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amaryann21's List from The List version 2.0

This is a continuation of the topic amaryann21's List from The List.

1001 Books to read before you die

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Mar 8, 2016, 10:50am Top

New thread for the next 300...

301. Ragtime

Ragtime is half story, half portrait of New York City (and some surrounding areas) in the early 1900's. The story focuses on a family who is never named (Mother, Father, Grandfather, etc.) and the people who come into their lives, including a young African American man who meets with some infamy.

The book is very readable, but there wasn't a good flow. The second half was better, because it focused more on the storyline, but I think Doctorow's style isn't my favorite.

Food: chopped salad. A lot of stuff thrown into a bowl, and while it all goes together because it's technically one dish, some bites are more harmonious than others.

Edited: Apr 12, 2016, 11:17pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Mar 12, 2016, 4:40pm Top

302. Doctor Zhivago

I've been putting off the Russians for some time now. I didn't hear anything horrible, but I was afraid of getting lost in the sea of everyone having 5 different names. When I picked this up, I steeled myself for a long slog...

I was SO surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this. The writing is beautiful without being too showy or preachy. The story is of one man's life and starts before the Russian Revolution and ends with WWII. I really got to care about the characters, and a few times, I had to remember which person what being represented with which names, but it really wasn't so bad! I was really struck by the beauty of the writing. I also realized how little I know about Russian history and I love that books like this make me want to learn.

Food: borscht. Full of trepidation at first, because it's a new experience, but the more I consume, the more I like it. Delicious and I'm excited about a second helping.

Mar 13, 2016, 3:48am Top

By 'putting off the Russians' do you mean you haven't read any of them? Even the really famous ones like War and Peace?

Mar 13, 2016, 4:08pm Top

Correct. I was never required to read them in school, so they are all on my TBR pile.

Mar 13, 2016, 4:53pm Top

I only started reading Russian lit a few years back (and I am 43). I was always under the impression that it was dark and dreary so I never tried. But when I finally picked one up, I realised how very wrong I was. I have read quite a bit now and love most of it. Doctor Zhivago is on my list for this year - loved the movie.

Mar 13, 2016, 5:46pm Top

I'm excited to see the movie. I've held off, wanting to read the book first.

Mar 13, 2016, 6:30pm Top

After watching Must Love Dogs years ago, I had to watch it :)

Mar 17, 2016, 9:57pm Top

303. Cloud Atlas

This is a masterpiece. The story, or collection of stories within stories, is complex and interwoven and each has its own style and voice, but never was it difficult to read or follow. Each voice in the chorus drew me further into the worlds that were created. I have not read a book like this before and I am a little in awe.

I saw the movie when it came out and, in retrospect, I think they did as good a job as they could. The book is so much MORE. I will continue to think about this book for a long time. I'm so happy to have encountered it.

Food: a progressive dinner, in which one goes to different homes for each course. This is more than a meal, because you are immersed in the experience of dining as well as appreciating the food.

Edited: Mar 18, 2016, 4:49am Top

>9 amaryann21: I loved this book too - one of my rare 5/5 books

Mar 18, 2016, 3:52am Top

Sounds great - I've gotten Slade House out of the library which will be the first book of his which I have read but I'll make sure to include Cloud Atlas in my next three month set of reading. I'm a bit booked up for this three months.

Mar 18, 2016, 8:44am Top

>9 amaryann21:, >10 puckers:, Cloud Atlas was also a 5 stars book for me.

Mar 18, 2016, 9:49am Top

I keep thinking about how it's written so masterfully. I haven't given a book 5 stars in awhile, and this was one. I also usually trade my books after I read them, but this one is going in the permanent collection. I kinda want to just hold it and hope some of the genius rubs off on me.

Mar 18, 2016, 10:57pm Top

304. A Severed Head

Martin has a wife and a mistress and a psychoanalyst. Until his wife falls in love with his psychoanalyst and then they both want him to be part of their big, happy family... sort of. Not in a sexual way, but they want to be absolved of any negative feelings and they NEED him to continue to be part of their lives. And that's just the start of the bizarro love quadrilaterals.

I feel like this book is a product of its time and, perhaps, the British culture of that time. I feel like it's supposed to be cheeky, but it just feels sad. The severed head theme feels to me like these people either are all intellect or all emotion and can't reconcile the two. I didn't not enjoy the book, but I feel like I didn't entirely get it.

Food: the last, cheap beer of the night after too many shots and the only person left is the sad drunk who's recounting their tragic love affairs. After awhile, it's a bit much.

Mar 18, 2016, 11:31pm Top

Have you read others by Murdoch? I'm curious how it compares to some of her others, as I have A Severed Head coming up in my tbr pile soon.

Mar 19, 2016, 12:02am Top

>15 amerynth: I'm pretty sure it's my first, so I'm not going to judge her yet. I've read great things about The Sea, the Sea.

Mar 19, 2016, 9:08am Top

Indeed, The Sea, The Sea has been my Murdoch favorite so far.

Mar 19, 2016, 12:08pm Top

305. The Call of the Wild

This is the story of Buck, a dog taken surreptitiously from his home and stolen away to the gold rush in Alaska. Told from his perspective, this short novel gives us a brutal look at the life of a sled dog and how Buck goes from a domesticated pet to hearing the call of the wild, literally, and going back to the beast of his ancestors.

I loved reading about the care of the animals by some of the characters. Sometimes it feels like a modern attitude to care about the quality of life of an animal. London did a fantastic job making the story feel authentic and adventurous and didn't humanize Buck too much, which I appreciate.

Food: venison steak. Meat, a little gamey, a little wild, a little exotic (for some of us).

Mar 25, 2016, 9:48pm Top

306. Silas Marner

Poor Silas. Accused of a crime he didn't commit, he exiles himself to a small village and starts a new chapter in his life, one where he keeps very much to himself. A crime is then committed on him, which brings him to the brink of despair until a small turn of events brings light back to his life.

I enjoyed this story for its provincialism. The simplicity of the townsfolk and the depiction of the rich squire's family being a little myopic felt more realistic than caricature. Silas doesn't show his full depth of character until the end, and I came to realize that I really liked the strange little man. The message is somewhat along the lines of, "Good things come to those who wait" and "Trust in the Lord" and when you're selfish, you lose out, but none of it felt preachy. I like a more subtly delivered message.

I think the reading of this book was enhanced by the antique copy I acquired. It was published in 1900 and is a small, red leather bound copy, very well aged. I love the feel of it, knowing that others have held this same little volume, enjoyed the story. It carries its history with it.

Food: a shortbread cookie. Simple, a little sweet, easy to digest.

Mar 27, 2016, 10:36am Top

307. Kitchen

Mikage has lost all her family and Yuichi and his mother take her in. Mikage is drawn to kitchens- clean, dirty, large, small, they have more meaning to her than any other part of the house. Slowly, she deals with her grief and, a few years later, is dealt another blow. She and Yuichi are pulled together and apart over the years.

There is a quiet, a patience in this story that feels Eastern. The emotion is allowed to be understated, which feels more genuine, than some of the Western writers techniques (I'm looking at you, Jodi Picoult) of smacking the reader in the face, screaming, "FEEL SOMETHING!". I am engaged in the story with this respect of feeling.

Food: clear broth. Flavorful, simple, delicious without pretension. Healthy.

Mar 30, 2016, 9:45pm Top

308. Quicksand

Helga is looking for where she fits in. She's biracial in a world where civil rights haven't become a reality yet, and she isn't really a part of the Negro (her word) world and certainly not a part of the white world. She tries on several different cities and lifestyles and is happy for a time, until the same old uneasiness comes back. Life is like quicksand- the more you struggle, the faster you sink.

Reading this story was fascinating and sad. I wanted Helga to find her place and find happiness, but the dread was it was never to be achieved. The complicated picture of racism, particularly of how blacks viewed themselves in contrast to whites and the varied perspectives held, was something I hadn't considered much in the past. It gave me a lot to think about.

Food: heavy, dense cornbread. Tasty, but it sits in your stomach afterward, weighing you down.

Edited: Mar 31, 2016, 5:53am Top

As a note do you know that quicksand, as portrayed on all those old westerns, is imaginary? It doesn't, and never has, existed. It traps you, it doesn't drown you.

So, like quicksand, could Helga's uneasiness and sense of not fitting in also be just in her imagination?

Mar 31, 2016, 7:09am Top

Yes, I did :)

The analysis included in the introduction (which I never read first) states that Larsen's books are psychological rather than sociological. While I think Helga's perspective is influenced by the time she lives in, it's very much a personal journey for her, which suggests this may be entirely in her head.

Apr 1, 2016, 10:12am Top

309. Passing

Irene grew up with Clare, but when Clare's father died, she disappeared and no one knew what became of her. Irene runs into her again, purely by chance, and finds out that Clare is "passing" for white to everyone in her life, including her very racist husband. Irene's feelings about this are many- anger, disappointment, betrayal, and fear for Clare's safety.

I have mixed feelings about the story as well. It wasn't easy to read. Irene's perspective makes sense, but the conflict she feels is very well portrayed and is transferred to the reader. Ultimately, the story is sad. The underlying commentary on race is dismaying, and I understand that feeling is a result of the time I live in, though I think it brave of Larsen to be writing about it in the 1920's.

Food: a madeleine, looking yummy and delicious, but lacking in taste and a little dry. You aren't totally disappointed, but wish it could have had more flavor.

Apr 5, 2016, 7:06pm Top

310. The Secret Agent

Usually spy stories are exciting, full of action. Leave it to Conrad to make a spy story boring. Mr. Verloc is a secret agent, but apparently not doing a very good job. He's married to Winnie and has taken on her mother and brother, who is slightly irregular in the head. He runs a shop and hangs out with anarchists. And then there's an explosion.

Conrad uses too many words. There's too much to sort through to figure out what he's actually saying and in this book, all the action, what little there is, comes at the end. It's not even that good of a payoff. I don't see the appeal in his writing.

Food: a dry cappuccino with no sugar. Bitter, too much foam, and someone must have used decaf espresso.

Apr 11, 2016, 9:24pm Top

311. The Garden Party

The Garden Party is about a wealthy family throwing a garden party the day they've learned a neighbor, quite poor, has died in an accident. One of the children is quite sympathetic and feels it inappropriate to throw the party in light of the death.

The short story highlights class difference and values in a brief, effective way. The lavish party, real emotion for the family being distracted by a new bonnet, a gesture of sympathy that isn't really sympathetic (or is it as sympathetic as possible?) and an ending that's not quite satisfying make for an interesting story.

Food: a cream puff where the cream has just started to turn. Looks beautiful, but there's some sourness that'll stay with you.

