While life has been somewhat on hold, favouring supine activities, I’ve been writing some lists. A recent episode of La Grande Librairie on France 5 asked a handful of authors to come up with books to pack for the summer holidays, which got me thinking about what I should be reading. Then, the other day, I discovered a new blogger called Franglaise Mummy who set herself the challenge of reading 52 books in a year. I don’t feel the need to take that on, but it made me think that writing a proper list of books to read might get me reading more…
Although my current schedule is more relaxed than in previous years, the time I spend reading is fairly erratic. It depends on a number of things: whether the book I’m reading fits in my handbag, whether I get a seat on the tram/metro/RER, and if I end up going to bed early enough to leave time for reading (practically never, I admit). Although I spend a lot of time travelling, my journeys are often very bitty: 10 min walk to train, change to RER for 5 mins, walk for 10 mins, and so on. Unless the book is very gripping, it’s a faff to get it out and it takes too long to get into the reading mindset. ‘Franglaise Mummy’ talks about being ‘fed up of evenings spent scrolling through social media whilst half watching the TV’… which made me think, whoops, that sounds worryingly familiar.
So, I decided to draw up a list of books which would inspire me to get reading and make sure I don’t forget those books I hear about/see and fancy buying but don’t because I’ve got 3 on the go and don’t feel I can justify another which I might not get round to. Why 20? Well, it had to be a relatively long list to motivate me to get cracking, but not ridiculously long. I’ve called it ‘for the rest of 2016’, not because I’m necessarily going to read them all by then, but the end of the year seems a good time to review how I’m doing. So here they are, online for all to see and hold me to account:
1. Down and out in London & Paris – George Orwell
This was on a book list for the Meetup group I go to, and although too late for the book club, I feel I ought to have read it, given the title.
2. A moveable feast – Ernest Hemingway
Again, another anglophone take on Paris about the author’s time spent living here, which feels like a must-read (especially as I have chosen the Hemingway theme for my blog!)
3. Cien años de soledad – A Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcĺa Marquez
Because I did a Spanish degree and haven’t read it, to my shame…
4. I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou
Yet another classic I haven’t read, but was reminded of by reading Angelou’s obituaries last year and realising just what an amazing woman she was.
A book which has become a classic and has been recommended to me by several people. Although it’s about life in the concentration camps, it is supposed to be an extremely inspiring and positive read about ‘saying ‘yes’ to life’. My German is seriously rusty which is sad seeing as I was once fairly bilingual, so in the interests of getting it back on track I intend to force myself to read the original.
6. The Great Gatsby – Scott Fitzgerald
I realised this was another ‘to read’ on my list when the film came out ?last year.
7. Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupéry
Because I haven’t read it which must mean I’m missing out on a key French classic…
8. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
I read the Spanish counterpart, ‘La de Bringas’, as part of my degree, and always meant to read this after.
9. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Because everyone’s reading it! This was the first recommended book on La Grande Librairie for summer reading. I missed out on the recent BBC adaptation, being here, but read some of the reviews. And my dad’s currently reading it in the original. Alas, I can’t manage that, but I plan to go for the English Penguin edition, and am glad to hear that there’s quite a bit of French dialogue in it, so it won’t be entirely in translation 🙂
10. Journal 1887-1910 – Journal of Jules Renard – Jules Renard
This was recommended on the programme by Christophe André (see no. 18), is supposed to be very beautifully written reflections on life and human interactions.
11. Darm mit Charme – Gut – Giulia Enders
“The inside story of our body’s most underrated organ”
I keep seeing the French edition of the book whenever I go into a bookshop here. And it has to be admitted that the marketing is very enticing. I recently read ‘The Diet Myth’ by Tim Spector, which was actually as much about the gut as it was about diets, which makes me keen to read another book on the topic.
12. Freeing the Natural Voice – Kristin Linklater “Imagery and Art in the Practice of Voice and Language”
Kristin Linklater is one of big names in performance voice, and an inspiration for voice coaches and teachers round the world. Some of her work has inspired voice therapy exercises, and as I’m interested in combining voice work with ‘normal voices’ with therapy for voice problems, this is a key text.
13. Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics – Arthur H. Benade
This looks like quite a hard core text, but if I’m to fully understand formants and how this applies to the human spoken and singing voice (including the famous ‘singer’s formant’), this looks like a good book for me.
14. Madame Catherine – Franck Ferrand
Third in a series of historical novels on the French Renaissance. This one is about the reign of Catherine de Medici. The first two were not only fascinating but completely gripping stories, ‘standing up in the tube trying to page turn with one hand’ reading material.
15. Freakonomics – Stephen J. Dubner A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
D has this on his shelf in French and also Superfreakonomics. Maybe it will help understand what’s going on in the world a bit better.
16. Finding your Element – Ken Robinson
I discovered Ken Robinson whilst looking for suitable TED talks to show my students. He’s a little tricky for them to understand, but I got interested in the man himself. I’m not completely convinced by his ‘every child is extraordinary’ mantra, but what he has to say about ‘finding your element’ is intriguing, so I bought this to read on Kindle.
17. La sombra del viento –The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My sister gave me this for Christmas a while ago and I’m feeling guilty I’ve never got past the first few pages. Although reading in Spanish takes less effort than German, it still takes me that tiny bit longer than English/French which means I’m less likely to get into the story really quickly.
18. Trois amis en quête de sagesse – Christophe André
Christophe André is my favourite writer on mindfulness and really anything to do with wellbeing. I actually discovered him in Waterstones when I picked up this book and found the author was French, so I got the original. It’s one of those books so beautiful you want to just sit and look at it, before reading anything. The French edition comes with a CD of short meditations read in the author’s calming voice, which are essential I think for putting it into practice. This book is a series of conversations between him, a Buddhist monk and a philosopher, so no doubt full of wisdom! Only just out so not yet available in English I think.
19. L’odyssée de la voix – Jean Abitbol
One of my current private pupils gave me this and I’ve only just started it. Although I’m doing English with her, she turns out to be keen on singing and has a few voice issues, so she’s been to see some French ENT specialists. The author is one of the best-known phoniatres in Paris, so I feel I ought to read it. Definitely not a light read though – my pupil admitted she’s never got past the beginning!
20. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Needs no introduction, another Paris-London classic, definitely something I need to read.
21. Paris Nocturne – Patrick Modiano
Modiano is a Nobel Prize-winning French author. I was browsing the Shakespeare & Company bookshop online and discovered this book, a mystery which starts with the protagonist getting hit by a car near the Place des Pyramides. The line “I felt a sharp pain from my ankle to my knee…” seemed amusingly fitting in current circumstances, while the rest of the story is very reminiscent of the Penelope Fitzgerald book I read recently, The Gate of Angels.
22. Anxious: The Modern Mind in the Age of Anxiety – Joseph LeDoux
I saw this book on the neuroscience of anxiety while browsing in Shakespeare & Company. It’s another of those books with a tempting cover. The reviews warn that it’s very technical and more suited to a journal than popular science but others have given it high reviews, so looks like it may be worth some perseverance.
Well, there we are, I went over 20 after all! What do you think of my list? Any suggestions for where I should start, or anything I should add to it?