A Literary Vision for 2020

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

2019 has been a very strange and wonderful year for myself. Having started a classic literature blog in the summer, within a few short weeks my wife and I welcomed a child into our lives, and life has never been the same since. The joy a child brings to one’s life can never be described, but all parents out there will know how that feels. It also brings a lot of tiredness, stress and confusion. But the joy and happiness is overwhelming and life now completely revolves around our child. Your own life has to take a back seat (at least at the start) to do everything right for your child.

I had a great keenness to blog regularly on classic literature and everything that absorbs me with it, and I think I wrote 2 blogs before finding no time to put in a great effort to blog anymore. It is not that the desire changed, just the priorities and energy levels. Our child is sleeping a lot better in the night now, so I am starting to feel normal again and find (very limited) time to return to this blog.

Worse than not continuing with a blog I just started, was losing the time and energy to read at all. Reading is my favourite pastime in life, so I didn’t want to lose it completely and tried to make time (mainly during lunch breaks) to keep it going. It was not easy, and my reading has become much slower and with less concentration. It was always my plan once a child arrives to read more short stories, as these would require less concentrated effort.

So I began with one of my favourite authors Anton Chekhov and managed to get through a number of short stories and novellas. I am happy I managed to complete a book of his short stories (The Lady with the Little Dog and Other Stories, 1896-1904 by Penguin Classics) and hopped and skipped with a few other short stories from the numerous Chekhov books I own.

Another great achievement was to finally finish reading The Holy Bible. This is of course is not for everyone, depending on your beliefs, but it was an ambition I have had for the last few years and am glad to say now I have read the whole bible (New International Version).

Prior to the summer, I had also read 4 novels by Emile Zola and The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. So my reading for 2019 has been ok. I have now started on my fifth Emile Zola novel (and his most famous) Germinal. I could have kept reading short stories but I missed reading Zola, and a novel of length is what I need to have the drive to keep reading. I am still getting through it slowly, but hope to have finished it early in the new year.

In general, I am not a fast reader anyway, so it would be silly of me to list every single book I want to read right in 2020, because that list goes on and on. I have many, many books to be read from my bookcases, but again, it is just not going to be possible for 2020. Realistically, I would like to read a few more Emile Zola novels, Anton Chekhov’s Plays, a few more plays by William Shakespeare and begin working my way through Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie humaine.

It pains me even to write about what I plan to read, as I think about all the other books I want to read that are still to be read. The greatest challenge for any literature enthusiast is of course time. How to find the time and what to sacrifice to read instead. For instance, I can’t spend all my lunch hour chatting to my colleagues and get in at least 40 minutes reading as well. I also want to be a lot fitter in 2020 and continue learning 20 minutes of Polish everyday.

Lunchtime will still be my best option for the time-being for getting in quality reading time, but hopefully I can find some opportunities elsewhere. I don’t think one lifetime is enough to read all the books I want to read, in fact I am sure it isn’t, but I guess the only way we can accept this reality is to make a list of all the books we want to read the most and start with them.

I began a reading plan (not a challenge, I will discuss them more soon) when I turned 35 a few years ago of 300 books to read, understand, and be able to talk about over the next 30 years. That might not seem a lot to some people, but to me, the greatest value is not the number of books you read, but how well you know the ones you do. I have already confessed I am a slow reader, but I think that stems from the fact that I really do try to understand what is going on in a book, not to get through it as quickly as possible, to tick a box. I will also list those 300 books for those who are interested in an upcoming blog post.

So here’s to the end of a decade and the beginning of a new one. My ambition with this blog (and in life in general) remains to discuss and promote the great books of the past, that can make us infinitely wiser, and also much more importantly, happy. I look forward in the new year to relaxing with Zola, Chekhov, Shakespeare and Balzac, and inhabiting the wonderful worlds they created for our imagination. The journey continues.

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