I have to put “reading” off my priority list, but that’s okay

My life is messy. I feel so totally out of control in every area of my life. I am afraid I won’t be able to turn in my paper, or take part in the seminar in Ukraine, or do my work at AIESEC. I am afraid I will resent everything and that my everyday life will be just gray, gray, gray. I keep thinking, there just isn’t enough TIME! I will never be able to finish everything!

Maybe I won’t. So what?

I am learning to place more value on the process than I used to. Doing 98% is better than doing 0% because I’m afraid I won’t be able to reach 100%, or doing only 50% because I let that fear hold me too long and I started too late because of that.

I identify myself as a reader. I take pride in that, and comfort, too. Reading is just part of my life. Reading outside of school has never been a burden to me. I am constantly learning new things through books and developing compassion.
But lately, I never felt happy reading a book. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I kept getting rid of books, thinking I am reading only books that give me no value. As of today, however, I think the problem is not the books themselves but my relationship to them. I see an unread book and think: I should read that. I see a book I’ve already read before, remember the good time I had, and think: I want to re-read that!

Sometimes, though, life demands your full attention.
I see my 53 years old mother working 10+ hours every day, enduring brutal commutes in an overpopulated city, with only 5 days of vacation per year (but de facto zero, actually, because the employers pressure the employees into not taking any day off). For my mother, who first entered the workforce at the age of 40, left it again only four years later and to re-enter it after a 9-year-break, it means she has to give everything she has to her work. Her work fulfills her in a way that nothing else can right now. She needs to do this to take care of herself. So she pours herself into it and has little time or energy left to devote herself to anything else.
I see my cousin who is in military service right now. Instead of sitting in lecture halls, instead of pulling all-nighters to write an essay, instead of hanging out with his friends and having fun, he is experiencing something totally out of his realm; something that he hadn’t known before.
When life demands your full attention, you have to give it if you don’t want to go under. You can’t cling to your old habits and routines and hobbies. New cards have been dealt. Adapt or miss the chance.

I don’t want to go under. I don’t want to miss the opportunities. So I have to give my full attention to school, and to AIESEC secondarily. I won’t be able to read long, difficult books on feminism, history, literature. I won’t be able to write long, elaborate reviews. I won’t be able to watch movies every week.

But that’s okay, because I have some really important chances I don’t want to miss. It has taken me a long time to finally see the right priority; but I see it now, and I’m fine with it. I’ll probably be able to read The Imitation Game or complicated classics in the summer break for a little bit between the exams, the seminar, the paper and hopefully an internship.

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Closing – Feminist Literature

Lo and behold, March is already over! I’d planned on reading five books dealing with feminism in March; I ended up reading three.

1. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
I’ll just link my review here.

2. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is briefly mentioned in my review for A Room of One’s Own. But basically, this is a short but powerful appeal for gender equality and deconstructing gender stereotypes. She also gives a glimpse into the Nigerian society and how they (although I’m sure there are exceptions) perceive women.

3. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist is a collection of Roxane Gay’s essays. She prefaces this collection by saying that she is a “bad feminist”, i.e. sometimes she’s too tired to care, she likes to sing catchy songs whose lyrics degrade women, she shaves her legs, and so on. She says she embraces the label of “bad feminist”.
Her essays are not only of feminist hot topics such as reproductive rights, sexual violence, portrayal of women in pop culture, everyday sexism, and so on. Some of the essays are about her own history. Others are about seemingly random topics like bridge. There are very, very good essays on racism and intersectionality using recent and popular examples and infamous cases in which killing an unarmed black teenager is not a crime but self-defense.
I find it sad that to be a human and feminist, you have to be a bad feminist. Humans are flawed; they are contradictory. They can still fight for gender equality. Why do we have to be more than humans, more than just women* to be feminists? That’s just another burden we place on ourselves.
Final verdict: If you care about gender equality, please read it. Especially if you have only a vague sense of intersectionality. It is frustrating to be a part of the minority that is subject to discrimination. The least the rest can do is to try to understand. I know it is difficult where to start. If you want to understand sexism and racism and how they overlap, I suggest Bad Feminist.