Apr 11, 2016, 9:38pm Top

>26 amaryann21: Hmmm, is that bittersweet? It's been a while since I read The Garden Party, but I'd describe it, and most of the Mansfield stories that I remember, as bittersweet.

Apr 11, 2016, 9:46pm Top

>27 Nickelini: I'm not sure I'd describe it as bittersweet. Bittersweet means there's real sweetness in the mix, and this just felt like the wealthy family was... removed. Their sympathy was nominal. The difference in the class realities was stark.

Apr 11, 2016, 9:58pm Top

>28 amaryann21: Hmm, okay, yes, I can see that.

Apr 12, 2016, 1:17pm Top

I keep waiting for you to run out of these great food metaphors and start repeating yourself. But you don't.

Edited: Apr 12, 2016, 3:12pm Top

They're great aren't they? :-)

They are always spot on.

Apr 12, 2016, 5:05pm Top

Thank you! I think it helps me both remember the books better and really think about how I experienced them. And I've only done 170, since I didn't start them right away, so I'm sure I'll repeat soon!

Apr 21, 2016, 5:59pm Top

312. The Kreutzer Sonata

The man on the train has killed his wife. He's honest about it, and he was acquitted. He has some very strong opinions about sex and marriage. Did his wife cheat on him? We'll never know...

This was a short story, but a long experience. I couldn't figure out if Tolstoy was advocating against marriage and sex or not, but I found an epilogue online after finishing the story that showed that yes, Tolstoy was not in favor of marriage and sex the way the "Church" set it up. Interesting. I did listen to the Kreutzer Sonata while reading the last third of the story, and the best part of the story is when the main character describes his response to the music. That helped me understand a little better (and makes me wonder, is that part autobiographical, Tolstoy?). My professional opinion is that the main character is crazy, though. Certifiably.

Food: stinky cheese. Not super stinky, but mildly stinky. You have some trepidation about trying it, but you want to be polite and adventurous, but you have to try it several times to figure out whether or not you like it. And the next day, you're still not sure.

Apr 25, 2016, 10:48pm Top

313. Saturday

This is the third McEwan I've read and my favorite so far. The story of Henry's day drew me in from the very start. Henry is a neurosurgeon and the descriptions of his work contain some large, impressive words (which I love). It's a Saturday, and he wakes early, sees an unusual sight, and goes about his day. The book is full of flashbacks that round out the story of his life and family.

The language of this book wrapped me up, flowed over and around me, and I wanted to take my time, pace myself, instead of racing to the end to see what happens. Most of the book is regular life stuff, which may be why it appealed to me so much. There is genuine love and care and what drama there is is handled with nobility. It's been awhile since I liked the characters in a book so much.

Food: a single square of high quality dark chocolate, 72% cocoa or higher. Thin, brittle, taking a few moments to melt in your mouth, but blooming with depth of flavor when it does.

Apr 26, 2016, 8:17am Top

>313 Your food description made me remember the book even better than your review. Spot-on!

Apr 26, 2016, 12:09pm Top

>35 Simone2: Thank you! I intentionally leave most of the plot out. I like to read books knowing as little as possible beforehand.

May 7, 2016, 3:47pm Top

314. The Temple of My Familiar

Beautiful, a story about women, oppression of people of color, love, magic, family, and life. The variety of characters in the story is like a buffet of humanity, and they all have redeeming qualities. The back and forth between the US and Africa sometimes confused me because it was hard to remember when and where we were in the story, but that is my only complaint. This book was like being immersed in a warm bath.

Food: whipped cream, the real kind. Sweet and airy and slightly sweet, lingering on the tongue for just a moment after it's gone. Delicious.

May 7, 2016, 4:01pm Top

>36 amaryann21: I'm the same, trying to know as little as I possibly can about the book before reading it. So I usually just read your food description if I haven't read the book being reviewed! It's a good way to get a tantalizing (or not!) idea about the book.

May 7, 2016, 7:10pm Top

>38 ursula: I'm glad you enjoy them! I often wonder how much my "taste" is the same as others.

May 8, 2016, 2:14am Top

Every time I've read a book that you have reviewed I've agreed with your chosen food.

May 8, 2016, 9:56pm Top

>40 M1nks: That's kinda cool!

May 9, 2016, 11:00am Top

Hmmmm. On one hand, I'm now looking forward to trying Temple of My Familiar, which is one of those 1001 books I own but wasn't sure I'd ever get to, so thanks for that. On the other hand, I don't like whip cream. And I do find your food descriptions more accurate than not. Hmmm.

May 9, 2016, 7:18pm Top

>42 Nickelini: I think it's whipped cream because I LOVE whipped cream, so I hope it's a different lovely experience for you!

May 22, 2016, 3:36pm Top

315. The Line of Beauty

Nick lives with the Feddens. Gerald, Mr. Fedden, is a politician and the whole family is wealthy. Nick lives with them on the suggestion of Toby, their son, with whom Nick went to Oxford. Nick is working on a doctorate on Henry James, kind of. Nick is gay. It's the 1980's. One is not openly gay while living with the upper crust in London. The book covers a span of 4 years, in which time things are very, very good, and then not so much.

Reading this book was interesting and painful. Nick's whole existence is due to the generosity or favor of someone else. He's a pet, never given any substance beyond what pleasure he can provide to someone else. He knows it won't last forever, but then again, why not? There's very little that's authentic about his life. It's frustrating to see him stuck in this loop, because he seems like a decent person and not actually trying to take advantage, but just used to where he is in his life and not in a hurry to get out.

Food: a display wedding cake. Beautiful, highly decorative, stunning in design, but actually full of Styrofoam.

Jul 23, 2016, 2:49pm Top

316. The Once and Future King

Started in the late 1930's, this is the compilation of a four-volume set of the life of King Arthur, from his lowly beginnings as Wart, the squire of Kay, through his trials and tribulations with Lancelot and Guinevere and Mordred. White makes no attempt to stay solely in the time period and frequently makes tongue-in-cheek remarks about the differences between those days and modern times. This is a chunk of a book- almost 650 pages in my version, but very readable. The chapters are short and the action doesn't got bogged down too often.

White's portrayal of the characters in the story we've all heard is very human. Arthur is very noble, to be sure, but he isn't set up to be larger than life and we are privy to his struggles. White also lets us see Arthur wrestle with human nature and some philosophical treatise of war and conflict, might and right (though not often, thankfully- that can get boring). I enjoyed making my way through this saga.

Food: certainly a medieval feast. Venison, pheasant, sweetmeats, honey wine, stone fruit, both delicate and hearty bits of all varieties.

Aug 4, 2016, 1:13pm Top

317. The Art of Fielding

I freely admit I've been delaying reading this book, despite hearing good things about it. It's about baseball, and baseball is boring, right? I devoured this book. It's over 500 pages and I finished it in a matter of hours. DEVOURED.

Yes, it's about baseball, but it's more about life. Henry might be the most amazing shortstop in history. Pella and her father, the president of Westish college, have a complicated relationship. Schwartz is an incredible guy, but where is he going? Owen... Owen is brilliant and the only one who might have his life together, but they're all so young and college is the time when you find out who you are. And they do. And it's compelling to read. My heart is full of these characters and their journeys and I'm not ready to let them go yet.

Food: a bacon cheeseburger. Delicious and filling and satisfying and just what you need every once in awhile. A lot to chew on, but you come away full.

Aug 5, 2016, 1:30pm Top

>I loved this book too! (And I love bacon cheeseburgers) The characters, especially Henry & Schwartz, were truly compelling. A great read.

Aug 5, 2016, 1:55pm Top

>46 amaryann21: I think I gave this a middle of road rating, but the more I think about it the more I appreciate it and remember it fondly. It was very well-done. Definitely one of the better contemporary books on the list in my opinion.

Aug 5, 2016, 3:59pm Top

>48 japaul22: I think I was even more impressed because it's a debut novel. Perhaps I shouldn't be so impressed that someone could write that good of a book right out of the gate (and that isn't necessarily what that means, just that it's the first to be published), but I am!

>47 annamorphic: It's nice to stumble upon one that I really could sink my teeth into and be happy at the end. Doesn't always happen with the list, does it?

Aug 5, 2016, 6:12pm Top

Really appreciate your review... I've been avoiding The Art of Fielding too for the same reasons. Your review gives me some hope that it will be enjoyable after all.

Aug 5, 2016, 8:26pm Top

Me too. And your review made me put the book on hold at the library.

Aug 5, 2016, 8:52pm Top

I'm glad I can be a positive influence!!

Aug 6, 2016, 1:01am Top

>46 amaryann21: Yeah I agree that the idea of baseball being part of the book put me off. But I enjoyed it quite a bit too once I convinced myself to start it!

Edited: Aug 6, 2016, 3:30am Top

I have no plans to read that because baseball. But I appreciate a book (or movie) that can make me feel, and think, and say it's wonderful despite a topic that bores me to tears. Good writing and good story conquer all. There's a baseball story in the Judy Blume anthology (not written by her, but by an author I can't remember) Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers that blew me away, despite baseball. (This is an excellent collection, btw.)

So I can appreciate that this is a very good book, but I probably won't pick it up only because I have too many other books on my TBR.

ETA: Ah ha! I wrote a review of the Judy Blume book and noted the story in my comments: "Baseball Camp," by David Klass.

Aug 6, 2016, 3:30am Top

...do you have to know anything about baseball to read the novel? Could it be just as well about basketball or soccer or ice hockey or anything? (my knowledge about baseball is limited to what I have picked from Peanuts comics, one guy throws a ball, another tries to hit the ball, a third one tries to catch the ball...shortstop is apparently a player position?)

Aug 6, 2016, 3:45am Top

I don't think you have to know anything about baseball. I'm trying to imagine if it were about cricket (I know zero about that), and I think it would be fine. X position is important, so-and-so is good at it, Y thing happens, which is good, Z thing happens, which is bad. If there was any in-depth discussion of the sport, I skimmed it and totally missed it. :)

Aug 6, 2016, 4:08am Top

>55 hdcanis: Love your description of baseball. I grew up in Canada having to play softball (which for me is exactly the same thing as baseball even though I know they are not) from kindergarten until grade 10. Hated every second of it. Also, family reunions and church youth group. When I was in my mid-20s and climbing the corporate ladder, I was told "you really have to come out and play in the manager's softball game." I said no. Did I mention I'm not on the corporate ladder anymore? But other than all the politics (from wee young school age to adulthood), you have the general idea of the game down just fine.

I recently went to a pro baseball game. As a spectator, I didn't die, and it was almost interesting. But they gave me a drink and a meal, so there you go.

Aug 6, 2016, 4:10am Top

>56 ursula: I think with these types of stories, it's all about the human dynamics. Sure, they're setting it against a sport, but it's REALLY about something else.

