Ten Tomes

I’m on holidays as of last Thursday morning, on which I delivered my Clinical Praxis Exam, a twenty-minute presentation in which all three of our core subjects were assessed. This was the semester’s apotheosis, a coming-together of all the many things I hadn’t known when starting the degree in February. After finishing I sat on a bench for a while, underdressed for the weather.

I won’t be travelling during my five-week break. [Mostly because I can’t afford it: recently I learned that I’m ineligible for government support through Austudy due to the MTeach being classified at the same level as the Master of Arts degree that I completed in 2005. I’d be receiving assistance had I (a) been enrolled in any other professional teaching course in Victoria; (b) completed my MA in 2003; (c) completed a doctorate instead of a Masters degree; or (d) enrolled in the MTeach having completed no postgraduate studies.] Instead, I’ll be spending my holidays in Melbourne, reading very long novels.

I’ve always preferred reading books to wishing I’d read them. This gap between semesters gives time to be aspirational, deleting some major titles from the not-yet list. The goal is ten, for the sake of alliteration – “Ten Tomes” – and because two lengthy books per week has an appealing ambitiousness. As I read each I’ll check in here with a book-review. I’ll also tweet updates via @philipthiel with a #tentomes hashtag.

Sourcing the books has been great fun, supported by great collections at Melbourne City Library and the University of Melbourne. Choice was constrained only by my own regulations, namely: (a) a tome has at least 500 pages, (b) each writer must come from a different country, and (c) I can’t include something I’ve read before, so options by Proust, Joyce, Milton, Dante, Chaucer, Dostoyevsky, Melville, Whitman, White, Homer, Eliot and Cervantes are out.


Nice pile, right? That’s 13410 pages, meaning that I’ll need to read roughly four-hundred a day or bleed into next semester, when a new suite of readings arrives…

They are, in reading order:

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio
Joseph and His Brothers, Thomas Mann
The Arabian Nights
The Story of the Stone, Cao Xueqin
U.S.A., John Dos Passos
The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser
The Sleepwalkers, Hermann Broch
The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu
La Légende des Siècles, Victor Hugo


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