puckers attempt to read 1001

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puckers attempt to read 1001

Edited: Jul 28, 2017, 5:29pm

Hi guys

I recently joined this group but I've been working on reading the "1001 books to read before you die" for a couple of years. I use the combined list of the three books (1294) just to make things more interesting. So far I've read 132 of the books, with about the same number waiting for me on the shelves at home. My brother in law also has a great collection of books so I have plenty of books on hand for the coming years.

I live in the outer suburbs of Sydney so have two hours a day on the train, meaning I generally get through one book per week. My 1001 Books app helpfully tells me I will get through all the books before I die!

The books I've read so far in reverse order of publication are:

The White Tiger - Aravinda Adiga
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
The Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai
A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine- Marina Lewycha
Saturday - Ian McEwan
The Sea -John Banville
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon
Vernon God Little- DBC Pierre
Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Atonement - Ian McEwan
I'm Not Scared- Niccolo Ammaniti
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
Ignorance - Milan Kundera
Memoirs of Geisha - Arthur Golden
Enduring Love - Ian McEwan
Jack Maggs - Peter Carey
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres
The Shipping News - E. Annie Proulx
A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields
The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
Smillas Sense of Snow - Peter Hoeg
Black Dogs - Ian McEwan
Wild Swans - Jung Chang
Regeneration - Pat Barker
American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis
Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord - Louis de Berneires
Possession - A.S Byatt
Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey
The Child in Time - Ian McEwan
The Radiant Way - Margaret Drabble
The Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe
The Old Devils - Kingsley Amis
Foe - J.M. Coetzee
Less than Zero - Bert Easton Ellis
Perfume - Patrick Suskind
Hawksmoor - Peter Ackroyd
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Flaubert's Parrot - Julian Barnes
Money: A Suicide Note - Martin Amis
Waterland - Graham Swift
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting - Milan Kundera
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller - Italo Calvino
The Sea, The Sea - Iris Murdoch
Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice
Autumn of the Patriach - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow
The Siege of Krishnapur - J.G. Farrell
The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Wide Sargossa Sea - Jean Rhys
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - Giorgio Bassani
A Severed Head - Iris Murdoch
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Rabbit, Run - John Updike
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkein
The Quiet American - Graham Greene
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Junkie - William Burroughs
Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D Salinger
A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
Titus Groan - Mervyn Peake
Animal Farm - Gearge Orwell
The Living and the Dead - Patrick White
Farewell my Lovely - Raymond Chandler
Good Morning, Midnight - Jean Rhys
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
The Years - Virginia Woolf
The Hobbit - J.R.R Tolkein
Sunset Song - Lewis Grassic Gibbon
The Well of Loneliness - Radclyffe Hall
Quartet - Jean Rhys
Decline and Fall - Evelyn Waugh
Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Trial - Franz Kafka
The Garden Party - Katherine Mansfield
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford
Of Human Bondage - W. Somerset Maugham
Sons and Lovers - DH Lawrence
Nostromo - Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
Kim - Rudyard Kipling
The Invisisble Man - H.G Wells
What Maisie Knew - Henry James
Dracula - Bram Stoker
The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
The Adventures of Sherlaock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
New Grub Street - George Gissing
Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
The Picture of Dorian Gary - Oscar Wilde
She - H. Rider Haggard
Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
Aroud the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne
In a Glass Darkly - Sheridan Le Fanu
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
Sentimental Education - Gustave Flaubert
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
The Water-Babies - Charles Kingsley
Fathers and Sons - Ivan Turgenev
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
The Pit and the Pendulum - Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan Poe
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
Emma - Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Monk - M.G. Lewis
The Adventures of Caleb Williams - William Godwin
The Sorrows of Young Werther - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Moll Flanders - Daniel Defoe
The Pilgrims Prgress - John Bunyan
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Aesop's Fables - Aesopus

Phew - thankfully that's over!

Apr 17, 2012, 5:11pm

welcome! What was Jack Maggs like? Never read that.

Edited: Apr 17, 2012, 11:05pm

Peter Carey is one of my favourite authors. I particularly enjoyed his earlier works - Bliss, Illywacker, Oscar and Lucinda (Illywacker is one of my all time favourite books that hasn't made the 1001 list). I would have read Jack Maggs on publication so don't remember all the details now - I quite enjoyed it but prefer the novels listed above.

Edited: Jun 12, 2013, 6:03pm

# 133 Labyrinths - Jose Luis Borges

Fascinating but dense collection of stories and essays involving connections across time and space. Read in short bursts - I read this over a month to absorb and enjoy the individual stories. 4.5/5 (0.5 deducted for the bits I didn't understand!)

Apr 18, 2012, 12:47pm

Welcome! You've accomplished a lot!

I noticed the comment on Jack Maggs and I wanted to say I've read both of his on the list and thoroughly enjoyed them. There's a mystery to Jack Maggs that was fun and intriguing, and I feel like Carey's characters are well developed.

Edited: Jul 28, 2017, 5:13pm

#134 The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

Highly amusing 4/5 ★★★★

Apr 19, 2012, 4:00pm

Hello and welcome - I have had Jack Maggs on my shelf for so long - but I just can't seem to motivate myself to read it.... sounds like I should though?

Apr 20, 2012, 1:28am

Hi! I'm another Peter Carey fan and agree that Illywhacker should have been on the list. Probably instead of Jack Maggs. It's been a long time since I read that (like when it first came out) but I remember thinking that it was just a more sophisticated version of what Leon Garfield had done in many of his masterful children's/YA novels.

Edited: Apr 28, 2012, 7:55am

135. Auto da fe - Elias Canetti. An obsessive scholar's world spirals out of control after marrying his housekeeper. I enjoyed this book. Very funny with ridiculous characters and fast and furious dialogue (many lengthy monologues). Some darker themes mixed in. 5/5

Apr 29, 2012, 1:01pm

>135 Thanks for the review- I've had it for awhile now and have been a little intimidated. Now I feel encouraged to give it a try!

Apr 30, 2012, 12:08am

136. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexander Dumas. The classic tale of betrayal and revenge. This was a long read. The first quarter of the book is a brilliant adventure - the betrayal, imprisonment and escape. The last quarter sees the revenge ruthlessly enacted, with some moving moments. The "set up" in the middle half of the book however seems to drag on for ever. Not helped by me reading this as an "iBook" on my iphone, and therefore a rather daunting 5200 pages! Wish the middle could have been pruned a bit, but still 4/5.

Edited: May 2, 2012, 5:21am

137. A Modest Proposal - Jonathan Swift. A very short and tongue-in-cheek (presumably!) work proposing that poverty could be relieved by the eating the children of the poor. A coffee-break read for those wanting to quickly add to their 1001 tally. 3/5

May 3, 2012, 5:17am

138. For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway. An American explosives expert and a band of Spanish guerillas plan to blow up a bridge during the Spanish Civil War. Deceptively simple, archaic and emotionless dialogue (everything is "said" to "thee" or "thou"). But you get an intimate feel for the place and people, and the tension winds up right to the last line. A cracker of a book. 5/5

May 3, 2012, 6:37am


May 5, 2012, 3:58am

139. Cold Comfort Farm Stella Gibbons. A mildly amusing tale of Flora and her attempts to reform her cousins at Cold Comfort Farm. i haven't read enough Hardy to see the references there, but Flora has shades of Jane Austen's Emma. 3/5

Edited: May 8, 2012, 7:05am

140. Steppenwolf Hermann Hesse. Harry Haller feels out of place in the staid middle-class world he finds himself and puts this down to conflicts in his dual personaility. The book contains much philosophy uplifted by encounters with party-loving people who teach Harry to enjoy life. Deep but with a positive message. 4/5

May 17, 2012, 7:07pm

141. The Mysteries of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe. Overlong and overwrought. Characters and scenes are well-drawn in this Gothic romance, but I found it increasingly difficult to empathise with the heroine due to her constant weeping and fainting, and her love-interest comes across as a pathetic character. A bit of a slog 2/5

May 22, 2012, 5:42am

142. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote. The true story of the murder of the Clutter family in 1959. The basic facts are presented up front so the main question left is "why?". Chilling. 4/5

May 23, 2012, 7:15pm

143. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid. I liked the style of this book with the reader placed in a restaurant in Lahore while a Pakastini man narrates the story of his assimilation into American society and his alienation subsequent to 9-11. The final paragraph leaves you hanging for more. 4/5

Edited: May 30, 2012, 6:10am

144. The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen. The write-up in 1001 Books to Read Before You Die made this sound like heavy going. However I was very pleasantly surprised with this story of the trials of the Lambert family. Each character has flaws and failures which are described with black humour. Their fallibility led me to sympathise with each of them. A most entertaining read. 5/5

Jun 2, 2012, 1:48am

145. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner - James Hogg. Scottish gothic novel about two brothers, a mysterious companion and murder. The story is told from three perspectives, two narratives divided by the handwritten "confession" of the "justified sinner". The air of mystery is maintained throughout, and the consequences of misguided religious extremism are as relevant today. 4/5

Jun 4, 2012, 6:36am

146. The Lambs of London - Peter Ackroyd. An easy read and an introduction to the Lamb siblings and William Ireland. However I found the story a bit dull. Not in the same league as Hawksmoor. 3/5

Jun 7, 2012, 6:20pm

147. Time's Arrow - Martin Amis. A narrator follows a man's life backwards to his birth. I enjoyed the novelty of everyday events seen backwards (the taxi that is always outside your house when you need it, the meal deconstructed into the fridge, the shops that pay you to bring goods to them...). There are a few conversations where you are best to start at the bottom of the page and work your way up. The second (earlier) part of the story makes for uncomfortable reading, even from a more constructive, backwards perspective. A memorable book. 4/5

Jun 11, 2012, 3:29am

148. Justine - Marquis de Sade. A virtuous young woman is beset by violence and sexual assault. While the language concerning the misfortunes she experiences has mellowed a little with the centuries, the unremitting assaults are wearing and distasteful. The moral that crime pays continues to the last few pages when she meets an extraordinary almost comical fate. 3/5

Edited: Jun 20, 2012, 10:36pm

149. Walden - Henry David Thoreau. The writer makes observations on his two year experiment, living the "simple life" in a cabin by Walden pond in the 1870s. This proved to be quite a tedious read. Occasionally there were observations I could relate to re nature and living a less complicated life, but much of the book was either rambling philosphy that was difficult to follow, or dry textbook descriptions of his daily life and surrounds. 1.5/5

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 5:08am

150. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie. Classic Christie. An English country house. Relatives and servants. A murder. Motives. Opportunities. Hidden agendas. Bumbling police. Hercule Poirot. Small clues. Family gathering. Murderer unveiled. End. (and I didn't pick who it was) 3/5

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 5:47am

151. He Knew He was Right - Anthony Trollope. A marriage crumbling under obstinancy and jealousy. Very nice writing, but long novel for a relatively uneventful plot (800 dense pages in the 1869 reproduction I was reading). Must look out some of his shorter works. 3/5

Jun 28, 2012, 6:08pm

152. Shroud - John Banville. An old man receives a letter and flies to Turin to meet the person who sent it. Some deep meditations that require concentration. The highlights for me were the beautiful images that Banville creates throughout the book - skillful writing. 4/5

Jul 3, 2012, 6:41am

153. The Master of Ballantrae - Robert Louis Stevenson. Sibling rivalry in 18th century Scotland. Mainly psychological drama, with a smattering of adventure on the high seas and in the wilds of North America. 3/5

Jul 5, 2012, 3:01pm

154. Foundation - Isaac Asimov. A group of scientists form a new colony as a galactic Empire begins to fade. Like I, Robot the book contains a number of episodes seperated by a significant period of time so that few active characters overlap between them. Well constructed, "believable" and fun. 4/5

Jul 5, 2012, 3:03pm

I've had Foundation for a little while and never fancied picking it up - think I might give it a go now I have read your review - thank you!

Jul 16, 2012, 3:48pm

155. Crash - JG Ballard. The narrator and some associates are sexually aroused by car crash injuries. Graphic language intended to shock. The premise was not inviting and I found the execution mechanical, dull and repetitive. No thanks. 1/5

Jul 17, 2012, 4:53am

156. The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing. A woman records aspects of her life in four notebooks. This was a slog - the mood was unrelentingly bitter and negative, with broken and unhealthy relationships and unsympathetic characters. 2/5

Edited: Jul 19, 2012, 6:18pm

157. Complicity - Iain Banks. A journalist investigates a conspiracy theory while a serial killer murders prominent businessmen and politicians. Having lived near Glasgow in the 70s and 80s I could identify with the locations and "patter" and so got into this book. The journalist's obsessions with sex, drugs and computer games were a distraction but the story comes together neatly by the end. 4/5

Jul 22, 2012, 4:01am

158. Castle Rackrent - Maria Edgeworth. A family retainer describes the mismanagement of an Irish estate by Anglo-Irish landlords. Published in 1800 and a "first" in many categories - first Irish novel, first "big house" novel...A short entertaining read in a converstional style. 4/5

Jul 22, 2012, 8:19am

Short eh? That and the ratings have now me interested.

Jul 22, 2012, 3:57pm

#36. I saw that this is one of the lowest rated books on the 1001 List in LibraryThing (at 2.94) which I don't really understand. It rambles along without much in the way of paragraphs or chapters, but I quite liked the feeling of listening to this garrulous old retainer. Some reviewers comment that the local dialect and historical context is difficult to follow but I didn't find that at all (or maybe I just missed the references!). The core story is less than 100 pages, the rest of the book being taken up by lengthy introductions, glossarys and footnotes.

I'd recommend it.

Jul 27, 2012, 8:04am

159. The Black Prince - Iris Murdoch. A writer seeks to get away to the country but gets hopelessly entangled with various friends and relatives. Farcical in parts but entertaining with a final twist 4/5

Jul 30, 2012, 6:54am

160. The Ghost Road - Pat Barker. Last book in the WW1 trilogy that includes Regeneration (also on the 1001 list). Concludes the story of psychologist Dr William Rivers and the fate of his patients during the Great War. 3/5

Jul 31, 2012, 6:17pm

161. A Sentimental Journey - Laurence Sterne. Published in 1768, this is the journal of a trip through France, with encounters with various characters. Not a smooth read - the sentence structure and language takes a little getting used to, there are numerous allusions to contemporary literature and personalities so that you are constantly referencing the appendices, and bits of the text are in French (which I have a basic grasp of but probably missed the nuances). A bit of an 18th century Ulysses! To cap it all the author died before finishing the full story. Once you've overcome these difficulties, there are some witty observations but not a great deal going on. 2.5/5

Aug 2, 2012, 6:46am

162. Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto. A tale of coping with loss and bereavement, set in modern Japan. This was a sad but gentle story. While the subject wasn't uplifting, the simplicity of the telling was refreshing. 3/5

Aug 9, 2012, 7:32am

163. The Untouchable - John Banville. An art historian is exposed as a spy and reflects on his life. Based on the lives of Anthony Blunt and the "Cambridge Five". The thing I loved about this book is Banville's observational skills - the book is peppered with rich, original and apt descriptions of the weather, nature, human behaviour and domestic scenes. This is the sort of writing I read for. 5/5

Aug 13, 2012, 12:43am

164. Agnes Gray - Anne Bronte. The trials and tribulations of a nineteenth century nanny, and a happy ending. A predictable but nicely written story. 3/5

Aug 21, 2012, 6:55am

165. Savage Detectives - Robert Bolano. Describes the activities of a group of Latin American poets called the visceral realists. The book is in three sections. The first is the diary of a young man who hangs out with the visceral realists in 1975; the long second section is reports/interviews from people who had contact with them between 1976 and 1996; the final brief section continues the diary through early 1976. After 570 pages your knowledge of the visceral realists and their elusive leaders has not advanced much! An enigmatic book. 3.5/5

Aug 22, 2012, 6:33am

166. The Stranger - Albert Camus. The emotionally detached protaganist comes up against a system he doesn't understand and that doesn't understand him. Stark writing with much existential philosophy. Very readable 4/5

Aug 24, 2012, 11:04pm

167. Excellent Women - Barbara Pym. Mildred is a sensible spinster who is expected to sort out other peoples problems over a cup of tea while denying her own needs. Mildly amusing and an short easy read for anyone wanting a break from the heavier tomes on the List. 3/5

Aug 31, 2012, 3:59pm

168. Watchmen - Alan Moore and David Gibbons. The only graphic novel on the List? Costumed vigilantes are being eliminated as the world heads towards nuclear war. A number of dark stories run in parallel. Despite being a "comic" this took some concentration. 3/5

Edited: Sep 4, 2012, 3:22pm

169. The Children's Book - A.S. Byatt. Follows the lives of an extended family and friends from 1895 to 1919. The book gives a good sense of the creative process in various art forms and the political movements that were developing during this period. However there are too many characters and too much detail about these processes and developments to enable any emotional attachment. As the various family secrets and inevitable tragedies unfold I found I didn't really care about any of the people. Educational but emotionally uninvolving. 3.5/5

Sep 6, 2012, 5:57pm

170. Falling Man - Don Delillo. An estranged couple find themselves back together in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. A sombre story and disjointed narrative. However flashes of brilliance, including the clever title, keep you going. 3/5

Sep 14, 2012, 8:40am

171. The Red and the Black - Stendhal. An ambitious young peasant attempts to advance himself in post-Napoleonic France. Written in 1830 and thus referencing the politics and manners of the day, I found this a suprisingly enjoyable read. The main characters are not really likeable, but the naivety of the self-centred, passionate lead character (Julien Sorel) led me to have sympathy for him. 4/5

Sep 15, 2012, 7:47pm

172. Blood and Guts in High School - Kathy Acker. A girl has a variety of experiences/fantasies involving sex and squalor. A difficult book to read: the words and images are confronting, and much of it makes no sense. It is an original/experimental mix of prose styles, images, but its best point is that it is short! 1/5

Sep 16, 2012, 2:40pm

51 - I just read that one too and had a lot of difficulty finishing it. I can appreciate the overall style (mixing different methods to tell a story) but this is not a story that I would ever want to read again. I too was glad that it was short!

Sep 16, 2012, 3:21pm

#52. The funniest thing was I picked this up at a jumble sale at our local retirement village. Who would have thought that they would be a hotbed of post-punk feminist pornography?!

Sep 16, 2012, 7:11pm

That is funny! I have a bunch of stuff to donate to the local thrift store but purposely left that one out of the bag. I don't want to scar anyone in this rather conservative community...

Sep 21, 2012, 11:44pm

173. White teeth - Zadie Smith. The story of three generations of two immigrant families living in London. Nicely written with humorous observations. The story gets a little bogged down with the introduction of a third family of high-achievers and their involvement in the advancement of genetic engineering. However overall an enjoyable read. 4/5

Sep 28, 2012, 10:01pm

174. The adventures of Peregrine Pickle - Tobias Smollett. Charts the rise, fall and redemption of an extravagant prankster. I really enjoyed the long winded humour in this book and the exaggerated reactions of various players. A couple of lengthy, tedious and irrelevant side stories detracted from the overall enjoyment. Still a 4/5.

Edited: Oct 2, 2012, 6:14am

175. Herzog - Saul Bellow. A man frantically writes letters to relatives, friends, philosophers and politicians, both alive and dead, as he reflects on his life following the break-up of his second marriage. A book that requires concentration as it moves rapidly from present to past, first person to third person. Masterful writing - a work of literature rather than a great read, but I got into it towards the end. 3.5/5

Oct 3, 2012, 6:53pm

176. Pere Goriot - Honore de Balzac. A bitter tale of Paris in 1819. The story revolves around residents of a boarding house and various aristocracy, and at its heart is the tale of a doting father who sacrifices everything for his ungrateful self-absorbed daughters. While the story is ultimately sad and cynical, it is told in a very readable style. A good read. 4.5/5

Edited: Oct 10, 2012, 2:36pm

177. Fantomas - Marcel Allain. An early book in the serial-killer genre. A master criminal is pursued by a skillful detective. Some barely credible twists but entertaining. 4/5

Oct 17, 2012, 11:41am

178. Nemesis - Philip Roth. Details a polio outbreak in Newark in1944. The first half was good, building up the atmosphere of fear in the oppressive heat of summer. I thought the second half was a bit obvious as the main character "escapes" the outbreak into a wilderness summer camp. A start forward read though. 3.5/5

Oct 23, 2012, 12:03pm

179. Villette -Charlotte Bronte. A timid and melancholy young lady is employed as a teacher in a school on the continent. Some nice flowery almost poetic passages but I found much of this dull and the main characters annoying and childish. 2.5/5

Oct 30, 2012, 12:38pm

180. The Human Stain - Philip Roth. A university dean resigns after being accused of racism. A book about identity, prejudice and hypocrisy. A lot of writing with some paragraphs pages long, but some compelling tension towards the end. 3/5

Nov 2, 2012, 1:32am

181. The Drowned World - J.G. Ballard. Massive solar activity over decades has caused sea levels to cover all major cities in water. A group of people adapt to these conditions while fending off giant reptiles, pirates and their psychological deterioration. A well constructed world and an enjoyable read. 4/5

Nov 7, 2012, 4:05am

182. Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery. Two isolated people in a Parisian apartment block narrate this story - Renee, a concierge with a hidden deep knowledge of art and literature, and Paloma, a 12 year oold girl who is bent on documenting her deep thoughts before a planned suicide. I enjoyed this book but feel I should have enjoyed it more - some of the philosphy is too long and deep and distracts from a sweet and at times moving story. 4/5

Nov 13, 2012, 5:10pm

183. The Jungle - Upton Sinclair. An immigrant family are beaten down by poverty and injustice in turn-of-the-century Chigaco. A heart-breaking story with little respite that leaves you saddened and angry at the injustices. The closing lectures on socialism slow the momentum and mood of the book, but are still interesting in a book that predates the Russian Revolution. 4/5

Nov 15, 2012, 3:38am

184. Casino Royale - Ian Fleming. The first Bond novel. More brutal and cynical than the playful movies. I enjoyed much of this but the ending while predictable was rather sudden and not entirely believable. 4/5

Nov 16, 2012, 5:18am

185. The Devil and Miss Prym - Paul Coelho. A stranger arrives in a remote village with a proposition for its inhabitants. A fable of good versus evil with some nice observations. 3.5/5

Nov 16, 2012, 6:20am

You're on a roll!

