The pleasure of choosing books for this 2017 challenge comes from perusing two different long lists of excellent books, Jane Smiley’s list and Clifton Fadiman’s list. These lists include classics and moderns, from many genres, fiction and nonfiction, all with a wide geographic and cultural range. Together these lists constitute a rich universe of choices for Michelle Stockard Miller’s inventive perpetual challenge, 13 Ways of Looking at the Lifetime Reading Plan (#13WLRP).
For this year, I’m making these picks:
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
- Egilssaga – Snorri Sturluson
- The Saga of the People of Laxardal – Author unknown
Vanity Fair is a reread for me, however, I read it a long time ago, and this novel in particular is notorious for improving with age (my age, that is). Pick a random sample of reader reviews online and you will likely find many people saying something like, ‘I didn’t like this book at all the first time I read it, but the second time around, it is SO brilliant.’ I did happen to like it the first time, but I’m hoping to appreciate it in new ways this time, to see more of what my youthful self might have overlooked. I’ll be reading the Norton Critical Edition, which has all of Thackeray’s original drawings, which are brilliant in themselves. Vanity Fair is on both Smiley’s and Fadiman’s reading lists.
From Smiley’s list, I am also picking two Icelandic sagas. As the author of The Greenlanders, Smiley clearly immersed herself in the saga world, reproducing its tone and drama so effectively. Egilssaga and The Saga of the People of Laxardal are two of the most important sagas, and I look forward to giving them a good close read and reviewing them over at my Northern Lights Reading Project, devoted to Scandinavian and Icelandic literature and culture.