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1001 Books to read before you die

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Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:09pm Top

I started on the list in earnest a couple years ago, and keep track on paper as well as on listsofbests.com I'm hoping to accomplish them all before I expire, but if I don't, I'm making a valiant effort! I'll break it down in centuries...


1. Never Let Me Go
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
3. Family Matters (much preferred A Fine Balance)
4. Fingersmith
5. Everything is Illuminated
6. Unless
7. Middlesex
8. Choke
9. Life of Pi
10. Under the Skin
11. City of God
12. The Blind Assassin
13. Pastoralia

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:13pm Top


14. Timbuktu
15. The Romantics
16. The Ground Beneath Her Feet
17. Disgrace
18. Amsterdam
19. The Poisonwood Bible
20. Another World
21. The Hours
22. Great Apes
23. Jack Maggs
24. The Ghost Road
25. The Unconsoled
26. Morvern Callar
27. The Reader
28. A Fine Balance
29. Mr. Vertigo
30. Felicia's Journey
31. On Love
32. The Stone Diaries
33. The Secret History
34. Possessing the Secret of Joy
35. Written on the Body
36. Jazz
37. Wild Swans
38. Get Shorty
39. Possession
40. Billy Bathgate
41. Like Water For Chocolate
42. A Prayer for Owen Meany (my favorite John Irving so far)
43. London Fields
44. Cat's Eye
45. The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul
46. Beloved
47. Marya (hated this book almost as much as A Passage to India)
48. Love in the Time of Cholera
49. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (this book made me a Winterson fan instantly)
50. Less Than Zero
51. Contact
52. Perfume
53. The Color Purple
54. A Pale View of Hills
55. A Bend in the River
56. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
57. The World According to Garp
58. The Shining
59. Interview with a Vampire
60. 2001: A Space Odyssey
61. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
62. The Bell Jar
63. A Clockwork Orange
64. Stranger in a Strange Land (though I'm not a scifi fan, this is one of my all time favorite books)
65. Franny and Zooey
66. To Kill a Mockingbird
67. Rabbit, Run
68. Cider with Rosie
69. Breakfast at Tiffany's
70. Things Fall Apart
71. The Lord of the Rings
72. Lord of the Flies
73. The Catcher in the Rye
74. Nineteen Eighty-Four
75. Animal Farm
76. The Little Prince
77. Pippi Longstocking
78. Rebecca
79. Of Mice and Men
80. The Hobbit
81. The Nine Tailors
82. The Thin Man
83. The Sound and the Fury
84. Amerika
85. Mrs. Dalloway
86. The Great Gatsby
87. A Passage to India (as noted previously, this is time I will never get back)
88. The Jungle

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:14pm Top


89. Dracula
90. The Yellow Wallpaper
91. Tess of the D'Urbervilles
92. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
93. Kidnapped
94. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
95. Little Women
96. The House of Seven Gables
97. Jane Eyre
98. The Pit and the Pendulum
99. Frankenstein
100. Emma
101. Pride and Predjudice
102. Sense and Sensibility

and aside from a few of Aesop's Fables, I haven't finished any of the earlier works!

Jan 6, 2011, 11:34pm Top

I'm currently reading Oscar and Lucinda and The Golden Notebook, as well as a few non-list books.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:14pm Top

102. Just finished Oscar and Lucinda... and what an interesting book...

I think this one will have to process for a bit before I decide how much I like it. It's a little star-crossed lovers, a little Austen-esque (in the character of Lucinda) and the element of faith/religion as central to the plot as well made for a lot to think about. I enjoyed the structure of the story, cut up into very small chapters, which I don't normally like. Overall, I did like it. Not sure how many stars I would give it.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:15pm Top

103. Finished Amongst Women. It was a short read, under 200 pages, and not complicated. Reading it gave made me think of my grandfather, who died when I was very young... He was Irish and proud and loved his family, but showing it wasn't his job, it was my grandmother's. I think reading about Moran and his way of expressing his love helps me understand what my grandfather must have been like, and thus, gives me some insight into my mother.

I'm glad I read this book. This one will stick with me for awhile.

Jan 16, 2011, 9:46pm Top

I've got Amongst Women set to read so thanks for the insight into that.

You say you keep track on paper and on listofbests. Have you got the spreadsheet?

Jan 17, 2011, 3:01pm Top

I don't have Excel on my computer for some reason and haven't downloaded the spreadsheet. I have copies of the '06 and '08 list on paper, where I also keep track. I use bookins.com to trade books, so I keep track of what's on my "want" list, what I have, and what I've read on the paper copy, and also check them off online. I need to get a copy of the '10 list to print and add to the stack!

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:15pm Top

104. Finished The House of the Spirits... I started this one before I started Amongst Women and perhaps because I was reading them both at the same time, I see the similarities in the stories. Both had strong female characters who relied on one another and took care of the men, despite the men having difficulties expressing love and affection. Allende's book was a saga of political and societal change as well, though. Her characters came alive very easily... though I'm still having trouble picturing Rosa with green hair!

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:15pm Top

105. Read Cannery Row tonight. At 123 pages, it was a fast read. Unfortunately, it's only on the 2006 edition of the list, so I only got to check it off in one spot.

Steinbeck proved again why he's so revered. The first sentence caught me, and may well be one of the best first sentences I've ever read: "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream." The book is like looking through the window into this tiny community, for just a brief moment in time. Reading this book gave me hope for The Grapes of Wrath, which I have yet to tackle!

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:15pm Top

106. I finally finished The Robber Bride. I have vague recollections of starting this a few years ago and getting about a third of the way through and not being able to finish. Makes me wonder what was going on at the time, because I flew through it this time around. I liked this more than The Blind Assassin. I love that the mystery of Zenia is never fully explained, and while she is the tie that binds, she isn't the main character, not really. The other three women, so different and almost stereotypical, are wonderfully developed as the story unfolds. I loved discovering them as they discovered each other.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:16pm Top

107. Just finished The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao and I think I need time to digest it. I started listening to the book (the library only had audio downloads, no actually copies) and then got a copy through one of my book trading sites, and I'm glad I started the journey aurally, for once. This book is about Oscar and his family, all from the Dominican Republic, and there is liberal use of the "n" word, especially in the beginning. Not knowing this word is coming and hearing it caused a visceral reaction! Seeing it on the page is also uncomfortable, but hearing it had an impact I won't soon forget.

Overall, the book was both gritty and metaphysical- the combination of real-life hardship and belief in fuku and zafa (simplified, bad and good luck) as a reality of existence made the tale very interesting. I also learned a lot about the DR- love when fiction teaches me some history!

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:16pm Top

108. The Death of Ivan Ilyich only took an hour or so to read, being a short novel, and this was my first foray into Tolstoy. It is, very simply, about the death of a man, and how he perceives life and death, and how that perception increases or decreases his agony and suffering. I think it would be an excellent book for discussion regarding suffering.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:16pm Top

109. I finished reading The Club Dumas and it was a great adventure! I haven't read The Three Musketeers yet, so I feel like I probably didn't get all the references as much as I could have, but it was a wonderful literary mystery.

Mar 7, 2011, 10:45pm Top

I just finished that one too and it too made me want to get a copy of The Three Musketeers. I just started another one of his -- Nautical something or other. It promises to be good so we will see.

Mar 8, 2011, 1:38am Top

I've also read The Flanders Panel, my first introduction to Perez-Reverte. That was good, but I liked The Club Dumas better. I've read some of The Count of Monte Cristo, definitely need to read some Dumas next!

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:16pm Top

110. Finished Heart of Darkness... and it's another one of those that I feel I need to digest for a bit. I was surprised how short it was. The title has so many layers of meaning, and the darkness... usually dark is evil, but Conrad masterfully gave darkness a whole range of feeling. I both love and hate books from this time period- I love them because it's a time period that is so different from the present. I hate them because they are SO wordy and the superiority of the white man is front and center.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:17pm Top

111. Re-read Slaughterhouse Five... I believe I read it in high school, but I don't recall it very well. Vonnegut is amazing. Weird, but amazing. The emotion of this book is an undercurrent, but so very present. So it goes.

Side note- I watched the film 2001: A Space Odyssey last night and did NOT enjoy it. Perhaps it was the cacophony of vocalization that was used to denote impending doom, or what seemed like HOURS of heavy breathing when one character was trying to repair part of the ship, or possibly the journey through the infinite universe that must have taken ten minutes of super bad special effects (yes, I know it was 1970, but Star Wars wasn't that long after)... I'm very glad I read the book first!!

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:17pm Top

112. Just finished Brave New World and I don't know how I've never read this before. I loved it, in a "this book makes me think" kind of way. Huxley wrote this book in the 1930's and it's amazing the foresight he had. My edition had a letter to George Orwell in the afterword, from Huxley about 1984- very interesting. Brave New World reminded me of Stranger in a Strange Land in spots, one of my all time favorite books. I'll continue to digest this book for awhile.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:17pm Top

113. Finished Surfacing. I liked it... and then I didn't... and now I'm not sure. I understand the main character's search for her father is really about searching for herself, and the fragments of her life coming together... but the ending was dissatisfying. And what's up with the American-hate? I feel like I'm missing something.

Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 3:17pm Top

114, 115. It's been two months since I finished a book from the list, but I'm FINALLY through The War of the End of the World. It's taken awhile, and with the start of summer, life gets busier, but this book was a bit of a challenge. It took me awhile to get into it, but by the first third, it was fairly interesting. It raises a lot of existential questions- who is telling the truth? Is truth just what you believe it to be? What motivates us, and to what end? One of the questions I'm left with, though, is why didn't the near-sighted journalist ever have his name mentioned??

I also "read" Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as an audio book, and am working on Through the Looking Glass while I'm in the car :)

Jul 8, 2011, 6:27pm Top

116. Their Eyes Were Watching God

I really didn't think much of this book until the end... and I read the quote that is still resonating with me:

"Love is like the sea. It's a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it's different with every shore". (dialect removed)

That made it worth reading.

Jul 9, 2011, 4:46am Top

Hello, I just thought I'd say this is my first time looking through your thread as you added to it today. I'm really enjoying your descriptions. That's very much the way I was thinking of adding to mine now I've got the bulk down. Your way of putting the books across is really lovely. Thank you!

Jul 11, 2011, 2:57pm Top

Thanks, BeeQ! That made my day! :)

Jul 15, 2011, 6:29pm Top

117. The Golden Notebook

I started this one several months ago and put it down. I picked it up again last week and flew through the middle half, only to slog through the last 150 or so pages. Perhaps this book is something I have difficulty relating to- the communist perspective, overt feminism, and such. One of the themes I found difficult was the overarching struggle for freedom, and what it meant to be a free woman. The necessity of having a man seemed to trump the idea of what it meant to be free. Disillusionment and elusive happiness made this a hard book to like.

Jul 27, 2011, 11:16am Top

118. Gulliver's Travels

I knew about the Lilliputians, of course. Everyone does. But how come that's the only well-known part of this book? The other cultures are SO interesting! And Swift was very clever to reflect the ills of his society this way. It made me wonder how the book was received when it was published. I do wish it had had a happier ending, though.

Aug 10, 2011, 12:59pm Top

119. American Psycho

I've never read a more disturbing book than this. And I've read all of Stephen King's work, a lot of Anne Rice, and several Deen Koontz. I made a comment in the August thread about the incessant listing of labels- I understand why he did it- and how annoying that was, but it got to a point where I couldn't read some of the torture scenes because they were turning my stomach. I've never had that reaction to a book before.

What I liked: that we never know find out where Patrick gets his money, the dissociative section where the point of view goes from first person to third person and back again, and the terrifying view into this sociopath's mind as he realizes he's losing control.

Aug 31, 2011, 7:30pm Top

120. How Late It Was, How Late

Hmmm... I'm not sure what to make of this book. I was compelled to finish it, though it never really grabbed me. The dialect wasn't difficult to get accustomed to, and the writing style was very interesting.

I just don't know how I feel about it. It's a weird story- guy gets in a fight with the police, goes to jail, wakes up blind, and is harassed by the police after they let him out, but no one knows for what... I think what bothered me most is that he didn't go to the hospital, ha ha! I liked that I could experience Sammy's way of thinking- much of the writing was stream of consciousness, which fit the storyline. What does he have to do but think, when he's blind and afraid? I also enjoyed the moments between him and his son- a bit of sweetness in an otherwise rather bleak story.

Sep 8, 2011, 11:43pm Top

121. Great Expectations

This was my first Dickens, and I was anticipating struggling through this book... but I flew through it, and really enjoyed the story. I LOVE Mr. Wemmick and wish I could go visit his Castle. This was a real "coming of age" story and Dickens has proved his storytelling mastery to me. I was delighted by this book, and quite surprisingly so.

Oct 25, 2011, 11:32pm Top

122. The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I guess I've been reading a lot of non list books lately... but I had the chance to listen to this one as an audio book and it was amazing. I would like to read it to see the difference in experience- the concierge's character's voice was absolutely delightful to listen to. The art and philosophy in the book were woven skillfully into the progression of the story and I love a good book that uses other literature as part of the story line! Ultimately, this book is echoing in my head and I'm a sucker for a book that resonates with me. And I want some orange madeleines!!

Oct 26, 2011, 4:02am Top

30> oh, I hadn't noticed that this book was brought in on the newest 1001 list, several people I know have been buzzing about it and I have been planning to read it...

Oct 26, 2011, 2:40pm Top

hdc, I hadn't heard anything about it, other than seeing it on the newest list. It's definitely worthy, IMO.

Nov 14, 2011, 12:33am Top

123. A Suitable Boy

My love for Indian authors continues... This was a lovely journey, albeit a long one. I struggled a bit with the political passages, as I don't know anything at all about politics in 1951 in India, but the struggle of identity was well conveyed. There are moments in the book that my mouth dropped open and I just HAD to know what happened next, a rare experience for me in most List books. One of the things I've loved most about Indian authors thus far is the balance between joy and tragedy. There is a sense that life will always contain both and one must be able to cope sufficiently with both, knowing they will exchange places. There is so much heart in this book and the feeling of family is warm, inviting, and occasionally very funny. I took my time reading this book- on lunches at work for the better part of a year- and I'm glad I did. The characters became people I visited a few times a week, friends I checked in on. :)

Nov 14, 2011, 3:58am Top

One of the things I've loved most about Indian authors thus far is the balance between joy and tragedy. There is a sense that life will always contain both and one must be able to cope sufficiently with both, knowing they will exchange places.

Thanks for giving words to my feelings towards the books by Indian authors I've read so far!

Nov 15, 2011, 8:46pm Top

124. The Fall of the House of Usher
125. The Purloined Letter

I really do feel like I'm cheating by listing these two as "books", but it's two more checks off the list! The first was very classic horror story- gloomy and dark and suspenseful. The Purloined Letter, on the other hand, felt more like Sherlock Holmes than a Poe tale. Both are short stories that only take a few minutes to read and I appreciate Poe and his use of language- made for reading aloud!

Nov 15, 2011, 9:25pm Top

Heh. I felt the same way. I was checking books off left, right and centre! I know as some point I will have to tackle the longer ones but it's so much fun to cross things off.

Nov 15, 2011, 11:52pm Top

I felt that way about those too, although they took me more than a few minutes to read. The Purloined Letter in particular made my eyes glaze over and I kept having to reread. If you're looking for another short story from the list, The Nose is available online. Ah, the sweet satisfaction of checking things off.

Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 7:24am Top

>27 amaryann21:

American Psycho I've never read a more disturbing book than this.

Whatever you do, skip the Marquis de Sade! His works were recommended to me by my HS French teacher and I was too naive to report him to the powers-that-be. Instead, I read them, and they are some of the most vivid and horrifying images I've retained from reading - for 45+ years now.

Nov 16, 2011, 3:59pm Top

Auntmarge, thanks for the heads up... I'll consider myself warned!

Dec 16, 2011, 12:27am Top

126. The History of the Siege of Lisbon

I was so encouraged by the blurbs on the cover... "hypnotic", a "comic romp"... This was not my experience of this book. I was immediately put off by Saramago's writing style (at least for this book- it's my first of his)- sentences that don't end, just continue with commas for pages at a time without allowing one to catch one's breath, pushing forward and on and not a break in sight, because there's more to cover, you see, more to take in before you can stop reading, hurry along, you musn't stop.... I just wanted to say STOP it, already!! I need a breather!

The story between Raimundo and Maria Sara is sweet and well done. I grew to like Raimundo as the story progressed. This book was a battle for me, though.

Dec 16, 2011, 10:45am Top

What you describe is sort of what I expect too. When I heard the premise of the History of the Siege of Lisbon, I thought it sounded really great. But then I read the same author's Blindness and I really hated it, so now I hesitate to try another of his books. I also have The Double, and I'm even less interested in that one. The way you describe his sentences is exactly right. Okay, back down the TBR with both of those.

Dec 16, 2011, 11:56am Top

Nickelini, it will be awhile before I attempt another of his- good to know that it isn't just me!!

Dec 16, 2011, 12:00pm Top

127. A Christmas Carol

Someone had said on the December thread that they would read this story before Christmas and I thought that was a great idea. So, I treated myself to this short book last night after my slog through Saramago and I was pleasantly surprised. I actually read about half of it aloud- Dickens is a delight to my ears as well as my brain. After having seen so many versions of this story in film, reading the original was like visiting an old friend and talking about shared stories of the past. I think my favorite line is when Scrooge tells Marley that there is more gravy than grave about him!

Dec 27, 2011, 9:50pm Top

128. Song of Solomon

This is my favorite Toni Morrison book yet. The story of the Dead family is fascinating and Morrison's use of symbolism touches the writing with a bit of magic. I learn so much about African American culture in her books.

Dec 28, 2011, 7:36pm Top

If my count is accurate, I finished 27 list books this year. Not bad, considering that's about half the books I read this year. I just got The Reluctant Fundamentalist in the mail today and it looks kinda short... perhaps I'll make it to 28!

Jan 4, 2012, 3:14pm Top

129. Siddhartha

I snuck in another book before the end of 2011 by listening to this one as I traveled. I'm glad I listened to it instead of reading it- there are definitely parts where I would have gotten bogged down or fallen asleep! Overall, a decent story that is as much philosophy as fiction. I enjoyed the maturation of Siddhartha and watching his experiences shape his thought. I'm glad to have this one checked off!

Jan 5, 2012, 12:38pm Top

27 is a great number! I am counting the days until my exams are over for good and I can get back on track.

Jan 7, 2012, 5:40am Top

>> 46

Actually I really think Hermann Hesse is overrated. I read some works of him (not all on the list), and I have to admit: I don't like them very much.

I'm german and if you want to read some great german literature of the 20th century, Thomas Mann is your choice!

There's still The Glass Bead Game and Rosshalde on my pile, but I'll only read them because they're on the list.

Jan 9, 2012, 1:23pm Top

>48 satsche: This was my first experience of Hesse and I definitely wouldn't have picked it up of my own accord. I'll look into Mann!

Jan 18, 2012, 1:34am Top

130. The Rainbow

Thank GOD that's over. If I couldn't check it off the list, I wouldn't have finished it. Way too much focus on vacillating emotions, and I never grew to like any of the characters. I suppose Lawrence tried to tie things together in the last paragraph, but it didn't work for me. Way too much "I love you, now I hate you, I don't feel connected to you" for me...

Jan 20, 2012, 5:35pm Top

131. The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I'd heard good things about this book and it was a very quick read. I liked it quite a bit- it offers a perspective that I hadn't considered and which will resonate in my mind for awhile. The way in which it was told- a Pakistani man sharing a meal with an American in Lahore without ever knowing who the American is or getting his story- was compelling and intriguing. I have a growing interest in reading non-American authors and this was a good book.

Jan 30, 2012, 1:47am Top

132. The Bluest Eye

I love Toni Morrison and it's understandable why she is so successful, upon reading this book. This was her first novel and Morrison paints a vivid picture of each of her characters and the times that they lived in. The delicate weave of this story- back and forth along the timeline, always touching back to the ongoing story- was masterful. This is one book that will resonate with me for awhile.

Jan 30, 2012, 1:57pm Top

52 - I had no idea that this was her first! Hunh... I quite enjoyed it when I read it back in university. It is a powerful story.

Feb 29, 2012, 6:58pm Top

133. The Old Man and the Sea

I loved this story! I'm so surprised that I loved it, after reading review after review about it being boring and why doesn't the fish just die already, blah blah blah.... I found the writing masterful and stirring and the story is elegant in its simplicity. This is an old man I want to know and I understand the boy's devotion.

Mar 1, 2012, 1:27pm Top

134. The Plot Against America

Very interesting... This book posits the scenario of Charles Lindbergh as President and Nazi sympathizer, determined to keep us out of WWII. Told from the perspective of a young Jewish boy, the story is pretty fascinating. The ramifications of seemingly good intentions leads to a different face of America than we know. I admire Roth's ability to incorporate a variety of historical figures in his fictional account in ways that are true to who they were. I'm looking forward to reading more Roth.

Mar 7, 2012, 10:54pm Top

135. Veronika Decides to Die

When I finished this book, I wanted immediately to start again. Not because it transported me to a world that I was sad to leave, but because it sparked so many thoughts and emotions that I wanted to see what I picked up a second time through. This short novel boils down to one essential question- what makes life worth living? This is my first experience with Coelho and I loved his writing style and characters.

