OscarWilde87's reading log 2018
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Hi there and welcome to my thread!
This is my fifth year on CR and I just love being part of this group of eclectic readers. So, thanks for having me.
I'm a teacher of English and mathematics at a German high school and I'm in my thirties. I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction, but I generally enjoy both. My reading is all over the board and I'm interested in a wide range of topics. You'll probably find me reading classics as well as popular fiction. I finish every book that I start and I will be reviewing everything I've read here.
My somewhat modest reading goals for 2018 are:
1. Work on my ever-growing TBR pile and reduce it to a minimum.
2. Read a book with more than 1,000 pages.
3. Read more books than last year, which means more than 18 and should be doable.
This post will serve as my reading summary and provide some stats about my overall reading.
Reducing the TBR pile: This year's challenge
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Finished in 2018
#1: The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens ()
#2: Wonder by R. J. Palacio ()
#3: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton ()
#4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead ()
#5: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin ()
#6: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett ()
#7: No Man's Land by David Baldacci ()
#8: Moby Dick by Herman Melville ()
#9: Mo und die Arier by Mo Asumang ()
#10: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin ()
#11: The Fix by David Baldacci ()
#12: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck ()
#13: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin ()
#14: The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon ()
#15: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn ()
Books read: 15
Pages read: 7,950
Books read: 18
Pages read: 6,403
Books read: 28
Pages read: 10,426
Books read: 20
Pages read: 8,280
Books read: 27
Pages read: 7,164
Books read: 26
Pages read: 11,618
Oscar, your goals are intriguing. The idea that you can read down your TBR pile in one year so that it is "manageable" is fascinating. You would have to avoid accumulating more, yes? (what fun is that, I say). And a book over 1000 pages, do you have some candidates in mind?
Oops, I should have specified probably. I was thinking about my physical TBR pile, that is the books actually lying around here. Otherwise it would certainly not be doable. You are right, though, I will have to stop accumulating more books, which is also very hard to do. I just want to try and see what I can do, I guess. The physical TBR pile is at around 10 books right now. The actual pile that cannot be piled would be over 100 books, certainly not doable for me.
I am still up for suggestions for a book with more than 1000 pages. Any recommendations?
>4 OscarWilde87: I am too lazy to check your shelves, apologies if you have read these.
A Suitable Boy one of my favorite books the year I read it, a surprisingly quick read, given its size.
The Tale of Genji reads like a Japanese, 16th century, "Friends". Lots of short, mostly comedic, episodes with some reoccurring characters and some characters that appear in one episode only. If you can overlook the 16th mores, it can be an enjoyable read spread out over many months. There is a Penguin edition that is color-coded that I kind of wish I had sprung for (I read an older, free ebook translation).
Other popular classics that you might have already read Bleak House (depending on the edition), Kristin Lavransdatter (the Tiina Nunnally translation), The Count of Monte Cristo (Robin Buss translation), and, of course, Les Misérables.
You have a couple of my favourites there on your TBR for 2018. Just dropping off my star for 2018.
>5 ELiz_M: Thanks for the suggestions! When you write "Friends", do you mean the TV series "Friends"? That association should be interesting. I will add your ideas to a new 1000+ pages list here, so that they don't get lost.
>7 baswood: I have heard many things about Moby Dick so far. What I hear quite often is that it is apparently not that much of a page turner. Your good luck wishes seem to go into that direction, right? Did you not like it?
Thanks for your book recommendations. I'll add them to a list here so that they don't get lost. I'll probably attack the 1000+ pages book challenge in summer as I get most of my reading done then.
Inspired by the recommendations I got so far, I just decided to make a list of suggestions for 1000+ pages books. Let's see where this leads my summer reading.
Books with 1000+ pages
- A Suitable Boy, suggested by Liz, seconded by avaland and dukedom
- The Tale of Genji, suggested by Liz
- Bleak House, suggested by Liz
- Kristin Lavransdatter, suggested by Liz
- The Count of Monte Christo, suggested by Liz
- Les Misérables, suggested by Liz
- Against the Day, suggested by Bas
- Infinite Jest, suggested by Bas
- War and Peace, suggested by Bas
- The complete Poems, D H Lawrence, suggested by Bas
- Cairo Trilogy, suggested by avaland
- The Raj Quartet, suggested by avaland
- Against the Day, suggested by dukedom
- Jerusalem, suggested by chlorine
- It, inspired by bridgey's review
- A Dance to the Music of Time, suggested by dukedom
>10 OscarWilde87: Moby-Dick is a book I admired, if you turn the pages too quickly you will loose much of the substance. Reading it teaches much about whales amongst other things. It starts well enough.
Here is my review: http://www.librarything.com/work/15540/details/65379943
>9 OscarWilde87: Yes, for some reason the structure/story arc of Genji reminded me of long-running sitcoms and Friends, with its many characters, seemed appropriate.
>11 OscarWilde87: I accidentally found a good strategy for Moby-Dick. It generally alternates a plot chapter with an information chapter. If you can, always stop your reading at the end of a plot chapter -- so you pause at a moment where you are looking forward to more and you start a "boring" chapter when fresh.
>13 baswood: Thanks for the link. What an outstanding and in-depth review! I would have given more than one thumb up if possible. I'm glad to hear that you like the book. I was a little taken aback by all the negative reactions I got about Moby Dick.
Happy new year, OscarWilde87! I look forward to more of your reviews this year!
>14 ELiz_M: Good tip on Moby Dick! It's on my aspiration list, and I have favourited your comment so that I can bear it in mind when I finally get round to reading it.
I read (2/3rds of) Old Curiosity Shop last year, but it was getting too depressing so I decided to abandon it and consider it done. Not something I almost ever do, but, yeah. I looked up spoilers and I don't regret stopping, lol. Maybe one day I'll read it all, but eh. This year my Dickens pick is (going chronologically) Nicholas Nickleby. :)
>19 .Monkey.: Oh, I'm about two thirds into the novel at the moment. Bad things are looming I think, but I will definitely keep reading. I do wonder now, what those spoilers you speak of might be... Do you not regret stopping because it will be even more depressing? I guess I'll soon find out.
I haven't read Nicholas Nickleby yet, but I like reading Dickens a lot, so I guess it's a good choice you made. Are still doing the 1,001-books to read before you die? I faintly remember you being in that group as well. I have more or less abandoned the project as it would dictate too much of my reading. I simply pick the occasional novel from the list.
Haha, you will indeed find out! And then I will also fill you in on a vague spoilery thing I read in my copy prior to my decision, lol.
I do indeed, I shoot for 20+ books from it each year (which is only ~25% of my intended reading, so not that big a thing) - last year I hit 15, thanks in large part to Jane Austen, lol. I don't intend on reading all of the list, but there's a whole lot I'm interested in regardless of the list, and plenty others the list brought to my attention, so I do like to try continuing to knock titles off; but I certainly don't base my whole reading around it, and especially after last year, I definitely won't be pushing it if the more literary stuff starts bogging me down again. :)
>21 .Monkey.: I am intrigued!
As 20+ books is the reading I get done in a year (I just cannot help it, I'm a slow reader and my job is really time consuming), I wouldn't be able to do that. So I do admire what you're doing there. It will be interesting to follow your thread again this year.
In that case I'd be shooting for around 5. ;) And no shame at all on the number, we're all different! I don't have much going on so I have plenty of reading time, lol. When I'm not depressed by the world/losing myself in video games, I can hit 80 easy. Actually if I were to go without any slumps I could easily pass 100, but that never happens, there's always at least one to slow me down, hahaha.
>23 .Monkey.: That is simply admirable! I would like to be able to that! But hey, as you say, we're all different. At least I get some 'secondary reading' done by following your reviews. And ain't that a good thing?
Finally getting here, mr. Wilde. I like your goals. Moby Dick was a wonderful read for me. I took it in a walking pace, letting soak in but rarely pushing my self too far in any sitting. I know other readers have rushed through and also enjoyed it. I wrote on another thread that it has a playful openness. It's not something that jumps out while you're reading, but it's an affect that hangs around afterward and that maybe you can find while reading.