*My apologies for male and genderqueer feminists.

What I wrote for Ostara

I’ve been on a journey from 19th till 24th. I mistakenly believed this year’s Spring Equinox – the day and night in balance – to be on the 22nd when it was actually on the 20th. Anyway, since I didn’t have access to the internet during those days, here is what I wrote in my diary on the 22nd with the Spring Equinox in mind:

If I remember correctly, today is Ostara. Spring Equinox. The midpoint of Spring. The time of renewal, freshness and impatient energy.
I have come to appreciate individualism a lot lately. It goes back five years or more but it is only recently that I realized how much I have come to crave it – to depend on it. Being alone. Being self-sufficient. Relying on myself only. Total independence. That’s what attracts me to Wicca (& later to paganism in general) most, I think. Thinking & believing on my own, and for myself.

But I don’t exist alone in the world. Even if I can ignore most of the strangers and gently tolerate most of my friends, there’s my family, without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today. Also, I realized today (after a lengthy “lesson” on the Korean War with Auntie) that my today could only be born because of someone else’s yesterday. It is not only ungrateful but also not the kind of human I want to become to ignore it or to make light of it. It should be properly acknowledged and thanked in whichever way I think is due and proper. I should learn to be more grateful for the people around me, and to be kinder to them. To be kind doesn’t equal to simply endure. It’s letting them know how much I value them & what they mean to me.

It’s a difficult balance. I do not [want to] deprave myself my desire to be alone and with only my thoughts. On the other hand, I want to & have to be thankful to everyone that made it possible for me to have this kind of freedom.

Classics Club Challenge #8: A Room of One’s Own

A Room of One's OwnA Room of One’s Own
by Virginia Woolf
published in 1928
First read on March 11th 2015

A Room of One’s Own was more complex than I’d expected. Both the writing and the ideas are not always easy to grasp and made me reluctant to write the review (because there were so many things to be thought over, talked about and thoroughly debated).

The amazing thing about A Room of One’s Own and at the same time what makes it so hard to review is how intricately Virginia Woolf weaves her threads of thoughts. I cannot really talk about one of her ideas without mentioning the others, because only together do they make a complete picture.

I hesitate to write a summary because I know I can’t read for others. So this is for those of you who have already read A Room of One’s Own, and for my future self.
Virginia Woolf writes a lot in metaphors and symbolism and creates these… archetypes? The Professor, for example, who stands for white (although VW did not say so), middle and upper class, well-educated men mad  at feminist movement and who feel threatened at the thought of women being equal to men. Why? Well geez, because their foundation of self-confidence depends on half of the human population (=women) being inherently inferior to them. The easiest way to gain self-confidence, after all, is to think that one is inherently better at something (or just better) than others.
Another strand of thought: Consider the paradox of how women were portrayed in the great literature written by men and how they really were in the times it was written; consider Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Flaubert. Their female characters are intelligent, witty, articulate, complex and subject to moral ambiguity. Why didn’t women write about themselves, though? Here VW comes up with Shakespeare’s imaginary sister who was just as talented as him. And how she would have killed herself or gone mad. If the society was indifferent towards men becoming artists, it was downright hostile to women becoming artists. Plus, they were expected to marry and birth a child every year; they were not taught how to read or write; they could not legally own anything and had hardly a room of their own to retreat to.
So what changed? Why did women start writing, and why did they choose novels particularly? It changed, VW argues, with Mrs Behn, who wrote for a living after the death of her husband to support herself and her family. “Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.” (p. 65) So why novels? If women wrote, they must have written in the common sitting-room where it was noisy and they were always bound to be interrupted. So they chose novels, VW continues to theorize, because novels require less concentration than epic poems or long plays. Also, people’s feelings and their relationships to one another were on constant display in sitting-rooms. So naturally, women started to write about what was familiar to them.
VW also has a strong opinion on what makes a great literature in regards to those that were written by women. VW feels women should write when they are calm, not when they are in rage against the injustice women have to endure. She also says that women should not copy men’s writing style – that women should write as women. Or rather, they should write authentically – whatever she does with her words, she should do it for the sake of creating and not because she’s afraid of being called “sentimental” or her prose “flowery” in order to ‘prove’ that she is ‘as good as’ men. Because by adhering to the standard men have created (non-flowery and whatever), we are exposed to the danger that those “standards” become the norm, something to strive for. That’s the problem of sameness when people say “Ok, gender equality, so women should be treated like men”. No. Why are men the yardsticks?
To write authentically, one has to write without fearing, and thus bowing to, the criticisms. Furthermore, so VW, everyone has both man and woman in them. These two beings have to be in harmony in order for the person to write well. She cites Shakespeare, Keats, Sterne, Cowper, Lamb and Coleridge as androgynous writers.
She also circles back to the title theme of the book/speech and says that to become a famous and great writer/poet/dramatist/musician/artist, one has to be financially well-off. Emily Brontës and Robert Burns are exceptions. “Intellectual freedom depends upon material things.” (p. 106) In the end, she appeals to women to write in whatever format, be it novel, history book, science manual, or biography. Jobs – the kinds that women were forbidden to have – have been open to women for years as VW writes her speeches. We have the means to secure the “material things” and thus our intellectual freedom. We should write, and write authentically; “to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-pod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.” (p. 105)