Mar 15, 2012, 8:44pm Top

136. Black Dogs

This is my second McEwan. I liked this better than Amsterdam- a lot more feeling and meaning to the story, or maybe I could just relate to it better. The preface sets the tone nicely for the story and it's a quick read.

Apr 11, 2012, 10:05pm Top

137. Smilla's Sense of Snow

After reading several non-list books, I finally got around to finishing this one... What a strange, compelling story. Unfortunately, I saw the movie before I read the book, which limited my experience of the characters to the actors who played them, but overall, it was good. It seems as though a LOT of research went into this book and it left me wanting to know more about Denmark, Greenland and the relationship between the two. Smilla is an amazing character- intimate and mysterious at the same time.

Apr 12, 2012, 12:51am Top

#58 - Smila's Sense of Snow ..... I had never heard of this book before I bought the 1001 Books You Must Read, but when I read the description, it immediately appealed to me. And then a year or so later I found it at a used book store, so I've owned it now for a long time. Must get to it! But the thing that puzzles me is that I often read what you say, it left me wanting to know more about Denmark, Greenland and the relationship between the two, and on one hand I think I'm interested in that too, and on another I think, "is there anything to say?"

I didn't know there was a film!

Apr 12, 2012, 12:51pm Top

>59 Nickelini: I didn't know that Greenland was a colony of Denmark prior to reading the book, which speaks to my incredible lack of knowledge regarding European history. Also, the culture of the indigenous people in Greenland and even the culture in Denmark is something I am wholely unfamiliar with.

The film is from 1997, starring Julia Ormond and Gabriel Byrne. I can now say, having finished the book, that it was well done and follows the story very closely. But read the book first! :)

Apr 12, 2012, 1:45pm Top

I'm really going to have to bump this one up the tbr pile! I will search up the movie, but after I've read the book.

I did know about Greenland being a colony because when I was a kid, we had a world map in our basement rec room and it said "GREENLAND (Denmark)," and I remember asking my older brother what that meant ("Vikings", was his answer, of course!). Yeah, but really, who talks about Greenland? Which reminds me--I want to hunt down a copy of the book No One Thinks of Greenland.

I have a historical fiction book by Janey Smiley on my tbr pile too. It's called The Greenlanders. If you're still interested, you might want to keep your eyes open for that one.

Apr 18, 2012, 12:43pm Top

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll take a look at those!

Apr 23, 2012, 2:30am Top

138. The White Tiger

I've been fascinated with Indian/Asian/Middle Eastern novels for awhile and this one was a fantastic story in that genre. Balram is a young man who aspires to be more than he is born into because he is told by his school teacher that he is a "white tiger"- rare and destined for greatness. In a society where your job is dictated by your caste (Balram is of the caste of sweet-makers), he finds a way out, though it is left to the reader's judgement if the ends justified the means. I loved being able to look into Indian society through Balram's eyes- the bond/bondage of family, the corruption of government, the divide between rich and poor that cannot be overcome. I think this would make a very good book club selection for any group that wants an interesting story with great political and sociological discussion points.

Apr 27, 2012, 1:14am Top

139. The Picture of Dorian Gray

This is my first foray into the land of Wilde, and it may be my last. It felt like it took way too long for Dorian to figure it all out. The incident with Sibyl's brother unfolded very slowly, and I saw it coming long before his identity was revealed. I think the character who really annoyed me was Lord Henry. His belief in nothing and desire to offend all was obnoxious, but everyone loved him. Maybe I just don't get it, but at least I can check it off the list!

Apr 27, 2012, 10:12am Top

This is my first foray into the land of Wilde, and it may be my last.

Well, that shouldn't be much of a problem because that's his only novel. He wrote essays, plays, short stories and poetry. Some of his stuff is very different from Dorian Gray, other stuff a little like it.

Apr 27, 2012, 12:59pm Top

Yeah, you might want to try Importance of Being Earnest or Happy Prince for something different (but good), but Dorian Gray pretty much stands or falls depending on how the reader likes Lord Henry.

Apr 27, 2012, 1:10pm Top

>65 Nickelini: I knew Wilde was a playwright, and I've seen Dorian Gray as part of a collection of short stories. I read mine on my Kindle app on my phone, which may have added to my dislike of the book, unfortunately.

Apr 27, 2012, 1:12pm Top

>66 hdcclassic: I've seen the movie adaptation of Importane of Being Earnest- when I get over the distaste of Lord Henry out of my mouth, maybe I'll take a look!

May 1, 2012, 12:30am Top

140. Ivanhoe

My copy of this book is old, water-stained, warped and did I mention, old? It was my great uncle's book and I like to think of him as a young man, reading it and getting just as irritated with the "thee"s and "thou"s as I did! In this medieval tale of knights and battles, Robin Hood makes a surprising appearance, which led me to do a little more research in to exactly where Robin Hood comes from. The other theme that was interesting to me was the prominence of Isaac the Jew and his daughter, Rebecca. They are key characters in the book and the conflict of their race/religion vs. how well-liked Rebecca is amongst the people makes me wonder how Judaism was understood at the time Sir Walter was writing.

May 17, 2012, 11:35am Top

141. The Children's Book

I made it through!! It was a little iffy there, in spots, but I persevered! This book is heavy, both in literal weight and in literary weight. It follows the lives of a few families in England at the turn of the 19th century, the age of theosophy, Peter Pan, the rise of socialism and women's suffrage. Olive is a writer of children's stories and her family lives in an idyllic cottage, the perfect stage for a perfect English family. Byatt interjects the story of Olive and her children and their various acquaintances with historical information about the politics and social climate as they changed over the years, all the way through WWI. This must have required a tremendous amount of research, something I can appreciate objectively, but it wasn't always fun to read. Overall, the book had delightful parts and I feel as though I became invested in the fate of some characters, where others I kept forgetting who they were.

I've decided that I'm going to give books a food rating as well. I've often thought books compare to food quite nicely, and to me, they are nearly as necessary for my survival. The Children's Book is a 12 course meal, with some delicious surprises and some dishes that have to be endured. It's a meal that ultimately fills you up, but perhaps leaves you more full than satisfied.

May 17, 2012, 11:47pm Top

142. I'm Not Scared

At 200 pages, this book reads quickly and easily. Michele is a nine-year-old in a tiny village in Italy in 1978, growing up with his annoying little sister and his gang of friends. He stumbles across a secret and the ensuing drama is wonderful and terrible and captures the perspective of a young boy very well. Michele still worries about monsters at night and believes the stories about the neighbor's dog-eating pigs, but is starting to wonder about his future and looking to when he will no longer be a resident of his little village. There is an innocence that brings light to an otherwise heavy story.

Food: This is a Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean that you expected to be butterscotch and turned out to be earwax, but it really wasn't disgusting and in fact, you might just like it.

May 25, 2012, 11:20pm Top

143. Alias Grace

This is my favorite Atwood so far. The story was compelling and well-paced. Grace is a servant convicted as an accessory to murder and we meet her while incarcerated, years into her sentence. Dr. Simon Jordan is a doctor of psychiatry (or the equivalent of the time period) and is determined to find out whether or not Grace is actually insane. In their conversations together, Grace's tragic life is revealed in great detail, except for periods that Grace claims not to remember, including crucial moments of the double murder for which she has been convicted. Atwood has based this novel on true events, which lends that much more drama and mystery to the story.

Food: This book is a parfait, multi-layered and surprising. You sink into the story and make your way deeper, digging into the book to seek what lies beneath.

Jun 14, 2012, 6:47pm Top

144. The Last Temptation of Christ

I understand why this book is controversial, or at least why people are divided in their take on it. Jesus, in this story, is very human and I can understand people of certain beliefs having issues with that. What it calls to mind is what I was taught a long time ago, that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Logic says, then, that temptation would have been part of his life and seeing him as a bit more conflicted in his journey to be the Messiah isn't a bad thing.

In one part of the book, Jesus says to Matthew (who is writing his gospel and recording Jesus' words and actions) that people will read the words and not understand, interpreting only what their hearts want instead of the truth. Touche, Mr. Kazantzakis. I actually liked how Judas was portrayed and I feel like the belief/disbelief of the Jews and what they were looking for in a Messiah could be more historically accurate than, say, some of the more popular movies about the crucifixion of Christ.

The weirdest section is the last 50 pages or so. Push through, though.

Food: Olives and bread. Too simple for some, too distasteful for some, and absolutely fulfilling for others. Take or leave what you will- you decide how much you want to chew and swallow.

Jun 15, 2012, 2:56am Top

great review amaryann and your food rating system is awesome!!

Jun 15, 2012, 2:46pm Top

Yes, I love the food ratings! Really creative!

Jun 15, 2012, 7:35pm Top

Thank you both! It's something I've thought about for a long, long time, and I'm finally writing them down!

Jun 18, 2012, 12:01pm Top

I enjoyed The Last Temptation of Christ also and yes when some people were like why are you reading that???? Because it does make Jesus seem more human and plus I take it that even if there is alot of historical facts the main character are still FICTION. So I dont take everything as the Gospel Truth. And actually I had to go back to the Bible and read the differences. So it was not all in vain.

Jun 18, 2012, 1:18pm Top

Alwinn, I agree. Just as The Da Vinci Code spent some people into a tizzy, I can see this doing the same thing. It's amazing that people will believe what's written if it makes sense to them, even when it's clearly fictional.

Jun 18, 2012, 2:26pm Top

Correct. Like reading a fictional book about Jesus Christ is not going to change my faith in what is said in the Bible. I just think this book made Jesus human because that is hard to forget sometimes reading the Bible.

Edited: Jun 21, 2012, 3:41pm Top

145. On the Road

This book is an icon. Somehow, though, I'm left with the sense that I just don't get it. The title makes the most sense- this is about a young man and how he travels here and there whenever, wherever, with whomever and never really gets anywhere. But it's all REALLY IMPORTANT, in the sense of LIFE. Perhaps if I'd read this in my 20's, I would have felt more connected to it. Now, it's a little annoying. I want to shake some of the characters and tell them to grow up, stop chasing unicorns or whatever mythic experience you're looking for.

Food: This is a marijuana-induced munch fest. We're talking Doritoes, Twinkies, pizza, marshmallow fluff, whatever you can find in the refrigerator that isn't growing fuzz extravaganza. And all of it is accompanied by really in-depth conversations about the importance of life as it is perceived, which, after some sobering up, seems really trivial.

Jul 6, 2012, 10:40pm Top

146. Reasons to Live

This is a collection of short stories and they all, loosely, have existential themes. Some of the stories are a little over a page long, with the longest at sixteen pages. All are very easily read and the whole volume disappears before you know it. I didn't feel, however, than any of the stories really impacted me much.

Food: Trail mix. Some of the bits are sweeter than others, some you chew up quickly to get over them, and you can eat a bunch without realizing it.

Jul 16, 2012, 4:33pm Top

147. The Body Artist

This is my first DeLillo and I read it in roughly an hour and a half. At 126 pages, it may be short, but it's more than a mouthful. The story of Lauren, the body artist (she is a performance artist who uses her body as her medium) who loses her husband and then finds a man? a ghost? a figment of her imagination? in her home is rich, melodic, and a contemplation of time, being and presence. After finishing the book, I don't want to speak or move quickly- there's a stillness evoked that I don't want to break. This book is a song that moved through me, more than me entering into the story.

Food: This book is a mug of tea, no honey, not warm and comforting so much as bringing back memories of those you loved. It's the attempt to soothe your heart and ride out the turmoil around you.

Jul 23, 2012, 8:17pm Top

148. Brideshead Revisited

This book is a requiem for a time and way of life that is long gone. The opulence, the frivolity of old money, all while maintaining an air of religiosity and dignity, belonged to the Marchmains and Sebastian was their beloved son and black sheep. Charles, the main character, meets him at college and falls in love with him and his whole family. Thus, Charles dooms himself into their family drama and its years of decay. There is a sweetness and melancholy to the story, poignant in its remembrance of happiness that will not last.

Food: This is a glass of red wine, heavily oaked. It starts rich and full and in the end, sucks all the moisture out of your mouth with its dryness.

Jul 24, 2012, 12:49am Top

149. Hideous Kinky

The narrator of this short novel is a English five-year-old who is at the mercy of her mother's whims in traveling around Morocco. Her sister, Bea, is two years older and the envy of her little sister, because she always gets to do things first, like go to school and have her birthday. Told from the five-year-old's point of view, it's hard to always make sense of what's happening. Where is their father? What are they running from? The mother seems to be on a spiritual quest at times, only to change her mind when the money runs out. It's a unique look at a the culture of Morocco through a child's eyes, as she experiences it. I found her experiences of her mother and family dynamics quite interesting as well.

Food: This book is an almond butter cookie, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Light, enough substance to satisfy but not overwhelming. It leaves a pleasant aftertaste and melts on the tongue, just a little sweet and a little exotic.

Aug 17, 2012, 3:21pm Top

150. Catch-22

This book is a logophile's dream. Heller's use of language is glorious and witty. Yossarian is a bombardier in the American military and he is convinced that everyone is trying to kill him. Through a host of characters in the story (my favorites are Colonel Korn, Major Major Major Major and Colonel Scheisskopf- see what I mean about language?), the lines between sanity and insanity are crisscossed and questioned dozens of times. There are moments where the true horror of war is revealed, but these are few and far between. Mostly, the story displays the power of spin and how it's a matter of perspective, no matter how illogical it seems.

Food: Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. From the first movie, though, not the second. I ate the story up, delighting in each word and image, but there's some darkness and danger as well, and things aren't always what they seem.

Aug 17, 2012, 4:06pm Top

151. The Time Machine

I read this on the Nook app on my phone, so this was my have-a-few-minutes-with-nothing-to-do book. Also, reading it on an electronic device is still something that feels strange for me and I think it influences my feeling of the story. Everyone knows this story and there were few surprises. I liked the genuine emotion portrayed- the bond between the Traveller and Weena and his horror in finding out what society had become. There is a feeling that the Traveller had unlocked Pandora's box and was forever changed. He had found the end of the story and couldn't go back to ignorant bliss. I loved the ending of the book.

Food: This book is a solitary picnic at the beach with a sandwich on an overcast day. This is a quiet story that evokes some emotion, but is primarily thoughtful and gives the reader a little something to chew on while comtemplating the bigger picture.

Aug 24, 2012, 1:11am Top

152. The Accidental

A stranger shows up at the holiday home of Michael, Eve and Eve's children, Astrid and Magnus. Eve assumes it's one of Michael's "girls", Michael assumes she's there to interview Eve, and no one ever asks why Amber is there. She touches each of them, gives them something they need, whether they know it or not, whether they want it or not. And it doesn't necessarily help them in the way they would like, but the experience stays with them. The book is written in in three sections, the beginning, the middle and the end, with each divided into between Astrid, Magnus, Michael and Eve. I enjoyed the style in which it was written and overall, enjoyed the book.

Food: Sour lemon bars. They make you pucker and you kinda wish for a bit more sweetness, but in the end, it was refreshing and stays with you for awhile.

Aug 28, 2012, 2:17pm Top

153. The Thirty-nine Steps

Richard falls into an international plot of murder and espionage when his neighbor shares a story with him, just prior to the start of WWI. He becomes a murder suspect and bears the burden of getting the information he knows into the right hands. The synopsis is more exciting than the actual novel, however. This book is under 100 pages and while a lot of things happen, it doesn't seem quite... enough. Everything wraps up too neatly and several plot points seem glossed over completely.

Food: a chicken salad sandwich when you really want a cheeseburger. There just isn't as much meat as you were hoping for.

Sep 11, 2012, 9:44pm Top

154. The Handmaid's Tale

Ah, another journey into dystopia. How I love a good dystopic novel! I have now finished all the Atwood on the list(s) and apparently I saved the best for last. I finished the book in less than 2 days of spare reading time and found it, obviously, compelling and highly readable. I hesitate to include a plot synopsis because I enjoyed letting the plot unfold when I was reading it. I knew, going in, that women were subjugated to property in some fashion, but that's all I knew. I particularly loved how the book concluded- Atwood is so clever.

Food: I really had to think about a food rating for this book. I've decided it's a green apple, just slightly unripe, after not having an apple all summer. There's a bite to it, both in flavor and texture, and you want it to be just a bit sweeter, but it satisfies and you definitely finish the whole thing, and you even relish the little bit of bitterness.

Sep 12, 2012, 1:15am Top

I just love how you find a food reference for all your reading. A green apple is good for A Handmaid's Tale, although I'm not sure I would have come up with that. But I would have come up with a red pepper or something probably not that different. It's not dessert, not meat .....

Glad you enjoyed it and feel you saved the best for last. I've read all the Atwoods from the 2006 list too, and loved them all, except Surfacing, which I liked. I think I should reread it though.

Sep 12, 2012, 11:22am Top

>90 Nickelini: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoy them. Surfacing was toward the bottom of the list for me, too, but I honestly struggled the most with The Blind Assassin. I don't know why that one was so hard for me.

Sep 12, 2012, 3:17pm Top

ummmmmmmmm I currently reading The Blind Assassin I about have way through and loving it just wished I had more time to read. That pesky boyfriend and work always gets in the way.

Sep 12, 2012, 3:43pm Top

>91 amaryann21: Stupid life getting in the way of reading! Don't they know we have important things to accomplish? Like The List??

I'm glad you're enjoying it more than I did. I can't even really put my finger on what I had trouble with, to be honest.

Sep 12, 2012, 4:06pm Top

Boy do I need to proof read my post I look like an idoit. I forgot to put the M in Im. SORRY GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sep 12, 2012, 6:35pm Top

155. Smiley's People

George Smiley is a retired spy who is called back into action when one of his friends and agents is murdered. An old nemesis has resurfaced and only George has the skills to get to the bottom of it and reel him in. This is my first le Carre novel and while I appreciate the espionage and mystery, I feel like I didn't know what was going on most of the time. There were sections that draaaaaaaaaaged, and then a moment or two of action, then more back story again. It finished well, however.

Food: This is the Ukranian dinner I went to a few years ago. I had no familiarity with Ukranian food and tried some of everything. There were multiple courses and some of it was absolutely delicious. Most of the time, I had no idea what I was eating, but dessert was a sweet finish. I'd love to have it again, now knowing a bit more of what to expect.

Sep 14, 2012, 10:18am Top

156. The Namesake

This is a book for everyone, I think. There's so much of life in its pages. It doesn't matter that it has specific cultural ties- it's about family, growing up, relationships, and finding your own way. Gogol's parents are Indian and set about life in the traditional Bengali way, all except for his name. He is named after his father's favorite Russian author. Gogol's name becomes the millstone around his neck. To tell anymore would be a spoiler, I think. There is a wonderful lyrical feel to the book without being written in prose. Emotion is conveyed well without slapped in the face with it. The subtleties rise to the top as you read due to Lahiri's skillful writing.

Food: I keep thinking of garlic naan. It's simple, bread filled with chopped garlic, but it has a more complex flavor profile due to how it's cooked. Some bites can be more bready, others a bit bitter, some warm and nutty and satisfying. It's sad to see it end.

Sep 14, 2012, 1:52pm Top

As always, completely loving the food ratings!! The chicken salad sandwich Thirty-Nine Steps was brilliant, and I also agreed on Hideous Kinky and The Body Artist. I have not read many of the books you have rated but I have a feeling for which ones I'd like to read...

Sep 14, 2012, 2:09pm Top

>97 annamorphic: Thank you! Glad you enjoy them and can relate! I think reading sustains me almost as much as food, so it's a natural pairing!

Sep 17, 2012, 7:52pm Top

157. Castle Rackrent

At just under 100 pages, this book is a little jaunt through the history of an Irish town and it's succession of landlords, as told by one of the servants of the household. Apparently, this novel is significant because of the time of it was published and because it brought attention to the conflict between the classes in Ireland, a different perspective from the religious conflict. Easily readable, this book is more interesting historically than as remarkable literature.

Food: a pint of ale in a cozy pub with a good friend. This story is something you sit down and hear as if from an old-timer who knows how to spin a good yarn.

Sep 25, 2012, 1:16pm Top

158. The New York Trilogy

There is something compelling about Auster's writing. This trilogy, three stories about searching for someone and how it affects the searcher, was masterful. It is one of those books that I will chew on for awhile, because I know I didn't get it all at once, but it resonated. Like a song that you hear and there's something about it you like, but you can't put your finger on it, this book has appeal that is hard to name.

Food: a tasting menu of three courses of steak, starting with tartare, then grilled flank steak, and finishing with filet mignon. There's a lot of story in these stories, but they are easily consumed. Each has it's own flavor and character, but they complement each other. Each require time to savor their unique complexity. And in the end, you'd order it all over again.

Sep 26, 2012, 11:35pm Top

159. Before Night Falls

I suppose this is an important book because it was written by a writer who survived the fall of Batista and escaped Castro's regime to the US and was able to tell his story. He chronicles the oppression and persecution of intellectuals and homosexuals, how no one was to be trusted, how your friend and lover was informing on you to the police. However... this was not a book that I enjoyed. There was way too much sex- it was in every part of the book, even a discussion of the author getting mugged and how it ended in "making love". I understand that living in an oppressed culture and being able to tell your story freely when you are able is a liberating experience- as he says several times, when he came to the US, he could scream. I appreciated learning what a difficult journey it was. I just didn't like hearing about the sex every other paragraph.

Food: Spinach salad. It's good for you, because it's got fiber and nutrients, but you don't want a lot, or for it to be the only component of your meal. It's okay in small doses, and you want to get it over with quickly sometimes.