Nov 19, 2012, 3:53pm

186. Another World - Pat Barker. A family move into a house with a secret past, while their grandfather, a WW1 veteran, approaches death. I enjoyed much of the writing, but the story had too many threads to pull neatly together. 3.5/5

Nov 20, 2012, 4:16pm

187. The Postman Always Rings Twice - James M Cain. A drifter conspires with a young woman to kill her husband. A raw narrative reflects the physicality of this short story. 4/5

Nov 22, 2012, 8:53pm

188. The Underdogs - Mariano Azuela. A group of rebels in the Mexican Revolution become as criminal as the government they seek to overthrow. A well told albeit depressing story. 3/5

Nov 30, 2012, 3:09am

189. House of Mirth - Edith Wharton. A beautiful well-connected young lady finds her star fading as circumstances and relationships work against her. There are two features that top my list for a good novel. This book has them in spades. Firstly vivid descriptions of scenes that enable you to see, hear and feel exactly what the characters are experiencing - from drawing rooms in New York and New England, to terraces overlooking the sea at Monte Carlo. Secondly, witty or original observations - "Grace Stepney's mind was a kind of moral fly-paper to which buzzing items of gossip were drawn by fatal attraction, and where they hung fast in the toils of an inexorable memory".

While it became increasingly obvious that Lily Bart was slowly heading towards her doom, I didn't find the book at all gloomy, because of the wonderful story telling. 5/5

Nov 30, 2012, 5:34am

190. Underworld - Don DeLillo. A massive book both in terms of pages (830) and in terms of what it seems to seek to achieve - a meditation on the last half of the twentieth century in America. The events are seen through the eyes of Nick Shay, his family and associates, various historical characters (J Edgar Hoover, Lenny Bruce), and a baseball! There is a recurring theme about nuclear weapons and toxic waste but much of it is fairly random. The writing is skilful, but the narrative leaps around. Felt a bit like watching one of those French New Wave movies - parts are mesmerizing, parts are puzzling, you admire the art but at the end you wonder what it was all about. 3.5/5

Nov 30, 2012, 7:08am

great reviews puckers... keep em coming (he says as he looks at the pile of 10 books he has to review...)

Dec 2, 2012, 1:18pm

Great to hear that House of Mirth is a 5 star read because I talked my book club into reading it this year. I read The Age of Innocence this past summer and loved it.

Dec 2, 2012, 2:21pm

Yes, I also loved House of Mirth as well as The Age of Innocence. If you haven't read Ethan Frome yet, you still have that one to look forward to!

Dec 5, 2012, 3:57pm

191. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz. The story of three generations of a Dominican family. The sort of book I generally enjoy - quirky overlapping episodes told in everyday conversational style with some dark humour. Somehow though I didn't fully connect with this one, maybe because the Spanish slang and numerous sci-fi references were a bit distracting. Interesting to learn about (yet another) brutal Latin American dictatorship, one that I'd never heard of before. 3.5/5

Dec 6, 2012, 6:15am

192. The Golden Asse - Lucius Apuleius. A young man meddling in magic is transformed into an ass. A 15th century retelling of a 3rd century story. The first thing that strikes you is the language; "Olde English" which actually proves to be quite readable. More surprising is the sometimes bawdy language. The young hero is turned into an ass fairly early on in the tale and thereafter the story gets a bit repetitive as he is sold, beaten, hears a story related, is sold, beaten.... The story ends with rather dull details of various religious observances. 2.5/5

Edited: Dec 15, 2012, 5:39am

193. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. A story that follows the lives of a family as they move between London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. After the oft quoted first line ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"), I found the book a little hard to get into, mainly due to the sometimes obscure prose. However as the book progresses you get into Dickens' groove and the book builds to a dramatic and moving conclusion. The footnotes in the Penguin Classics version were helpful in putting the story into the context of major events during the French Revolution. 3.5/5

Dec 17, 2012, 3:46pm

194. Slaughter-house Five - Kurt Vonnegut. The story of Billy Pilgrim, a witness to the bombing of Dresden. I enjoyed the writing - short episodes in a deadpan style as Billy drifts backwards and forwards in time. He has a detached fatalistic view of death, every reference to death being followed by "So it goes". The sci-fi element involving his abduction by aliens seemed more about his rationalizing the deaths he witnesses, rather than a "real" experience. 4/5

Dec 20, 2012, 3:35pm

195. Hadrian the VII - Frederick Rolfe. A failed cleric is elected Pope. A curious rambling book. Occasional flashes of humour but it gets bogged down in The late nineteenth century politics of Europe and the Catholic church and overall is a dull read. 2/5

Jan 1, 2013, 3:38am

196. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? - Horace McCoy. A young man recalls the circumstances that resulted him being sentenced for murder. The deadpan amoral reflections recall The Postman Always Rings Twice and In Cold Blood. Much of this short novel is taken up by a dance marathon, raising further issues of morality, this time in relation to show biz. 3.5/5

Edited: Jan 9, 2013, 5:01am

197. In a Free State - V.S. Naipaul. A collection of short stories involving individuals in foreign cultures. The main story involves expats dealing with a military coup in an African country, with other stories involving Indians dealing with unfamiliar cultures in USA and UK. Best summed up in the quote: "If you can't beat them, join them. I joined them. They are still beating me". The stories varied enough to maintain interest. 3.5/5

Jan 10, 2013, 2:47am

198. Sister Carrie - Theodore Dreiser. Charts the rise from poverty to fame of a young lady at the turn of the last century. Noteably she feels little remorse for the men she discards on her way to the top, even at the end as she reads Pere Goriot while her partner dies in poverty. I was also interested in her early life in Chicago - poverty, but not in the extremes described in The Jungle only six years later. A nice straightforward read. 3/5

Jan 15, 2013, 5:29am

199. Testament of Youth - Vera Brittain. A memoir of the First World War and its effect on the generation who lived through and beyond it. The book contains some wonderful prose and you get an honest, angry and weary sense of the "catastrophe that descended just in time to deprive us of that youthful happiness to which we believed ourselves entitled". At 600 pages the book is a bit stretched and the post-war progress of the Women's Movement and work of the League of Nations were of less interest to me. 3/5

Jan 16, 2013, 3:49am

Coming up on a bit of a milestone there puckers! Any particular plans for which book will be the big 200, or do these milestones get a bit meaningless after the first hundred?

Jan 16, 2013, 5:29am

I enjoy a milestone so thought I'd go for something large and old to mark the occasion. Opted for Bleak House which so far (20% in) is proving a good choice. Was tempted to wait for the Group Read of Les Miserables but I think I might have to mix that one up with a few shorter reads.

Jan 19, 2013, 8:25pm

Yes, it was tough to choose what book to read for my #300! I ended up (with advice from the list) with A Fine Balance, which was a pretty good one. I haven't read Bleak House but it sounds like another good choice for a milestone.

Jan 20, 2013, 8:22pm

I've pencilled in Anna Karenina for my 300 (based on my current reading plan for my local public library) - but there's a lot of reading to do before I start thinking about that too seriously!!

Come back to this conversation in late 2014 to see if my choice has changed!

Jan 25, 2013, 2:42pm

200. Bleak House - Charles Dickens. Charts the lives of various people connected to the seemingly interminable case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. In my job I am involved in a legal case that has been running for 5 years now and little seems to have changed in the 150 years since Dickens described the processes that result in cases being bogged down in arguments that have little to do with the fundamental issues. I therefore empathised with the characters caught up in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

However the book is more about the relationships of numerous characters that Dickens creates, and in this book we get a full array of "Dickensian" characters, from the poverty-stricken orphans (Charley) to rich baronets (Sir Leicester Dedlock), from miserable old misers (Mr Smallweed) to generous guardians (John Jarndyce). Inevitabley in a book this long (nearly 1000 pages) there are extraneous characters who do little to advance the plot, but Dickens keeps the story moving with both drama and comedy and, while some of the coincidences are a stretch, the various threads are drawn neatly to a close. A classic. 4/5

Jan 25, 2013, 11:45pm

201. Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges. A collection of short stories from the master of magic realism. As I read the table of contents I realized a number of the stories were also in Borges' Labyrinths - in fact no less than 13 of the 17 stories are in the latter book, leaving just 4 stories totaling 20 pages to complete this book! The 4 additional stories are grounded a bit more in a recognisable world but on the strength of the 13 fantastic stories I'd read earlier I'll give this the same score as Labyrinths 4.5/5

Jan 29, 2013, 3:01am

202. Youth - J.M. Coetzee. A morose, disenchanted student strives for his inner poet. Apparently largely autobiographical, the student is not presented in flattering light, and there are no real high points in the story that is presented. Honest but dull. 2.5/5

Feb 1, 2013, 4:26am

203. Silas Marner - George Eliot. An isolated embittered man loses everything he covets only to find redemption when an orphaned baby girl wanders into his life. A simple plot with a straightforward moral, told beautifully.

"As the child's mind was growing into knowledge, his mind was growing into memory; as her life unfolded, his soul, long stupified in a cold narrow prison, was unfolding too, and trembling into full conciousness".

I was moved by this story more than any book I've read recently. Must be getting soft in my old age. 5/5

Edited: Feb 15, 2013, 5:45pm

204. The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan. Richard Hannay is pursued round Britain by police and foreign agents after a spy is murdered in his apartment. You can see how it appealed to Alfred Hitchcock who directed the movie based on this book (which is in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) - there is the innocent man drawn unwittingly into a big scheme he doesn't fully understand, pursued by people who may be friends or enemies. (The film incidentally is only loosely based on the book with major characters that do not appear in the latter).

The coincidences and chance encounters stretch credibility to the limit, but Buchan recognised this in his dedication where he notes that the book will "defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible". If you can suspend your disbelief, you end up with a good short thriller. 4/5

Feb 20, 2013, 5:09am

205. The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow. Charts the various schemes and adventures that Augie March finds himself embroiled in from childhood to post-WW2. Bellow packs a lot into his sentences. If you are fully awake and concentrating on every word there is much to enjoy here. However if, like me, you allow your eyes to scan over paragraphs you often find yourself realising at the end of the paragraph that you've missed what Bellow is trying to say, and you have to go back to the start. This made the book, which is already 620 pages, seem longer than it is. 2.5/5

Mar 1, 2013, 2:34am

206. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro. An intriging story following the lives of three institutionalised children into adulthood. (SPOILERS AHEAD).

The role of these children is slowly revealed, though there are many questions left unanswered - who/what prevents them from assimilating into society? What do the Carers do, and why is the narrator (Kathy) kept as a Carer rather than a Donor for so long? What is the significance of "the boat"? Why do they seem to have different recollections of the physical features of Hailsham? The holes in this picture are left to the readers imagination which is both stimulating and frustrating.

The story is narrated in a fairly detached way, with an acceptance of what awaits them which makes it hard to get emotionally involved (compare this with My Sisters Keeper which I read this month also - covers some similar ground but is highly emotional and covers the ethics from all angles). 3/5

Mar 2, 2013, 8:34am

really enjoying your short pithy reviews puckers. Keep it up!

Mar 2, 2013, 2:58pm

Thanks arukiyomi.

I see from your photos (A Bend in the River) that you came through my home town (Sydney) en route to the UK. Hope you missed the 45 degree day!

Edited: Mar 3, 2013, 11:35am

ah yes... we did spend a few days there. Loved it! Saw the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition so that was a few weeks before your temps soared, yes.


for our photos

Mar 5, 2013, 3:58pm

207. Veronika Decides to Die - Paul Coelho. Veronika makes a failed suicide attempt, is confined to a mental hospital where she discovers meaning in her life. I didn't connect with this book at all. This wasn't helped by Veronikas reason for suicide being so trite (boredom). The book didn't have anything new to say beyond the obvious that trying something new can give purpose to your life. 2.5/5

Mar 6, 2013, 3:56am

208. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo. Jean Valjean, an escaped convict, sets out to do what is right and good, even if it means potentially losing his liberty and the one person he loves more than anything in the world. A magnificent book. At its heart is the reformed convict Jean Valjean, his relentless pursuer Javert, and the orphaned girl he nutures to adulthood, Cossette - but no brief summary can do justice to the depth of this book.

A noteable feature of the book is its pacing. There are passages of excitement and adventure, and then lengthy diversions on historical and cultural matters. Thus for example you are in the thick of brutal hand-to-hand combat in the barricades of Paris, and suddenly on the next page entering a four chapter history of the sewers under the city! These passages add depth and context to the story and enable you to catch your breath, elevating what could have been an exciting but straightforward cat-and-mouse pursuit story into something majestic.

One of THE books you must read before you die. 5/5

Mar 9, 2013, 5:32am

209. The Body Artist - Don DeLillo. A woman's husband commits suicide, and on returning to their home discovers a strange man with the ability to mimic both her and her late partner. My third DeLillo in six months, and all have proven a bit of a challenge. This short story has the advantage of a lineal story told through the eyes of one person. However the line between reality and imagination is constantly blurred, not really resolved, and I got to the end feeling dissatisfied. 2/5

Mar 13, 2013, 6:50am

210. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole. Ignatius J. Reilly, an obese flatulent lay-about, rails against modern society. A farcical story populated with various eccentrics. I found this very funny - maybe a bit stretched out with a couple of less amusing sub-plots, but nonetheless a pleasant break from the usual serious/downbeat List books. 4/5

Mar 21, 2013, 5:19pm

211. The Twins - Tessa de Loo. Twin sisters, seperated at six, meet unexpectedly and recall their life stories. I found the overarching story a bit unrealistic - the chance encounter, the antipathy and the chronological narration of their stories over several days of meetings. The underlying story of their war experiences was well told even if there was nothing remarkable in the conclusion (both German and Dutch civilians suffered in the war....). 3/5

Mar 26, 2013, 5:08am

212. Life and Times of Michael K - J.M. Coetzee. A simple man caught up in a civil war in South Africa seeks to get away from the conflict and get back to nature. A difficult book to say I "enjoyed" as it is full of despair and sadness, and Michael rarely achieves any sense of happiness. However Coetzee creates a rich and believable atmosphere from the strife-torn towns to the dry veld. Interestingly for an apartheid era novel in South Africa, race is never raised and it is never explicitly stated whether the people who aid and abet Michael are black or white South Africans. 3.5/5

Mar 26, 2013, 12:07pm

#105- For that matter, it never says whether Michael is black or white, something I found intriguing.

Apr 5, 2013, 4:08am

212.25 A Dance to the Music of Time: Spring - Anthony Powell. Follows the fortunes of four upper-middle class men from the last years at school to their 30s.

"A Dance to the Music of Time" is the third longest entry on the 1001 List, at 2997 pages. Usually published as four volumes (three books in each volume), "Spring" covers the early years and introduces you to the four principal boys/men. It is perhaps unfair to review this volume alone, but the individual books were initially published over 20 years and therefore should stand on their own merits.

The style reminds me of Virginia Woolf's The Years where the detailed scenes have little dramatic action, and the major events (births, marriages, divorces etc) are revealed mainly in conversation between the characters. I found most of the characters rather dull and superficial (including the narrator, Nicholas Jenkins, who comes across as a "decent chap" but little is revealed of his life) but Powell includes some dry wit that I enjoyed. This is an insular society largely unaffected by wider considerations. However having said this I increasingly got in to their world and look forward to the next 2200 pages! 3/5

Apr 8, 2013, 6:05am

213. The Old Wives' Tale - Arnold Bennett. The lives of two sisters, Constance and Sophia, are followed from childhood to death. Nothing terribly dramatic happens during this long tale, despite Sophia living through the seige of Paris, but it is a pleasant, very readable story. 3/5

Apr 8, 2013, 11:42am

Enjoying your reviews and on the whole we agree on ratings of books we have both read, leading me to want to read more of your highly-rated books (and avoid the low ones). Only exception is The Body Artist which somehow appealed to me.
Have you seen the films of Never Let Me Go or Les Miserables? Both quite good to watch after reading the books. NLMG was wonderful as a movie and somehow more moving than the book while capturing it very well -- I wept buckets at the end. Les Mis is, as a musical, of course wildly different from the book yet in other ways strangely right, and made me think more about some aspects of the book.

Apr 8, 2013, 7:24pm

Hi annamorphic. I've found DeLillo hard to connect with and The Body Artist was just too elusive for me. I should watch the movie of Never Let Me Go as this was another book that left me with too many unanswered questions. Unfortunately, with a 14 month old daughter we don't have much time to watch anything these days, let alone a movie, so that might have to wait a while.

Edited: Apr 9, 2013, 7:39am

214. The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy. A police investigation following the discovery of a woman's mutilated body reveals a dark and seedy world in 1940s LA. This is very black noir (as it were) filled with sleaze, violence and corruption - and that's just the cops! The language and imagery are graphic so this isn't for everyone, but the suspense hooked me. You need to just tune into the narrators voice and go along for the ride. 3/5

Edited: Apr 20, 2013, 12:25am

215. 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami. Two people in Tokyo in 1984 realize they have drifted into an altered version of this world, one with two moons. A lengthy book (1318 pages) but very readable and felt shorter than some books half this size. The pace throughout is slow but Murakami drip-feeds enough new information to keep you interested. I found there was a fair bit of repetition particularly in the third book where an investigator is seeking information you've known since early in the story. However the book is far from a chore and has a special calm atmosphere of its own. 3.5/5

Apr 20, 2013, 7:31am

>110 puckers: My husband read DeLillo's White Noise and had similar problems; he didn't like it at all and couldn't get into the writing hence it didn't stick with him. Now he's rereading it even though it was just a couple months ago, so that he hopefully remembers/understands it well enough for his exam coming up.

Apr 29, 2013, 6:56am

216. Adam Bede - George Eliot. Set in 1799 in rural England, this tale involved honest, hard-working Adam Bede, vain romantic Hetty Sorrel (his love interest) and Dinah Morris, Hetty's cousin and a rousing Methodist preacher. One of my main objectives in reading from the 1001 List is to discover authors I probably wouldn't have read and George Eliot is one of my favourite "discoveries". Her characters are varied and real, and her prose flows beautifully across the page - a joy to read. If I had any quibbles with this book it would be the heavy use of dialect which slowed the reading process, and at times the tone can get a bit "preachy", but nevertheless I enjoyed this moral tale told in a wonderful atmospheric way. 4/5

Apr 29, 2013, 8:30am

@ 114 Good to know, I have this one planned for this year.

May 2, 2013, 4:33am

217. Faces in the Water - Janet Frame. A patient describes her experiences in "mental hospitals" in the 1940s and 1950s. The author herself spent eight years on and off in institutions so I assume that much of this is from first-hand experience. The "treatments" inflicted (or lack thereof for many) were primitive and ineffective and there is little hope in this book. However it is interesting to read of the hierarchies amongst the groups of patients and the rituals that many clung to as their new reality. An interesting insight, told from the perspective of someone who is "mad" 3/5

May 10, 2013, 6:56am

217.5 A Dance to the Music of Time: Summer - Anthony Powell. Nicholas Jenkins continues his reminiscences through the 1930s. Much of my comments at 212.25 apply here though some characters are fleshed out more and are consequently more interesting.

If I might borrow amaryann21s food motif, this is one for the cheese plate, muscadelle grapes and an aged claret. You're at a black-tie reunion dinner and an old friend is telling you entertaining stories about people you barely know or care about, but you are amused and enjoying the rambling tales with a smile on your face. Another glass anyone? 4/5

May 10, 2013, 11:41am

#117 Borrow away! I love your analysis!