>4 OscarWilde87: I am slow getting back here. re: Books over 1000 pages. It seems one must consider trilogies like Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy (1300 pp. as one volume) and maybe quadrilogies; such as, Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet; (well over 1000 in one volume. It's tough to bind and handle a 1000 page book, don't you think? I recently pulled down Joyce Carol Oates's Blonde with the intent to start it (a mere 800+ pages) but the print was a bit small so I am going to pick up a HC, I think. Dukedom notes that Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon is over 1000 pp., but he notes he has not read it himself.
We also have an unread copy of A Suitable Boy that neither of us have read. We'd appreciate it if you read it for us. LOL.
>29 auntmarge64: Yes, Kindle! Or a reading pillow. Kindle is my preferred way of dealing with them.
>26 dchaikin: Welcome, Dan! I definitely would like to experience that effect of the book hanging around. I just love how books do that sometimes!
>27 avaland: Ooh, thanks for the recommendations. Other than the Pynchon I have not heard of those books and I'll make sure to consider for my 1000+ project. They'll go right to my list. I also love the idea of reading a book for you. This sounds like a lovely form of outsourcing, sorta. ;)
>28 chlorine: Welcome, Chlorine! Your suggestion just made its way on my list and I'll check it out. Thanks! Maybe you can tell me how you liked it when you get around to reading it. Your thoughts are very welcome!
>29 auntmarge64: >30 NanaCC: I do still have a slight aversion to the Kindle, although my 'digital reading' has increased in recent years. I just love the feel and smell of books too much. I guess I am old-fashioned like that.
Not sure if you have read 'The Stand'... but that would be a good book for over 1k....
#1: The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop explores the living conditions in Victorian London. On the one hand, there are the protagonists Nell and Kit, born into poor lower-class families and trying to make a living. On the other hand, there are the upper-class citizens and future employers of Nell and Kit. In between there is shady Quilp, not poor, but striving to become richer through various schemes. The plot starts in London before it unfolds in two separate plot lines, one still taking place in London and following Kit and the other following Nell and her grandfather on their journey away from London in search of a better life away from danger.
At the beginning, the reader learns that Nell's grandfather, owner of an old curiosity shop, cares for Nell because her parents are dead and she does not have anyone else anymore. With only the best intentions for Nell, her grandfather incurs a large amount of debt with Quilp who discovers that the old man has lost everything he borrowed gambling. Nell, on her part, is a modest young girl of fourteen years, who does not complain about her life although there would be ample reason to do so. Kit, Nell's only friend, lives under similar conditions. He lives in a small house with his mother and his two siblings and takes care of the family as best as he can doing odd jobs around the city after he is forced to leave his job at the old curiosity shop when Nell and her grandfather flee the city to live a life on the road as beggars. Nell's journey through the English countryside reminded me of Pilgrim's journey in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. With the goal of finding salvation both novel's protagonists set out and leave their home town, encountering several hardships along the way before they finally reach their destination. The characters they meet on the road are sometimes well-meaning, as in the case of Mrs Jarley, the owner of a traveling waxwork's show, who takes Nell and her grandfather in. Quite often, however, they are dangerous and try to lead the protagonists astray.
Two things about the novel strike me as particularly noteworthy. First, there is Dickens' characterization, which I find to be masterfully done. I found myself really caring for Nell and Kit and their fate. While this makes the novel a rather sad read, there have been certain places where I could not help but smile because I was so happy about positive episodes in the main characters' lives. Second, there is the fact that the novel was published as a weekly serial over the course of about two years. I am quite certain that the tension Dickens' created by having his readers wait another week for the next instalment of the novel must have left readers quite desperate. It was my experience when I read the novel that I would have been quite disappointed if I had had to put it down after certain chapters and wait for another week. This must have created a lot of talk about the novel in Victorian London, as many readers must have felt the same urge as I did to continue and read about the fate of poor little Nell.
To my mind the following quotation quite sums up the dilemma that presents itself to the two protagonists.
It was a long night, which seemed as though it would have no end; but he had slept too, and dreamed - always of being at liberty, and roving about, now with one person and now with another, but ever with a vague dread of being recalled to prison; not that prison, but one which was in itself a dim idea, not of a place, but of a care and sorrow; of something oppressive and always present, and yet impossible to define. At last morning dawned, and there was the jail itself - cold, black, and dreary, and very real indeed. (p. 445)It is exactly this confinement to their place in society that serves as a metaphorical prison that is hard to escape for Nell and Kit. While Nell cares a lot about her grandfather, his gambling problem brings her many a sleepless and sorrowful night. And just when you feel that morning has dawned on Nell's life and she has finally found her place of safety and happiness, you are crushed by the cold fate Dickens has chosen for her.
I found this novel to be an outstanding example of good characterization and plotting. The ending made me sad and I think I would have wished for a more positive one, but it most certainly fit the overall tone of the novel. The Old Curiosity Shop is highly recommendable. 4 stars.
Enjoyed your review. My one little look into Dickens was rewarding and needs to be repeated. This review helps remind me why.
Excellent review of The Old Curiosity Shop Dickens' novels can be real page turners and while they are too long to read in one or two sittings, you certainly don't want to be deprived from picking up the book again when you want to.
I have not read The Old Curiosity Shop but it is on my shelf to read.
>35 OscarWilde87: Great review! (though I wouldn't have minded a minor spoiler alert before your comments about the end).
I wasn't aware of this book, and as I've greatly liked the other Dickens I've read, I'll try to get to this one at some point.
>35 OscarWilde87: I haven’t read this Dickens. Your review has prompted me to add it to my reading list.
>40 OscarWilde87: No worry, I'll surely have forgotten your comment long before I have a chance to get to the book!
>36 dchaikin: You should definitely read more Dickens! (though I personally would keep this particular one at the bottom of the pile :P)
>35 OscarWilde87: Wow, really surprised you view it so highly! This is one of his that actually gets quite a bit of negative critique, haha. Okay so as I was saying at the start of the year! I read in mine
>43 OscarWilde87: Yeah, Americans might have been really depressed. But how could the captain do that to them? ;)
I found that the book was not just depressing. It had its lighter moments. On the whole, though, I totally agree with you, it is very sad. Maybe it's because of the winter here in Europe that I liked it so much? ;)
Much of Dickens is depressing, but there is always a fair amount of humor to offset it. I really want to read more of him this year.
>43 OscarWilde87: / >44 NanaCC: In general, yes, there's humor & mellow scenes that balance the human plight he was trying to get people to see, but in this particular one those moments were, imo, very rare and small and did nothing to offset the overwhelming sadness of it all for me.
>44 NanaCC: I read one Dickens novel each year. Though last year, since I gave up this one 2/3rds done (around 520 pages in, iirc, longer than an avg novel, but still, it was left hanging!), I also read A Christmas carol later on. Had to get one actually complete! :P This year I'll be reading Nicholas Nickleby. But not quite yet. Lol.
Somehow I've only read one Dickens novel even though I loved the one I did read (Great Expectations). I must aim to read at least one this year at some point.
>45 .Monkey.: My husband and I listen to A Christmas Carol every year on our ride home after Thanksgiving from my daughter’s house in CT. It is just the right length for the car ride, and it puts us in the mood to start thinking about Christmas.
>46 AlisonY: I love Great Expectations.
Editing to add that my first intro to Dickens was Oliver Twist. I read it several times as a kid. It was a favorite.
>47 NanaCC: I'm not a xmas person, but I actually enjoyed the book a lot more than I expected, given how familiar I am with it from the many film incarnations, lol.
Oliver was my first Dickens as well, though only several years ago, definitely a good one!
>44 NanaCC: I think so, too. But every once in a while I tend to like to read something sad, so Dickens is just fine. Plus, I think his novels provide good descriptions of life in Victorian England.
>46 AlisonY: I haven't read Great Expectations yet, but I am definitely planning to do so some time. I think one Dickens per year as some of you suggest is a very nice idea.
>47 NanaCC: What a great idea! If only I had the lengthy car ride to go along with it. But I guess it could also be sitting in front of a fireplace when it's really cold outside.
>48 .Monkey.: Oliver Twist is definitely not a bad novel, yes. It's been a while that I read it and I just had to look up my thoughts about it. I gave it three stars in 2012. Too bad I did not review it then...
If I remember correctly my intro to Dickens was Hard Times.