Oct 2, 2012, 11:03pm Top

160. Delta of Venus

50 Shades of Grey by someone who could actually write (disclaimer- I've never read 50 Shades, nor do I intend to, after being told by numerous people that I would hate it. I fully admit to my book snobbery).

Food: chocolate-covered potato chips. Indulgent and best consumed a little at a time.

Oct 3, 2012, 1:40am Top

Ha! I seem to be hitting all the effed up erotica in response to the 50 Shades of Grey nonsense. Sure Story of O was probably a lot better written, but sexy it was not. I'm hoping The Story of the Eye isn't so disturbing as that. I should probably just follow your lead and read Nin and lay off the creepy stuff for a bit.

Oct 3, 2012, 11:14am Top

Fun- there's a little creepy in there with Nin, but sexy is the goal and is achieved well. The foreward in my edition talked about the effort to connect emotion with sex, not just describe the act alone, and I think that effort was accomplished.

Oct 3, 2012, 5:21pm Top

Good to know, I'll have to track down a copy.

Oct 9, 2012, 1:20pm Top

161. The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Maybe this is one of the books I just don't "get". It was interesting, lovely in spots and a little boring in others, but mostly focused on Communism and the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, as it affected the main characters. There's a lot of philosophy- not formal philosophy, but philosophical thought- about lightness vs. heaviness, the soul and the body, what does love really look and feel like, etc. It was interesting enough, but nothing earth-shattering. I wonder if I am too American for this book.

Food: tapas. This was a lot of little plates, some delicious and some only so-so. A nibble here and there and it made a complete meal, but only a few bites were memorable.

Oct 11, 2012, 9:58pm Top

162. Invisible Man

I finally finished this behemoth. It's not as long as some on the list, but it FELT longer than it was. This story is about bigotry and race from the point of view of a young black man from the South who goes to Harlem. He is recruited by "the Brotherhood" because of his passion and eloquence, but finds himself used as a tool to further the mission of the Brothers, which he quickly learns that he never truly understood. It's a perspective I will never experience firsthand. I'm not foolish enough to believe a lot of the passion in this book doesn't have a place in today's world. I imagine this book had a much bigger impact in the 1940's when it was published.

Food: Grandma's homemade linguine. When I was a kid, dinner at Grandma's meant her fresh linguine, and I didn't like it. I was used to dry pasta, so fresh had a different feel to it. It was okay, but I didn't want a whole plate. But since Grandma had slaved over making the pasta AND the sauce AND she loved you so much, you had to eat until it was gone. It was heavy, filling, and about halfway through, you just wanted to stop eating, but you had to push your way through to the end.

Oct 13, 2012, 2:34pm Top

163. They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

"A lurid tale of dancing and desperation" is how this book is promoted on the front cover. Lurid? Not so much. This is a story of Robert and Gloria, partners in a dance marathon during the Depression. The particulars of the dance marathon were pretty interesting, if they represented how these really used to proceed. Gloria is depressed and wishes she was dead most of the time. Robert wants to be a movie director. Things don't end well for all the characters you actually care about.

Food: a hot dog with mustard and relish. A quick meal, enough meat and spice to satisfy, but not overwhelming.

Oct 13, 2012, 7:57pm Top

I saw part of the movie version ages ago on tv and to kid me at least it was pretty horrifying.

Oct 13, 2012, 9:54pm Top

Fun- I can see where it could be, I suppose. I'd like to see the movie to see the discrepancies. I'm the person who loves Stephen King books and can't watch the movies, though- "lurid" in my head vs. on screen are two very different things.

Oct 15, 2012, 2:13pm Top

164. The Marriage Plot

I can add this since it's on the newest incarnation of the list. I read it about a year ago, so it's a bit hazy in my brain. It wasn't as good as Middlesex, not even close. I got through it quickly, but I don't remember it being very satisfying- almost like he was trying too hard.

No food rating since it was awhile back.

Nov 5, 2012, 12:58am Top

165. Miss Lonelyhearts

Miss Lonelyhearts is an advice columnist and gets letters from people whose lives are filled with misery. He attempts to communicate a message to them and is struggling with his own crisis of faith. Is there really anything out there, or is misery just something we must accept?

Food: a double IPA. Bitter, cold and not something I enjoy.

Nov 14, 2012, 6:54pm Top

166. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Ghosts, aliens, Electric Monks, and a sofa stuck in the stairway- sounds like a typical Douglas Adams story. I prefer the Hitchhiker saga, but this wasn't bad.

Food: Steak fries. I prefer shoestring fries, but all fries are good. Steak fries are good for awhile, until they get cold, and then they're okay. This story had yummy parts and parts that were a little soggy.

Nov 20, 2012, 2:50pm Top

167. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Joe and Sam are cousins with a penchant for comic books. Joe has just come to the US from Czechoslovakia as WWII is looming, and he a skilled artist and magician. From there, the story follows their adventures together and separately into adulthood. I struggled with this book until about 400 pages in, when the story finally grabbed me. I kept reading a chapter or two and putting it down for a week before I picked it up again. I saw this book on a list of must-read young adult fiction and it baffles me that this would be targeted for young adults. The language is very sophisticated and some of the plot lines are more adult in nature. Overall, I liked the book and am glad I finished it. It was slow-going there for awhile.

Food: a mediocre meal followed by great dessert. This is like going to a friend's house where you know their mom makes fabulous cake, but knowing you're going to have to sit through tuna casserole and iceberg lettuce salad first.

Nov 20, 2012, 7:43pm Top

#114 - Funny you mention that --I just opened my mail order of this book. It's my book club pick for early January, and I figured I should get a jump on it. So many people rave about it, but it just looks like ??? to me. Doesn't really look like something I'd like, but I'm open to it. So, you can understand my distress when you say it took you 400 pages to get into! That's crazy! Possession took me 200 pages, and I thought that was completely unreasonable!

Nov 20, 2012, 8:55pm Top

Nicklini- it wasn't hard to read at all. I struggled with Byatt, too, because her work is so wordy. I am still trying to figure out why Amazing Adventures took me awhile to get into- I hope you have more success than I do!

Nov 20, 2012, 11:40pm Top

I'm trying to approach it with a good attitude, but I'm not a fan of long books to begin with . . . but thanks!

Dec 13, 2012, 12:41am Top

168. Love in a Cold Climate

I did not expect to enjoy this book, but it ended up being a charming little story. Very tongue-in-cheek, this novel is told from the point of view of Fanny, cousin to Lord and Lady Montdore and their beautiful daughter Polly. She observes their lifestyle and habits and the changes that occur with Polly's marriage and the appearance of an heir to the family fortunes. Fanny is a wonderful narrator, never judgmental, just reporting the judgments of others, and always patient and kind with everyone. I loved the spirit of the novel- chiding, but gentle. A fun, fast read.

Food: plum pudding. A warm treat that echoes times gone by.

Dec 18, 2012, 10:47pm Top

169. Naked Lunch

Sex, drugs, insects, and decay- the recurring themes of the book. I get that this is a satirical commentary on society. It was not enjoyable to read. It didn't make sense, there was no discernible story line, and I felt like I was reading Bret Easton Ellis from the 50's in its focus on drugs, materialism, and the consumer-based society that was portrayed. It wasn't a difficult book to read, but I found my attention waning far too often.

Food: refried beans. Gloppy, messy, structure-less, and only tolerable in small doses.

Dec 31, 2012, 12:49am Top

170. Solaris

I saw this movie, and I didn't get it. When I got the book, I thought, "Finally, I'll understand what's going on!"

Or not.

Solaris is a planet that is composed mostly of an ocean of plasma, which may or may not have consciousness. Kelvin/Kris has arrived at the space station and discovers one of the scientists has killed himself, but no one is willing to tell him why, exactly. He discovers his dead wife has joined him in his quarters when he wakes up one morning, very much alive. Other visitors, as they refer to them, have inhabited the station and the other two scientists aboard and Kelvin have discussions about how and why and what the visitors are and how it has affected their experience there. All of this is interspersed with a history of the research of Solaris, which is far more boring than it sounds. At the end, I still don't get it.

Food: a piece of artisanal bread, elaborately toasted and buttered, described in minute detail by the waiter, served on a fine china plate. Then you bite into it and discover it's just bread that could really use more butter.

Dec 31, 2012, 7:19am Top

Oh boy, I've seen both the Russian and American versions of the film (both equally bad.) I too was hoping that the book version of Solaris would be better... disappointed to hear that it isn't!

Jan 9, 2013, 10:05pm Top

171. The Lost Language of Cranes

Philip is the single child of Owen and Rose, and he is searching for love. When he finds romance with Eliot, he feels the need to come out to his parents. Unbeknownst to Philip or Rose, Owen has struggled with his own homosexuality for years. Thus the stage is set for how honesty and revelation will affect each of them, individually and in their relationships. There was a lot of story to this book and it was well-written. The characters had a lot of life and the conflict presented to them was easily experienced as the reader. The book felt like both a snapshot and a complete journey.

Food: Venison. There was a lot of meat to this book, lots to chew on. But not everyone will like it, and some would avoid it without even trying.

Jan 31, 2013, 2:30pm Top

172. Silk

I started reading this book and thought, "I know this story!" I inadvertently saw the movie a few years ago- must have been a night when I'd had too much caffeine and was trying to lull myself to sleep. The movie is... eh. The book, however, is beautiful in a lyrical way. Herve is a Frenchman who is sent to get silkworm eggs from Japan. He falls in fascination with a woman in the village there. I'm sure he would call it love, but it's more the idea of love than actual love. Perhaps that's what lends the dream-like quality to the story. It's a very short book- my edition was less than 100 pages.

Food: meringue. As much air as substance, light, and a touch of sweetness, meringue is delicious when done well. It needs the right balance and an experienced hand.

Feb 7, 2013, 12:40pm Top

#120 Truly awful isn't it! After about 80 pages I just wanted to scream and throw it across the room. Dull dull and full of DULL fake science!

Feb 7, 2013, 1:15pm Top

#172, I can imagine that the movie of Silk would be blah. The point is that it's so delicate and fine, the book like the thread that forms its pretext. Movies are rarely like silk. Meringue is a good food for this. I think I need to read The Lost Language of Cranes soon; I love venison.

Mar 18, 2013, 12:23pm Top

173. Wise Blood

I haven't been doing enough reading lately. I started this book a few months ago and am finally finished. It wasn't hard to read- I've just been on a TV binge.

This is my first Flannery O'Connor. I don't know if I get it, completely. There's this undercurrent of faith vs. doubt and relationship vs. isolation and acceptance vs. denial... but the story line was just weird. What was with the mummified dwarf man? Is Enoch crazy? Are they all just suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Food: plain oatmeal. It's not hard to eat, and Mom says it's good for you, but really, it could do with a little sugar or something.

Mar 20, 2013, 7:06pm Top

174. Life and Times of Michael K

So, as it turns out, I don't hate J.M. Coetzee, I just hated Disgrace. This book was a whole different story. Michael K attempts to take his ailing mother out of the war-torn city, back to the countryside of her youth, and during the journey, she dies. He is left alone and spends time in and out of camps and hospitals, always trying to get back to... what? No one can figure him out. Part Two of the book is written from the perspective of a doctor who desperately wants to know Michael's story. Michael is misunderstood by everyone he meets and does nothing to correct their ideas of him.

There is a freedom in Michael's story that quietly rails against the war that the story is set in. Michael is his own person and doesn't need anyone's permission or acceptance.

Food: this is something whole, simple, unassuming. A potato, perhaps, baked in the coals of a fire at the end of a long day of work. Filling.

Mar 20, 2013, 7:20pm Top

So, as it turns out, I don't hate J.M. Coetzee, I just hated Disgrace.

You actually made me laugh out loud. Disgrace is the only Coetzee I've read, and although I see the talent there, it was too unpleasant for me. I know I'll read him again, but not in a huge hurry. Glad to know it's not just me and that he's worth another try.

Mar 21, 2013, 6:05am Top

"To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness." (Flannery O'Connor).
No sugar for you.

Mar 22, 2013, 1:49am Top

Apr 23, 2013, 12:06am Top

175. The Life of Insects (touchstone wasn't the right one)

I am left wondering if something was lost in translation with this book, something that my American brain just doesn't quite grasp. I do believe that I am missing a lot of the Russian cultural and historic references, for sure. But this is... weird. Are the characters always insects, or are they in human form sometimes, too? This was a strange, philosophical journey seen through bug eyes.

Food: Popcorn without enough butter and salt. Easy to consume, but not really something I enjoy.

Apr 23, 2013, 12:14am Top

This was very helpful. I will not read The Life of Insects. I will give Coetzee another try since, like you, I detested Disgrace. I'm not sure whether I finished it and whether I put it on my 1001 list or not, but it was the kind of book that did leave me thinking "never again."

Apr 23, 2013, 12:35am Top

I hear you on The Life of Insects. I liked the premise, and how the different insects represented different aspects of Russian society. But there were just too many times when you couldn't tell if you were reading an insect's story or a human's --and all within one sentence. Let's blame it on the translator.

(don't get why the touchstone isn't working--I've touchstoned that book before with no problems)

Apr 23, 2013, 4:15am Top

Hmm, I rather liked The Life of Insects. And thought that the uncertainty what level of antropomorphisation the reader should apply and shifting between insects and humans was a major point in the book...

Apr 24, 2013, 1:03pm Top

#132 I'm glad you find my reveiws helpful! I'm encouraged to try more Coetzee- just got Foe the other day, and it may be next on my list.

#133 I like blaming it on the translator. Brilliant.

#134 I agree that it was a major point in the book. I think it frustrated me, though, and I don't know enough about the cultural aspect of the book to make it engaging.

Apr 29, 2013, 8:03pm Top

176. Cocaine Nights

I didn't know what to expect from a book titled "Cocaine Nights", so I was surprised when I really, really liked it. Charles' brother, Frank, has been accused of multiple murders in a tiny resort town in Spain and has pleaded guilty. Charles travels to the town to investigate what happened for himself, knowing his brother could not have harmed anyone, let alone killed several people. Estrella de Mar is a thriving, exciting town with an interesting cast of characters. Charles falls into the charms of some of the more charismatic among those characters and the result is a dive into this murder mystery, way down into the dark underbelly of what drives us all to have "successful" society.

If this book isn't a movie, it needs to be. I loved the slowly unfolding plot lines- slow enough that it builds anticipation, but not too slow that it's frustrating. The characters really were fascinating and it's left to the reader to decide who's telling the truth, if such a thing really exists.

Food: This is a murder mystery dinner. As the courses go on, more clues are revealed, and all the food is themed to go with the dinner. Dessert is served with rich, dark port and carried in under a cloche, waiting until the last minute to be revealed as...

Apr 30, 2013, 11:36am Top

#136. Sounds good. I'm unsure on Ballard - hated Crash but enjoyed The Drowned World. These books are quite different and it sounds like Cocaine Nights is different again. An interesting writer.

Apr 30, 2013, 10:47pm Top

#137 This was my first Ballard. I didn't realize how many there are on the list!

May 1, 2013, 12:03am Top

Didn't you read Empire of the Sun when it was our group read? It's really brilliant, left a deep impression on me. I find myself talking about it often.

May 1, 2013, 1:18am Top

#139 I did not... I'm bad about participating in the group reads. I aspire to be better. Sigh.

May 1, 2013, 9:08pm Top

177. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture

This is a novel about math. I'm not sure a less appealing statement could be made about a book (perhaps "this is a biography about math"?), but I actually didn't mind it. There was enough non-math-related content to get me through it's 200-page length.

Uncle Petros was a mathematician and his nephew feels compelled to find out what happened, because Petros is known as the family failure. The short novel is a discovery of math for the nephew and a discovery of his uncle's life and obsession. I'm not sure I can explain more than that- a lot of the figures in the book are real and I'm sure the math is, too, but I have not the interest or ambition to find out.

Food: a turkey sandwich with mayo. Sustaining, but not very exciting unless you're REALLY into turkey.

May 2, 2013, 4:07am Top

lol wow as someone who hates math I might just try and tackle James Joyce before Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture.

May 2, 2013, 4:42am Top

Ooo, a book about maths! Just going to add that to my wish list....what, only me?

My favourite "popular" maths book (non-fiction) that I would recommend to anyone who doesn't like (school) maths, but wants to give it another go is Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh

May 2, 2013, 10:01am Top

#142 I am no fan of math, either, but it was very readable. There were only a couple spots where my eyes started to glaze over. And at just over 200 pages, it goes quickly!

#143 I'm happy that someone will appreciate it! I'm thinking of recommending it to my math teacher friends.

May 11, 2013, 11:09am Top

178. Shikasta

Shikasta is a planet, originally called Rohanda, that has been colonized by aliens. Well, they don't call themselves aliens, because it's told from their perspective, but the book is a collection of narrative, letters, reports and quotes from the alien history books regarding Earth, er, I mean, Shikasta. Why the name change from Rohanda to Shikasta? Because the colony started to destroy itself and get violent and exploit the land and each other, due to the influence of Shammat, another alien planet/colony/force.

Confusing? Yeah, a little. I imagine this book had more impact when it came out in the late 1970's. It still carries a lot of political messages and discussion of propaganda (now I just expect it from Lessing) but for the time, the discussion about pollution and such may have been newer than it is now. What it boils down to is if we aren't taken care of and given instruction by the benevolent aliens, we'll all destroy each other.

Food: the buffet at your great-uncle's retirement party. Some of it isn't bad, some you really have to chew on because it's overcooked, and some you really can't identify. Meanwhile, the toasts are by people you don't know and the jokes are only kind of funny, but your mom is happy that you went without a fuss.

May 12, 2013, 11:41am Top

179. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon

This is a story about a small Brazilian town, about its growth from a backwards outpost to a flourishing, civilized city. It's also about Gabriela, whose skin is a shining cinnamon and smells of cloves. The book is delightful- the characters are memorable and the story, while reflecting values and expectations of a time long gone, is fun and kept me engaged. There was a balance between the life of the town and the individual lives and loves of those who live there. I also enjoy the way Amado divided the story into chapters. That may sound silly, but you know what I'm talking about!

Food: Because Gabriela is a cook and Ilheus is a cacao town, I had to really think about this book. I decided it's a handful of freshly picked cherries, still warm from the sun, eaten as you swing in you hammock on a beautiful summer day. You relax and savor each bite, spitting the pits over the side of the hammock. Some bites are a bit more tart than others, and some have a perfect sweetness.

Jun 6, 2013, 1:37pm Top

180. The Elementary Particles

Bruno and Michel are half-brothers who never really knew their mother very well. They didn't meet until they were mostly grown up and neither was raised by their father. Did this impact how they developed as adults, Bruno obsessed with sex and Michel unable to connect with other human beings? Perhaps. Interspersed with their story (which is anything but linear) are snippets of quantam physics, biology, sociology, economics, and other blurbs of theory. At first, this was irritating, but then I found connection to the story within them. The main themes in the book are sex, love and death. I found it all a little bleak, but there are spaces for hope. There's a pretty good twist in there, too.

Food: This is a beverage, like a spicy bloody mary or dirty martini. It's something sipped, with a little kick. Gulping it would be too much, as it's meant to be savored.

P.S. I would love to know how to pronounce the author's last name correctly, because when I look at it, I hear "hollaback" in my head...

Jun 6, 2013, 2:22pm Top

My best guess would be Whaler(silent r)-beck.

Jun 6, 2013, 2:56pm Top

#148 I'm sure anyone's guess is better than mine. I suck at pronouncing non-American names.

Jun 6, 2013, 2:57pm Top

It is difficult to pronounce. I say "ollebäck".

Jun 6, 2013, 4:51pm Top

I googled it because I was interested too and found an article discussing a number of author's names and how to pronounce them:


and they say it's 'Wellbeck'

Jun 10, 2013, 12:43pm Top

Thank you, kiwiflowa! The mystery is solved!

Jun 17, 2013, 9:24pm Top

181. White Teeth

Archie and Samad are best friends. They are from different countries and different cultures, but they are bonded by the experience of war. The story follows them, their children, and their histories as times change and the culture they are accustomed to changes drastically. The characters are easy to get to know, but the story lags a little here and there. I thought it was a good story, not a great story.

Food: slightly overcooked steak. Good flavor, but you have to chew it a little longer with some bites.

Jun 21, 2013, 9:28pm Top

182. Libra

Libra is the fictional story of Lee Harvey Oswald's life, from beginning to end. It's also the story of the researcher who is trying to find the truth to write a report for the CIA,sorting through the overwhelming amount of data being sent to him. The book also follows a number of peripheral characters, including Jack Ruby and other names I should probably recognize if I could retain any amount of American history. Truth be told, I had a very difficult time keeping track of who was who and definitely gave up trying after awhile. I think this book would mean more to my parents' generation who lived through this event, or a history buff who loves the "what if" of conspiracy theory. I did not enjoy DeLillo's way of changing the voice (first person to third person to first person) with no distinction. Confusing.

Food: tuna noodle casserole. I never loved tuna noodle casserole. Sure the crunchies on top were yummy, but I had to pick around the mushrooms from the cream of mushroom soup and everything just seemed to squish together without any real texture and I didn't like mushing though my dinner. It feels like it comes from a different era, belonging to the time of aspic and ambrosia salad. Perhaps that's where it should have stayed.

Jun 21, 2013, 10:29pm Top

I'm amazed at how you carry on this food theme so well . . . and it makes your reviews so fun to read. I haven't had tuna casserole in years (not the sort of thing my family would eat, although I loved my mom's when I was growing up), but I'm thinking it sounds yummy right about now. Not sure I want to read the novel though.