I am going to follow Virginia Woolf’s advice, and write without fearing or even regarding the mighty power of her words as one of the great writers’.
Her ideas, even though they were written almost a century ago, are still relevant and thought-provoking. She does not call it as such, but she has captured the problems of stereotyping the gender and the prejudices that still prevail the society. I especially found her imagery of looking-glass striking; I have found it can be actually applied to other situations as well – not just male/female, but cis-gender/transgender, heterosexual/non-heterosexual, socially “accepted” beauty/”unconventional” beauty, intellectual “superior”/”inferior”, etc. etc.
However, she is too hasty when she says gender inequality is overcome; just because women have the same opportunities as men does not mean that we all can realize them to the same extent or without resistance.
In re androgynous writers – I think we should all be androgynous humans, period, because the more we try to define femaleness and maleness, the more boxes we end up creating. And shoving all kinds of people into these boxes hurts everyone.

Just a quick reference to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, another book/speech that I can’t read for anyone; they have to read it for themselves. CNA writes in direct opposition to VW regarding the anger: “Of course [my article] was angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s approach is similar to Emma Watson’s (as UN Ambassador) #HeForShe campaign.

I couldn’t use a better quote to close this post than We Should All Be Feminists‘ final sentences:

My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.’All of us, women and men, must do better.

on image, expression, gender identity, and what society has got to do with them

There were days – more often than not – that I’d look in the mirror, and not like what I saw reflected on the smooth surface. Yes, that was my face. But there was… something missing? Something didn’t feel right. It was jarring.
Then there were days I’d look in the mirror, and say Oh yeah, that’s me all right and feel totally comfortable.

For the longest time, I thought Scenario 1 was the result of the pressure from the media and other people’s comments on how ‘a girl’ is ‘supposed to’ look. I wasn’t “girly” enough, so that’s why I thought I was lacking something. My response was to say fuck ’em and try not to bow to the pressure. I’d remain the way I am, no make-up and minimal hair fuss; I’d remain natural. I thought I was saying NO to the stereotyping of gender, that I wasn’t adhering to the society’s opinion of how I am supposed to look – ‘like a girl’. But by maintaining those ideas in my head (girl=make-up & frilly, soft-lined clothes), wasn’t I exactly doing that? I was affirming the society’s standard, even by refusing to bow to it.

