Communication in the Midst of Solitude: My Year in Reading—2019

In his essay “On Reading,” Proust writes, “Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.” I try to make reading plans every year but I honestly never know where the year will take me. This year was a stellar year for me as far as these “communications in the midst of solitude” were concerned. But my communications were carried farther by the literary connections for which I am very grateful—-readers of my blog, my fellow bloggers, and, the one that has the most influence on my reading, the wonderful literary community on Twitter. I know that social media is a tough place for some—I’ve seen many come and go. But my little corner of book Twitter has proven to be a wonderful place this year and I would like to thank all of those who have commented, connected, supported my reading on this blog and on Twitter.

Fiction and Non-Fiction:

Wolf Solent by John Cowper Powys

Deadlock by Dorothy Richardson

Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert, trans. by Robert Baldick

A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura by Christine Wuunicke, trans. by Philip Boehm

Ovid’s Banquet of Sense by George Chapman

The Odyssey by Homer, trans. Emily Wilson

Romola, by George Eliot (I only got half way through this one. Not the right time for this book for me.)

The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, illus. by Dore

The Completion of Love by Robert Musil, trans. Genese Grill

The Temptation of Quiet Veronica by Robert Musil, trans. Genese Grill

The Confusions of Young Torless by Robert Musil, trans. Shaun Whiteside

Thought Flights by Robert Musil, trans. Genese Grill

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

Landscapes by John Berger

The Man Without Qualities Volumes 1 and 2 by Robert Musil, trans. Sophie Wilkins

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr

Hadji Murat by Tolstoy, trans. Kyril Zinovieff and Jenny Hughes

Contre-Jour by Gabriel Josipovici

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, trans. Moncrieff et al.

The Immoralist by Andre Gide, trans. Richard Howard

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, trans. Michael Henry Heim

Aline & Valcour Volumes 1 and 2 by Marquis de Sade, trans. Jocelyne Genevieve Barque and John Simmons

Notebooks 1935-1951 by Camus, trans. Philip Thody and Justin O’Brien

The Stranger by Camus, trans. Matthew Ward

Lives of the Poets by Michael Schmidt (I have been reading this book for half the year and have about 300 pages left to read which I will finish in the final week of the year.)


I have read more poetry this year then every before because I have been stopping to read selections from the poets that Michael Schmidt discusses in his book Lives of the Poets. Too many to list here. So listed here are only the collections I’ve read in their entirety:

Poets on Poets, edited by Nick Rennison and Michael Schmidt

A Test of Poetry by Louis Zukofsky

Astonishments: Selected Poems of Anna Kamienska, trans. David Curzon and Grazyna Drabik

Love and I by Fanny Howe

Lapis: Poems by Robert Kelly

Elegiac Sonnets by Charlotte Smith

The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems

Selected Poems by Charlotte Mew

The Last Innocence/The Lost Adventures by Alejandra Pizarnik

Selected Poems of Attila Jozsef, trans. Peter Hargitai

The Withering World by Sandor Marai, trans. John Ridland and Peter V. Czipott

The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolaño, trans. Laura Healy

I’ve also continued to translate my own selections of Ancient Greek and Latin poetry which I won’t bother to list again. But translating Sappho was a particularly rewarding experience.

And finally, I’ve done posts on the fabulous artwork I’ve had the pleasure of viewing this year. I had the pleasure of seeing the Bonnard exhibit at the Tate Modern, The Blake Exhibit at the Tate Britain, The Ruskin Exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art, and, my favorite, The Troy Exhibit at The British Museum. A stellar year for reading, for poetry and for art all around.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays, and Io Saturnalia!