Aug 6, 2016, 3:30pm Top

I agree with Ursula- you don't need to know anything about the sport to enjoy the story. I know the basics of baseball, but that's about it. I think Harbach gives enough information about each of the things that come up about the sport to make it understandable.

Nickelini, I can appreciate that. I found it for 50 cents at a library sale, so I picked it up and took it to work with me, planning to read it sporadically on my lunch break. Until I couldn't put it down.

Aug 6, 2016, 3:46pm Top

>59 amaryann21: I found it for 50 cents at a library sale, so I picked it up and took it to work with me, planning to read it sporadically on my lunch break. Until I couldn't put it down.

That's fabulous! A true find.

Aug 10, 2016, 10:06am Top

318. Blonde

It's no secret that Joyce Carol Oates and I are not friends, but this book brought us more to an acquaintance level and reduced some of the negative feelings I have about her work. Blonde is a fictionalized account of Marilyn Monroe's life, inspired (of course) by the actual events of her life. I don't know how much is true, because I don't know much about Monroe. I've never paid much attention to her, despite her icon status. But this book intrigued me and now I want to know more. So, Oates, thank you for piquing my interest. Job well done.

Reading this book wasn't always easy. First of all, it's a chunkster and heavy. I mean literally heavy. I may have developed tendonitis. And secondly, Norma Jeane had a ROUGH life. The psychiatric illness of her mother, the abuse at her hands, getting married at 15 and never really knowing herself or her worth intrinsically, just made me sad for her. It makes me wonder what she could have been without all the things that troubled her, or if that's part of what inspired her gift.

Food: dinner theater while watching "Hamlet". Lots of rich food and drink while taking in the comedy, tragedy and insanity unfold on stage.

Aug 10, 2016, 11:32am Top

This was the first Oates I read, so I feel more more positively about her than you, lol. But I had also always been rather ambivalent about Marilyn, and wanted to know more after reading Blonde. And yeah, I felt like, had she not dealt with so agonizingly much shit, what worlds could she have conquered?? :/

Aug 10, 2016, 11:45am Top

>62 .Monkey.: Exactly! My first Oates was Marya, followed by a non-list book for my book club We Were the Mulvaneys and both of them were torturous. Black Water wasn't so bad, and it was short.

Aug 10, 2016, 11:47am Top

I am hit or miss with Oates. But that may be because she is probably the most prolific & diverse writer I have come across. The woman will quite literally write about anything.

I have Blonde in my pile to read this year so thanks for the positive review!

Aug 10, 2016, 11:53am Top

>64 Yells: Maybe that's a better way to describe how I feel about her now. My initial experiences were overwhelmingly negative, so maybe it's tainted me.

And you're welcome!

Aug 15, 2016, 9:10pm Top

319. Gabriel's Gift

Gabriel is a teenager whose parents aren't getting along. He's an artist who speaks to his dead twin brother. His dad was a rock star of a little fame. Gabriel doesn't like the au pair his mother has hired to watch over him.

Seems like disjointed facts, right? Yeah. The book kind of clunks along, and stuff happens with a few moments of feeling, but overall, it was just okay. None of the characters was developed enough to feel believable, especially Gabriel. He was inconsistent and it made it difficult for me really get into the story. I wanted more, and was left unsatisfied.

Food: a strawberry Pop Tart. Not actual strawberries, and not enough to be a real meal.

Aug 26, 2016, 3:49pm Top

320. The Sorrows of Young Werther

Young Werther is a pretty happy guy, content with his life and delighted with nature, until he meets Lotte and falls madly in love. The trouble is, she's already engaged to Albert. Alas and alack! Whatever shall he do?

Blech. I'm sure this was scandalous in 1774, as it discusses suicide openly and as an option to get to Heaven (which would have been very much opposed to church teaching) and equates it with dying of a fever. The dramatic way in which Werther pines over Lotte is just too much for me. I want to shake him and tell him to get over it, find a hobby, find something else to occupy his time. Perhaps that's the pragmatist in me, or maybe I'm just too used to dealing with teenagers?

Food: tepid tea. Some flavor left, but you drink it to get it down, not because you enjoy it.

Aug 27, 2016, 5:03pm Top

>320 I could very much identitfy with Werther, perhaps because I was twenty when I read it.
Your review makes me wonder whether it is the fact that it was written in the 18th century or the fact that you are older than Werther which makes this a less interesting read.
I won't reread it however, to find out. I guess it would not touch me as much as it did back then.

Aug 27, 2016, 9:54pm Top

>68 Simone2: I think the time period in which it was written plays a part, and I don't think it's my age as much as I'm a therapist. I get it, I just don't like reading about it because it annoys me.

Aug 28, 2016, 2:40am Top

I'd say it's a bit of an age thing too, I read Werther well in my 30s and was already "oh, get a grip, why don't you" without having dealt that much with teenagers after I was one.

Aug 28, 2016, 6:57am Top

>68 Simone2:, >70 hdcanis: I read Werther not too long ago and even though I have not been a teenager for many, many years and don't know any teenagers currently, I loved it. I loved the language and the descriptions and am now looking forward to some of Goethe's longer works on the list!

Sep 24, 2016, 6:02pm Top

321. The Long Goodbye

This is my first time meeting Philip Marlowe, though not Chandler's introduction of this PI. Marlowe is a loner, unliked by most and not exactly a charmer. He commits an act of charity and finds himself entangled in a series of suspicious deaths.

"Hard-boiled" detective stories are not my thing. Those type of detectives tend to annoy me and I feel like they are caricatures more than characters. Marlowe wasn't so bad, though, and he grew on me a little. He had enough heart to get me through. As for the twists, they took their time coming, but they were pretty good when they showed up.

Food: a patty melt in a greasy spoon with a cigarette and strong coffee when you've finished. Dirty food, eaten on the sly, and afterward you feel like you've gotten away with something.

Oct 11, 2016, 2:53pm Top

322. The Charterhouse of Parma

Fabrizio is the son of a nobleman and enthralled with Napoleon, so he sneaks off to join the army in France, but is soon exposed to the reality of war. The problem is, he has been branded a traitor by leaving to fight for Napoleon. And that's just the beginning.

Fabrizio is labeled the hero of the story, though nothing he does is what I would call heroic. He falls in love with every pretty girl who wanders across his path, and there's the weird relationship with his aunt that never really resolves. And he's a priest, but that's not serious, it's just to keep him out of trouble and give him status, because we can buy things like that. I get it, it was acceptable or understood practice at the time (and maybe still is, just not in the church?). I really enjoyed the bits where Stendhal talked to the reader about how he was going to skip over some parts because they were boring, or when he explained to French readers how Italian people are more emotional. Some parts of the story moved much more quickly than others. Overall, not a difficult read, but it sure dragged at times.

Food: salted caramel apple pecan pie cheesecake. Lots of ingredients and it's tasty, but you can't really find the apple because it's overshadowed by some of the other components, and you need to just take it slow because too much is too heavy. Satisfying when finished, but you won't go back for another piece for quite awhile.

Nov 26, 2016, 10:59pm Top

323. Arrow of God

Ezeulu is the chief priest of Ulu and revered in all 6 villages, but this is a tenuous position and a fragile peace. The British are present and this changes the balance and calls alliances into question. Ezeulu himself is regarded as half man, half spirit and must also be the faith guide for his people.

The tribal practices, colonialism, and the wonderful (and sometimes cryptic) African proverbs were interesting and sometimes frustrating. I think that means it was well written and well-portrayed. I have grown to appreciate non-Western writers much more than before I started reading from The List, and this is a good example.

Food: kale salad. Bitter, sometimes taking some effort to chew, but ultimately you know you did something good for yourself when you're through.

Nov 29, 2016, 9:15am Top

324. Jacob's Room

Jacob Flanders is very distinguished-looking. And very awkward. Apart from those two things, we don't actually find out a lot about him, though this is about his life. Women (and maybe a man or two) swoon over him, of which he mostly seems oblivious, or maybe just doesn't care. There's lots of letter writing.

This is an experimental novel and I enjoyed it much more than I expected I would. The imagery is gorgeous and caught me by surprise again and again. My first go around with Woolf wasn't positive, so I wasn't sure how this book and I were going to get along. I felt like I was following Jacob through his life, watching him observe scenes in the lives of the people around him, and then moving along to the next.

Food: do you remember that thing (was it a salad?) at that party? Man, it was so good... I should find out what was in that. That was a fun night. What was that stuff? It was yummy...

Dec 6, 2016, 8:57pm Top

325. Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Cephallonia is a Greek island, home to Pelagia and her father, the doctor in their tiny town. Everything is very quiet and provincial and Pelagia falls in love with a boy in town. Then World War II changes everything, forever. The Italians occupy the island and Captain Corelli stays with Pelagia and her father, who are intent on showing him their frustration and anger at being invaded. Corelli is a good man, a talented musician, and even performs opera with several of his men while in the latrine.

This is an epic tale, covering decades and many lives, lives that are very, very human. I came to care for these characters. The atrocities of war are not glossed over. Parts were difficult to read because they felt so real. I really enjoyed this book and it moved very quickly for me. There is a lot of humor to balance the darker parts of the story, and I appreciate the lack of sugarcoating.

Food: a Greek meal- tabbouleh, roasted fish, and baklava for dessert. There's bitter notes, salty and briny, charred and meaty, and sweet and nutty to round things out.

Dec 31, 2016, 10:45am Top

326. On Beauty

The Belseys are an interesting family- a mix of races and identities, leading to conflict in ideals and what they each value. Add to the mix the Kipps family, and the conflict grows. Howard and Monty seem to hate each other due to opposing perspectives regarding intellectual and prejudicial issues. But their families keep connecting, over and over and inappropriately over.

I like some of the characters- Kiki was very interesting to read, and the kids in the Belsey household seemed quite real. Harold, on the other hand, is not my cup of tea. I don't think he was supposed to be. But I wanted there to be SOMEthing likeable about him, and I didn't find it.

Food: peach salad with red onions and aged balsamic vinegar. It appears as though it's an odd combination of ingredients, and there are bites that are sharp and acidic and some that are sweeter and more mellow. In the end, it all works together, but I'm not sure how often I want to eat it.

Feb 13, 2017, 1:04pm Top

327. The Remains of the Day

Mr. Stevens has served as a butler for decades and takes pride in his work, in doing it properly. Much of the story involves Miss Kenton, another of the staff in the household, and his recollections of their time together. Mr. Stevens served Lord Darlington for most of his life, and now the hall has been acquired by an American gentleman, and Mr. Stevens is having a difficult time adjusting. He takes a road trip and his musings make up the story.

I think Kazuo Ishiguro is quite a storyteller. The subtleties in how he conveys emotion are masterful. Mr. Stevens is wrestling with his identity in the story, in a way- he's a butler, but he's also a person, but he's SUCH a butler. Where does his duty to his profession and employer end and his own personhood begin?

