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Jennifer's TNR List 2009

TBR Challenge

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Edited: May 18, 2009, 7:21pm Top

I'm new to the group and am still finalising my lists. What books to include/which ones to leave out, these tough decisions have to be made without further procrastination. I am determined to clear my tbr pile this year and will try not to add to my pile (unless of course the book is a bargain, one I have been seeking for a long time, a birthday present or a new Margaret Atwood).

Edited: Nov 24, 2009, 6:56pm Top

Sorry about the typo in my Topic - of course it should be TBR not TNR. I hope this isn't one of those freudian slips to be read/to not read.

I enjoyed sorting through my books and have finally come up with my list.

1. Room with a View E M Forster audio July
2. Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov Read July
3. My Reading Life by Bob Carr
4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
5. When We were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
6. Lucky Alice Sebold
7. Out by Natsuo Kirino
8. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Sozhenitsyn
9. Enigma of Arrival by V S Naipaul
10. Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yuko Mishima
11. Devil's Brood by Sharon Penman
12. Underground by Haruki Murakami

Edited: Nov 24, 2009, 6:57pm Top

I read Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones like everyone else a few year's ago and whilst I thought it was a great premise (16 year old murdered rape victim looks down from heaven on what is happening after her death) the book didn't live up to it's promise. So when I saw Lucky Sebold's autobiographical account of her own rape on the bargain book table I thought that it would be interesting comparison.

Sebald's description of her brutal attack was upsetting to read and it must have taken quite a lot of courage to be so honest. The book details the courtcase, the reactions of family/friends to the rape and Sebald's raw emotions as she attempts to have a 'normal' life. A much better book than The Lovely Bones if a little depressing.

Edited: Nov 24, 2009, 7:02pm Top

Here is my alternate list:

1. Ten Nights of Dream by Soseki
2. Mishima's Sword by Christopher Ross
3. Forbidden Colours by Yukio Mishima
4. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
5. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
6. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
7. Borderliners by Peter Hoeg Read August 09
8. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
9. Living in the Maniototo by Janet Frame
10. Howard's End by E M Forster
11. Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan
12. The Life and Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

May 19, 2009, 6:44pm Top

I have already broken my vow not to add to my tbr pile but as part of the Sydney Festival there was an author signing at my local library last night. His book sounded so interesting and I really should know more about Australian history so I bought it, 1788 The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet by David Hill.

May 20, 2009, 1:06am Top

Hi, Jennifer!
Glad to see you on the TBR challenge! You've got lots of good books on your list. I look forward to seeing what you think of them. Have a great day!

May 20, 2009, 9:49pm Top

Hi socialpages, I chuckled when I noticed your topic headline. I thought I was going to read a thread protesting the reading of books! It's nice to see you are tackling your TBR pile. I am fairly new to the whole LibraryThing myself and I have found our fellow LTers to be supportive and full of good book recommendations. And now it seems I will be adding 1788 The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet to my own TBR pile (it never ends!!)
:) Wela

May 21, 2009, 7:39am Top

Thanks BJ and Welachild for the welcome. It feels good to have a reading plan in place to tackle the problem of the ever growing pile of books that accumulate around my house. I think completing this challenge will prove to be more difficult than completing the 999 Challenge and I value the support offered by other LTers.

May 26, 2009, 4:40pm Top

Knocked another off the list - A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. A very short (144 pages) book but even though you know it's fiction it has an autobiographical feel to it because Solzenitsyn did spend years in a Russian prison and for this reason the book resonates. The effort needed to stay alive, warm and fed by prisoners is huge especially when most sentences seemed to be 10years up to 25 years. Often the government didn't even free them after their allotted time. Books like this shed a light on what authors like Dostoevsky who also spent time in a russian work camp. No wonder his books are so deep and depressing.

As a bonus this is a 1001 Book to Read Befoe You Die.
Highly recommended 4 stars

May 26, 2009, 5:33pm Top

Knocked another off the list - A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. A very short (144 pages) book but even though you know it's fiction it has an autobiographical feel to it because Solzenitsyn did spend years in a Russian prison and for this reason the book resonates. The effort needed to stay alive, warm and fed by prisoners is huge especially when most sentences seemed to be 10years up to 25 years. Often the government didn't even free them after their allotted time. Books like this shed a light on authors like Dostoevsky who also spent time in a russian work camp. No wonder his books are so deep and depressing.

