books

A Year of Good Reading

Each year I choose a classic author to read the entire works of, which I have dubbed my “Year of Good Reading” challenge. In the last year I read my way through the complete works of Jane Austen, although I still have Persuasion to read. But I enjoy being able to say that I’ve read most of her work, and most of all I got a lot of joy from reading her stories. (If you’re wondering, my favourite will always be Pride and Prejudice, followed closely by Emma).

I asked my friends on Facebook who they recommended I should choose as my “author of the year”. The suggestions included:

  • Edith Wharton
  • Tolstoy (To be honest, tackling Tolstoy terrified me, as I wanted something that wasn’t going to feel like a slog to read either.)
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Franz Kafka (Not a huge Kafka fan and I’ve already read the Metamorphosis as well as a few short stories)
  • C.S. Lewis (I’ve already read a lot of his fiction and non-fiction)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Langston Hughes
  • Pushkin
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Dr Seuss
  • Michael Ondaatje
  • Charles Dickens (very tempting)
  • PG Wodehouse
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Gustave Flaubert
  • Ernest Hemingway

With this insanely good list, I had a lot to choose from. I wanted to pick someone that would be helpful to my own practice as a writer. So I finally decided on Edgar Allen Poe. The reason I chose Poe is because I feel that my fiction needs to develop more sinister atmosphere, and who could be more sinister than Poe? But as his works are short I’ve also decided to read through the novels of Langston Hughes. Hughes was an interesting choice, partly because I’d never heard of him. An American friend recommended him and immediately I looked him up online. I must admit, apart from Octavia Butler, I’ve not read a lot of African American fiction and I thought it would challenge myself to be open to something aside from what I would normally read.

While I’d like to read all of Langston Hughes’ novels, a quick search online has proven it may be more difficult to find them. His bibliography of novels and short story collections according to Wikipedia is:

  • Not Without Laughter. Knopf, 1930
  • The Ways of White Folks. Knopf, 1934
  • Simple Speaks His Mind. 1950
  • Laughing to Keep from Crying, Holt, 1952
  • Simple Takes a Wife. 1953
  • Sweet Flypaper of Life, photographs by Roy DeCarava. 1955
  • Simple Stakes a Claim. 1957
  • Tambourines to Glory 1958
  • The Best of Simple. 1961
  • Simple’s Uncle Sam. 1965
  • Something in Common and Other Stories. Hill & Wang, 1963
  • Short Stories of Langston Hughes. Hill & Wang, 1996

I’ll give this list my best shot, but some of the titles might be out of print or unavailable. This is a good sized list as it will still allow me to read other books for research and fun along the way if I stick to my one-per-week quota!

Think this is a good idea? Now I’m going to challenge you to pick an author to focus on this year! The only rule of the challenge is that they must be a deceased author – they can’t be producing more books. Other than that, go for it! Try to choose something you’ll enjoy but also be open to reading something different.

Let me know if you decide to take on this reading challenge in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you choose to read.

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