Jun 21, 2013, 11:36pm Top

I loved Libra when I read it some years ago. But I also went through a phase of obsessive reading about the Kennedys when I was in high school, so I kind of fall into your second category of people who'd like it. The only other DeLillo book I've read, White Noise, I didn't enjoy at all.

As for tuna casserole, I didn't particularly like it when I was a kid, but it was still one of the less objectionable things my mother served.

Jun 23, 2013, 11:21am Top

183. Howard's End

Howard's End is a house, one of several owned by the Wilcox family and an unwitting player is a drama that was much more exciting than A Passage to India. The Miss Schlegels, the Wilcox family and Leonard Bast and his unfortunate wife mix and mingle in various configurations throughout the the story and reach, in my opinion, a very satisfying end.

Food: a gin fizz on a warm summer evening. A drink to sink into that isn't too heavy, a little old fashioned, and dances on the palate, it's something to enjoy with good company at the end of a beautiful day.

Jun 23, 2013, 11:25am Top

#155 Thank you! It's kind of fun to feel out the "flavor" of a book. I'm glad you enjoy it!

#156 Thanks for verifying my theory. I have no great love for American history- I find it interesting in a distracted way, but mostly I just feel my brain go numb. The only DeLillo I've read other than this was The Body Artist, which is very short and strange. This does not bode well for the 5 left on the list...

Jun 25, 2013, 11:34pm Top

184. The Talented Mr. Ripley

Tom Ripley is a con artist, but not a good one. He's fumbling through life, not really sure how to make a go of anything, until the father of an acquaintance offers him a chance of a lifetime for someone like him- a paid trip to Italy to convince his son, Dickie Greenleaf, to come back home. Tom jumps at the chance to get out of NYC and sets out on his adventure. His talents are developed over the next few months, to his advantage and not so much to the advantage of anyone else. This was a very easy read and the story moves quickly, for the most part. I have not seen the movie and now I'd like to. It was hard to get a sense of the time period, so I did look up when it was written (1955). I felt the emotions Tom went through were portrayed accurately, drawing me into the story effectively.

Food: movie theater popcorn. I can easily eat a whole bucket, but it's not filling. It's a great snack, but you'll need dinner later.

Jun 30, 2013, 5:19pm Top

185. Tipping the Velvet

Nancy starts her life as an oyster-girl in Whitstable. She is entranced by a masher, a girl dressed in man's clothing and performs in the local music halls. She is drawn into the performance world of London and also into a closeted relationship with her co-star, the masher from the music hall. This is the start of a journey of ups and downs and Nancy's exploration of love and sexual relationships. This is Waters' first novel and while the characters are well developed, the book felt a bit agenda-driven and a little clunky in spots. I much preferred Fingersmith.

Food: oyster stew. It's a divisive food, something you love or hate and some find distasteful. There are bites that have more flavor than others, some with more meat and some just broth. Overall, if you're into in, it's super tasty.

Jul 4, 2013, 1:05am Top

186. Sexing the Cherry

Jeanette Winterson is a masterful storyteller. Some authors are good novelists and some use language in amazing ways, but my favorite are those that tell beautiful, engaging stories. This is my third book of Winterson's and I'm more impressed than ever.

This book is about time and journeys and love and transformation. It starts with the Dog-Woman and her adopted son in the mid-1600's in England, but the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses and modern-day issues also play a part. Time doesn't exist, not in a literal way, and instead time and each of us is like mercury, splitting into identical little pieces when spilled on the floor, but just as easily coming back into one seamless piece when gathered together. It'll make more sense when you read the book, promise.

Food: a pomegranate. One fruit, made of a handful of tiny, delicious jewels, taking time to peel apart and savor.

Jul 12, 2013, 6:44pm Top

187. Shroud

Did you ever finish a book and think, "I get it, but I don't know if I REALLY get it..."? This was one of those. I'm pretty sure there's layers of meaning or inferences that went completely over my head. But I'm okay with that.

Alex Vander is a crotchety old man who leaves for Turin from the US when he is contacted by someone he's never met regarding a secret in his past. But this isn't really about that, not completely. Nothing happens the way I thought it would and I would stop every once in awhile and think, "What is really going on?". Alex's past and future meet in his present, in the experience of meeting the stranger who knows his secret. I kinda liked it... I think.

Food: this is a dinner party observed through a window. You can't hear what's being said, but you can make out what they're having, who's interacting with who, and you can start to distinguish relationships and personalities. It's entertaining and mysterious and all on the outside, looking in.

Jul 12, 2013, 11:59pm Top

188. An Artist of the Floating World

Ono was an artist, a painter. He is now in the autumn of his life, watching his children start families of their own, and has time to reflect on the course his life has taken. He was a young man in Imperial Japan before WWII and made a decision to use his art to promote ideas about a strong Japan, instead of honoring the ideas of the age- art is for beauty.

I love Ishiguro's style. His stories are paced perfectly and reveal the story a little at a time, making them compulsively readable. He also makes me think. I'm a sucker for an author who makes me think. Another thing I loved reading in this book is the conversation- the subtleties of Japanese discourse.

Food: cold noodle soup, delicate, floral, full of umami. You need to take your time to appreciate the flavors. It's different and unexpected and delicious.

Jul 28, 2013, 8:53pm Top

189. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I made the mistake of watching the movie first. I couldn't help picturing Johnny Depp and Danny Trejo all through the book and it wasn't as pleasant an experience as it could have been. Raoul Duke and his attorney spend a weekend in Las Vegas with a car full of drugs, alcohol and grapefruit. Duke has been hired as a journalist to cover a desert motorcycle race and then the national police conference on drugs.

Not much makes sense. It's not supposed to. They are never once sober and the book couches their activities in the political and social atmosphere of the time- 1971. I got through it alright, but it wasn't my kind of story.

Food: salt and vinegar potato chips. Easy to eat a whole bag at once, if that's the flavor you enjoy. Personally, one is enough for me for a year at a time. Too sharp and strong and not to my taste.

Sep 2, 2013, 5:53pm Top

190. Wuthering Heights

I think I prefer Charlotte. This story just didn't do it for me. I mean, I know some people hold grudges, but whoa! Heathcliff is a little too intense for my tastes.

Food: cooked carrots. I prefer mine raw. It's a little too much of one texture and taste and not enough... crunch.

Sep 2, 2013, 7:08pm Top

Mmmmm. Salt and vinegar potato chips. (I'll skip the book though)

Sep 4, 2013, 4:09pm Top

I think Wuthering Heights you either love it or hate it. I personally loved it.

Sep 4, 2013, 4:29pm Top

Yes, it´s "wellbeck" if you try to pronounce it like In France.

Sep 5, 2013, 2:56pm Top

167- I think you're right- though I didn't hate it, I'm definitely in the "dislike" camp. I wanted to love it, I just couldn't get there.

Sep 14, 2013, 10:18pm Top

191. Brighton Rock

This book could also be called The Fall of the House of Pinkie. Pinkie aka The Boy is the very young protege of Kite, the former head of their gang in Brighton. The Boy has inherited the gang when a rival gang took out Kite and he's determined to make a go of it. He comes up against a threat he just doesn't know how to shake, Ida, and it pushes him to extraordinary lengths.

The theme is salvation and damnation, Heaven and Hell. In the end, they're all just Brighton Rock, which is rock candy sold on the boardwalk in Brighton. It makes sense when you read it.

Food: Tavern fare- something cheap, meaty, wrapped in pastry. Common, but filling and sticks to your bones.

Sep 22, 2013, 11:26pm Top

192. Fear of Flying

I really wasn't sure about this book at first. It felt really dated and I'm sure it was shocking at the time, but color me jaded- the ideas presented aren't revolutionary anymore. And then I got to the end and the journey was worth it. It's still a little self-indulgent and if you don't remember the context (first published in 1973), it feels a little like someone's mom remembering her "glory days", but there is a story to relate to here, for men and women.

Food: At first, I thought this was aspic- trendy for the time, everyone was doing it, but something I don't find tasty in the least. And then I got to the last 3% of the book and realized those last couple chapters were ambrosia- still a little dated, but more enduring of the test of time.

Sep 22, 2013, 11:33pm Top

feels a little like someone's mom remembering her "glory days",

Ha ha ha. That's great. I read it a hundred years ago when I was about 18, thinking it would be racy and then finding it sort of icky and boring. Not sure I could reread that one, but you intrigue me.

Sep 25, 2013, 11:53pm Top

193. The War of the Worlds

This is the classic story of Martian invasion. Having seen the old and newest versions of the movie and heard the radio broadcast, it was interesting to see what was right from the story and what was adapted.

Food: s'mores around a campfire, listening to a scary story. You know everything is going to be okay, but the thrill is just enough to be scary.

Oct 18, 2013, 6:19pm Top

194. Love Medicine

Love Medicine is probably the first book I've read about contemporary Native Americans. It's a jumbled-up story, jumping around in time between characters, but their lives all intersect in various ways. The struggles of alcohol, living on "the rez", discrimination and oppression are part of the story, but not the focus. Each character has their moment and the story-telling is good, simple, drew me in. This is a difficult book to summarize.

Food: hot dog. Not gourmet, not something you get excited about necessarily, but simple and makes the hunger go away.

Nov 1, 2013, 1:18pm Top

I am dismally behind my usual pace for the year, but I suppose getting married and buying a house will do that. Now that THAT'S over with, more reading!!

195. King Solomon's Mines

This is the first tale of Allan Quartermain, a hunter and adventurer in Africa (possibly South Africa? I wasn't sure). He meets up with a couple of his buddies (Sir Henry and Good) and they go in search of Sir Henry's brother, who had disappeared on a quest for the fabled treasure of King Solomon's diamond mines a couple years before. This is a good, old-fashioned, adventure story and it doesn't fail to thrill. There are encounters with animals and native tribes and the success or failure of their journey is held in suspense until the very end.

I liked the story, racist and Euro-centric as it is. I understand it was written in 1885 or therabouts and can take that into consideration. It belongs with Journey to the Center of the Earth and the like- fun, light, and somewhat fantastical.

Food: this is a campfire cookout. It's hot dogs cooked on sticks, no vegetables, and s'mores for dessert. Rustic, rugged, and just good fun.

Edited: Nov 20, 2013, 11:59am Top

196. No One Writes to the Colonel

The reitred colonel and his wife are destitute and have been waiting for over a decade for his pension. They have pinned their hopes on their son's rooster, the best fighter in town, but the fight is a few months away. The town reminded me of the town in Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon- small, rustic, hoping for better times. The story is short and slightly enigmatic. The theme is hope vs despair- you decide which wins.

Food: a cup of black coffee. I drink my coffee with milk and sugar, so the only way I'd drink it black is if I was desperate for a caffeine hit. Black coffee, to me, is a little bitter and needs something to make it more palatable.

Nov 19, 2013, 4:58pm Top

Ha - I read this one today as well! :-)
And.. there isn't really food that could go with it, with those people starving themselves to feed that rooster. You'd feel guilty for only thinking of food while reading I guess.
My edition also has a couple of short stories (which I am planning to read over the next weeks), but I guess the list asks just for this novella?

Nov 20, 2013, 11:59am Top

>177 Deern: Yes, I believe it's just the one story on the list. My copy had a few other stories as well. As to the food, too true!

Nov 24, 2013, 2:44pm Top

197. Breakfast of Champions

Ah, Kurt Vonnegut. Always an adventure, and you never really know what you're going to get. Kilgore Trout is one of the main characters in this novel and he is making his way to an arts festival to tell everyone how deluded they are, thinking art is enlightening. His final collision with Dwayne Hoover, who is sinking into his own madness, is fated and violent. I don't know why I like reading Vonnegut, but I do, even when I feel like some of the point is flying straight over my head.

Food: Cracker Jack at a local political rally. Easy to munch while getting a message that you may or may not be paying much attention to, but it's not hard to consume.

Nov 24, 2013, 10:51pm Top

198. Black Water

Finally, a book by Joyce Carol Oates I didn't hate! This is my third attempt of this author and I flew through this short novel. This is Oates' interpretation of Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident. She does a fantastic job of capturing the young woman's state of mind, her background, her star-struck-edness, and the emotions come across as genuine, instead of overwrought (as I've experienced some of her other novels). I finished the book in a matter of an hour and a half, clearly an easy, quick read.

Food: an unripened orange that looks ready to be eaten. Enticing, until you get it open and it's sour, almost bitter. You keep hoping the next piece will be sweeter, but alas, all is not as you'd hoped.

2 more to a major milestone!

Nov 25, 2013, 8:46am Top

Any big plans for which book will be your 200th?

Nov 25, 2013, 1:21pm Top

>181 japaul22: I'm currently reading Babbit, Midnight's Children and Candide. It's a toss up which one will fall on 200, but my goal is before the end of the year!

Nov 26, 2013, 9:05pm Top

199. Midnight's Children

I think Salman Rushdie and I are destined not to be friends. It just feels like work, every time. And while I love magical realism with some authors, it feels overwrought and drawn out in this book. This is the story of Saleem Sinai, born on the stroke of midnight on the day of India's independence. All the other children born in that first hour, as well as Saleem, seem to possess supernatural powers of one kind or another. The story follows Saleem's family, back through grandparents, through his life to its (maybe?) end. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the history of India, I would have followed this book better. I can understand the appeal of Rushdie to a certain audience. He's very descriptive and paints a picture over and over again.

Food: a marketplace full of street vendors, all with different foods. There are a multitude of smells and sounds and everyone tries to get your attention, but it's a little overwhelming and disconcerting and sometimes you can't even tell if you're going the right direction. Some bites are delicious and some you can't even really tell what you're eating.

Nov 27, 2013, 12:10am Top

That's an excellent description of Salman Rushdie, right down to the food (I often get overwhelmed in those situations and end up not buying anything and leaving hungry). That said, I do like him, but Midnight's Children wasn't my favourite. I also find his non-fiction much more readable. I plan to read more of him, but I've taken a break for a few years already. Often an author's so called masterpiece is the place to start, other times it's not. I think in Rushdie's case, it's not. But I still don't know what is.

Nov 27, 2013, 9:41pm Top

200. Candide

Candide is a victim of happenstance. He falls into all sorts of horrible situations, but always come out smelling like a rose. Because everything that happens is for the best.

Reading this was kinda fun, actually. It's humorously satirical, even when the humor has an edge to it. I like the soap opera aspect- people that you thought were dead somehow keep resurfacing! The point I took away was that if you aren't working hard at something, you're going to be unhappy.

Food: an apple with a rotten spot that you don't see until you bite into it. It tastes great until- yuck! But, hey, you still enjoyed most of it, right?

Nov 27, 2013, 9:42pm Top

>184 Nickelini: I read The Ground Beneath Her Feet as well, and same reaction. Only four more on the list. I'm going to give him a rest, though, before tackling another!

Nov 28, 2013, 12:00am Top

Oh, for some reason I got the impression that Midnight's Children was your first. Sorry! I read The Ground Beneath Her Feet and I think I liked it better, just because it didn't seem as self-important.

Nov 30, 2013, 7:30pm Top

Congratulations on reaching 200! Here's to many more!

Nov 30, 2013, 10:49pm Top

Perfect book to reach the big 200 with! Congrats.

Dec 2, 2013, 3:42pm Top

Thank you! Now, for the next 100....

Dec 27, 2013, 12:10pm Top

201. Lolita

You know the story, right? Humbert Humbert, the European charmer who is in love with little girls, marries a woman to get at her daughter? This is about pedophilia and obsession and, I suppose, about love in some fashion. I can't stop my therapist brain when I read books like this- the crazy leaps out at me and I just feel... disturbed. It IS beautifully written. It's very difficult to appreciate the beauty of the writing when the subject matter is corrupted. I do think it is a powerful story from the perspective of a pedophile- the belief that it is truly love, a worship of the child, etc. And the narrator doesn't defend himself, he acknowledges his disease and the damage he has done, and also that he just can't stop.

Food: a beautful peach, warm from the sun, looking to be perfectly ripe and juicy... until you bite into it and discover it has rotted from the inside.

Jan 8, 2014, 9:56pm Top

202. Babbitt

Oh, silly Babbitt. Don't you know you can't have original ideas AND be successful?

I think this book successfully captures an era of American history, pre-Depression, when the sky was the limit and the European idea of being a member of "society" was very much in vogue. Over the course of the novel, Babbitt finds himself becoming dissatisfied with his life and trying new things, much to the peril of his good name and reputation. He has a mid-life crisis!! I think the most telling line of the story is, "...I've never done a single thing I wanted to in my whole life!"

Food: Moxie. Now, I've never had Moxie, but I've heard it's an acquired taste and something very popular in certain regions at a certain time. It doesn't sound tasty and I don't ever wish to try it. It had its time and that time is over, thank goodness.

Jan 14, 2014, 10:57pm Top

203. A Tale of Two Cities

The emotional impact of this story is not something I had planned on, especially since the first 150 pages were a slogfest. This is a story of the French Revolution, sure, but also of Doctor Manette, a former prisoner of the Bastille, and his lovely, gracious daughter, and Mr. Lorry, the bank employee who is a business man above all things, and Mr. Cruncher (LOVE his name!) and Miss Pross, loyal servants to the last. I love the characters. I love the story. I didn't want it to end, and that hasn't happened in awhile.

Food: a rich, full-bodied, red wine. Jewel-like in the glass, smooth and warming, a little oaky, but balanced. Perhaps, at first sip, it wasn't what I thought I wanted, but it ends up being exactly what I needed.

Jan 14, 2014, 11:31pm Top

Nice comments on A Tale of Two Cities. I was a bit disappointed with it myself, but I think I was expecting too much, and like you say, there's that whole slogfest section. I should read it again sometime. The old woman knitting stands out for me--she was so creepy! (Can't remember her name at the moment).

Jan 15, 2014, 9:57am Top

>194 Nickelini: Madame Defarge, one of my favorite literary bad girls!

Jan 15, 2014, 10:48am Top

>194 Nickelini: & 195 Madame Defarge was WAY creepy and a fantastically developed character. She was hard core bad girl- well done, Mr. Dickens.

Jan 18, 2014, 12:43am Top

204. The Devil and Miss Prym

Miss Prym is the barmaid in a tiny town in the mountains, and she is the one who makes the stranger's acquaintance and is privy to his diabolical proposal. He's looking for the answer to the question: are people good or evil? The story is short, easy to read, and profound in a very approachable way, which has been my experience of all of Coelho's work I've read thus far. The message is clear, but not preachy. In the author's note on my edition, Coelho discusses this book, Veronika Decides to Die and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept as a trilogy, all with the theme of what can happen to change ordinary people's lives in just one week. I like that his characters are very ordinary, flawed and confused and trying to find their way- very easy to relate to.

Food: an apple. Like, Garden of Eden style. Simple, but loaded with symbolism and meaning.

Jan 23, 2014, 6:34pm Top

205. Jakob the Liar

Jakob lives in the ghetto, as WWII rages on and the Germans persecute him and the rest of the Jews. He accidentally hears a report that the Russians have reached a town not terribly far away and spreads the news to his neighbors and friends. When asked how he came by this information, he told them he had a radio (because they wouldn't have believed how he REALLY heard it). He perpetuates his initial lie and becomes a beacon of hope for the ghetto, but to what end? Is he feeding them false hope? Is he actually making it worse? The story calls into question the difference between living and surviving, what the role of hope plays not only in those Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust, but for all those facing impossible circumstances. In the end, I just wanted to hold them- Jakob, Lina, Rosa, Mischa, all of them. I've never hugged a book before, not out of compassion.

Food: a cup of black coffee, half drunk, with a half eaten macaroon. Bitter, sweet, unfinished.

Jan 27, 2014, 1:07pm Top

206. The Crying of Lot 49

I think it's safe to say I am not meant for most postmodern fiction. Or at least Pynchon's postmodern fiction. This book was frustrating. I got some of the references- picked up on the Lolita stuff, probably because it's relatively fresh in my mind- but I felt like too much was over my head and it made me tired, rather than intrigued. The payoff wasn't there for the amount of work required. I could try to describe the plot line, but I think I'm better off not.

Food: super high end, modern cuisine, with lots of molecular gastronomy, foams and gelees and all put together with tweezers and looking like art, not food. Not sure what it all is and it all has fancy names, you don't even know where to start and if you enjoy it.

Jan 27, 2014, 1:26pm Top

Re. #205, you are the first person in our group to read this one! Make a note of it on the 1001 Progress List. It sounds good, I might read it some day too. I like coffee and macaroons. You do not make Pynchon sound very enticing (I always suspected as much), even though I do quite like super high end modern cuisine ; -).

Jan 27, 2014, 1:28pm Top

>200 annamorphic: Thanks for letting me know! I haven't looked over that thread enough lately. I'm happy to have knocked one off!

Jan 27, 2014, 7:39pm Top

Food: super high end, modern cuisine, with lots of molecular gastronomy, foams and gelees and all put together with tweezers and looking like art, not food. Not sure what it all is and it all has fancy names, you don't even know where to start and if you enjoy it.

Interesting! Doesn't sound very food-like though. I think I liked The Crying of Lot 49 better than you. I definitely thought the premise and or plot (is there a plot?) was very interesting, but for me the execution didn't work so well. I did think the ending was pretty good, and liked how he dropped in what the title meant (but then I'm sorta into thinking about titles and how they work with the book--this was a good example for me). I'd actually like to reread it, but not sure it will ever happen.