>35 OscarWilde87: your excellent review (and everyone else’s comments) have reminded me how much I enjoyed the little Dickens I have read, and made me want to read more. I know what you mean about feeling frustrated at not being able to get on with the story - I ended up buying a second copy of Great Expectations, having forgotten to take it with me on a weekend trip!
>1 OscarWilde87: Another possibility for your 1000+ pages project: Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Formally it's 12 separate novels, published over a quarter century, but telling a single narrative over 50 years. Lois and I just watched the 1997 TV adaptation, and thought it worthwhile, although quite sprawling.
The touchstone here is to the omnibus of the first 3 novels.
>50 rachbxl: Thanks! You bought a second copy for just one weekend? That's what I call a reader! I might have reacted in a similar way. Maybe looked it up on Project Gutenberg, but it would not have been the same.
>51 dukedom_enough: Thanks! I was initially going for a standalone novel, but will add your suggestion to the list. The list of suggestions is getting longer than I had expected, so it might be a project for years to come. You can really count on Club Read for recommendations! Love it!
>53 dukedom_enough: My first reaction was: Oh, please do! Then again, we'd have to share the reading of those! :)
#2: Wonder by R. J. Palacio
August Pullmann is a ten-year-old boy about to attend a public school for the first time in fifth grade. He has been homeschooled by his parents before as he was born with a deformed face. He introduces himself as by telling the readers 'My name is August, by the way. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.' His parents discuss the option of going to a regular school, Beecher prep, with Auggie and while there is much reluctance at first, Auggie agrees to going to school under the condition of being allowed to quit anytime he likes. The novel then picks up pace, describing Auggie's first days at school which are characterized by the usual problems teenagers face like making new friends in class, where to sit during lunch break and with whom, and so on. Only that for Auggie these problems are obviously much greater as he sees himself subject to people constantly making fun of him because of his looks, talking and laughing behind his back and calling him a monster. Auggie, however, is a such a likable and strong young boy in dealing with his situation and manages to survive the first days in order to go on charming his fellow students with his wit and his remarkable kindness. Obviously things are not easy for him and the bullying at school actually reaches a state that is called 'the war' in the novel.
The story is presented from different perspectives While it obviously starts with August's perspective it goes on to show the perspectives of Auggie's sister and his friends. One chapter contains letters and texts that are exchanged by numerous people, such as teachers, parents of other children in Auggie's class, and of course Auggie and his friends. This multiperspectivity contributes to an overall picture that manages to capture different aspects of dealing with the special situation all the characters around Auggie find themselves in. The only minor flaw of this book is a part of the ending, to my mind. Not wanting to spoil anything here, let me just say that I find that a certain aspect was a little over the top, which made me re-think my opinion of the authenticity that is created so well by using multiple narrative perspectives, none of which are adult's perspectives it might be worth noting.
R. J. Palacio's Wonder is literally a wonderful novel which I would not only recommend to a YA readership but readers in general. It explores the intricacies of human interaction in families, at school and beyond. While it is Auggie's birth defect that magnifies the situation, it does not have to be a birth defect for children or young adults to find themselves in the same position as Auggie. Wonder is a warm-hearted book so full of kindness in the face of absolute adversity that reading it will certainly contribute to developing more empathy in a world that seems to need more of exactly that, kindness and empathy, in so many places even today. 4 stars.
>55 OscarWilde87: Very good review of Wonder.
As I've read several others, this is going to my wishlist.
#3: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist tells the story of Petronella, or Nella in short, a girl from the Dutch Assendelft that gets married to the rich merchant Johannes Brandt. She moves to his big house in Amsterdam and lives there with Johannes' sister Marin and Otto and Cornelia, two servants in the house. The novel is set in the 17th century and covers a relatively short time span from October 1686 until January 1687. As Johannes is rarely home Nella does not see much of her husband. They do not even consume their marriage, which is very hard on Nella who wonders what might be wrong with her. One day, Johannes brings home a large cabinet which is an exact copy of the house and is his wedding present to Nella. Nella does not really know what to do with the gift, so she starts buying miniature items to put into the cabinet. When little figurines of the inhabitants of the house arrive without her having ordered them she wonders about the identity of the miniaturist who sends them.
What I find most striking about the novel are the relationships between the characters. The relationship between Nella and Johannes is very one-sided at the beginning with Nella wanting to live the life of happily married wife with all its facets and Johannes being away all the time and not even talking to her. When he takes her out to the public one night, Nella finally thinks their marriage is going to start, but again her hopes are crushed. In the meantime the relationship between Nella and the two servants gets ever warmer, but the relationship to Marin, Johannes' sister, remains mysterious. Marin is a very dominant character who does not let anyone come to close to her. An important part that complicates the relation between Johannes and Marin as well as the relation between Marin and Nella is the Meermans family. The reader learns that Frans Meermans and Marin have been a couple when Marin was still young, but the relationship has ended abruptly. Agnes Meermans, who inherited a sugar plantation in Suriname, has her husband Frans charge Johannes with selling the sugar. Generally, there are many secrets in the novel which are only slowly revealed to the reader. Suffice it to say at this point that you really want to find out what lies behind all those secrets and find out about Marin and Johannes Brandt's backgrounds.
In the reading process I found myself having more and more questions about what was really happening. Why does Johannes not live a normal life with his wife? Does he love her? What role does Marin play as the lady of the house? Why did her relationship to Frans Meermans end? Who is the miniaturist? How does the miniaturist know what to send Nella? Are the things that are sent some kind of prophecy of the future? It is these questions and many more that I wanted to find answers to and this was the driving force behind my reading. The larger issues that are explored in the novel, that is the role of women in 17th century Amsterdam, for instance, do also provide for an interesting angle on the story. While the story that is told is not completely my cup of tea, I do think that this novel has its merits and leaves you with a sense of a worthwhile reading experience. 3.5 stars.
>60 OscarWilde87: sorry it wasn't completely up your alley. You might still enjoy the BBC adaptation.
>61 AlisonY: Oh, I hadn't known that such an adaption existed. I'll see if I can get my hands on it.
The BBC adaption is very good on period character, but if you are looking for answers to the loose ends you might be disapointed. Enjoyed your review.
You have a lovely thread. I wish you well on your progress throughout the year. Not part of the group, per se, but happen to be reading Moby-Dick with Curiosity Shop on my list for the latter part of this year. Your reviews are succinct without being bland or so profound that I feel unworthy reading them. Have fun picking your 1000pg epic! Mine will be Arabian Nights.
>63 baswood: Yeah, I would actually be very interested in the period. I will have to do some deeper digging, though, as I have not found the adaptation online so far.
>64 frahealee: Thanks a lot! If you're not part of the group, how can I find your thread? Will you write down your thoughts about Moby-Dick and The Old Curiosity Shop somewhere on LT? You could always join this group, though. ;)
>66 OscarWilde87: Fell into LT accidentally (long story) w/1st post in Dec2017 for "What Are You Reading Now?" From there, saw various goals outlined for 2018 (as you have done above), then PaperbackPirate highlighted her 50 Book Challenge. I've never tracked my reading habits, so this year will be an observation discipline. 90 Chapters in with MD, but unsure if a review will emerge, since I like it, while most do not. I find the author very funny! and have no more difficulty with the "dry" whaling bits (pun intended), than I did with the architecture history in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (After inputting 200 books, it appears that Gothic Lit is a longtime habit. Who knew?! Poe would be proud.) Maybe if 50BkChall2018 falls flat, I might be tempted to "jump ship" to CR. Last pun, I promise. =D Still giddy from Don Quixote...
Finding LT enlightening/educational/entertaining simultaneously. I have zero social media experience, so am hit and miss on this site. No clue how to post a link. Your intro caught my eye, since I was in Germany during the first unified election after the Berlin Wall came down (Stuttgart area) and my youngest is in grd.12. My own teachers were strict and staid but that was the norm. My daughter has special needs, so her interaction is very different. You seem quite personable, likely able to hold the attention of your students. All the best.
(Oscar Wilde surfaced for me only in the past decade - after a novel and a play, now intrigued by his poetry ... FYI, not a teacher/Librarian/university grad, just love the written word.)
-ps- although several of my selections happen to be in '1001 books to read before you die', I have no ambition to aim for that; I only want to see what all the fuss is about with those that pique my interest, to form my own opinion, as you have done with Dickens, etc.
>67 frahealee: you can do both groups, you know, just an idea. Welcome to LT!
