Amerynth's 1001 Books to read before you die list
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I've been sporadically working on reading the 1,001 books (original list, I think) for a couple of years. I happened upon this group today and thought it would be a fun way to keep track. So, here it goes! The following are the books I've read... (there are a few others not listed here that I think I've read, but I figured if I'm not sure I should just re-read them.) I figured I might as well pursue the whole 1294 (since I've only read one book not found on the original list!)
The list so far:
1. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
2. In the Forest by Edna O’Brien
3. Atonement by Ian McEwan
4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
5. Spring Flowers, Spring Frost by Ismail Kadare
6. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks
7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingslover
8. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
10. The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst
11. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
12. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
13. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
14. Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
15. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
16. The Temple of my Familiar by Alice Walker
17. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
18. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
19. Beloved by Toni Morrison
20. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
21. The Cider House Rules by John Irving
22. Contact by Carl Sagan
23. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
24. Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard
25. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
26. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
27. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
28. The World According to Garp by John Irving
29. The Shining by Stephen King
30. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
31. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
32. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
33. The Black Prince by Iris Murdock
34. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
35. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
36. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
37. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
38. Giles Goat Boy by John Barth
39. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
40. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
41. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Isayveich Solzhenitsyn
42. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
43. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
44. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
45. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
46. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
47. The Floating Opera by John Barth
48. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
49. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
50. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
51. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
52. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
53. 1984 by George Orwell
54. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
55. Animal Farm by George Orwell
56. The Razor’s Edge by William Somerset Maugham
57. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery
58. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
59. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
60. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
61. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
62. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
63. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
64. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
65. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
66. Billy Budd, Foretopman by Herman Melville
67. Ulysses by James Joyce
68. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
69. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
70. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
71. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
72. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
73. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
74. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
75. Dracula by Bram Stoker
76. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
77. Diary of a Nobody by George and Wheedon Grossmith
78. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
79. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
80. She by H. Rider Haggard
81. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
82. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
83. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
84. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
85. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Mann
86. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
87. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
88. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
89. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
90. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
91. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
92. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
93. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
94. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
95. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
96. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
97. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
98. The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe
99. The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe
100. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
101. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
102. Le Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac
103. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
104. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
105. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
106. Persuasion by Jane Austen
107. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
108. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
109. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
110. Candide by Voltaire
111. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
112. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
113. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe
114. The Unfortunate Traveller by Thomas Nashe
115. The Thousand and One Nights by Anonymous
116. Aesop’s Fables by Aesop
117. The End of the Road by John Barth
118. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
119: The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Thank you so much for the warm welcome!
120. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. I really didn't enjoy my first Bond book all that much -- which surprised me since I've generally liked the movies. I had envisioned reading the entire series, but I think one was enough for me.
Welcome, and happy reading.
I also found Casino Royale a little underwhelming - also much prefer the films. I was glad to read one, but like you, I wouldn't seek out any of the others.
Will look forward to seeing your progress after such a great start already.
I found one more that I've read previously during my Russian literature phase in college:
121: The Devils By Fyodor Dostoevsky
I think the recent Bond reboot has ruined us all - they are awfully good. The books just don;t seem to live up to them anymore (about the only time I say that about book/film conversions!).
Out of curiosity, what did you do at Uni? I was looking at your list thinking you matched up with my list on a lot of books - I did English Lit.
BekkaJo: I was a journalism major, which meant surprisingly few English classes. My tendency when picking novels on my own is to go for classic British literature... the 1001 list has been especially nice because it's actually got me reading things that were published within this century (or near enough to it.)
I tend to go for the old stuff too - I'm trying to use the list to get me reading more of the modern lit as well. But so far I've mainly been finding more older novels to read instead. Oops...
122: The Stranger by Albert Camus... I actually read this in high school but I only learned from reading the posts in this group that "The Outsider" on the list is an alternate title.
123: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. This book only took me a couple days to read and it was really great. I'm not a huge science fiction fan, but I do enjoy them when they raise moral questions and I found the commentary on empathy really thought-provoking. I liked the movie Blade Runner when I saw it years ago, but the book was really more enjoyable (as usual.)
124: If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino. I really enjoyed this book despite not knowing what the heck was going on until the end. The narrative structure alone had me hooked and I ended up reading this one fairly quickly. I liked the way the story came to together (finally) in the end... and even when I was a bit befuddled I still found the stories themselves compelling enough to enjoy reading it.
125: Rabbit, Run by John Updike. I loathed this book -- None of the characters really had any redeeming qualities.... I just really wasn't interested in any of them, especially Rabbit himself. I can appreciate Updike's way with words but that's about it. Really not looking forward to reading the sequels.
126: The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford and
127: Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford.
Though I found the love stories themselves kind of standard, I particularly liked The Pursuit of Love -- mainly because of all the great little tidbits about the Radlett family -- from the child hunts to the drawers filled with the names of cursed individuals written on scraps of paper... the great details about the family kept coming in Love in a Cold Climate too, even though they were minor characters in that story. I didn't enjoy Love in a Cold Climate as much -- mainly because I didn't find the characters as strong or as interesting.
I also have several books I have read on the list that I either can't remember clearly and/or read poorly at the time that I'd like to re-read and will when the mood strikes me :)
I like the reason why you liked the mitford books, I think that's why I liked them too. I had a friend who read one of them, can't remember which, and she was completely unimpressed while I would be happy reading more and I think it is because of the little insights into that ridiculous upper-class british family that delights me.
kiwiflowa -- It's mostly movies that are interfering with my memory of what I've read and what I haven't. :) For example, I've watched A Room With A View so many times that I can't say for certain I've read the novel... even though I think I remember checking the book out from the library at some point. I figured it was just best to re-read anything I'm unsure about.
128: Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day by Winifred Watson. I found this to be a delightful read... kind of like a 1930's "beach book." The characters were all so charming and the story was told in such a lighthearted way that I had a hard time putting the book down.