What I never thought of doing was this: I’d look into the mirror, and not like what I saw reflected on its smooth surface. Yes, that was my face. But there was something missing – something didn’t feel right. So I’d take whatever tools I have available – clothes, hairbands, contact lenses, make-up, shoes – to add  to and substract from my natural body until I could express what I felt like that day. Until I could look in the mirror and say Yes, that’s who I am today. Until I could tell myself how feminine or masculine I feel today.
One day I’ll wear skinny jeans, a white, frilly blouse, my hairs in a ponytail, glasses and red lip gloss from NARS. The next one I’ll cut my hair really short, wear shirt with tie, black slacks and loafers. I’ll add foundation and maybe light eye-make-up. Or I will go out in baggy sweatshirts and trousers.

These different images I create every day – are they even real? Am I just applying a mask after another to confuse everyone, including me? Or are they maybe even more real than my naked face?

I used to think – I can choose only one – girl or boy; if I want to be feminine, I have to be feminine every day until I switch to the masculine side – then I have to be masculine every day until I switch back, but these periods should be of substantial duration, like, I can’t switch back and forth every frickin’ day; I can’t buy a tie for myself; I’m a girl I’m a girl I’m a girl I’magirli’magirlimagirl; I wish I was a boy; I don’t hate my body, I love my female body, but why do I have to LOOK so female?; Why do I always look like an awkward boy?; I have super short hair, so I can’t wear skirts; Damn it, I want to wear a tie.
All these thoughts were driving me crazy.
Today I say: Do whatever you want so you can express the YOU every day; if it means you have to create a different look every day, or even twice a day, so be it. It’s YOU. No one can tell YOU what to do, how to look, how to behave, what to think.

I had this epiphany yesterday when my sister said how people are so driven to look pretty, they never look beautiful. I asked her to elaborate, and what looking beautiful has to do with make-ups.
She said, and I paraphrase: “Well, a person is beautiful when their – essence – shines through. Their personality – you can see it in their eyes, it just radiates. It’s very striking. But so many people just look at the models in magazines or celebrities in TV and think ‘oh, they look sooo pretty, so I will copy their exact make-up and apply it on myself, so I’ll look just like them’. What they don’t get is that what looks good on those models doesn’t necessarily look good on them. They are just following the “trend”. Like, smokey eyes are super in in Korea right now, so I see friends making smokey eyes even though they have such beautiful eyes that should not be smudged by smokey eyeshadow! Make-ups are just tools to express yourself – but you have to really know your face to do that. First you have to experiment, though, until you get to know your face.”

I hate it when people tell me “Oh, that’s so not you!”. This does not apply only to how I look, but what I say and how I behave. Like, who are they to tell me how I have to be? How dare they tell me that they know me better than I myself? I let myself retreat from myself due to this sort of comments. I let my self-confidence that I had built up crumble because I wanted to blend in, unnoticeable and off the hook. If they had done that because they hate me and want me to feel bad, maybe I’d have stood up to my ideas of myself. But very often, these people were the ones who loved me, or at least wanted the best for me. They didn’t mean to cripple my self-esteem. They just were careless, like all of us can be careless. They just wanted their opinions to overpower mine.
I had to find myself. So I retreated from the society. Not literally, like Thoreau. But I avoided human company and when I couldn’t, I forced myself to be indifferent so that nothing they said could touch me. I wanted to create myself before I let others in. But I could feel myself become really indifferent to the point of inconsiderate. That’s not who I wanted to be.
So right now I am learning to be empathetic and considerate but still to be able to say no firmly when others try to shove their ideas of ‘what I should be’ at me.

In short, I am trying to be authentic, inside and out. It’s a long process, but one that I can and want to control.

Dear Cousin

Dear Cousin,

almost five years ago we last met, but how strange that it doesn’t feel like that long ago at all. There is this familiarity, this instant joy – it must be one of the perks of being a part of a family.