Oscar - great review of The Miniaturist. Interested in your enthusiasm for Wonder. My daughter is a big fan and was itching to see the movie (which she saw with friends and so I haven’t seen it yet)
>67 frahealee: As dchaikin says, you can certainly participate in more than one group. Many people crosspost between challenge groups and CR. I used to be in many of them, but it got a bit overwhelming trying to keep up with like 6 different groups with lots of frequent posts, haha, so I wound up winnowing down over the years, and now I just do one challenge and CR. :)
>67 frahealee: It is sure nice to see you here frahealee. Thanks for your kind words! Maybe at some point you want to try tracking your reading in your own thread, but if not, so be it. Feel free lurking around here and posting every once in a while. Your thoughts are always appreciated.
It seems that you are indeed reading many classics. I have simply loved Don Quixote. I read it when I was traveling around the South Island of New Zealand and I will probably always connect it to that adventure. Great times!
>68 dchaikin: I have just seen the movie version of Wonder with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. I liked it just as much as the novel, I think (although I'd probably always prefer a novel over a movie). The movie almost made me cry as I knew what was about to happen at certain moments and I really felt for Auggie, the protagonist. If you get a chance, you really might wanna check it out. Both, novel and movie.
>69 .Monkey.: I can imagine how you were overwhelmed with so many groups. I can hardly keep up here and wish I had more time to post more in other threads. Often I only manage to lurk around, which is a shame as there are so many interesting discussions going on here.
>71 OscarWilde87: Same, I lurk a lot more than I comment! And if I've been away for even just a couple days, forget it, I wind up just skipping to the newest post(s) in most threads, lol.
#4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The underground railroad was a system of safe houses and routes to travel between them in secret. Established in the United States in the 19th century, it was used to help slaves from the southern states travel north to reach the free states or even Canada. Colson Whitehead's novel tells the story of Cora, an African-American slave working on a cotton plantation in Georgia. While the actual underground railroad was not a subway in the literal sense, Whitehead envisions exactly that, a system of underground tunnels dug by slaves and serviced by actual trains. When Cora is approached by another slave on the plantation, Caesar, and asked to join him fleeing the plantation she eventually agrees to his plan. The two start their flight during the night and only narrowly make their escape without detection. Their first station is North Carolina where they do not have to live in hiding as the state has just recently abolished slavery. However, Caesar and Cora still have to be careful as slave catchers roam the area looking for runaways to return them to their slave masters. That is why Cora eventually has to leave North Carolina and try to make her way further north. The Underground Railway follows her journey on the way to achieve her dream of freedom.
The novel's chapters alternate between character chapters which provide background information on characters Cora meets on her journey, and chapters that are named after the places Cora is currently at. This structure provides Whitehead with the opportunity to give certain characters more depth and place them in the focus of his readership as well as drive the plot forward rather straightforwardly. I liked this choice of structure as it highlights two important aspects that should be in the center of narratives about this gruesome part of American history, namely people and their stories. The individual is placed at the center of the bigger story Whitehead is able to tell so vividly that reading it is very painful at times.
Here was the true Great Spirit, the divine thread connecting all human endeavor - if you can keep it, it is yours. Your property, slave or continent. The American imperative.Whitehead certainly has a way with words and the praise he has received is well deserved to my mind. Despite a few minor issues I had with it, wishing it were a little more detailed in some places being one of them, I can certainly recommend this novel. An important work of literature that should be read by many many people, especially for the topic it deals with. 4 stars.
>73 OscarWilde87: I've seen a lot of people reading and praising this one since it came out. My mom actually just bought it the other day, so when she finishes it I will finally have a copy myself, yay! Glad you enjoyed it. :)
Some wonderful reviews here! I particularly enjoyed your review of Wonder which is still selling well at the bookstore.
>73 OscarWilde87: Nice review of The underground Railroad.
This seems like a book to look out for.
Hi Oscar. Definitely some great reading (I read 4/5 of your first books in 2017). I've read some chunksters (600-800 pages) but the only thing over 1000 pages I've read is The Gulag Archipelago that would be all 3 volumes, with each volume being about 700 pages.
It's been such a long time of absence now and I'm truly sorry about that. Recently, there was just so much life going on that I did not really get a chance to post here. I also did not get much reading done. I hope this is going to change again now. I've dearly missed this.
>74 .Monkey.: Did you have a chance to read it yet?
>75 avaland: Thanks!
>76 chlorine: Thanks! If you get a chance to read it, I'd really like to hear what you think.
>77 tess_schoolmarm: Four out of five? Wow! You seem to have great taste in books. ;) Just kidding. It really surprises me actually, as I tend to read all over the board, which is something that all too many people do. I'm currently reading A Game of Thrones which is also 800+ pages. Takes a little longer, but it's still not a bad book. If I only had more time for reading...
>78 OscarWilde87: Finally finished Moby-Dick, the novel and all side-notes, and I think you'll love it! It has a depth to it that I was not expecting, and there was only one chapter that made me uncomfortable out of 135 plus prologue, etc. Not a bad ratio. It seems more daunting than it really is, since some chapters are endless but some are very short, making their point and then moving on. None of it could be mined down imho. I am not ready to do a full review yet, since hindsight is 20/20 and its particles are still hanging in the air above me. When they settle, I will post it on my thread and let you know. It seemed more palatable than Don Quixote, by far. Makes me want to go whale-watching off the Gaspe Peninsula (Quebec) and boycott all places that serve sushi! Happy Spring!
I read Moby Dick years ago and enjoyed it. Always mean to revisit it but whenever I pick it up it always daunts me, which is a bit nuts when I've already read it. Have you seen the brilliant film with Patrick Stewart as Ahab?
>78 OscarWilde87: No no, it won't be for a while yet. It's possible she's finished and will toss it in her next box, but... heh. Eventually! ;)
>80 Bridgey: So far, only managed to watch trailers for Greg Peck & Patrick Stewart versions. I am aware of both and hope to make time asap! I would read it again in a heartbeat and might try to uncover his earlier works. Love a good travel epic. His writing style seems less formal than his pal Hawthorne. Trying to get through some of those Gothic offerings, with several on the 1001 (btrbyd) list. Argh. =( The House of the Seven Gables reread, on to the next.
>78 OscarWilde87: Nice to see you! There's no need to apologise for not having been here, and I hope you soon find more time to read more!
>79 frahealee: That's nice to hear. I have just started reading Moby Dick two days ago. I've not gotten that far yet, but I have to say that I was positively surprised and it made me want to continue reading. I like the narrative style so far. Happy spring to you too!
>80 Bridgey: & >82 frahealee: Have not seen the movie and definitely won't before finishing the book. Although it won't give away much plot-wise, I assume. Still, imagination first.
>83 chlorine: I do hope so, too! But I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
#5: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
With the TV series being so highly praised and widely liked, I definitely felt the need to read the novels that the series is based on. I have to admit that I have seen the series, which made the plot of the novel fairly unsurprising. To those unacquainted with both series and novels, I will briefly outline the main setting. George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is the first in a series of novels set in the fictional world of Westeros, inhabited by lords, knights and kings. The novel boasts many characters and the plot takes place all over the fictional world Martin has created, which is why it is hard to give a more exact description. The novel, however, does exactly that, i.e. provide a detailed description of characters and their background, relationships and landscapes. The so-called game of thrones begins when Robert Baratheon, the ruling king of the seven kingdoms dies and several houses fight to provide the next ruler of the iron throne. The fact that the novel comes with an appendix outlining the different houses and the main characters in the novel speaks for itself. In order to understand everything detailed background information will not be completely necessary but definitely helpful. To go into depth here about characters and plot would hence be rather useless.
Having seen the TV series, my impression of the novel is of course somewhat tainted. Concentrating on the main issues of the craft of writing a novel, however, I have to say that Martin did a very fine job. The novel is narrated from several different perspectives, those of the main characters. This limits the narration to one perspective in each chapter, but provides a multitude of perspectives in general. As can be expected from an 800+ pages tome, the plot does not really speed along, which is also due to the fact that Martin has to introduce many characters and their storylines so as to be able to connect them afterwards. Since I do not have much trouble with sticking to the narration for many pages without the plot moving along all too much, I was perfectly fine with Martin's style. I can also not imagine a better way to do this while at the same time getting in the depth that Martin provides. If the novel were not part of a series, I would definitely have to say something about the ending, which I found quite slow and disappointing as it is. Knowing that there will be more satisfies me, though.
