Quarterly Retrospective : looking back, looking ahead

At first glance, I have to admit to a twinge of disappointment at my raw number of books read, but as I looked over my list, reread some of my posts, and reflected on my overall experience, I’ve discovered that I’m actually not disappointed at all with myself this year.  By year’s end, I will have read 38 books, down 4 from last year, but last year’s total included several graphic novels and books that were otherwise not particularly challenging.  That number also does not reflect the essays that I read from Emerson and Wordsworth, the few short stories that I took in, nor does it reflect my stroll into poetry.

So all in all, I can’t say that I’m disappointed.  I would love to be a faster reader, but I don’t see that happening.  I’ve become far more focused over the course of the past year.  In 2010, my reading was all over the place.  I read some classics, a few graphic novels, as well as a selection of modern literature.  I jumped from one genre to the next, trying to decide what felt right.  Looking back, I recognize that I was finding my footing as a reader.  I was searching for what what would really speak to me.  I was grappling for the books that would edify my soul and teach me something. By the end of 2010, I had found my footing with the classics.  In April of this year, I launched my Reading Through the Centuries Project, and though I’ve modified my approach to that list, I feel that I’m on the right path.  This is the reading journey that suits me.


Looking Back at 2011

Top Five (in no particular order)

Favorite Children’s Book

Favorite Poem

Least Favorite Book

  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (I was so done with this book, I didn’t even post about it)

Looking Ahead to 2012

I am really excited about my 2012 reading prospects.  In addition to the books mentioned in my 2012 challenges post, I’ve been mulling over a few other projects and points of focus and while I’m sure that I’ll fall short of all that I hope to accomplish, I can’t help but well up with excitement over my new little undertakings.

Poetry Peeks

For this project, I’m using Harold Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language to guide me through an exploration of poetry beginning with Wordsworth through Robert Frost.  I actually launched this idea last month with a series of posts about Wordsworth and though I’ve set no time frame for the project, I did mention in my initial post that I intended to post weekly; I’ve since learned that’s not going to happen.  Reading these poets takes time, at least for me.

Immediately following Wordsworth, I read three essays by Emerson for Jillian’s Transcendentalist Event.  Little did I know how well they would go together!  Wordsworth led (of course) to Coleridge, who I’ve seen referenced over and over as an inspiration for many Transcendentalist writers.  I am just on the cusp of my exploration of Coleridge and I also plan to read The Friendship : Wordsworth and Coleridge by Adam Sisman, recommended to me by Chris from ProSe, and perhaps Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection, which is the main work referenced by the Transcendentalists. So yes, I will certainly be taking my time.

The Ancients

I had hoped to at least begin an inquiry into ancient literature, philosophy, and mythology by the end of the year, but so far it hasn’t happened, and with only 10 days left, I’m not holding my breath.  I want to begin with a general introduction and I’ve heard that Edith Hamilton’s, Mythology, is a good source so I’m going to start there before embarking on a more in depth examination with the assistance of Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths, also recommended by Chris.  Incidentally, I found a copy of both of these books at an autumn book sale.

I also have plans for Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, in addition to taking in some Plato, maybe The Symposium and/or The Republic.


This year I had the good fortune of attending three productions of Shakespeare’s plays, all from the American Shakespeare Center; one from the traveling troupe (As You Like It) and two at their Blackfriars Theater (The Tempest and Henry V), which is a recreation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theater.  I read each play before the performance and though I still count Shakespeare as a challenge, I found the reading more enjoyable and rewarding than I had anticipated.  And the performances were superb!!

Serendipitously, Risa of Breadcrumb Reads is hosting a Shakespeare read-along next year and plans to begin with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is currently on tour by the ASC!  If I can’t catch them while they’re on tour, they usually do in house performances at some point during the season, so hopefully I can plan a trip to one of those.

My goal is also to read through all of Shakespeare’s sonnets over the course of 2012, but I don’t really have anything mapped out for how I intend to go about that.


This year I’ve kept up fairly well with a “Line a Day” journal, however, lately I’ve been hungering for something more.  So a few weeks back I put out a request via this post, for some ideas regarding literary journals which might spark some inspiration, and my dear readers imparted some wonderful suggestions!  I’ve been toying with how I might explore some of these and I think I’ve settled on an approach.  At first I thought I might devote one quarter to a different volume of journals, but I didn’t like the idea of leaving some to the end of the year.  So as an alternative I’ve decided to explore several different volumes at once, on a rotating basis – perhaps transitioning weekly, monthly, or based on inspiration.  I will be rotating through the following volumes :

Throughout 2011, I woke up with Walt as I read through his Leaves of Grass.  This will likely serve as my morning reading for 2012.