I knew, of course, that you must have changed, given the circumstances, just as I have changed. I guess I didn’t know how much you have changed, though, because I have met quite a number of people for whom being in a foreign country had almost no effect at all. Or so it seemed to me at that time. Maybe I just didn’t dig deep enough.

That’s the thing, though. How deep do you want to go? How deep do I want to go? It’s so difficult, being cousins. My mom and sister have seen me at my worst, so I don’t feel the need to hide anything from them – not even by omission. On the other hand, I am surrounded by casual acquaintances who wants me to say everything is fine, fine, fine; to talk a little about my life, funny anecdotes, etc. Some demand more, so I say that things suck when they suck, and that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.
But I am more than just pleasant smiles and ready nods. I am more than just a body for other people to comment on. I have opinions, fears, desires, bad habits, passions, plans and dreams. I am more than I appear to be, just as you are more than just a tall guy with a friendly smile and funny stories. You are more than your respect for our grandparents, more than your conflicting ideas about how to live a life, more than your desire for solitude in the nature to write and think.
We maintain façades for family gatherings but I have moments of deep despair and jubilant happiness, and I am sure you do, too.

The fact is, I am wildly curious about you, and what kind of person you are. Maybe it’s because of our shared childhood in the country, or maybe because we – alongside with our siblings – share the trait of being cultural-hybrids. Ha, and I tend to be nosy. I won’t pressure anyone to share things they don’t want to share, but I am all-or-nothing kind of person. I can be… a bit overwhelming, which is why I avoid opening up to people.

Of course, it must sound ironic since I have opened up a LOT on my blog, and to a group of strangers, too! But it is easier to tell anonymous people about the darkest parts of my life because we are all just faceless entities to each other. They are not obligated to meet me; they can just move on from my story to another’s. They have the choice to remain anonymous. You, on the other hand, do not have such choice. We are family, so you are bound to see me whenever we are both in Korea. Am I afraid of what you will think of me once you know pretty much everything? Yes, because I’m only a human. No, because I have the feeling you won’t be judgmental. I also have the feeling that you are less awkward with people than I am, so that will help our conversation, too.

Because in the end, that’s what I wish for: a two-sided, equally footed conversation. An exchange of ideas and opinions and stories of the past and hopes for the future.

I’m too tired to think straight anymore – good night, and take care!

Affectionately yours,
Your cousin

The Classics Club (8)

Since my last update a month ago, I…

1. …started Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I’m reading an English translation, and it is quite different from the English classics I’ve read. I was reading Chapter 6 of Part I when I put it down for now because I was distracted by other books. I definitely plan on continuing with the book in April.

2. …started and finished Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, a re-read or a first-time read, depending on your definition of read. That’s 7 out of 50!

3. …started The Lord of the Rings, Part 1: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien. I confess, I thought it might be a bit hard to get through at times just like I had a little trouble here and there with The Hobbit. Instead, I’m loving it! I actually started the book yesterday and already I have read the first 122 pages! The book-story is more different than the movie-story, so the anticipation is not lost at all. Oh, I am quite fond of these hobbits!

In the month of March, I plan on reading following classics: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf; A Vindication of the Rights of the Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. I wish I could take Madame Bovary and The Lord of the Rings with me to Korea but 1) no room left; and 2) my time in Korea is already stretched thin with all the visits and plans and oh, actually writing the paper and doing revisions on administrative law and criminal procedural law.

March isn’t even halfway over yet, and I’m already looking forward to April!

the words demand to get out

Normally, I have a pretty good relationship with my body. I remind myself as often as I can how joyous it is to be able-bodied. I kind of suck at stamina but try to make a short work-out a part of my daily routine. In every season excepting winter, it is very pleasant to walk around instead of taking the bus. When I look at the mirror, I more likely grin and stick my tongue out at myself than frown. I avoid binge-eating and since I can tolerate only a small amount of chocolate or candy, not-eating-sweets works out pretty well for me.

And yet. It takes only one circumstance to occur for my healthy body image to crumble down and be swept away in mere seconds. That circumstance is occurring right now. It’s called going-back-to-Korea.

