The Great Midlife Rereading Project

2016: the eternal goat fuck.  Actually, my current path began in July 2015, the beginning of the last fiscal year, when upper management changed my job classification to one with a limited amount of per-year hours attached to it.  Now until July 1, 2016, I hang on to the remaining sixteen like a Bedou clinging to a half-flask of water with no oasis in sight, because no guarantee accompanies that July date.  To justify my unemployment, I’ve applied for various positions I don’t want, interviewed for positions I don’t want, and the cycle continues.  Because the Universe always over spices the pot, I’ve encountered romantic issues that have opened regions of my mind best left secured inside the cartons populating my Freudian attic as well.  2016 . . . what fun.  Thankfully, I possess a bevy of friends who have witnessed my bellowing while delivering a rotating diet of straight talk and care.  Without them I am shit.

In 2016, I also turned 50.  How marvelous that at the high noon of middle age I find myself facing so many damaged aspects of me, those related to job and how I approach women being most prominent.  But other issues abound, of course.  I could sign up for the priesthood, sacrifice myself to a life of service to “escape from freedom” as defined by Erich Fromm, but fuck it.  I’m going to read.  Yes, I’m going to read, as I proposed during the NerdVana Podcast episode recorded to celebrate my semicentennial birthday.  What exactly did you propose, Chuck?

I have created a list of books that I read between the ages of 12 and 25, ones that I haven’t touched since, that I will reread over the next two years or so.   I’ve included everything from stories for boys, to spy novels, to cheap horror, to literary greats.  This was the period of my life when my tastes expanded exponentially, when I evolved from a shy, bullied boy gaining succor from Burroughs and Howard into the lean young man at a table in Barcelona eating paella while discussing Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov with an Ingrid-Bergmanesque Swede who ended our conversation by stating, “You are an interesting man, Chuck.  I would like you to spend the night in my bed.”  Those books!  Those are so going on to the list!  Additionally from merely choosing titles from adolescence and young adulthood, I have included books remembered fondly, but memories are tricky.  Has the Suck Fairy visited these volumes?   Life experiences most assuredly have affected my reactions to any given author, or maybe they haven’t.  Most importantly, what do these vestiges of my past have to tell me about how I might approach my amble into deeper middle age and old age?

I’m pursuing literary therapy, obviously, and I hope to engage others while discussing the books on this very personal journey.  I want to project into the future through the past, avoiding the temptation to morph into Santiago fishing impotently, longing for far away arm-wrestling glories.  El Campion will live again, but in modified and wonderfully surprising ways, I hope.  The essay structure for each book I read during this project will follow a specific format:

  • A section introducing the book and author at hand. Back in the day, I took a writing course in which the instructor labeled such openers as “introductions.”  No need to challenge him on that now.
  • I’ll write the next section before beginning to read so that my memory will remain as pure as possible. Why was the book in question so important to me?  How did I discover it?  What do I remember about it?  I might not have much to say here at all, but prepare for personal anecdotes.  I suspect you’re going to learn much about me.  I apologize in advance.
  • Now for the meat. Once I’ve finished rereading, what’s changed or not changed?  Have I discovered why I chose this book for my list?  How do I feel about it now?  What has it shown me about “Chuck then” compared to “Chuck now?”  And what will I bring with me while moving toward “Chuck tomorrow?”

I hope you’ll enjoy the trip and comment frequently.  Where will this take me?  I look to this list and say, “Remind me, teach me, heal me, liberate me.”  I won’t read in any particular order, and I’ll have to alter paths every so often, particularly during literary award season or if my mood shifts temporarily.  You’ll know when I’m on task, however.  Here’s the list.

The Great Midlife Rereading List

Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
Emma

Paul Bowles

The Sheltering Sky

Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights

Paul Bunyan

Pilgrim’s Progress

Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Tarzan Novels:

  • Tarzan of the Apes
  • The Return of Tarzan
  • The Beasts of Tarzan
  • The Son of Tarzan
  • Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
  • Jungle Tales of Tarzan
  • Tarzan the Untamed
  • Tarzan the Terrible
  • Tarzan and the Golden Lion
  • Tarzan and the Ant Men
  • Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
  • Tarzan and the Lost Empire
  • Tarzan at the Earth’s Core
  • Tarzan the Invincible
  • Tarzan Triumphant
  • Tarzan and the City of Gold
  • Tarzan and the Lion Man
  • Tarzan and the Leopard Men
  • Tarzan’s Quest
  • Tarzan and the Forbidden City
  • Tarzan the Magnificent
  • Tarzan and the Foreign Legion
  • Tarzan and the Madman
  • Tarzan and the Castaways

The Barsoom Novels:

  • A Princess of Mars
  • The Gods of Mars
  • The Warlord of Mars
  • Thuvia, Maid of Mars
  • The Chessmen of Mars
  • The Mastermind of Mars
  • A Fighting Man of Mars
  • Swords of Mars
  • Synthetic Men of Mars
  • Llana of Gathol
  • John Carter of Mars

Albert Camus

The Fall

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov
Crime and Punishment

Ken Eulo

The Brownstone Trilogy:

  • The Brownstone
  • The Bloodstone
  • The Deathstone

The House of Caine

Philip Jose Farmer

The Riverworld Novels:

  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go
  • The Fabulous Riverboat
  • The Dark Design
  • The Magic Labyrinth
  • Gods of Riverworld

The World of Tiers Novels:

  • The Maker of Universes
  • The Gates of Creation
  • A Private Cosmos
  • Behind the Walls of Terra
  • The Lavalite World
  • More Than Fire

John Gardner

Grendel

H. Rider Haggard

She
King Solomon’s Mines

Robert E. Howard

Almuric

Jeffrey Konvitz

The Sentinel

Alistair MacLean

The Navarone Novels:

  • The Guns of Navarone
  • Force 10 from Navarone

Puppet on a Chain
Circus

W. Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage

Andrew J. Offutt

The Cormac Mac Art Novels:

  • Sword of the Gael
  • The Undying Wizard
  • The Sign of the Moonbow
  • The Mists of Doom
  • When Death Birds Fly
  • The Tower of Death

Alan Paton

Cry the Beloved Country

Fred Saberhagen

The Dracula Novels:

  • The Dracula Tape
  • The Holmes-Dracula File
  • An Old Friend of the Family
  • Thorn
  • Dominion
  • A Matter of Taste
  • A Question of Time
  • Séance for a Vampire
  • A Sharpness on the Neck
  • A Coldness in the Blood

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Leo Tolstoy

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Trevanian

Shibumi

Thomas Tryon

The Other
Harvest Home

Karl Edward Wagner

The Kane Novels:

  • Death Angel’s Shadow
  • Bloodstone
  • Dark Crusade
  • Darkness Weaves
  • Night Winds
  • The Book of Kane

Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited

Herman Wouk

The Winds of War
War and Remembrance

6 thoughts on “The Great Midlife Rereading Project

    1. I’ve reread the Asimov and Doc Savage too recently, I’m afraid. I could have gone with Don Pendleton’s Executioner series or The Destroyer series by Sapir and Murphy, also series favorites from back in the day, but no. I went in other directions.

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