As a bonus this is a 1001 Book to Read Befoe You Die.
Highly recommended 4 stars

Jun 16, 2009, 5:23pm Top

My book for June was Cutting for Stone by Abraham Berghese which came highly recommended by other LTers. It's a long book (over 500 pages) but it held my interest throughout. It's the story of Shiva & Marion Stone, twins whose nun mother died giving birth to them and whose father abandoned them. They were brought up in a loving environment by two doctors but in the background there is political unrest, war and poverty. Both brothers build careers in medicine.

A terrific story and a twist in the end that I didn't see coming. Verghese is also a doctor so there is lots of medical information included which I enjoyed.
This book was so engaging I would have missed my train except another traveller interrupted my reading to point out that the train had arrived.

4 Stars

Jun 28, 2009, 2:00am Top

That is a book that I am very keen on reading. Your description of it is very compelling.

Jun 30, 2009, 11:39am Top

That sounds like a great book.

Jun 30, 2009, 5:51pm Top

After being on the waiting list at the library for Cutting for Stone for about 4 months, my turn has finally come, and I will be picking it up tomorrow. I have heard nothing but good about it.

Jun 30, 2009, 11:16pm Top

I hope you enjoy all enjoy Cutting For Stone. I was a little disappointed in the ending but because the rest of the book was good it was easy to overlook.

Jul 9, 2009, 5:10pm Top

Another one finished: Underground. This is Murakami's only non fiction book. It is two parts with the first part containing 63 first person accounts from victims of the sarin gas attack. The last part contains interviews with Aum cult members and a bit of analysis from Murakami.

I was interested in this book because it was writtenby Murakami and I find it hard to understand how anyone could attempt to murder so many innocent people. Murakami doesn't really answer this but we do get an insight into what attracts people into joining cults like this (they often are interested in philosophy, the meaning of life, think about death, outsiders who find connections with like minds within the cult, no longer have to deal with the real world as decisions are made for them and they can concentrate on their spiritual ? inner life).

Sarin gas is a particularly nasty poisin and many commuters did not realise what was happening. They continued to travel on the train. Even when passengers were told to evacuate the train there was no mass panic just an orderly exit.

Murakami was critical of the Japanese media's coverage - good vs evil or us vs them when the Aum cult members came from Japanese society (the upper echelon of Aum were highly intelligent scientists). Murakami wants a closer look at why some people felt the need to join cults like this - what is missing in their life that this cult supplied?

An interesting book and if there is ever a weird smell on the train and your eyes start to itch and you start coughing. Get off, change clothes and ask for atropine.

Aug 14, 2009, 7:30am Top

Finished another two from the pile .... Out by Natsuo Kirino and Room with a View by E M Forster.

Room with a View was an audio book and unfortunately I must have been concentrating on driving and missed an important plot development which almost ruined the book for me. I have since gone back and read the parts I missed. I think Forster is better read rather than listened to. Room with a View is the story of a love triangle. Lucy is engaged to Cyril who represents the established safe upper crust of English society but will she accept 'the room with a view' and a life of art, beauty and music with George whom she met in Italy. I think we can all guess who she chooses. I loved the parts where the very proper English people criticise Lucy for playing Beethoven on the piano. THey feel Beethoven is a bad influence.

Aug 16, 2009, 5:03am Top

Out is an award winning crime novel. It's about four Japanese women who work the night shift at a boxed lunch factory. When one of them strangles her husband the others come to her aid motivated by friendship or money. Things go well until Sato, a night club/casino owner is suspected of the crime and only released due to lack of evidence. Sato has lost everything & begins his own investigation. Sato wants revenge.

Kirino's best writing is when she is describing the lives of the four women struggling with their domestic situations. Four friends yet very different people. Sato was not convincing for me.

I'll give this 3.5 stars.