Food: a proper cup of English tea with milk and arrowroot biscuits, by the fire, as the sun begins to set. Quiet, sustaining but not sweet.

Feb 13, 2017, 9:47pm Top

328. The Buddha of Suburbia

Karim has an Indian father and an English mother and their life is normal, until Karim's father decides to affect the guise and behavior of a guru. This throws Karim, a teenager, into a new world of ideas and explorations.

The blurb on the back says that it's "sharp satire on race relations" in England, and I guess I have to take their word for it. There is a lot of discussion about race- at that time (70's-80's) Indians were called "black"- and the distinction between Indian and Pakistani, but it doesn't feel satirical, except in very small bits. Overall, this wasn't a difficult book to read, but it got a little tedious in spots.

Food: horned melon. Bright on the inside and outside, there isn't a lot of flavor, it's a little slimy, and the seeds get in the way of really enjoying the fruit.

Mar 30, 2017, 8:18am Top

329. An Obedient Father

Ram Karan is obedient- to his corrupt boss and the way business is done, to his appetites with no regard for consequences, to his own desires, but to little else. But he's not bad, per se, it's just how things are done and he's trying to make up for the wrongs he's committed... sort of. And Anita and Asha, his daughter and granddaughter, must live with him because there's nowhere else for them to go, even though the past haunts Anita to the point of madness.

As in most Indian novels, the government and its corruption play a large role. This feels more relevant than in the past, but it's still hard to relate to on a cultural level. There are parts of this story that aren't easy to read, but others that tug at the emotions a little.

Food: obligatory dinner with your depressed aunt. The food is a little lacking- burnt edges on the cake, the salad is pretty wilted and is the meat starting to turn? But you know she needs someone to talk to and you'll listen to her problems and try to be supportive. Getting out of there and knowing you don't have to go back for a few months is a relief, though.

Apr 1, 2017, 6:14am Top

>80 amaryann21: Great food comparison - again! I read the book and know exactly what you mean.

Apr 1, 2017, 1:12pm Top

Thanks, Simone2! I had to think about this one a little!

Apr 9, 2017, 7:51pm Top

330. The Butcher Boy

Francie's dad is a drunk, and this makes life hard for his mother, but he and Joe are best friends and that's what matters. Joe and Francie pull a mean joke on one of their peers and Mrs. Nugent, the boy's mother, is very insulting to Francie's family when she comes to tell Francie's mother about it. And the tragic tale is set in motion- or just accelerated, because, really, it was already tragic, but Francie didn't know that, did he?

There is a brilliance about this book, about how madness is portrayed, that is worth experiencing. It is not an easy tale to witness, though. And it feels like it could be very close to the real lives of many.

Food: a sour ale in a chaotic bar, where you start a chat with a stranger and slowly, you realize you may have entered into a conversation of which you no longer want to be part. There's something compelling about it, but is this person completely seated in reality?

Apr 10, 2017, 1:59am Top

I found this rather a peculiar book as well; I felt sorry for Francie who really just wanted to be loved and to feel that there was something worthwhile about his family.

Apr 10, 2017, 10:07am Top

>84 M1nks: Francie is the exact kid who I work with in real life, as a therapist, so my heart hurt for him. He's a product of his environment and his genetics. And very well written.

Apr 22, 2017, 10:29pm Top

331. The Kindly Ones

I finally finished it!!!! No more door stoppers for awhile! (What's that? I just bought IQ84? At least it's a paperback)

This is heavy. I mean it literally and figuratively- 983 pages in hardcover is a strain on the wrists. But this is also a fictional memoir of a former SS officer during WWII, where he participated in the extermination efforts of the Jews, the Russians, the Poles, the gypsies, the disabled and mentally ill. And it's graphic. But the premise, that you and I would have done the same things he did, were we in his shoes, is intriguing and gives one pause.

There's some really distasteful stuff in here, and that's putting it mildly. Aue is a twin and has an unhealthy fixation with his sister, his only sibling. She is the perfect woman, in his mind, and therefore he cannot have a relationship with any other female. His relationship with his mother is virtually estranged, and I've got my own theory on where the twins came from that she was fostering came from. And the war... I read a brief article about the amount of research Littell put in while writing this and I can't imagine he took too much license. If you can step back and view the story in a theoretical, philosophical light, it's very, very interesting. But so much loss, so much pain, so much hate.

Also, if you are unfamiliar with the mythology of the Kindly Ones (as I was), it's worth looking that up. But I would of it after you finish the story.

Food: cold meat and hard bread, but it's all you have. You take just a few nibbles here and there at first, because it's not what you want, but eventually, the hunger is enough to take bigger bites.

Apr 22, 2017, 11:15pm Top

I have this one lined up for next month so your review is timely. Not sure I'm entirely looking forward to the experience.

Apr 23, 2017, 12:04am Top

It was rough, but worth it. So much mental fodder.

Apr 23, 2017, 8:31am Top

Enjoying your reviews along with the paired foods. The only one I have read so far on this thread is Cloud Atlas and I 100% agree.

Apr 23, 2017, 10:51am Top

Thank you, Lisa! It makes me think about the book in different ways, which I appreciate.

Apr 23, 2017, 9:34pm Top

332. Invisible

This is Adam's story. He met a couple at a party in college, a couple with whom his interaction changed the course of his life, perhaps for the better, but at moments, it was definitely for the worse. We come to find out many of these events in his memoir, written and shared with a friend from college, and from an involved party.

What's real? What's fantasy? Who actually knows? I'm a fan of Auster's writing, so I enjoyed this story and it only took a couple hours to read. It's compelling, in a gentle, non-urgent way. His characters are complex and his plotlines take twists I don't expect.

Food: one spoonful of dandelion soup. Light, slightly bitter, with layers of flavor that take a moment to savor.

Apr 26, 2017, 3:31pm Top

333. Chocky

A short little sci-fi story about Matthew and Chocky, the being that starts talking to him, told from his father's perspective.

The story is handled well, I think, and Matthew comes across as age-appropriate and genuine. His parents' reactions also feel well-depicted. I wonder about the state of atomic energy and its development in conjunction with the writing of this story.

Food: cookies and milk. A little snack after coming home from school, nothing heavy, leaves a sweet and satisfying taste in your mouth.

May 13, 2017, 10:21pm Top

334. There but for the by Ali Smith

Miles locks himself in the Lees' guest room. He was there as a guest at their dinner party and they really don't know him. He's provided no explanation. The story is told in four parts, each from a different perspective of someone who knew Miles in a different way.

Interesting and weird. Be prepared not to get closure, because Smith, in my experience, likes not providing answers. But it's a fun ride. Brooke, the child who appears in multiple chapters of the story, is precocious and intelligent and witty and curious and someone I would want to talk to for hours. Her perspective is the one I enjoyed most. The book feels more like a character study than a story, and if taken with that expectation, it's a good time.

Food: a handful of mixed nuts. Filberts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, cashews and a walnut or two, a good snack and something to chew on, but nutty. REAL nutty.

May 18, 2017, 6:22pm Top

335. Animal's People

Animal will tell you he's not human. How could he be? He walks on all fours, and humans don't do that. His back was twisted after the factory burned and he's been this way forever. He lives in the slums and when the American doctor comes to town, it shakes things up. The battle with the Kampani comes to a head, and Animal finds out what he's made of.

There is so much life in this book, of all different kinds. Love and hope and loneliness and despair and hunger and hate and faith, and Animal has his own unique perspective. A little slow to start, the story picks up speed and with a mixture of Indian mythology and drunken and drug-induced bits, Animal and his people come to life. My favorite parts are when Animal tries to help Elli, the doctor, understand his home and their clash in culture and way of life.

Food: a charred lime flavored with chili powder and a bit of salt. Sour, sharp, smoky, biting and an explosion of all flavors at once.

May 31, 2017, 2:09pm Top

336. American Rust

Isaac and Poe have been out of high school for a couple years in their dying steel town, and they are an unlikely pair of friends. Isaac is a genius, but small, scrawny, and looks far younger than his age. Poe is the high school football star who could've been a college football star- big, brawny, and no one messes with him. Isaac has decided he's done taking care of his disabled father and is skipping town, and Poe walks a bit of the way with him, until they meet up with trouble.

This story very accurately reflects the life of a town in the Rust Belt. I lived in one of those towns for a number of years, and the story felt disturbingly like home. Ambition has no target, and it's easy to lose all hope. Isaac and Poe and their friends and family all have chapters to themselves in the book as the story progresses, and more than a narrative, this book is a portrait of post-industrial small-town America.

Food: raw red onion. Sharp, pungent, stinging, but common.

Jun 4, 2017, 10:38pm Top

337. The Midwich Cuckoos

Midwich is a sleepy little English town and nothing of substance happens there. Our narrator and his wife have a night in London for his birthday and when they make their way home, they aren't allowed to reenter their hometown due to an "incident". 24 hours later, the incident is over and life goes on... until the ramifications are made known, and they are far more insidious than first expected.

This story inspired "The Village of the Damned", so if you've seen it, you know the plotline. Early British sci-fi is fun and the character development is more of an emphasis than in some later science fiction. Wyndham does a great job at building plot tension and even though I'd seen the movie and knew where things were headed, it was still a great read. And I love the cuckoo analogy, adds a great creep factor when you think about it in the context of the book.

Food: an orange Tootsie pop. A quick little treat, and if you just have a little patience, the reward at the end is worth it.

Jun 27, 2017, 9:32pm Top

338. The Summer Book

Sophia, her father and her grandmother spend the summer on a tiny island in Scandinavia. In short chapters, the book describes their adventures. Nothing huge happens- they plant a garden of lovely flowers and trees, they have a antisocial cat, there is a huge storm, etc. It's exactly this lack of drama that brings a little bit of magic into the book. Sophia and her grandmother are close because Sophia's mother has died. They are each other's companions and they have developed a way of communicating in stories and make believe that is charming. Grandmother takes lots of naps and smokes when Papa isn't around, and Sophia keeps Grandmother's secrets and Grandmother makes the fear and anger go away when Sophia can't handle it.

There is a charming innocence to this book. It's full of light, quiet, and familial love.

Food: salt water taffy. Take small nibbles and let it melt in your mouth to make it last a little longer. Sweetness and nostalgia abound.

Jul 1, 2017, 2:00pm Top

339. Kafka on the Shore

Kafka ran away from home, with no defined plan and minimal money. He's 15, and just needs to be gone from his father's home before he's destroyed. Nakata is in his 60's and due to a strange incident in his childhood, can't read or write, but can talk to cats. The book alternates chapters in telling their stories and strange, very strange things happen.