I have a love-hate relationship going on with my country, but for now let’s stick to body image. I have seldom met folks who are as obsessed with physical appearances as Koreans. Not all Koreans, of course. Especially not those living abroad, but there are also Koreans living in Korea who do not adhere to the “standard beauty” and are aware of its deadly effects.

I’ve been living in Germany close to a decade now, and I’ve gone back to Korea four times so far. Once in sixth grade, once in seventh, once in ninth, and just last summer (first year of university). The last two times, the first thing every single fucking relative I met in Seoul did was to do a head-to-toe scan and criticize my looks. Or more accurately, my weight. I swear, the first comment they utter is Why are you so fat?
For the record, I am in the range of normal weight. So okay, I’m not skinny. I’m not long and lean. So what?! Why are these people so obsessed with how I look? It’s not Nice to see you. It’s never How were your years? It must be difficult living abroad all alone (actually, my answer to that would be no). It’s always Why are you so fat?

It’s so fucking hard to love my body when almost everyone I meet in Korea tells me to hate it. Oh, they chalk it up to health reasons, of course. It’s not healthy for you to have so much fat – it wears down your kneecaps or some other shit.
It feels like they can’t tolerate any body type other than skinny. There are many skinny young people in Korea, maybe it’s the genes or something.

So every time before I embark on the plane ride to Korea, I spend a few days in full-out stress mode, my stomach in knots and hating every bite of food I ingest. I brace myself for the verbal blows that are bound to assault me the second I enter a relative’s house. My immediate family does not comment on my body because I asked them, again and again, not to. My mother slips occasionally, and my father, the laughable so-called feminist, comments on every woman’s body as if she were a piece of meat instead of a human being. Actually, because of him, I had a totally screwed sense of feminism until I learned differently through the internet.

All this fat-shaming, especially among relatives because it’s “allowed”, but also openly done in TV talk shows and TV series, makes it hard for me to breathe because I know I have to go through this toxic mess again when I go to Korea. Knowing their obsession with “health” and “beauty” is extreme and narrow-minded does not help me much when I’m in the midst of the same thoughts, same social pressure, same criticism bearing down on me.

Going back to the country of my origin is a tiring process. I have to steel myself every time because I fear losing myself in the mindlessness of it all.

The Classics Booktag

I rarely do tags, but I simply had to jump in for this one! I first saw it here, and the original creator’s post is here.

01: An overhyped classic you really didn’t like.
The only one I can think of is The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. I wouldn’t say Catcher is over-hyped but it is certainly a popular book and well, I couldn’t stand Holden Caulfield when I read it (2011).

02: Favorite time period to read about.
I love Regency & Victorian era – so basically 19th century: Jane Austen, Charlotte & Emily & Anne Brontë, Elizabeth C. Gaskell are mainly the ones I have read (so far) and there are so many more authors who tickle my fancy!
Recently, I’ve also started getting interested in the first half of the 20th century – modern classics.
It is probable that my interests will expand once I have explored these time periods, and then who knows to which time period I will move on?

03: Favorite fairy-tale?
I haven’t read any original scary fairy tales but my favorite is Red Riding Hood.

04: What is the most embarrassed classic you haven’t read yet?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Even with all the movie-hype and everyone gushing about how great it is, it had never really interested me before – that is, until I started reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. Funnily enough, now that I am reading Z, I am more interested in This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned.

05: Top 5 classics I’d like to read soon!
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf; The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert; A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft; Middlemarch by George Eliot
(I feel like I cheated, since I have already started two – but only 20 pages or so!)