May 13, 2013, 7:43am

218. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter searching out androids in post nuclear war San Francisco. On one level this is a sci-fi novel revolving around the ability of Rick Deckard to identify and eliminate androids; on another level it explores what it means to be human, and the blurring of artificial and "real" life. A short entertaining if rather bleak read 4/5

May 15, 2013, 6:09pm

219. A Room with a View - E.M. Forster. Lucy Honeychurch finds her emotions awakened by a trip to Italy. I had thought this might revolve around the clash of cultures between the Edwardian English abroad and their Italian hosts, but the clashes are between the English, as the staid Miss Bartlett (who could only be played by Maggie Smith) seeks to shield Lucy from the emotional and unconventional Emersons. A wonderful variety of characters, and unexpected but delightful turns of phrase. 4/5

May 22, 2013, 4:55am

220. Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy. A young woman arrives in a rural community to run a farm, and is courted by three very different men. I found the heroine, Bathsheba, somewhat shallow and petulant, and consequently aroused little empathy. There were some rambling passages (heaven forbid I should ever get trapped in conversation at Warren's Malthouse!), but I enjoyed the descriptions of the countryside and seasons in "Wessex", and unusually for "the List", a happy ending. 3/5

Edited: May 27, 2013, 7:12pm

221. Clarissa - Samuel Richardson. A young lady, besieged by her family, flees into the clutches of the vengeful and scheming Robert Lovelace. Listed by Wikipedia as the longest novel written in English, my experience would support that assertion!

The book takes the form of hundreds of letters, mainly between Clarissa and her friend Anne Howe, and Lovelace and fellow rake Belford. There are hundreds of pages where nothing much happens other than endless repetition of arguments. However the epistolary format is the book's saving grace; as you sit there late at night you are tempted to read "just one more" and before you know it five months of your life has passed and the book is finished!

An experience. 2.5/5

May 30, 2013, 3:01pm

221.75. A Dance to the Music of Time : Autumn - Anthony Powell. Books 7 to 9 take Nicholas Jenkins reminiscences through the war years. Great writing again with some dry wit. In these books a few of the key players fall victim to the war and leave the Dance - "As in musical chairs, the piano stops suddenly, someone is left without a seat, petrified for all time in the attitude of that particular moment". 4/5

May 30, 2013, 3:49pm

Some great reviews here. I missed that Faces in the Water was on the list. I saw it on the shelf of a friend who is a psychiatrist and she recommended it, so I'm now adding it to my 1001 TBR list.

Edited: Jun 2, 2013, 6:46pm

222. Carry Me Down - M.J. Hyland. An 11 year old boy believes he has the gift for detecting lies and is determined to get his parents to tell the truth. The characters in his book lacked redeeming features and for much of the story nothing much happens. Things get a little more interesting (and disturbing) later but by then I didn't care. Triggered some cringe-worthy recollections of adolescent angst! 2.5/5

Jun 6, 2013, 5:07am

223. The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene. Major Scobie is a police officer in WW2 West Africa, dealing with endemic corruption, small-minded expats and a frustrated wife. I thoroughly enjoyed this book - great writing with many observations on human behaviour as Scobie's incorruptible reputation is compromised by the arrival of a young female refugee. 4/5

Jun 7, 2013, 7:41am

224. Under Fire - Henri Barbusse. Describes the life of a squad of French soldiers during WW1. Published during the war, the author served in the trenches and presents a grim picture not only of the carnage and mud that are familiar images of the Great War, but also the routine and tedium. The title chapter late in the book seems horribly realistic, and the book ends with a plea for an end to war. Sobering 4/5.

Jun 9, 2013, 2:12am

225. Brave New World -Aldous Huxley. A world where manufactured reproduction and constant conditioning has resulted in a stable and satisfied population, but one where individuality and progress is discouraged - where "truth and beauty" are replaced by "comfort and happiness". The scenario presented is quite believable. More entertaining than I'd expected. 3.5/5

Jun 12, 2013, 6:52am

226. Simon and the Oaks - Marianne Fredriksson. This books describes the lives of Simon, an adopted boy, and his extended family in Sweden during and after WWII. I wasn't really convinced by this book. Virtually every character has sudden rages and hatreds, and there are mystical passages that I didn't get in to. A bit disjointed and cold. 2.5/5

Jun 24, 2013, 5:05am

227. The House of Doctor Dee - Peter Ackroyd. A man inherits a house formerly occupied by the 16th century alchemist and astronomer Doctor Dee. This book is similar in structure to Hawksmoor - two overlapping stories from centuries apart that gradually coincide and merge. The scenario sounded promising, however I found there was way too much detail in this, and as the realities in both stories gradually fell apart things got rather obscure. Overall dull. 2/5

Jun 24, 2013, 6:01pm

228. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe. Describes life in a West African village prior to and following the arrival of missionaries. A straightforward read with interesting insights into tribal customs. 3/5

Jun 25, 2013, 3:33pm

>130 puckers: Shoot...dreading The House of Doctor Dee even more now. I didn't care for Hawksmoor because of the style and execution, so I guess I'll put Doctor Dee way down on my TBR list.

Jun 25, 2013, 5:54pm

#132 I preferred Hawksmoor, which is unlikely to encourage you!

Edited: Jun 27, 2013, 6:31pm

229. The House of the Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne. A house on land dishonestly obtained carries a curse on generations of a family. LT links this book to Silas Marner and there are close similarities in this tale of isolated misunderstood old people who's lives are revitalized by the arrival of a young lady.

Hawthorne is a little wordy, rarely using one syllable where four will suffice! However there is much to enjoy here, and I was particularly entertained by the chapter where the author urges a deceased character to wake up and get on with his day. 4/5

Jun 28, 2013, 1:43pm

134 - sounds interesting. I was in Salem last year and wandered by Seven Gables (too cheap to enter) and wondered about the book. I hated Scarlet Letter (although was forced to read it so perhaps I would like it better nowadays). He is really wordy!

Edited: Jun 29, 2013, 9:29am

Catching up with your thread -- glad that you liked Under Fire -- I'd never heard of it before the list but I was incredibly moved and impressed by that book. Your reviews are always so useful to me, since you have read many books I have not. And I can't believe what great progress you are making when you have a toddler in the house!

Jun 29, 2013, 4:39pm

The only way I can get through books with a toddler in the house is to get out of the house! I have a two hour daily commute to work so enjoy 10 hours uninterrupted List reading each week that way, and then a couple of hours a week on coffee breaks. My tbr books (around 500) are in a shed in the garden and Olivia (my 17 month old daughter) likes to follow me there and grab a book to leaf through. Her favourite at the moment is The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I think she likes this because it has a picture of Nicole Kidman on the spine - who she calls "dolly"!

I'm sure she'll start her own thread before too long - and we do have the 1001 Children's Books you must Read Before you Grow Up to help her on her way!

Jul 1, 2013, 6:23am

230. The Successor - Ismail Kadare. The President-Elect of Albania suffers a violent death - but is it murder or suicide? This short, very readable book tells the story from the point of view of various characters, concluding with the views of the deceased himself! Everyone is paranoid and uncertain as to what happened, while political fortunes rise and fall for both the living and the dead. 3/5

Jul 4, 2013, 11:43pm

231. The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa. This book tells a tense (and at times horrific) story of fear, bravery and compromise in the face of a brutal regime that lasted 30 years in the Dominican republic. A gripping page-turner, but also clever writing as conversations move seamlessly across the decades. Possibly my best read of the year so far. 5/5

Edited: Jul 15, 2013, 8:25pm

232. Baltasar and Blimunda - Jose Saramago. Three interwoven stories - a passionate love affair, the world's first flying machine, and the early stages of construction of what is apparently still the largest palace in Europe. This looks an intimidating book, with sentences that run a full page or more, but thanks to three engaging stories and generous use of commas, these sentences flow, tumbling along. A surprisingly enjoyable read. 4/5

Jul 10, 2013, 1:23pm

It seems we are in agreement in our reactions to Baltasar and Blimunda, so I hope I will also like The Feast of the Goat as much as you did. I'll be starting it very soon.

Jul 12, 2013, 6:55am

233. The Red Room - August Strindberg. A satirical look at Swedish society in the late 19th century. Few institutions are left unscathed in this book - business, government, journalism and the arts are viewed as corrupt or ineffective. It is all done with a light touch and there are occasional bits I found amusing. Much of it though seemed superficial (or rather I didn't quite see the relevance/importance of the observation) and it probably had more meaning to Scandinavians of a century or so ago. 2.5/5

Edited: Jul 15, 2013, 8:24pm

234. The Shining - Stephen King. Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic with a violent temper, takes his wife and clairvoyant son to the isolated Overlook Hotel where he has agreed to be caretaker for the winter. What could possibly go wrong??!

King constantly winds up the tension in this very effective and scary novel. Not one for a lonely winters night if you are of a nervous disposition. 4.5/5

Jul 15, 2013, 5:12pm

Just wanted to pop in and say that I love your reviews! Short and to the point, letting me know just what I most want to know about each book. Thanks!

Jul 15, 2013, 5:57pm

#144 - your welcome, and thanks for popping in!

Jul 19, 2013, 4:37pm

235. Kieron Smith, Boy - James Kelman. Kieron Smith describes his childhood in Glasgow. I grew up near Glasgow in the 1970s, and had friends who lived in the sort of places that Kieron describes, so I should have been able to relate to this story. It was fun to come across many words I hadn't heard in decades (e.g. jook, chib, skite, toty, minging, wasnay, crabbit) and the whole fanatical Protestant (Rangers) v Catholic (Celtic) divide he describes was very much alive when I was at school.

Kelman vividly captures the "stream of consciousness" thoughts of a pre-teen boy. However my problem with the book was that it was too long. 200 pages of plotless, repetitious ramblings of a 12 year-old might have been entertaining, but 422 of them.... . As I might have said at the time "Hod yer wheesht son"! 2.5/5

Jul 23, 2013, 12:02am

236. Vathek - William Beckford. An eighteenth century gothic fantasy set somewhere in an imagined Middle East. This is short straightforward read - you should disengage your brain before reading this OTT tale. 3/5

Edited: Jul 28, 2013, 2:32am

237. A Dance to the Music of Time: Winter - Anthony Powell. The concluding three books in Powell's epic series through the 1920s to 1970s. His narrator Nicholas Jenkins, usually a detached almost colourless character, becomes a bit more opinionated towards the end of the series, and his wife Isobel who has been practically invisible so far takes a part in the last books. A slight change in style, but still an enjoyable read.

As for the series as a whole, I very much enjoyed the nature of the reminiscences. Jenkins has a gentle, dry wit in his retelling of his friends, relatives and acquaintances, and is sympathetic to them all, even the more monstrous of them. I must admit that I found many of the characters blending in to one another and by the end I couldn't tell you how they fitted in to the dance - rather like your partner bringing work colleagues to dinner and listening to tales of people who's names ring a bell but you don't really know at all. He does create some memorable characters though - Uncle Giles, Trapnel, Pamela Flitton and of course Kenneth Widmerpool - and the Dance, while 3000 pages long, seems to fly by. 4/5

Jul 30, 2013, 7:26am

238. Oroonoko - Aphra Behn. Oroonoko, a prince in his own country, is transported as a slave to Surinam where he is reunited with Imoinda, his lover. A short and very readable story, notable for its historical significance (written in 1688 by Britain's first professional female author). 3/5

Edited: Jul 31, 2013, 6:04am

239. A Void - Georges Perec. Anton Vowl goes missing - can his friends work out what happened before they too are eliminated? This is one of those books you have to admire, even if you don't love it - a 280 page novel written in French without using the letter "e", which has been translated into English without using the letter "e" - and it has a plot!

Parts of this novel were brilliant in terms of having flowing text without the missing vowel being apparent (the retelling of "Moby Dick" was one such passage). However large parts of it are verbose and seem more an exercise by the author (or his translator) to show off how many words he knows that don't contain "e". The book seems particularly forced where it compiles lists. Thus for example we have composers such as Bach, Brahms, Mozart, but no Beethoven. But maybe that's the point - we can exist in a world/write a novel where something thought indispensable is missing, but that world/novel is not as rich due to that void.

A very clever and thought provoking book, if not always a smooth read 3/5

Aug 1, 2013, 2:33pm

>148 puckers: Wow - congrats on finishing! Glad you enjoyed it too.

Aug 3, 2013, 8:37am

240. A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway. Fredric Henry, an American volunteer with the Italian army, falls in love with an English nurse. Written in Hemingway's signature spare/unadorned style which probably isn't to everyone's taste, but it works for me. 3.5/5

Aug 14, 2013, 6:53am

241. The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy. The story of three generations of the Forsyte family from around 1880 to 1920. The characters in this novel appear quite "real" in the sense that the "bad guy" (Soames) is just sticking to values he believes in, while the "good guys/gals" have various annoying character traits. Makes for an overall enjoyable if slightly melodramatic read. 4/5

Edited: Aug 19, 2013, 7:05am

242. The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster. Three short stories involving an investigator and a missing person, where the investigator finds out more about himself than the person he is tracking. The first of six Austers on my TBR pile and fortunately I quite enjoyed it. Shifting identities and novelists are a recurring theme, but the stories have sufficient twists and variety to maintain interest. 3.5/5

Aug 22, 2013, 1:42am

243. The Last September - Elizabeth Bowen. Sir Richard and Lady Naylor entertain guests and organise tennis tournaments while "The Troubles" build in 1920's Ireland. Written in the modernist style of Virginia Woolf with disjointed sentences and half-finished thoughts. I enjoyed some of the descriptions (e.g. "The shuttered-in drawing-room, the family sealed in lamplight, secure and bright like flowers in a paperweight"). However it was often hard to get in to the rhythm of the language and like Woolf nothing much happens, at least until the last few pages. A book I enjoyed more on reflection than during the reading experience. 3/5

Aug 22, 2013, 11:18am

I've read two books by Elizabeth Bowen, and I find her very difficult. She seems like an author I would love, but so far she's been hard work.

In other words, I can completely relate to your review. I'm going to continue to try her novels. But not today.

Aug 22, 2013, 3:05pm

#156. I have another 4 Bowen's in the TBR pile so plenty more opportunities to see how I feel about her.

As I read The Last September I thought to myself this is quite hard work ( I even nodded off while reading some of the earlier chapters!) and was heading for a low rating, but towards the end I was enjoying the atmosphere and the various characters and I was forgetting what a slog some parts were. As I said, I ended up feeling like it was a good read, even though I know it wasn't at the time (if that makes sense)!

Aug 23, 2013, 2:42am

I agree that Bowen was rather slow and difficult to read, and I couldn't keep up with all the people (and assumed I wasn't even supposed to), but the book left a lasting impression and I'll have to continue with her.

Aug 23, 2013, 10:01pm

244. In the Heart of the Country - J.M. Coetzee. A lonely unfulfilled farm daughter in South Africa documents her life. The structure of this book is unusual, consisting of 266 numbered paragraphs, like diary entries and discrete thoughts. The same events are sometimes played out differently in consecutive paragraphs and it is not always clear what is real and imagined. Like other Coetzee novels there is little to lighten a fairly grim tale, but the writing is always skillful. 3/5

Aug 30, 2013, 5:03am

245. The World According to Garp - John Irving. A book that dwells on feminism, death and the difference between men and women's attitudes to sex, told through the life and works of writer T.S. Garp. I found this book occasionally amusing, occasionally shocking, occasionally moving, but largely a bit too earnest and dull. I didn't dislike it, but failed to really enjoy it. 3/5

Sep 1, 2013, 2:58am

246. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Longstocking is a precocious independent 9 year old girl who lives alone with a monkey and horse. A preteen children's book nicely complemented by quirky illustrations by Lauren Child. You could look for deeper meaning about conforming by society's rules, or just enjoy a bit of juvenile escapism. 3/5

Edited: Sep 5, 2013, 6:24pm

247. The Unconsoled - Kazuo Ishiguro. A famous pianist (Ryder) arrives in an un-named city to perform at a gala event. Similar to Kafka's The Trial in that the narrator/protagonist (and therefore by extension the reader) have less idea about what is going on than all the other characters in the book. As Ryder stumbles from one unexpected encounter to the next, you join in his helpless frustation that anything will ever get achieved. Space and time expand and contract and you get a sense that this is all just a dream. Like Never Let Me Go there are unresolved situations which can intrigue or annoy depending on your mood, but I found this a thorougly entertaining read. 4/5

Sep 6, 2013, 2:48pm

Which one did you like better? Never Let Me Go is my favourite Ishiguro.

Edited: Sep 6, 2013, 4:13pm

#163. The two books are quite different, though both have a similar way of requiring the reader to fill in gaps. Never Let Me Go is quite sad and reflective, while The Unconsoled hurtles along with a train wreck expected at every turn. I enjoy absurd/surreal novels where the main character is out of control (Auto da Fe for example is one of my favourite List books so far), so enjoyed The Unconsoled more, but Never Let Me Go is a deeper read.

Edited: Sep 6, 2013, 5:24pm

Ah! I liked Auto da Fe a lot as well. Did you read The Handmaid's Tale yet? Quite surreal, a great read!

Edited: Sep 6, 2013, 7:12pm

On my Atwood TBR pile.

Sounds like you might enjoy The Unconsoled - less absurd characters than Auto da Fe but still enjoyably out of control and similar page long harangues.

Sep 6, 2013, 11:08pm

I did read it and indeed liked it. I read all Ishiguro's from the list. The Remains of the Day is also one of my favourites.

Sep 7, 2013, 4:48am

I still have three to read. Having seen the movie Remains of the Day I suspect that one will be more at the sad and reflective end of his work.

Sep 11, 2013, 6:19pm

248. Fury - Salman Rushdie. A professor leaves his family and moves to New York to lose himself. I had low expectations for this novel given the low ratings in LT and my failure to connect with Midnight's Children, however I ended up quite enjoying this. Some bits are a bit farcical (e.g. The slapstick reaction to one woman's beauty) but I enjoyed picking up on the numerous cultural references (including many List books and authors). 3/5

Sep 11, 2013, 6:51pm

#169 - That sounds worth reading. I rather enjoyed The Ground Beneath Her Feet--another Rushdie that usually gets a "meh" rating. Maybe people expect Rushdie to be so very profound, and sometimes he's just an entertaining writer?

Sep 11, 2013, 8:38pm

Hopefully the latter view is correct - The Ground Beneath Her Feet is my next scheduled Rushdie

Sep 13, 2013, 5:25am

249. Summer - Edith Wharton. A young lady in an insular town looks to her future while discovering her past. This short story was not in the same league as House of Mirth. However a lot is packed in to its short length, and the complexity of the characters of the three leads are nicely brought out. Not bad for a book you can read in three hours. 3.5/5

Sep 17, 2013, 6:12am

250. Amerika - Franz Kafka. A 16 year old German youth is forced to emigrate to America where he seeks to make a life for himself. This story is less nightmarish than The Trial, and the ending of this unfinished work, while abrupt, is potentially positive. The main character, Karl Rossmann, seems an intelligent young man and therefore his misplaced outbursts and silences at crucial moments seem inexplicable, leading me to have limited sympathy for him. 3/5

Sep 18, 2013, 6:00pm

251. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov. Controversial, disturbing, yet wonderfully written. Humbert Humbert writes a prison confession of his relationship with 12 year old Dolores Haze. The physical sex is alluded to without being graphic, and Nabokov doesn't make a serious attempt to justify the actions of his manically obsessed pedophile. Even if you are put off by the subject matter, you should read this for its brilliant prose. 4.5/5

Sep 20, 2013, 6:50am

252. The Female Quixote - Charlotte Lennox. An otherwise intelligent young lady believes that the romantic fiction she reads is fact, resulting in constant misunderstandings with friends and relatives. An amusing 18th century novel that rarely takes itself seriously. Parts are a bit repetitive and the ending seems unconvincingly sudden. 3/5

Sep 26, 2013, 5:58pm

253. A Tale of Love and Darkness - Amos Oz. an autobiography, detailing the author's childhood in Jerusalem in the 1940s. Poignant, and offers personal insights into the painful birth of the state of Israel. 3.5/5

Oct 2, 2013, 4:48am

254. On The Road - Jack Kerouac. Kerouac (under the guise of Sal Paradise) describes various coast-to-coast road trips undertaken with his exuberant friend Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty). Nothing is ever achieved on these trips, which I believe is the whole point as Kerouac and his various companions developed a new philosophy/lifestyle known as "beat". The encounters with various eccentrics and drop-outs are mildly entertaining. 3/5

Oct 18, 2013, 6:35am

255. Against The Day - Thomas Pynchon. A sprawling novel that touches on numerous characters from 1890 to 1920. You should always be cautious dealing with a novel that has its own Wiki (which this book does). This is my first read of a book by the reclusive Pynchon, and he clearly has wit and a great imagination.