I don't know how to talk about the plot of this book other than to say I just needed to keep reading. It's not a thriller, but there is a compulsion of the same sort (my copy is 615 pages, finished in under 24 hours). Are these characters connected? Why and how? What's actually going on? Music, reading, philosophy and the surreal are all incorporated into an amazing adventure. I think this book probably bears repeated reading, delving more into the depths every time.

Food: trying a new cuisine for the first time. It's literally foreign, but the more you taste, familiar spices hit your palate in a new, exciting way. You want to try the whole menu, because it's stimulating and wonderful.

Jul 4, 2017, 10:40pm Top

340. Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.

Major Yeates tells tales of his life in the Irish countryside, mostly consisting of hunts and adventures with horses, feuds between family members, and a little bit of drinking. Easy to read, but not always easy to understand because of the age of the language, this is a window into late 19th century Irish country life.

Food: tea and biscuits. A nice little snack before supper.

Jul 30, 2017, 9:13pm Top

341. At Swim-Two-Birds

An Irish college student is writing a story, recycling characters from other literature, to amuse himself and to procrastinate from his studies. The writing is choppy, weird, and I feel like I'm missing a lot, because it's not funny to me, though I get some of the ironic bits. There were parts that made more sense than others, but mostly, I'm just glad I'm through it.

Food: passed appetizers at a party. A variety, but they always seem hard to find, or you keep getting the same one over and over, and some of them are not to your taste at all.

Aug 12, 2017, 2:01am Top

342. Christ Stopped at Eboli

Levi's story is a combination of memoir and fiction of his year of exile in a small southern town in Italy comprised of peasants and gentry. He was a political prisoner and lived in this tiny fictional village, far from home, and painted, treated the locals (he was a doctor) and whiled away his time.

The writing composes a picture and song of the life of the people in the town, and Levi does them justice in his remembrance of them. He captures their drudgery, their hardship, and their acceptance of life as a forgotten part of Italy. The peasants (his word) feel no connection to their country, but instead feel as though they are an island in a nation that moved on years ago. The old superstitions and legends are their reality and they see no reason to live otherwise. A beautiful, rugged portrait of a time long past.

Food: honey and butter on a thick slab of coarse bread. Satisfying, lots to chew on, and a finish of sweetness and cream.

Aug 14, 2017, 12:12am Top

343. The French Lieutenant's Woman

Ernestina and Charles are engaged, and Ernestina reluctantly spent a few weeks with her aunt in Lyme Regis. Charles willingly went with her, and during their stay, he encounters Sarah, or "Tragedy", or the French Lieutenant's Woman. Sarah entrances him, and more chance encounters lead to an unburdening of Sarah's soul to Charles, which leads to more trouble.

This book is half story, half treatise on Victorian society, but in a very readable way. It was published in the 1960's, so it's Victorian with some tongue-in-cheek, not taking itself quite so seriously. Fowles takes us out of the narrative at times, reminding us that he's allowing the characters to choose their paths in his role as creator. Ultimately, I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to, and there was a little bit of a riveting quality to watching this love triangle unfold.

Food: ham and cheese sandwich. A little salty, a little meaty, nothing very high brow, but enough for a meal that can be consumed without taking too much time.

Aug 23, 2017, 10:01am Top

344. Cranford

Mary Smith is the narrator in a series of stories about the village of Cranford, where the ladies all feel they are "society" and have a strict schedule of visiting at noon and only for 15 minutes, unless there are cards to be played. There are sometimes small intrigues and scandals, but it's a quaint, quiet village and the stories center around Miss Matty, who I came to feel tender toward.

This is easy reading and not a lot of it. Sometimes it felt a little tedious, but mostly because the ladies are keeping up the image that they are more than they are. It felt true to a certain age of women in a small community.

Food: tea cakes. Small nibbles, some dry, some sweet, fancy on the outside, but mostly plain on the inside.

Sep 5, 2017, 6:45pm Top

345. Titus Groan

The first in the Gormenghast trilogy, this is the story of Titus Groan's birth and first year, as well as the emergence and rise of Steerpike, the shrewd 17-year-old who got out of the kitchen and literally clawed his way into the royals' lives. What a world this is! The descriptions of the castle alone are overwhelming, and the characters have so much life.

It took me a bit to get into the book, but once I did, I was pretty captivated. Peake gets wordy here and there, and sometimes I skimmed a little bit to get on with it, but I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second novel. There's a good building of suspense, which I appreciate, and Peake gives enough hints to anticipate the next move without giving it all away.

Food: lamb shank, roasted on a spit, with root vegetables. A hearty meal, a bit heavy at times, but lots and lots to chew on, definitely a meal that takes some time.

Sep 8, 2017, 8:18am Top

346. What Maisie Knew

Blech. This took too much time to read, and in the end, I couldn't find a good reason to have spent all that time. Maisie has two terrible parents who fight over her to get at one another, because neither really wants the responsibility of caring for her. When they both remarry and then betray those marriages, the pattern repeats with her stepfather and stepmother, who might love each other, but then they might hate one another just as easily.

There's just too many words, and I don't understand why this was important to write about.

Food: cold shepherd's pie, full of peas and corn. I despise shepherd's pie, peas and corn. A big pile of cold mush.

Sep 11, 2017, 3:45am Top

#346 Full agreement from me - I loathed it too. Though possibly I just cordially detest Henry James...

Sep 11, 2017, 6:08am Top

I actually liked that one, I found it rather moving.

Sep 12, 2017, 5:21pm Top

>106 BekkaJo: The Turn of the Screw wasn't so bad. But now I'm dreading Portrait of a Lady.

>107 M1nks: That's what makes the list so interesting- we all respond differently. I'm a family therapist and all I could think was "They are screwing up Maisie forEVER!"

Sep 12, 2017, 5:34pm Top

> Portrait has been the only James I enjoyed so far. The Wings of the Dove on the other hand.....

Sep 13, 2017, 6:43pm Top

> That's encouraging, at least! Screw was the only one I'd read before Maisie.

Sep 13, 2017, 9:31pm Top

347. Death in Venice

Gustav needs a vacation, and finally makes his way to Venice. Being a serious and acclaimed writer, pleasure makes him uncomfortable, so he only plans on being gone a short while. Life is for accomplishing things. Until... he sees the young, beautiful Polish boy on the beach, and becomes slightly obsessed. All his former theories and suppositions about sensuality and pleasure go out the window. In the meantime, rumors of an epidemic have started in the city. His dilemma- stay near his "love", or return to himself at home?

This was interesting to read, and there are a lot of references to Greek mythology. Having some knowledge of that topic helped, but Mann is wordy. There is a lyricism and flow that make it a bit easier than some, though. Venice is also a favorite city of mine, and I felt like I was able to visit with Mann's Gustav.

Food: a slice of slightly underripe peach. Firm, a little tart, bright and with a lingering sweetness.

Sep 16, 2017, 10:07am Top

348. Cane

This is a collection of stories and poetry of black life, mostly in the south, seen through the eyes of the oppressed. This was an eye opener for this reader, and one I'm grateful for. Published in 1923, the echo of slavery is loud and clear. And yet, there is beauty in this book, lots of it. The language, the prose begs to be read aloud and fill your ears. The whole of this collection is that life in this time was full of contradiction and struggle and pain and pride and beauty and life.

Food: black coffee at dawn, watching the sun rise. Bitter and strong, but energizing as a new day begins.

Edited: Sep 17, 2017, 10:51am Top

349. Where Angels Fear to Tread

Lilia's in-laws don't approve of her temperament and when she impulsively falls for an Italian son of a dentist, they swoop in to "rescue" her, only to find it's too late. They keep trying to influence the situation, all for the "right" reasons, but are they, really?

Forster does shine a light on the prejudices of the English middle class, especially in their perspective on Italian/Catholic/provincial life. The more subtle chauvinism is probably more Forster (and his time) than his efforts to be ironic. The book is short, thankfully, because some parts are just irritating to read.

Food: the dusty mints in the candy dish that have been there for God knows how long at your great-aunt's house. You've been coming since you were a little kid and they just might be the same ones that were there when you were 7.

Sep 30, 2017, 10:17am Top

350. The Sound of Waves

Shinji has grown up on the island and, being a very small island, knows everyone there. Hatsue comes back to her father after many years, and Shinji falls for her immediately. He is not without competition, however, and when a nasty rumor impedes his efforts, he must find another way.

Simple, preaching the power of honesty and perseverance winning over obstacles, this is a short and easy read. The ocean and it's many moods is the backdrop for everything that happens in the story and how the island functions with the power of the water.

Food: I make a slightly sweet cornbread with orange for the holidays, and this was a slice of that bread. Honey and orange with a coarse grain, light and delicious.

Edited: Oct 1, 2017, 5:06am Top

I read this book a while ago and enjoyed it as well. I would have made the food sushi myself :-) Plain, simple seafood flavours but filling and tasty, especially with a bit of tangy sauce.

Oct 8, 2017, 11:47pm Top

>115 M1nks: Sometimes the flavor of the book ties more directly to setting for me, but this one didn't. I also don't enjoy sushi, so I can see what I would shy away from that comparison!

Oct 16, 2017, 10:18am Top

351. Under the Volcano

This is a tragedy of a story. Geoffrey, the Consul, has a tenuous grasp on his life, mostly because his alcoholism has nearly consumed him. Yvonne, his wife, has returned to try to make another go of things, but can Geoffrey even make sense of her return, in his constantly intoxicated state? Is he able to even try?

I fear much of the symbolism and many of the references to other works have gone over my head, not having read Faust yet. Also, the sense of intoxication was WELL written and spun my head around many times. I'm left feeling unfinished, as I think may have been intended- cut short.

Food: too many tequila shots. Starts out with a sense of control, but quickly things get away from you, and you're left feeling sour and unsteady.

Oct 22, 2017, 4:48pm Top

352. The Wars

Robert Ross is just 19 when he enlists in the Canadian military and is sent to France to fight in WWI. Written in retrospect, as a researcher looking to piece together the bits of Ross's life, the story of a very young man fighting in the Great War is gritty, brutal, and inspires one to compassion.

The multiple perspectives told throughout the book, the little anecdotes and tangents, bring the characters to life. This could have been my great grandfather, or another ancestor. There isn't animosity toward "the enemy", just an unvarnished accounting of survival.

Food: one cold, sour dill pickle. Crisp, puckery, with a little bitterness, the taste lingers and though strong, cleanses the palate for sweeter things to come.

Nov 4, 2017, 10:19am Top

353. Fathers and Sons

The two friends visit each other's families. Their fathers are trying to figure out how to survive and not own serfs. They both (briefly) fall in love with the same woman, but then move on. They both declare themselves nihilists, but that doesn't entirely work out, either.