06: Favorite modern book/series based on a classic?
I refuse to be embarrassed: Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg, based on (obviously!) Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Eulberg has kept the underlying plotline and characteristics the same, only it is set in a prestigious boarding school for rich girls (Longbourn Academy) and boys (Pemberly) and Lizzie Bennet is a scholarship-student and roommate to her best friend (but not sister) Jane. And instead of marriage, every girl is scrambling for a prom date. That is, except for Lizzie and her other best friend/scholarship student Charlotte Lucas. I think what makes me really like Prom & Prejudice is Lizzie’s character who is not just sarcastic but also vulnerable and has been hurt by her snobbiness of her rich classmates. That and the fact that Lizzie is passionate about her music (she is on music/academic scholarship) – I love reading about music.
Besides P & P, I also really like Jessica Day George’s Princess series (Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass, Princess of Silver Woods), a retelling of three fairy tales set mostly in a fictional country of Westfalin which resembles what used to be on German territory in Middle Ages (ish). They get darker as the series progresses (although not very dark – I just mean to say that they are not as “fluffy” as the titles might suggest) and I love stories about big families, a stubborn curse, intelligent heroines and good-hearted heroes.

07: Favorite movie version/TV-series based on a classic.
Hands down BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility used to be a second until I re-read Sense and Sensibility and found that the TV-series, while good, did not do the book justice. The BBC 1995 adaptation of Persuasion is also quite true to the book but the many characters might confuse people who have not read the book. Plus, I don’t understand why they had to make the letter sound so unintelligible by overlapping two voices!
I almost forgot: Cranford (BBC) and Return to Cranford (BBC), which is really a mesh-up mostly of Cranford, My Lady Ludlow, Mr. Harrison’s Confessions and The Moorland Cottage. But it is very expertly done and the series is times cozy, times funny, and times poignant.

08: Worst classic to movie adaptation.
The adaptation of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s just not how I picture Emma and I just didn’t like the general feeling I got from the movie.

09: Favorite edition(s) you’d like to collect more classics from:
Favorite editions - WEI’d like to collect basically every book from Wordsworth Editions. I know I’ve been advocating them forever but they are simple yet classy, inexpensive, have this recyled-paper quality which allows me to highlight and write in margins without feeling guilty, and smell good.
This is only one shelf full of Wordsworth Editions books – the large orange one is a collection of classic short stories (1408 pages in length!). The blue covers are earlier editions – I bought them in 2009. They have changed the basic undertone to black now. White ones are categorized under children’s classics.

 

Favorite editions - Penguin ModernWhat Wordsworth Editions doesn’t have, I will most probably buy in Penguin Modern Classics if possible. I think it’s the bold lettering that pulls my attention.

Favorite editions - Penguin BlackMy third favorite edition is the plain black Penguin Classics. (see below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

10: An underhyped classic I’d recommend to everyone.
Anne Brontë is definitely underhyped, especially Agnes Grey. I really like Agnes Grey and it is easy to read and would make a great introduction to classics.

Challenge #3: Annihilating My TBR

Finally, a challenge that is actually fun!
I have a big TBR problem. It started in 2011 and basically chronicles my unhealthy relationship with money and stuff. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I adore books. Both because of their contents and as objects. They are a symbol of sanctuary and comfort for me. But I own so many of them without having read them, which has been driving me bonkers for some years. Three, to be exact.

So here is this list of my TBR as it stands now.

From 2010: 1
From 2011: 7
From 2012: 22
From 2013: 40
From 2014: 64
From 2015: 21
Total: 155

The number is in a way a relief to me because it hasn’t been this low since 2011. And still it has got to go. The hard rule is not to buy any new book until that number is zero. Of course, life will happen and people will gift me books or I will buy one or two most anticipated releases for my birthday or I will have to get a hold on in-between-books to finish the sequels that are on the list. But the general rule is still not to buy any.
The list is called TBR of No Regret because I have already cut out the books that I don’t necessarily have the desire to read anymore. I will continue to give them away or sell them off but most of them will be read by me because there are really, really good books on that list.

How long will it take me? I reckon two years if I am optimistic; but since there are complex and time-consuming books on the list as well, I probably should adjust my fiction-reading pace. I can’t exactly spit out an estimate quite yet – but I definitely will be able to by the end of the year!