129: Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
130: The Waves By Virginia Woolf
To be honest, I didn't particularly enjoy reading either of these... it was a little too much like work. I appreciated The Waves a bit more than Jacob's Room-- I guess I like internal monologues better than exterior impressions. This is my first time reading anything by Woolf -- not sure how my feelings about these bode for her more famous works... I'm hoping I'll like those better.
oh... so sad you didn't like The Waves more. It's one of those novels that totally changed my concept of prose. I couldn't believe what that woman was able to do with a pen. The Voyage Out is totally different as her first novel and you might like that better. And Orlando is a satire which, if you're into those, you'd like. To the Lighthouse is really a warm up for her style in The Waves.
I've only read Mrs. Dalloway and I can't say that I was impressed. I am not a fan of Woolf so far, and am not sure I ever will be.
arukiyomi and amaryann21: You aren't giving me much hope! Perhaps Woolf is just a poor fit for me. I have The Years in my tbr stack, but I'll be holding off on that one for a bit so I can read a few authors I know I like first.
As a huge Woolf fan, I encourage you not to give up! You do have to concentrate when you read her, but she can be richly rewarding. I hated her when I first read her, but the more I read the more it all clicked with me. Then I was assigned her several times at uni--and as one of my profs said, "you don't understand a Woolf novel until you reread a Woolf novel." I have to admit that I didn't get The Waves, but I thought it was beautiful and I just let the art wash over me. I'll reread it sometime and perhaps understand it more. And I didn't love Mrs Dalloway when I first read it, but then I read The Hours and on rereading Mrs D, I did love it. Now I've reread both of those and they're among my favourite books (and I was seen walking around London on a beautiful June morning saying "Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself"--my family tried to leave me there.) But then some people just don't like her, so no pressure . . .
131. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: This is one of the few times I've liked the movie better than the book! Perhaps because I saw the movie before reading the book, I sometimes found the book dragging a little -- I'd start to wonder whether things would start moving along any time soon. However, the overall story was still interesting and I found the book's focus on colonialism to be very thought-provoking. Definitely glad I read this one.
I'm glad you liked it! I've never seen the movie version but I read the book and I really enjoyed it, so many people have said they didn't.
I read it for an English Class at Uni so I read the book last minute in a rush before the lectures on it began then the lectures and tutorials really made me understand all the themes and undercurrents and made me appreciate how clever the book was.
132: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens: Really great book... I didn't know Dickens could be this good. I love Dickens' ability to paint a "lumpy" character -- virtues and faults and all-- that transport me into the seedy underbelly of London. The only think I disliked was the final plot turning involving the Boffins, which seemed a little contrived to bring the story together. But that's a minor quibble really.
133: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Easily my favorite Austen thus far (of the four I've read.... I still have Emma and Northanger Abbey left to go.) Great characters and a story that kept me up reading until 4:30 a.m. because I couldn't wait to read the inevitable conclusion to the love story.
I am half way through Mansfield Park and I haven't arrived at an opinion yet. The primary thoughts I have at this point are that the characters are not interesting, I can't find a plot at all, it is not an exciting novel, and I hope Miss Austen lights a fire-cracker somewhere in the second half.
I think the second half was a bit better than the first but generally I find that the weakest of Austens.
I studied Mansfield Park at university, and had a great prof who really opened the book up for me. Because of this, I find it one of the stronger Austens. Most readers just can't get past Fanny Price as a heroine. We're supposed to see her as someone who is able to stick to her principles, whereas now readers often just see her as a stick-in-the-mud. I love some of the minor characters in the novel too--the evil Mrs Norris is fun, and Mrs Bertram is a fabulous study of a person who has nothing but air between her ears.
If you have the time, I highly recommend the lively commentary on Manfield Park at Bitch in a Bonnet: http://bitchinabonnet.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html
I hope the second part gets better for you. There really is a great novel in there.
Nickelini: Thanks for posting the Bitch in Bonnet link.... I'm going through it slowly but it is really interesting reading. Mansfield Park was certainly my least favorite of the Austens... (mainly for the reasons already described above... Fanny Price is the anti-Lizzie Bennett...) but the commentary makes me appreciate it a little bit more.
wow that's some blog post... "a social satirist on the level of Swift and Voltaire" hmmm I'd say that's pushing it a bit. She doesn't even mention Eliot!
32 - and "she" is actually a he . . . the writer's name is Robert Rodi, and he's just a little opinionated. Great fun, though.
typical eh... in this book-blogging world of women, I come down on the wrong side of the sexual divide!
134. The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble. Really didn't like this book.... and also not sure what made it unique or interesting enough to make it into a version of the list.
The narration was really problematic for me -- the first half of the book, the story of the a Korean crown princess is interesting plot-wise, but I wasn't able to immerse myself in the story. It felt more like a lecture.
The second half, moves rather jarringly into third-person narration (I assume the narrator is still the Korean princess...) and tells the story of a researcher who mysteriously receives the Red Queen's story while traveling to Korea for a conference. I detested this half of the book -- I didn't like the narrator's voice... (every other paragraph filled with questions...) or the story itself. Despite the parallels between the narrator and her subject, I didn't feel like the two halves of the book melded together very well.
I've never heard anything good about the Red Queen. I'm sure someone somewhere likes it, but I've never heard from them!
Pretty sure I'll avoid The Red Queen - I've never heard anything good either! Too many good books on the list to waste time on a dud!
135. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. I enjoyed reading this one, but it's a hard book to rate.... it was sort of a beautiful mess for me. Admittedly, horror isn't my genre, so I was surprised about how engrossing in the "haunted house" aspect of the story was for me.... at least for the first half of the book. It kind of fizzled out at the end unfortunately.
Loved the the formatting of the book, which reflected the story and added to the tension... (the big black square in middle creeped me out a bit...) I also liked the ways the stories of Johnny Truant, Zampano and the Navidson Record intersected.
Glad to have read this one... and it is certainly a book I wouldn't have read (or even heard of) without the list.
136. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. Really liked this one - it probably helped that I could somewhat identify with Quoyle (having worked at third-rate newspapers myself.) I also liked the style of crisp, short, newspaper-like sentences and the way the knot descriptions tied into the action.
137. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Really fascinating group of short stories that details the experiences of a company of soldiers during the Vietnam War. O'Brien blurs the line between truth and fiction as he tries to give readers a sense of what serving was like instead of relying on facts and figures to describe the war. I found the portrayal very successful (as someone who has no experience with war.)
138: Emma by Jane Austen. Having seen the movie versions of this one many times, I knew I would like this one. I liked it a little less than Pride and Prejudice, which surprised me. Emma Woodhouse, the book's heroine was alternately infuriating and charming.... I found her so entertaining that again Jane Austen kept me up half the night so I could finish the book.
139: Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym. Overall, I just had a "meh" feeling about this one. Although Pym can certainly write, this story dealing with aging and mortality while following four senior citizens on the verge of retirement, lacked a bit of a spark. I didn't find the characters particularly likeable and they had a sort of blase attitude to everything (which was probably part of the point.) I just didn't find the book particularly interesting.
140. Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I was disappointed in this one... the blurb on the back sounded so promising and right up my alley, but I honestly didn't enjoy it at all. The writing felt very clunky and repetitive to me... reading it just felt like work.
141. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. This was a fun read... though a bit slow to get started. Who else but Douglas Adams could take bits about the music of numbers, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a horse in a bathroom and a sofa stuck in a stairwell and weave them all together into a decent story about the interconnectedness of all things? Not as much fun as the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, but still a good read nonetheless.
142. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. I liked this quick and easy read straight from the opening paragraph. It is a coming of age story about an orphan named Jeanette (I assume, at least semi-autobiographical since it's also the author's name) who struggles to come to terms with her sexuality while growing up in a very strict, evangelical household with a domineering mother. Great characters populate this novel. Looking forward to reading some of Winterson's other books, since this was her debut novel and I enjoyed this one so much.
I'm a big fan of Winterson. Written on the Body is pretty amazing in the way it's written, if you haven't gotten to that one yet.
143. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. I can't say I really enjoyed this book-- much of it was cringe-worthy for me-- though I am glad I read it. Written as a series of short sketches, the book follows group of Scottish slackers who are addicted to heroin, alcohol, sex, crime. They are poor with few hopes and dreams and escaping from the circumstances the only ways they know how.
It took a few pages for me to adjust to the Scottish dialect (perhaps I was helped because I saw the movie when it came out ages ago.) Overall, I found the book to be an interesting (and seemingly realistic) look at a Scottish subculture. Definitely can understand why this was included on the 1001 list.
144. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. Really surprised at how much I enjoyed this one... I read it in about two days because it was just that compelling. Since I'm not living under a rock, I've seen the movie and thought I really knew what to expect. Yet, I found the book fascinating and deserving of its reputation as a sci-fi classic.
145. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I was a little worried when I picked up the book for the April group read (started a little early) and saw the Oprah Book Club emblem on the cover. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked the book quite a bit.
This tale about a dysfunctional Midwestern family was enjoyable because Franzen really created an interesting, screwed up (and often unlikeable) group of characters, each suffering from their own sets of secret problems and their longing to escape. I found their individual stories compelling... although I feel a bit strange saying I enjoyed a book that was fairly depressing!
nothing wrong with enjoying depressing. At least, that's an optimist's approach to pessimism.
146. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I enjoyed this story of a narcissistic actor who retires to a home on the North Sea, only to find that his baggage includes a bevy of old lovers and friends-- including a chance encounter with his long lost first love. A story of obsession and jealousy, the plot moves along the line between realism and ridiculousness fairly frequently.
I initially thought this was going to be a five star book for me (I really like the way Murdoch can paint a scene) but I found I liked it a little less as the book's plot became more absurd. Anyway, still a good solid thumbs up from me, just less enthusiastic than I initially thought it would be.
147. The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. Surprised how much I liked this one... I didn't think Leavitt's writing style was all that engaging and the story itself was a typical coming out story. That said, I enjoyed reading it -- the best bit was certainly the explanation of the title, which I won't give away. I liked the way Leavitt pulled the story together by showing the role communication plays in the stability of family. An interesting read.
148. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Loved this book -- it's quite a pageturner, in addition to being a really fun read. I knew the plot going in -- having seen (and not particularly liked) the 1999 movie, but it didn't matter because the book is so superior to the film.
It takes talent to write a book about a sociopath who is so charming that he actually comes across as likable. I'll definitely be seeking out the other five books in the "Ripliad" series.
149. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Liked this book, which is essentially a prequel to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, easily my most read book (since I read it over and over again when I was in junior high and high school. Rhys' novel transforms the Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic and unfortunate first wife of Mr. Rochester, into Antoinette, daughter of a white slave owner and living amongst her father's former slaves in a post-Emancipation Jamaica. She fits in no where.
The book is permeated with colonialism, sexuality and, of course, madness. Great characters and a great rhythm to the book. I don't feel like it changed the way I see Jane Eyre but it was fun to see how Rhys imagined the start of the story. Quite glad I read this one.
150. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I really didn't have a particularly strong reaction to this book either way -- I neither loved it or hated it. It just seemed like an average novel to me (... for the record, I expected to be blown away since I loved The Great Gatsby so much.)
The novel tells the story of the Divers, a wealthy couple living on the French Riviera, along with their crowd of beautiful, glittering people. The story from there (which I won't give away) changes quite a bit -- it felt disjointed and rambling at times, perhaps because F. Scott Fitzgerald took nine years to write it and melded together several half-finished stories, as well as weaving in events from his own life.
An okay book, but not one I'll pick up again.
151. The Years by Virginia Woolf. This was my third time reading Woolf and I liked it so much better than the prior two (Jacob's Room and The Waves) probably because The Years has a much more traditional narrative structure.
Looking at the lives of the Pargiter family (and their near relations) from the 1880s to the 1930's, the book is very much about the passage of time. I enjoyed Woolf's writing (and didn't feel lost half the time as I did with the other two books) and found the characters both interesting and complex. This was actually pretty fun to read.
152. The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton. The plot was somewhat predictable, but I found the characters so charming that I enjoyed the book anyway.
The novel is the story of newlyweds Susy and Nick Lansing... who are poor but know all the right people. They plan to spend a year together honeymooning by sponging off their rich friends. Of course, things don't quite turn out the way they planned. A fun and quick read.
153. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Give me a book about an orphan who is unlucky in love and overseen by questionable guardian and I'm a happy reader. Particularly enjoyed volumes two and three in this Gothic romance, which tells the story of Emily St. Aubert and her efforts to escape the intrigues of the dastardly Montoni.
Yes, parts were overwrought and overwritten, but I really liked it nonetheless.
154. Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid by Malcolm Lowry. My habit of picking books because the title interests me apparently steered me wrong in this case. I haven't read Lowry's much lauded Under the Volcano and "Dark As..." makes many references to it, which went over my head.
The book was written after Lowry died based upon notes made on a trip to Mexico. He had the colossally bad idea to bring his second wife to the places where his first marriage crumbled in a drunken haze. Cue more drinking and depression.
I had difficultly adjusting to Lowry's writing style, but admit I liked the book more as it went on.
155. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing. Really terrific book about a disintegrating marriage and colonial attitudes in South Africa and Rhodesia. It opens with the ending -- Mary Turner, murdered by her kitchen cook and none of "the community" seems much interested in the complex story of why.
I was so interested in why, I couldn't put the book down, despite finding Mary Turner to be a completely unlikeable character.
It was by chance that this Lessing book hit the top of my tbr pile, just it was decided Lessing's The Golden Notebook would be the July group read. I'm really looking forward to reading another by Lessing to see how her writing changed after her debut novel.
156. The Bitter Glass by Eilis Dillon. Boy, what a boring book this was -- I'm not sure how this one got onto the list.
It's the story of a group of young adults who travel by train on a summer holiday. The IRA blow up bridges so their parents, who were to follow them on a next train, are unable to do so. They deal with sick babies and some of the men who blew up the bridges camping in their yard, but the characters are so self-absorbed that doesn't seem to matter to most of them.
The characters were so poorly drawn that I had trouble remembering who they were, even halfway through the book. It didn't do much to bring home the story of the "troubles" either. Overall, this one was just disappointing.
157. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. This is one of those books that I really didn't enjoy, but can still appreciate why it was included on the 1001 list. Banned because of its portrayal of lesbianism, I can appreciate those thought sought out and fought for publication of the book, which starkly illustrates the struggle of someone who craves but cannot find acceptance.
That said the book really isn't a literary masterpiece and I struggled to finish it. I'm glad I read this one, but wouldn't ever pick it up again.
158. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. I enjoyed this book and found it pretty amusing (but then I am a big fan of the type of novels Gibbons is parodying.) Not really laugh out loud funny, as I was expecting, but certainly worth a snicker or two. Overall, I found it to be a good, light read.
159. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. Earlier this year, I read Juliet Barker's biography The Brontes in which she says something to the effect that Anne's death was particularly tragic because she as perhaps the most promising writer of the Bronte sisters. I was surprised because I was completely unfamiliar with her work and had read both of her sisters when I was fairly young. So, I decided to rectify that.
I can definitely say that I agree with Barker's assessment.... Anne is now my favorite Bronte... I loved this book so much I couldn't put it down.
160. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. Absolutely disappointed in this book.... had high hopes after enjoying The Grass is Singing just a few weeks ago.
Told in a stream-of-conscience style, the book centers on Anna, a writer who keeps multiple notebooks, separating the important aspects of her life. She is depressed! She has horrible taste in men! (You will learn this over and over again.) This complex and challenging novel felt too much like work, without any real payoff for me by the end. I'm mostly just glad I'm finally done reading it.
161. Eclipse of the Crescent Moon by Geza Gardonyi. Thoroughly entertaining historical fiction... Gardonyi tells a romanticized story of one of the Hungarian heroes of the Siege of Eger Castle -- Gergely Bornemissza, an explosives expert who made grenades that were were partly responsible for repelling the Turks in a month-long siege of the fort.
It takes a long time to get to the seige, since Gardonyi starts the tale when Gergely is just eight years old. The book is sprinkled with a little romance, lots of fighting between Turks and Hungarians and a bit of politics as well. I found it to be fun, easy reading despite its length.
162. Celestial Harmonies by Peter Esterhazy. A difficult book for me to rate... I didn't really enjoy it but thought that Esterhazy had a beautiful way with language... there were sentences I would stop to read over just because they were so interesting.
Knowing next to nothing about Hungary and nothing at all about Esterhazy's family (apparently wealthy landowners who the communists were happy to take down a peg or two) probably didn't help. The first half of the book -- vignettes, both factual and fictional, about the Esterhazy men dragged for me. The second half, with a more traditional narrative, focusing on the family's troubles as they were moved from a castle filled with heirlooms and art to sharing one room in a peasant's shack was much more interesting.
163. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. A very easy and enjoyable read for the most part. Despite sometimes becoming a little preachy, I found the overall story kind of sweet. This is definitely one of those books that is more interesting for its biographical details than its literary value.
Enjoyable, but I definitely liked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall more.
164. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I was disappointed with this novel. After an interesting set up, with two narrators who are hiding their true selves behind prickly dispositions, the book became more a lecture on philosophy than an actual story. At least until its abrupt ending occurs in the final couple of chapters.
The middle of the book just seemed to be a contest between the two narrators to prove over and over again how smart they are. There really wasn't enough plot to keep it interesting for me.
165. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre. This book really fell flat for me. I had trouble following what was going on, but that may not have been a fault of the novel, but of my circumstances. I brought this along for a huge group camping trip thinking it would be a light thriller. I picked up the book and put it down again a lot, so maybe I was just too distracted to keep track of its zillion little details.
That said, I wasn't particularly surprised by the ending either. Maybe it's just that thrillers aren't really my genre.
166. White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Really enjoyed this novel, which focuses on multiple generations of two northern London families. Each family, in its own way, is dealing with immigration issues -- the loss of the values so important to their cultural identity as their children grow up in a new culture.
Smith's ability to completely illustrate the fundamental characteristics of a character in just a couple of pages made this book a joy to read. The characters are interesting and complex and their reactions to situations really ring true.
So glad this was a group read, as this book wasn't on my radar at all and I really enjoyed it a lot.