Some of my lack of enjoyment in this book is my ignorance of Russian history. Apparently, this book introduced the concept of nihilism to the populace, or at least made it part of more common culture. It reflects the change of thinking in just one generation in the Russian people. I'm sure it was quite revolutionary at the time.

Food: cold, boiled potatoes with a not quite enough salt. An okay snack in a pinch, but not a great meal.

Nov 10, 2017, 5:03pm Top

354. We

We is told by D-503, a part of the community that no longer has individuals, because "we" are so much happier being part of the collective machine that keeps things running smoothly. No more messy nature to deal with (it's behind the Wall), all walls made of glass so "we" are operating without secrecy, just happy, happy, happy!! Until D-503 FEELS something, and then it seems as though he's lost his entire world...

Written in 1920-21, this novel seems well before its time, but it was written by a Russian who was watching his world change, and his reflections on revolution and control by the state (and the propaganda the citizens were fed) are astute. I felt D-503's world crumble when thoughts contrary to what he "knew" entered his consciousness. This book was easy to read and contained bits of philosophy designed to make you think, not to change your mind.

Food: ostrich steak. Meaty, rich, reminiscent of other meats you've had in the past, but with a slightly exotic flavor.

Dec 1, 2017, 7:33pm Top

355. White Noise

Jack and his family (a composite of his four marriages, a few of his wife's and the ensuing children) live a quiet life in suburbia where Jack is an academic in Hitler Studies. An "airborne toxic event" exposes Jack to a substance that might (or might not) kill him at some point in the future. This obsession/fear of impending death colors the rest of the story.

The internet tells me this is postmodern literature, and DeLillo is making some remarks on consumerism, religion, academia, and family dynamics. It's a weird book with some moments of, well, maybe not profundity, but at least moments that made me think for a second. Maybe DeLillo and I just aren't super compatible.

Food: the day after Thanksgiving every year, my mother hosts a soup and sandwich dinner. There are 3-4 kinds of soup, and every year, my uncle puts all the different kinds into a bowl together and eats them mixed up. This is what this book is to me- a hodgepodge of themes and ideas, not all clear and sometimes they clash. Just like a bowl of sausage and kale/black bean/potato leek soup.

Dec 16, 2017, 9:10pm Top

356. Wide Sargasso Sea

Antoinette grows up in the changing Caribbean, her mother gone mad with grief, but having been adopted by her stepfather, she makes an attractive bride for Rochester. This marriage is one of financial means, however, not of love. Antoinette is destined to become the mad woman locked in the attic chamber that we met in Jane Eyre. But she wasn't always mad...

So well written, this story makes the heart ache for Antoinette and her destiny. The beautiful descriptions of Jamaica and the islands, the mysterious and dark Christophine who wields her dark magic, I found myself under the spell of this book in just a few pages.

Food: a glass of dark, strong rum. Sipping it starts out warm and mellow, and shortly things start to get fuzzy...

Dec 17, 2017, 4:16am Top

Just catching up on your thread and added We to my TBR list: it looks fascinating and besides, I quite like ostrich steak.

Dec 18, 2017, 7:00pm Top

>123 annamorphic: It really was! SO thought-provoking! I hope you enjoy it.

Dec 20, 2017, 10:24am Top

357. July's People

July has served (with pay) Bam and Maureen's family for 15 years, and when the blacks start to attack the whites and overturn the systematic control imposed on them, July takes the family to his village for safety. Maureen and Bam are supportive of equal rights for blacks and have always been uncomfortable with July calling them "master", but this is a new world for them. Suddenly, the dynamics are unpredictable and being in the minority is very challenging.

Reading this was very interesting. Gordimer captures the experience of this white family on multiple levels in a way that feels genuine, and July comes more and more to life as the book unfolds. This is a window into a unique time and place and I haven't experienced anything like this before.

Food: pepperoncinis. These little pickled hot peppers have a bite, both sour and spicy. They are sharp but compulsively eatable.

Dec 30, 2017, 5:17pm Top

358. Survival in Auschwitz

This memoir of Levi's year in the concentration camp was originally published in Italian under the title "If This is a Man". It is his accounting of one year from 1944-1945, leading up to the Russian liberation.

Reading this was brutal, harrowing, and incredibly sobering. Levi's tale is not one of hope and overcoming adversity. He is a chemist by trade and brings this technical perspective to his writing. The chapters are similar to reports, though not in language of the profession. He relates the events, with minimal discussion of his feelings or the tone of the camp, so that when he does discuss those things, it's impactful. This book is relevant then, now, and for all times. If we do not view every other person as human, then we are doomed to inhuman behavior.

Food: plain grits, no butter, sugar, salt or cheese. Coarse, without spice, an experience to be endured when truly hungry.

Jan 18, 7:22pm Top

359. The Hour of the Star

Macabea is poor and she's never known any other life, if you can call what's she's doing living. The writer, our narrator, not only shares with us Maca's story, but his own process of writing.

For 80 pages, this book took me much more than an hour in the best possible way. I wanted to take my time, consume this in small bits, and let it sink in. There's so much in this little book and it needs to be experienced, because I think everyone will take something a little different.

Food: French onion soup. I LOVE French onion soup. I have to eat it slow, because it's so hot, and I love to savor each bite. It can't be rushed to be enjoyed. There's the richness of the cheese and depth of the broth, the simplicity but unctuousness of the onion and crouton. It calls for seconds and thirds.

Edited: Jan 18, 10:14pm Top

>127 amaryann21: I had forgotten that this novel had a fame story and was going to point out that Clarice was a woman. oops.

Jan 19, 9:51am Top

>128 ELiz_M: I found it an interesting choice to have the narrator be male. I wonder about that.

Mar 3, 12:32pm Top

360. The Sea, the Sea

Charles Arrowby was a successful actor and director and he's moved to Shruff's End in retirement to write his memoirs. The sea is right outside his door and he spends much of his time swimming. The quiet life he'd planned, however, is not to be, and people from his past come in and out, without warning. Charles is forced to confront much that he left unresolved.

The writing was easy and challenging at the same time- Charles can be quite selfish and self-absorbed, accepting his perspective as truth and others' as hogwash. The idea that it could be another way is something that takes quite a lot of time for him. There is delight in the images the writing creates and one feels the sea's presence without it being thrust into the absolute forefront.

Food: fish and chips with lots of malt vinegar. Hot, salty, burning your fingers a bit, with an acidic bite.

Mar 4, 10:07pm Top

361. The Woman in White

I can't say I had super high hopes of a mystery written in 1859. However, this book kept my attention the whole way through and while it wasn't always unpredictable, there were a good amount of twists I didn't see coming! I also loved seeing the strength and intelligence of Miss Halcombe, though she couldn't be pretty AND smart, and the characters had real life to them. I was happy to be along for the ride with this story.

Food: Victorian sandwich. Not too heavy, a little tart from the jam, but a delicious treat.

Mar 8, 7:10pm Top

362. The Midnight Examiner

The staff of a company of tabloid publications runs afoul of the mob (by accident) and hijinks ensue, with the aid of a fishing pole and a voodoo priestess. There's also a large painting of a naked woman.

This was a fun read, easy, nothing heavy. I enjoyed a respite from the more strenuous topics of some of the other 1001 books. This book clearly doesn't take itself very seriously, either, and that was enjoyable.

Food: Reese's Pieces. You can eat a whole bag before you even realize you're halfway in.

Mar 9, 2:23am Top

>131 amaryann21: Isn't it though! One of my favourite 1,001 discoveries.

Mar 12, 12:15pm Top

363. Crome Yellow

Denis spends part of his summer in Crome, pursuing his writing and Anne, though he's getting mixed messages from her. They eat, swim, watch the moon, and have intellectual conversations.

This is Huxley's first novel and his satire on aristocratic life in England is funny in spots, but kind of sad as well. There are little hints of Brave New World, like little easter eggs. It wasn't an unpleasant read, and I had one laugh out loud moment with the discussion of the word "carminative".

Food: lemonade that is a bit too tart. It's refreshing-ish, but causes some puckers.

Mar 14, 9:35am Top

364. The Cement Garden

Jack tells us the story of Julie, Sue, Tom and himself living in their slowly decreasing neighborhood and what happens after his parents die. Except no one knows his mother has died but his siblings and him.

This is a creepy little story. There are some Flowers in the Attic vibes, right from the beginning, and the whole thing is uncomfortable, to say the least. Well written to evoke such a response!

Food: cream of mushroom soup. I hate mushrooms, and creaming them in soup is even worse. Salty, earthy, mushy, nothing about it is pleasurable.

Mar 15, 12:06am Top

365. Schooling by Heather McGowan

Catrine and her father are back in the UK, after Catrine's mother dies. She is enrolled in the same boarding school her father attended, and is thrust into a new world while just starting to grapple with her the loss of her mother. Mr. Gilbert, her Chemistry teacher, takes a special interest in her.

Written in several different styles- stream of consciousness, play format- and with no distinction between past and present, this wasn't an easy book to read and often I had to just push through, letting the pieces fit together as they would. The further I got, the easier it was, and the more it made sense to the way we really think, rather than how stories are laid out. This especially worked for Catrine's adolescent mind as she was sorting through her new experiences in a foreign country without both her parents.

Food: spicy chili, but with a head cold. The flavors come through and at times, pungently, but everything is a little muddled, your congestion putting a damper on your taste buds.

Mar 17, 11:23pm Top

366. Chaka the Zulu

Chaka (or Shaka) is a real historical figure, the creator of the Zulu nation. Never officially recognized by his father the king, he fought his way into his kingdom and was a bloodthirsty ruler, waging war on any and all neighboring kingdoms. In the book, he is credited with driving his people to cannibalism (previously unknown) due to lack of food from his warmongering.

All of Chaka's success (and madness?) is credited to sorcery in this book, and Chaka kept choosing fame, glory and an expanding kingdom over mercy and love of his family and subjects. At first, it wasn't clear if this was a testament to relentless pursuit of power or a moral tale.

Food: very rare steak. A little char on the outside, but real bloody on the inside.

Mar 18, 12:39pm Top

367. The Island of Dr. Moreau

Pendrick is rescued from the sea by Moreau's assistant en route back to Moreau's island and forced to disembark with them there. He is horrified to learn Moreau is performing experiments on animals and changing them to be more man-like. Obviously, bad things happen.

Wells is good for a horror story with a moral. Here we have anthropomorphism, the question of what makes a human a human and a beast a beast, and the ethics and morals of doing whatever you like to other beings. Well done and a super fast read.

Food: raw red onion. Sharp, astringent, but not entirely unpleasant.