If you have seen the TV series or just heard about the idea behind the TV series, you might want to read the novel(s). If still possible I would suggest, though, to read the novel(s) first before turning to the TV series as that gives more room to your own imagination, which is something that I personally cherish a lot when reading books. On the whole, I found A Game of Thrones to be a nice read that will most likely be enjoyed by fans of the genre. 4 stars.
#6: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Imagine the following scenario. The Queen of England haphazardly stumbles upon a traveling library at Buckingham Palace and borrows a book simply because she feels it is expected of her to please the librarian. The Queen reads the book, wants to return it and finds herself borrowing more. To her own surprise, she develops a liking for books, although she considers herself a 'doer' and does not see reading as 'doing'. Her new-found habit influences the way the Queen carries out her duties, the way she treats the people around her and the way she sees life. This, roughly, is the outset of The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, a little novella of less than a hundred pages.
First of all, I found the idea quite intriguing. Seeing the impact reading might have on the Queen makes for some interesting reading. Bennett explores this idea in a quite humorous way, although I have to say that all in all I found the book a little boring to read. And that is my major issue here, other than the idea of the book I found there was not much more to it. As the book is rather short it was easy to finish, but I believe that I would have struggled finishing it had it been longer. Reading until the end was, however, worth it, as the ending actually quite surprised me and struck upon an interesting issue to think about. Now spoilers here, though. All in all, 3 stars.
Sorry to hear that The uncommon reader did not quit work out for you. It does sound promising.
Your review of A game of thrones almost made me want to try to read it again, after having seen and enjoyed part of the TV series. I've decided not to, however, as I have so many things I want to read and I'm not that delighted in the series.
>88 chlorine: I thought the same thing. But apart from the ending I thought the promise was not really kept. Anyway, I'm almost 200 pages into Moby Dick now and so far I think it's quite good.
I also share your thoughts about Game of Thrones, especially as the books are really long. Not bad, but there are (as always) so many other alternatives.
>89 OscarWilde87: I'm glad you're enjoying Moby Dick, but it really did not work for me. I'll b looking forward to your review.
#7: No Man's Land by David Baldacci
John Puller is an Army CID investigator and David Baldacci gives him his fourth novel in a quite interesting series. As with the last novel, Puller investigates close to home when he receives knowledge of a letter accusing his father, a retired Army general, of murdering Puller's mother. Jackie Puller has disappeared thirty years ago and is presumed dead. As neither Puller nor his brother believe the accusation, Puller sets out to find the truth behind his mother's disappearance. The investigation is shut down quite early by high-ranking government officials who seem to have something to hide. The second plot line in the novel follows Paul Rogers who has spent ten years in prison for murder but is now released on parole. Rogers is portrayed as being unusually strong. As soon as he leaves prison he starts his journey across the US to take revenge on someone who has wronged him in the past. When the two plot lines converge, the story picks up even more pace and leads to an ending full of twists.
As I am a big fan of Baldacci's John Puller series, my thoughts about this novel are most likely biased. As with the other novels in the series, I especially like the main character and the way Baldacci unfolds the plot. Although 583 pages cannot necessarily be considered a short read, this thriller is really fast-paced and I found it very hard to put down the book. The only minor thing that I would have to criticize is that I felt that two or three passages are a little off in the sense that they are slightly inconsistent with the rest and struck me as odd. I am sure that fans of the series will like this novel, but so will fans of the genre in general. I would advise to read the previous novels in the series first, though, as they fill you in on the protagonist's past and make it easier to understand certain relationships in this novel.
#8: Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Moby Dick is surely one of the great American novels and its non-human protagonist is known to everyone only remotely interested in literature. The story about Captain Ahab and the whale, however, is not that well known at all. I mean, who can really say what happens at the end of Moby Dick? No worries, I will not give away the ending here. Just let me give a brief outline of the setting and the plot. The story is narrated by Ishmael and it is narrated in first person. Ishmael recounts the story of how he came to join Captain Ahab's crew on the Pequod, a whaling ship. Captain Ahab has met the white whale Moby Dick many times, but never managed to finally kill the animal. On the contrary, he was almost defeated by Moby Dick, who cost Ahab one of his legs. This led to Ahab developing an obsession to finally catch and kill Moby Dick. The plot is easily told then. The Pequod sails the oceans in order for Ahab to finally fulfill what seems to be his only remaining purpose in life.
Moby Dick is so much more than its plot. A large part of the novel is made up of extensive background information about whales and whaling. Melville chose not to simply entertain his readers with a story but rather educate them on the subject he seems to be so facinated with. The mere story would probably have been told in about half the number of pages, but it is this addendum, let's call it, that makes up for a large part of the reading experience. I do admit that there will be many readers who will be taken aback by the degree of detail Melville put into the educational part of the novel. However, the combination of both background knowledge and a story about finding and killing a whale is what makes this novel exceptional, I think.
While Moby Dick was published in 1851, I think the novel is timeless and can be read for many reasons as it includes still relevant themes, the fight of human vs. nature being one of them, and provides the readers with some insights that are as true and important today - or even more so - as they might have been in the 19th century. A case in point:
I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and what not (...) I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all - Pagans and Presbyterians alike - for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.I would generally suggest that readers should give Moby Dick a try and see whether it is their cup of tea or not. I can certainly understand both how people admire the novel and how they might find it quite boring. What it came down to for me in the end was, what the reading did with me. After many reading sessions what I had just read did not leave me for quite a bit and this is something that I treasure in books. 3.5 stars.
>92 OscarWilde87: I'm glad you liked it more than I did!
I'm among the ones who did not care for the background knowledge (and I wondered how reliable this knowledge is? I remember Ishmael insisting that whales are fish rather than mammals). The idea that St-George killed not a dragon but a whale (stranded on a beach) while riding not a horse but a seal, however, was so beyond preposterous that it made me smile. ;)
>93 chlorine: Oh, yeah, you are definitely right about the reliability issue. But then again it's fiction, right? I do have mixed feelings about the novel, but I liked more of it than I did dislike.
Moby Dick is one book I’ve never been interested in reading. I’ve seen several film adaptations and never wanted to take it further. I appreciate that you read it, and enjoyed your review.
>93 chlorine: A friend of mine has a theory about the background information. Yes, it is no longer accurate and boring. But, without the "technical" chapters, we would see the whale for all of 5 minutes at the climax of the story and if you have never seen a whale in real life this appearance won't have much of an impact. So alternating the story with the chapters about whales, with as much knowledge as the author can impart to bring you up to speed with how the characters know whales, is what gives the ending it's power.
Every so often I think I ought to at least give Moby-Dick a try, but I haven't been moved to actually do so yet. But I did pick up a copy of Jean Giono's Melville: A Novel from work—it's a slim NYRB Classics book reprint and translation of a 1941 novel imagining Melville in England just before returning to the states to write Moby-Dick. I'm calling it a novel because that's what's in the subtitle, but I was actually drawn in by the description on the back as "part biography, part philosophical rumination, part romance, part unfettered fantasy." Hey, at barely over 100 pages, how bad can that be? Plus I generally trust the taste of the editors at NYRB.
I thought it might be an interesting gateway to Melville, or at least would ease that sneaky feeling that I ought to at least try something of his.
#9: Mo und die Arier by Mo Asumang
Mo und die Arier (Mo and the Aryans) is an intriguing work of non-fiction written by Mo Asumang, a German TV host whose father is from Ghana and whose mother is German. Confronted with racism on a more or less daily basis because of the color of her skin, Asumang has chosen to confront her fears and talk to racists and neo-Nazis not just in Germany but also in the US. This confrontation leads her to explore the true meaning of the word 'Aryan' as so many neo-Nazis claim that they are Aryan while she is not and therefore does not belong in Germany. The author does away with the common misconception that 'Aryan' describes a person with blonde hair and blue eyes, a description that the Aryans, who actually live in today's Iran, can only laugh about.