Aug 16, 2009, 5:11am Top

I forget to review The Master and Margarita when I finished it in July and I'm still not sure what to think. It was a difficult novel for me to read, it's very fast paced with lots of difficult Russian names. It is three stories in one: story of the devil and his entourage causing mayhem in Moscow, Margarita and her lover, as well as the story of Pilate. The chapters on Pilate are written in a realistic form and I much preferred them to the chaotic happenings in Moscow.

I did a bit of research of Bulgakov and this helped me to appreciate the novel much more. He wrote in a time when state censorship was the norm.

Aug 22, 2009, 7:29pm Top

My Reading Life by Bob Carr. Unless you're Australian you won't have heard of Bob Carr. He was the somewhat nerdy Premier of New South Wales and was known for his erudition and love of books.

From the outset he states his reading bias - male, over 50 - and as I'm female, almost 50, I felt Bob and I didn't quite gel in our reading choices. It is more Bob's omissions that worried me - George Eliot, Austen, Atwood didn't rate a mention. I also felt there was a leaning towards American authors in favour of our home grown authors. Also, Bob reads a lot more non fiction that I do.

However, all that being said, I enjoyed this book. I like to read about what books others enjoy. Bob's book is to be used as a guide to understanding a book and I found his comments on Dostoevsky and other authors insightful and helpful (especially while I struggled through The Brothers Karamazov).

Bob states that he wanted to read more serious literature after he left politics. He is extremely well versed in politics, american history, china, the bible, Rome, history in general.

Bob's book is easy to read and although our tastes are dissimiliar, I would recommend this book.

Sep 3, 2009, 4:06am Top

Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Set in Japan. A young man becomes a buddhist priest studying at the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. He stutters and thinks he is ugly and is most unpriestlike in his thoughts. The Temple becomes a symbol of everything beautiful to him and becomes an obsession which he must remove, so he burns it down, planning to die in the fire. However, at the last minute he chooses life. His strange personality seems to have started when he inadvertently witnessed his mother and uncle having sex. This same plot device is a turning point in another Mishima book The Sailor who feel from Grace Into the Sea.

There is no doubt Mishima writes beautifully. His characters are deeply flawed and damaged. They seem at war with themselves and the world. The main character in this book is not a hero or even an anti-hero.

Sep 23, 2009, 4:56am Top

I finished When We Were Orphans for my September read. I like the way Ishiguro writes: this novel is another example of the first person unreliable narrator genre. I am partial to this type of novel - the main character Charlie Banks is quite a complicated person - intelligent, self-centred, in control of his emotions, loner. Charlie was brought up in Shanghai until his parents disappeared and he was sent to London to live with an aunt. Charlie becomes a celebrated detective eventually returning to Shanghai when Japan is bombing the city to solve his most important case - his parents' disappearance

There are three 'orphans' in the book: Charlie, Sarah and Jennifer. Sarah wants to make a difference (Charlie is in love with her but chooses to stay in Shanghai and continue looking for his parents). Jennifer is Charlie's ward.

Charlie solves the case and in the process learns some things about his parents, chinese war lords, uncle phillip and the sacrifice made by his mother. This book looks at childhood memory and the choices we make.

Oct 31, 2009, 6:19pm Top

The Enigma of Arrival by V S Naipaul. I purchased this book very cheaply from the library book sale as it is one of the 1001 books you Must Read before You Die. It's a reasonable length (300 pages) and easy to read. It is also the first book I have read by V S Naipaul who is of Indian descent but brought up in Trinidad with a love of literature and England and a desire to become a writer. The book tells of Naipaul's arrival in England, his years living in a manor cottage and the people who work and live there. The english stereotype of lord and grand manor is changing. The lord is broke and cannot maintain the manor and Naipaul relates the gradual decline of a way of life and the manor itself with lots of descriptions of decaying scenery. The manor is located in Hardy's Wessex.

So is this book an autobiography or is it fiction? It felt like autobiography to me but not a particularly interesting one having not read any of Naipaul's other fiction. I normally like immigrant/cultural displacement novels but this one wasn't for me. Naipaul's best writing was the characters who live and work at the manor.