Mar 27, 8:56pm Top

368. The Swarm

The human race has been destroying the planet for quite awhile now, and something has decided enough is enough. Underwater landslides are creating tsunamis, destroying port cities and killing millions. A highly toxic parasite, born by mutated crabs, is decimating cities along the coasts. Whales are attacking all by the very largest ships in coordinated attacks.

This sci-fi thriller is a chunk of a book, almost 900 pages long, but the plot moves along quickly and is supported by lots of research that makes the science approachable. I learned a lot by reading this book! The book also challenges the way we think about humanity and what makes a species intelligent.

Food: gourmet nachos. I love nachos, and the variety of ingredients together makes a delicious, delicious experience. With fresh ingredients, some a little out of the norm, it expands the palate and brings new appreciation to a dish everyone underestimates.

Mar 28, 6:27am Top

>139 amaryann21: This one has been sitting on my shelf for years in hardback format, staring at me menacingly. I never felt like picking it up (it was a gift). However, I love nachos as well, so I'll move it up mount TBR. :)

Mar 28, 11:37am Top

>140 Deern: I was definitely intimidated by its size, but it read super fast! To be honest, I don't expect this type of book to be on the list, so this was a very pleasant surprise.

Apr 2, 7:14pm Top

369. Eva Trout

Eva Trout is a socially awkward woman, with not enough education and too much money. She can't seem to settle anywhere, and when she comes back from America with a child who is deaf and mute, nothing is really different. She seems to try to connect with the few constant people in her life, but is it ever really successful?

This was a strange book and I don't feel like I really get it. I read a couple reviews and commentaries immediately after finishing it, and I'm not the only one who felt that way. Everything feels veiled, like Bowen can't just come out with what she means, and maybe that's part of the story, but it was frustrating.

Food: lukewarm, underseasoned potato salad. It needs to be a little more something- cold, hot, salty, spicy, SOMEthing. It's okay to chew on, but not great.

Apr 7, 12:07pm Top

370. The Player of Games

Gurgeh (his last name) is one of the best game players in the Culture. And he's bored- there aren't any new games, it's all versions of what's been done before. So, he's looking for a new challenge, and is invited to participate in the Empire's game, Azad. What he discovers on Azad is a world that, in his opinion, hasn't evolved at all beyond the basics of civilization, and maybe not even that far, considering how cruel and depraved they can be at times. But this culture clash is much more sophisticated than he realizes and the game is much bigger than the board.

I really enjoyed this sci-fi story. For a sci-fi novice, I get a little intimidated by lots of new jargon, and acclimatizing to Banks' style was easy. Reflections on present-day society were apparent but didn't feel agenda-driven. A very interesting and engaging book.

Food: a really good burger. Not overly complicated, a little char on the outside, cheese perfectly melty, everything complementing itself, all components working well together. Satisfying.

Apr 9, 10:19am Top

Catching up on your thread. I have really enjoyed doing that; so many good reviews!

Apr 9, 10:31am Top

>144 Simone2: Thank you! I've FINALLY done some more reading from the list!

Apr 9, 10:32am Top

371. Silence

Father Rodrigues travels to Japan to seek his mentor, whom it is rumored has apostatized and renounced his faith. This seems unbelievable, and Rodrigues is determined to continue the missionary work his predecessors started. When he realizes the extent of the persecution of the Christians and experiences it firsthand, his crisis of faith brings a new perspective.

I had no prior knowledge of the events on which this novel is based, and I love that reading teaches me something new. The story was very personal in nature, yet anyone who has struggled with belief, with questions of why bad things happen, can relate with ease. It left me with a lot to think about.

Food: a good piece of bread. Simple, but when eaten with a little consideration, one can appreciate the work that went into making it.

Apr 28, 6:04pm Top

372. Kiss of the Spider Woman

Molina and Valentin share a cell in prison, one for crimes of homosexuality with a minor, one for revolutionary activities against the government. Molina helps pass the time by relating movies he's seen, in great detail, to Valentin and they form a friendship. The subtext of an oppressive government and the morality of homosexuality, identity and love run through the story.

Aside from having to keep which character was speaking at the time straight, this was an easy book to read, once I got used to the style. Though it deals with serious matters, things never get too deep or philosophical. It really felt like observing two people have a conversation.

Food: cheese soufflé. Full of complex flavors, but airy, delicate, light on the tongue.

May 15, 10:12am Top

373. Rosshalde

Johann is a painter of some fame who is estranged from his wife and eldest son while still living on the same property. Only Pierre, his younger son, keeps his tied to the homestead. When an old friend discovers how Johann's marriage has deteriorated, he challenges Johann to move on, let go of Pierre and free himself of what weighs him down.

There was a lot of simple beauty in the writing of this book. Hesse was dealing with his own divorce in writing this book, and it shows a lot of deep thought and feeling.

Food: an ice cold glass of cranberry juice. Tart, a hint of sweetness, cold and clean, but strong.

May 19, 4:50pm Top

374. The Folding Star

Edward is in his early 30's, a writer newly come to Belgium to escape London and start fresh. He's a tutor and falls in love with Luc, one of his pupils, and distracts himself by exploring the gay scene of the city. His other pupil's father runs a museum of a deceased lesser-known artist and Edward takes on some side work helping him put together a catalog of the artist's work.

I'm not sure I appreciated this book the way it was intended. Sex scenes don't do much for me and there are lots of them. Edward seems both overly confident and completely insecure at the same time. The obsessing over a 17-year-old feels so... juvenile. At the same time, there are some big, deep themes- love, betrayal, WWII- and handled well.

Food: over dressed, wilted spinach salad. Too much vinegar in the dressing and the spinach is not so fresh. Several mouthfuls of tart and bitter aren't so tasty.

Edited: May 26, 11:19am Top

375. The Killer Inside Me

Lou is the deputy sheriff in Central City, and everybody's pal. His father was a psychiatrist and a good man. There's a sickness in Lou, though... and only he knows about it. His father and adopted brother have been dead for years, and while Amy, Lou's girlfriend, suspects something bothers him from time to time, she has no idea.

This book is a slow burn, and in first-person narrative, Lou isn't trying to hide who he is or run from the truth. He doesn't take joy from his actions, it's something he has to do. You almost can't help but like the guy- evidence that it's a very well-written story.

Food: a dill pickle milkshake. Different, not sure if I like it, but I keep drinking until it's gone. And the brain freeze sneaks right up on me.

Jun 1, 7:13pm Top

376. Troubling Love

Delia's mother has died, found in the ocean, just days after visiting. Delia goes home to Naples for the funeral and discovers her mother was involved with a man from the past, a shadowy figure who had created division in her family when she was just a child. Delia is forced to face her complicated relationship with her mother, making discoveries she had long buried.

Though it's short, there's a lot to contend with in this story. The writing is rich and full of troubling and beautiful imagery. Naples is one of the prominent characters in the book, dangerous, smelly and full of machismo. As Delia examines her childhood, the lines of story and recollection, truth and perception, blur and mix.

Food: limoncello. Strong, sour and sweet, and if you sip too much, it can leave your head in a spin.

Jun 6, 11:33pm Top

377. High-Rise

The high-rise is new, top of the line, and the architect lives in the penthouse. Different from other apartment buildings, this one is huge and, once it is completely occupied, it is owned by the occupants- no landlords. It doesn't take long after full occupation for a strange shift in the community. Everything starts to break down and class wars begin, the lower floors warring against the middle and upper floors, all against the each other. Oddly, some of them continue to go to work as the building falls apart- electricity, water, elevators all failing.

This was a strange story, but I understand the parallels to society- we all go about our business as if nothing is wrong while we are polluting our environment and killing one another. War becomes part of life. This microcosm of the high-rise is meant to help us see what we're living in on a broader level. It still felt odd and a little forced, though.

Food: a chicken salad sandwich at the beach. Some of the sand has found its way into the sandwich, and it's kind of gritty, and maybe could have used a little more mayo, but not too bad.

Edited: Jul 7, 11:25pm Top

378. Tender is the Night

Dick and Nicole appear to be charismatic, loving and beloved. Rosemary certainly falls into their charming spell when she meets them on the beach in France, but their story isn't quite what it seems. Dick is a doctor of psychiatry and the way in which he met his wife isn't exactly conventional.

One of the plugs I read for this book was, "If you loved The Great Gatsby, you'll love this even more!". I did not love The Great Gatsby and it appears Fitzgerald and I are not destined to be friends. The characters drive me batty. Everyone is so caught up in their own stuff, and a lot of it is material. Dick and Nicole were slightly better, but there's so little hope to the story. Infidelity is just... expected. I'm glad my life is nothing like a Fitzgerald novel, I'm just saying.

Food: a dry scone with too few bits of fruit. Every once in awhile you come across a tasty bite, but overall it wasn't worth the calories.

Jul 27, 1:21pm Top

379. Anagrams

Benna and Gerard have love for one another, but they're never quite in sync, though they rely on one another consistently-ish. They play with words and phrases that are witty and fun, but not really anagrams. I guess I expected more literal anagrams?

This book wasn't easy. It's in two sections, both with Benna and Gerard, but are they related? I had a hard time figuring it all out and I wasn't interested in trying too hard. I like Moore's style, usually, but this was different, almost deliberately evasive. Perhaps it just wasn't the mood I needed at the time.

Food: an under-ripe peach. A little too hard, a little too bitter, and you keep hoping for that one bite that you remember is so delicious about peaches.

Aug 3, 10:18am Top

380. The Poor Mouth

"After great merriment comes sorrow and good weather never remains forever."

This is satire on rural, poor Irish life under English rule- all potatoes and mud. Despite that, it was fun to read and if you have a decent knowledge of Irish history, the satire is more obvious and humorous. I'd love to sit down with these characters to talk.

Food: a neat glass of peated whiskey. Earthy, a little sharp, but warms the heart.

Aug 5, 2:18pm Top

381. Ignorance

Irena and Josef were two of many, many Czechs who fled their home country with the Russian invasion, scattering to the winds, unsure they'd ever come home again. Twenty years later, communism has collapsed in eastern Europe and they can, if they so chose, go home again. But should they?

This book really explores the idea of home, of past, present and future, what it means to belong somewhere, what happens when you leave "home" and come back, and what part memory plays in all of it. Interspersed in the story is bits of history, particularly about the Czech Republic and its political past, which was interesting and very digestible. Of the three Kundera works I've read so far, this was my favorite.

Food: Greek yogurt. Dense without being unpleasant, satisfying and a little tangy.

Aug 17, 10:50am Top

382. Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light

Pavel works for the state-run television station now, but he is a filmmaker and in past eras, was able to travel and make the films he wanted to make without censure. That's not the country he's in anymore, so this is, well, just the way it is. He's aware of wanting more and at one time, tried to escape the country, earning a jail term. He's in a relationship with a woman, but he doesn't really love her.

