My Must Read Book List for 2017

What books do you want to read in 2017? Here is the list of books I would like to read in 2017:

  1. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  2. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  3. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  4. The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth
  5. The Selection by Kiera Cass
  6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  7. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  8. Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson
  9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  10. Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham
  11. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  12. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  13. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  14. Bolshoi Confidential by Simon Morrison
  15. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

However, these listed are not the only books I will read this year (and to be honest I have a hard time keeping to a list), so feel free to send me recommendations of books you have loved – both old and new.

2017 Reading Challenge

24 books completed
8 books ahead of schedule

24/50 (48%)

View Challenge

St. Petersburg, Russia – August 2014

Overview

While visiting friends in Moscow, we all decided to take a weekend trip to St. Petersburg. I am so glad that we made this trip, because St. Petersburg turned out to be one of my favorite cities in the world to this day. One long weekend is not long enough to see all the wonderful things that St. Petersburg has to offer. You could spend one full day just at the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum, and that is where I will begin my description of some of the sights I experienced in St. Petersburg.

The Winter Palace – The Hermitage Museum

Winter Palace

The Winter Palace is a massive, ornate building, located on Palace Square. While we were there, there was a unique display of Russian armament in the square in front of the Winter Palace. This included tanks and anti-aircraft missiles. Not something you see everyday in other parts of the world. I felt a bit uneasy about this display, but mostly I was uncomfortable seeing kids climbing on the tanks and missiles.

Beyond this display though is an amazing palace. You must walk through the many rooms within the palace. Formally, the home of such leaders as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, the palace includes rooms of such grandeur. It is simply breathtaking. The grand staircases and elegant chandeliers continue in the Hermitage Museum.

I’ve been to a lot of museums and art galleries in my life, and each one is unique and special. However, I absolutely adore the Hermitage Museum, and as unpopular as I amDaVinci going to be for saying this, I loved it more than the Louvre in Paris. You could spend a full day wandering the halls of ancient relics, sculptures, and paintings. I was amazed at the large collection of paintings by the most famous painters in the world, including Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Gaugin, and so many others. At one point, I turned the corner into a room that was void of people but filled with numerous Picasso paintings. I was simply in heaven. It was just me and Picasso’s art. I also really enjoyed viewing DaVinci’s Madonna Litta. To make myself even more unpopular, I will also say that I think this DaVinci painting is better and more stunning than the Mona Lisa.

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof

I realize that after a full day of wandering through the Winter Palace, you may not want to visit another palace, but Peterhof Palace is worth it. Peterhof Palace is located on the Gulf of Finland. To get there, you can take the Peterhof Express (hydrofoil) from the mainland. Try to pick a nice day to visit Peterhof, so you can enjoy a nice cruise to the palace. Plus, the palace is surrounded by a park and gardens that you will want to walk around. While taking a stroll, we stumbled upon an area that gave some information on the Peterhof Palace during WWII. The palace was severely damaged, and at one point during the war, it was used by the Nazis. We found a nice restaurant with outdoor seating for lunch before continuing on to get a better view of the palace.

Samson FountainPeterhof Palace was modeled after Versailles in France. Many years ago I visited one of King Ludwig’s castles in Bavaria, Germany called Linderhof. Linderhof looks very similar to Peterhof, so I guess many leaders tried to create their own Versailles. Like the others, at Peterhof Palace you will find an ornate fountain with a gold statue. Here it is called the Samson Fountain and is my favorite feature of this palace’s decorations. Just like the Winter Palace, you could spend a full day wandering around the inside and outside of Peterhof Palace.

The World of Russian Literature

As a huge fan of literature, I adore Russian authors. It would be hard to be in St. Petersburg and not dive into the lives of such notable authors, including Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment), Pushkin (Eugene Onegin), Gogol (Dead SouPushkinls), and Nabokov (Lolita). Many people visit Dostoevsky’s house and museum. I did not get a chance to do this, but I am sure I would have loved it had I had time. Before this trip, I knew very little about Alexander Pushkin. On this visit, I quickly became a Pushkin fan. I purchased one of his stories at the Dom Knigi bookstore and in the evening had a drink at the Literary Cafe. This is the location where it is believe that Pushkin had his last moments before meeting his death in a duel.

The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church-Day

The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood is another famous site in St. Petersburg. This ornate and colorful church is located on the Griboedov Canal. I highly recommend going inside and taking a look around. Not one surface appears to be free of religious artwork. It is very impressive and also has an interesting history.

The Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad

Leningrad

During WWII, Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) was attacked by the Nazis. The people of Leningrad defended themselves heroically and eventually were victorious at the cost of many casualties. If this historical event interests you at all, do not miss a visit to the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, accessible by metro train. This monument also includes an exhibit that walks you through each stage of the devastating siege that lasted years before the people prevailed and defeated the Nazis. The exhibit is very informative and heart-wrenching.

Victory

It is hard to believe that we discovered all these beautiful gems in St Petersburg in one weekend. It is an amazing and beautiful city.

Completed My First 24 Hour Readathon!!!