I enjoyed the start of this novel with the boys-own adventurers of the "Chums of Chance" overlapping with a tale of vengeance from the mines of Colorado. But then more and more characters are introduced and they spend hundreds of pages milling aimlessly around Europe. A dense novel that touches an anarchists, capitalism, mathematics, sex, drugs and stamp-collecting to name but a few of the themes. It's all rather chaotic with no real conclusion and my overall sense in completing the book is one of exhaustion. 2.5/5

Oct 22, 2013, 4:15pm

256. The Bell - Iris Murdoch. A lay religious community finds itself rocked by the arrival of outsiders. A straightforward read which after slow start becomes a bit of a page-turner. 3.5/5

Edited: Oct 27, 2013, 6:46pm

257. A Light Comedy - Eduardo Mendoza. Carlo Prullas, a philandering playwright, gets caught up in a farcical murder investigation in late 1940s Barcelona. This was a pleasantly entertaining read, deserving of more than its current LT rating of 2.9. As the books title states, a light comedy. 3.5/5

Oct 30, 2013, 5:49pm

258. The Late-Night News - Petros Markaris. This book follows the well-worn path of modern crime novels - jaded police inspector investigates a murder only to discover a web of corruption; more murders, red herrings, and pressure on the investigation from the top ensue. Not sure why this is on the List, other than it is Greek and involves issues that are probably more prevalent in central Europe. However it is very entertaining and if you are looking for that elusive List book that you can enjoy on a beach holiday this could be the book for you. 4/5

Edited: Nov 6, 2013, 4:36pm

259. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins. A young man seeks to restore a young woman who's life was destroyed by two cunning and powerful villains. An excellent story, both in terms of the tense and mysterious plot, and the original structure of the narrative in the form of diaries and letters of various witnesses to the drama. 5/5

Nov 10, 2013, 4:01pm

260. Elizabeth Costello - J.M. Coetzee. A series of philosophical meditations by an ageing Australian writer. The various lectures and writings, while occasionally raising some interesting points, were fairly dry, while the more entertaining dramatic links were too brief to balance these out. The last story, a surreal trial in purgatory, was the best entertainment. 2.5/5

Edited: Nov 11, 2013, 4:25pm

261. Whatever - Michel Houellebecq. A pessimistic computer programmer becomes increasingly depressed about his life. An intriguing book that starts as a droll story of dull office life which is all quite amusing and then slips in to more serious descriptions of clinical depression, with an open ending. 3/5

Nov 14, 2013, 5:16am

262. Christ Stopped at Eboli - Carlo Levi. The author is exiled by Mussolini in 1935 to Gagliano, a remote primitive mountain village, where feuds last for generations, peasants are subject to an oppressive feudal regime, gnomes and ghosts are an accepted fact and, according to the title of the book, Christianity has not yet fully reached. The anecdotes are interesting, with some fascinating local personalities. 3.5/5

Nov 15, 2013, 5:34am

263. After the Quake - Haruki Murakami. Six short stories loosely connected to the Kobe earthquake. Murakami has a gentle meditative narrative style, and nothing much happens in these stories. With the exception of the surreal Super-Frog Saves Tokyo, they deal with individuals about to embark on a new phase in their lives (post quake) and all felt incomplete, which I assume was deliberate. 3/5

Nov 19, 2013, 4:57am

264. Cecilia - Fanny Burney. A young heiress is besieged by incompetent guardians and various suitors. I enjoyed much of this novel - the characters are colourful (almost Dickensian) and dialogue is witty. However I did find the second half dragged as the question of "will they, won't they?" (of course they will) was played out at length. The concept of young lovers overcoming Pride and Prejudice was introduced in this novel 30 years before Austen, who was apparently a fan. 3/5

Nov 21, 2013, 5:35pm

265. The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende. The history of the rise and fall of four generations of the Trueba family, culminating in a military coup (presumably in Chile, though the country is never mentioned by name). I enjoyed this book with its elements of magic and its eccentric characters. This made much of the book playful, even amongst the tragedies, and while the brutality of the coup is spelt out in gruesome detail in the final chapters it isn't a depressing book. 4/5

Nov 25, 2013, 5:04pm

266. The Green Hat - Michael Arlen. The narrator documents his infatuation with a notorious "femme fatale". This book was apparently extremely popular on release, a reputation borne out by my copy from 1924 (the year of first publication) being the twelfth impression. Since then it has fallen on hard times and its LT rating of 2.87 makes it the 13th lowest rated book of the 1305 on the List (JonnySaunders is not the only source of List trivia!). I can understand this low rating as the narration is somewhat disjointed and the dialogue very stilted, like a stage play. On the other hand Arlen has some nice turns of phrase, and the plot picks up as it heads towards the dramatic conclusion on the last page. However I'm not going to help its LT ranking with a 2.5/5.

Edited: Nov 28, 2013, 5:52am

267. Inside Mr Enderby - Anthony Burgess. The tale of Mr Enderby, a poet who seeks inspiration while in the toilet. The opening word is an onomatopoetic rendering of a "posterior blast", and sets the scene early on for much of what is to follow! The story reminded me of A Confederacy of Dunces - an antisocial physically awkward individual finds himself thrust into the everyday world with disastrous but amusing consequences. This story is less farcical than the latter (notwithstanding the opening line!) and has much witty wordplay. I really enjoyed this and found myself chortling out loud on the train on a number of occasions. 4/5

Edited: Dec 1, 2013, 3:59am

268. Slow Man - J.M. Coetzee. After an accident Paul Reyment has to come to terms with losing a leg. This is my sixth Coetzee from the List, and like the previous five the writing is very skilful. Where most of the others let me down was that they were dull and/or depressing. This is neither. When Elizabeth Costello the fictional Australian authoress who forms the centre of another Coetzee List novel arrives unexpectedly on the scene the novel develops into a sort of metafiction as the authoress and Reyment strive to direct Reyment's future. 3.5/5

Dec 5, 2013, 5:05pm

269. The Roots of Heaven - Romain Gary. Various characters recall their encounters with Morel, a Frenchman dedicated to saving the herds of elephants in Chad. I enjoyed the descriptions of the locations that this story is set in. While the readers sympathies are steered towards Morel and his elephants, the novel presents man's relationship with elephants from many perspectives - as symbols of unbounded freedom, as impediments to development, as food, as trophies, as symbols of virility, as a source of cash, as entertainment for tourists, as anachronisms etc and in turn the character of Morel is presented as a hero, a villain, a naive idealist and a mad fool. Thought-provoking. 4/5

Edited: Dec 6, 2013, 2:12pm

270. The Conquest of New Spain - Bernal Diaz del Castillo. An eyewitness account of Cortes' remarkable defeat of the vast armies of Montezuma with a few hundred Conquistadores. The book was written to balance the more colourful histories written by others (esp Gomara), and to outline the contribution of the ordinary soldiers. As such it is largely unembellished facts, yet this tale of heroism, luck, loyalty and greed is still one of history's most amazing stories and proof that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction. 3.5/5

Edited: Dec 21, 2013, 2:33pm

271. The Shadow Line - Joseph Conrad. A young man in charge of his first ship finds it becalmed and diseased, with the boat's plight blamed on the curse of the previous captain. Another nicely written and atmospheric tale from Conrad. 3.5/5

Edited: Dec 18, 2013, 5:52am

272. Islands - Dan Sleigh. An historical semi-fiction detailing 60 years of Dutch occupation of the Cape and Mauritius from 1650 to 1710. A more mainstream book than many on the List. Sleigh is a researcher in the National Archives in Cape Town, South Africa, so the book is more detail than drama. The title refers to the quote "no man is an island, entire of itself" and alludes to the way the pioneers lives were continually interfered with by the Dutch East India Company and its appointed governors. I found the stories engrossing if inevitably grim. 4/5

Edited: Dec 21, 2013, 2:41pm

273. The Monastery - Sir Walter Scott. A Catholic Monastery tries to defend itself against the increasing influence of Protestants in the Border country of Scotland. Scott doesn't attempt to disguise his sympathises for the Protestant cause, with the Catholics painted as misguided at best. Add to this an arrogant English knight who speaks in the Euphuism style of John Lyly. and a ghost that sings in rhyming couplets, and you have a book that feels both dated and bigoted. 2.5/5

Edited: Dec 23, 2013, 8:17pm

274. Between The Acts - Virginia Woolf. A day at a country house in southern England at which the annual village pageant is being staged. Published posthumously, Woolf regarded this as her most quintessential book. Certainly it is similar to other Woolf novels I've read with numerous evocative and beautiful observations sprinkled through a narrative that isn't always easy to follow. There is much poetry in the dialogue as individuals reflect on the play they are observing. 3/5

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 2:34pm

275. The Man with the Golden Arm - Nelson Algren. Describes the activities of Frankie "Machine" Majcinek and his associates in the drinking and gambling dens of Chicago. The focus is on the struggle to survive amongst petty thieves, gamblers, alcoholics and drug-addicts in the gutters of this city and there are few uplifting/positive experiences. Algren describes all this in a very distinctive voice which is quite admirable, but the consistently depressing story wore me down. 2.5/5

Edited: Jan 3, 2014, 2:24pm

276. Castle Richmond - Anthony Trollope. The disputed inheritance of Castle Richmond switches between two cousins while they vie for the hand of a young titled lady. There are two stories in this - the aforementioned rivalry and title dispute, and the Irish Potato Famine. The former story is nicely told (Trollope's writing flows across the page) and has elements of The Woman in White with the validity of a wedding being the crucial point. The Irish Potato Famine on the other hand is given superficial treatment and has no bearing on the main plot. There must be some great novels dealing with the Famine but this isn't one of them. For the main plot though I'd rate this 3.5/5

Jan 10, 2014, 4:43am

277. The Wild Boys - William S Burroughs. A trippy combination of barely coherent images and gay porn fantasy. There were a handful of pages that made some sense and provided a bit of entertainment but overall 1/5

Jan 10, 2014, 4:36pm

278. Caught - Henry Green. Published in 1943, this book follows the life of a station of volunteer fire fighters during the Blitz. The personal lives of the characters overrides the routine of operations in the station, and it is only in the last few pages that the drama of the fire-fighting is described. Initially a little difficult to get in to due to odd phrasing and sudden time shifts, it develops in to an interesting character study. 3/5

Jan 14, 2014, 11:43pm

279. Pepita Jimenez - Juan Valera. A young candidate for priesthood visits his father and finds himself falling in love with his father's intended, Pepita Jimenez. The plot of this story is fairly simple and predictable. It is the structure of the book that makes it more interesting - a series of increasingly desperate letters from the young man to his mentor uncle which terminate abruptly and are then followed by a third party narrative of what occured next. 3/5

Jan 15, 2014, 5:08pm

280. The Manor - Isaac Bashevis Singer. Life among Jews in Poland in the late nineteenth century. This was a vey well written story with a nice sense of place and time, and informative about the culture of conservative Jews in Poland. Many of the story lines remain open at the end of this book and I'd be keen to seek out the (non-List) sequel, The Estate. 4/5

Jan 31, 2014, 1:19am

281. Blaming - Elizabeth Taylor. Amy tries to come to terms with the death of her husband. A nicely written book - very English, genteel and melancholy. There is also a poignancy knowing this book about death and guilt was written as the author was dying. Recommended. 4/5

Feb 2, 2014, 4:54pm

282. Looking for the Possible Dance - A.L. Kennedy. A woman on a train from Glasgow to London reminisces about her relationships with her father and her lover. Snatches of conversations and memories, and an often difficult relationship with her lover, made this hard to connect with for much of the book. However I did find bits I could relate to. 3/5

Feb 7, 2014, 5:23am

283. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks. A young British officer tries to cope with life in the trenches of WW1, and a passionate affair he had some years earlier.

This is certainly an ambitious novel, combining a number of genres (romance, military, historical detective, and a hint of "chick lit") and stories three generations apart. Sometimes the ambition overwhelms the story and there are aspects that seem to be rushed. I particularly found the ending a bit heavy handed - the rescue of Stephen by a German soldier who happens to be Jewish, the family secrets that come out after 40 years and the "home delivery". However I thought the military parts were quite gripping and there were parts that were particularly moving - the letters written by soldiers prior to the first day on the Somme, the conversation in the tunnel between Stephen and Jack.

Overall the book worked for me - 3.5/5

Feb 11, 2014, 3:06am

284. Harriet Hume - Rebecca West. Follows the developing relationship between Harriet Hume, a clairvoyant musician, and Arthur Condorex, an ambitious politician. Despite having only two characters of note, and being told in the form of long conversations with sometimes strangely phrased stream-of-consciousness narrative, I quite enjoyed this. West's writing is both subtly witty and evocative, with blurring between fantasy and reality that maintains interest. 3.5/5

Feb 11, 2014, 9:41am

would recommend The Return of the SOldier by her too if you haven't read it which will complement Birdsong.

Feb 11, 2014, 1:13pm

It's somewhere in the big tbr pile. The Birds Fall Down will be my next West as part of the 1001 Unread Challenge.

Feb 16, 2014, 5:26am

285. The Plumed Serpent - D.H. Lawrence. An Irish woman in Mexico is caught up in the revival of the Aztec cult of Quetzalcoatl. On the positive side Lawrence describes scenes and places vividly and that aspect of the book I enjoyed. As for the rest... the religious aspects are dense, dull and slightly silly, Mexicans are seen as cruel and lazy, and women can only exist as subservient to men. Glad its over with. 2/5

Feb 21, 2014, 6:11pm

286. Lanark: A Life in 4 Books - Alasdair Gray. As the title says, this book describes the life of a man called Lanark, in four books. It is the varied styles and structures of these books that makes this book interesting. It opens with Book 3, an imaginative dystopian piece of science-fiction, reminiscent of Pynchon's Against the Day. Books 1 and 2 describe the life of boy/youth growing up in Glasgow. Book 4 and an Epilogue return to the world of Book 3, and include metafiction and freeway signs. While Lanark is not a sympathetic protagonist, I enjoyed the twists and turns. 4/5

Feb 22, 2014, 4:35am

Nice, I've been thinking of reading Lanark at some point.

Feb 27, 2014, 5:01am

287. Journey to the West - Wu Ch'eng-en. A monk, with three disciples called Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand make a pilgrimage from China to India to collect some sacred Buddhist texts. I read the 1,385 page Kindle version, abridged from the "definitive" translation of 2,346 pages but longer than the popular Waley 350 page version. Having read this, it certainly lends itself to serious abridgement.

The first 150 pages give background to how the four travellers came together, and the last 50 pages concludes their trip. The 1,200 pages in the middle document one long series of encounters with demons, most of which follow a similar pattern. It is revealed at the end that the 81 encounters have some religious significance but if you don't care to go through each one you could quite happily read Waley and still get the substance of the story. 2.5/5 (would likely have been higher for a more abridged version).

Mar 7, 2014, 4:23am

288. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace. Revolves around a junior tennis academy, a halfway house for drug addicts next door and a video which is fatal to anyone who watches it.

The first thing to say about this book is that it demands an investment of time and concentration. It is over 1000 pages long, but with small typeface, sparing use of paragraphs, 100 pages of distracting footnotes and frequent use of words you've never seen before and will likely never see again, it reads closer to 2000 pages.

I found the first 200 pages hard going, not helped by a made-up calendar that isn't explained until page 230. However after that pieces of the jigsaw fell in to place. There were passages that were very amusing, others that are disturbingly graphic, and much that was rambling. Is it worth it? Maybe. 3/5

Mar 11, 2014, 11:14pm

289. Threepenny Novel - Bertolt Brecht. A number of businessmen try to outwit each other in London around 1900. A wry attack against free enterprise at its most corrupt and immoral. Much more readable than I'd expected. 3/5

Mar 11, 2014, 11:56pm

Huh. I've never even heard of this and instinctively thought you meant The Threepenny Opera. I can't help wondering if someone wasn't just desperate to get a playwright past the 1001 criteria.

Mar 12, 2014, 6:36am

#216. Yes, the "Novel" is adapted from the "Opera". I haven't seen/read the latter, but the book seems worthy enough of a place on the 1001 List - a kind of Dickensian tale of obscene corruption, with an underlying dark humour/satire. This was the only novel that Brecht completed.

Mar 21, 2014, 11:46pm

290. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame - Victor Hugo. A story of love and betrayal set around the cathedral of Notre-Dame in the late 15th century. I thoroughly enjoyed this. The central story is very operatic - exaggerated characters, doomed love, tragic reunions, revenge..., and there are few writers who can match Hugo for setting a scene. Hugos' signature asides slow the pace at the start, but second half is story-telling at its best. 4.5/5

Mar 24, 2014, 4:15am

291. Trawl - B.S. Johnson. A man volunteers to join the crew of a North Sea trawler so he can reflect on his life. Life on a trawler was nicely described - you could feel each roll and lurch - and the incomplete reminiscences were easy enough to read. However I failed to really connect the two, and only reason for the main character to be on a trawler seemed to be to enable a play on the word "trawl" (physical v mental). 3/5

Mar 25, 2014, 11:39pm

292. The Midnight Examiner - William Kotzwinkle. The staff of Chameleon Publications (publisher of a number of sensational tabloids, including The Midnight Examiner) find themselves mixed up with the Mafia after a couple of their colleagues are kidnapped. An amusing story full of eccentric characters. 3.5/5

Edited: Apr 1, 2014, 4:57am

293. Downriver - Iain Sinclair. A nightmarish vision of the East End of London. Sinclair writes in a challenging narrative style so it is difficult to follow what plot there might be here. However he does successfully create an atmosphere of London in decay, filled with seedy characters, and the Thames mud oozes through every page. Some of the prose is clever, but much of it feels too much like hard work. 2/5

Apr 4, 2014, 6:17am

294. The Birds Fall Down - Rebecca West. Laura, the 18 year old granddaughter of an exiled Russian Count, finds herself caught up with a revolutionary and a double agent on the eve of the Russian Revolution. The slow pace and verbose narrative take this beyond what might be called a thriller, but tension pervades through much of the book and it is a bit of a "page-turner". 3/5

Apr 7, 2014, 6:47am

295. There but for the - Ali Smith. Miles, a guest at a dinner party locks himself in a spare room and stays there for months. I liked the premise of this story, but found the execution both intriguing and frustrating in that it deals with four peripheral characters in Miles' life and never overtly deals with the motivations for his act. Somewhat childish wordplay permeates the novel and it didn't find that entertaining either. 2.5/5

Apr 10, 2014, 6:37am

296. A Gate at the Stairs - Lorrie Moore. Student Tassie moves from a farm in the Midwest to a college town where she becomes a nanny. I really liked Moore's writing style and even though the characters lives become OTT as the book progresses, this was an enjoyable read with many beautiful observations on life. 3.5/5

Apr 12, 2014, 9:22pm

297. Brighton Rock - Graham Greene. Pinkie, the young leader of a gang in Brighton, murders a man and is relentlessly pursued by Ida, a woman who had just met the victim. A pursuit tale overlaid by confused morality. Greene's obsession with Catholicism, good versus evil, absolution versus damnation is present throughout. 3.5/5

Apr 16, 2014, 6:57pm

298. Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry. Revolves around a Parsi family living in Bombay, and its ailing patriarch. One mark of a good book is that you are constantly tempted to skip ahead to see how characters and situations resolve themselves. This was one such book for me. Mistry treats his characters with great affection even in their petty meanness, and you end up caring about them all. The only disappointment was the Epilogue which didn't produce the warm and fuzzy conclusion the rest of the book seemed to be leading to. However overall I really enjoyed this book. 4/5

Apr 17, 2014, 10:31am

I read A Fine Balance before Family Matters and was struck by the difference between Eastern and Western storytelling. There's a more authentic representation of life as not being happy all the time and that it shouldn't be expected to be happy. While it goes against my Hollywood-indoctrinated brain that everyone lives happily ever after, I also find it refreshing.

Apr 17, 2014, 11:15am

I suppose I shouldn't look for happy endings in a List book!

Apr 17, 2014, 11:40am

Ha ha ha! They are pretty scarce!

Apr 18, 2014, 10:28pm

299. The Light of Day - Graham Swift. A private detective reflects on his relationship with a female client now in prison for murder. Told over the course of a day, with numerous disparate flashbacks, this is a slow, introspective story. The structure is skilful and there are many wonderful phrases. 3.5/5

Edited: Apr 29, 2014, 6:41pm

300. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy. Anna Karenina has an intense and ultimately doomed affair with Count Vronsky. There are parts of this novel that drag a bit, particularly the philosophy of the Russian agricultural system, but other parts are so absorbing you don't want them to end. The writing throughout is superb. 3.5/5

Apr 29, 2014, 6:56pm

Congrats on reaching 300!

Apr 30, 2014, 11:33am

Yes, congrats on 300!! Your last two were big favorites of mine, although admittedly I haven't read Anna since I was in college and maybe I skipped over those bits about the Russian agricultural system!

Apr 30, 2014, 11:54am

particularly the philosophy of the Russian agricultural system

I think I'm one of the 12 people in the world who found all that stuff really interesting!

Apr 30, 2014, 3:26pm

Thanks for that. Still over 700 to go though!

annamorphic, I note that by pure coincidence The Light of Day was your 299th book also - what are the chances of that?!

Tolstoy uses Anna Karenina to expound on a number of issues that must have been of interest to Russians at the time - organisation of labour and division of wealth, emancipation of women, regional conflicts etc, as well as deeper philosophy re faith and the meaning of life. Like War and Peace I found the mix of drama and philosophy interesting, but at times in this book he seemed to favour the philosophical at the expense of progressing the story.

Apr 30, 2014, 3:34pm

You're right! Wow, that's strange.