It all sounds depressing and it IS, but as I imagine living in a country that, in a short time span, went through the political and social changes that the Czech Republic did, it feels authentic and Klima does an amazing job at capturing the feeling of the time. Where IS hope? What is there to hope for? And yet, the inclination to want to hope is so very powerful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book despite the bleak spots.

Food: warm Brie with water crackers. Mild in flavor, not too salty, good contrast in textures and meant to be nibbled rather than swallowed up.

Aug 17, 2:20pm Top

383. The Goldfinch

I get to include this one, now that the 2018 list is out. I was not wowed by this book, and in fact it left me feeling sad and heavy. There's so much trauma in the story, so much loss. I much preferred The Secret History by Tartt, but it WAS interesting.

No food rating as it was over a year ago that I consumed this one.

Aug 18, 6:10pm Top

384. Legend

The Drenai have lived in peace for some time now, and Ulric and the Nadir threaten that peace with attack on Dros Delnoch, the fortress with six walls. We meet many characters over the course of this tale, Druss being the chief legend among them, a warrior twice as old as most average men and powerful beyond imagining. The odds are heavily against the Drenai.

This is a fantastic adventure, with war and love and magic and wonderful, wonderful characters. The humanity of each shines through and no one is a caricature, as easy as it would be to let them be so in a genre such as this. I might have cheered almost aloud at one point during the story... just maybe.

Food: a crisp, delicious apple. Crunchy but not hard, tart and sweet at once, a delight to chew on from the first bite to the last.

Aug 18, 10:19pm Top

>159 amaryann21: I enjoyed this one too. I wish there were more of these fantasy/adventure stories on the list to break up the earnest, angst ridden and somewhat gloomy novels that seem to dominate it.

Aug 19, 9:49pm Top

>160 puckers: I actually questioned of I had the right book as I got into the story- could this REALLY be a 1001 book? But then I remembered Lord of the Rings. I agree with you, I'd love to see more like this. A welcome change of pace!

Sep 7, 9:49pm Top

385. Z

Z is based on actual events of the murder of a political figure in Greece and the speculation of who was involved and why that followed. Told from multiple perspectives- those involved, those who loved Z, his widow, and bystanders- the sense of what it was to experience this in one's own country is palpable.

Food: gorgonzola and almonds. At times sharp and pungent, other times sweet and mild.

Sep 8, 3:55pm Top

386. Gargantua and Pantagruel

There's a lot about this book that's giant. The amount of pages, the two main characters, the amount that almost everyone in the book eats and drinks, and the volume of ink spent on bodily functions- all giant. Gargantua is Pantagruel's father and most of the book is about Pantagruel's life, though we do get to know Gargantua a bit at first. A good portion, through the end, is spent on Pantagruel and his friends going in search of an answer to the question of whether his friend, Panurge, should get married. It becomes a quest, ending abruptly in a cave after getting to the Oracle of the Bottle.

At first, this was kind of fun. It's satire and very witty. But Rabelais is all over the map, no subject left unexplored, and it got a little tiresome. Perhaps this wasn't meant to be read at one go- it was published over a number of years. But now I know exactly what's being described when someone uses the adjective "Rabelaisian".

Food: a giant tub of over-buttered popcorn. At first, it's warm and yummy and you can eat it at a good clip, but soon you run into dry spots or oversaturated spots and your mouth just gets tired of chewing and it's too salty and wow, it seems like you haven't even made a DENT in it yet, but you bought it so you gotta keep going...

Sep 9, 3:17pm Top

387. Northanger Abbey

Catherine is honest, naïve and otherwise unremarkable. When she encounters others who are less forthright, she's genuinely confused by them, and it leads to a little bit of humor for the reader. Austen takes a bit of a jab at readers who look down on novels and our heroine does give in a bit to the "horrors" of such novels by letting her imagination run away with her.

I haven't revisited Austen in a number of years and it's like coming back to an old friend. If you've read her a time or two, you know what to expect, but it makes it no less entertaining.

Food: a petit four. Small and delightful, a bit of a sweet to relish.

Sep 10, 11:55am Top

388. Embers

Henrik is reaching the end of his life. Ensconced in his castle in the forest, the General lives a very solitary life- until Konrad, his best friend from childhood and early adulthood, comes to visit. The entire book takes place one evening as they meet, after 41 years without communicating, for dinner.

The prose in this book is just beautiful. Reading it felt like being in a dream. The subject matter wasn't always pleasant- the whole range of human emotion is visited- but even the less enjoyable moments felt like waves of cool water rather than a shock to the system. Books like this show the clear distinction between narrative and prose.

Food: an excellent veloute. Not a meal, but the sauce, when done well, is divine and lingers in the memory.

Sep 16, 1:24pm Top

389. Deep River

A collection of Japanese tourists travel to India to tour Buddhist religious sites. We get to know a couple of them prior to the trip- Isobe, whose wife recently died and Mitusko, the volunteer who helped take care of Isobe's wife and who is haunted by the memory of a college classmate. The trip starts and ends (for a few) at the Ganges River, the holy site where Hindus come to be purified and to have their ashes scattered.

This is the second book of Endo's I have read and both center around belief and faith. The characters come from different religions, if any, and the experience of the Ganges and of India is powerful for them all. Endo asks profound questions through his writing and maybe was on a journey of his own? The challenges each character face are personal and deep, and while they don't always find answers, the river changes them.

Food: flavored skyr. The process of fermentation makes this thick yogurt amazingly creamy and a little bit of fruit or vanilla takes the sourness away for the most part. It's a slow food, and enjoyable to eat.

Sep 22, 2:11pm Top

390. Mansfield Park

Fanny Price is the niece of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, gone to live with them because her parents won't stop having children and can't afford them all. Mrs. Norris, another aunt of Fanny's, came up with the idea, but she couldn't possibly take on a child with her small income. She is rather detestable, that Mrs. Norris. Fanny, obviously, is wonderful and of the highest possible character (that can be expected of her place in society) and there are matches of her cousins to be made, etc. etc. etc....

This is my least favorite Austen novel thus far. What I enjoy most about her writing is the tongue-in-cheek nature, where she pokes fun at the way society worked and how ridiculous that women should be flattered that a man wants to marry them, no matter what they feel or think of the man. There was almost nothing of that in this book, or perhaps I was getting so bored that I skimmed over it.

Food: meat pie with too tough a crust and too little gravy. Lots to chew on, but not enough flavor.

Sep 24, 9:53pm Top

391. I, Robot

Set up as an interview of Dr. Susan Calvin, the history of sentient robots on Earth is presented. Dr. Calvin is a robopsychologist, and one of the preeminent scholars on how robots function within the Three Laws. If you're expecting Will Smith and that storyline, you're in for deep disappointment. This is more intellectual and subtle, and, I imagine, in the 1950's, terrifying.

I try to consider the context of when the novel was written and published when I read, and it's especially important here. Asimov's ideas were far outside the box, and there's much discussion of war and a post-atomic age in the novel. There are times when it certainly feels dated, but it's a great look at the fears and fascinations of that period. And it's a fun, quick read.

Food: a peanut butter granola bar. A little dry sometimes, but a good snack when you need something quick and yummy.

Sep 29, 4:19pm Top

392. The Collector

Fred collects butterflies and is really socially awkward. And he's more than a little obsessed with Miranda. After he wins the lottery, maybe he can make his fantasies into realities?

The first half is Fred's story, the second Miranda's, and while I got a little annoyed with Miranda, it felt pretty true. I enjoyed the style, definitely added to the creep factor. As I find when authors are accomplished at creating three-dimensional characters, i felt a lot of things for both of them beyond Fred is bad and Miranda is good.

Food: a handful of dry roasted peanuts. It doesn't take long to eat them and once you're done, that craving is satisfied for awhile.

Oct 30, 6:13pm Top

393. Nowhere Man

Josef has been a lot of places, but doesn't really have anywhere he belongs anymore. He grew up in Yugoslavia and left before the war, so his home doesn't really exist anymore, but he sticks out like a sore thumb in Chicago, though he is trying hard to be American. His story is told by the people who knew him in various parts of his life.

Hemon uses language like a paint brush in an abstract painting- it's surprising and colorful and unusual, but so very beautiful. I listened to this book and caught myself repeating a phrase over and over, just relishing the taste of it. It's a short book and felt a little abrupt at the end, particularly because an unrelated story is attached to the very end. If there's a connection, I couldn't find it.

Food: fresh, green grapes. They burst with flavor and vitality, with an occasional sour one thrown in.

Oct 31, 7:42pm Top

394. The Red Queen

The Crown Princess Hong, child bride of the Crown Prince in the mid-late 18th century, tells us her life story in all its sad and troublesome details. While she was a member of the royal family, there was much that she lost and little she gained with her title. Still, she loved her husband and children as well as she could and performed the duties required of her well. The second half of the book is Babs Halliwell's story, as it relates to the Crown Princess. She is sent the memoir and becomes mildly obsessed with her story, and coincedentally is traveling to Korea for a work conference. While in Seoul, she visits the palace grounds and feels an even stronger connection to this woman from the past.

The Crown Princess is a real woman and her memoirs are real. How much is embellished by Drabble, I don't know. The book is compulsively readable, and I'm still not sure why. Perhaps there really is something about this woman and her story that make the reader feel connected.

Food: melon sprinkled with salt and red pepper flakes. Slightly sweet, hints of fire, but never too much.

Nov 14, 8:57pm Top

395. The Flamethrowers

Reno is an artist, or at least she aspires to be. She works in film and photographs and her famous artist boyfriend, Sandro, supports her efforts. He comes from a rich Italian industrial family, and things aren't going so well over there- strikes and underground militias and such. It's the mid to late 1970's, and much of the action takes place in NYC.

Perhaps it's that I don't know much about the art scene. Or that this era in history doesn't hold much appeal for me. As good as the prose is in spots, this book didn't do it for me. I found myself impatient and annoyed with many of the characters. Reno doesn't know herself and she's young and she does grow during the story, but it doesn't feel like enough to justify nearly 400 pages of story.

Food: organic homemade sugar-free flaxseed granola. It's good for you, or so someone says, but it takes a lot of chewing.

Yesterday, 8:25am Top

396. The Comfort of Strangers

Mary and Colin are in love and on holiday, and bump into a kindly stranger as they are lost in the city. This doesn't turn out to be a casual friendship with a native. It's much more sinister than that.

At only 100 pages, this is a quick little story, but it packs a punch. The creepiness is a slow build, but McEwan gives us hints early on that something isn't quite what it seems. It reminds me of The Cement Garden, written in a similar style. I enjoy McEwan best in smaller chunks, I think.

Food: garlic butter caper sauce. Those hits of sour, salty brine pop up in the mix of the mellower sauce, some bites stronger than others.

Group: 1001 Books to read before you die

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