I didn't really get any insights into Naipaul as a writer either. He seems to like his privacy often avoiding encounters with others and choosing to live in a remote part of England. His perceptions of England were gleaned from a colonial education and background so they also undergo changes as he experiences England for himself.

I didn't hate this book but I wouldn't recommend it. Perhaps I will try Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas before I write off V S Naipaul. Should this book be included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die? Not in my opinion.

Only 2 stars.

Nov 2, 2009, 3:10pm Top

Congrats on finishing 12 books!

Nov 8, 2009, 6:54pm Top

Thanks Billejean, I thought I still had one to go, but you're right I have finished twelve. I forgot to count the one from my alternate list. It feels really good to get through some of my tbr pile and I'm now motivated to do this challenge again till I have nothing left on mount tbr.

Edited: Nov 24, 2009, 7:34pm Top

I, Claudius is my November book and it was a terrific read. I knew there was a BBC television series made of this book but I have not seen it. What a fascinating insight into the Roman Empire after the Republic. The intrigues, debauchery, cruelty and just plain madness of the time are hard to believe. The book is a pseudo autobiography of Claudius who stutters, limps and everyone believes is a half wit. These afflications keep him alive as the power brokers don't believe he is a threat. Claudius watches on as his grandmother Livia (Augustus' wife) runs the empire and poisons those who get in the way. Don't think that being a blood relative keeps you safe either. Livia was ruthless and very clever. After Livia and Augustus die, Tiberius is emporer. Tiberius is a great general but a poor emporer, he is too much influenced by the leader of the guards, Sejanus who wants Tiberius' job for himself. Then comes Caligula, who makes all those preceeding him seem like wise, benevolent and prudent leaders. Caligula is mad yet noone is game enough to stand up to him... not the senate or any of his family. There are many executions on trumped up charges. Caligula makes himself a god, empties the treasury, makes his horse a senator and is finally assassinated. Claudius is the last of the Julian and Claudian line still alive, so the senate appoint him emporer as a last resort. In Graves' opinion Claudius was a serious scholar and wrote many histories.

4 Star read.

Feb 3, 2010, 3:34am Top

It's back to the grindstone, 2010 is the year to reach the summit of mt tbr. Unfortunately, base camp has grown with an influx of books over the christmas and new year period, plus it's my 50th birthday this month and I'm going to spoil myself with lots of lovely new books. Maybe one book for every year.

Anyway, my first book for 2010 from my alternate 2009 list is Death of A River Guide by Australian author, Richard Flanagan, it came highly recommended by a librarian friend with similiar tastes. It didn't take me long to read though because it jumps around in time, place and characters it was difficult to remember who was who in the zoo. Flanagan in one section has talking native Australian animals too which I thought was a bit strange.

Aljaz, a river guide on Tasmania's Franklin River, is drowning in the white water rapids. As he dies he has visions of his life and those of his ancestors revealing quite a few family secrets. The family history is not a happy one though it is recounted in a typically laconic Australian style.

The highlight of the novel is the beautiful, harsh and unforgiving Australian landscape where the smallest mistake can have devestating results. Flanagan's best prose lies in his description of the Franklin River and the way the river guides negotiate it. The river is a living, breathing, unpredictable, all-powerful force of nature. As the river becomes more turbulent so does Aljaz's visions.

Less palatable aspects of Australian history are also dealt with, such as cannibalism, genocide of the Tasmanian aborigine and the wiping out of the native Tasmanian Tiger population.

I gave it three stars and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who was looking for an uplifting read.

Feb 27, 2010, 11:10pm Top

Even though you haven't rated the Flanagan novel highly, I am still very intrigued to read it. It is on my list too. Perhaps I will boost it closer to the top now.

Feb 28, 2010, 11:09pm Top

Judylou, three stars from me means a good read. Death of a River Guide is a book I found myself thinking about long after I finished it so maybe it deserves another 1/2 star.

I'm very keen to know what you think when you read it. I like Flanagan's style of writing and would definitely read another book of his. I think his latest is Wanting and was well reviewed.

Mar 3, 2010, 5:56am Top

I have read Wanting. It was very good. I'll let you know how the Death of a river guide goes.

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