Drink of ChoiceHOORAY!!!! I have officially participated and completed my first 24 Hour Readathon (see Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon)!!! Considering I just found out about this a few days ago and wasn’t sure I was actually going to participate until the last minute, I did well and had lots of fun! I finished reading two books, made significant progress in two other books, participated in about 10 mini-challenges, wrote 3 blogs, and tweeted 9 times (which is amazing since I haven’t used Twitter in 6 years). Here is my final survey responses:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 15 (which was 4am my time) was when things started to get rough for me. By Hour 16, I had decided that I would need to nap.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  Recently I finished “Girl on a Train” by Paula Hawkins and could not put it down. During this readathon, I really got into “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami.
  3.  Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Seeing as how this was my first readathon, I am going to abstain from commenting on improvements. I think improvements need to be made on my end first.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I appreciated people’s input about books that I was reading. Many gave suggestions of other books I should put on my to-read list, which I found very helpful. I loved when people posted snack ideas. Keep those coming next time!
  5. How many books did you read? I read two books and made significant progress in two other books.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? I finished “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. I am also in the middle of “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami and “Murder in the Cathedral” by T.S. Eliot.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? I enjoyed “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but I still feel that “1Q84” is fantastic. If it wasn’t such a long book, I would have definitely finished that.
  8. Which did you enjoy least? I did not enjoy “To the Lighthouse.” Unfortunately, no matter how much I want to like Virginia Woolf for her unique style, her stories just don’t grab me. I feel nothing for the characters and often find myself confused on what is actually happening.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I was not a cheerleader but may consider being one in the future.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I will definitely be participating in a readathon again. I loved it! Next time, I will probably spend more time preparing myself and increasing my reading goals, but then after that I may want to become more involved.

I can’t wait to do this again in April. It was wonderful to spend some good quality time with some amusing characters of literature. Now it is time to get back to reality!

24 Hour Readathon – Halfway Point!

I’m still going strong, even at Hour Twelve! Here is my mid-point survey responses:Readathon

  1. What are you reading right now? I am halfway through “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf.
  2. How many books have you read so far? I have not finished any books yet, but I made some progress on “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami before switching to Virginia Woolf.
  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? When I am finished with Virginia Woolf, I am looking forward to reading “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. It is the Halloween season after all.
  4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I have had some interruptions. Eating and walking around are necessary interruptions. I do find myself wasting a lot of time on social media. I really don’t think I need to keep reading about people reading, and yet I am addicted. During the 2nd half of this readathon, I will be spending less time on social media.
  5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I guess I didn’t realize how many activities there would be. New mini-challenges are offered every hour, and of course I have to participate. I also didn’t know how much of the readathon involves social media. I mean, I actually went on my Twitter account and posted for the first time in seven years. Finally, I feel that I should have spent more time preparing for this readathon. I could have prepared snacks ahead of time, made sure everything I needed for 24 hours was nearby, etc.

Time to get back to reading!

My Must Read Book List for 2015

Here is the list of books I would like to read in 2015:

  1. Inferno by Dan Brown
  2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  4. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  5. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
  6. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  8. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  9. Stoner by John Williams
  10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  11. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  12. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  13. Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi
  14. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  15. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I am open to anyone’s book recommendations. Please feel free to leave recommendations in the comment section.

My Must Read List for 2014

Here is the list of books that I definitely want to read in 2014:

  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  2. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (I tried once before and couldn’t make it through it. Going to try one more time.)
  3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  6. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  7. The Shining by Stephen King
  8. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  9. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  10. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  11. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  12. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
  13. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  14. Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
  15. The First World War by John Keegan
  16. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  17. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  18. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  19. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  20. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  21. Nemesis by Philip Roth
  22. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  23. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  24. Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer
  25. Mean Street by Sinclair Lewis

I will cross out each book once I have completed it. Please feel free to share your input on these novels but avoid spoilers unless the specific novel is crossed out.

Love for Classic Fiction

booksIn 2007, I was working in Washington, DC when I heard some of my coworkers discussing an article that had recently been published. The article was a list of their version of the best 100 books of all time. The thesis of this article was that many individuals had not read these novels. As an avid reader, I thought for sure that I for one could disprove their thesis. Then I read the list and realized how very wrong I was. I was one of those individuals who hadn’t even read 10 of the novels on that list. Many people disagreed about what novels made it on that list, but I hadn’t even read the ones that they wanted to add to the list. I felt ashamed. How could I love reading so much and not have read at least half of these listed novels??!! That was when I viewed this article as a challenge. I was going to put down whatever new mystery had just come out and was going to start reading novels and short stories from all time periods. This decision opened a whole new world for me. This is when reading stopped being a task I enjoyed whenever I had free time and began to be part of who I am.

I mostly read classic fiction now. The word “classic” seems to be a word of contention amongst everyone I know. It is commonly agreed that “classics” are novels that have withstood the test of time. That to me is still a bit vague, so I personally classify “time” as 25 years. If a novel is still well known and read a quarter of a century after publication, I say that deserves the term “classic.”

Since 2007, reading has become a never-ending source of happiness, relaxation, and fulfillment for me like it never was before. What are your favorite novels (doesn’t have to be classic fiction)?