167. Memories of Rain by Sunetra Gupta. This was a beautiful and challenging novel of love and loss. It is the story of Moni and Anthony, who fell in love 10 years ago in India during a torrential rain storm. After 10 years, their love has receded like floodwater and Moni plans to return to India on their daughter's sixth birthday, a cruel surprise designed to say everything she has been unable to speak.
This was a bit of a challenging read -- Gupta's sentences are often a page long, but they are also very evocative of water. The blurb on the back of the book calls her Virginia Wolf's heir and I can see the comparison because the tone of the book reminded me a bit of Wolf's "The Waves."
I really liked the book and found its voice different and interesting.
168. The Red and the Black by Stendhal. I really struggled with this book, which is the story of a frustrated social climber who lives in Paris at a time when it was nearly impossible to get ahead if you weren't just born to money and titles. His romantic notions convince him he is love in various women (and not the wealth and connections they may provide.)
I found the first half of the book to be tedious (only reading a few pages in a sitting before I grew bored...) but the second half of the book moved to someplace between tolerable and interesting. I'm not sure whether that is because there is a lot more action in the second half or if by then I had adjusted to Stendhal's style.
I can appreciate this book was ahead of its time, but I really didn't enjoy reading it.
169. On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin. Having read and adored Chatwin's In Patagonia, I was very anxious to see if his fiction writing held up to his travel writing. I wasn't disappointed and I really enjoyed "On the Black Hill."
The novel has a fairly simple story -- it tells of the life and times of Benjamin and Lewis Jones, identical twins whose lives are so intertwined they rarely leave each other or the Welsh farm they were born on. The story often leaves their land to tell the story of neighbors and other family members.
Without much of a plot, the book really succeeds because Chatwin has a marvelous ability to paint a scene-- his vivid descriptions of the landscape, the farm house and even the people themselves make this fun. The book definitely isn't a meaty tale, but for a light read, it was still enjoyable.
170. Blue of Noon by Georges Bataille. While I didn't really actually hate this book, I really didn't get it either.
The novel, set at the start of Spanish Civil War, is apparently supposed to use its eroticism to show the connection between sex, power and violence but the separate threads really didn't come together for me.
The narrator Henri Troppmann lives to excess and spends much of the novel drunk, sick, in fear of death and amongst a series of debauched women (who are themselves racing toward stark ends.) I just didn't see how this all tied into the politics of the era... for me it was more a story about depression, self-centeredness and alcoholism than a political statement.
While there were one or two scenes that will likely stick with me... (including the one true sex scene at the end of the book, which without giving anything away was an interesting idea and a good way to change Troppmann's character a bit) the rest was mostly forgettable for me.
171. The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. This was a terrific, thought-provoking read.
I expected a book about female circumcision... and while that was central to the story, the book was about so much more. Set in Kenya in the land of the Gikuyu, the book is about the gulf between those who embraced Christianity and those who embraced old traditions. It was done in such a balanced way, that anyone who clung too tightly to both sides seemed to be in the wrong.
172. God's Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembene. Just adding this one to my "read" list.... I read this years ago in college for an African history course along with Thiong'o's A Grain of Wheat. Not sure why I never noticed it was on the list before today.
173. Villette by Charlotte Bronte. While I liked Villette, it definitely didn't replace Jane Eyre as my favorite book by Charlotte Bronte. It was particularly interesting in light of Bronte's own life in Belgium, where it is believed she fell in love with a married teacher/headmaster at the school.
The narrator, Miss Lucy Snowe, is left to her own devices to find her way in the world. She eventually travels to Villette and becomes an English teacher. As a narrator she is somewhat cold and secretive, so it's really up to the reader to tease through what she's saying.
I really liked that Lucy was such complex character -- she lacked that inherent goodness that makes Jane Eyre grate a bit. However, I found that the story kind of dragged a bit.
174. At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. I have to say I was disappointed by this classic horror tale because it really didn't have much of a "creep" factor. Maybe it's because I'm not a horror aficionado, so when I read something from that genre I really want it to feel good and creepy.
The story itself was somewhat interesting and right up my alley... an Antarctic expedition unearths ghastly evidence of a ancient civilization of Elder Things. (I am absolutely mad for Antarctic stories, so I liked the setting.) However, much of the novella is a dry description of grotesque, icy mountains and caverns... it takes a long time to get to the meat of the story, which really occurs in the last few pages.
So, a sort of middling review from me for this one, I guess... interesting story and setting, but I didn't like the author's style.
175. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. Boy, I really found this one to be boring... maybe I'm just not smart enough to see what all the fuss is about... (this did win the Nobel Prize for literature!)
The novel is the story of Joseph Knecht, an elite who is penned up in Castalia, with all the other educated folks, playing a game that shows the interconnectedness of things. Yet, they are all set apart from what is going on in the world.
I disliked Hesse's style... the book read like a dry lecture or academic paper, which was perhaps the point, but I couldn't get through 30 pages without falling asleep. This is the first book by Hesse that I've read, and considering it is considered his magnum opus, I guess he isn't an author that I'm going to click with at all.
Ah, I didn't know that! Makes me feel a little bit better.... perhaps I'll like some of Hesse's other books better.
:) I've only read Siddhartha as yet, but I absolutely loved that one.
I listened to Siddhartha on CD, which is probably the only way I'd have gotten through it. I'm not super eager to jump into Hesse again. Thanks for the review!
I've read a few of Hesse's off the list and Siddhartha was WAY better than any of the others. So, sorry to break it to you but Hesse is one of those that I think I'll probably leave until after I die now...
I think I'll definitely try Siddhartha as my next Hesse based upon all these comments.... once I've worked up to reading another Hesse, that is.
176. The Enchanted Wanderer: and Other Stories by Nikolai Leskov. Loved this great collection of short stories, which read like Russian folk tales. The stories mostly focused on working class Russians during the reign of Nicholas I.
I'm not sure whether the 1001 entry is just for the title tale or for the whole collection. The six stories appear to be published together frequently, sometimes using different tales as the title story. I probably enjoyed the title story the least, but particularly enjoyed "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" and "Lefty". Fun stuff!