According to the author the trigger of confronting racism directly and writing this book was when a German neo-Nazi group published a song with the name 'This bullet is for you, Mo Asumang' (own translation), which spiked new levels of fear in Asumang. The writer then talks to neo-Nazis, visits Tom Metzger, a former KKK leader who is now head of the White Aryan Resistance in the US, and even meets with a Klansman in the dead of night. The result of all these meetings is at first a growing feeling of not being wanted, but Asumang's personal conclusion is that confronting racists with their theories and getting to know them on a more personal level may help make them question their beliefs.
To my mind, Mo und die Arier is book well worth reading. The topic is highly relevant nowadays and the perspective provided in the book can be eye-opening as well as shocking as to how racist modern societies still are.
>101 OscarWilde87: Thanks for bringing this to my attention! This looks fascinating.
I can't imagine how scared Asumang must have been with such threats coming against here, and I admire her courage to go and talk to people. I really feel that there is something very beneficial to be gained from more communications here.
Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be translated into French or English.
>102 chlorine: Yes, unfortunately the book is only available in German. I don't know if there are similar stories in the English or French language. I do agree with you, the courage it took to do the things Asumang did is something I find highly impressive.
#10: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
The second instalment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings starts out where the prequel has left the readers. The battle for the seven kingdoms of Westeros is underway and there are currently four men proclaiming themselves king. First there is Joffrey, officially the son of the former king Robert Baratheon but actually the son of Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime Lannister. Then there are Renly Baratheon and Stannis Baratheon, both brothers of Robert. Finally there is Robb Stark, heir to Lord Eddard Stark who was killed at Joffrey's command, who proclaims himself king of the north. The novel is largely about how all those people plot and fight their battles for the throne. One should however not forget Daenerys Targaryen, who actually has a rightful claim to the throne that was stolen from her family when her father was murdered by Jaime Lannister before Robert Baratheon became king. In another strand of the plot Jon Snow, bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark, and the men of the Night's Watch, try to protect the whole realm from seemingly undead creatures that live north of the wall, the only protection between them and the realm of the seven kingdoms. As one can see there is a tangled web of characters which makes for a multi-faceted story.
As with the first instalment in the series I like the structure of the novel, that is that each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the characters. As a reader you get a more or less omniscient view on the story and this makes the otherwise probably slightly complicated plot more easy to follow. The character (and hence the chapters) I like most is Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of Queen Cersei and Jaime the Kingslayer. Although he is part of a family that is highly unlikeable I find him easy to identify and sympathize with. Shunned by most members of his family, Tyrion slowly and cleverly makes his way to the top and is quite successful in making the best out of his life.
I would recommend reading the novel only if you have read and liked the first one in the series. Otherwise it would probably be too many pages of incomprehensible relationships and a story that is simply unfollowable.
#11: The Fix by David Baldacci
The Fix is the third novel in the Amos Decker series. Protagonist Amos Decker is a former football player turned private investigator because of a serious head injury that not only forced him to quit playing football but also changed him personally. After the injury Decker is diagnosed with hyperthymesia, a brain condition that lets you remember far more than the average person. Currently Decker is part of an FBI team solving cold cases but soon moving on to solving pending cases.
The novel starts with a bang when a man kills a woman right in front of the FBI headquarters in Washington. Decker, who happens to be at the scene, witnesses the shooting and and wants to talk down and disarm the shooter. The shooter, however, turns the gun on himself and commits suicide on scene. The surroundings of the homicide are very mysterious as the killer seems to have been a loving family father and a successful government contractor. Plus, there seems to be no connection between the shooter and his victim. Amos Decker and his team start to investigate the case and slowly unravel the mysterious conditions of the killing piece by piece.
Baldacci has a gift for writing fast-paced thrillers. The Fix is such. It is a gripping novel that is really hard to put down as you just want to find out why the woman was killed. The protagonist Amos Decker and his co-worker and new roommate Alex Jamison are very likeable characters with certain quirks who contribute to an overall highly enjoyable reading experience. 4 stars.
Some reading goals for the second half of the year
I know we're already way into the second half of the year, but I have only just found the time to post this. With summer break in full swing I'm actually planning to get some serious reading done. In addition to reducing my TBR pile as stated at the beginning of this thread, the following are new acquisitions that I intend to finish sometime in the second half of the year.
Good luck on reaching your reading goals! Are the game of throne books more than 1000 pages long?
>107 chlorine: Thanks! They are indeed over a thousand pages. Quite big tomes...
I've been terrible with keeping up with threads this year, but I've enjoyed catching up with your reviews.
>101 OscarWilde87: The Mo Asumang book does sound very interesting and it's a shame it's not been translated.
>103 OscarWilde87: I don't know about any books that are quite the same in English, but her willingness to have conversations with those people reminded me of Dylan Marron's podcast Conversations with People Who Hate Me where he has phone conversations with people who've sent him abusive and prejudiced messages online and later moderates conversations between other people in similar circumstances.
>106 OscarWilde87: Three of those four books are on my list of books to read too (I've yet to make up my mind as to whether I want to read the Game of Thrones books), so I'll be interested in your reviews when you get to them!
>109 chlorine: Indeed. However, there've been so many good suggestions for the 1000+ pages book which I don't want to dismiss. I do hope that I'll at least get to reading one of them this year.
#12: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
After I fell in love with Steinbeck's Cannery Row about a year ago and actually went to visit Monterey shortly after finishing the book, it was a given for me to get to the sequel, which is Sweet Thursday. Set in the years after the second World War, the protagonist of Cannery Row, Doc, returns to his lab on Cannery Row in Monterey to find that he himself and Cannery Row have changed.
Western Biological Laboratories has not been run to Doc's liking and he finds it devoid of the life he had left it with. He tries to reestablish his lab and to get to work again, but somehow he is not satisfied anymore. Something in his life is missing and he cannot really put the finger on what it is. This is where Mack and the other boys from the Palace Flophouse come in. They are some of the many characters from the prequel to make a reappearance. The boys still want Doc to be happy since Doc is the glue that holds Cannery Row together. Now that he is back they believe the Row can be returned to its former glory. With the canneries closed the Row is just not the same anymore. Soon, Doc meets a new inhabitant of Cannery Row, Suzy. Their relationship, however, has its ups and downs. Both do not seem to get close enough to each other although they clearly like each other a lot. While Doc regards Suzy as the missing puzzle piece in his life at first, things soon change and he drowns himself in work. Doc wants to write and publish a paper but he never gets the work done as there is some internal barrier keeping him from doing the work he has once loved so much. So as not to spoil the ending I will leave it up to you to find out what happens to Suzy and Doc in the end.
What I liked most about this novel are Steinbeck's superb writing skills. The interplay of the characters and the depiction of life on Cannery Row are simply outstanding. Steinbeck has a perfect grasp of which elements of the story to reveal and which to leave up to the readers' imagination. In the prologue to the novel as in the novel itself Steinbeck lets characters muse about the art of writing and what an author should do so as to tell an interesting story. The criteria for a good book presented in the prologue are each addressed in the story itself, for example giving the chapters a headline, having more dialogue or not telling the readers everything in description. Steinbeck plays with narrative techniques and the relation of showing and telling, however, when he inserts himself into the story at some points in order to describe and interpret actions for the reader, the very thing that was criticized in the prologue. That is why the novel spoke to me on more than one level. While the interplay of the characters make for a fascinating picture of life on Cannery Row, the meta level of how to write a story is something that I enjoyed very much as well.
While it might be possible to read this novel without having read the prequel, I would advise to read Cannery Row first before turning to Sweet Thursday as it adds a lot of background to the story and the characters. 4.5 stars for an almost perfect novel. I probably just subtracted half a star because I loved Cannery Row even more.
I didn't realise that Sweet Thursday was a sequel to Cannery Row, nice review.
>113 OscarWilde87: Beautiful summary. Also for Moby-Dick. Catching up on allsorts. =)
Read all the Steinbeck works I could get my hands on a few years back, after seeing The Grapes of Wrath at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Sep2011, in order (as I had done for Hemingway the year prior), but this one slipped through my fingers since it could not be sourced locally. You give me incentive to try to find it again. Loved Cannery Row, as it affected me profoundly. It was the first time I consciously remember viewing misery with humour as acceptable. JS allowed me to feel both simultaneously without any need for shame. A simple observation perhaps, but lifechanging as a writer. Tough to accomplish his level of dignity in those moments.