May 1, 2014, 6:59pm

301. Nausea - Jean-Paul Sartre. A man keeps a diary of his experiences in a French city over a number of weeks. One of the founding texts of existentialism. This was a lot more approachable than I expected, and I enjoyed his detailed descriptions of the town, the paintings in a museum etc. Other parts were more obscure and less interesting. Overall 2.5/5

May 2, 2014, 6:08pm

302. The Professor's House - Willa Cather. An academic reflects on his relationship with his family as they seek to move to a modern new house. There are two distinct stories - the increasingly unhappy relationship between the Professor and his materialistic family, and the story of an idealistic young man that the Professor had known many years before. Nicely told even if nothing much happens. 3/5

May 6, 2014, 6:54pm

303. American Rust - Philipp Meyer. Two young men in a depressed steel town commit an act of violence that will change their lives. The crime occurs early in the novel and the rest of the book deals with the consequences for the two young men and their families. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters and vary in style. All however deal with regret, loyalty and stymied ambitions. On a macro level the book also deals with the impact of mass redundancies in small industrial towns. A powerful, well written but largely depressing tale. 4/5

May 11, 2014, 6:54pm

304. Aaron's Rod - D. H. Lawrence. A miner deserts his young family to pursue a life as a musician. I found this a sterile read. The main character is a written as a cold and emotionless man, and I felt no sympathy for his actions. The actions and conversations of other characters seem forced/unreal. The latter stages of the novel in Florence were more interesting, but the philosophies expressed re relationships between men and women weren't ones I found persuasive. 2.5/5

May 14, 2014, 6:03am

305. Gosta Berling's Saga - Selma Lagerlof. A series of tales centred on Gosta Berling and the cavaliers of Ekeby Manor in Sweden. While written at the end of the 19th century the book feels much older as self-contained but related short tales are told in a mythical/legendary style. The tales collectively have a moral to them, but individually I found them a bit weak with little in the way of tension and excitement. However I enjoyed the atmosphere and setting. Probably a book better listened to by a fire on cold winter nights rather than read as a novel. 3/5

Edited: May 20, 2014, 7:21pm

306. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell. Six short stories told in very different styles ranging from 18th century diary of a Pacific voyage, through letters of a musician in the 1930s, an hilarious account of a publisher incarcerated in an aged-care facility, an investigative journalist being hunted by hitmen, a dystopian vision of Korea in the 22nd century and a tribe in Hawaii as the last vestiges of civilisation on post-apocalyptic earth.

I really, really enjoyed this. The writing is engaging, the stories entertaining, the structure imaginative. The links such as common birthmarks, references to Hawaii and escape from oppressors are there to stimulate a bit of thought, but I just enjoyed each story in its own right. My first five star book of the year. 5/5

May 20, 2014, 8:00pm

Oh, Cloud Atlas sounds good, and perhaps I should have taken it on my recent trip to Hawai'i. Oh well, I read Life of Pi while there, and it fit the Pacific mood I was in.

Bumping Cloud Atlas up the TBR pile.

May 20, 2014, 8:24pm

Hi Nickelini. Having spent a few weeks on various islands of Hawaii helped me particularly picture the scenes in the sixth story (set mainly on Big Island/Hawaii). Who would have guessed Maui could be the last refuge of civilisation on earth?!

May 20, 2014, 9:16pm

Ah, Maui. I'd hide out from the apocalypse there.

May 25, 2014, 6:07pm

307. The Counterfeiters - Andre Gide. Explores a web of relationships in Paris in the early twentieth century. Nothing much happens in this novel until the tragic closing pages, but I enjoyed Gide's writing. 3/5

May 29, 2014, 7:30pm

308. Snow - Orhan Pamuk. A poet returns to his home town of Kars in eastern Turkey just as tensions are rising between the secular and traditional Islamist populations. It is always interesting to read of cultures you are only vaguely aware of, and Pamuk offers insights in to both sides of the cultural divide between Muslims and "westerners" in this geographical crossroads. The pace of the book is slow to the point of laboured, but suits the melancholy outlook of the poet, and the ever present snow creates a unique feeling to the book. 3/5

Jun 2, 2014, 5:49pm

309. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou. An autobiography of her childhood to age 17. I thought I'd read this following all the publicity on her death last week. A nicely written autobiography. I had expected a depressing piece on poverty, violence and racism, and while all these elements are here throughout it is a surprisingly upbeat and quite entertaining book. 3/5

Jun 4, 2014, 12:29am

310. Billy Liar - Keith Waterhouse. Billy Fisher lives in a small Yorkshire town where his only escape is through inventing fantasies and comic banter. I enjoyed the humour in this book, but it also has a more serious side of an angst-ridden young man trapped in an environment he hates with no realistic opportunity of release. 3.5/5

Jun 10, 2014, 7:03pm

311. Night and Day - Virginia Woolf. A meditation on love and marriage as seen through the relationships of five young people. This was a more straightforward piece of writing than other Woolf's I've read, but like these the narrative is more about emotions, and there is little action. Some nicely observed phrases. 3/5

Edited: Jun 11, 2014, 1:55pm

>250 puckers: You've inspired me to give Woolf a try again. I've only read Mrs. Dalloway and it was a struggle. Maybe I could handle Night and Day.

Jun 11, 2014, 1:35pm

oh amaryann21, take a copy of The Waves into a quiet room and some soft cushions with nothing but the wind for background music. Lock the door and get lost in some of the most amazing literature the world has ever seen. Not all of Woolf is genius, but that surely is.

Jun 11, 2014, 1:55pm

>252 arukiyomi: I've heard good things about The Waves. I have to admit I'm intimidated.

Jun 11, 2014, 3:35pm

While Night and Day is more straightforward than other Woolf's I've read, being a chronological story with a majority of "normal" dialogue rather than interior monologue, it is quite long, and 500 pages of nothing really happening felt like a drag on occasions. So don't blame me if it is disappointing! Having said that I always find Woolf has some wonderfully observed phrases and I ended up jotting a few down in my diary for future reflection/entertainment. My favourite Woolf so far has been The Years - another long one, but I found her descriptions of some scenes so vivid I was fully placed in to them.

Jun 11, 2014, 3:44pm

The Waves can be intimidating, especially if you read it expecting to understand everything the first time. Woolf doesn't work like that (except for maybe Night and Day, which is my least favourite of hers--it's over-long). I read The Waves a few years ago and loved it, but there is so much I missed. Didn't worry about it though--I just let the art wash over me. I see my audiobook source has it, so I will probably listen to it sometime over the next few months. I'm sure it will make a little more sense this time. It really is beautiful.

Jun 14, 2014, 4:59pm

312. The Radetsky March - Joseph Roth. A soldier saves the life of Emperor Franz Joseph, and his descendants live in the shadow of "The Hero of Solferino". The writing is crisp and clear, and evokes an old monarchy relying on pomp and colourful parades while all individuals are filled with dissolution. The cover photo on the Penguin Classics edition is well chosen - a colourful but neglected military drum stuck in a dark hole. I enjoyed this. 4/5

Jun 18, 2014, 1:08am

313. Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy. A vision of hell set on the US-Mexican border in the mid nineteenth century. The novel concerns a group of outlaws who seek scalps for bounty but indiscriminately terrorise all locals - apparently based on fact - but it is the powerful vision of McCarthy that grips you. Here is an extremely violent hellish environment, with death, decay, fire, thirst and hunger on every page. The story revolves around "the kid", but it is "the judge" that controls this apocalyptic tale - a giant who comes out of the wilderness, preaches, plays with fire and brimstone, fiddles and dances, and remains indestructible while all around him die. A book that will stay with me for some time. 4.5/5

Jun 18, 2014, 12:27pm

hmmmm... good review. Got this sitting opposite me as I type and am very much looking forward to it.

Jun 20, 2014, 1:08am

314. The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells. Martians attack London. The novelty of the earliest of the alien invasion stories has worn off over the years, and our knowledge of Mars eliminates its credibility. However I found this to be well written and vividly described, and the tension builds nicely. 3.5/5

Jun 29, 2014, 6:45pm

315. Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon. At the close of WWII, an American officer and an international cast of characters hunt down a secret rocket coded 00000. If only it were that simple! I found much of this book a surreal, barely coherent ramble. More lucid parts were amusing and occasionally moving, but this was not an enjoyable experience for me. 2/5

Jul 2, 2014, 5:58pm

316. Arrow of God - Chinua Achebe. Ezuelu, a traditional African priest, finds himself compromised by the demands of the British administration under Captain Winterbottom. The bulk of the story offers insights into the traditions of the Igbo society, but the tension comes from the seemingly minor but ultimately devastating request for a meeting between Ezuelu and Winterbottom. Achebe presents the mismatch of expectations and the moral dilemmas in an admirably balanced way. 3.5/5

Edited: Jul 4, 2014, 1:24am

317. Notes from the Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky. A bitter irritable sociopath tells the story of his relationships with various acquaintances. A short book split in to two parts; the first is an existential ramble/lecture while the second fleshes his views out with examples from his earlier life. The style is very readable while some of his feelings strike a familiar chord. 3.5/5

Jul 6, 2014, 6:04pm

318. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath. Sylvia Plath's semi-autobiographical account of a teenage girl's descent into mental illness and attempted suicide. It sounds like it should be a grim tale, but Plath writes in a straightforward yet beautiful way that makes this an easy and engaging read. 4/5

Jul 10, 2014, 6:51pm

319. Rob Roy - Sir Walter Scott. Frank Osbaldistone, a young Englishman, is sent by his father to the North of England where he finds himself caught up with rebels on the eve of the 1715 rebellion. This was very well written novel - nicely paced, with a good mix of drama, suspense, humour and reflection. Many conversations contain large amounts of Scottish dialect which might tax the patience of some, but overall a really enjoyable read. 4.5/5

Edited: Jul 12, 2014, 8:32am

320. Barabbas - Par Lagerkvist. Follows the life of Barabbas after he is released instead of Christ. I approached this from the perspective of a church-going Christian. The name of Barabbas would be heard in every church in the world on Good Friday as he is the condemned man released by Pilate rather than Christ, yet he is never seen in any passage of the Bible. Consequently Lagerkvist is given free rein in building a character study of a man seeking to understand the faith of the very first Christians. An interesting and intriguing speculation. 3/5

Jul 12, 2014, 6:36am

sounds like this should be the follow up to Life of Christ by Giovanni Papini which I'm about 2/3 of the way through as part of my responsibility for helping us read all the 1001 books.

Edited: Jul 12, 2014, 6:37am


Jul 12, 2014, 8:51am

Lagerkvist apparently had somewhat conflicted relationship with Christianity, and it shows in his books too, they are the definition of "Christ-haunted". I enjoyed Barabbas back when I read it for 1001, and have since read six more books by him...

Jul 12, 2014, 1:06pm

hmmm... have you read Silence by Shusako Endo or something like The Power and the Glory by Greene? Plenty of conflicted Christianity in those excellent novels.

Jul 12, 2014, 3:09pm

Yeah, I know them both, and continue with Flannery o'Connor and Georges Bernanos. And I was commenting about it to a friend, how Christian spirituality tends to be quite positive and uplifting but better Christian fiction is often quite vicious...

Jul 13, 2014, 5:02am

#269 This is a major theme for Greene - The Heart of the Matter and Brighton Rock deal with conflicted Catholics, both of which I enjoyed.

#270 I suppose conflict and questioning makes for more interesting story lines and sells more books than "straightforward" positive Christianity

Jul 15, 2014, 1:21am

321. The Accidental - Ali Smith. An uninvited guest involves herself with four members of a fractured family over a summer vacation. There were certain similarities to There But For The which was a Group Read earlier in the year - a strange individual taking up residence in a house and causing changes in various characters. Like that book I felt the idea was more interesting than the execution, and there were no characters I felt any great sympathy for. Clever structure and writing, but not particularly entertaining. 3/5

Jul 18, 2014, 9:33pm

322. The Colour - Rose Tremain. Newly wed immigrants get caught up in the gold rush of New Zealand in the 1860s. I loved Tremain's writing; she has a wonderful descriptive style, but also gets deep inside the heads of her various characters. A mainly sad tale, but it gripped me for the full length of the book. 5/5

Jul 23, 2014, 4:49am

323. Rabbit is Rich - John Updike. Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is settling in to grumpy middle age. This is the third "Rabbit" I have read, including the non-List Rabbit at Rest, and I've enjoyed them all. Rabbit is not a likeable person - self-absorbed, over-sexed, arguing with his wife and mother-in-law, and constantly putting down his fragile son. However Updike writes him in a totally absorbing way (notwithstanding a bit too much wrinkly sex) and you inhabit his world so thoroughly that you end up allowing him a bit of grudging respect 4/5

Jul 23, 2014, 4:01pm

When I joined this group a little over two years ago my initial project was to read all the List books in my local public library. With the completion of Rabbit is Rich I've achieved that goal at last and so will now be moving on to tackling the 600+ books on the shelves at home. My wife will be pleased!

Jul 23, 2014, 4:38pm

That's fantastic! Congratulations! That is kind of my goal, but in reverse. I thought I'd try to tackle the books at home first.

Jul 23, 2014, 6:02pm

Finishing the library books appeared achievable. I'm less certain about ever finishing the books at home!

Jul 24, 2014, 8:30am

well, me too, but I can always dream.

Jul 25, 2014, 4:55pm

324. The Midwich Cuckoos - John Wyndham. A village is cut off from the outside world and then discovers all females in the village are pregnant. The idea was interesting, but I found this a bit dated in its attitudes, and unrealistic (I know it's science fiction but I like to feel it could happen in the way described and the almost complete ignorance/indifference of the wider world did not seem credible). An OK read though. 3/5

Edited: Jul 25, 2014, 9:05pm

>279 puckers: Yeah, The Midwich Cuckoos is the weakest of the Wyndham's I've read. I thought they should have put his The Chrysalids on the list instead. On the other hand, if you haven't read The day of the triffids yet, I can definitely recommend that one!

Jul 25, 2014, 10:24pm

I liked the movie. :)

Jul 29, 2014, 4:55am

325. Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid - Malcolm Lowry. A semi-fictionalised account of a cathartic trip by Lowry to Mexico with his second wife. Constructed posthumously from notebooks left by Lowry, this is a rambling tale of alcoholism and ghosts of his past. His descriptions of scenes in Mexico are nicely done. 3/5

Jul 30, 2014, 3:54am

>274 puckers: Good to hear you liked the Rabbit-books. I thought the first one a bit disappointing, but I agree with you about Updike's style and will probably enjoy the next parts.

Jul 31, 2014, 7:49am

326. Felicia's Journey - William Trevor. A naïve Irish girl travels to the Midlands to find the father of her unborn child, but is taken in by the creepy Mr Hilditch. As with most good horror/mysteries, the best bits are in the set-up, and there is almost unbearable sinister tension in the first two thirds of this book as Hilditch sets his snares. The final third has less tension as more is revealed, but I enjoyed Trevor's writing throughout. 4/5

Jul 31, 2014, 1:47pm

I remember hating Felicia's Journey when I read it a few years ago but I just saw a movie adapation and really liked the story.

Jul 31, 2014, 4:32pm

The book is in some ways a painful read, like a slow motion train wreck, and I kept willing Felicia to do something sensible. I should check out the movie.

Jul 31, 2014, 9:44pm

I think she is even more naïve in the movie! I did rather want to climb through the screen and give her a shake or two.

Aug 6, 2014, 5:11am

327. Great Apes - Will Self. Simon Dykes wakes one morning to find himself and everyone else changed into chimpanzees. I didn't warm to this book initially but, like Simon, I gradually got to believe the unusual language and behaviour of the chimps was normal and there was some humour in the role reversal with humans (e.g. The reintroduction of captive bred humans to the wild!). 3/5

Aug 7, 2014, 7:42am

328. The Summer Book - Tove Jansson. Sophie, her father and grandmother spend a summer on a tiny island off the coast of Finland. I found this a pleasant read without reaching the heights that other reviews had implied. The relationship between Sophie and her grandmother is at the heart of the book (there being little drama to be found on an island you can walk round in minutes) and I found this lacked the warmth I was looking for. 3/5

Aug 16, 2014, 8:52pm

329. Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner. The story of Thomas Sutpen and his family in the Deep South of the US in the mid nineteenth century. Each time I went to recommence reading of this book I felt intimidated by the dense pages of typeface that were in prospect (including one of the longest sentences in literature at 1287 words). However within a few lines I found myself swept up in Faulkner's magical prose. A slow burner of a book with twists revealing other perspectives of this fascinating story. Requires some concentration, but hugely rewarding read. 5/5

Aug 24, 2014, 12:17am

330. The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy. Centres on the ill-fated marriage of Clym Yeobright and Eustacia Vye at Egdon Heath. This is my third Hardy, and the one I've enjoyed most so far. The characters are interesting and the location atmospheric. 3.5/5

Aug 26, 2014, 6:14pm

331. Mr Vertigo - Paul Auster. The rise and fall (literally) of a boy who learns how to levitate. The book started out like the sort of story I enjoy - quirky characters doing unusual things. However the bulk of the book is fairly straightforward, lineal and mainstream - entertaining without being outstanding. 3.5/5

Aug 29, 2014, 11:15pm

332. Coming Up For Air - George Orwell. George Bowling is fearful of the imminent war (written in 1939) and looks back fondly on his childhood village life. Orwell writes in such detail about childhood at the start of the 1900s that you get a sense that this is an autobiography. A wonderful sense of place and time and, being of a similar age to Orwell's hero, I could empathise with his futile efforts to visit his old haunts to recapture those simpler times. 3.5/5

Sep 9, 2014, 7:18pm

333. The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot. Follows the conflicting relationships between high-spirited Maggie Tulliver and the three young men in her life. George Eliot's writing is quite beautiful throughout, though I found this book suffered a little from Victorian wordiness. The ending on the other hand, which I didn't see coming, was disappointingly brief. However overall a superior "classic". 3.5/5

Edited: Sep 12, 2014, 12:33am

334. Against Nature - J.-K. Huysmans. Debauched and disillusioned Duc Jean des Esseintes locks himself away in an isolated mansion where he indulges his peculiar tastes in books, colours, perfumes etc. Even though there is virtually no plot, I enjoyed parts of this book where he indulges his specific tastes in minute detail. Other parts, for example his critiques of religious writers and poets, meant nothing to me and were a bit boring. An interesting book though being largely focused on one person in one location. 3/5

Sep 15, 2014, 6:26pm

335. Neuromancer - William Gibson. Case, a computer hacker, agrees to a dangerous job in cyberspace in exchange for a cure for his damaged nerves. Gibson creates a fascinating world of bionically modified characters and virtual reality. Despite being 30 years old Gibson's vision of worldwide connectivity doesn't feel dated and while much of the story passes in a whirl of jargon and images, it is a fun ride. 3.5/5

Sep 26, 2014, 12:39am

336. The Ground Beneath Her Feet - Salman Rushdie. A passionate love between two singers that lasts for a lifetime and beyond. There is no doubting Rushdie's writing skills nor the depth of the cultural knowledge that is mined in this book. However I found he tended to waffle around in circles for much of this book so I didn't engage with the characters and therefore the global adulation didn't seem believable. The story picked up in the closing 100 pages and saved this from a lower rating. 3/5

Sep 28, 2014, 7:07pm

337. Season of Migration to the North- Tayeb Salih. A young man returns from Europe to his village in Sudan, where he meets a similar "ex pat" who has settled in the village. Emphasises the destructive power of cross-cultural experiences without being as explicit as Achebe. This is not a book that lays out everything for you so you are left questioning parts of what you read, and the motives/actions of the various characters. Interesting, but I didn't get as caught up in it as other reviewers. 3/5

Sep 30, 2014, 12:40am

338. Evelina - Fanny Burney. A sheltered, disinherited young lady has her first outing to London where she encounters a number of relations and suitors. Told in letter form, I enjoyed this much more than Clarissa (which was written around the same time and follows a similar format) partly because of the shorter length, but mainly because of the picaresque humour. Like Clarissa the naivety of the young heroine is frustrating at times, but presumably reflects how significantly less informed and empowered young ladies of the 18th century were. 4/5

Oct 2, 2014, 6:53pm

339. Bel-Ami - Guy de Maupassant. A young man sleeps his way to the top. This is a very straightforward read, a linear story with little reflection, written in readable and engaging language. Duroy, the young man at the centre of the story, is a shallow, ambitious and conniving character with few redeeming features yet somehow you don't really dislike him because almost all the other characters are equally unscrupulous. 3.5/5

Edited: Oct 6, 2014, 6:33pm

340. Paradise of the Blind - Duong Thu Huong. A family is torn apart by blood loyalties against the background of the revolution in Vietnam. I was disappointed with this book; it contains minimal historical background to the events of the revolution and the writing stirs little emotion in the reader. The only time she shows some believable passion is in the description of food and feasts. Not a bad or difficult book, but not much to get enthusiastic about. 3/5

Oct 7, 2014, 6:17pm

341. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut. A journalist ("Call me Jonah" is the opening line) tracks down the children of an inventor of the atomic bomb to The Republic of San Lorenzo. A tale of the end of the world told in Vonnegut's deadpan humorous style. I enjoyed this. 4/5

Oct 21, 2014, 5:36pm

342. Gargantua and Pantagruel - Francois Rabelais. Adventures of the giant Gargantua and his son Pantagruel. You could see how this influenced James Joyce - obscure words and references to legends, with religious satire and numerous references to bodily functions. I found parts amusing in a schoolboy humour way, but like most early literature it goes on a bit and, as the translator says in his introduction "the final chapters....are so dull that it would be charitable to ascribe them to another hand"! 2.5/5

Edited: Oct 23, 2014, 12:34am

343. Disappearance - David Dabydeen. A Guyanan engineer stays with an elderly widow in a small English coastal village while supervising the construction of a defensive sea wall. The various layers of this story weren't always clear to me - colonialism, anger, secrets of the past, repentance - but I enjoyed the writing. 3/5

Oct 23, 2014, 3:20am

"the final chapters....are so dull that it would be charitable to ascribe them to another hand"!