177. Tono-Bungay by H.G. Wells. I mainly picked this book because I grew up on a lake with a similar name so I really knew nothing about the plot. I found the story to be enjoyable and engrossing.
The book tells the story of George Ponderevo, who works with his uncle on a scheme to sell a cure-all tonic that they both know is all bunk. The story frequently strays away from that, though, as it covers pretty much all of Ponderevo's life. There is a ton of social commentary on religion, socialism and the English class system interspersed with the story. There were a few parts that dragged along as a result, but overall I did enjoy the story.
178. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. My final Austen definitely wasn't my favorite... but it certainly wasn't my least favorite either. Although I found the book's heroine Catherine Moreland rather daft and silly, she still came across as likeable, which helped make this a fun and fast read.
Particularly glad I read Mysteries of Udolpho before reading Northanger... it definitely made the book more enjoyable.
Indeed that was a fun group read.... though I was one of the few (or perhaps the only one) that actually enjoyed The Mysteries of Udolpho!
179. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. I liked this beautifully written book right from the start... both for the writing and for the setting as the Himalayan region is something I'm particularly interested in reading about in my non-list book life.
The book tells the story of Sai, a young woman who grew up in a convent and moved to India with her grandfather. Her life contrasts with that of Biju, the son of a cook who immigrates to the United States. I found the book to be an interesting look at the cultural divides created between the generations.
Although the story dragged a bit in the middle, I enjoyed the writing enough that it didn't bother me a lot.
Good to hear, I just started The Inheritance of Loss yesterday! I also like it right from the start.
180. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren. Cute and charming kids book that has enough sparkle and wit to be entertaining for adults too. I'm not really sure why this was included on the list -- but I probably wouldn't have ever read it otherwise, so I don't mind.
The book is a series of vignettes about the Pippi -- who grows up without parents and defies social conventions left and right but has a heart of gold underneath. Overall, a quick and fun read.
181. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. What can I say, I just loved this book. I stayed up late and read it in one sitting because I just had to know how it was all going to end.
Beautifully written, the story follows Tony Webster, an aging man looking back over his life from his schoolboy days to middle age and showing that memory can be tricky -- weaving a tangled web that reflects the attitudes and beliefs of the teller. Fascinating stuff.
Definitely a good addition to the list as far as I'm concerned.
182. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd. While I admired Ackroyd's use of voice to transport his readers back to 18th century London, I really found little else to like about this one. The story became really bogged down in tiny details and the ending really didn't bring the story together for me. Glad to have this one behind me, really.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. This is technically a re-read for me, as I got my copy in high school. I'm not sure I ever finished it, though, so I'm glad I got the chance to pick it up again.
What can you say about this masterpiece that hasn't already been said? Hugo weaves together a terrific, epic tale featuring complex characters with rich back stories that make the pages fly by. My only real quibble with the book is that the tangents went off a bit long (especially the Waterloo) section... and I just wanted to get back to the main story. Still, I loved the book so much, that it was still a five-star read for me.
183. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. At the outset, I often thought of Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, thinking that authors have a whole sheaf of unfinished lying around in a drawer someplace and these two authors had found a way to profit from them. I thought the way that Mitchell connected them all was gimmicky yet it still worked.... (though not as brilliantly as Calvino.)
Cloud Atlas is six stories, connected by theme, observation and other similarities, all while retaining original voices. I liked some of the individual stories a lot more than others. Overall, though, I liked the book and found it to be an entertaining read.
184. The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugresic. Adored this book, which starts out with an inventory of a dead Berlin Zoo walrus's stomach -- filled with lollypop sticks, a baby's shoe, a knife... all random objects that come together thanks to a zoo animal's appetite and people's thoughtless tossing.
Like the walrus, the book brings together a series of short vignettes, mostly on the subject of immigration and exile from a Yugoslavia that no longer exists. The stories are written in lots of different styles, all beautifully and are terribly nostalgic. Really enjoyed this one quite a bit.
185. Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami. A book about junkies in 1970's Japan. I wasn't a fan. It wasn't that I minded the graphic depiction of sex and drugs... it's that there was no point to it all, except apparently to be provocative. There wasn't really a story arc or a plot, even.
Paled greatly in comparison to Trainspotting in terms of story and literary interest, as far as I was concerned.
186. The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin. I can best describe this book as a quiet novel. Not much happens in the story, which follows an Irish judge named Eamon Redmond as he recollects his life. With a setting in Ireland, there is a bit of politics sprinkled in here, but it mostly focuses on his fairly typical domestic life. There really isn't a ton of plot here.
The book was an easy read and the characters were interesting... however, I didn't find much about it that will make it really memorable. Honestly, I didn't love it or hate it... so it just earns a kind of middling rating from me.
187. Leaden Wings by Zhang Jie. While interesting from a historical and cultural perspective, this novel, as a story, is incredibly dull.
Set in China during the Cultural Revolution, the main focus of the story is whether the traditional methods of running a factory are better than new-fangled, more "westernized" ways. There's an endless parade of characters and sort of old-fashioned prose here too.
Definitely not my cup of tea.
188. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. Surprised how different the novel was from the beloved film, but it was still a great read. I admire Capote's ability to leave a lot unsaid, but still written between the lines. Not as good as In Cold Blood but I didn't expect it would be either.
There were three other short stories in the volume too, which were also very strong. I particularly liked "A Christmas Memory," which at least read as semi-autobiographical (though I don't know if it actually is.)
189. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani. Really enjoyed this book. It frequently reminded me of an Italian version of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited which I also really loved.
Set in Italy on the eve of the Holocaust, the story follows a group of Jewish young adults who are trying to hold on to a way of life that is slowly being destroyed by the creeping shadow of Fascism.
190. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Well, I'm glad that's over and done!
I didn't enjoy this book at all, mainly because the style of humor in the book doesn't appeal to me. I get why others might enjoy it, but it just wasn't to my taste for reading material.
191. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I feel certain this was a re-read for me, as I read a lot of Christie's novels when I was in junior high. Unfortunately, while trying to determine if this was something I'd read before, I read a review that gave away the ending. So it's pretty hard for me to give the book a fair rating.
