Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Heavy Books Read Lightly

There are a lot of good reading challenges out and about in the world; some hard, some soft, some in the middle. Me, I prefer the "soft" variety that have ridiculously attainable goals that I put a slight spin on to capture the essence of the challenge. That being said, the fine folks at Books on the Nightstand are hosting the Beowulf on the Beach Reading Challenge.

The essence of this challenge is that you peruse the lovely tidbits in the forth-coming book Beowulf on the Beach by the ridiculously-talented author and essayist Jack Murnighan and select one classic work of literature that you'll tackle some time this summer (May 25 - September 7; aka, Memorial Day - Labor Day).

The summary of Beowulf on the Beach (which sounds delightful) from GoodReads.com:

"If you’re like most folks, you probably feel guilty for never reading War and Peace, Ulysses, or Moby-Dick. Or maybe you read them in school, but you didn’t exactly enjoy them, right? Writer and professor Jack Murnighan says it’s not the books that put you off, it was the lifeless, uninspiring way they're usually taught. Now, with Beowulf on the Beach, you’ll discover not only why these classics deserve another chance, but how to read great books in general.

"Balancing humor and expertise, Murnighan picks 50 of the most revered books of all time and explains what the professors never told you: that Moby-Dick is funny, Dante will make you cry, Anna Karenina is a beach read, and James Joyce is great, but only if he’s talking about drinking, sex, or organ meats. Plus you get the juicy tidbits on what you’re supposed to know, what you need to know, and what’s okay for you to skip without feeling guilt. From Homer and Proust to Beloved and the Bible, Beowulf on the Beach is a user-friendly guide through the imposing world of capital-L Literature. In no time at all, you’ll be revved up and ready to tackle Dickens or Woolf—only this time without the test."
I selected Middlemarch by George Eliot which I've been meaning to read ever since finishing 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel because the idea that George Eliot had something so important to write that she'd publish under a man's name to get it taken seriously intrigues me.

Below is a widget that will let you peruse the first 30 pages of the book (which includes the table of contents listing the 50 books analyzed in Beowulf on the Beach) so you can pick and choose (if you want) to participate in this challenge. If you do, be sure to drop a comment on the Books on the Nightstand blog posting about this.

If you're having trouble viewing the widget (or it doesn't come through on your email subscription), check it out at the Random House website.


Marie said...

What a great idea.
I have a ton of these books around the house that would be great for this challenge. Thanks for posting this!

jackmurnighan said...

hi, i'm the author of BontheB. heather, i know we don't know each other, but you now have a warm place in my heart. let's hope we can get a lot of people reading good things -- we've got work to do. best, and thanks, jack

Laura said...

Thank you. I heard a reference to this book the other day but otherwise had not heard of it and didn't know anything about it. Now I'm intrigued.


Janet said...

Looks like a fun book. I remember having to read Ulysses in college (torture), and he's right -- all I remember is the organ meats!