Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR books

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is: ten books to read this spring.

I am so excited for spring this year, so hopefully that translates to reading more books.  I'm also participating in the April edition of Camp Nanowrimo, however - planning to finish my novel-in-progress! - so we'll see how it goes.  :)

1. Shackleton, by Roland Huntford: I've been wading through this enormous book since November.  Ideally I'll finish it this spring, but it's one of my own books so no rush.
2.  Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin (transl. Roger Clarke)
3.  Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis
DSCF2316 Dante perdu
4.  The Divine Comedy, by Dante: This is such a hard one to read (comprehension-wise), but I'm trying.
5.  The Complete Short Stories, by Franz Kafka: Another to-finish!
6.  Peter-Pan, by J. M. Barrie
7.  Cancer Ward, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:  Maybe...
8. - 10.  Not sure yet.  ;)

Wedding Preparations in the Country

I rarely read Kafka straight through.  Even in the middle of a story, I'll take a sudden hiatus and return to it later, not the worse for a break.  The world through his eyes is weird, menacing, and illogical, yet too close to reality to make it entirely escapism.  This collection of his complete short stories is no different; I've owned it for several years, and returned to it just now after an extended break.

"Wedding Preparations in the Country" is less fanciful than his more famous work, The Metamorphosis, yet it is no less Kafkaesque.  Raban, a city dweller, is setting out on a rainy night to journey to the country, where his fiancee awaits him.  Along the way, he encounters his friend, Lement, as well as a host of strangers who leave their own influences on him and his already tenuous nerves.  Raban alternates between soaking in his surroundings and musing over the trip before him, finding little to comfort his anxieties and much to increase his sense of dread.

This short tale was quintessential Kafka.  I particularly enjoyed it because it brings out one of the best qualities of his writing - the impressionism.  He writes attitudes more than characters, atmospheres more than places, and feelings more than coherent thoughts (Kafka's rambling dialogues are masterful).  Of course, it's not an upbeat story; like most of his plots, it seems more like a thought experiment or a bad dream.  The realism that comes through, however, is what leaves me in awe every time.  It's like looking at Monet painting from a distance: you don't see blobs of paint, you see a window into someone else's real world.

Sherlock Holmes: "The Reigate Squires" (or, "The Reigate Puzzle")

Week 11: "The Reigate Squires"

I've always thought "The Reigate Squires" was an interesting yet quirky story from Watson's recollections.  It's "quirky" not just because it has three names, but also for the fact that it seems fairly humdrum in its plot, except for sporadic moments of alarming behavior, by Holmes himself.  In some ways, this story is more like a comedy than a mystery, but Doyle still manages to inject it with enough macabre to keep up the impression of unease connected with the mystery.  Add to that the fact we see Holmes has finally gained international acclaim, and "The Reigate Squires" could easily be the first tale (in this chronological ordering) with an almost cinematic Holmesian quality to it.

It's been a long time since I last read this, but I enjoyed it this time around, too, so it's aged well.

Sherlock Holmes: "The Resident Patient"

Week 10: "The Resident Patient"

Sorry for being an absent host lately!  I've had a lot going on in "real life" and was finding it hard to blog.  Now I hope to be more on top of things again...

This is another Holmes story that I don't often think about, yet I ought to call a favorite.  Even being so familiar with it now, I think "The Resident Patient" is a pretty unique mystery, as well as horrifying in its conclusion.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor himself, which may have something to do with the level of detail in the setting and characters. 

If you particularly like medical-themed tales, I also recommend Doyle's short story collection, Round the Red Lamp, which includes some mysteries but also other genres.