to tell. Maybe it will all just sound as feminist as it does already and it will merely be more of the same. Your guess is as good as mine.
The Dance of Anger / The Dance of Intimacy / The Dance of Deception by Harriet Lerner
I bought this book when I gave a copy of the first book, The Dance of Anger, as a gift to my friend Jorin Burr. I don't know if she ever read it. I don't even know if she ever received it but, at the time, I thought it would be interesting for both of us to read it together and discuss it.
So now I have this three-in-one volume that's been on my shelf waiting for someone else to read along with me and I give up. I'm going to read it and the other two books in this volume. I actually will be rereading the first book, which I read while I was in college and working with a really wonderful counselor. If the other two books are even close to being as interesting as the first then this will be a wonderful read.
Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong
This is the second time Karen Armstrong has been on my "Fifteen" list. I keep buying her books and then setting them aside. But not anymore! This year I am going to read this book.
Originally, my intention was to read this book while I was reading the Qur'an (or The Koran) but I had mis-shelved this book and couldn't find it. So when I came across it while reorganizing my books, I was so excited to add it to this year's list. I am sure I'll learn more and appreciate it more fully than reading a poor translation of a sacred text. At least, I hope so, anyway.
Healing the Soul of America by Marianne Williamson
The last few books by Williamson I've read have left me underwhelmed. I bought this book shortly after 9/11 because I was so distraught by the vitriolic rhetoric that surrounded me. It was hard to tune out and I wanted to read something that would, I hoped, be a breath of fresh air to me. I didn't read it at the time but that doesn't mean I don't still need a breath of fresh air. I hope that this book doesn't disappoint.
And I bought it at a time when a lot of people were either recommending Williamson to me or giving me her books. It was weird. Now I have a lot of her books, unread.
Finding Water by Julia Cameron
I actually haven't had this book a very long time, only a few years, but I bought it with the intention of reading it along with my mother and step-sister. I don't really know what happened to that plan but I suppose I can go ahead (and even should go ahead) and read it without waiting for anyone else to join me for the ride.
Of course you, dear reader, are welcome to join me if you happen to have a copy. Or can borrow one.
The Future of Love by Daphne Rose Kingma
I read another book by Kingma and loooooved it so, when I saw this book, I wanted to see what she had to say about love. I don't really know why I didn't read it sooner. I guess I already had some love in my life, in the form of my children and Rob, and I didn't really wonder about the future of love.
I don't even now. It's there. It ebbs. It flows. It evolves. I guess I just didn't see an imperative to read this book but I remember loving that other book when I read it so I am sure I'll find some lovely quotes in this one, no pun intended.
Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff
This arrived in my inbox by mistake. Oops. Damn book of the month club. But I paid for it anyway and then let it sit on my shelf for a long time.
I am still not eager to read it but this is the reason why I do these read it or get rid of it challenges and it makes sense to add this book to the list. It's been on my shelf long enough. Time for it to move on or become a permanent part of my life.
Three guesses which of the two it will be. Obviously, with only two choices, you won't need three guesses. Oh well.
Jean Rhys: The Complete Novels by Jean Rhys
This book was a gift from Gina Allison. I never read it. I would pick it up and move it into my pile of read sooner rather than later . . . and then find something else to read.
I really want to read this book and either love it or find it a new more loving home. Can I count this five-in-one volume as five books? I won't. I'm counting it as a single book.
Mostly because this one book makes the fifteenth book on my list of Fifteen for 2011.
Not too shabby a list. I think it's interesting, indicative of my usual range of reading choices. And last year I fell in love with a couple of the books I had been avoiding on my own bookshelves. For all I know, I will fall in love with all of the above or maybe most of the above. (I honestly think my heart would break if I got to the end of one of these read them or get rid of them challenges with nothing new to keep on my shelf.)
Now if only I could stop buying new books . . .