dmulvee 2019 reading challenge - 1
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I just joined the community and saw the group, and thought that this is what I needed to try and keep my 'owned but unread' pile to shrink instead of expanding this year.
1. Short History of the English People Volume 4 - John Richard Green - Illustrated Edition
I have to say that the final volume in this series manages to maintain the incredible standards that were previously set down. The volumes are easily the most enjoyable history books that I have read, and the illustrations add something special to the mix. This volume starts in 1679 and thanks to the epilogue goes to 1874 (though the period from 1820 onwards is not covered in as much detail as the author felt it was too recent at the time of writing to be able to clearly see and understand the events).
Welcome to the group and to LT! I've seen this series, but haven't dipped in yet. Sounds like I should, though!
Thanks for having me!
If you are interested in British history I strongly recommend the Green volumes, however they are available with and without the illustrations. The illustrations are special and really raise the work to another level, so this is the one to go for.
2. Collected Shorter Fiction Volume 2 - Tolstoy (Everyman's Library #243)
Not as good as volume 1. There are some highlights in here, but overall it is an uneven collection.
Welcome to LT! I hope you enjoy your time with the 75ers. We are a fairly rambunctious bunch.
Looks like your reading year is off to a pretty good start!
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you this year.
Many thanks, I haven't been working this week, so hoping to get a little ahead in my reading.
3. Absolute Friends - John Le Carre
Another enjoyable novel by Le Carre, whose works I always seem to like. The book feels authentic and plausible. If you have read previous books by him and thought that they were worth your time, then I think that you would like this, if you haven't then this won't change your mind.
4. Mr American - George MacDonald Fraser
This started fantastically, and ended very strongly. In the middle you are asked to believe that the main character could just bump into the King of England and start chatting, which I really struggled with, but overall a (surprisingly?) enjoyable work. I would definitely consider reading more of his (non-Flashman) work.
5. Vita Nuova - Dante
I didn't know what to expect when I picked this up, but I can't say that I enjoyed reading it. From a historical perspective bits were interesting, chapter 3 being the inspiration behind Henry Holiday's work 'Dante and Beatrice'. Overall, disappointing.
6. Single and Single - John Le Carre
This felt quite lightweight, and never really got going. Disappointing
7. Amerika - Kafka
I had read a couple of Kafka books before but not enjoyed them, so decided he was an author I would bypass in future. I then came across 'Amerika' and it was described as the most conventional and least Kafkaesque Kafka book, so I thought I would give it a go. I didn't enjoy it. It is still an irrational world where bad things happen. If you read Harold Pinter's 'The Homecoming' then this is a depressing but amazingly powerful and impressive work. I don't get the same feeling with Kafka. I need to learn my lesson and pass on his other works.
8. Go set a watchman - Lee
If this was the only work by Harper Lee, then I would describe it as an easy read but very forgettable. Of course it isn't and most readers, will come with certain views and emotions about some of the characters. It doesn't live up to the classic, but I thought it was ok. I gave my wife a synopsis and she was horrified and has no interest in Atticus being anything other than the character who is in her mind which is probably a view shared by others.
9. Ariel - Andre Maurois
I knew very little about Shelley, so found this informative as well as a delight to read. There are only scant mentions of his literary work, and this is instead a biography that focuses on the man himself. It has aged well, and though I assume there are more recent biographies that have unearthed new information about the man, the ease of reading makes this a recommended book.
10. The Constant Gardener - Le Carre
Quite a good book, it was easy to read and solid without ever reaching the highest heights. I have one more Le Carre on my 'Owned but not read' pile (The Little Drummer Girl) then will move on to other authors
11. Nelson and Emma - Hudson
Another historical work to acquaint myself with an English hero of whom I was very ignorant. This is a reasonable introduction to both figures, and is an enjoyable and an easy read. However at times the book doesn't broaden out and explain what the ramifications were from events, nor does it explain the nautical terms it uses so I have finished it and think that I need to read another work covering the period to help tie up and explain everything further.
12. Stanley Kubrick's Napolean The Greatest Film Never Made - Castle
So I am a massive fan of Stanley Kubrick and had great fun reading this. It has only been a couple of months since I read War and Peace, and that book gave me more details about Napolean (even though it is fiction) than any other that I had read. So this book satisfied on two counts, the first as a film fan and the second from a historical point of view giving me more details about Napolean.
I think that this time works best for those who are a fan of Kubrick or are at least fans of film. If you meet this criteria then it is well worth considering
13. The Little Drummer Girl - Le Carre
This was very good. I was a little uncertain about the plot initially but the detail and plausible feel to everything carried me along, and I was left very impressed.
The copy of the book that I had was a hardback published by Penguin with an attractive geometric dust jacket. Whilst the outside of the book was nice, the pages inside were the same as you would find in a thin and cheap paperback which did detract from my enjoyment. Note to future self is to avoid all penguin classics in hardback as the paper is far too cheap.
I really need to reread some LeCarre - It's been years and I remember enjoying them a bunch.
19. If you haven’t read it, in 2017 he released A Legacy of Spies which is a Smiley novel. This seemed a worthy successor to the earlier Smiley books and worth checking out if you had previously liked his works.