BTW- I passed my copy on to my sister-in-law who reads everything, and she really, really disliked it and didn't get it.

Jan 28, 2014, 12:44am Top

>202 Nickelini: I'm glad someone liked it. I see it's potential, surely, but it wasn't for me. I agree, the premise and where I could detect a plot, those were interesting. I felt like Pynchon was trying to do something rather than just write a book, if that makes sense.

Jan 28, 2014, 12:52am Top

207. Birdsong

I started this for the group read for February and finished it too quickly. Oops.

This is a beautiful story with horrible bits of ugly in it. The story is Stephen Wraysford's, his affair with Isabelle and then the descent of WWI. I've never been a fan of war literature, but this was different- this was humans at war, without apparent agenda. Jack Firebrace, Weir, Gray, Ellis... these men, thrown together to battle the enemy, were afraid and sad and alone and missed home and just wanted to survive. I loved the descriptions of the trenches, as much as I didn't like reading them, if that makes sense. The story comes full circle in the best way possible. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Food: steak tartare with cold, white wine, radish salad and warm bread with lots of butter. Raw, sharp, luscious, refreshing, comforting, and filling. It's a complete meal, not necessarily one you expected, but it doesn't leave you wanting.

Feb 2, 2014, 10:42pm Top

In going through my spreadsheet and hard copies of the list, I discovered my record here is incorrect and I have read 209 from the combined list. I'm not sure what books I've left off- that's a project for another day- but I am less driven to find out tonight only because my spreadsheet and hard copy agree. On to #210!

Feb 4, 2014, 8:16pm Top

210. Cat's Cradle

The narrator (who remains nameless, or else I missed it) is writing a book on the atomic bomb and in researching one of the scientists who created it, becomes involved in the culture and politics of a small island nation called San Lorenzo. This book had a plot line that was slightly easier to follow than some of Vonnegut's other works, and is equally as entertaining. The philosophy is also very approachable.

Food: rum punch in a nuclear holocaust. The book is very fatalistic, but a light-hearted journey toward the apocalypse.

Edited: Feb 13, 2014, 12:03pm Top

211. At Swim, Two Boys

Jim and Doyler grew up together in a small town outside of Dublin. They're good friends who grow apart, but find their friendship again as teenagers. The setting is Ireland in 1915-1916, as World War I is going on and the events leading up to the Easter Rising were building. The themes are love- love between boys, love between men, forbidden love, love of country, and love of family, and war- within oneself, within one's country, and WWI. The story took a bit to pull me in, but I think that was more about getting used to the Irish parlance. Having a little knowledge about the timeline of Irish independence is probably helpful, but not necessary. Overall, the emotion of the book and the sense of true Irish storytelling is beautiful and heart-wrenching.

Food: a Bruised Apple. It's a drink that has other names, too, but its half a pint of hard cider with half a pint of Guinness floated on top. It's strong, with dark and bitter mixed with sweet and light. It's a contradiction that's well balanced and delicious.

Feb 13, 2014, 12:16pm Top

but its half a pint of hard cider with half a pint of Guinness floated on top

Is that a thing? It sounds like a waste of perfectly good cider to me.

Based on your comments, I'll save this one for after I've read more Irish books. If I still own it, that is--I loaned it to a friend and not sure she returned it.

Feb 13, 2014, 3:29pm Top

It is definitely a thing, and more delicious than it sounds! I think it may also be called a Snakebite?

Feb 19, 2014, 8:27pm Top

212. Vineland

This is my second read from Pynchon. I think we are not friends. The book seemed much more about characters than a story and that's frustrating to me. It's not hard to read, just difficult to "get". Characters flash back and forth through their lives with no transition and sometimes it takes a re-read or two to figure out what's going on. The story has something to do with drugs and ninjas and affairs with crazy DEA agents. Oh, and television addiction. And zombies.

Food: this is a trail of M&M's, meandering through all kinds of crazy terrain, sometimes doubling back, and you have no idea who's laying them out before you. When you get to the end, you have a bellyful of candy, but was it really worth it?

Feb 20, 2014, 7:29pm Top

213. Therese Raquin

That little book packs a punch! According to the blurb on the back, this story was accused of being pornographic and being "putrid literature" when it was released in 1868, and I can understand why it was described as such, though I disagree by today's standards. Therese has been raised by her aunt alongside her sickly cousin and it's the only life she knows. Their marriage is a foregone conclusion. They move to Paris and Therese meets Laurent, one of Camille's (her cousin) coworkers. She falls in lust, they have an affair, and suddenly, Therese and Laurent MUST be together, but HOW? It's a soap opera, but without the melodramatics. Or, at least, the melodramatics are portrayed accurately and not as genuine. I was impressed with Zola's use of the psychology of the day. The couple devolves more and more into insanity and the pace of the last 50 pages or so flies.

Food: popcorn during a horror movie. You eat it not because you're hungry, but the compulsion to chew reminds you you aren't part of the film. You watch the gruesome story unfold, captivated and munching away, until the very end, which leaves you a little weary and desperately in need of a beverage.

Mar 25, 2014, 3:17pm Top

214. Watchmen

This is the first time I've read a graphic novel, and I feel like I understand the appeal of comic books a little better now. "Comic" implies humor, at least in my head, and this compilation of a comic series in one book is anything but funny. There are a couple of wry comments by certain characters, but the story is bleak, yet compelling. Costumed superheroes have come under fire and are now outlawed, but not everyone is obeying the ban, and now a "mask killer" has emerged. The serial format worked well for this story and I was happy to not have to wait for the next installment.

Food: This is fast food, for sure, but with a bit more staying power. It's Panera, soup and sandwich. You get it fast, but it actually fills you up.

Mar 27, 2014, 10:24pm Top

215. A Visit From the Goon Squad

I have to admit, every time I saw this title, I thought of The Princess Bride and Billy Crystal's line, "You ARE the brute squad!". Sadly, Andre the Giant does not feature in this book. But there is a little bit of magic.

Sasha works for Bennie as he's on his way out of the music business. But that's just a little bit of the story. The book wanders through different parts of their lives, into their past and future, with side routes into the lives of their friends and family until sometimes, it's hard to remember who is who and how they're all connected. It's gritty and soulful and hard and soft and a little lost, but the music plays on through it all.

Food: corn beef hash with your buddies at a greasy spoon after a night of drinking and messing around, when you're young and you know you'll never have as little responsibility as you do right now.

Mar 31, 2014, 11:24am Top

216. All Souls

The visiting professor from Spain is attracted to Clare the first time he sees her, and in Oxford, where it's more important to "be" than to "do", her married status is immaterial. Their affair is central to the book, though not in the way you'd expect. The book is our unnamed main character's reflection on his time at Oxford after he's returned to Spain and resumed a normal life. It's very cerebral, non-linear, and mostly interesting. It's just over 200 pages, so it doesn't require a large time investment, but there's not a lot of action, so for me, it asked for more of my concentration than some books do.

Food: half of a ice cream sundae, melting in the sun, when your eyes were bigger than your stomach and it wasn't as good as you'd hoped, anyway. There is remembered sweetness, but in retrospect, it was wasn't spectacular.

Mar 31, 2014, 11:28pm Top

217. Vertigo

You know you have too many books in your TBR pile when you get one from the library, not knowing it's in the of the boxes of books you have at home. And you don't realize it until you mark it off as read on your spreadsheet, only to discover you own it. *sigh*

Vertigo is a book in four acts. Two are at least semi-autobiographical, and the other two are set in the distant past, but are referenced in the other sections. The common thread seems to be visiting places with history, both universal and personal, and this is often overwhelming, giving a sense of vertigo. I feel like some of this went over my head because I don't know enough about the history of some of the places or about some of the artists and artwork referenced in the book. I enjoyed the writing style and it was easy to read. This was Sebald's first novel.

Food: the Turkish Delight from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Sometimes the memories of childhood have a price.

Apr 3, 2014, 5:58pm Top

218. Neuromancer

I don't read much science fiction. It tends to bore me, because I don't really get into the jargon. However, this book was a thrill ride!

Case is an interface cowboy, a hacker, and he's down on his luck, looking for the next quick job so he can buy another hit. Molly, the girl with mirrors for eyes and scalpel blades under her fingernails (just some body modifications), recruits him for a job that will involve some serious cash and some serious hacking. With very few details, we plunge into the world of the future- Rastafarians in zero gravity, artificial intelligence, and a sociopath who can project holograms with his mind.

It was exciting and confusing and I confess, I did have to consult the Wikipedia page after I finished it to understand it a little better. Apparently, this book helped cement cyberpunk as its own genre, and this book did win three science fiction awards. For a non sci-fi reader, this was FUN.

Food: a couple of tequila shots, followed by a Red Bull and Pixy Stix chaser. Be prepared to enter a different universe and have your mind bent a lil bit.

Apr 9, 2014, 6:56pm Top

219. A Heart So White

Juan is an interpreter and a translator and he's newly married. Luisa, his wife, is in the same line of work as he is, and they're pretty happy. Except Juan isn't really sure marriage is happy, objectively. Because once you get married, there's no more abstract future and you do the same thing with the same person day in and day out and there's no "what if" anymore. Kinda cynical view of marriage, if you ask me, and as a newlywed, it didn't sit well. I wanted to argue with him.

As the story goes on (with long passages of rambling about relationships and marriage and such), we find out Ranz, Juan's father, has a few skeletons in his closet. It's worth sticking it through to find out what they are, but there's some slogging to get there.

Food: this is dinner out with a boring uncle who tells the same stories over and over and over, but when you think you've heard it all, he tells one shocker that makes you wonder if you really knew who he was after all.

Apr 10, 2014, 12:42am Top

220. The Turn of the Screw

This is a gothic ghost story. It does a great job building the tension, slowly, slowly, toward the ending. A lot is left open to interpretation, which is both intriguing and irritating. At just over 100 pages, it's a quick read and well worth the time.

Food: toasted marshmallows over a campfire, out in the woods. Great creep factor.

Apr 16, 2014, 10:26am Top

221. Stone Junction

After finishing the book last night, I needed to find out more about Jim Dodge. He grew up on a commune, and there are definite influences on his writing. Also, he may have written half of Stone Junction and then put it away for awhile, coming back later to write the second half. There's an obvious shift in feeling just over halfway through, so this is believable as well.

The story is about Daniel and his mother. She met with tragedy early in his life and he was taken in by AMO: Alchemists, Magicians and Outlaws (though there is some disagreement about what the M and O stand for). He is given instruction on lock-picking, safe cracking, disguises, and gambling. And then, when he's ready, he's sent on a mission.

This is where the book gets a little (more) weird. Things are a bit more disjointed, all of the characters start to go a little (more) crazy, and while it mostly comes together in the end, there isn't the same sense of cohesion that the first half had. There is magic in this book, literary and otherwise, and I loved the story. It's an adventure like none I'd experienced before and a great outlaw tale.

Food: bacon-flavored cotton candy with a beer. I've had bacon-flavored cotton candy and it's this strange, yet pleasant, combination of meaty, smoky, sweet, light deliciousness. And the beer just washes everything down and gets you ready for the next mouthful.

Apr 18, 2014, 8:03pm Top

Already four books read in April?! Good job!

Apr 19, 2014, 10:30am Top

Thanks, paruline! I'm trying to get ahead of my goal, knowing the summer is coming and my pace will slow down. And I finally have a library card in my new town!

Apr 21, 2014, 6:17pm Top

222. Here's to You, Jesusa!

Elena befriended Jesusa, who related her story. Jesusa was a solderada in the Mexican Revolution. She followed her father and then her husband into the war. She lived a life of poverty and was often homeless. This story is harsh and beautiful and painfully real. It's a story of survival, from the point of view of a woman I would love to have met.

Food: sour Skittles. Hard and bitter on the outside, soft and sweet inside.

Apr 23, 2014, 12:58am Top

223. Thousand Cranes

This is a very short novel about a son encountering his father's lovers. Set in Japan, Kikuji has lost both his mother and father, but two of his father's mistresses are still women he encounters regularly. There isn't a whole lot of action in this book, but there is a subtext that flows under each interaction. And through it all, the tea house and tea utensils carry the weight of love given and love lost.

The feeling of this book is clean, simple, but meaningful. It invites the reader to look beyond what is being expressed overtly, but quietly. There is a beauty to the story that resonates.

Food: the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. On the outside, it looks simple, just making tea. But there is ceremony, meaning to all of it.

Apr 27, 2014, 2:30pm Top

224. Notes from the Underground

This was a struggle for me. I had to read aloud for the first 30-40 pages just to maintain my concentration, which is very out of character for me. The narrator rants for awhile, about what I'm still not entirely sure, except that he muses about why he's writing this and who he's addressing, since no one will ever read it. Then he tells a story about going to dinner with some former friends (a term loosely used at best) and he unravels. The recurring theme, though, is that this is all about HIM, not about anyone else or the effects of his actions on anyone else.

I'm sure I'm not appreciating the importance of this work. It was the longest 91 pages I've read in a long time, though.

Food: sour grapes.

Apr 28, 2014, 6:51pm Top

>224 amaryann21: I think you're the first person that adequately expressed how I felt about this book. I definitely read it at the wrong time and did NOT enjoy it at all.

Apr 29, 2014, 6:04pm Top

ELiz_M, I'm glad I'm not alone!

May 1, 2014, 9:53pm Top

225. A Gate at the Stairs

There is something about this book that makes me feel how I want a good book to make me feel. You know what I mean- that feeling of satisfaction and sweet melancholy that it's over, but knowing that it's never REALLY over, because this book was one of the ones that made it down deep and it'll always be a part of you. It's been awhile since I've found a story like this.

Tassie is a college freshman who finds a job as a nanny with Sarah and Edward. They are adopting a biracial toddler and need help, as Sarah is a full-time chef and Edward often travels for work. That's where we start. Where we end, the world looks and feels very differently.

The writing is magnificent. The evocation of emotion is subtle, yet not at all. It's just... right. Lorrie Moore has a gift.

Food: I had this dark chocolate bark with flake salt not too long ago. The salt is so fine that it just melts over the top, and so you don't get a grain of salt, you just get a touch of it, like the sea mist from the ocean on your lips. The sweetness mixed with the bitter notes, with that kiss of salt is perfectly balanced and you savor it, letting the flavor roll around in your mouth.

May 2, 2014, 12:53am Top

Your review makes me long for that mixed feeling of satisfaction and melancholy. I am gonna order the book right away!

May 2, 2014, 2:34am Top

#228 - That's funny!

#227 - I've heard mixed things about this book, but your review sounds great. I think it's available from the library to download as an audiobook, so I'm going to look out for it. Thanks for your comments.

May 2, 2014, 1:37pm Top

Nickelini, I read several reviews after I finished the book and I can't disagree with what some of them say, but I think some things that bother people (not tying up all the loose ends, for example) don't bother me. The book is a coming-of-age story in a post-9/11 world, but not overtly so. It hit all the right notes for me. I hope you enjoy it! I think it has the potential to be fantastic as an audiobook.

May 2, 2014, 6:00pm Top

I hate it when I finish a book I think is on the list and then it isn't. Factotum isn't a list book, is it?

May 3, 2014, 12:10am Top

226. Ethan Frome

This is my first Edith Wharton and I'm wondering why it took me so long to read her work. This is a touching story of Ethan Frome and his tragic life, and how, at one time, it could have been different. It's a short book, only a little over 150 pages. I love the imagery, the small town in mid-winter, the horses and sled, the cold and the fire warming the kitchen.

Food: sourdough toast. Simple, quickly consumed, the right amount of sour, but not off-putting.

May 3, 2014, 12:09pm Top

#226, Edith Wharton's books from the list have been wildly uneven to me. I was completely put off by Bunner Sisters but then The Age of Innocence was one of my rare five-star reads. Ethan Frome I'd read in high school and liked it a lot back then.
Thanks too for review of A Gate at he Stairs, sounds like one I'd like -- I also really like salted dark chocolate!

May 4, 2014, 3:07am Top

# 226
I thought House of Mirth even better than Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence. I haven't read any other books by Wharton but I absolutely loved those three.

May 26, 2014, 12:08am Top

227. Operation Shylock

This book put me to sleep faster than Nyquil. I seriously struggled to stay awake while reading it and my reading pace ground to a near halt. Now, that said, the book wasn't uninteresting. It just wasn't for me. Philip Roth is the primary character in this novel and follows his twin, the man pretending to be him, to Jerusalem where the trial of a man accused of being Ivan the Terrible of the Holocaust is in progress. This other Roth is promoting Diasporism- the return of the Jews to eastern Europe. The real Roth is outraged that someone is posing as him in interviews, including meeting with Lech Walesa, but he's also intrigued.

Sounds good, right? Until Roth gets to Jerusalem and then it's all mixed up. Everyone is paranoid and we don't know who is working for who and Roth can't keep his own story straight. And there's lots of soliloquy about Jews and Palestinians and politics. Zzzzz...

Food: bagel and lox brought to your history class in college, the one that was only offered at 8:00 a.m. Sometimes interesting, but you definitely needed something to munch on to keep you from passing out on your desk.

May 28, 2014, 10:49pm Top

228. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Poetic coincidence that I finished this book today, as Maya Angelou passed away. What an amazing woman and with what incredible grace she told the story of her early life. Angelou is more than a writer, she is an artist with words as her medium. The pictures she paints are able to be seen and felt by a universal audience. She writes about racism and other divisive issues without division, but in ways that make it clear where the problem lies- it feels uniting, her perspective.

This story is of her childhood, growing up in Stamps, Arkansas. She and her brother were raised by their grandmother, a woman of considerable clout in their little community. You can feel the sun on your face, the dirt under your toes and the atmosphere of oppression and fear. I feel like I was looking at this time with new eyes. I'm grateful for it.

Food: spring water, cold and clear, from the source in the shade of a large tree under sunny skies. Refreshing, clean, and you can feel it fill you to your bones. The taste of hope.

Jun 1, 2014, 2:11pm Top

229. Impressions of Africa

One thing is for sure- Roussel had QUITE the imagination! The first nine chapters of the book are descriptions of the fantastic inventions and conventions composed for the gala for King Talu. One hundred pages of descriptions. No story. It got tedious. And honestly, I struggled with picturing what he described, because they were so outlandish.

The story doesn't really begin until the tenth chapter, where it is explained why the gala with all it's performances and trappings occurred. After the previous chapters, it's a relief. Things begin to make a little more sense. Chronologically read, the book should go chapters 10-24, 1-9, and 25 to end it. I'm puzzled why it wasn't presented that way, other than to show off, which is the general impression I get from the book.

Food: a totally avant-garde meal. Presented to dazzle, the spectacle is more concerned with appearance than taste.

Jun 9, 2014, 12:48am Top

230. Obabakoak

Obabakoak means "the people and things of Obaba" in Basque, a language still spoken in parts of Spain and France. Basque is a pre-Indo-European language and is the last one that remains. There are some differing thoughts about how old the language is- possibly rooted in the Stone Age- but it is likely from before the time of the Roman Empire. During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1936-1975), the language was suppressed. Atxaga was born in 1951 and grew up in the latter half of the dictatorship and this helped shape his desire to write in Basque. He mentions in the last chapter of this book that the dictator had burned the majority of the books written in Basque and it was difficult to find those that remained.

History lesson aside, this book is charming. It is a collection of stories about or involving Obaba and its people. Set in different times and places, all the stories are engaging, some sweet and some haunting. Some made me laugh and some just made me think. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Food: a picnic in a quiet meadow, overlooking a town in a bygone era, with rustic bread, good cheese, and a cold, white wine. It's good nibbles with something cool and refreshing to wash it down with, while in good company telling each other stories.

Jun 12, 2014, 8:56pm Top

231. The Music of Chance

The New York Trilogy showed me that Paul Auster has a dark side. I liked it. He brought it out to play again in this book, with a touch of insanity. The book built to a fantastic ending.

Jim Nashe inherits a sizable sum when his absentee father dies, but it comes too late to save his marriage, after which he gave his daughter to his sister to raise. When he gets the money, he quits his job and spends months driving aimlessly around the country. He meets Jack Pozzi, a young poker player who is skilled at the game. Their fates involve a stone wall and two men named William.

Food: black pudding. Dark, rich, and good in small portions, but you're not sure you really want to know what went into making it.

Jun 13, 2014, 6:55am Top

amaryann21: I really enjoy your reviews.... this is yet another book you've bumped up on my tbr list. :)

Jun 13, 2014, 10:09am Top

Amerynth- Thank you! This is a fast one, too. I read it in a couple hours.

Jun 19, 2014, 12:19am Top

232. Larva: Midsummer Night's Babel

Some books are written to tell an amazing story. Some books are written to paint amazing pictures with their prose. Some books are written to show off with word play and make the reader's brain work hard. This last group is my least favorite kind, and Larva is a perfect example. I should have taken it as a warning that one of the critics said it was inspired by Finnegan's Wake.

The story (and I use that term loosely) is about a masquerade party in an abandoned mansion in London. A Don Juan character is chasing a masked Sleeping Beauty. We are introduced to character after character and there is an overt sexuality to the whole text (because of Don Juan? perhaps).

Now, the reason I stuck with it and why I can appreciate it (to a point) is because the language and word play is incredibly inventive. Rios regularly blends words together- "serpententrations", "savoraciously" and changes the spelling ("fournication") to convey double meaning. It's clever and witty and funny... and exhausting. Instead of immersing myself in a story, my brain was always working on overdrive. I had to read in small doses and by the end, I just wanted it to be over.