Of Mice and Men (mine) 1939
The Grapes of Wrath (mine) 1940
Tortilla Flat (library) 1942
Cannery Row (library) 1945
The Pearl (library) 1947
Viva Zapata! (library) 1952
East of Eden (mine) 1952
The Short Reign of Pippin IV (library, satire fic) 1957 (pokes fun at French politics)
Burning Bright (library, a play) 1959
The Winter of Our Discontent (library) 1961
The Moon is Down ?? (not sure if I found this one or not)
(The Red Pony, 1949, and In Dubious Battle, 1936, both came a bit later)
Enjoy the remaining epic reads you have aligned for summer! I am attacking Southern Gothic (Faulkner/O'Connor/Welty) and CanLit authors (Laurence/Atwood/etc.). Takes forever for me to reach the end, but juggling several at once makes me happy. Saving Dickens for Nov/Dec. (TOCS)
(PS - by Stratford Festival, I mean Ontario, which is less than an hour away, but good for you to visit Monterey, CA. since there's nothing better than literature and landscapes!)
>115 NanaCC: I'll be looking forward to your review of Cannery Row, then!
>116 frahealee: Thanks! I think I'm going to read all of Steinbeck's works as well. But it might take me some time. Maybe I can squeeze one or two in every year. I share your thoughts about humor as a form of dealing with less than perfect moments. I find that quite important, actually. I'm not saying that one should not take things seriously, though.
I'll be interested in your thoughts on Faulkner, especially. Faulkner is an author I also want to get to some time. I'll be following your thread
>118 OscarWilde87: Some authors in my mind deserve to be read but for some reason I felt unsure, not ready, unworthy. Their words are so important (due to longevity and accolades etc.) that I was afraid to read the story for fear of missing the main gems. After turning 40, I decided to just grab hold of each one as they came along, without forcing it. The stories deserve to be read/enjoyed first and then studied (or not).
The older I get, the more I want to just sit down with the author and see what they have to say, rather than focus on the plot. This is why several books are on the go all at once. Depends who I want to spend time with. The more fiction I read, the more I understand it often contains more truth than non-fiction.
Thinking back, it may have started with the poetry of D.H.Lawrence, when I consciously decided to jump in and read some, then wade through his novels. Even if I missed out on some main themes, the enjoyment level was off the charts in reference to his use of language, the immediacy of his observations. I had already gotten through each Bronte sister and Austen and a lot of Dickens, so wanted to switch up the English lit with Hemingway then Steinbeck. Then dabbled in some CanLit with Atwood (Surfacing/Alias Grace) and Laurence (The Stone Angel) and proceeded to fall in love with all of them, could finally understand what all the buzz was about, and became less intimidated. This kind of literature is for everyone at every level of education, as is each poem that might be read and understood on every different level of human experience.
James Franco intrigues me, his genius level consumption of poetry/novels, his ability to speed through roles because his memory is insane. He was acting and teaching together, one feeding the other. He got a group of celebs together where everyone was paid the same wage, from lead actor to script writer to electrician. They produced things like Don Quixote and Faulkner stories with unknown students mixed with first rate long standing actors (not just Franco, but Tim Blake Nelson, Luis Guzman, etc.). This is what initially led me to Hardy and Faulkner. Gone are the days of just picking up a book because of its reputation or because it's on some list. I need to be led to it, it is gently placed in front of me, and then the author invites me to pick it up when I'm ready. May be a romantic view rather than an intellectual one, but I'm fine with that. =D
>112 OscarWilde87: I did read Cannery Row a few years ago and I loved it, so I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get to the sequel. I might reread it first after all this time.
> 119 I have never thought myself of unworthy to read a certain author or not old enough to do so. I get waht you mean, though. Some authors are more easily approached than others. I also think that some works have a greater importance than others. My reading is always a balance, though. As you can see from my reading this year I do not only read what you might consider Literature with a capital L but also pop fiction. Basically I read out of interest and for the joy of it. With a background in literary studies I cannot help taking closer looks a writing styles, narrative technique or the language in general.
Your reading journey sounds intriguing. Some very good authors in there. But it seems to me that they also have quite different styles. I have just started Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 which is again something completely different. I have read articles saying that the novel might be a good introduction to Pynchon as the other novels are way harder to understand, if at all. I have also heard someone compare Pynchon's work(s) to Joyce's Ulysses, probably because Pynchon also seems to like to go off on tangents for pages and the reader has a hard time to make out the plot. At least this is my personal experience with Ulysses.
frahealee: This kind of literature is for everyone at every level of education, as is each poem that might be read and understood on every different level of human experience.Yes, yes and yes!
>120 valkyrdeath: It took me a year to get to the sequel, but that was rather by choice than by chance. I fell in love with the experience of reading Cannery Row in the summer and wanted to re-create that feeling with Sweet Thursday, which actually worked. With some books I find the timing and the place of reading almost as important as the book itself.
#13: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
A Storm of Swords is book number three in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Turned into a TV series I think the novels have gotten more - or at least renewed - attention lately. This is also why I turned to this series of novels that I had not known about before. As every novel in the series builds up on what happened before it does not make sense to start with A Storm of Swords. You will have to start at the beginning or not at all and this means going through a serious amount of pages, I am afraid.
With more than a thousand pages for just this novel you can already see that Martin was thinking big when conceiving the seven kingdoms of Westeros. I was a little taken aback by the page count, but after reading it I have to say that I found it quite okay. There are a few passages I personally would not have needed, but considering the world that the author creates and the many characters and details he fills it with, even a thousand pages seem to go by relatively fast. There are several main plot lines to follow and as a reader you know that they will necessarily have to converge at some point when it comes to the ultimate fight between all the contenders for the iron throne. I do not feel the need to go into plot details here as having read the first two novels in the series is a prerequisite for understanding this one. So if you have read them you will know where the story is going to continue and if you have not you will not be able to make much sense of the plot of A Storm of Swords anyway.
One thing that only occurred to me when I read this novel was the sheer scope of what Martin has created. Every detail is thought through and he has to be able to manage many plot lines at the same time. I admit that I could have had this thought after reading the first novel, but it really struck me when I went to the 51-page appendix to A Storm of Swords which simply lists the main characters and briefly gives some notes on their relations. While the A Song of Ice and Fire series might be considered pop fiction and while it might definitely not be everyone's cup of tea you will have to admire the world George R. R. Martin has created and the amount of work and imagination behind it. I mean, many authors do that, yes. Yet few come to mind who give their work so much detail. In terms of detail I think A Song of Ice and Fire as a series is comparable to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or King's The Dark Tower. I will definitely continue reading the remaining novels in the series because this world has gripped me and I have come to like some of the characters very much that I cannot not read the rest. 4 stars.
>123 OscarWilde87: Do you think someone who's never seen the TV version and doesn't necessarily want to read all the books in the series would enjoy one as a stand-alone?
>124 lisapeet: Actually, I don't think it might make any sense to pick a book from somewhere into the series. You might want to give the first one a try and see if it's your cup of tea and you're willing to continue reading. Even with having seen the TV series I would not recommend picking a book other than the first one, as the storylines are not the completely the same and you cannot really say that book one corresponds to season one. Plus, the novel series is not finished yet but they're planning to finish the TV series next season, which probably means that from book five on the novels and the series will differ a lot. It is rumored that Martin gave away parts of his ideas for the two remaining novels he intends to write, though. So, in a nutshell, I'd only recommend reading the first book standalone.
>125 OscarWilde87: OK, good to know. I'm not a huge reader of the genre, but something that has SO many folks captivated piques my curiosity. I think it's safe to say I will never watch the TV series, but I may pick up the first book someday, who knows.
#14: The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
The place is California. The time is the 1960s. Oedipa Maas is named co-executrix of the estate of the late Pierce Inverarity, a real estate mogul who has left behind a tangled web of an estate that needs serious sorting out. Not only is Oedipa reluctant to do this job for her former lover, but she also feels highly incapable of doing it. Luckily, the other executor of the estate is a lawyer, Metzger. Luckily? That remains to be seen. When Oedipa tells her husband Mucho, a former car salesman turned radio DJ, that she is going to leave for San Narciso to deal with her task, their relationship seems to be somewhat tense. Both seem to have their problems and Oedipa sees a psychiatrist, Dr Hilarious, on a regular basis. Metzger and Oedipa meet in a motel room where they have a lot of alcohol and eventually sleep together. As soon as they set out to do research about Inverarity's estate, Oedipa is confronted with a series of 'coincidences' involving an underground postal delivery system called the Tristero. She starts a quest to find out what lies behind the Tristero and soon seems to be getting closer to the truth. Or is she?
