Back in April, I started my Classics Challenge—a plan to read 50 classic works over the course of 5 years—but that was not the start of my reading for the year. Here is a quick overview of the books I finished in 2017.
The author that stands out this year is George Eliot. Having discovered Middlemarch in 2016 and loving it, I continued to read George Eliot throughout 2017:
- Mill on the Floss
- The Lifted Veil
- Daniel Deronda
- Felix Holt, The Radical
Apart from The Lifted Veil, I could recommend any of these excellent novels. Middlemarch remains my favorite Eliot novel, but Daniel Deronda and Romola are not far behind. In addition to those books by George Eliot, I read 11 other novels in 2017.
Some of these were excellent:
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Helena by Evelyn Waugh
Some of them were quite good:
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
- Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
- The Unbearable Light of Being by Milan Kundera
- The Warden by Anthony Trollope
- The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazan
Some were good, but not as enjoyable as I had hoped:
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric
And there were a couple that I did not care for at all:
- Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
Toward the end of 2016, a classmate started a Shakespeare reading group which gave me occasion to read Henry VI, Parts 1-3 and Richard III, as well as the Sonnets. This group continued into 2017 where we read Richard II, Henry IV, Parts 1-2, and Henry V. Apart from these plays and poems of Shakespeare, I also read the classic Metamorphoses of Ovid and the modern Rosmersholm of Henrik Ibsen.
The most momentous event of the year for me was certainly ordination to the priesthood on June 24th, and with this came further reading about the saints and the liturgy. I read the Letters of St. Cyprian, the Lausaic History (about the desert fathers), biographies of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Dominic, Bl. John Henry Newman (both by himself and by another), and a handful of saints canonized in 1881. In the last month of the summer, having said Mass every day for a couple months, I wanted to read more about its history and how the prayers came to be as they are, and found the excellent Organic Development of the Liturgy by Alcuin Reid and Voice of the Church at Prayer by Uwe Michael Lang. Continuing my canon law studies, I have read all sorts of articles and books (in whole and in part) that I won’t list here. All the reading in canon law spurred my interest in other legal works, and so I read Cicero’s Republic and Laws, a huge chunk of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, and the Qur’an.
This last month, I have almost exclusively read about the history of canon law, especially in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic tradition. With Virginia Woolf and Willa Cather in my carry-on, I expect to read more literature as 2018 begins!
I love Eliot as well. I also highly recommend Adam Bede.
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Maximilian, congratulations on an excellent reading list, as well as your ordination. I started 2017 with Bridge on the Drina, and rate it highly, although it, truly, is not everyone’s cup of tea. Interestingly, I just (finally) read War and Peace, and find a lot of correspondence between the two books in storytelling approach. Neither are what we 21st Century readers consider a novel, with their multiple interweaving story lines and scores (or hundreds) of characters to elucidate extremely similar themes. Anna Karenina resonated much more strongly with me than W&P, and I would read it again, if there’s world enough and time. I bailed out of Mill on the Floss, an outcome that surprised me. I never managed to make contact with the characters lodged in all that period prose. I’ll go for Middlemarch next, and perhaps I’ll catch on. Silas Marner is now 50 years in my past, and only a dim high school memory. O Pioneers! was superb, and I have more Cather in the wings. Your list of previous posts contains more than a few reminders of what I’d like to add to my list, and I look forward to reading both the posts and the books. Thank you for the like. Happy reading.
That’s a great list and a really fun way of putting it together! I love the idea of your Shakespeare reading group – do you read aloud, taking parts? I did that with Hamlet last year and it certainly helped prepare me for seeing the play, as well as making me want to read more.