My first year participating in the When Are You Reading? challenge hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words is officially completed. And I’m happy to report I was able to read books set in or written in each time period represented in the challenge.
When I joined it in June, I had three time periods left to cover. I had great ambitions to read books written during those times. But … for two of the three (1500-1599 and 1600-1699), I ended up reading historical fiction instead of books written at that time. For 2017, I’m aiming to read books written during each period since my goal is to read more classics this year.
My final tallies are down below. When I originally wrote this post, I included every book I’d read this year as a way to figure out what I still needed to read. I haven’t included all my 2016 titles read since then, only the ones that completed time periods. If you’re interested in more about the books I read this year, I keep monthly lists here.
If you’re interested in participating in 2017, Sam has a description and sign up here.
When, as a kid, I was in danger of taking life too seriously, my dad would invite me to reflect on my concerns by asking, “How much will this matter in 100 years?” At the time, I assumed his rhetorical question was meant to show me how our fleeting obsessions hold little consequence in the grand scheme of the universe.
But that’s not quite right, is it? Without access to knowledge of future events, we cannot possibly know whether this (whatever “this” is) will matter in 100 years. Life is made up of tens of thousands of millions of seemingly inconsequential choices whose cumulative effects can be world changing.
We study history for this reason, don’t we? To study the actions and reactions that have lead to outcomes we want either to replicate or avoid. But even that doesn’t really work. Evidence suggests we make the same mistakes over and over again; it’s the one thing about human nature and experiences that’s predictable. Conclusion: All we can do in the moment is our best.
I’ve been thinking about this over the last week after discovering a reading challenge hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Called When Are You Reading? the challenge invites participants to read one book written or set in 12 different time periods. Lends new meaning to the phrase reading time, doesn’t it? It being almost June when I first encountered the challenge, I figured it was too late to participate but, out of curiosity, compared the books I’ve been reading this year to the 12 time periods. Guess what happened? During the first five months of this year, I’ve read books in nine of the 12 categories! It seems I’m interested in the past and our relationship to it, in choices and consequences, in actions and reactions.
What’s more, several of the books on my to-read list this year fall into the three time periods I have yet to read:
Pre 1500: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court *, The Canterbury Tales *, Beowulf *, and The Odyssey. *
1500-1599: A Midsummer Night’s Dream *
1600-1699: Don Quixote
Here’s how things shaped up in the final tally:
The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles *
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney *
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodie Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton *
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens *
Give Me Liberty by L. M. Elliot *
The Unmapped Sea By Maryrose Wood *
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson *
The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (I’m not entirely sure – it takes place after WWI, so I’m putting it here instead of the previous section) *
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
A Traveller in Time by Allison Uttley
Roman Fever by Edith Wharton*
Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff *
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah*
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein *
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle (another one that’s hard to place)
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang *
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson *
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole *
On Cats by Charles Bukowski
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling *
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling *
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling *
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling *
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi *
Death of a Prankster by M. C. Beaton *
Death of a Snob by M. C. Beaton *
Death of a Hussy by M. C. Beaton *
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (tough one because it covers 25 years. Put it here because I’m assuming that a good chunk of it happens before the present.)
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (because it was first published in January 2000)*
2000 – Present
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
How to Write a Novel by Melanie Sumner *
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins *
El Deafo by Cece Bell
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty *
Help for the Haunted by John Searles *
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George*
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (May) *
Other books I’ve read that don’t immediately lend themselves to the above categories, for one reason and another:
The Marvels by Brian Selznick (takes place across multiples time periods) *
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (a lovely allegorical story set during an indeterminate time)
Baker’s Magic by Diane Zahler (a fairy tale-like story also set at an indeterminate time)
Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti (nonfiction)
You are a Badass by Jen Sincero (nonfiction)
Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider (nonfiction)
Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick (nonfiction)