Filed under British Literature, Classics, French Literature, German Literature, In Search of Lost Time, Letters, Literature in Translation, Opinion Posts, Poetry, Russian Literature, Swann's Way, Tolstoi

30 responses to “Communication in the Midst of Solitude: My Year in Reading—2019

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more about the bookish corner of Twitter, Melissa. For professional reasons, my partner inhabits the political neck of the social media woods. It’s very different there. Happy holidays to you, your family and, of course, Henry and Rufus! Here’s to another brilliant reading year in 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seasons Greetings to you too Melissa! Thanks for sharing this impressive reading list. I’d read A Month in the Country too and watched the film. The two are very different in mood. Enjoy more reading during the holidays. Any films lining up?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alilauren1970

    What a fabulous list of books you have read this year! Your reading is inspirational, and I always enjoy reading your posts. (I actually started Compass this past weekend, and I skimmed the post you wrote about it so I will come back when I’m done.) I look forward to coming back to your posts on Poust when I start reading him in the new year. I really am grateful for bloggers like you because you are erudite without being overly academic in your discussions of the books you read.

    Have a great holiday and enjoy the season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alilauren1970

      PS: And the fact that you can read 300 pages in one week (even if you are off work) boggles my mind! Would that I was that fast a reader, and I read all the time!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for all of your wonderful comments and your recommendations this year. I was thinking about you when I wrote the into to this post! I hope you enjoy Compass. I read it very slowly. One of those books that demands a lot of attention. Happy Holidays!


  4. I really want to read some Cowper Powys because he was one of Iris Murdoch’s favourite authors, but the books are SO BIG! A wonderful list and I do so cherish the book blogs I follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As you say, it’s delightful to have a small corner of bookish Twitter that is supportive and enthusiastic about the stars of the show, the books themselves. What a wonderful year you’ve had, thanks for letting us accompany you on your journeys!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Season’s greetings to you as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that you describe Romola not only as “not for me”, but as “not for me now”, leaving space to go back to it. I’ll be borrowing that phrasing in future, if I may. Also lovely to hear you’ve been delving into poetry – this year I’ve started reading whole collections rather than just picking poems here and there, and I have really enjoyed the different perspective it gives.
    I’m hoping to get to the Blake exhibition too, since I believe it’s on until February? Any highlights or top tips to make the most if it?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Violeta Kelertas

    Hi, I do enjoy reading your blog. I must have been traveling when you wrote about Musil (did you?), as I did not see any and am curious about what you had to say. I don’t want to start him if I can’t finish in time (his books are hard to find and I don’t like library books, but even there they are hard to get). So please let me know how you did with him because I feel it is a gap in my education! Let me know how to find your reviews, if any. All the best, your reading is definitely in excellent category. My favorite write is Javier Marias.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Violeta! If you go to the front page of my blog you can do a search. If you enter “Musil” all the posts should come up. I wrote several. Also, if you click on the name of the book in this post they should come up as well.

      I enjoyed the book very much. Happy reading!


  9. Rohan Maitzen

    A wonderful year of reading indeed: thank you for bringing us along with you through your posts and conversations on Twitter too. All the best to you and your family for the holidays – here’s to an equally rich 2020!

    (Also, I sympathize about Romola — but it does have some remarkable elements that reward persisting through the (ahem) not so wonderful parts, so I am glad you think you’ll come back to it one day.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy holidays to you and your family as well, Rohan!

      Eliot is one of my favorite authors and I will definitely go back to Romola. I got side tracked in the middle of reading it and that through me off. I have to give it my undivided attention.


  10. Some really great reading there Melissa, and I couldn’t agree more about the bookish part of the Interweb – it really is (mostly) the nicest, and I’ve found so much friendship there (as well as far too many book hints!) Have a wonderful festive season with your lovely family (including that cute cat!!) 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The bookish social media world is wonderful. Very supportive and helpful plus a great source of knowledge and insight on authors and books. In the absence of any credible coverage of books in most newspapers, its the bloggers that I rely upon to tell me what’s going on in the world of books

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Vishy

    Wonderful books you have read this year, Melissa! I wanted to read all your Proust and Robert Musil posts together. Hoping to read them soon. Thanks so much for inspiring us all to read more. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have loved your blog in 2019, so many good things to read! Thank you:)

    Liked by 1 person

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