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Assembling My Atheneum: Toni Morrison

December 6, 2011

If I had unlimited funds, which authors would I want to see filling my bookshelves? That question originally arose from my musings about my home library, and I decided to start a new series to answer it. In Assembling My Atheneum, I’ll discuss the authors whose entire works I’d love to possess, as well as which books of theirs I’ve read, which I already own, and which I’d recommend to those wanting to give them a try. If you’re curious, you can see everyone I’ve featured so far.

My first experience with Morrison was an indirect one: when I was in 9th grade, so 13 or just-turned-14, my mom and I rented the film version of Beloved, starring Oprah Winfrey. We got about thirty minutes in before we were both so disturbed we decided to just turn it off. Jump to 2006: I was 20 and about to start my senior year of college. I was home for the summer, and my family was moving from Texas to Colorado, so I went to Barnes & Noble to escape the chaos. Beloved was sitting on one of the display tables, so I picked it up, found an armchair, and started reading. After an hour, I had to go home, and so I bought the book, because not finishing it was inconceivable! Her writing was so powerful, her characters so memorable, and her plotting so stunning, I just fell in love.

Since then, I’ve read five more of her nine published novels (I’ve yet to get to her nonfiction): The Bluest Eye, Tar Baby, Jazz, Love, and A Mercy. I also reread Beloved a couple years ago. The three I have left to read are: Sula, Song of Solomon, and Paradise. Wikipedia also lists a new novel, Home, as appearing in 2012: yay! The only book of hers I actually own, though, is Beloved. I’d love to have all of hers lined up on my shelves, in matching editions!

For readers who have yet to try Toni Morrison, my personal favourites (so far) are Beloved and Tar Baby, followed very closely by Love. My least favourite is The Bluest Eye, which was her debut. I’d definitely recommend adding her to your wish list: she’s such a wonderful author! Literary in the best sense of the word. :)

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2011 6:32 am

    And I’m reading my first Tony Morrison novel just now! :) It’s A Mercy and I’m already in love with her writing!

  2. December 6, 2011 9:27 am

    I just finished “A Mercy” on audio and totally fell in love. Now I’m planning a reread of “Beloved,” which I just couldn’t appreciate in high school, and I’ve currently got “Sula” on my nightstand. Yay Toni Morrison!

  3. December 6, 2011 10:10 am

    You blog is an unalloyed joy. I didn’t know what an Atheneum was, so I read your musings about your home library and looked up Atheneum in the dictionary. “Assembling My Atheneum” is a perfect title for your project. Your saying you were born in Athens and the root meaning of Atheneum remind me of The Sense of an Ending, by Frank Kermode, which I’m currently reading. He talks about how we try to make sense of our lives by bringing together the beginning, the middle and the end. Mainly he concentrates on apocalyptic and literary fictions, though. I look forward to reading more musings.

    • December 15, 2011 11:22 pm

      Thank you Julia! What a kind comment. :) I haven’t read the Kermode: is it nonfiction?

  4. December 6, 2011 10:35 am

    I have been wanting to read Toni Morrison for literally years. I actually have a copy of Tar Baby now, so I am definitely a step closer to doing so! Next year, I’ll get there.

    • December 15, 2011 11:23 pm

      I hope you do, because I’d love to see what you make of her. :)

  5. December 6, 2011 11:18 am

    I have a hard time with Toni Morrison. She is one of those authors that I want to love, but just can’t seem to get into so far. I should try and read something else by her.

  6. December 6, 2011 11:33 am

    As a writer, I’d also like to add that Morrison has written a brilliant essay on how every writer is half-truthteller and half-flawedhuman.

    • December 15, 2011 11:24 pm

      Ohhh: what’s the title? Where can I find it?

  7. December 6, 2011 11:44 am

    she’s amazing for sure! i would love to have all her books.

  8. December 6, 2011 12:40 pm

    Toni Morrison is relatively new to me, so I have only read The Bluest Eye and Sula. I have a number of her other titles on my shelf. I’ve loved her writing, so I am sure she will remain a long-time favorite of mine.

  9. brolee permalink
    December 6, 2011 2:45 pm

    I, too, dream about the day when my home has a room devoted to shelves and shelves of endless volumes – both pristine and lovingly worn copies of my favorite authors. Toni Morrison has more than earned her place – a college professor made me read Beloved and I haven’t stopped seeking her novels out yet!

  10. December 6, 2011 2:58 pm

    I have had her on my wish list for too long. I need to set a goal to read one of her novels in 2012 or I fear another year will go by without me reading her.

  11. December 6, 2011 7:05 pm

    I have only read one Toni Morrison novel and I really didn’t like it! It is something of a relief for me to see that you didn’t really like The Bluest Eye either. Maybe I will give another one of her books a try one day.

  12. December 6, 2011 9:16 pm

    Debut’s often aren’t the best of an authors collected works, usually anyway. I own a couple of her books, but have to admit that I haven’t read them yet. She is one of those authors that I really feel like I should read, but somehow she never gets prioritised. One day though…

  13. December 6, 2011 11:29 pm

    I love BELOVED! I’ve read a few others but none has moved me in the same way. I need to read more of them…

  14. December 7, 2011 3:13 am

    I didn’t particularly like Beloved but I liked it enough to pick up Paradise, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I bought Sula not long ago on a book fair. I’d recommend Toni Morrison to ambitious readers.

    • December 15, 2011 11:25 pm

      That’s a great phrase: “ambitious readers”!

  15. December 7, 2011 8:10 am

    Thanks for the reminder, I cannot believe I’ve yet to rear her myself. Too bad I have her least favorite to start with :)

  16. December 8, 2011 4:50 pm

    I will read Beloved in 2012. I will. I promise!!

  17. December 13, 2011 5:08 am

    I’ve got to try Tar Baby and then I’ll have read all the same Morrison novels as you (which will give me great, geeky pleasure). I’m not a fan of ‘Love’ though (boo, down with Love hehe – sorry). My favourite is Beloved, followed by Jazz and The Bluest Eye was an odd experience, with lots I liked but an overwhelming sense of confusion.

    • December 15, 2011 11:26 pm

      Lol! That will give me geeky pleasure too. :) Since we’re united on Beloved, we can agree to disagree on Love!

  18. December 16, 2011 1:51 pm

    A new Morrison, yay indeed. I think I own every book of fiction that she’s published plus her Nobel Lecture. Beloved is my favorite although Song of Solomon is creeping up to Beloved.

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