Oh My. That is a a truly devasting comment!

Oct 24, 2014, 11:44am

G&P is one of the very worst books on the list for so many reasons.

Oct 24, 2014, 8:22pm

Is G&P that bad? It's probably a good thing that I read it in graduate school and was only looking for instances of paradox and feigning. If you can call that "reading" (and I do!).

Oct 29, 2014, 12:58am

344. Tarzan of the Apes - Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan is brought up by apes before meeting his first humans as a young adult. I enjoyed this much more than I expected. Yes, it is old fashioned and implausible, but very entertaining and the bittersweet ending was a surprise (and no "Me Tarzan, you Jane"). 4/5

Oct 30, 2014, 7:54am

345. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John le Carre. George Smiley is brought out of retirement to track down a mole at the top of British Intelligence. I thoroughly enjoyed this spy thriller. A little confusing at the start with many characters and much spy jargon, but the novel focuses on a handful of key characters as it progresses, and there is heart-thumping tension in the final chapters. 4.5/5

Oct 30, 2014, 6:27pm

I was, as you were, surprised by Tarzan. It's one I think more people should read. Quite the page turner in fact.

Oct 30, 2014, 7:21pm

I was brought up on the Johnny Weissmuller shows on the BBC in the 1970s and so was expecting something very corny, and Boxall's book implies its a sexist relic, but like you I found it to both a rollicking adventure (mutiny, buried treasure, cannibals - whats not to like?!) and also quite thoughtful and touching in parts.

Edited: Nov 6, 2014, 5:07pm

346. Mercier and Camier - Samuel Beckett. Two men make several attempts to go on a journey. This is very reminiscent of Waiting for Godot (the play) - two tramp-like men talking at length about doing something without actually doing much at all. There is more action in this story, and other characters, but this book is mainly about Beckett's distinctive humorous philosophical voices. 4/5

Nov 19, 2014, 3:07am

347. Mao II - Don DeLillo. A reclusive novelist allows a photographer in to his hideaway. This reminds me a bit of Underworld - an attempt to deal with big issues (celebrity, terrorism, cults, to name a few) through the eyes of a handful of people. DeLillo's original and at times startling phrases and structures make this book worth reading. At times he gets a bit too obscure and deep for me to follow, but other images are striking, and his description of the Hillsborough disaster was so moving I had to take a break from the book. 3.5/5

Nov 21, 2014, 8:07am

348. The Grass is Singing - Doris Lessing. The story of a disintegrating marriage and a disintegrating mind set in rural Rhodesia. A beautifully written novel in which you get inside the head of a deeply racist and disappointed woman. 4/5.

Nov 24, 2014, 1:47pm

349. In the Forest - Edna O'Brien. A psychopathic young man terrorises a rural neighbourhood. Based on a true crime, this is a disturbing read. In contrast to the typical psychopath of novels who hides unsuspected in the community, O'Kane is a merciless insane criminal who everyone, including the police, is afraid of and therefore there is little done to protect the young woman and child who are the ultimate victims of his fury. Not a comfortable read. 2.5/5

Nov 24, 2014, 2:25pm

I'm not sure what it says about me, but I immediately requested In the Forest based on your review. Is it thriller, horror, suspense, psychological?

Edited: Nov 24, 2014, 3:13pm

If you know the outline of the facts it is based on there isn't much suspense - just horror/disgust. Lots of bad language, but the physical violence is understated leaving it to your disturbed imagination to fill in the gaps. Enjoy!

Edited: Dec 1, 2014, 4:30pm

350. The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James. Free-spirited Isabel Archer travels to Europe with her aunt where she marries an oppressive older man. Much of the book is taken up with drawing room conversation and interior monologue and James' writing is dense, but quite readable. The characters in this book are so fascinating though that you forgive James his verbosity. 4/5

Dec 2, 2014, 4:01pm

This is one of those books that I've read (and not so very long ago) and realised that I cannot remember at all. But I'm pretty sure that I liked it.

Dec 2, 2014, 4:51pm

351. The Cement Garden - Ian McEwan. Four children are left to their own devices when both their parents die. I didn't dislike this like a number of other Group members have. There are a few uncomfortable "shock" moments, but for the most part the book drifts along aimlessly, much like the lives of the children in the story. 2.5/5

Dec 2, 2014, 5:44pm

I just have to ask, did you read Les Miserables on your iPhone?????

I loaned my Kindle out in August, so have just read several books on my phone, including Great Expectations but somehow, Les Miserables seems like the ultimate iPhone feat.

Nice nutshell reviews. I hated The Elegance of the Hedgehog, thought it beyond pretentious, but then I am still trying to understand phenomenology so maybe it was just over my head.

House of Mirth is so grand I wish I could read it over and over for the first time. I guess if a I wait long enough, senility will permit me that joy.

Dec 2, 2014, 6:16pm

Les Miserables was a Kindle read, but I did tackle The Count of Monte Cristo on the iPhone which kept me going for a few months. Since I got a Kindle my iPhone is a "last resort" reading experience (generally only if I'm stuck in a waiting room somewhere). I'm currently about 2/3rds of the way through Babbit, which I started in January 2014. Fortunately it is the sort of book you can leave off for months at a time without losing too much momentum.

Dec 10, 2014, 1:57am

352. Orlando - Virginia Woolf. A journey through 400 years of British (London) history with ageless sex-changing Orlando. More fantasy than usual with Woolf, and more intrusion by the narrator, but this was a fun, witty and at times thought-provoking historical pseudo-biography. 3.5/5

Dec 17, 2014, 5:32pm

353. Buddenbrooks - Thomas Mann. Charts the declining fortunes of the Buddenbrooks over four generations in 19th century Germany. I had imagined that Mann would be difficult to read (after all he is a Nobel prize winner AND German!). However this turned out to be a very readable sweeping family melodrama, albeit with a melancholy tone. 3.5/5

Dec 17, 2014, 9:34pm

354. The Lusiads - Luis Vaz de Camoes. An "epic poem" about the discovery of India by Vasco da Gama. This is certainly epic, with all the ancient Gods involved in aiding and abetting Gama. Gama and various Portuguese kings are made out to be flawless and God-like while all his opponents and other cultures are backward and evil. There is a lot of repetition and arrogance in the poem, and you certainly need to take advantage of the numerous footnotes (though in my version these were as fawning about Camoes as the poem is about Gama). Not really my thing, but I can understand its historical "greatness" and its place on the List. 1.5/5

Dec 18, 2014, 6:59am

I liked Buddenbrooks, it was my first Thomas Mann and I had no idea what to expect. I also only had 3 days to read it so I was very pleased that it was an easy read.

Dec 19, 2014, 3:20pm

355. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark. Jean Brodie is an unconventional teacher who seeks to broaden the knowledge of a group of six girls. I was anticipating a standard "unconventional teacher wins the hearts of her pupils and the grudging respect of the other teachers" type of story, but this was more thought-provoking than that. Jean Brodie comes across as self-centred and obsessive, and while the girls are given more freedom to experience new things, you wonder whether they are any less "brainwashed" than students doing the standard curriculum. 3/5

Edited: Dec 22, 2014, 4:59pm

356. A Handful of Dust -Evelyn Waugh. A satire on the bored moneyed upper class in 1930s England. Frightfully English, mildly amusing and a macabre twist in the closing pages. 3/5

Dec 22, 2014, 6:09pm

#327, now you need to see the fantastic movie of Miss Jean Brodie with Maggie Smith. It's interestingly different from the book.

Dec 23, 2014, 6:16pm

I though the movie of Miss Jean Brodie was slightly lesser than the book (which I loved), but Maggie Smith is indeed giving one of the top performances I have ever seen in any movie.

Dec 23, 2014, 7:32pm

Thanks guys. Must check it out.

357. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson. Semi(?)-autobiographical account of a girl being brought up by a strongly evangelical Christian mother discovering her lesbian sexuality. A quirky and entertaining story with strong eccentric female characters. The basic plot means this book could have been a lot grimmer than it was. 3.5/5

Dec 28, 2014, 2:20am

358. Therese Raquin - Emile Zola. An adulterous affair leads to murder and a life a misery. Reminded me a bit of Crime and Punishment but the emotions in this were a bit over the top throughout. 3/5.

Jan 6, 2015, 12:01am

359. Sula - Toni Morrison. The story of two childhood friends from the 1900s to the 1960s. There is a lot packed in to this short book yet it doesn't feel rushed. There are interesting peripheral characters that I feel could have had more told about them, but then the novel would have tended to "sprawling". 3/5

Jan 19, 2015, 2:49am

A new year and a new project. Having completed the List books in my local library in 2014, this year I intend to concentrate on the TBR pile in my shed, reading one book by every author there, alphabetically by author. There will be inevitable diversions but hopefully by around 2020 I should reach Zweig's Chess Story and return to the As again. Its a plan....

First cab off the rank is:

360. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams. A tough book to summarise in one line, involving as it does time travel, ghosts, Coleridge and a horse stuck in a Cambridge don's bathroom! All quite absurd, with some very funny lines but maybe one of two too many characters and themes. 3.5/5

Edited: Jan 19, 2015, 4:56pm

>334 puckers: Go the other way around, from Z to A. You don't want to wait with Chess Story until 2020, trust me :-)!

Jan 19, 2015, 5:55pm

On the other hand it is something to look forward to!

Jan 20, 2015, 2:45am

You could do one from either side and meet in the middle :-)

Jan 20, 2015, 3:01am

Mmm. Not sure the chaos of my bookshelves is designed to cope with that strategy!

Jan 20, 2015, 6:16pm

361. Novel with Cocaine - M Ageyev. A students life of sex and drugs. I enjoyed this novel, despite the protagonist being a selfish youth. There is a clarity in the writing, with nicely described scenes in Moscow and honest interior monologue. Interestingly little is known of the author. 4/5

Jan 29, 2015, 4:16pm

362. Of Love and Shadows - Isabel Allende. A journalist and a photographer discover a mass grave. Like House of the Spirits the action takes place in an unnamed South American dictatorship. This book doesn't have the sweep and "magic" of the latter book, but is still a good read and condemns the outrages of Pinochet's Chile. 3.5/5

Feb 3, 2015, 4:12pm

363. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon - Jorge Amado. Life in Ilheus in 1925, a frontier port in Brazil, is transformed by the arrival of an ambitious businessman and a free spirited woman, Gabriela. A wonderfully joyous novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe nothing startling or original, but a colourful and entertaining story, and one of the rare List books you could take away on a relaxing beach holiday. 4.5/5

Feb 5, 2015, 4:53pm

364. Cause for Alarm - Eric Ambler. A British engineer working in Milan gets caught up in international espionage. Somewhat implausible and old-fashioned, this spy thriller offers some good tension and insights in to Mussolini's fascist regime in the build up to WW2. 3/5

Feb 8, 2015, 5:00pm

365. The Green Man - Kingsley Amis. Maurice Allington is an alcoholic philanderer, and owner of a haunted inn "The Green Man". Part comic sex romp, and part ghost story. The latter gets quite serious and disturbing (similar to The House of Doctor Dee)and the combination of the two aspects doesn't really work for me. 3/5

Feb 11, 2015, 4:14am

366. Dead Babies - Martin Amis. A weekend of sex and drugs at Appleseed Rectory spirals out of control. I found parts of this funny, but mainly very OTT and frequently offensively so. Most of the novel goes absolutely nowhere, and the rapid developments in the closing few pages aren't enough to save this. 2.5/5

Feb 11, 2015, 9:44am

>344 puckers: Ugh, that book. I didn't like that one at all. There were moments when I thought it might do something interesting, but it always turned out to be a false alarm.

Feb 12, 2015, 4:59pm

367. Untouchable - Mulk Raj Anand. A day in the life of a street sweeper and latrine cleaner in 1930s India. This book offers insights in to the life of the lowest of the "untouchables" and the culture/religion that perpetuated their repression. The closing pages differ in style from the rest of the book, being an intellectual sermon on some of the alternatives to overcome this caste oppression, and are somewhat distracting. However I assume this was aimed at the Indian readers at the time the book was published (1937), before the end of British rule and the constitutional changes (in 1950) that "banned" discrimination against untouchables. 3/5

Feb 16, 2015, 2:53am

368. Babbit - Sinclair Lewis. George F Babbit is a solid middle-class business owner in the solid middle-class town of Zenith. I read this on my iphone, my least frequent form of book reading and as a consequence this took 13 months of very intermittent reading. The book is written in a very affable style and didn't really suffer from my infrequent dips in to its portrait of a man torn between his desires and society's expectations. Very enjoyable. 4/5

Feb 16, 2015, 5:11pm

369. The Bridge over the Drina - Ivo Andric. 400 years of legends and history from the Bosnian town of Visegrad and its 16th century bridge. Very readable tales, some gruesome, that provide a history of ebbs and flows of the various cultures that have lived together in this town by the Drina. The book won the author the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. 4/5

Feb 19, 2015, 3:40am

370. Ashes and Diamonds - Jerzy Andrzejewski. Three days immediately following the 'liberation" of Poland in 1945. I enjoyed this very readable book. It deals with numerous characters and how they cope with the moral and material dislocation they've experienced, and react differently to the change to "peace". At times it is witty, at others deadly serious. A quick and worthwhile read. 3.5/5

Edited: Feb 23, 2015, 4:07pm

371. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous. A boy finds himself working for several miserly masters. A sixteenth century book noted as an early example of the picaresque style, and banned by the Catholic church. More notable for these historical reasons, at least this is one of the short and mildly entertaining "old" books on the List. 2.5/5

Edited: Feb 23, 2015, 4:06pm

372. Queen Margot - Alexandre Dumas. A tale of court intrigue in 16th century France. This was a most enjoyable novel, well paced and suspenseful as Catherine de Medici plots and murders to prevent the King of Navarre from taking the throne of France from her sons. History and credulity may suffer a little but this is tremendous fun. 5/5

Feb 23, 2015, 9:05pm

373. War with Newts - Karel Capek. A new species of newt is discovered and bred in huge numbers to provide labour for construction projects. The book has much to say about exploitation, new technologies, rights and responsibilities. I found much of it entertaining and thought-provoking, but towards the end it got a bit over the top. 3/5

Mar 1, 2015, 9:13pm

374. Alias Grace- Margaret Atwood. Dr Simon Jordan attempts to unlock the mind of convicted murderess Grace Marks. This was an easy read - nicely written and atmospheric of mid nineteenth century North America. However apart from one memorable passage towards the end Grace doesn't offer either Simon or the reader any emotional involvement and, like Simon, you are left confused as to her guilt or otherwise. 3.5/5

Mar 4, 2015, 5:11pm

375. Dictionary of the Khazars - Milorad Pavic. A recreation of a 17th century book explaining the cultural of the Khazars, a tribe that dominated an area of the Middle East in the 9th century - the book has a male and female version, with one paragraph being different. I loved the concept behind the book, and I enjoyed some of the magic realism in the stories, but overall I found it had too much fragmented detail and couldn't really get excited about the mystery behind the Dictionary. 2.5/5

Mar 8, 2015, 10:41pm

376. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen. Two sisters, one with sense and the other with sensibility (which seems to mean somewhere on the manic-depressive spectrum), find love in the wrong and eventually in the right places. Typical Austen - witty if wordy comedy of manners. 3/5

Mar 12, 2015, 5:49pm

377. Burmese Days - George Orwell. Follows life in a small expat community in 1920s Burma. Quite a bitter and depressing book. Almost all characters are shallow, selfserving and deeply racist. Only Orwell's alter ego Flory has any decent qualities. Surely The British Empire wasn't this bad? 3.5/5

Edited: Mar 25, 2015, 4:43am

378. Queer - William S. Burroughs. William Lee is obsessed with a young expat in Mexico City. I enjoyed this more than the dull Junky and the incomprehensible The Wild Boys. It was a big help to do this as an audio-book, thanks to the introductory background discussion, and the nicely nuanced narration by T Ryder Smith. 3/5

Mar 26, 2015, 3:00am

379. Timbuktu - Paul Auster. A dog's life. I enjoyed this book told from the perspective of a dog, Mr Bones. Not particularly deep or challenging, but by the end you really care about this confused mongrel. 3/5

Mar 27, 2015, 2:43am

380. So Long a Letter - Mariama Ba. A recently bereaved woman unburdens herself through a long letter to her friend. Offers interesting insights into the plight of women in Muslim society in Senegal. 3/5

Mar 27, 2015, 6:07am

You're on a roll!

Mar 27, 2015, 6:56am

Hmm, looks interesting and I see my local library is supposedly has a copy :-)

Mar 27, 2015, 11:39am

I was just about to order a copy of So Long a Letter. Glad it's a good one!

Mar 27, 2015, 4:30pm

And it's short - less than 100 pages. It is interesting that the widow is from relatively wealthy middle-class urbanised society in the capital, Dakar, rather than the village/mud-hut perspective of other West African List books I've read.

Apr 2, 2015, 4:52am

381. Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin. Four family members have a cathartic experience during a church service. This book is steeped in Southern Biblical wrath, salvation and despair. Reminiscent of Faulkner and McCarthy, it was sometimes a bit too much, but I enjoy a book that sucks you in to a unique atmosphere. 4/5

Apr 6, 2015, 11:47pm

382. Drop City - T.C. Boyle. A failing hippie commune moves to the wilds of Alaska. I found this a bit of a slow burner and it took me a while to get in to it. Ultimately I enjoyed it as a exploration of the pros and cons of living on the fringes of society. There are sufficient "bad guys" in the story to keep you on edge. 3.5/5

Apr 7, 2015, 12:16am

I didn't know that's what Drop City was about. Sounds really fascinating, considering my favourite brother and sister-in-law were hippies in the Yukon in the 70s. The only TC Boyle I've read is one short story. I really liked it and it made me want to try his novels, so I'm bumping this one up my wishlist.

Apr 7, 2015, 2:08am

You should get them to join the Group Read and compare experiences. Hopefully theirs compares favourably!

Edited: Apr 7, 2015, 4:16pm

383. The Driver's Seat - Muriel Spark. Lisa takes a trip abroad and is dead within 24 hours. A clever creepy little story - you are told that Lisa is going to die early in the story but her eccentric behaviour gives few clues as to the how and why until the closing few paragraphs. This audio book was narrated by the always excellent Dame Judi Dench. 3.5/5

Edited: Apr 14, 2015, 6:10pm

384. Empire of the Sun - J.G. Ballard. Jim, a British teenager, learns to survive in a Japanese internment camp near Shanghai. A detached, naïve child-eyes view of the horrors of the war. I enjoyed this book (if enjoy is the right word for a book with starvation and death on most pages) particularly the descriptions of pre-war Shanghai, and continue to find Ballard an intriguing author. 4/5

Edited: Apr 14, 2015, 6:17pm

385. The Wasp Factory -Iain Banks. A murderous youth lives with his father on a Scottish island and waits the return of his dangerous brother who has escaped from hospital. Macabre, but not as gruesome as I'd expected (the three childhood murders are almost pantomime) and the ending is silly. There is no denying Bank's imagination though. 2.5/5

Apr 14, 2015, 8:37pm

By silly ending do you mean the abrupt redefinition of the character?

Apr 14, 2015, 8:54pm

>371 fundevogel: Yes. I think much of the story was silly/unrealistic, but the "twist" at the end was very late in the piece, not really relevant to what had gone before (except perhaps explaining away some behaviour due to the drugs), casually accepted by Frank, and not really explored any further. Maybe silly isn't exactly the right word, but abrupt and barely relevant.

Apr 15, 2015, 1:45pm

That's what I hoped you meant. I appreciate the surreal violence and imagery, but the way he treated the character at the end seemed forced, like he was just trying to find a resolution to something that maybe couldn't be resolved. At least not is in such a conveniently tidy way.

Apr 20, 2015, 7:55am

I had a similar reaction to you all although I didn't think the ending was tacked on, there had been obvious hints all the way through, but that contributed to my thoughts of the novel just being too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

I gave it a two stars. It was ok.

Apr 20, 2015, 7:06pm

386. Cloudsplitter - Russell Banks. The story of John Brown told by his son Owen. I enjoy List books that tell me about historical events and figures I previously knew nothing about, and this one centres on John Brown, the 19th century slavery abolitionist who's "body lies a mouldering in the grave but his soul is marching on..". It is a rambling fictional reminiscence and you end up with a lengthy character study rather than a gripping drama. Interesting but too long. 3/5

Apr 21, 2015, 2:00pm

>374 M1nks: I didn't have a problem with the reveal, it was the sudden change in character after the reveal that didn't sit well with me. I couldn't believe that the character would change so much so quickly.

