This week, however, they have left it up to individual bloggers to create their own lists, revisit a topic they missed, or repeat a topic they really liked. I think this is a fabulous idea and while I debated creating a list not based on classics, I thought it would be even more fun to talk about the top ten "new-to-me" books I have read off my project list so far.
I have read 130 titles off my list and have loved many of them, so narrowing it down to ten was agonizing and painful. I could have easily created a top 50. ;)
But, I pushed through and after lots of painful whining and deleting books, here are the top ten titles I've read off of my project list so far (these are in the order I read them, from earliest to most recent. Trying to rank them was painful, so I didn't so that). I should also mention that I only chose books that were new to me when I read them. All rereads were immediately disqualified:
- Germinal by Emile Zola: This was the 13th book I read of my project list, way back in the December of 2009 (right before I got married). I knew nothing about the author or the book when I made my list, but it was one of the very first titles I bought when I went shopping to add a few more titles to my classics collection. It is about a young man who finds himself working in a village with a large community of miners. They are poor, starving, and yearning to fight back. The novel is tense, tragic, dramatic, and hopeful-not to mention beautifully written. I still think about it, and I cannot wait to read it again, as well as some of Zola's other work.
- The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow: Book 18 came out of nowhere to knock my socks off. One of the "modern" classics on my list, it was also a hard book to find. I wound up finding a used copy at John King books in Detroit. The novel is set in World War II era Detroit. The main character is struggling to maintain an identity in the midst of war and her children's demands. And man, this novel is heartbreaking. It was also a novel I had an intensely personal reaction to and immediately became one of my all-time favorite books.
- The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot: I was a long-time Eliot fan even before I decided to read this as book 22. But my love for other Eliot novels paled in comparison to the overwhelming surge of passion I felt for this-what I think is Eliot's best work. It contains one of my favorite female characters, a whole lot of passion and emotion, and the ending-GOSH the ending!
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I avoided this book for YEARS because I thought it was some silly romantic nonsense. I eventually picked it up as book 45, and I had the hardest time setting it down to act as a functioning adult. This book was everything I thought it wasn't. I loved the epic scope of the story, the attention to detail, and the characters. Oh Rhett! What a phenomenal character!
- Villette by Charlotte Bronte: The first book by Charlotte I read, book 59, was another extremely personal book for me. I felt a kinship to Lucy Snowe as she seemed to observe rather than live life. I loved the description of the school, the characters, and Lucy's life. And while I have since read Jane Eyre (and loved it), there is something about the quiet maturity in this novel that I love more. I cannot wait to revisit this one again.
- The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham: Book 69 was a book that wasn't on my original project list. When I realized that I had doubled a James Joyce story, I added this one instead...and boy, was it worth it. Set in Hong Kong, the book explores the relationship between a couple where the wife cheated. It is in part painful, but also beautiful and hopeful. It gave me so much to think about, and I am sad I have no more books by Maugham to read on my project list!
- The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: 2011 started off with a bang, and so did book 72. Collins was an author I added to my project list in January 2010 (I removed some of the non-fiction books in favor of more fiction). I had never even heard of Collins until I started blogging! This book was a fabulous winter read-full of mystery, suspense, and a kickass female character. Oh, and did I mention the villains? Superb! I have another Collins, The Moonstone, on my reading list for this year, so I cannot wait to read more!
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko: Another "modern" classic, Silko's novel had me from the opening line. Centered on a young Native American veteran, the novel is lyrical and focused on his struggle to find himself again. The language in this one is beyond description. There were so many beautiful and haunting passages... (this was book 104)
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville: I don't think I intended to love Melville's ode to a white whale, but gosh, once I started reading, I knew that the book was about more than a whale. As I finished each chapter, I was continually in awe of Melville's ability to change and alter the way I viewed his work. The attention to detail was magnificent and I slowly savored this one throughout the fall as book 113.
- The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: Book 122 solidified James as a favorite author. Focused on Isabel Archer, this novel follows her as she comes into a great deal of money-allowing her freedoms and choices she didn't have before. Gut-wrenching and beautiful, this book was the focus of my gushing in the end of 2011.
Have I convinced you to read any of these (or all)? Let me know!