14. Selected Writings - John Muir (Everyman’s Library #377)
This was the first I had heard of John Muir (I buy all of the post 1991 Everyman titles) and I enjoyed parts of the book. The extracts from his boyhood are good, as are the exploits in Alaska. Unfortunately the book falls down in the choices from California and Yosemite. Everyman titles don’t have illustrations. In the selections from California and Yosemite there are too many chapters about different types of trees. These are written from an academic viewpoint with descriptions of what altitudes they grow at, how they survive etc. If there was fewer chapters like this it would be fine, but it goes on, chapter after chapter, and I was too ignorant to know what the difference between the trees were and wouldn’t be able to identify them if I saw them. This meant that I was reading without having any understanding of what I was reading and this became a slog. If the book had illustrations showing the different species (maps where they are found) then this would have been better, as he does write well. However this volume doesn’t have this, so unless you are well versed with California and Yosemite already, I would skip this volume and just look to pick up works about his youth or Alaskan exploits.
15. Cakes and Ale - Somerset Maugham
This is very good! I must have bought it a decade ago, but had never gotten around to read it, and wish I had picked it up sooner. A delightful read
16. The First Colonists - Hakluyt's voyages to North America
I found this to be dull, but mercifully short. Not recommended
18. Through a different lens Stanley Kubrick Photographs
An enjoyable read, as it focused on the 5 years he spent as a photographer for Look magazine. Whilst I had read and seen some of the photos before, this contained a lot of material I was unaware of
19. John F Kennedy - Norman Mailer
The main part of this is an essay 'Superman comes to the Supermarket' from 1960. The book I bought was from Taschen, and though I didn't particularly enjoy the essay, the photographs were stunning. It is a book that helps to show what happened and when, and is produced to the highest standard
20. Laxdaela Saga
I had previously read this, but recently purchased this in hardback and decided to revisit it. Like the other Icelandic sagas it is written in a certain style, and as it is based on people and events that have a grounding in fact, this gives extra enjoyment.
21. Master and Commander - O' Brian
This is the first work I have read by O' Brian. I found it to be ok, but not special. I bought the first five works in the sequence, and hope to continue reading these to see if the development increases my enjoyment
22. The Life and Death of Thomas Becket - Greenaway
I knew a little about Becket before reading this, but this contains more details without laboriously dwelling at any time
>21 DMulvee: I'm glad you enjoyed that one as it is a personal favourite of mine too. Thinly veiled dig at Thomas Hardy too by the way.
29> I didn't think that the first book of 'A Dance to the Music of Time' was special then ended up reading the 12 books within a week, and think it is the best series of books I have ever read, so need to be generous and give some time to the series, before delivering a firm opinion, though lots of people rate the O'Brian series highly so I am hoping it turns out well!
23. Post Captain - O' Brian
As a stand alone title, this is not as good as Master and Commander, however as I was familiar with the main characters, I did enjoy this book. The series has grown on me
31> I do get the Atticus problem, however it is probably 25 years since I read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' so the differences weren't as glaring as if I had only read it last year. 'Go Set a Watchman' isn't that good, so you are not really missing out on anything special
I had read 'Of Human Bondage' but thought that 'Cakes and Ale' was better. I would definitely be interested in 'The Razor's Edge' (his next best known work?), but don't own a copy, so need to find a nice copy first!
24. H.M.S. Surprise
If considered as a stand alone work, I'm not sure that it is very good. However as the third in the series, I found this to be enjoyable, and have ordered books 6-20 of the series.
25. Childhood, Boyhood and Youth - Tolstoy
Very weak. Towards the end I was having to force myself to read, as this was painful. Tolstoy hadn't learned the craft of storytelling when he wrote this, and the pleasure to be gained from reading 'War and Peace' is the opposite to the disappointment gained from reading this. Even if you are a huge Tolstoy fan, I would advise staying away, and if a Russian coming-of-age novel is wanted Nabokov's 'Speak Memory' is the one to go for
26. The Mauritius Command - O'Brian
A good plot, though the end felt a little rushed in places, as though the manuscript was due and the author hadn't the time left to do it justice (but it is shorter than the first 3 of the series). I still enjoyed it.
27. The Snow Queen - Andersen
A children's classic that I never read as a child, this was disappointing. It feels as though it has aged poorly and I'm not sure that children of today would be able to connect with the hero
28. The Eagle of the Ninth - Sutcliff
I found this to be ok, not too exciting or memorable, though I know some people love the book. Not sure what was wrong but it never reached the highest heights for me
29. Desolation Island - O'Brian
I enjoyed this. Not sure if it could be described as literature of the highest quality, but I enjoyed it none the less
30. King Soloman's Mines - Haggard
This was the first time I tried to read a H Rider Haggard novel, and I found it an exciting adventure that flew by. Probably best aimed at teenagers/older children but with enough to keep adults happy
31. The Fortune of War - O'Brian
This focused a little more on the intelligence side of warfare, though without the subtlety of a Le Carre novel. I'm still enjoying the series, though uncertain if I would re-read these
32. Allan Quatermain - Haggard
For the first half I found this similar in spirit but not quite the equal to King Soloman's Mine. Then suddenly it changes and I found myself drawn into the plot a lot more and ended up enjoying it more than King Soloman's Mine. Good ending.
33. The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne
This is possibly the worst book that I have ever read that is considered a classic. It is a simple moral tale, whose plot doesn't extend to subtlety, but instead moralizes and depresses. If you were thinking of reading this, stop, and instead pick up Hardy's Tess of the D'urbervilles
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