While it was a good mystery and I understand completely why it's on the 1,001 list, it isn't my favorite (and in fact, it was kind of forgettable for me.) I think And Then There Were None got me hooked on Christie's mysteries way back when and it still remains my favorite.
192. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I recently had a conversation with a couple of people who were shocked I'd never read this book... so I decided to pick it up. I'm glad I did.
The story follows a group of German soldiers during World War I as they try to avoid shells, scrounge up enough food and readjust to civilian life during leave. It has many haunting images that will stick with me for a long while.
193. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Ugh... Murakami and I just don't get along (and I'm really not a fan of magical realism.) Despite his endless repeating of what I assume are important details, I can never figure out what the heck Murakami is driving at.
Just glad this one is finally done!
194. Fortunata and Jacinta by Benito Perez Galdoz. I alternately loved this book and hated it. It was a hard one for me to rate, that's for sure.
The story follows two women who are involved with a cad, Jacinita, is his wife who cannot have children yet is obsessed with them, and Fortunata, the man's unfortunate mistress. I found the story interesting and compelling and particularly liked the way Galdoz incorporated this particular period of Spain into his novel.
There was something about the writing that had me struggle about this one. I think it was the way new characters were introduced... you got a lot of back story before heading back to the main story. I felt like I was struggling through this book alot, which is strange for a book that I liked overall.
I felt much the same way about Fortunata and Jacinta. It was a book I could admire, but it took me a long time to finish it, largely because the prolonged side-trips into the lives of minor characters killed the momentum of the main story.
195. The Monk by Matthew Lewis. I don't often read Gothic novels, but apparently I should do so more often. I've enjoyed the ones I've read from the 1,001 list.
Apparently, the first novel to feature a priest as its villain, the story features every type of depravity imaginable. However, the story was entertaining with plenty of twists and turns.
A warning if you pick up the 2002 Oxford University Press edition-- the book jacket inexplicably gives away what happens to one of the characters.
Don't you just HATE it when they do that? Grrrr! Still, I'm glad you enjoyed The Monk - I read this at Uni and 10 years later it's still well in my Top 20 books of all time - possibly even the Top 10. I just adore the ending :)
Yeah, the monk is pretty much the ONLY gothic novel I have any time for. One that I would read again... when I've finished the other 600+ I have yet to read!
196. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Sexually explicit but with really well-drawn and interesting characters. I enjoyed this book a lot... was only a little disappointed with the ending. Nancy's transformation into a political activist seemed a little forced. Overall, I found it an interesting and fairly compelling read.
197. The Amazing Adventures Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Essentially a love letter to comic books, this novel also focuses on the effects of the holocaust, homosexuality and the importance of family ties.
The book drew me in straight away as Chabon did an amazing job creating a rich backstory and interesting characters. I thought it fizzled a bit in the end as he tried to tie everything together neatly. But I'm still glad to have read this one as I found the story pretty unique and interesting.
198. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. So glad this was picked for the group read because I absolutely loved it. And for reasons I can't really remember, I had been avoiding this book (perhaps because I had it confused with another that I had read something negative about.)
Victorian times, paleontology, frustrated love... it is as if Fowles wrote this one specifically for me. I found it incredibly entertaining and plan to read it again sometime, as I think it has layers that will become more apparent with a second reading.
199. A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham. I was disappointed with this book-- not to say it was bad-- but there just wasn't anything particularly special or interesting about it. I'm surprised it was on the 1,001 list at all.
The story is mostly about a love triangle between a gay man named Jonathan, a bisexual man named Bobby and a woman named Clare. The story is well-paced, though a bit predictable. Overall, I found it "okay" but I'm sure it's one of those books I won't really remember anything about after a bit of time passes.
200. A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White. This novel is the autobiographical story of growing up gay in 1950's America. The unnamed narrator struggles with his homosexuality in an age where it was condemned and with a deep need to belong.
I really liked White's ability to use language... the book is filled with great descriptions without being overwrought. I didn't like the plotting as much -- it's a very fragmented book that jumps around a bit. Overall, I enjoyed the story though.
201. Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago. I'm not a fan of magical realism at all, but I did enjoy this one... mainly on the strength of the characters.
202. Middlemarch by George Eliot. I've long wanted to read this novel-- it's certainly right up my alley as a Victorian classic that follows the trials and tribulations of marriages arranged for all the wrong reasons.
Like those marriages, this was definitely the wrong time for me to read this book. We've added a new baby to the house and I only had time to read a few pages at a time. The first 100 pages or so were torture... I couldn't keep track of who any of the characters were and it was very frustrating.
Once I finally had all of the people straight, the story became really enjoyable and I flew through the rest. This probably would have been a five star book for me at another time in my life, but the novel gets four stars at this time.
203. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. This book is a prime example of why I enjoy reading from the 1,001 list. I'd never heard of this book (and probably never would have) but thoroughly enjoyed it.
The book follows many generations of the Forsyte family -- it can best be described as an Victorian-era soap opera, following the family as members deal with issues like money, love and greed.
Only disappointed that I spend too much time studying the family tree at the beginning of the book, so much of the actual plot wasn't a surprise. However, I definitely plan to read the remainder of the series at some point.
Have you seen the BBC mini series????? I have to admit I cheated and watched it before I read the book.
204. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch. This was my third Murdoch novel and definitely my least favorite of the three, though I still found it an enjoyable, easy read. Murdoch really stands out to me as an author who completely transforms her voice from novel to novel (well, at least so far.)
This book tells the story of Jake Donaghue, a translator and would-be author, who has all sorts of problems understanding what people are actually talking about. The philosophical stuff isn't too heady in this book -- it's more of a madcap romp through London and Paris and Jake runs about misunderstanding everything that's going on.
A fun book, to be sure, but definitely not amongst my favorites.
205. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox. Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I found it a bit tedious at times. Not sure why the patient Glanville didn't just say hang it all and go find himself a woman with some sense.
Arabella, the novel's heroine, has lived a reclusive life and has been fed a steady diet of romantic novels, from which she bases all of her views on love. When she comes of age, she views all her suitors (and every many is a suitor) through that lens with disastrous results.