I can imagine the translation of this book took an extraordinary amount of work. I tip my hat to the author and translators.

Food: an all-night pub crawl with everyone speaking at least two languages. It takes some effort even from the beginning, but by the end, it's all a blur.

Jun 21, 2014, 3:02pm Top

233. Astradeni

Astradeni is eleven and her family has to leave their little island, where there are no cars and everything requires work, but it's home, and familiar. They are going to Athens because Astradeni's father is out of work. Astradeni is so excited and loves that she's making her cousin jealous. The city, though, is scary and big and busy and where is the grass?

This story of a family's transition from the old ways to the new ways of the city, as told through a child's eyes, is sweet and heartbreaking. It's set in the late 1970's in Greece. The theme is a loss of innocence, in several ways, and a child's take on change. It's very easy to read.

Food: a fresh cucumber, dipped in sea water for seasoning, but you realize when you get almost to the end, there's a rotten spot.

Jun 25, 2014, 2:17pm Top

234. The Dark Child

This is a memoir of a boy growing into a man in a small village in Guinea. It is simply told and recounts some of the superstition and ritual that those of us who know nothing more than what we saw in National Geographic magazine when we were children think of as "African". Laye tells his story with dignity and grace, but reserved emotion. At just under 200 pages, it's a short book and easy to read. I don't feel that I gained much from reading it, however.

Food: goat stew over rice. It's tasty enough, but one serving is enough for me. My palate really isn't sure what to make of it.

Jul 5, 2014, 1:24am Top

235. Freedom

I feel like I ran an emotional marathon after reading this book, and I don't mean that in a positive way. I am weary and need a recovery day, I think.

The story is about Patty and Walter and, by extension, their family and friends. Freedom is the theme- freedom to make whatever choices we want to, good or bad. Patty and Walter's children are coming of age just as 9/11 happens and there's a lot of political influence on their lives. The book covers a few decades and I felt like I aged as I read it. It was too much emotional turmoil. I felt depressed, sad that this is an all too accurate picture of so many families/relationships/lives of a certain strata of the American population. I think my profession as a therapist made it more difficult to read this book and others will likely not have the same reaction.

Food: dinner out at a pretentious restaurant where your host orders for you and then dominates the conversation with their personal ideas and interests and never asks your opinion. It feels like it goes on forever, though there are a few interesting bits here and there.

Jul 5, 2014, 3:30am Top

That's an interesting (and intriguing) commentary on Freedom.

Jul 9, 2014, 1:43pm Top

236. The Castle of Otranto

This was a short, fun, Gothic story. Fun to read- not so much fun for the characters. The story of Manfred and his ill-fated family has all the classic compnents- a castle, a curse, ghosts, star-crossed lovers, knights and a nearby convent. Manfred is the awful counterpoint to his perfect and saintly wife, Hippolita.

I enjoyed reading this story, short as it is. The only thing that made it a wee bit difficult at times was the lack of quotation marks to indicate dialogue. Sometimes I had to reread to figure who was saying what.

Food: a hand pie. Small, savory, a good snack.

Aug 5, 2014, 10:48am Top

237. The Triple Mirror of the Self
This is a strange story. It starts in the Amazon rain forest, then to the USA for a bit, then England, ending in India. The tale is told in non-linear order and seems backwards, but not entirely. I think there are attempts at being philosophical, but either they are poor attempts or they were over my head. Even other reviews I read about the book are hard to sort out.

However, the book is very readable and I didn't struggle with it at all. Parts are amusing and others, tragic. I found myself needing to read it in small doses.

Food: a garlic pickle. Not my favorite of the pickle family, but, if done well, quite tasty. I don't like to eat one all at once, however, as the taste is a bit too sharp for me.

Aug 5, 2014, 3:37pm Top

You have made me kind of want to read Freedom in a masochistic way. Like how I force myself to read political blogs that I know will upset me, just so I get the other point of view...

Aug 6, 2014, 12:01pm Top

Good luck, annamorphic! May you have a better experience than I did! I do think my own life circumstances made the book harder than it could have been.

Aug 13, 2014, 9:21pm Top

238. In Watermelon Sugar

Here's what I got from this book: our narrator with no name witnessed his parents being eaten by talking tigers and now that the tigers are all dead, he's writing the first book that's been written in a lifetime because he sucks at sculpting. Oh, and the sun shines a different color every day and they make everything out of watermelon sugar.

It reads very quickly and I didn't find answers to my myriad of questions, but don't let that stop you from reading it. Apparently, Brautigan wrote it after spending time in a commune. Perhaps that's all the answer that is necessary.

Food: acid trip. Maybe that's not really food, but it's something that's ingested, right?

Aug 14, 2014, 7:47am Top

>251 amaryann21: Ha! I enjoyed the sheer loopiness of that book, although you seem to have grasped more of the "plot" than I did. ;)

Aug 14, 2014, 10:18am Top

>251 amaryann21: It's definitely unlike most other reading experiences. I thought I would hate it going in, but I actually enjoyed it.

Aug 14, 2014, 11:51am Top

That's the strange thing, it IS enjoyable, despite being utterly weird! And there's a quiet about it- I found it quite peaceful.

Aug 14, 2014, 5:03pm Top

Totally agree... In Watermelon Sugar was one of my favorite reads for this year. I'm not entirely sure I really "got" it... but I know I really enjoyed reading it.

Aug 20, 2014, 6:05pm Top

239. Gone with the Wind

I get it now. This book is so much more than a love story. It's a window into a time that is only an echo now, but an echo that is still heard from time to time, if you're in the right place. I gained perspectives on the Civil War and slavery that I had not previously considered, being a Yankee and all. There is a truth that rings out in Mitchell's writing- not necessarily an enduring truth, an objective truth, but a truth for those that experienced this utter loss of the life they knew.

And then there's Scarlett. I wanted to hug her and shake her and yell at her and congratulate her. What a fantastically written character! She's so REAL. I wish I could talk to Margaret Mitchell about her, find out what Mitchell went through in her own life to have written such a complex woman.

Food: Southern Comfort. Goes down easy, but packs a punch.

Aug 22, 2014, 11:51am Top

240. Steppenwolf

I listened to this as an audiobook, which seems to be the best way for me to get through Hesse. I liked the overall message of the book, which is, "Stop taking everything so seriously and laugh a little bit!!!!" It was a long beginning of the book and a quick end.

Harry is an intellectual, a man in the twilight years of his life, who is no longer able to find pleasure, except for brief moments when listening to Mozart. He calls himself the steppenwolf, half man and half wolf. The man tries to tame the wolf and the wolf laughs at the man and scorns his "civilized" behavior. Harry plans to end his life at age 50, deciding to stop the struggle he feels within himself. And then he meets Hermione. She is young, beautiful and she "gets" him. She takes control and makes him do things he'd never have considered before, like learn to dance. And then... there's the magic theater. This is the last portion of the book and Harry is under the influence of mind-altering substances (purposefully) and has many strange adventures.

The preface to the book says that most people misunderstand the book, thinking it to be about suffering and despair and missing the chance for healing and transcendence. Probably that's because the main focus of the book is suffering and despair.

Food: liver, with ice cream for dessert. You know you have to finish your liver in order to get dessert, and you complain all the way through, but in the end, only the taste of ice cream is left.

Sep 7, 2014, 6:56pm Top

241. City Sister Silver

This novel is set in post-Velvet Revolution Czech Republic. The sense of unrest, of people not knowing who to trust or how to conduct their lives, is very well represented. The book is narrated by Potok, a young man who is an actor by trade, but part of an "Organization" that makes money in all kinds of underhanded and illegal ways. They are brothers, he and his organization, not just associates and they all have very particular roles. Potok's adventures take dangerous and ill-fated twists as he pursues his "sister"- the woman he loves.

The language in the book is not always obvious in meaning, but it's not difficult once you fall into the story. I think I could read it a dozen more times and get more and more meaning out of it. As I was reading (and I found the book to be compulsively readable, even in the midst of dream sequences that were hard to comprehend), it was easy to let the words wash over me without having to work at the story. The use of ellipses is rampant throughout the book, but I got used to the rhythm of the story quickly. Read this book when you have time and space for it. It's not quick or easy, but it was worth reading. Bone up on the Velvet Revolution a bit, too- helps things make more sense.

Food: a trio of sorbets- peach, beet and green tea. The first is vibrant and full of flavor, lively; the second is earthy, dark, too pungent for some; the last is light and ethereal, hard to catch. There's so much flavor and so many different notes. It doesn't really seem like it all goes together and can be a little overwhelming, but you remember the experience.

Sep 12, 2014, 2:30pm Top

242. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

Nadia's father is getting remarried to Valentina, a woman from Ukraine who is several decades his junior. This, Nadia thinks, is a BAD idea. Nadia and her sister, Vera (with whom she has a very contentious relationship), have to band together to find a way to stop their father from losing everything he owns to this leech who is only looking for citizenship (in their opinion). Meanwhile, the father (a Ukrainian immigrant who survived WWII), is writing a book- A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.

There are lots of layers to the story. Some are comical and some are deep and dark and scary. The family dynamics fascinate me most and seeing the growth of something kind of like love between Nadia and Vera is touching. Very easy to read.

Food: dark chocolate bar with bacon and sea salt. It doesn't feel like it always goes together. There are sweet bites and savory bites and you aren't always sure if you like it, but in the end, it all works.

Sep 14, 2014, 11:40am Top

243. A Confederacy of Dunces
Ignatius J. Reilly may be both the most repugnant and simultaneously endearing character I have yet encountered. What a hulking mess! The book follows his bumbling, eccentric and wildly insane misadventures as he stumbles through various occupations and neighborhoods in New Orleans. Is his intelligence on a level most can't understand, or is he really, genuinely crazy?

I love that New Orleans is a character in the book. I love being able to picture the art show in Pirates Alley. The feeling of the city is true to my experience in this book. This was a really fun book to read.

Food: a Hurricane. It starts innocently enough but you don't know where the madness will leave you in the end.

Sep 14, 2014, 1:46pm Top

He IS a hulking mess isn't he? But what fun!

Sep 15, 2014, 10:37am Top

>261 Yells: SO much fun. I can't wait to visit the statue of him in New Orleans in February!

Sep 15, 2014, 12:42pm Top

You can try Portnoy's Complaint by Roth if you want more of the same.

Sep 15, 2014, 12:48pm Top

>263 Yells: Thanks for the recommendation. After Operation Shylock, I'm a little gunshy.

Sep 15, 2014, 4:41pm Top

It was my first Roth and read right after Confederacy so I was in the mood for it. He definitely isn't for everyone. (I just finished The Breast and it is short but oh so weird!)

Edited: Oct 4, 2014, 5:59pm Top

244. The History of Love

I have always admired authors who have books within their books, books that aren't "real". The History of Love is the book inside the book, and it's what ties all our characters together, and the story you read is the discovery of how they are connected. Chapters of the book in the story are part of the story. It makes me wish the book were real, so I could read that one, too.

Leo Gursky is a Polish immigrant who escaped the Nazis. Alma Singer's father died and her mother is translating The History of Love and her brother might be the Messiah. Their stories are told concurrently and almost everyone's stories are told in the first person, so sometimes it's a little confusing about who is narrating. The story is told simply, without a lot of frills, and leaves room for the reader to experience the emotions, of which there are many and some are complicated. It unfolds gently and without lots of drama. It's about life, and it feels like life.

Food: the best chicken sandwich I ever ate. It was delicious- great bread, Gorgonzola cheese, a little cranberry sauce, grilled chicken. It was years ago that I had it, in a little restaurant in Vermont, and I still recall it as the best sandwich ever. Each flavor complimented the others and each came through as part of the sandwich. I loved the layers of flavor and the thought that went into constructing this food experience for me.

Oct 4, 2014, 6:12pm Top

OK, I want to read this book. And eat that sandwich.

Oct 4, 2014, 7:54pm Top

> 267 It's a quick one, too. The book, I mean ;)

Oct 7, 2014, 7:29pm Top

245. The Public Burning

Thank God that's over. I've been plugging away at this book for far too long. I bet if I had any interest in American history or politics, I'd have been far more interested, but, sadly, I'm not.

Richard Nixon narrates the story of the days leading up to the public execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Nixon over-identifies with Ethel Rosenberg and isn't sure what his stance should be in the proceedings, as he is looking ahead to his run for the presidency. Uncle Sam and the Phantom are the manifestations of good (democracy and capitalism) and evil (Communism) in the world.

Food: liver and onions with your great-uncles, as they recall the politics and social dynamics of yesteryear. Painful and not at all appealing.

Oct 8, 2014, 5:07am Top

For a moment I thought Richard Nixon had written the book! I was prepared to read it just for that alone. Unfortunately not.

P.S. I HATE all offal. Liver, urgh.

Oct 8, 2014, 9:57am Top

>270 M1nks: If you're a Nixon fan, you might enjoy it. I have a feeling this is a love or hate book.

Oct 8, 2014, 10:00am Top

I love liver but hate politics, so I imagine I won't like this one much. :)

Oct 8, 2014, 10:17am Top

Well I wouldn't say 'fan' exactly...

Oct 8, 2014, 1:46pm Top

It's satire, so it's a little bit ridiculous and not straight politics, but there's enough politics in there that made it unpalatable to me.

Oct 11, 2014, 3:22pm Top

246. Asphodel

Reading this book felt like walking through a dream. The style is stream-of-consciousness, which honestly usually annoys me to no end. Here, though... it's compelling and beautiful and readable and it drew me in. Flowers and Greek mythology abound in this book. And the colors- so many colors!

This is an autobiographical story by HD of her time living in Europe before, during and after WWI. She was contemporaries with artists and writers of the time and some of them feature in her story. I was very conscious of reading a true story, because, despite the dream-like feeling of the writing, it feels very real. The substance of the story may fade with time, but feeling of it will stick with me.

Food: a meal of edible flowers. Vibrant, perfumed, sometimes bitter, like nothing you've ever eaten and not soon to be forgotten.

Nov 11, 2014, 3:44pm Top

247. Oliver Twist

If you've seen the musical, you know the story. Or part of it, anyway. Not that I should judge a book by its musical adaptation, but man, they left a lot out! This is not my favorite Dickens, but it's a good story with some twists (see what I did there?).

Food: black pudding. The one time I had it, it was tasty, a little dry, a little chewy and a little spicy. Not something I'd eat every day, but good every once in awhile.

Nov 20, 2014, 10:20pm Top

248. Sula

Nel and Sula were childhood friends in Bottom, the black neighborhood up in the hills. Their mamas were as different as could be, but they were two peas in a pod. Then Nel got married and Sula went away. But when she came back....

Toni Morrison paints pictures in my brain. There is something slow and easy about her words and stories that makes even the difficult things okay. This is art. There is a difference between fiction and literature and when I read Morrison, I know which land I'm in.

I'm looking forward to everyone's thoughts when it's the group read. My own book club has selected it for next month.

Food: horehound candy. Bitter and sweet and not to everyone's liking, and reminiscent of a time gone by when things were harder, but less complicated.

Nov 21, 2014, 11:57pm Top

249. Diary of a Nobody

This is the fictional diary of Charles Pooter, originally published as a serial in 1888 and 1889. Charles is a clerk and doesn't make much money, lives a modest life and has a small circle of friends and one son, Lupin. He's kind of a namby pamby, sort of whiney, overly impressed with those with money or title, and thinks much of his terrible jokes. Not much happens, and he really is a "nobody" in the sense that his life is relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

This book was very fast to read and there are moments that are humorous. I don't agree with the critics that call it "very funny", though it may have been back when it was published. I appreciate the representation of what life was like at that time for someone of modest means.

Food: cheap booze. It's okay in a pinch, but it's not something you want a lot of or very often. You're not sad when it's gone.

Nov 22, 2014, 7:27am Top

I've not yet read Sula (I'll definitely join the group read), but I've read about 4-5 of Morrison's books and I love your description of her writing.

Toni Morrison paints pictures in my brain. There is something slow and easy about her words and stories that makes even the difficult things okay. This is art. There is a difference between fiction and literature and when I read Morrison, I know which land I'm in.

She writes poetically, but her writing still has the substance and flow of great prose. And, as you said, her topics are always so dark and painful, but the writing makes it beautiful. She's one of my favorite authors.

Nov 22, 2014, 12:37pm Top

I hadn't read any Morrison before discovering the list, though I'd heard of her. Her writing sticks with me, like Maya Angelou's does. I think the subject matter is difficult for some, which may turn them off, but her writing is so beautiful. It's turned me into even more of a book snob.

Nov 23, 2014, 1:22pm Top

250. Blue of Noon

Thank goodness that was short. It was all alcohol and nausea and sickness and insanity and war. And women, women that were not the main character's wife. I think this is a book that I don't understand its significance and I'm not sure I'm curious enough to find out. I think it's partly a cultural difference.

Food: milk that you don't realize has turned until you've taken a full mouthful. You can spit it out, but the taste lingers until you drink or eat something else to replace it.

Nov 23, 2014, 3:00pm Top


Nov 23, 2014, 10:10pm Top

251. Blindness

John is a student at boarding school and in the middle of his last year, is blinded in a fluke accident. This short novel shows us a bit of his life before blindness, but mostly how he and his family (including servants, because it's that kind of family) adjust.

Green wrote this as an undergrad at Oxford, which explains the accuracy with which he portrays the young man's mindset. He also writes about John and his family's mourning of John's sight in a way that feels very, very real. It's easy to empathize with each character and assume their perspective.

Food: this is reminiscent of my experience eating a home made Ukrainian meal for the first time. I didn't know what I was eating and had very little context for what to expect. I had to trust my host to guide me in what I was eating and how to go about consuming it.

Nov 30, 2014, 11:51am Top

252. Tono-Bungay

I'm used to thinking of H.G. Wells as a fantasy/adventure author. I didn't know the story at all of Tono-Bungay and had no idea what to expect. This is not like his other books I have read and it shows a different side of Wells. This book is about humanity, love, commerce, social class, ingenuity, and growing up. There is a fair amount of philosophical musing, but always appropriate to the context of the character and the story and it never feels like an agenda. I'm very impressed by this book.

George is our narrator and he tells his story, from childhood into adulthood. He grew up as the son of a housekeeper of those in a titled social class. He, through some misbehavior of his own doing, was thrust from that world and came to live with his uncle, a chemist and entrepreneur. This uncle invents Tono-Bungay, a cure-all tonic that really might just be water with some coloring and a little flavor. This launches an empire. George is involved, but not always at the center, though he profits and is able to pursue other interests with the money. There is some adventure (it IS Wells, after all), but the love stories are well done and the depth of emotion showed by the main characters is impressive. Incidentally, this book made me wonder- did Wells know someone would still be reading this book over 100 years after he wrote it?

Food: a ham sandwich. Meaty, satisfying, simple but it hits the spot. Some bites need more chewing than others and there's some spice from the mustard

Nov 30, 2014, 5:38pm Top

253. Seize the Day

This is my first Bellow and while I like the writing, the story didn't do much for me. Tommy Wilhelm is kind of a ruin of a man, having left his wife and kids, failed at acting in Hollywood, and left his job. He admits to always doing the wrong thing, and presently, he has invested money with a friend and is afraid he's going to go bust. He beats himself up and his father joins in as well.

Tommy feels whiny and dumb. I didn't like him, though I don't suppose he's written to be likable. There's very little in the way of redemption in the book and the despair seems like it could have been avoided.

Food: a side salad that's overdressed and slightly wilted. It has too much vinegar and you just want to get past it to get to the main meal.

Dec 2, 2014, 11:25am Top

254. The Postman Always Rings Twice

I listened to this as an audio book, narrated by Stanley Tucci (fantastic narration). Frank Chambers is a drifter, and he drifts into a diner/gas station run by Nick ("the Greek") and his young wife, Cora. The attraction between Frank and Cora is dynamic and Frank stays on as a mechanic at Nick's request, but more so because he wants Cora. Together, they hatch a plan to kill the Greek.

This is a short book and written plainly, without lots of prose. Cora is convinced that everything will be okay if she and Frank always love each other, which comes across as hopeful and naive, but watching their relationship play out is very intriguing. I was never sure what Frank's real motivation was and it appeared that sometimes he didn't know, either.

Food: egg salad. Plain and easy, salty and with a little spice.

Dec 6, 2014, 7:07pm Top

255. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This is a classic movie (which I've never seen) and so I knew it was about crazy people and the famous villian, Nurse Ratched. I didn't know how much this book would move me. At the end, it felt a little like I'd been punched in the emotional gut. The story is so well-written and I found myself rooting for them all, all the men in the ward, to find themselves again.

I think one of the things Kesey does so well is making the reality of their mental illness so... normal? It's part of life for them, and it's not violent or dramatic or out of control, just how their brains work. And watching the power dynamic between Ratched and McMurphy was brilliant! Now I need to see the movie!

Food: this was dinner out, a nice dinner with interesting people, and when the check comes, it was far more than expected. All the way along, it didn't seem like there would be as high a price, but the reality hits you at the end.

Dec 6, 2014, 7:22pm Top

Glad you had a good one before we embark on Extinction -- are you ready for that now? I read five pages today...

Dec 6, 2014, 11:52pm Top

> 288 I'm not sure if I'm ready yet... but I do keep eying it. Maybe I can do a couple pages soon.

