Tournament of reading challenge

I'm also joining Medieval Bookworm's "Tournament of Reading" challenge.  I'm very excited about this one, as medieval lit has always been a favorite of mine.  Here are the rules: 

This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010. The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted right here at Medieval Bookworm. Challenge genres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction. Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe. There are 3 levels:

  • Peasant – Read 3 medieval books of any kind.
  • Lord – Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind.
  • King – Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.

I'm very tempted to go right ahead and aim at the "King" level.  Here are a few preliminary picks:


The history of the medieval world, by Susan Wise Bauer


The book of Margery Kempe (been meaning to read that for years)

The Mabinogion (read it in college, but not since)

It's going to be quite hard to decide; there's a lot I could read.  Marco Polo, The Quest for the Holy Grail, Piers the Plowman...and so on.  I'm having a little trouble thinking of a historical fiction book I want to read.  I've read all the medieval mysteries at the library and an awful lot of historical fiction really irritates me--so many of the heroines are really modern people put into a romantic historical setting so they can fix everyone with their superior intelligence and mores. 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to this one, since it will give me motivation to read a lot of things I've been meaning to get to for a long time. 


  1. Hooray - great idea, Jean! I'll be coming here to look for ideas of books to read!

  2. i am very excited for this and you gave me a really cool class project also. Thank you, you are brilliant.

  3. Hmmm . . . Dante, The Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Canterbury Tales . . . might be fun. Any recommendations for really good authentic historical fiction?

  4. I'm going to have to consult Novelist or something, I don't know of any off the top of my head. Do you suppose Connie Willis' Doomsday Book counts? :)

  5. Historoical fiction you might consider:

    Thomas Mann's The Holy Sinner.
    Novalis' Heinrich von Ofterdingen or for that matter Goethe's Wilhelm Meister or even his Faust, though I think the Faust legend sprang up sometime after 1500.
    There's always Ivanhoe.
    Or Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur, if that counts as historical fiction.

  6. Excellent. I was kind of thinking about Ivanhoe, but I've already read it once and that was kind of enough. I'd rather have something like that though. I'll look up the Mann book and the others!

  7. I haven't read the Thomas Mann book, but I've read the medieval source material (the Gregorius legends). I don't know if it's any good; it depends if it's more like the Magic Mountain than Death in Venice.

    You might also consider reading some medieval chronicles. You could knock off an English translation of the Gesta Francorum in an evening. If you want to spend a lot of time outside of western Europe, you could read Nicetas Choniates if you can find a copy of O City of Byzantium. Purchasing a copy costs about $700, so you'll want it from the library. I've been meaning to read Procopius too.

  8. So, can we hire you as a consultant?

    I am amazed to discover that the Nicetas Choniates is at Chico State; I figured it would be impossible to get now that ILL is restricted to North State libraries. That sounds interesting, only my background knowledge of the Crusades is so terrible. Maybe by the time I finish the SWB history I'll feel more prepared; Byzantium would be interesting. Procopius looks good too, and easier to get.

    Right now I'm concentrating on the SWB--it's an advance copy given out to people who promised a review at publication, which is in a few weeks. Only 200 pages to go.

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  10. ...And the Gesta Francorum is unobtainable unless I want to buy it for $140 or spend the day in the Sacramento Library reading room. I didn't expect that.

  11. Nor I. I could only fine a partial translation online:

    At Project Gutenberg you can find a medieval rewriting called The Deeds of God through the Franks. The original text was written in very simple Latin and a few people tried to brush it up. I haven't read that version, but it's there.

    Maybe I can think of a new way to market myself: "medieval literary consultant." Big bucks.

  12. Yep, that sounds like a good way to get rich, all right. Thanks for the link, I will have to explore around there, looks neat.

    I've been reading about the Franks and the Germans up to about the year 1000 (so far)--I suppose you know all about it and have read all the originals my book summarizes for newbies. :)

  13. I just realized I have a quartet by Sigrid Undsset on my shelves--the one that isn't Kristin Lavransdatter. I could get around to reading that, it's about 13th-century Norway.


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