I was more amused as the book went on and mostly enjoyed it. I was frequently reminded of Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" which has a similar premise. I liked Austen's version better.
Jane Austen gets a little sappy on me at times and I can only that her is very small doses but I can handle Austen alittle more this reading about this little twit. I have said more then once oh Arabella go sit your tail down somewhere not everyone is that in love with you to take all of your BS.
206. The Forest of the Hanged by Liviu Rebreanu. Intrigued by the title of this book, I started looking for a copy-- it took me two years to find one and I was worried it wouldn't live up to all the effort. But, I was happy to find that I enjoyed the book.
The story follows Apostol Bologa, a Romanian who joins the Austro-Hungarian cause in World War I to impress a girl. He soon finds he's on the wrong side of the Romanian front with the horrifying prospect of fighting his own countrymen.
This is one of the least violent books about war I've ever read. It's more about the psychological toll and slow unraveling of a man. I found it well paced and interesting.
Just a note to anyone who picks up a copy with the purple noose on the cover: Don't read the book jacket, as it gives away the ending.
207. A Void by Georges Perec. (If you don't want to know the premise of this book, don't read any farther...)
Ever since learning that this book was written entirely without the letter "e"... and also translated without the letter "e", I knew I wanted to read it. It occasionally has awkward sentence construction as a result, but the story is surprisingly readable.
The plot follows the disappearance of A. Vowl as his friends try and put clues together to figure out what happened to him. The book cleverly winks at itself a lot. Overall, it was an interesting idea for a book and well done.
>138 That does sound interesting. Does he just leave out E's in words or is the book written entirely with words that don't have E's in them?
Entirely with words that don't have E's in them... (aside from the author's own name.) He does have some numbers in there with E's in them, but they are written with numerals instead of spelled out.
208. The Bell by Iris Murdoch. Definitely not my favorite Murdoch, (my favorite is The Sea, The Sea at this point) but I found the book to be interesting and solidly entertaining. It is very well written.
The story follows a variety of characters who live in a lay community attached to an Abbey of reclusive nuns. As the book shifts to the perspective of different characters, it covers struggles with religion, marriage, homosexuality along the way.
209. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys. I really like Rhys' work, depressing as it tends to be.
In this novel, a narrator named Sasha wallows in her depression while wandering around Paris and attempting to drink herself to death. It's stream-of-consciousness and not a whole lot happens, but I thoroughly entertained anyway.
Often, it made me think of Malcolm Lowry's Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid... mainly because he does the same thing, but in Mexico rather than Paris.
210. Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki. This novel is about the slow and painful disintegration of a marriage in which neither party wants to be the one to take the steps necessary for a divorce.
Unfortunately, I found the novel fairly slow and painful to read. I could see what the author was trying to do-- contrast east versus west and the idea of a virtuous versus debased woman, but it just wasn't that interesting.
It probably doesn't help that I'm halfway through Yukio Mishima's The Sea of Fertility, which I'm loving. I don't read Japanese writers terribly often so it was hard not to compare the two. Tanizaki's book mostly left me cold.... though it got better in the last few chapters when things finally started moving in a direction.
211. War with the Newts by Karel Capek. Really enjoyed this one, especially in view of the social and political climate it was written in during 1935. Capek was particularly concerned with the rise of National Socialism in Germany, but takes stabs at England, France and America as well.
This black comedy tells the story of the discovery of an underwater newt that is exploited to further the pocketbooks of a few businessmen. Decisions made in pursuit of economic gain eventually lead to a rebellion by the enslaved newts.
Entertaining and a great social commentary that still seems pretty relevant today.
212. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I thought this book was terrific... it was really a page turner... I had a hard time putting it down.
Billed as one of the first mysteries, the book is filled with plot twists and turns galore. Collins does a great job at keeping the story moving along while dripping out the answers slowly. Entertaining reading, for sure!
213. The Nose by Nikolai Gogol. Took advantage of a slow day at work to read this short story. It's an amusing little piece of magical realism... not my cup of tea, but it's short enough I can't object all that much.
214. Metamorphoses by Ovid. I enjoyed this one, even though the stories were mostly familiar, since I am a fan of mythology in general. It probably would have been a five-star book for me if Ovid didn't keep cutting the "good stuff" out of tales to just get to the transformation elements.
Reading all these myths together left me wondering why so many Greek and Roman stories have transformations into birds and trees though.
215. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster. This was Forster's first novel and it shows... it has some of the same themes of his later, more popular novels but it isn't quite so effective.
The story starts with the unfortunate Lilia, a young widow who travels to Italy for a year away from her troubles and cares. She outrages her former inlaws when she falls in love with a young Italian bloke with no connections to speak of.
The story, in the end, didn't quite gel for me, but I enjoyed Forster's writing nonetheless.
Simone2: LOL... you made me look it up to see if I was just assuming incorrectly! :)
216. The Sea of Fertility by Yukio Mishima. Overall, I thought this tetralogy started brilliantly but fizzled in the end.
The overriding theme of the series is reincarnation and the decay of traditional Japanese culture. The first book Spring Snow was really terrific... the third book The Temple of Dawn was definitely my least favorite. I didn't feel like the series really came together well as a whole.
I am glad to have this series out of the way.
I have been enjoying your reviews of The Sea of Fertility and am looking forward to reading them myself after I have finished A Dance to the Music of Time (which will take a while because I am in the 5th part of 12).
Thanks so much! I just wish the series ended as strongly as it started!
I thought about starting A Dance to the Music of Time in January... but decided to hold off until I finish another long term reading project (non-list... Shakespeare.) I think I'll finish that mid-year in 2014 and then start on Dance (which I'm eager to do after reading so many of everyone's comments on it.)
217. Nemesis by Philip Roth. This was my first time reading anything by Roth and I did enjoy the book. That said, I don't really understand why it was included on the 1,001 list as it didn't strike me as anything super special.
The story centers on Bucky Cantor, a playground director who watched over children while a polio epidemic raged through Newark, N.J. I could see where the story was heading pretty early on, but liked how Roth peeled back the layers on Cantor's character slowly.
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