Goodreads groups. To read or not to read?

Goodreads is hands down a great way to track your books, share your thoughts and keep up with bookish friends. While I’ve been using it sporadically for a few years now, I’ve only recently began joining various groups of interest to help with my motivation. Sometimes I know I need to read a certain novel, but keep putting it aside for later, ending up never getting around it. I thought following these groups would make it a little easier for me to pick up these books and crossing them off my list. Here are a few upcoming events I thought of “participating” in. And use this term loosely as I know my natural aversion to scheduled reading.

Classics and the Western Canon are currently reading The Odyssey by Homer and I’m kind of sad I joined too late and missed on the fun. This week, however, they are starting The Aeneid by Virgil – another ancient classic worth reading. I have heard that The Aeneid is slightly related to The Iliad, since it touches upon some events of Trojan War and even has a few of the same characters. Therefore I did a little research, being naturally concerned about the proper order of reading the books. As I was hoping Virgil’s poem stands perfectly on its own, so I shouldn’t be too upset about missing out on The Odyssey. The group is doing a discussion of one book per week, so the schedule is not too intimidating, but I will probably participate only casually.

I joined Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die as a kind of helping hand in getting myself to read the works on the 1001 Books list that I would normally ignore. Given the opportunity I would just pick the titles that appeal to me the most and end up with a bunch of works I’m not so sure about at the end. Not a very prospective choice. The nest reading chosen by the group is probably one of those works – Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, which is basically a memoir of the author describing the years she spent living in Kenya. I’ve heard that the book is pretty colonial in tone (not that unusual for being written in the 1930’s), and that some readers have had a hard time with it. I am not too concerned about the whole “we are more civilized than them, therefore we must teach them to behave like us” attitude, because it is always interesting to see how people used to think and act back in the day, and how these believes and actions shaped the world we know today. Sometimes you just have to be a little less sensitive and appreciate the historical value of the book. The group is starting to read the memoir in mid-august and will discuss it for a month.

Last but not least, Reading the Chunksters is my way of approaching intimidating heavyweights like The Brothers Karamazov or The Mists of Avalon. Currently they are reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell which I serendipitously picked up at a thrift store just days before joining. They are almost done, the finish line being set for August 25th, so I just might have to pick that one on my own. This year I’m doing rather well with chunksters, having both The Fellowship of the Ring and A Clash of Kings finished, and even starting to read Shogun by James Clavell. While big books are certainly a big commitment, the group is giving its members a fair time of over three months to finish the readalong and discuss the contents. I might have to wait till the end of August to start the new book with them, but I will certainly flip through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell while I do that.

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