Edited: Apr 22, 2015, 7:42pm

387. The Book of Evidence - John Banville. A self-centred man on remand for murder gives an unreliable confession. I have thoroughly enjoyed Banville's other books, and this has flashes of his brilliant turns-of-phrase and dark humour. However I found rambling contradictory narrative a bit hard to get in to. 3/5

Apr 24, 2015, 11:26pm

388. Hell - Henri Barbusse. A man spies on the occupants of an adjacent hotel room through a hole in the wall. I looked forward to this book - the realities of life seen in unguarded moments of a variety of people - and this book did have birth and death, love and sex. However much of it was oddly archaic prose, with lengthy philosophy and dated science (the six pages on the causes of cancer is very dated). Towards the end of the book he overhears a famous author outlining the plot of a book he is writing where a man spies on the occupants of an adjacent hotel room... and the man considers the author's characters to be too much like caricatures. I think I would have enjoyed the latter more than this rather tedious book. 2/5

Apr 25, 2015, 3:41am

389. Silk - Alessandro Baricco. A French silkworm farmer travels annually to Japan where he is obsessed with a woman he sees there. A short and easy read (took me about an hour), and a tale of obsession and forbidden love. Touching. 3.5/5

Edited: Apr 25, 2015, 12:21pm

#378, sorry to hear that this is so unsatisfying. It's on my TBR shelf because I loved his Under Fire so much.

Apr 25, 2015, 4:46pm

>380 annamorphic: Under Fire was a four star book for me so this was a disappointment.

May 3, 2015, 6:56pm

390. Nightwood - Djuna Barnes. Relationship angst between the wars. This starts off with a bit of a plot and occasional witty/original sentences, but becomes increasingly dull and plotless. Hurried through to get it over with. 2/5

May 4, 2015, 11:31pm

391. Journey to the End of the Night - Louis-Ferdinand Celine. Traces the life of a Frenchman, Bardamu, from the Western Front to Africa, USA and France. The writing style is entertaining enough with some dark humour, but the relentless negative view of life in all circumstances wore me down eventually. 2.5/5

Edited: May 10, 2015, 10:06pm

392. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis - Jose Saramago. A doctor/poet returns to his native Portugal in 1936. There are multiple layers to this book - a couple of "love" stories, descriptions of Lisbon at a pivotal time in European history, and a thought-provoking plot about the extent to which our different personalities can live independently of each other. The book presents itself as an intimidating read with dense pages of typeface, but I found the narrative easy to follow and full of entertaining/thought-provoking phrases and observations. Some knowledge of the writings of Fernando Passeo/Ricardo Reis, and the political situation in Portugal in 1936, might have added another level of understanding, but I enjoyed this entertaining novel. 4/5

Edited: May 14, 2015, 7:13pm

393. The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes. An unexpected bequest forces a man to reconsider his past. A novel about the imperfection of memory and the unintended consequences of actions. Barnes packs a lot in to this short story, with each new bit of information changing our perception of the original remembered story. However I found the surprise ending a bit unsatisfactory as there was virtually no clue to this earlier. 3/5

PS Coincidentally the next book on my alphabetic reading list was Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture, not a List book but Booker shortlisted a few years ago. This involves an old institutionalised lady remembering her life, and her treating doctor finding documents that contradict some of her memories. Similar to Barnes' theme, and the ending was a bit implausible, neat and Hollywood, but I preferred Barry's book.

May 21, 2015, 11:38pm

394. The Floating Opera - John Barth. Todd Andrews narrates the events of the 21st or 22nd of June 1937 (he's never checked), the day he decided not to commit suicide. An enjoyable combination of entertaining interaction and wry philosophy on life and death. My sort of book 4/5

May 22, 2015, 8:12pm

395. The Unfortunate Traveller - Thomas Nashe. A young man has various adventures when he travels to Europe. A 16th century novel, and written in such ornate prose that it is often difficult to follow what is happening and where one adventure ends and the next one starts. Ended up just reading it for the feel of the language which was enjoyable in parts (Nashe is apparently credited by some with writing some of Shakespeare's Henry VI). 2/5

May 25, 2015, 7:05am

396. The Dead Father - Donald Barthelme. 19 people drag a cable overland at the end of which is the enormous body of "the dead father' (who doesn't appear to be even slightly dead!). A surreal setting for a bizarre narrative. The bits of the narrative I could follow had elements of Beckett and Monty Python and had some entertainment value. The bulk of the novel though is kind of random nonsense so overall 2.5/5

May 26, 2015, 6:18pm

397. L'Abbe C - Georges Bataille. A mutually destructive triangular relationship between twin brothers (a priest and a libertine) and a childhood friend who is the town prostitute. Disjointed writing made it hard to follow much of the detail, and the story was sufficiently depressing to stifle my wish to do so! 2/5

May 27, 2015, 12:34am

Wow, you finish a book every other day, don't you? Impressive!

May 27, 2015, 2:20am

They are all short ones at the moment - closing in on a couple of monsters which should slow me down!

May 29, 2015, 1:13am

398. Fanny Hill - John Cleland. Fanny Hill relates her experiences as a prostitute in 18th century London. This is basically porn - a series of explicit sex scenes linked together by a flimsy plot. Quite an eye-opener in terms of preconceptions of prudish 18th century literature. The euphemisms employed for the sex organs are varied and almost poetic, and if you don't take any of this seriously there is some entertainment to be had. 3/5

May 29, 2015, 1:04pm

>392 puckers: Yes, I often find it enlightening to read 18th century literature. I go in expecting it to be didactic and prudish, but then I realize I'm judging it with a post-Victorian lens. They were a lot more fun than the Victorians!

May 30, 2015, 12:25am

399. The House of Ulloa - Emilia Pardo Bazan. A naïve young priest is sent to a declining estate in late 19th century Spain. At last, a novel with plot, characters and narrative! The corruption and immorality in the estate and nearby town reflected the decline in broader Spain at that time, and there is a sense of gothic foreboding throughout. 3.5/5

Jun 3, 2015, 5:45pm

400. The Arabian Nights : Tales of 1001 Nights - Anonymous. Shahrazad delays her execution by telling tales over 1001 nights. I read the Malcolm Lyons translated Penguin Classics three volume version of this (around 2,500 pages). The tales all take place in the same world, with kings, caliphs, viziers, merchants and slaves, ginni and 'ifrit, long voyages and shipwrecks, jewels and gold, generous hospitality, and lust all set in Baghdad, Basra and Cairo. There is enough magic and variety to maintain interest for most of the 1001 nights but by volume 3 there is a sense of déjà vu. 3/5

Jun 3, 2015, 5:53pm

Congratulations on reaching 400!

Jun 3, 2015, 6:42pm

Wow - 400!! I feel like I'll never get there. I always appreciate your reviews!

Jun 3, 2015, 9:15pm

Yeah, a great milestone!

Jun 4, 2015, 2:24am

Congratulations! And what a book to celebrate it with!

Jun 4, 2015, 3:34pm

Thanks for those comments, and thank you for the reviews on your respective threads - it's good to share this marathon!

Jun 7, 2015, 1:00pm

Blimey. It takes a rare patience to get through the entirety of 1001 nights.

400 is a huge total, especially considering you were on 132 only two years ago. How do you find time to eat?

Jun 7, 2015, 4:51pm

Eating is for wimps.

Jun 10, 2015, 5:12am

401. Independent People - Halldor Laxness. A subsistence crofter in Iceland stubbornly clings to his "independence" at any cost. The novel is almost entirely based in one remote croft farm, yet the 540 pages don't feel too long - wonderfully drawn characters, an atmospheric location, humdrum and dramatic events, dreams and poetry among the poverty, mythology and superstition, and the bigger picture impact of national and international events make this a novel you are sorry to see finish. 4/5

Edited: Jun 19, 2015, 7:59am

402. Molloy - Samuel Beckett. Molloy seeks his mother while Moran seeks Molloy 3/5
403. Malone Dies - Samuel Beckett. Malone lies in bed in a room waiting to die 2.5/5
404. The Unnamable - Samuel Beckett. Not sure! A plotless monologue involving Mahood and Worm and an unnamed narrator. Ends with the famously enigmatic "I can't go on, I'll go on" 2/5

Beckett's "trilogy". Not strictly a trilogy as each can be read without reference to the others, but they share the same structure (or lack thereof), and Beckett's bleak humour, decaying derelicts, and the themes of death and search for meaning. I previously enjoyed Mercier and Camier and I've been enthralled by four of his plays on stage, but I found this quite hard work with its endless stream-of-consciousness paragraphs (some up to 80 pages long). Molloy is the one I enjoyed most as it has a plot and some structure. With the others I kept losing the thread (if indeed there was a thread to lose).

A sentence from The Unnamable summed up Beckett's recurring theme for me - "Ah if only this voice could stop, this meaningless voice which prevents you from being nothing".

Important no doubt, and cutting edge for its time, but a bit of a slog.

Jun 22, 2015, 4:42pm

Good job on powering through the trilogy! I'm about a third into The Unnamable and am also finding it a slog. Although I was able to find an audio version, and the narrator is good, so it is at least pleasant to listen to while I tackle laundry. I did a little research before starting The Unnamable, to see if I could get more out of reading it, and found it is considered to be Beckett's most challenging work. And one critic dubbed it 'The Unreadable'!

Jun 22, 2015, 6:35pm

>405 aliciamay: Yes, I think Beckett is better listened to than read. I find his plays more compelling than reading his books.

Edited: Jun 22, 2015, 6:49pm

405. Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe. Describes the dehumanising effect of slavery in 19th century USA. This very popular and influential novel is a bit preachy with "old time" religion and (despite some brutal violence) a bit simple/childlike, but the message is loud and clear. I found the non-violent parts more disturbing than the brutal physical treatment of the slaves; the breaking up of families for sale like goods and chattels by "decent' owners is just as bad as the cruel treatment meted out by other owners. 3/5

Jun 22, 2015, 8:57pm

#407, I'm sure that Stowe wanted you to think exactly that. Her point seems to be that there is NO possible good side to slavery, and no way to participate as a slave owner in a way that is moral and decent. The system itself is irredeemably corrupt. So those well-meaning owners who don't actually abuse their slaves physically are just as wrong as the rest.

Jun 29, 2015, 3:25am

406. Dangling Man - Saul Bellow. A man left "dangling" while he waits for his posting to the army to come through becomes increasingly introspective and angry. The drama was interesting enough but the philosophical sections left me cold. 3/5

Jul 1, 2015, 6:26pm

407. G - John Berger. Follows the life of Giovanni (G) a boy abandoned by his parents, brought up in rural Britain by relatives then moving through Europe seducing and abandoning various women. A non-linear narrative told in bite-sized paragraphs, there were bits of this I enjoyed (descriptions of his childhood, and various historical events in Italian history), while I found many of the authors philosophical asides dull and meaningless. If like me you do your reading on public transport beware of some graphic doodles of genitalia! Overall 3/5

Jul 3, 2015, 5:35am

408. Old Masters - Thomas Bernhard. Reger has sat alternate mornings for 30 years on a settee in the Bordone Room of the Kunsthistorisches Museum looking at Tintoretto's "White-Bearded Man", and running down all aspects of Austrian culture to his friend Atzbacher. That in a nutshell is the entirety of this 250 page novel.

The book is written as a single paragraph, a device that is getting a bit repetitive for me after Beckett and Saramago etc. However here it seems appropriate as we listen to an endless rant against art, the state, parenting and Austrian toilets! The rant is so over the top that it becomes amusing, and this is quite a quick and easy read that despite nothing really happening (he gets up from the settee on a couple of occasions) I quite enjoyed. 3.5/5

Jul 5, 2015, 11:46pm

409. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte. A reclusive woman and her young son take up residence at Wildfell Hall resulting in much speculation and gossip. Written in three parts, the central and largest part comprises the journal of the lady in question where she relates the circumstances leading to her move to Wildfell Hall. This is sandwiched between parts dealing with the locals reaction to her. The central narration was nicely written and enjoyable, but I found the initial and concluding sections more frustrating, partly due to the unsympathetic portrayal of the leading man (an overwrought fool) and partly because, like many novels of the time, misunderstandings which take 40 chapters to unravel could have much more expeditiously nipped in the bud with a ten minute conversation between the various parties. Overall though I enjoyed this Victorian romance, and could understand its importance in highlighting the plight of powerless wives in abusive relationships in the 1840s. 3.5/5

Jul 6, 2015, 12:50am

I had a lot of the same reactions to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I wanted to smack the so-called good guy, and there was too much nothing. But the meat of the story was very good indeed. I'd like to hear the story from the abusive husband's point of view too though--I'm sure she wasn't such a piece of cake to live with. She might even lead me to drink . . .

Jul 6, 2015, 6:10am

>413 Nickelini:. I didn't get the feeling that her behaviour worsened his, but she did seem to go in to the marriage for dubious reasons (to reform a character she knew to be wild), and I'm not sure her second attempt will be much more successful given Markham seeing treachery everywhere with no good reason.

Jul 6, 2015, 6:26pm

410. Silence - Shusaku Endo. A Portuguese priest is smuggled in to 17th century Japan to contact persecuted Christians. Based on historical events this was a well written and thought-provoking book about faith, diverse cultures and what lengths humans go to to inflict and withstand persecution. 4/5

Jul 16, 2015, 7:38am

411. Billiards at Half-Past Nine - Heinrich Boll. On 6 September 1958 various members of a German family recall the events of the last 50 years, including two wars and the rise of fascism. This was a quite fascinating book. The rapid movement between narrators and time was occasionally bewildering, but as you got to know the history of this family, and the losses it had suffered, it all made sense. Many passages were beautifully atmospheric, and others very thought provoking - forgiveness and remembrance, how to deal with evil, the regret for the destruction of historical buildings in Germany during the WW2 while the many human victims are forgotten, etc. 4/5

Edited: Jul 20, 2015, 2:30pm

412. The House in Paris - Elizabeth Bowen. Two children meet in a house while in transit through Paris. Mixed feelings about the detail of this novel. Some parts were very nicely phrased and described, while in other parts the dialogue seemed rather dull and unreal (some of the thoughts of 10 year old Leopold seemed way too adult and out of character). Overall though I enjoyed the story and themes, and left it feeling the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. 3.5/5

Jul 27, 2015, 6:58pm

413. World's End - T.C. Boyle. The lives of several families follow a similar pattern from 17th to 20th centuries. I enjoyed this book - tense in parts, and never a dull moment. Like Drop City Boyle captures the location (the Hudson Valley and Alaska (again)) beautifully. While none of the main characters are that likeable, and the premise of fate determining actions through the generations was at times a little contrived, this was a good read. 4/5

Jul 28, 2015, 5:03am

414. In Watermelon Sugar - Richard Brautigan. A community lives in iDEATH where everything is made of stone, pine and watermelon sugar. A surreal world written in child-like simplicity. This is a quick read (took me just over an hour) but as I prepared to write this I kept mulling over what Brautigan's message was; the community is idyllic and free of violence but lacks emotion and creativity, and nothing seems to motivate them - is he for it, or against it? A simple but thought-provoking book.3.5/5

Jul 28, 2015, 7:30am

415. The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad. Verloc is an anarchist and agent for a foreign embassy in late 19th century London. I found most of the main characters too ridiculous to take this story of early terrorism seriously, and never really connected with it. 2.5/5

Edited: Jul 30, 2015, 3:24pm

416. A Dry White Season - Andre Brink. A white teacher tries to get to the truth behind the death of black man in custody. A brave book written (and initially banned) in South Africa that explores the violent oppression by the South African Security Police and the tacit approval of the majority of Afrikaans who preferred not to ask questions. A powerful book that gets you angry over the injustice that no doubt persists in many countries. 4/5

Jul 30, 2015, 1:31pm

Yes, it's one of those books everyone should read.....within a "we should never forget" category.

Jul 31, 2015, 12:08am

417. Bouvard and Pecuchet - Gustave Flaubert. Two men come in to some money and decide to explore all of human knowledge. This novel covers virtually all aspects of human knowledge through the eyes of the protagonists - arts, sciences, spirituality, philosophy... Their often circular and futile attempts to conquer and better each subject get a bit repetitive, but there are enough moments of humour and interest to keep you engaged. 3/5

Aug 5, 2015, 5:21am

418. Shirley - Charlotte Bronte. Romance set amongst the mills of West Yorkshire. An interesting mix of history (Luddites and textile trade during the Napoleonic wars) and romance. Bronte's language was quite beautiful and, while there were a few superfluous characters passing through the story, this was overall an enjoyable read. 3.5/5

Aug 6, 2015, 12:06am

I think this is a much underrated novel... I agree with the "quite beautiful" language.

Have you read Villette yet?

Edited: Aug 6, 2015, 2:15am

>425 arukiyomi: I read Villette some years ago (post 61 above), but I see from my review I found the characters annoying while enjoying the language. Having now completed all "Brontes" on the list, Charlotte's books (esp Jane Eyre) are my favourites of the three sisters. Sadly I found Wuthering Heights all too torturous and was glad when it finished - will have to give it another go some day.

Aug 7, 2015, 12:37am

I think we have similar tastes because my review of Wuthering revealed the same. As for giving it another go, well.... there are so many other books out there!

Aug 7, 2015, 5:15am

419. Midaq Alley - Naguib Mahfouz. I always enjoy fiction that takes you to a place/culture you've not been to before, and in this case we get a slice of life in an alley in 1940s Egypt. Wider consideration's rarely intrude, and it focusses on the personal ups and downs of group of shopkeepers, landlords and other residents of this enclosed community. Written in a lively and readable style such that even the tragedies are not depressing but affirm that life goes on as it always has. 4/5

Aug 8, 2015, 6:03am

I enjoyed Shirley too. Agreed that the prose is beautifully written.

I was amazed to learn that the novel popularised Shirley as a female Christian name. I still can't get my head around it being a man's name.

Aug 9, 2015, 6:36pm

420. Miramar - Naguib Mahfouz. Residents of a "pension" in Alexandria recall their relationship with Zohra, the maid. This was in the same book as Midaq Alley which I'd just finished. A harder novel to get in to due to its many allusions to the revolution of 1954. I read that Zohra represented Egypt and the residents the various old and new interest groups affected by the revolution, and then it made more sense at a deeper level (with the help of footnotes and the introduction). 3/5

Aug 10, 2015, 12:19am

421. 2666 - Roberto Bolano. Five part novel with uniting theme of the murders of women in Santa Teresa in Mexico, and the quest to find the mysterious German writer Benno von Archimboldi. I did this as an audio book - 38 hours over 6 weeks - and it was never less than fascinating. Despite the investment required there is no neat conclusion, and there are many digressions that go on for hours/pages, but the writing is quite captivating. 4/5

Aug 15, 2015, 5:12pm

422. Naked Lunch - William S Burroughs. "The unnerving tale of Bill Lee, addicted to hustlers and narcotics, and his monumental descent into Hell" (or so its says on the publishers blurb). This was an audiobook and the best thing about it was the narration by Mark Bramhall who brought out bursts of humour in this plotless unrelentingly intense melange of drugs, gay sex and weird violence. My last Burroughs and like the other three not to my taste. 2/5

Aug 18, 2015, 5:24am

423. Michael Kohlhass - Heinrich von Kleist. A horse trader goes to extreme lengths to seek restitution for two horses abused by a local landlord. Initially I was put off by the extreme reaction to the abuse suffered (armed rebellion with all women and children in the landlords castle put to the sword, because two horses had been neglected!), but as the drama moves to the courts in various towns it takes on a Kafkaesque element as conflicting political machinations foil any efforts at justice. 3/5

Aug 20, 2015, 6:37am

424. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov. The devil and his entourage cause chaos on a visit to Moscow. I had heard good things about this novel, and I wasn't disappointed. The bulk of the book revolves around the pranks that the devils get up to in Moscow - colourful and playful, yet diabolical. This runs parallel with the story of Pontius Pilate and the execution of Christ which is a much more serious and thought-provoking piece. The two stories come together as the novel progresses. A real page-turner, wonderfully inventive and never dull. A sort of Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Lagerkvist's Barabbas. Marvellous and unreservedly 5/5.

Aug 22, 2015, 9:09pm

Aug 28, 2015, 8:02am

425. Erewhon - Samuel Butler. A man discovers a civilisation in mountains neighbouring his home, familiar in many ways yet with some peculiar customs. As with all these "lost world" books you need to take a leap of faith that a "lost" large centuries-old civilisation could be discovered by climbing a mountain. (Arguably for us Aussies there is a further leap of faith that any sort of civilisation could exist in New Zealand :)) (my assumed location for this story). I was expecting the worse given the low LT ratings so was pleasantly surprised to quite enjoy the initial tale of the discovery and early encounters with this civilisation. The customs challenge much of our way of looking at sickness, mechanisation, learning etc, and are quite stimulating and even amusing, but Butler's lengthy explanations do get quite laboured and I ended up skimming much of these sections before the adventure story resumes towards the end. A mixed bag 2.5/5

Aug 28, 2015, 11:54am

Interesting review, thanks. I've had a copy of this since 1981, so I guess it's about time I tackled it.

