Well, at last. I’m on sabbatical. There are various plans of course. Some may become clear on Q in the weeks to come. But the main thing is that it gives the chance to stop, reflect, breathe, and do some things I’ve not yet had the chance to do. One of which is to do a serious reading catch-up.

I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I’ve not read any of these books. But such is life: you can’t do everything.

I would love your help: please vote about which book I should read. If you have any views on each of these, I would love that too.  Just to say that (heretical though it is), I feel I’ve done my duty with Dickens and really can’t take anymore; also Hardy is present out of a sense of obligation but not joyous anticipation. But let’s see what transpires…

If all goes according to plan, I may blog about my progress (or lack of it).

Which, I feel sure, has now got you ALL holding your breath…

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Richard Backhouse

    Sorry. Haven’t read any of them. But I think The Woodlanders is the best of the Hardy’s I have read. And if you want Russian literature, read On the Eve by Turgenev, if you haven’t already.

    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is an absolute must read.

  2. Emma

    Mark, read Middlemarch- it’s amazing and not at all like the The Mill on the Floss (Maggie really irritated me). The extent of Dorothea’s self-deception is huge and the waste of Casabon’s gifts staggering. My english teacher (a lovely Godly man-who appreciated the Christian themes) said it was his favourite book ever (I wouldn’t go quite that far -Anna Karenina is mine- never could get into War and Peace) but read it. I totally agree re Hardy- cannot bear the thought of any Hardy-Tess just about finishes me off very time and if not that then the end of Jude the Obscure. If you did fancy Hardy, Wessex tales and Under the Greenwood tree are the cheeriest followed by Far from the Madding Crowd (although even that has several deaths!) although you’ve probably read those-I seem to go through phases with classic so read lots of 1 author initially and then inexplicably skip their most famous works! I much prefered Joyce’s short stories (Dubliners) and have to confess regarding Ulysses that I cheated and listened to the excellent recent BBC radio 4 production rather than reattempt to read it…

  3. Anne Burnett

    I have never read any either and probably never will!

  4. marcus

    i haven’t completed any of these, so i haven’t voted :/. i started reading Ulysses last year (in sympathy with an Eng. Lit.-major friend), but sadly didn’t make significant progress. However, if you start that, i’ll send your way an article which will be an encouragement to persevere with it (oh, the irony!). OTOH, if you do read Les Miserables or War & Peace, i may try to keep up with you, as i’d also like to read one of those this year.

    Enjoy the sabbatical, Mark! i pray it will be deeply refreshing for you and your family. Yours in faith, hope, and love.

  5. annamoyle

    I voted for Middlemarch. I think it’s the best British novel ever. But go for War and Peace if you feel you have the stamina. I confess I started reading it in 2004 and am just past halfway. I have a weird thing for Hardy, but prefer Tess and Far from the Madding Crowd. His cheery stuff seems a little fraudulent. I wouldn’t be embarrassed about not having read Ulysses though!

  6. Ros

    I’m with everyone who says Middlemarch is the best novel ever. But also, it’s funny. And moving and thought-provoking and so on. It won’t feel like work to get through it.

  7. Simon

    Voted for Middlemarch because it is a wonderful novel. Of them all, Ulysees seemed to me to be a bit of a waste of space. If I were to recommend a Hardy, it would be Jude the Obscure; not because it is his best but it is a challenging novel and one which doesn’t seem to be often recommended. I agree with @annamoyle that his cheery stuff is less gripping (don’t know about fraudulent?!). Enjoy the sabbatical.

    1. annamoyle

      Hehe, I suppose that wasn’t quite the right word. I guess they just don’t feel like the “real” Hardy. They were among his earliest novels and I get the feeling he was trying to please people, and then suddenly decided to explore some darker themes, which in my opinion are much more truthful and rewarding. I agree that Jude the Obscure is a good recommendation. I’ve read all of Hardy’s books so I could recommend them all! But Eliot is the master.

  8. Jennie Pollock

    It’s not clear to me why anyone in their right mind – and who wished to remain in their right mind – would ever read Hardy. His dullness is exceeded only by his depressingness (and if that’s not a word it should be!). My advice: avoid. Or in the words of the brave knights from Monty Python’s ‘Holy Grail’: “Run away!!!” 🙂

  9. Chris E

    Read Les Mis for an epic tale of grace. Followed by Buzzati’s “Tartar Steppe” for a picture of life without grace.

  10. Tom

    I voted War and Peace- despite having read only half of it when I was a teenager and now remembering little of it!- purely on the basis that I recently finished Anna Karenina recently and found it to be one of the most humanising novels I’ve read, both opening my eyes to a time and place far removed from my own and penetrating to the depths of people’s emotions and motivations.

  11. quaesitor

    THANKS ONE AND ALL – great to have your input. I’ve decided that I’m going to start with Middlemarch. Yes I realise that it only came 3rd in the poll, but the comments seemed to provide somethign of a consensus. So we’ll see. If I finish that, I’ll go on to Tolstoy I think… after all, I can simply go and see Les Mis in the cinema soon (oooh… heresy alert)

  12. Ed Curran

    I’ve come to this too late to vote but can I just put in a good word for Ulysses, as everyone else seems to hate it? Firstly a self-confessed classical geek such as yourself will have great fun working out all the references – indeed the whole book in a way is a cryptic crossword. Secondly, the episode in a maternity hospital (Oxen of the Sun) contains parodies of the rest of English Literature, so you can fill even more gaps in the canon. Thirdly you should read the original before it suffers the fate of Les Miserables and becomes a musical. Fourthly you may never have time again.

    Anyhow , I hope it’s OK to ask – how is Middlemarch going?

    1. quaesitor

      Ed, good job, you’ve convinced me. It will be added to my list!
      Am enjoying middlemarch. But having a bit of a commercial break reading Paul Kildea’s new bio of Benjamin Britten before going back to it!

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