This quote hangs next to my desk in the office I share with the other graduate assistants. It’s a good reminder of how little time I have (no time, actually) to read the books I’ve been meaning to read.
Or the books that I must read … but that’s another problem all together.
I’ve recently been thinking about all the books that I’ve been meaning to read. Some of them I picked up hoping to get to them over the summer, and some of them I started reading long ago and got too busy to actually finish them.
And so, here are six* of the books that I’ve been meaning to read:
The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood:
This book contains two novels that are loosely related – Mr. Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin. Goodbye to Berlin is best known for being popularized in Cabaret. Isherwood lived in Berlin from 1929 until 1933, and does a wonderful job of describing the city.
I ordered this book in the spring of 2013 after reading a chapter of it for my pre-study abroad class. I thought it was a perfect book to read before I went to Berlin. I got about half-way through Mr. Norris Changes Trains before I put it down for some reason or another. If I get a chance to pick it up again anytime soon I want to see if there is any streets or places mentioned that I went to.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:
This is one of the very few books which I watched the movie (the 2005 version) long before I even thought of reading the book. But then, I was 13 when I watched the movie — so I think I get a pass on that.
I got this absolutely gorgeous copy for Christmas last year and read it during my time off from school. Of course, by the third week of the spring semester I was far too busy to read anything other than my class books. I’m sure I’ll have to start from the beginning again, since it does have such dense writing.
The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig by Stefan Zweig
I first heard of Stefan Zweig after watching Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Zweig was born in Austria, and wrote about the “golden age” of Vienna. His writing is beautiful, and his life is very sad. He also wrote about history in Decisive Moments in History — which I own, but haven’t cracked open. The few stories which I managed to read are composed of beautiful, highly detailed scenes. With this collection you get a good understanding of what type of writer Zweig is.
I don’t feel that guilty that I haven’t picked this book up again. That’s the nice thing about short story collections — you can stop and start at any point you like.
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum
Iron Curtain documents the rise of communist governments in East Germany, Poland and Hungary. I started reading this book just as I was gaining interest in post-WWII European history, and it (combined with other things) really pushed me over that edge. This is one of the most readable history books I have ever read. Iron Curtain falls somewhere between an academic history book and a popular history book.
Which doesn’t explain why it seems as though I’ve been reading this forever. I was on a good streak with this in the beginning of 2014, but was distracted by my thesis and spring break that I didn’t pick it up until this last spring break … and had to put it back down again once classes started.
Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid
This is about the shortest book one could get covering a thousand-year span. Borderland creates a portrait of how Ukraine’s national identity was formed during this time, but doesn’t go into much detail about each time period. Reid is a journalist, and a lot of the later chapters draw from her experiences in Ukraine. I really enjoy it when modern perspectives blend with history.
I’ve actually read more of the older version of this book in a modern Eastern European history class. This version adds a few chapters on the Orange Revolution and Maidan. I would very much like to read this as soon as I can, but we all know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia by Orlando Figes
Another book that I read parts of for a class. The Whisperers is a fascinating look at the personal history of Stalin’s regime. Unlike the other two history books I have on this list, this is very much a “traditional” version of history writing. What makes this spectacular is that Figes uses family documents in his narrative, which is different from a lot of histories on Stalin’s regime.
This is such an overwhelming book — both in topic as well as sheer volume (700 pages). I skimmed the introduction after I got this for Christmas last year, but aside from the chapters I read for my class, I haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ll save this for this next summer, when I can devote my whole self to it.
*Six of eleven books I’ve been meaning to read that are in my direct vicinity. There are more, I’m just not going to embarrass myself by counting them all.