Ranking the Classics: Week Two of the 60 in 60, with Swift in the Lead

When I'm not blogging for Omnivoracious, I'm primarily a fiction writer and anthology editor. This year, with an incredibly busy schedule, I decided to more or less go offline for six months to finish my latest novel, Finch. No personal blogging at my Ecstatic Days site, just guest bloggers. For my return, I thought it might be nice to give myself a little challenge, so I wrote to my friend Colin Brush at Penguin Books UK and said, "If you'll send me the 60 books in your Great Ideas series, I'll review one a day for 60 days." These beautifully designed little books are usually abridgments of longer works. Authors include the likes of Edward Gibbon, Karl Marx, and Virginia Woolf.

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Brush replied that he liked the idea and sent me the books. So for the past two weeks I've started in on what has been called by at least one friend "foolish" and by another "the endeavor of a madman." Penguin's own blog questioned my sanity. Yet, I have persevered to the end of the second week, and my 60 in 60 audacity has been rewarded by attention from, among others, the Guardian (as book site of the week) and the Harvard University Press, which urged its readers to emulate my craziness.

Every Saturday, then, I will report back to Omnivoracious readers on the prior week's reading, ranking each book I've read and turning a spotlight on the best. You can read the entire series of reviews on a special thread of my blog.

This week was a tough one, in terms of selecting a favorite. I liked pretty much everything I read. But Swift and Paine won out, one for his convoluted and hilarious satire and the other for his straightforward prose and precision.


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