Dec 8, 2014, 11:46am Top

256. A Modest Proposal

Man, I wish I could have seen the reaction when people read this back when it was published. It's like when people post articles from The Onion on Facebook and someone thinks it's real. This is a tiny little book, a story all of seven pages long, and it's kinda genius.

Jonathan Swift proposes that Ireland solve it's hunger problems by selling its one-year-olds as food. And, cannibalism aside, he makes some good points.

Food: Halloween candy that involves "blood". You know it's not really blood, and you kinda enjoy the squeamishness of it.

Dec 8, 2014, 12:05pm Top

>290 amaryann21: You got me with "7 pages". I'll have to remember that when I need something short!

Dec 9, 2014, 12:04pm Top

You're just reading shorties to delay Extinction!
Seriously, though, if you are fed up with middle-aged men hating on their families (your description of Bellow on another thread) then this book is NOT for you. Bernhard's Concrete was the same way but at least there the narrator only despises his sister, as I recall. In Extinction the narrator despises them all.

Dec 9, 2014, 1:31pm Top

>292 annamorphic: You caught me, I totally am! I'm reading Day of the Dolphin and then I might be ready to come back to it. Cannibalism WAS a great distraction.

Dec 11, 2014, 12:04am Top

257. The Day of the Dolphin

The Vietnam War is on, and WWIII might be imminent. Henry Sevilla, the main character, and his team have been researching dolphins and language, and are trying to teach the dolphin they raised from birth to speak English. There are rumors that the Soviets are in a similar place in their work with dolphins, and could be training them as soldiers. Sevilla, while subsidized by the federal government, has no interest in anything of that nature, though he suspects he is being watched and monitored constantly.

While my synopsis seems quite political, the politics are mostly a backdrop- an ever present backdrop, but backdrop all the same. The characters of Sevilla and his team all have distinct personalities and the dolphins... part of me wishes this story were real. It would be so COOL! This book is part science fiction, part thriller, part social commentary, and a great overall story.

Food: a steak dinner with a little molecular gastronomy. Meaty and satisfying, with a bit of a twist that you weren't expecting.

Jan 8, 2015, 9:58pm Top

258. Cold Comfort Farm

What a lovely little book! So entertaining! Flora, after the death of her parents, decides she will live with relatives, eschewing the world of work and independence. She writes to all her existing relatives, asking for a place to live in exchange for her hundred pounds allowance per year. She settles on Cold Comfort Farm, a working farm overseen by old Aunt Ada, though no one actually sees Aunt Ada more than once or twice a year. There, she sets about "improving" things and it's fun to watch.

Flora is more than a little smug, but never ill-natured. The story is slightly reminiscent of Austen's Emma, but it feels almost intentional, as Flora is very influenced by her reading at the time. I thoroughly enjoyed this little romp through the English countryside.

Food: rustic bean cassoulet. Delicious and warming, simple but skillful.

Jan 9, 2015, 11:06am Top

259. The 13 Clocks

This is a story. It has a princess, an evil duke, a prince disguised as a minstrel, and magic. Is it a fairy tale? Kind of. But it's beautiful wordplay and just FUN. And there's little bits of wisdom, waiting to be discovered.

Food: ribbon candy. It's so pretty, thin and melts on your tongue. It's a little bit of a throwback, not very modern, but enjoyable as much for its nostalgia as its sugar.

Jan 9, 2015, 11:43am Top

{The 13 Clocks -- I did not understand why that is on the list. I've read a lot of children's lit, and nothing about it stood out for me. Let me know if you have any insights.

Jan 9, 2015, 1:36pm Top

>297 Nickelini: I wondered the same thing. I don't own the 1001 book, so someone who does might be able to tell us the rationale.

Jan 9, 2015, 3:09pm Top

Oh, I own the book. But their descriptions rarely give concrete information on why they include something. I can read their description, but I find it also applies to many other books--books that aren't on the 1001 list. The inclusion of The 13 Clocks has puzzled me for years.

Jan 9, 2015, 3:16pm Top

I loved The 13 Clocks and The Wonderful O (published along with it in my edition) when I was a kid but don't see them as major works of literature -- though the Wonderful O anticipates some modernist literature in a playful vein. Maybe they just wanted something by Thurber and nothing else counted as a novel, although they've certainly bent that rule in other instances.

Jan 9, 2015, 3:40pm Top

It's very well- loved, according to everything I've seen, and I found it to be a fun story. But I agree - not sure what makes it list-worthy.

Jan 14, 2015, 1:51pm Top

260. The Plague

This is my first experience with Camus and I am blown away. This book makes me wish I could read French so I could read it in its original language.

This is the story of a town in northern Africa that is struck by plague. There aren't plot twists or mysteries- it's just the plague. The story follows a few characters, as told by a narrator who isn't revealed until the very end. One is a doctor, one is a priest, and a few others are men who were trapped by the plague, unable to leave, not natives of the town.

The story feels detached, stoic, observed at a purposeful distance, for most of the book. The narrator discusses this feeling of objectivity and says that the long-suffering of the plague feels monotonous and mundane, not tragic. The people get used to the death and hope is put on a shelf, hidden away until such time as it is appropriate again. And then, as you near the end of the book, two characters connect and a story of great humanity is revealed, and it changed everything. Gone is the impersonal and the gravity of how much the plague has taken is felt, for the first time. This writing is masterful. The book is so human and it presented issues like whether or not there is redemption in suffering, and whether all human lives are valued equally, and presented them without resolution. I'm just so impressed and can't wait to read more Camus.

Food: aged balsamic vinegar. Thick, with complex flavors.

Jan 24, 2015, 1:03pm Top

261. The Last World
I'm not sure how to describe this story, other than to say it is a modern take on Ovid's exile from Rome, as discovered by Cotta, a follower of Ovid's and one dedicated to finding him. This takes him to Tomi, the town of iron, that is emerging from two year's of winter.

The book is sumptuous, beautiful in imagery and prose. I felt myself sinking into the story, into this strange and bizarre world where characters from Greek and Roman mythology populate a tiny, dying town of exiles. There are so many layers of meaning here, and while sometimes I feel like the process of interpretation is tedious and feels a little like homework, I really liked doing a little research about this book. It made me appreciate the skill of Ransmayr that much more.

Food: a banquet, an absolute feast for all the senses, full of exotic food and beverage.

Jan 26, 2015, 11:49pm Top

262. Metamorphoses

I have to admit, being in possession of this book and knowing I had to read it was intimidating. But then I read The Last World and I HAD to read it. And it is surprisingly readable! My edition was translated by Rolfe Humphries and is about 400 pages. I had a basic knowledge of Greek/Roman mythology, which helped.

Metamorphoses is Ovid's epic poem of the creation of the world up until Julius Caesar's death, which occurred a year before Ovid was born. It's a little difficult keeping track of who is who- everyone is descended from the gods and most of them got turned into stones, trees or birds. Reading some of the myths (Atlas, Jason, Hercules) was like visiting friends from childhood. Ovid gets bloody sometimes- the tale of the Centaurs at a wedding is downright gory. Overall, the pride in his country and their history comes through. In the end, he posits that everything changes, all the time, and that is how the world works.

Food: hot dogs and beer around the campfire, telling stories all night long.

Feb 3, 2015, 8:16pm Top

263. Dictionary of the Khazars

Weird. That's my initial reaction on finishing the book. This is a dictionary of the Khazars, a nation of people who lived in the 7th-9th centuries and the book is in three parts- the Christian section, the Islamic section and the Jewish section. The reason is that the Khazars decided to pick a new religion and so invited experts in each religion to present their faith. At the end, the Khazar leader picked one. But which? Depends on which book you read. It is written dictionary style, with entries in alphabetical order. Some of the entries are stores and some are short, just a few sentences of information.

I suppose it's magical realism. But it stretches the limits of "realism". Some of the passages were delightful, but sometimes I felt like I was working too hard.

Food: your first time eating Chinese food, at a Chinese buffet. Some dishes are wonderful and some make you question what you're eating and why.

Feb 3, 2015, 9:06pm Top

>263 Yells: Did you read the pages in numerical order? Or as more of a choose-your-own-adventure book? I did the latter and had fun with it, but I never really understood the "plot" if there was one....

Feb 4, 2015, 12:08am Top

I did read them in order, though your way does sound more fun. I don't think there is a plot, per se, as we normally think of one, but I do think the story built on itself somewhat. And I had the female version, but tucked into the pages was a piece of paper with the paragraph from the male version. No idea where it was procured from.

Feb 4, 2015, 4:05pm Top

I've got the female version as well. If you still have the paragraph would it be possible to write it down so I can compare. I'm planning on reading it this month. Well, fingers crossed...

Feb 4, 2015, 4:08pm Top

>308 M1nks: Would you like me to post it, or message it to you?

Feb 4, 2015, 10:37pm Top

OK, this discussion is SO STRANGE that I think I need to move this book to the top of my TBR pile.

Feb 5, 2015, 1:54am Top

Probably a message, in case someone else doesn't want to see it :-) I don't mind but I won't read your message until I've finished the book so I'll thank you in advance !

Feb 5, 2015, 2:57am Top

Intriguing discussion! I have the female edition also. Does the change of paragraph alter you're whole perspective of the book, or is it just a minor novelty and a good conversation piece?

Feb 5, 2015, 9:02am Top

>310 annamorphic: It is. Fitting of the book ;)

>312 puckers: It doesn't change much, but maybe a little? I don't know. I think it depends on the reader, honestly. And I don't know why or how this paper is there. It's a little slip of paper, maybe 1/5th of a sheet, and it was printed on scrap paper, because the back has some kind of credit card or loan repayment information. I wonder if the male edition exists in book form?

Feb 5, 2015, 9:09am Top

>311 M1nks: I made it a private comment on your wall.

Edited: Feb 5, 2015, 11:10am Top

>310 annamorphic: Ha!

>313 amaryann21: I own the Male edition. So, yes, it does exist in book form. :)

Feb 5, 2015, 12:02pm Top

>315 ELiz_M: So interesting! Does it denote which paragraph is the extra one?

Feb 5, 2015, 1:21pm Top

>314 amaryann21: amaryann21: Could you please add the comment to my wall also - I'm very intrigued, but will have to wait a while to get to the book.

Feb 5, 2015, 1:54pm Top

>317 puckers: I surely will!

Feb 5, 2015, 2:48pm Top

This book should be the next group read! :)

Feb 5, 2015, 4:49pm Top

>318 amaryann21:. Thanks for that. I'm sure it will mean something one day!

>319 amerynth:. Nominations opening soon...

Feb 5, 2015, 8:25pm Top

Oooo, this would be a good one for a group read. I would love to be part of that discussion! Puckers, you're welcome!

Feb 7, 2015, 6:48pm Top

I was going to read it for my season's read but if it's going to be nominated for a group read I'll hold off.

Feb 8, 2015, 12:07pm Top

I NEVER heard of so strange a book before and now of course I want to read it and bought the "androgynous" Kindle edition unseen which I understand is the female version with the male extra paragraph in the introduction. The introduction also says that with the beginning of the 21st century the book ceased existing as a "bisexual species"(i.e. in both seperate versions) and now "became a hermaphrodite. Angrogynous. Or something incestuous." Fascinating. Can't wait to start it, if only that Henry James I'm reading wasn't that slow-going...

Feb 8, 2015, 12:43pm Top

I just ordered whichever version is on Amazon because I figure it will be next month's group read....

Feb 8, 2015, 11:26pm Top

>323 Deern: Interesting it's been un-sexed. Or bi-sexed. So weird. I still can't come up with a better word to describe it.

Feb 8, 2015, 11:27pm Top

264. Fall on Your Knees

What a beautifully tragic story. MacDonald's writing is wonderful- gorgeous prose in places and spare and minimalist at times, guiding the emotions of the story gently and skillfully. This story of the Piper family is hard to read at times, but the love of family brings redemption to all the horrors they live through.

The setting is Cape Breton Island off Nova Scotia. James falls in love with Materia while she is still a child, and she loves him, too. This Irish and Lebanese couple start their own path, to the dismay of her family. Faith and music follow this story from start to finish.

Food: Irish whiskey. It's for celebrations, funerals, when you're alone, when you've got company, to soothe your sorrows or share your joys.

Mar 2, 2015, 11:34am Top

265. In the Forest

This story really happened. Maybe not quite the way O'Brien relays it, but it's true. A woman and her child were abducted and murdered, and then a priest was taken and killed soon after, all by a young man who heard voices and exhibited lots of signs of mental illness. He had been placed in institutions early in his life and suffered horrific abuse at the hands of authorities. Does this make him less responsible for his crimes? Is he a victim as well?

I found this book compelling. I'm a mental health professional and perhaps that's one of the reasons why, but I ended the book feeling so sad for all involved. The murderer, the victims, the psychiatrist who tried to treat him, the towns that were terrorized... what devastation. O'Brien's novelization is so well written. This is my first book of hers and I look forward to reading more. I understand why she was so controversial in Ireland- she writes about what no one wants to admit.

Food: unevenly cooked steak. Chewy in some parts, too bloody in others, but not a piece of meat you regret eating.

Mar 2, 2015, 5:59pm Top

266. The Stranger

This is the story of a man and his unintentional participation in a crime. He admits that he did it, but it wasn't on purpose. In fact, it was the sun's fault. Mersault, the main character, doesn't really invest in emotions. He is very existential. When his girlfriend asks if he wants to marry her, his answer is, "Sure". He almost feels emotionless, but this is not the case.

I liked this less than The Plague, but I do enjoy the spareness of Camus's writing. He doesn't get lost in prose and he tells his story with intention.

Food: cold, mineral-laden water. It quenches your thirst, but the taste is different and stays in your mouth after the water is gone.

Mar 2, 2015, 10:45pm Top

267. The Awakening

I can imagine, when this came out, that it was highly controversial and shocking, in certain circles of society. Chopin was clearly feminist before her time. She gave voice to what, I'm sure, so many women were thinking and feeling but not ever allowed to express in public.

Edna is married to a Creole gentleman in New Orleans. They have two little boys and Edna's husband is a wealthy cotton broker. They are members of high society and, one summer at their summer home, Edna has an awakening where she actually FEELS something other than malaise. She falls in love. She married her husband because he pursued her and it's what was done. Falling in love is disconcerting and it changes her in small, then larger, ways.

This is so beautifully written, and a pleasure to read. Descriptions are sumptuous and lyrical. The story deals with complex dynamics and emotions with deftness and sincerity. I wonder, how would the story be written today?

Food: unsweetened iced tea with lemon on a hot afternoon, sitting on the porch in the shade. So very Southern, but not a heavy meal, just an afternoon of sipping.

Mar 2, 2015, 11:42pm Top

I can imagine, when this came out, that it was highly controversial and shocking, in certain circles of society.

Yes, one would think, wouldn't one. Yet I was stunned when I read The Awakening a few years ago and then did some internet searching of it that there are still people who think her behaviour was unconscionable. Apparently for a certain segment of the population (I'm thinking mostly from the US), she is a horrid creature.

The comments I read made me sad for our society that I thought had progressed to having a modicum of understanding about people who lived slightly outside the proscribes norms.

I wonder, how would the story be written today?

THAT would be an interesting re-do. Enough Pride and Prejudice fanfic--time to do the Awakening.

Mar 3, 2015, 11:37am Top

>330 Nickelini: Wow. I feel like I shouldn't be surprised by that, but I am. I guess there are a lot of "traditional" mindsets out there still, but in a society where over half the marriages end in divorce, this book is immoral? And 50 Shades of Grey was a bestseller??

Sad, indeed.

Mar 6, 2015, 1:44pm Top

Ohhh, that sounds like a book I'd like :-)

Mar 12, 2015, 9:09pm Top

268. The Dispossessed

This is a debate on communism vs capitalism with some physics thrown in, disguised as a novel. I didn't enjoy how the story was told, I didn't enjoy what little story there was, and the end was dissatisfying.

Food: trail mix that's mostly cashews and dried mangoes (neither of which I enjoy) during a history lecture. Sometimes there's a tidbit that's yummy, but not often enough.

Mar 14, 2015, 9:47am Top

269. The Vicar of Wakefield

This is a retelling of the story of Job, in essence. All kinds of bad stuff happens to you, even when you're a good person, but if you just accept it, you'll have your reward. A bit simplistic and the ending was very fairy-tale-ish, but overall, not a bad book.

Food: toast. Sometimes a little dry and nothing exciting, standard fare that you know what you're getting.

Edited: Mar 14, 2015, 3:46pm Top

Not quite I don't think. The afflictions mostly were caused by pride, whereas Job was wholly perfect (according the bible anyway...)

Mar 14, 2015, 10:05pm Top

I didn't mean a literal retelling. Just in the sense that it's a series of misfortunes happening to a man and family trying to be pious.

Apr 8, 2015, 11:16am Top

270. Walden

This is the first book I have not finished and am checking off. I managed almost 75 pages before calling it quits. It goes against my personal rules, but I'm making an exception. I HATED this book. I felt as though I was being preached at with every page and I've never enjoyed that. I understand why this book is important, but there is nothing I liked about it.

Food: cod liver oil given by your mean old great aunt who always thinks she knows what's best for you.

Apr 8, 2015, 12:08pm Top

I forced my way through it and finished but had to join a group read to get that far.

Apr 8, 2015, 2:00pm Top

>338 Yells: You're more dedicated than I am. I admire your perseverance!

Apr 10, 2015, 12:21am Top

I think I was the person who nominated this one for a group read because I knew I'd never manage it otherwise. It was indeed an entirely annoying book.

Apr 10, 2015, 2:47am Top

>340 annamorphic:. Agreed! It was sandwiched between Group Reads of The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Golden Notebook - three slogs in a row!

May 9, 2015, 3:29pm Top

271. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

I flew through this book and was delighted to watch Miss Pettigrew bloom from a dowdy, hopeless governess to a woman of taste and intellect, finding fun in her life and shrugging off fear and restraint. The writing is great, easily conveying the different personalities, but never judging any of their lifestyles. I love that the book doesn't moralize, but instead lets each character find their way.

Food: pop rocks. Sweet and each little burst is fun, little sparklers on your tongue.

May 9, 2015, 6:48pm Top

Pop rocks is the perfect choice for that delightful little book!

Edited: May 22, 2015, 1:21pm Top

272. If on a winter's night a traveler

This is a book about reading. I initially thought it was a book about books, but it's definitely about reading. I don't think I can synopsize the plot and do it any kind of justice. Suffice it to say, it's a lot of stories inside an overarching plotline.

At first, I was kind of frustrated with the dropping of the story at a critical point, but then it was compelling. The discussion of how and why we read, from several different perspectives, at the end was very satisfying to me. I felt like there was space and acceptance of lots of different kinds of readers. And I figured out the finale before it was presented, which I feel secretly smug about. This was my first Calvino and the further in I got, the more I enjoyed it.

Food: a multi-course meal that keeps getting cleared before you're finished, but you're allowed to linger over dessert.

May 25, 2015, 10:36pm Top

273. Robinson Crusoe

You already know the story- a guy gets shipwrecked, manages to survive to tell his story. Kinda like Castaway, right? Except this is almost 500 pages of very little adventure and a lot of discussion about God. I guess when a guy spends almost thirty years on an island, alone all but for about three years, and his only reading material is three Bibles, it's to be expected that there will be some religious talk, but man.... I definitely suggest the children's abridged version I read as a kid. Far more interesting.

Food: a bland, overcooked meal at a wedding where the bride has been talking about every little detail of her wedding for months and months, about how amazing it's going to be. The reality didn't live up to the expectation.

May 28, 2015, 1:43pm Top

274. Oroonoko

Purported to be one of the first English novels, Oroonoko is the story of an African prince who is brought to Surinam as a slave It is very short- my edition was only 78 pages- and written with random capitalized words and proper names are in italics (which I find very annoying and it takes away from the flow of reading for me). Oroonoko doesn't have a lot of luck and while his physical appearance and character are impressive, they don't serve to keep him out of captivity.

I wonder how this book was received when it was written. I wonder if Behn got any blowback as a voice that criticized how slaves were treated. I'd love some more historical context about how this novel came to be.

Food: a first taste of an exotic fruit that you've heard of, but haven't experienced, and it tastes as you expected. Nothing shocking or extraordinary, but a new adventure nonetheless.

Jun 2, 2015, 2:05pm Top

275. In the Heart of the Country

Magda is the only daughter of a widowed sheep farmer in South Africa. She is largely ignored by everyone and, as such, sees herself as withered away before she ever really got a chance to live. The book is her running commentary on her life, her thoughts and her fantasies. Often, it's difficult to tell reality from fantasy- for instance, her father dies a few times in the book, but in the end, she's still talking about taking care of him.

The depth of feeling is palpable. You can feel Magda's desperate loneliness, her immense desire for companionship and love, but her absolute ignorance of how to achieve it. She has been relegated solely as an observer of life and can't bring herself to actually live.

Food: a bitter, lonely drink in the corner of a dusty, forgotten bar. You go looking for commiseration but only find desolation.

Jun 17, 2015, 3:33pm Top

276. The Sense of an Ending

This is Tony's story, from boyhood in school through later in life, into his 50's and beyond. We meet his friends and girlfriends and later, his wife and child. An event in the life of one of his school friends changes his perspective on events that happened before, and causes Tony to sort through his memories for what is true and what may be just the way he remembered it.

This is a novel about an ordinary life and how we think about our lives. I enjoyed the way in which the main character processes the information he learns and proceeds with his life, sometimes bumbling, but always with good intentions. Sometimes its good to read about normal things.

