26 by 26: Reading all of Ernest Hemingway & Completing War and Peace.

Confession: I'm one of those annoying people that always has to have a plan. I don't do well with spontaneous. I like to have a goal and be working towards it. I like to have a milestone in mind and moving in that direction.

And so when I woke up this winter and realized that I lacked a goal - or goals, even - I decided to make some up. Taking inspiration from my dear friend Emily and the wonderful blogger Mighty Girl, I formulated a list of 26 things to do before I turn 26. I now have 2 years, 3 months and 11 days to figure out how I'm going to fly an airplane, learn how to sabre open a bottle of champagne (check!), make 100 lovely things, and make a successful souffle, among other things.

Of course, I am a bookworm. My list could not exist without some bookish goals. I contemplated selecting a list of the "Great Books" and completing all of them, but given my distaste for reading lists, I balked at my own suggestion. Instead, I netted out with two bookish items on my list of 26: one to complete a daunting, challenging novel, and one to read one author's entire body of work.

The first was a quick decision: War and Peace. I purchased a copy of this title in January intending to participate in the year-long War and Peace readalong hosted by Kalen and Ann. I haven't cracked the spine yet. I figure I can manage this sometime in the next few years, right?

The second took some deliberating, though. I definitely wanted an author who had written multiple books, and preferably in different mediums (short stories, perhaps?). I wanted an author that interested me. I did not want an author with such a dauntingly large library as to prove cumbersome or impossible. After much deliberating, and input from my husband and my father, I landed on Ernest Hemingway. I'm halfway through my first book in this endeavor - A Moveable Feast - and so far, I'm not disappointed.

What about you? If you were to pick one author to read from start to finish, who would it be? How do you feel about Hemingway? Any suggestions for which Hemingway title I should pick up next?


  1. Well. I was very excited to read this post! I am the obsessive number-one-fan of Papa. I hope you enjoy reading it all! I look forward to seeing your impressions as you go. Expect you will like his most popular fiction (The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, my personal favorite For Whom the Bell Tolls, etc.) better than, for example, Death in the Afternoon; it is my opinion that you have to be a real Hemingway junkie to appreciate this exhaustive study of bull-fighting in all its particulars. But you did make a good choice in that he wrote short stories, novels, and nonfiction; and I adore him and hope you will, too.

  2. I love that you managed to include a couple of really big, goal-worthy book items in your life list. I'm thinking about a 30 for 30 list, since I'm about 2 years from that milestone.

    I don't know that you could've picked better with Hemingway, though I would've been torn between him and Steinbeck for reading their entire catalog. Or Irving if I hadn't read practically everything by him already. Nice goals. Would love to see your whole list too!

  3. Julia - Excellent! I'm with you in that I expect I will enjoy the more popular fiction (and even non-fiction) more than his treatise on bull-fighting, but I think that's part of the fun of the challenge.

    Rachel - It wouldn't have seemed fitting not to have big books on the list! I'm really enjoying the 26 by 26 list thus far, and had a blast creating it. I just took a few weeks and kept my eye out for wild and crazy and fun and challenging and interesting things that I wanted to do and wasn't sure I'd get around to without motivating myself.

    Steinback and Irving are both good selections, too. And after reading A Moveable Feast, I'm wondering if I should have included Fitzgerald in my considerations (although he wrote less books than the others). I've really liked the Steinback and Irving I have read thus far, at any rate.

    I'll post my full list sometime :-)

  4. Hmmm. Hemingway. Haven't read much of his work since school. The only one I really remember is the High School English standby - The Old Man and the Sea. You have inspired me, Kerry, to give him a try again! And would love to see your full list of books sometime.

  5. Snows of Kilamanjaro, all the Nick Adams Stories, Hemingway's book on how to write fiction.

    In that order.

  6. PS : I would add The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and, for then (but before his essays on writing) the more sparsely styled, A Clean Well-Lighted Place.

  7. +1 Paul, love the short stories too... yum, you're in for such a treat, Kerry! And I'm right with you on already considering Fitzgerald & possibly more. My reading of Fitzgerald and Stein has mostly come from my love of Hem (aside from reading The Great Gatsby for school, duh); it's kind of fun that one author of fiction has led me to other authors of fiction in their nonfictional connections to one another... These days I'm excited, in my reading, with the interconnectedness of so many books & authors in the real (non-literary) world. (There may be blog posts coming up on this topic.) Sorry to ramble. I'm psyched for you and look forward to reading about your reading.

  8. My favourite Hemingway is The Sun Also Rises. But I enjoy him in general, and agree that he was a good one to pick, since he embraced several forms. I also love his short story "Homage to Switzerland." I'll help you out here: listening isn't cheating: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/audio/2010/dec/08/julian-barnes-ernest-hemingway-podcast

    Hmmm, if it were me...I'm not sure. I've already done all of Joanne Harris, Carol Shields, and Margaret Atwood, but none of these were all of the author's works in a row. I just can't do that. I'd have to squeeze in a few others in between.


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