I’ve certainly put the electrons through their paces. My mini-ministers have performed their digital jumping jacks for me hundreds of times during the past few journeys around the sun as I’ve added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided novels, poems, dramas, stories, treatises, and collections into a set of organized lists for a third decade of planned reading. And now, finally, in less than three months, I’ll embark on my new ten-year odyssey.
My plan has thirty-eight (mostly) defined categories with ten entries in each, one for each year of the schedule:
1. Drama: Plautus, Marlowe, Stoppard, Mamet, etc.
2. Adventure novels (aka reliving my teen years): Dumas, Scott, Verne, etc.
3. Asimov: rereading all the robot novels, empire novels, and foundation novels
4. Histories of countries: France, Japan, etc.
5. William James: finishing Principles of Psychology, then reading Varieties of Rel. Exp.
6. Civil War history: Shelby Foote, Thomas Connelly
7. Civil War biographies: Lincoln, Grant, Lee, etc.
8. Poetry: Browning, Longfellow, Frost, etc.
9. Modern Christian literature: Waugh, Barfield, Wangerin, etc.
10. George MacDonald: mostly novels (unabridged!), also some sermons
11. Galsworthy: The Forsyte Saga
12. Augustine: On Grace and Free Will, Homilies on the Gospel of John, etc.
13. Medieval theology: Aquinas, Abelard, Peter Lombard
14. This and That: a disorganized list including Truman Capote, Sidney’s Arcadia and more
15. Plato and Aristotle: just reviewing my hundreds of pages of notes
16. Ancient literature: Horace, Cicero, etc.
17. Durant: I should finish volume XI, Age of Napoleon, just about ten years from today.
18. Church Fathers: Justin Martyr, Cyprian, etc.
19. Early modern epic: Tasso, Spenser, Ariosto
20. Shakespeare: rereading all my favorites twice each
21. Other novels: rereading War and Peace, Karamazov, etc. and attempting Finnegan’s Wake
22. Dickens: of course
23. Dickens and Austen: because one list isn’t enough for all of Dickens
24. Trollope: ten more of his amazing displays of the complexities of life and society
25. Lewis: rereading Narnia and more, reading some of his professional work for the first time
26. Chesterton: Illustrated London News columns, Everlasting Man
27. Tolkien and Williams: uncomfortable friends in life, side by side on my plan
28. Patrick O’Brian: Aubrey and Maturin can’t be enjoyed just once!
29. The Golden Legend: approximately eighty of these medieval, legendary accounts of the saints
30. Burroughs, Grey, Haggard: More reliving of teen years. Tarzan, I’ve missed you!
31. Mystery: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers
32. England: rereading Churchill and Rutherford, plus some Arthuriana
33. Large Things: “. . . And Ladies of the Club,” “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” etc.
34. Miscellany: completely different from no. 14, “This and That”!
35. Samuel Johnson: Prayers and Meditations, highlights from Boswell
36. American History: mostly volumes of the Oxford History of the United States
37. Music and Society: ten volumes from a series by that name
38. More Arthuriana: Malory, Stewart, Lawhead
Some of these Books are decidedly less than Great. Almost all will feel like pure fun to me. No more German philosophy. No more Calvin. (I’m not sure which one felt less like fun.) St. Paul may not approve of the idea, but to a large extent I’m setting aside the life of a man and taking up childish ways again. But I haven’t tossed aside medieval theology, serious history, or heavy Russian novels; I just happen to think they’re fun. And I anticipate, as Handel said of the audience at the first performance of his Messiah, that in addition to being entertained, I will be made better.