Food: a solitary, simple meal in the late afternoon, looking out at the people walking by and wondering about their lives. A little lonely, but very introspective.

Jun 19, 2015, 11:29pm Top

277. Moon Palace

Marco Stanley Fogg lost his mother in a bus accident when he was just a kid. His uncle raised him and left him his book collection and his clarinet when he died, and then M.S. Fogg was alone in the world. He went to Columbia and embraced the life of a student and decided to see where life would take him. M.S. falls in love and makes discoveries about himself and his past, about what means the most in his life.

This may be my favorite Auster so far. The characters are wonderfully developed, and the stories within the story add a depth and complexity to the novel, instead of just a diversion to add more pages. Other Austers have an absurdity that is less present in this book, which may make it more appealing to some.

Food: bourbon, neat, sipped slowly in the company of good friends who haven't seen each other in a long time, sharing stories old and new.

Jun 22, 2015, 10:16pm Top

278. Broken April

In the High Plateau of Albania, the old Code of the Kanun still rules the land. The blood feud. It's centuries old, but it's the way things have always been done and it's the way most would like them to remain. It's more than just tradition- it's also their economic system. Everything is ruled by the Kanun. Gjorg has just avenged his brother's death and has thirty days until the family can avenge the life he took. During his travels to pay the blood debt, his path crosses Bessian and Diane's, two outlanders who are traveling the High Plateau on their honeymoon. They don't speak, but Diane is deeply affected by seeing Gjorg and realizing his future.

This was an interesting story, and I was less mesmerized by the storytelling than some of the critics reported to be. There was a compelling element to the narration, though, and the story moved along quickly. It is something to think about- are the old ways, which seem barbaric to outsiders, really so detrimental to those who continue to live in that culture? Kardare doesn't make any judgments, but presents differing perspectives. I have never heard of the Kanun before and find it fascinating, especially the idea of hospitality, that a guest is temporarily on the level of a demi-god.

Food: funky cheese. It's been created by time-honored methods and is representative of a different culture- but do I like it?

Jun 23, 2015, 5:52am Top

I haven't heard of them either and for a moment I thought this was a fantasy book!

Jun 23, 2015, 7:17pm Top

279. Play It as It Lays

Maria Wyeth came from nothing and "made it"- married a director and appeared in a movie or two. In her 1960s world, nothing stays stable for long, especially when you're in the business.

Going backward and forward throughout Maria's life, the story of loss, emptiness, faking it, and excess is liking watching a train wreck. The book reads very quickly and doesn't have much to present in terms of hope and happiness. It's a bleak tale and, supposedly, "captures the mood of an entire generation". This makes me glad to not have lived through the '60s.

Food: a flute of very expensive champagne in which someone has put their cigarette out. The appearance of having it all isn't what it seems, and what's underneath is pretty ugly.

Jun 23, 2015, 9:45pm Top

#352 Interesting, you thought of it as about the 60s, I thought of it as about Los Angeles. Maybe that's because you didn't live through the '60s, I've never lived in L.A., and one desperately wants to dissociate oneself from the world this book portrays. I really hated it.
Loved your food analogy, as always.

Jun 24, 2015, 9:14am Top

>353 annamorphic: The synopsis on the back said it was about the '60s, so I had to take their word for it. You're right, though - it's a deplorable world that is described and I don't want to relate in any way.

Jul 2, 2015, 6:29pm Top

280. Cause for Alarm

Nick Marlow is a young engineer in London who has lost his job due to cutbacks. WWII is on the horizon and he is engaged and desperate to not lose his fiancee and his dignity, so he takes a job in Italy temporarily. While he's there to just do his job, the shady details of his predecessor's death bring certain characters and events into his life that he cannot avoid, no matter how much he wants to.

This is a fun story to read. Espionage and international political dynamics are not usually something I find entertaining (booooooooooring) but Nick's unpreparedness in his situation increases the intrigue and makes him more easy to relate to as the story progresses. Nick and his fiancee are so very English, and this is pointed out time and again. The most interesting and enigmatic characters are Zaleshoff siblings- but are they siblings? Russians? spies?

Food: a cigar and a whiskey while looking over your shoulder. Relax, but not too much!

Jul 13, 2015, 7:13pm Top

281. The Corrections
This is the story of the slow decline of a family. They all have issues and the patriarch is sliding into dementia. No one really likes anyone else, except that they love each other. Each character has pages of subplot and they all loop together loosely, but man... Franzen uses too many words. Just too many. Sometimes description moves the story along, or is beautiful in its own right, but sometimes it bogs the story down and makes it feel like everything has ground to a halt.

This is likely my last Franzen and I think he and I are just not friends. I have given him a try on two occasions now and we're not getting along. I like my books with words that are used a bit more purposefully, or with a purpose I can understand.

Food: an overdressed, slightly wilted salad that has been presented as "gourmet". I feel like I'm obligated to appreciate it, but really, I just don't.

Aug 12, 2015, 2:13pm Top

"...an overdressed, slightly wilted salad that has been presented as "gourmet". I feel like I'm obligated to appreciate it, but really, I just don't."

That's fantastic.

Aug 13, 2015, 12:49pm Top

>357 Cliff-Rhu-Rhubarb: Thank you, sir!

Aug 17, 2015, 12:41pm Top

282. One Hundred Years of Solitude

This was the longest telenovella ever. Love, betrayal, war, sex (lots of sex), and everyone has the same three names. There was magic sprinkled here and there throughout the story, which at times seemed odd and out of place. The very end made it somewhat worth it, but I felt the story was monotonous in spots. Was it a comedy or a tragedy? I think that's up to the reader to decide.

Food: nachos without enough toppings. You keep going, looking for the good bites, and sometimes you get a little heat, a little meat and some cheese, but there's too many dry chips and most of the cheese has fallen to the bottom.

Sep 6, 2015, 6:59pm Top

283. The Radiant Way

Alix, Esther and Liz have been friends for a long time. Their friendship has ebbed and flowed over the years as their lives have changed, but they never seem to lose their comfort with one another. The story is set in London in the 1980's, through tumultuous economic and political times.

There is something compelling about this book. Perhaps it's how well the trials and triumphs of the characters are portrayed. Perhaps it's the wonderful tempo and language of Drabble's writing. Whatever it is, rather than racing through, this book made me want to take my time and savor the moments I was invited into in the story.

Food: tea with an old friend you haven't seen in many years. You settle right back into your relationship, like no time has passed, and you can be exactly who you are with no pretense. Time disappears and there is comfort in being together.

Edited: Sep 24, 2015, 6:00pm Top

284. The Sea

Max is reflecting on his life, back at the sea where he spent the summers of his youth. The Grace family was his obsession and something has compelled him to come back and see if there is any trace of them left. Throughout the story, we see Max as a child, as a husband, as a father, and discover his joys and sorrows.

This book is a language-lover's dream. The words!! Apotropaic! Craquelured! Prelapsarian! And not at all pretentious- just delightful. The feeling of the sea is present in every moment of the story, being a central character, but it is the feeling of ever-changing tides, the never-the-same-but-always-the-same-ness of the ocean. Banville has portrayed the feeling of someone who loves the sea as part of their being with astounding clarity. It left me wanting to immediately go to Cape Cod.

Food: a delicate sugar flower, meant to be consumed, but you know once you've tasted it, you will be sad for its destruction.

Sep 25, 2015, 10:09am Top

>361 amaryann21:

I finished this a couple of weeks ago. After I finished my own review, I read the entry in the 1001 books and discovered I'd missed a central metaphor in the story.

I do agree that the writing is stupendous, but it was all a bit raw for me, delicate flower that I am.

Sep 25, 2015, 3:06pm Top

>362 Cliff-Rhu-Rhubarb: It IS raw, isn't it? Like the sea can be. Normally raw is not something I embrace. It was handled so well, though. I don't remember liking Shroud as much as this one, but I'm looking forward to more Banville.

Sep 28, 2015, 5:30pm Top

285. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Eliot Rosewater is the president of the Rosewater Foundation and he may be insane. If he is, his distant relatives may be able to oust him from his position and get at the millions of dollars the Foundation controls. That's the basic premise of the book. However, if you've ever read Vonnegut, it's so much bigger than that.

This story asks you, the reader, to evaluate what is sane and what is not, what and who is useful and what and who is not, and how we, Americans, value money and each other. It accomplishes all this with humor, satire, and entertainment. THIS is Vonnegut's skill. The message in all the absurdity is perhaps we can love each other just for the sake of being fellow human beings, not because we can provide a service or fill a role, but simply because we exist. Revolutionary ;)

Food: a palate cleanser of lime and ginger sorbet between courses. Clean, refreshing with a bit of a bite, it gives pause before the next round of consumption.

Oct 7, 2015, 7:08pm Top

286. Eyeless in Gaza

This is the story of Anthony Beavis's life, from childhood to his 40's. It's set up in chapters of different episodes in his life, jumping forward and backward in time. While I usually find this very distracting, it wasn't as difficult to follow as I expected. There is a lot of philosophy, sociology and intellectualism in this book. I found it accessible, though, instead of being too heavy or over my head.

This is the journey of a young man making sense of loss and love and all that encounters on his journey into adulthood. He fights in WWI and has affairs and all the while, is trying to make sense of his existence and what it all means. This doesn't ordinarily sound appealing, but I liked being privy to Anthony's growth and self-discovery. It gave me a lot to think about.

Food: Moroccan couscous served with spiced wine. A little different, with lots of chewy bits, and wine to help savor it.

Oct 19, 2015, 9:05pm Top

287. The Glimpses of the Moon

Susy and Nick run in a pretty posh crowd. But neither has any money, so they are, essentially, groupies of the rich and famous. Susy has a proposition for Nick- what if they got married, but when a better prospect came along for either of them, they would be released from the marriage?

It's very difficult to relate to this scenario, in the world of American Hollywood endings and "you can do whatever you put your mind to". But in a culture where women didn't have many opportunities to be independent, I can understand that this could present a real conundrum. However, why was wealth and the desire not to work so important? I don't mean to suggest Wharton herself thought so, but obviously she is reflecting attitudes of the time. It makes me sad for those stuck in that situation.

Food: very dry champagne. Good for a sip or two, but too much leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Oct 23, 2015, 4:24pm Top

288. Summer

Charity was "rescued" from a life of abject poverty by Mr. Royall at a young age, and now, as she is starting to look ahead to what she wants for her life, it certainly isn't to be stuck in North Dormer forever. When Harney shows up at the library, she hitches her wagon to his star and sees her way out. However, her questionable ancestry makes everything a challenge, even if it's only in her head.

This novel is... tiring. Sad. Charity can't get out of her own way sometimes, and other times, just when you're pulling for her, life knocks her down again. It just made me weary. I feel like there's no redemption for this poor girl who can't help where she was born.

Food: porridge. Lukewarm, lumpy, it'll fill your belly but you won't necessarily enjoy the experience.

Oct 23, 2015, 7:58pm Top

Your food always matches so perfectly with your review. Do you get an impression while you read the book or do you have to rack your brain when you come to do your reviews?

Oct 24, 2015, 9:16am Top

>368 M1nks: Thank you! It really depends on the book. Some come to me while I'm reading them, some take a bit of reflection. I've been thinking about it for years, though, how all books have their own flavor.

Oct 24, 2015, 9:17am Top

289. The Optimist's Daughter

This is a novel about loss, about grief, and what comes after. Laurel is the only child of her deceased mother and her father who, in his misguided need to take care of someone, married someone younger than Laurel at age 70. Fay is constantly jealous of Laurel's mother, long past and beloved, and very, very needy. Laurel comes home to the south when her father is going to have eye surgery, and when he does not survive, she is left alone, widowed and orphaned, with her younger stepmother.

Laurel's character is less revealed by her own actions than by the actions of all the characters around her, though the ending is hers alone. She is steady, true, and obviously was very devoted to her parents. There is a quietness to her grief that is moving and the last 50-60 pages are very touching. I wanted to hug her at the end.

Food: fresh sourdough bread, straight from the oven.

Nov 7, 2015, 6:41pm Top

290. The Good Soldier

This is the story of two couples and their complicated relationship, told in hindsight after two of the foursome have died. The "good soldier", Edward, is highly admired by the narrator, despite Edward's despicable tendencies to love affairs, including one with the narrator's wife. The narrator admires him to the point of near worship, and I found it very difficult to understand why.

This was not a fun book to read. I felt like the narrator was kind of a big dumbo who'd been hoodwinked by this other couple, and then, upon learning the truth, he admired them even more for tricking him.

Food: Meat that's turned rancid, presented as a delicious meal. You trust the chef that they they're being honest, but something stinks.

Nov 7, 2015, 6:44pm Top

291. The Invisible Man

This is the story of a sociopath. Not only does the invisible man lose his opacity, he loses his humanity as well. This was far more violent than I expected.

Food: Limburger cheese. Some people have a taste for it, some don't, but no one can deny it packs a wallop.

Nov 8, 2015, 3:35am Top

Hah! I really like this book :-)

Nov 9, 2015, 11:08am Top

>373 M1nks: I didn't dislike it. I'm just not sure I liked it.

I find it difficult to be objective about some of the older books that have been made into several movies. I try to read it with no ideas about what it's "supposed" to be, but I can't always accomplish that task.

Dec 17, 2015, 12:38pm Top

292. Zorba the Greek

Zorba is the epitome of one who lives life to the fullest. He is a mystery, an enigma to our narrator and our narrator is fascinated by him. We learn of his long, full life in the few months they spend together.

This book is an exposition on how to live. The narrator is educated and has spent much of his life in pursuit of knowledge and is confronted with Zorba, this man who lives every moment as though it was the only moment. Our narrator struggles with what he has known and what he sees in Zorba, trying to find the balance, but not necessarily succeeding.

Food: roast lamb, hot off the spit and a deep, rich, red wine. Flavorful and juicy.

*sigh* I don't think hitting 300 is in the cards for 2015. So close!

Dec 17, 2015, 2:23pm Top

It's the journey, not the destination (that's what I tell myself anyway). :)

Dec 28, 2015, 4:47pm Top

293. Thank You, Jeeves

This is like an intelligent Three Stooges movie- funny, lots of misadventures, but with finesse. Jeeves is someone everyone wants to have in their life. He's smart, loyal, and always has the best answer.

This was my first Wodehouse and I flew through it. The language is fun and cheeky and very readable.

Food: a malted, straight from the soda jerk. Smooth and delicious and a reminder of the innocence of times past.

Jan 3, 2016, 12:16am Top

294. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

This is a collection of stories, some autobiographical, some fantasy, some straight fiction. They intertwine sinuously, wrapping around one another, circling back just when you've thought that character's time was over.

I liked this book much better than The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was richer, more compelling and gave me much more food for thought.

Food: a caramel macchiato in a quiet corner of a coffee shop, eavesdropping on the conversations going on around you. Observing the thoughts and relationships of those around is interesting and gives much to consider.

Jan 10, 2016, 9:36pm Top

295. Invisible Cities

Marco Polo and Kublai Khan are talking about where Polo has traveled, the cities he's seen. There are 55 in all, and the descriptions are minimal, a couple pages at most, a paragraph in some instances.

This book feels like it's flitting around, just outside my grasp. First, how come almost all the cities have women's names? Is Polo making it all up to amuse Khan? What am I supposed to be taking away from this, other than the beauty of the language and the diversity of the world we live in? Maybe nothing...

Food: a cup of miso soup. I don't have it very often, so it's still exotic to me, and the little bits of onion or sprouts or whatever yumminess the cook may have put in add to the experience. It gives me pause, as something I don't consume often, and I take the time to savor it.

Jan 18, 2016, 7:13pm Top

296. Giovanni's Room

David is an American in Paris, content to be there and have his father send him money, engaged to Hella, who is traveling in Europe without him, and then he meets Giovanni. Giovanni is a bartender in a gay bar, and a friendship is struck. Then it becomes a romantic relationship. But David ISN'T gay (or so he is trying to convince himself?).

This novel brings the inner turmoil of sexual identity to the forefront. Published in 1956, David's interior conflict reflects the American ideology of the time (homosexuality was a crime) and his societal upbringing (homosexuality is dirty and shameful). There is no overt agenda and no preaching, just a window into the world of someone for whom this agony is very real.

Food: very vinegary pickles. Sour and a little too bitter, the taste of sadness and strife.

Jan 18, 2016, 9:10pm Top

>380 amaryann21: But do you like vinegary pickles?

Jan 18, 2016, 11:13pm Top

>381 Nickelini: No, I do not. But I didn't dislike the book. It just left a sad taste.

Jan 19, 2016, 12:36am Top

>382 amaryann21: -- I thought it was sad too, but I thought it was sort of amazing. By that I mean, pretty amazing. I rated it five stars. But I expected to dislike it or just find it boring. I found it sort of stunning, especially considering all the boundaries it successfully crossed (written in the 1950s, gay, black author writing a white character, etc. I also liked the commentary on Americans in Europe).

Jan 19, 2016, 6:27am Top

>383 Nickelini: I think I like it more as I reflect on it. I gave it 3 1/2 stars. Not much gets a 5 star rating from me. I do think the wrising captures so much more than just one man's story. I'm glad I read it.

Feb 19, 2016, 2:27pm Top

297. Murder Must Advertise

I read the bulk of this book and then stepped away from it for three weeks, finishing the last 15 pages just recently. For that reason, my review will likely be less than satisfactory.

Lord Peter Wimsey is an entertaining character. He goes undercover at an advertising agency to solve what may have been a murder and, if it was, may have some connection to a dope ring. There's car chases, violence, intrigue, but all with this standoffishness that feels to me (American) very British. I felt like I was always watching everything behind a thick window, never actually part of the story. That being said, I did enjoy it, but it just wasn't very engaging.

No food, alas. Because of the pause, I lost my food mojo on this one.

Mar 1, 2016, 11:52am Top

298. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

I didn't know this book was nonfiction when I started it. Part of that speaks to Wolfe's writing- it reads like a novel- and this story is so.... out there? I didn't live through the 60's, so that may explain my reaction, but wow, there's a whole lot I didn't know about LSD and Ken Kesey.

It really was fascinating to learn about Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and their experiments. In other circumstances, it sounds as though Kesey could have been a cult leader. The creation of the Grateful Dead, the formation of the Haight-Ashbury culture... all results of Kesey and his dedication to expanding one's mind with the use of LSD. I appreciate this window into this time period.

Food: Froot Loops with a hit of acid. Thanks to Wolfe's writing, parts of the book really feel like you've got a contact high, but just freak with it and you'll be ok.

Mar 1, 2016, 12:09pm Top

>386 amaryann21: - I read this one last year and yes, it was an interesting trip (pun intended). I was on a bit of a 'drug' theme at that point as I also read some Burroughs, On the Road and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Mar 1, 2016, 1:01pm Top

>387 Yells: Good for you for taking them all at the same time. I need to space them out. Fear and Loathing was NOT a good trip for me!

Mar 1, 2016, 6:13pm Top

I definitely OD'd :)

Mar 2, 2016, 2:12pm Top

299. Bonjour Tristesse

Cecile is young and has a very naive perspective on life, love, relationships and romance. When her father appears to be settling down with someone serious, who threatens their carefree, frivilous way of life, she takes matters into her own hands.

This was a short book, only 130 pages, and a very fast read. The language is engaging and it's a bit like watching an accident- you know nothing good is going to come of it, you're unable to stop it, and you're already too invested to look away. Sagan was only 17 when she wrote this book and drew from some of her life experiences, according to some sources. Cecile's perspective is accurately reflective of her age and yet, there is an insight that one would expect from someone older. The emotional impact of the book was greater than I expected.

Food: slightly underripe blood orange. A rich, sophisticated taste with slightly sour and bitter notes.

Mar 4, 2016, 10:17am Top

300. The Tin Flute

The Lacasse family is poor in a time of widespread poverty, just as WWII is ramping up, and Canada has entered the fray. This isn't really about the war, though- it's about living with the war in the background. Rose-Anna, the matriarch, is pregnant with her 15th child and, as spring is coming, needs to start looking for a new home (the annual move). Her husband is out of work AGAIN, because the short term job he had is "beneath him". Florentine, her oldest, is helping keep them afloat but dealing with her own troubles with boys. Eugene has joined the military, which is terrifying, but also brings in some extra money. Daniel... Daniel is sick, but surely, he'll get better, won't he?

This book slowly drew me in. The writing is a fine mix of prose and narrative. For a long while, I felt as though I was watching the story unfold from a distance, but by the end, I was in it. I'm impressed by that.

Food: a small chocolate found in the back of the cupboard. You didn't know it was there or that you needed it until you found it, and it satisfies the craving you weren't aware you had.

Mar 4, 2016, 11:40am Top

I loved Tin Flute. Your summary is bang on!

Mar 4, 2016, 2:41pm Top

>391 amaryann21: Congratulations on reaching 300!

Mar 4, 2016, 5:11pm Top

D'oh!! Missed that part. Congrats :)

Mar 4, 2016, 5:38pm Top

Yes, congratulations!

I hope to be obtaining that illustrious number before years end as well :-)

Edited: Mar 7, 2016, 3:25pm Top

Congratulations on reaching 300! I loved The Tin Flute when I read it a couple of years ago.

Mar 5, 2016, 8:28am Top

Congrats on 300! Looks like you picked a good one for it!

Mar 8, 2016, 10:49am Top

Thanks, all! 300 seems like a big number until I think of the 1005 left to read!

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Group: 1001 Books to read before you die

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