The question of what is true, of what or who is credible and trustworthy, is one of the central themes in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. As soon as Oedipa stumbles upon 'evidence' of the Tristero (or Trystero) mail system, that is clues on counterfeit stamps, such as a misprint in the sentence to report suspicious mail to "your potsmaster" or a muted horn watermark on those stamps, she tries to find out more and more about this system. In the course of her quest she meets with an expert on stamps, watches a play where the Trystero is mentioned, talks to the director of the play and a professor who is an expert on the script and even meets people who send their mail by the Tristero system. However, neither Oedipa nor the reader knows whether everything she is told is speculation or whether it is evidence of a postal conspiracy that seems to span the whole globe. It is this characteristically postmodern questioning of truth and reality - the story involves the use and abuse of large quantities of alcohol and LSD with some characters - that made the novel an interesting read for me. I found myself following the advice of a character in the book to sort out what Oedipa actually knows for a fact and what she has simply been told without further proof in order to figure out whether what she encountered might be true or not.
One obvious thing you will note as a reader is that Pynchon clearly plays with the names in the novel. There are many references to psychology and psychoanalysis, for instance. Oedipa and San Narciso are only two of many of those references. San Narciso as the place of Pierce's estate when a narcissist seems to have a strong personality on the outside, but lacks a core self on the inside? A band called 'The Paranoids'? Pierce Inverarity, who might have uncovered a global conspiracy ('pierced' it?). A pychiatrist giving out LSD to his patients to make them happier called Dr Hilarious. With a closer reading you could probably concentrate only on the names and access another level of Pynchon's novel. However, I was so focused on the truth issue and getting a grasp on what I was reading, that I did not particularly try to analyze the names. This might, however, be something to pay attention to when re-reading the novel.
In our modern times where the line of news and fake news becomes ever harder to draw, Pynchon's novel is probably a very fitting read. While I would recommend the novel, I would also do so with a word of caution. Pynchon's prose, while beautiful, is not always easy to follow. His sentence structure often varies from what you would expect in order to emphasize certain parts of the narrative. Once you get accustomed to that, the novel is not that hard to read. The metaphorical language is actually one of the novel's strong suits ("What the road really was, she fancied, was this hypodermic needle, inserted somewhere ahead into the vein of a freeway, a vein nourishing the mainliner L.A., keeping it happy, coherent, protected from pain, or whatever passes, with a city, for pain. But were Oedipa some single melted crystal of urban horse, L.A., really, would be no less turned on for her absence." (p.15)). To my mind The Crying of Lot 49 is a good introduction to the works of Pynchon because the plot seems to be relatively straightforward and the novel is rater short. Personally, as this was my first Pynchon, I am now inclined to attack another of his works. 4 stars for a really good and thought-provoking novel.
>128 dchaikin: I think that The Crying of Lot 49 was quite okay in terms of understandability. However, there are so many layers to it, I feel, that there are myriad ways of understanding and you will get new insights with every reading. If I remember correctly you read many Pynchon works last year, right? The other novels are probably way harder tu understand as they are longer and the digressions more frequent. That's why I'm a little reluctant to approach them just now.
I enjoyed your excellent review of The Crying of Lot 49 The title itself seems to be a mystery. I have not read any Pynchon and so it was interesting to read your thoughts on your first reading.
>130 baswood: I don't want to spoil anything by explaining the title. If you want a hint as to what it means, here goes, though:
#15: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
There are many books about the history of the United States, so why read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States? The simple answer is: the approach is different from what other histories do. The title already announces that it is a 'people's history', that is a history written from the perspective of the people rather than from the perspective of the nation or the government. In Zinn's own words:
My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.To my mind, this approach is refreshing and I would definitely recommend to read this history. Even if you are inclined to turn to more conservative works, I think the change of perspective is essential to a deeper and further understanding of United States history. This is supported by the often superb choice of quotations to support Zinn's telling of history. To quote an example (Zinn quotes Russell Conwell, founder of Temple University, in a chapter about Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan and contemporaries):
I say you ought ot get rich, and it is your duty to get rich. ... The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community. Let me say here clearly ... ninety-eight out of a hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. ... I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. ... let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings.4 stars for a very good history book. Definitely recommended.
>133 baswood: Just a different side of the coin. Nothing dystopian and not fiction. ;)
>132 OscarWilde87: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
Nothing drives a person to crime faster than poverty (think Les Miserables) and nothing is more shameful than blaming a person with a disability or mental illness for their plight. I know which side I'm on.
>124 lisapeet: I agree with OscarWilde87. It's a very intricate cast of characters, locations, and plot lines so it is best to start with the first one. He does a great job throughout the series with his character development. I found myself, if not really liking, at least having more sympathy for some of the characters I initially hated as encountered some more of their back story or saw them evolve over time. But be warned, it is quite intriguing and will most likely draw you into its world. It is a lot of reading to get into, but for me it was time well-spent.
I have several Dickens novels in my TBR pile. Just having trouble carving out enough time for them. Read Great Expectations several years ago while out of work on medical leave. I loved having the time to lounge around and read it extensively at will.
>135 frahealee: Very true. I found it interesting to read about that kind of mindset, though. Such stark contrasts to today (I mean, most people think differently than that today!) sort of make me feel better because you can see that there is progress. One tends to forget this as there seem to be many areas where progress still has to be made.
>137 exlibrismcp: It's always good to have some time on your hands that you can just set aside for reading. Today ends my summer vacation. I got a lot of reading done, but now that it's back to work tomorrow my reading time will be reduced to very very few hours a week. Too sad!
I do not have a Dickens scheduled this year, but who knows. Great Expectations is on my list.
Work gets in the way of having fun, doesn’t it. :)
Great Expectations is a good one.
Starting out the year with LT (first kick at the can), I saw a thread by 75 Books 'group read' for January on Nicholas Nickleby, and set that monster for December. Then I read your take on The Old Curiosity Shop. =) So although 4 are slotted for first reads, Bleak House & Hard Times can wait. I wished (once upon a time) that I had collected them in publication order to follow his journey as a writer, but now it's too late. Dickens says winter season to me, maybe due to vacation/weather, and even a TBR Cdn novel By Gaslight by Steven Price which has a Dickens mood, will be saved for Jan/Feb2019. These BFBs are less daunting now, after tackling Quixote & Moby. A snowshoe walk in the park!
My reflex is to grab a classic work, since there are so many still to ingest, but I am making a conscious effort to balance the old with the new. Long with short. Mix up genres so nothing gets stale. This is the first time I have ever kept track of my reading habits and although I want to follow a natural path, I dislike excessive repetition.
Have a terrific school year, Oscar. My troop has one last week of freedom. One down, three to go. None want to be teachers. =( Will miss your learned input.
-ps- Blew through an unplanned 10hr audiobook of King Solomon's Mines to appease my inner treasure hunter, since it was back in the news last week. Jordan site of copper carbon dating?? Wanted to get my ducks in a row before following the story, by reading the 1885 fiction version. Not surprised I was lured in by the travel and intrigue!
I should commit to reading a Dickens work in the next year. It's one of my deep dark reading lacunae—I've never read a single one.
>141 frahealee: A lot of Dickens waiting for you then. There's worse outlooks, I guess. I also tend to mix up classics with new books or pop fiction and tend to read both shorter as well a longer works. Right now I'm reading Auster's 4 3 2 1: A novel which is again over 1,000 pages.
Thanks for your nice words!
>142 lisapeet: Don't pressure yourself with Dickens. Although I find his books well worth reading so far.
>143 OscarWilde87: I just figure I tend to like books described as "Dickensian," so I ought to sample the source material at some point. A question for any and all of you: what would be a good one to start on?
>144 lisapeet: David Copperfield is a good one. I also think Great Expectations is very readable. A Christmas Carol is short and sweet. I listened to the audio version of Great Expectations years ago, and by listening, I heard so much more of the humor that Dickens sprinkles through his books. I love any of the Dickens’ that I’ve read. My first Dickens was Oliver Twist, which I read several times as a tween.
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