Although I would consider myself a reader, my selections usually run along the lines of contemporary fiction with an occasional historical fiction novel thrown in. Although I did enjoy several selections from Dickens in high school (both A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol) and even a Hawthorne selection (The Scarlet Letter), I do not normally tend to pick out actual literature. Especially since I have had kids. Apart from reading Jane Eyre sometime in the last decade and also Uncle Tom’s Cabin, my reading is generally lighter. I have never read through an author’s catalog of books. I decided that in 2018 that is going to change. 2018 is going to be the year that I read through all of Bess Streeter Aldrich’s books.
Although Aldrich was born in Iowa, she lived in Nebraska most of her adult life. Nebraskans definitely claim her to be a Nebraska author. Earlier this week, I wrote about taking a tour of her Elmwood home at Christmas. Several of her books are set in the Midwest area, especially in Iowa. Now before you are too impressed with my goal, I better explain something. While Aldrich was a prolific writer, she only completed about a dozen novels. A few of her “books” are actually compilations of several of her favorite short stories. If I was attempting to read through all of her magazine and short story selections, that would be quite the undertaking. Reading through all of the Aldrich novels is definitely a goal that I think that I can achieve.
Back in 8th grade, I read my first Aldrich novel: A Lantern in Her Hand. And I loved it! (Why I never read any other of her titles, I am not sure. Maybe even back then I needed classic lit to be an assignment to follow through with completing it.) Now that I am a grown up, I am excited about the task of reading through her books. Possibly at some point, I will tackle the catalog of other Nebraska authors like Cather or Eberhart. But for now, I think Aldrich is a great place to start. Being in her former home the other day definitely inspired me!
For my first Aldrich selection, I am planning on reading The Rim of the Prairie. Why this particular book? I learned the other day that each year, the Bess Streeter Aldrich Museum picks a book to focus on for that year. This is their title for next year. When I mentioned my goal of reading all of Aldrich’s titles in 2018 to the museum director, he asked if I would start with this book. This is where I get to make another fun proclamation. (Two days in a row – two fun announcements!) I will be collaborating with the museum to create discussion questions for book clubs and individuals who want to purposefully read through the book.
My hope is actually to write discussion questions for all of her books throughout the year. Since A Lantern in Her Hand was a “One Book, One Lincoln” selection a few years ago, that book at least has some formatted discussion questions. But most of the other Aldrich titles have very little expanded resources. I think this “assignment” is going to be the perfect blend of my teaching background combined with my love of Nebraska and my love of reading.
Would you also like to read through all of the Aldrich books in 2018?
In a few days, I will be announcing my Aldrich reading plan on my newly created Odyssey Through Nebraska Literature Facebook page. This is also the place where I will feature quotes and add discussion questions. If reading through her books interests you, please ask to join that closed group. Unless you happen to be my real life Facebook friend, I cannot add you to the group without either your Facebook request or without your e-mail address. So please ask to join, and I will approve you. If you are not on Facebook or would rather not join a group, the museum will have downloadable copies of the questions of at least The Rim of the Prairie. I think this will be a fun project to complete together in 2018!