Third Decade Summary

I’m doing to try something new. I want to try and reflect on the entire group of books I read, pick a favorite and least favorite from the set, and try to sum up my thoughts.

I had some big life changes while reading this set. I got a real teaching job at an actual language school during this set, so I’m no longer relying on the three or four private students I’ve found for income. This is great news, and it also means that I have a lot more time for reading. My language school sends teachers all over the city to teach in companies, so I’m traveling a ton. On average, I probably spend at least an hour a day on public transportation. When I write it like that, it sounds depressing, I just realized. But the bright side is that I have at least an hour a day where I have nothing to do but read. Hopefully this means that although I’m busier because I’m teaching more and planning lessons, I’ll also be reading more.

This was an interesting set. We had some interesting women: naive sisters and realism, a woman driven crazy by post-partum depression, and another woman who refused to accept society’s role for her. We also spent time with misanthropic junkies, Sicilian mafiosos, and a Holocaust survivor. We experienced the French Revolution and traveled through centuries in the strange and meta Cloud Atlas.

Finally, we reflected on time and memory with Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five through the Tralfamadorians and Billy Pilgrim, and also with Iris Murdoch in The Sea, The Sea, through the reluctant-to-let-go (and also creepy) Charles Arrowby.

It’s been, to say the least, a really interesting journey. Unlike the last group of books, where I felt a little bit “meh” about all of the books, this time I really enjoyed most of the books. Nearly all of them gave me something to think about and reflect on. It’s a good thing for me when books make me think about and see the world around me differently. That’s one of the things I miss most about my college English classes – I always felt like there was something newer and far more exciting in the world than I’d ever expected. I’m so happy that I’ve had the chance to feel that way again.

The biggest surprise was Jude the Obscure. I really was not expecting to like it. It’s a Victorian novel (and we know how I am about those) and, what’s more, it’s a Victorian novel that really hammers on women’s rights and societal restrictions. So, basically, this book is all of my least favorite things ever. But somehow, in spite of all that, I enjoyed and appreciated it. Maybe this project is starting to affect me. Maybe I’m learning to like Victorian literature!

My least favorite book was probably Trainspotting. Although I appreciate the effort and wound up liking it a bit in the end, I just didn’t get it fully. I didn’t hate it, my reading interests just lie somewhere outside the realm of Scottish-dialect-laden junkie novels. I suppose, though, that I maybe have liked Trainspotting more than Bunner Sisters. Bunner Sisters didn’t really have anything wrong with it, though. It was just sort of “meh.” Trainspotting was more of a struggle to read, but not in a way that challenged me and made me enjoy it.

My favorite books this time were The GodfatherSlaughterhouse-Five, and A Tale of Two CitiesCloud Atlas was also really good. It’s really stiff competition between these four books for my favorite from the group.* Slaughterhouse-Five is the winner, though. Vonnegut writes beautifully and his reflections on time, death, and life really resonate with me. It’s going to be one of those books that I’m constantly re-reading.

* That was kind of a terrible sentence. I feel like the longer I teach English, the worse my English gets.



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