Other highly anticipated books of 2012

  • Willa Cather : After reading the first three books of the Little House series as well as (currently reading) Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt, I have this idea that I will love Willa Cather, and I already fancy the notion of reading through her entire oeuvre in 2012.
  • The many other authors I didn’t get to this year : Dostoevsky, Balzac, Trollope, Maugham, I could go on . . . and on . . .and on . . .

But I’ll leave it at that for now.  As I look back over this post, it seems like . . . a lot.  So I’ll probably be needing copious reminders to be patient with myself.  :)

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12 thoughts on “Quarterly Retrospective : looking back, looking ahead

  1. Wow, it sounds like you have a lot planned for 2012! I’m also planning to focus on some of the ancients (I’m hoping to read at least Iliad and Aeneid) and Shakespeare. I haven’t seen Shakespeare performed live in ages, although there’s always a play or two put on every summer at a local out-of-doors venue, so I don’t have any good reason why not. The Blackfriars Theater sounds really neat to see Shakespeare in too.

  2. Mornings with Montaigne!! I love the idea of that — the other journals as well. I might need to get my hands on the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Virginia Woolf.

    I’m very much looking forward to your poetry project, and of course I’m taking part in some of the Shakespeare events for 2012 as well. I’ve read all of the sonnets and highly recommend them.

    I’ll also be reading Homer, and perhaps some Plato and Aristotle in 2012, though beyond Homer, I might focus on the Victorians and Austen next year.

    You’ve got some great reading ahead of you! I’m glad you found your home within literature, in 2011. Sending love and good holiday wishes. x

    • Ha! I hadn’t even thought of that! Last year it was Waking up with Walt and this year it can be Mornings with Montaigne. Nice catch. :)

      I noticed that the Western Canon group on Goodreads (I think you’re a member too?) will be reading The Iliad in January. I haven’t decided yet whether or not I’ll join in, but it’s a thought.

      I love the Victorians – can’t wait to see what you pick!

      Love and good wishes to you too!
      Enjoy your holiday,

  3. Jimminy, back at that other post I meant to suggest the journals of Emerson and Thoreau but the latter got lost in the keyboard. Anyway, one is enough, and I plan to finish Emerson’s journals this coming year, too, although the selection I have been reading, Emerson in His Journals, is not terribly long.

    If you are really ambitious, the Library of America recently published a 2 volume edition that just misses 2,000 pages. I plan to save that for a long (long, long) hospital stay.

    Anyway, I admire your ambition – making plans like this is fun.

    • Okay, now I’m conflicted. The volume that you mentioned is appealing because it offers what I assume are the “best of” entries over the course of Emerson’s life. But part of me really likes the idea of experiencing the slow progression of Emerson’s thought. The edition that I was thinking of above is vol. 1 of the Library of America set (1820 – 1842), but perhaps that’s biting off more than I can chew? Hmmm . . . decisions, decisions.

      As for my overall reading plans, I’m probably being overly ambitious – in reality these are all likely projects that will begin 2012 and continue for years to come.

      Thanks for your input. :)

  4. Looks like you read a lot of great books this year. I also read Madame Bovary, Frankenstein, and Lolita this year. All three books blew my expectations out of the water, because they were all just completely AMAZING.

    Good luck with all your 2012 reading plans. I want to read Trollope too, but I find the length of his books intimidating. I’d like to get to Balzac soon too, but I think I’m going to try Dumas first. Rumor has it they hated each other. LOL.

    • I expected that Madame Bovary, Frankenstein and Lolita would be entertaining, but they really offered way more than I anticipated as well. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed them too. :)

      I didn’t know that about Balzac and Dumas, now I’m intrigued to find out why.

  5. You had a great 2011 and judging from your plans, 2012 should be wonderful, too! I loved My Antonia and O Pioneers! and several of Cather’s short stories. Hope to read at least one of her novels in 2012.

    Journal of a Solitude irritated me to no end when I read it. At the time, I had 3 kids under 5 and couldn’t fathom having the luxury of lying in bed and deciding whether it was the right moment to awaken. I’m sure it would resonate more at this stage of life (all the kids are in college), so a reread may be in order. I did love her journal The House by the Sea.

    • I’m really looking forward to Cather. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed her novels.

      Yes, I can imagine that in the midst of the busy life of raising children, it would be a bit irritating to to read about someone else’s idleness. I’m a big believer that timing is everything with some books and authors.

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