Sep 3, 2015, 6:16pm

426. The Virgin in the Garden - A. S. Byatt. Relationships come to a head during the staging of a play about Elizabeth I in 1953. I struggled to get in to this book. There are numerous "high brow"/esoteric references to literature and culture, and passages where we are in the heads of two mentally unstable characters, such that I ended up thinking "what on earth is she on about?" more often than I cared for. Combine this with almost entirely unsympathetic characters and you end up with an unsatisfying experience. 2.5/5

Sep 6, 2015, 6:18pm

I've finished my trawl through the "B" authors so will have a break with some of the more prolific authors on the list starting with:

427. Surfacing - Margaret Atwood. A young woman returns with friends to a remote lakeside cabin in Canada to look for her missing father. I enjoyed the first two thirds of this book - nice sense of place - but the final section of cathartic madness was a bit OTT for me. 3/5

Sep 10, 2015, 5:20am

428. Troubles - J. G. Farrell. Life in a decaying hotel at the end of British rule in Ireland. This was right in my reading sweet-spot: end of Empire, decaying hotel full of eccentrics, dry humour. It felt a little odd enjoying the humour while (historically accurate) death and violence was interlaced in the story. I also felt the characters were mainly endearing but superficial caricatures, but that helped soften what could have been a far more serious book. I enjoyed the read. 3.5/5

Edited: Sep 12, 2015, 1:58am

429. Moon Palace -Paul Auster. A young man takes a job as companion to a rich blind cripple. I found it hard to like this book as the central character is a self absorbed, self destructive man who ungratefully relies on others to get him back on his feet. The bits where he takes centre stage are frustrating and annoying. Some of the stories he hears though are entertaining if you don't take the coincidences too seriously. 3/5

Edited: Sep 12, 2015, 1:07am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Sep 13, 2015, 6:40pm

430. The Atrocity Exhibition - J. G. Ballard. Bite sized paragraphs about violent death as a sexual fantasy, personality cult, and some other stuff that slips my mind. Ballard is my most polarising list author - I enjoyed Empire of the Sun and The Drowned World, and hated Crash. This book is a prequel to the last, but without the cohesion. Any book described as "the zenith of the experimental novel" and with an explanatory intro by William Burroughs is bound to be hard work, and at this level this book did not disappoint! Hardly understood anything other than the black humour of "The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy considered as a Downhill Race" which earned the book half a star. 1.5/5

Edited: Sep 13, 2015, 11:05pm

#443, I admire you for reading this one at all. Putting it into my virtual "Never to Be Read" pile.

Sep 14, 2015, 2:29am

>444 annamorphic: My "Never to be Read" pile is currently restricted to Iain Sinclair and any Pynchon I don't already own (unfortunately I have 3 more at home). I suspect Wyndham Lewis may be a candidate for this pile based on others comments (I have Tarr which I think is one of his more accessible books). My "Never can be Read" pile is anything not available in English.

Sep 14, 2015, 3:54am

I started reading The Drowned World a few days ago thinking that it would be an exciting and enjoyable read. I ground to a halt very quickly and it's currently staring at me reproachfully from my nook.

I haven't heard anyone say anything particularly inspiring about Crash so I think that Ballard might just be one of the authors from the list I dislike.

I haven't read any Pynchon yet.

Sep 15, 2015, 6:51pm

431. The Victim - Saul Bellow. A somewhat paranoid man becomes involved with someone who blames him for ruining his life. An interesting set-up with both characters being victims of themselves and each other. The predictable mutual death-spiral doesn't quite run its course and the ending is a little odd and weak. 3/5

Edited: Sep 16, 2015, 4:56am

432. The Mayor of Casterbridge - Thomas Hardy. Michael Henchard sells his wife and child to a sailor in a drunken fit; fast forward eighteen years and we find he is Mayor of Casterbridge. I had expected this to centre on the reconciliation with/revenge of the wronged wife, but this aspect is dealt with early in the novel and Hardy introduces various other characters and circumstances to keep us involved. The highlight for me was the central character of Henchard - a stubborn, jealous man yet one of integrity and despite his flaws and mistakes (like selling his wife for five guineas!) I found myself taking his part for most of the book. Happy ending? Maybe not - this is Hardy after all. 4/5

Edited: Sep 17, 2015, 3:49pm

My purchase today of Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy brings my read books (432) and to-be-read pile (569) to the grand total of 1001.

In theory therefore it is no longer a question of "if" but a question of "when".....

Sep 18, 2015, 6:47am

And will you stop buying now or is that not an option because you are addicted :-)?!

Sep 18, 2015, 6:57am

>450 Simone2: Not likely, but my aim is to read more than I buy, so I'll just need to read more....

Sep 18, 2015, 7:14am

433. The Third Man - Graham Greene. Rollo Martins arrives in Vienna to find that his friend Harry Lime has been killed; two men are witnesses at the inquest, but Martins finds out that a bystander remembers also seeing a Third Man. This worked well as an audio book, narrated nicely by Martin Jarvis. Those who have watched the much lauded movie will remember the major twist and the book (written by Greene concurrently with the screenplay for the movie) will contain few surprises but it is a short and punchy thriller. 4/5

Sep 20, 2015, 6:54pm

434. The Heat of the Day - Elizabeth Bowen. Wartime London and a divorcee is told that her lover is a spy. Interesting to compare with my last read. Both deal with wartime espionage but in very different ways; Greene's direct, thriller contrasts with Bowen's vague off-centre ramblings. I prefer the former and too often I found myself saying of the latter "what the heck is she talking about?" Yet Bowen always leaves you with a kind of pleasant dreamy reverie on reflection. 3/5

Sep 27, 2015, 7:05am

435. Dusklands - J. M. Coetzee. Two short stories about a psychologist who goes insane as he works on a project during the Vietnam War, and an 18th century Boer who slaughters a tribe that humiliates him. The first story I found a bit dull and odd; the second was more engaging despite the brutal racism and indifference to the lives of non-whites. I assume this last point is the connecting theme, but the combination didn't work for me. 3/5

Oct 1, 2015, 7:53am

436. Ratner's Star - Don DeLillo. A 14 year-old Nobel laureate is taken to a secret location to investigate a signal received from space near Ratner's Star. It sounds potentially interesting but rapidly develops into a Pynchonesque story where odd characters with quirky names go off on irrelevant tangents in dense scientific prose. Maybe not as obscure as Pynchon (I didn't scream out loud at any point!), but I started skimming towards the end. 2/5

Oct 4, 2015, 7:24pm

437. Women in Love - D. H. Lawrence. Two sisters enter relationships with two men in a mining town. I found this all very dreary. I don't deny that Lawrence can write, but his characters are so unsympathetic and their philosophy so bitter and miserable and endless that I found little to enjoy in this. 2.5/5

Oct 13, 2015, 5:25am

438. them - Joyce Carol Oates. The story of working class Loretta Wendall and her family from the 1930s to 1960s. I enjoyed the first half which is quite compelling and fast paced; the second and third parts have a different feel to them and while full of passions and neuroses I felt it lost momentum. 3/5

Edited: Oct 14, 2015, 1:50am

439. Beloved - Toni Morrison. Revolves around Sethe, a runaway slave and the terrible crime she was driven to that haunts her to the end. As with others members of this group I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. I thought her soporific voice suited the dreamy poetic style of the book, and thereby starkly highlighted the various brutal horrors that were visited on Sethe and those close to her over the years. A memorable book. 4/5

Oct 21, 2015, 4:43am

440. Martin Chuzzlewit - Charles Dickens. An wealth old man (Martin snr) is surrounded by grasping relatives. As usual for Dickens there is a large cast of Dickensian characters. Some are comical, others sinister, others insipid, some superfluous. Dickens is as verbose as ever, but witty with it. There is a side story regarding Martin jnr emigrating to the US which was apparently added as an afterthought by Dickens but which adds little to the flow of the story and is more bitter than humorous. Overall though I enjoyed this. 3.5/5

Edited: Oct 24, 2015, 3:43pm

441. Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer. Jonathan hires two locals to track down the woman who saved his grandfathers life in the war. This starts out as a mismatched buddies road trip (I loved Sammy Davis Junior Junior the amorous and flatulent dog) but gets darker and more touching as the story closes in on the Nazi invasion of the Jewish villages of Western Russia. The book was imaginatively constructed and I found it both humorous and moving in parts. However the mangled English of Alex was a bit too unrealistic and annoying in a Borat sort of way, and the ending a bit too enigmatic and unclear for me. 3.5/5

Oct 24, 2015, 5:31am

and the ending a bit too enigmatic and unclear for me

So Everything is Illuminated wasn't? :-)

Oct 24, 2015, 7:07am

> 461 I think the title is ironic. While the Nazi atrocities were clear cut, the guilt of other participants is left vague. Thought provoking.

Oct 24, 2015, 9:19am

>460 puckers: This is one book where I'm glad I watched the movie first. It helped me make more sense of the book. If you liked the humor in the book, you'll enjoy the movie.

Oct 24, 2015, 3:45pm

>463 amaryann21: I will seek the movie out for further illumination. Thanks.

Oct 26, 2015, 3:01am

442. The Hamlet - William Faulkner. A collection of short stories charting the rise of the cunning Snopes family in the Mississippi town of Frenchman's Bend. Being short stories this novel lacked some of the richness and slow-reveal that made Absalom, Absalom one of my top List books, but Faulkner's language and sense of place still shines through. 4/5

Oct 26, 2015, 5:00am

Good to hear that you liked it as it's on my 'to read' list in the next month or so. So long as I can locate a copy in time.

Oct 27, 2015, 3:01am

443. Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton. A man becomes obsessed with his wife's cousin. Little uplifting in this short story, but nicely enough written. 3/5

Oct 30, 2015, 7:14pm

444. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S Thompson. Thompson (aka Mister Duke) and his unnamed attorney take a manic drug-and-alcohol-fuelled trip to Las Vegas. "As your attorney I advise you to try the chilli burger". Very funny if you are in the right mood. I was. 4/5

Nov 6, 2015, 2:32am

445. Quo Vadis - Henryk Sienkiewicz. A highly respected Roman military commander falls in love with a Christian slave. This was the first audio book I've listened to where the narrator (Frederick Davidson) detracted from the enjoyment, with his somewhat affected voice making some characters sound like Kenneth Williams meets the Goon Show. Leaving that distraction to one side though this novel, while melodramatic at times, gave you a real feel of being in Nero's Rome amongst the early Christians. The later chapters describing the horrific arena tortures were moving. 3.5/5

Nov 6, 2015, 8:29am

>469 puckers:

...with his somewhat affected voice making some characters sound like Kenneth Williams meets the Goon Show

That made me chuckle. I can really imagine what that must sound like.

Nov 12, 2015, 11:24am

446. The Collector - John Fowles. A butterfly collector kidnaps a young woman. I enjoyed the story as told by the meticulously focused and amoral Frederick; the narration of Miranda worked less well for me as she flashed back to various relationships. The ending was worth an extra creepy half star. 4/5

447. To Have and Have Not - Ernest Hemingway. Harry Morgan smuggles people and alcohol between Cuba and Florida. A slightly disjointed Hemingway story with the main action interrupted by various distracting digressions which didn't really add to the whole for me. 3/5

Nov 13, 2015, 6:27am

448. The Enormous Room - E. E. Cummings. Cummings describes his incarceration in France during WW1. Much of this novel is taken up with descriptions of the other 60 inmates who shared the Enormous Room with him. While much like Cummings the story doesn't really go anywhere, the portraits are witty and at times touching. 3/5

Nov 16, 2015, 1:44am

449. Operation Shylock - Philip Roth. Philip Roth travels to Jerusalem to confront a man claiming to be Philip Roth. The whole merging of identities and paranoia was nicely done. However there are many lengthy musings on the role of Israel, Jewish attitudes to Palestinians,the Holocaust, and Diaspora which were initially interesting but too long to hold my attention. 3/5

Nov 18, 2015, 2:24am

450. The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann. Hans Castorp goes to a Swiss sanitarium to visit a cousin and stays for 7 years. The residents of this institution are an isolated community and spend their tightly scheduled days in philosophical and scientific debates, fine dining and monitoring temperatures that never improve. There is much to enjoy in this book if like the residents you have time to settle in to their routines and absorb their often dense debates. Some of the latter tested my patience while others musings like the meaning of time in such a timeless place were entertaining. The ending back in the "flatlands" introduces the stark "real world" for the first time. 3.5/5

Nov 19, 2015, 2:38am

451. The Comfort of Strangers - Ian McEwan. Colin and Mary are holidaying in Venice when they meet a stranger. One of the shorter books on the List and it packs a lot in to its 100 pages. Nice atmosphere of Venice and the languid lovers is increasingly overwhelmed by a sense of menace. 3.5/5

Edited: Nov 24, 2015, 4:31pm

Pilgrimage I - Dorothy Richardson. The first three books of Richardson's Pilgrimage series, tracing her life as teacher and governess in her late teens. I knew only two things about this series before I started - it is the first use of "stream of consciousness" in English literature, and it is long (around 2000 pages). So I braced myself for something interminable and impenetrable, and ended up being pleasantly surprised at how readable it is. I felt it improved as it went along as the author (in the guise of her alter ego Miriam Henderson) becomes happier and more self confident. Plenty more to read (3 more volumes) but a promising start 3.5/5

Nov 27, 2015, 1:17am

452. Grimus - Salman Rushdie. Flapping Eagle goes on a long quest to find his sister after they are both made immortal. Rushdie's first novel is more sci-fi than magic realism, and I enjoyed it more than others I've read of his. 3.5/5

Edited: Nov 30, 2015, 4:17am

Swann's Way - Marcel Proust. The first book in Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This book has three parts - "Combray" which is an absolutely sublime evocation of a childhood in the French countryside, "Swann in Love" where family friend Swann's relationship with Odette de Crecy evolves - wonderful writing again even if it does bang on a bit (if you're going to write for several thousand pages you are entitled to do that I suppose). Finally the short "Place Names" where the author reenters the story as an older child touching on how Swann's affair turned out. Overall 4/5 (which feels a bit mean given the quality of the writing).

453. Vile Bodies - Evelyn Waugh. Waugh sends up the superficial lives of the Bright Young Things in 1920s London. A very witty take on fashion, decadence, celebrity and gossip columnists - reading this nothing much has changed in the 75 years since Waugh wrote this. Gave me a lot of laughs after a number of long serious books. Waugh is no Proust, but still 4/5

Nov 30, 2015, 4:28am

get used to banging on a bit!

Have you read Handful of Dust?

Nov 30, 2015, 5:14am

>479 arukiyomi: I had to check whether I'd read it - never a good sign! I have and I rated it a mildly amusing 3/5. As I said above I was coming off the back of some serious pieces of literature (Proust, Mann, Richardson, Rushdie, Roth - all of which were worthy but all pretty heavy lifting in the brain department) and I was ready for a piece of light hearted humour hence the high rating.

I was wondering how long and in how many different ways Proust could make the same sort of point about Swann's increasingly frustrated obsession with Odette. Then I reflected that In Search of Lost Time is (I think) the longest work of fiction ever written and so it is a unique opportunity in literature to wallow on a theme, and if you're going to wallow you might as well do it with Proust's marvellous prose.

Dec 1, 2015, 11:24am

hope you still feel the same after vol 7... have fun!

Edited: Dec 5, 2015, 1:35pm

454. Germinal - Emile Zola. Centered around a mining community in late 19th century France. A totally gripping and brutal tale. While at a big picture level this novel deals with the conflict between labour and capital, the political rhetoric is kept to a minimum, and it is the realistic drama in the lives of the community that speaks of the injustice. Unflinching in its portrayal of poverty, violence and sexual promiscuity this is certainly not a comfortable read yet like a car crash you can't tear your eyes away from it. A brilliant novel 5/5

Dec 5, 2015, 8:20am

Germinal was a 5 star read for me as well. I will never forget that ending!

Dec 5, 2015, 1:51pm

>483 japaul22: Just read your review now and I agree with everything you said. This is only my third 5 star read of the year and when I read the back cover I was expecting something grim and worthy that I'd end up giving 3.5 stars to, yet despite the predicted unrelenting grimness I was so affected by this I find it hard to fault as a novel.

Dec 7, 2015, 6:00pm

I've finished my three month trawl through some of the more prolific authors, so I'll resume my alphabetical assault on my bookshelves with:

455. Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino. Marco Polo describes cities he's visited to Kublai Khan. I tried hard to like this short book, and failed. To me it was more pretentious than poetic. There were a few nice images and I warmed a little to it as I went but no more than 2.5/5

Dec 10, 2015, 4:23pm

456. The Plague - Albert Camus. This novel deals with the psychological impact of fear and isolation in the face of a disaster that affects everyone in the town of Oran in Algeria. Interesting arguments and insights as individuals react in different ways. 3.5/5

Dec 13, 2015, 4:14pm

457. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote. The author tells the story of Holly Golightly, the enigmatic flighty young woman who lives in a neighbouring apartment. It is impossible to read this without picturing the iconic images of Audrey Hepburn in the (better known) film based on the book. Yet the book differs from the film in some important plot points. I recall being a bit disappointed with the movie; I really enjoyed this short story. 4/5

Edited: Dec 16, 2015, 12:14pm

458. Kingdom of This World - Alejo Carpentier. The Haitian Revolution seen through the eyes of the slave Ti Noël. I thought this was a wonderful book. The author manages to open up 40 years of Haitian history including colonial rule, two revolutions and dictatorial monarchy in a little over 100 pages. Not only that but it is written with vivid prose and elements of magic realism. A remarkable achievement. 5/5

Dec 16, 2015, 2:23am

>488 puckers: what an interesting review. I had never even heard of this book, but will add it to my wishlist!

Dec 16, 2015, 4:48am

>489 Simone2: I believe this book (written in 1949) is seen as a trail blazer for the likes of Marquez and the other Latin American magic realists. Certainly well worth looking out for.

Dec 16, 2015, 6:42am

>488 puckers: Well I couldn't dodge that book bullet. On the wishlist it goes.

Dec 19, 2015, 7:04pm

(re-read) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
459. Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

Two trippy short stories best approached with a child-like mind open to fantasy. It is all nonsense of course, but John Tenniel's classic illustrations add to the written word possibly more than any comparable illustrated novel on the list. 4/5 and 3.5/5 respectively.

Dec 19, 2015, 11:49pm

You have blown past me in the journey toward 1000! I considered trying to read some short books to catch up but instead I am going to embrace 6th place and read some long, long books next.

Dec 20, 2015, 2:19am

>493 annamorphic: the finish line is still many unpredictable years away so who can say how our journeys will pan out. I've had a 100+ book year and don't expect to repeat that in 2016 as I take over carer duties at home with my girls. I'm sure that the reading ahead will produce many delights and annoyances irrespective of relative progress. Hope you enjoy it as much as I aim to.

Dec 20, 2015, 5:45am

>492 puckers: I also like Lewis Carroll's original drawings in Alice's Adventures Underground. While they are not as polished as Tenniel's, it's interesting to see how he originally envisioned characters and what he chose to illustrate.

Dec 23, 2015, 1:48am

460. Middlemarch - George Eliot. Life in nineteenth century rural Middlemarch. I have a soft spot for the grand Victorian novels, and this is one of the grandest. I have enjoyed Eliot's previous works and this is regarded as her masterpiece. The writing was impressive and while I came away feeling the whole thing developed a little too slowly to blow me away, I did enjoy it. 4/5

Dec 23, 2015, 11:21pm

461. Wise Children - Angela Carter. Dora Chance recalls the her life in the theatre as she celebrates her 75th birthday with her twin Nora. This is an amusing, magical, bawdy tale of a family steeped in theatrical life who's history of twins and mistaken identity mirrors the plays they became famous for. A suitably light-hearted story of the petty tensions within families for the start of this festive season. 3.5/5

Dec 31, 2015, 12:15am

462. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler. Philip Marlowe is hired by a retired general to deal with a blackmailer. I normally like noir but I found there were too many unlikeable characters, twists and false leads in this to build much tension. 3/5

Jan 20, 2016, 3:59am

463. I'm Not Stiller - Max Frisch. A man is picked up at the Swiss border and is identified as the missing Stiller. He denies this even though his wife, brother and lover are clear that he is Stiller. I thought much of it was well written and as it progressed there were interesting thoughts on how we see ourselves and how we'd like others to see us. I must confess though that I didn't really get in to a lot of it even if it was thought provoking. 3/5

Edited: Jan 21, 2016, 5:39am

464. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon. Two teenage cousins come up with an idea for a comic book hero, the Escapist. The book looks at the creative process that gave rise to the comic book phenomenon in the USA in the 1940s and 1950s and, by extension, a sense of life in the US before, during and after WW2. The story of Joe Kavalier, a boy refugee from Nazi occupied Prague, his love of magic and his use of comic illustrations to fight his own war against the Nazis was the most gripping bit of the tale. The relatively straightforward story of Sam Clay and the later "adventures" of the young men after the war were less interesting and made the book drag on a bit. 3.5/5

Jan 22, 2016, 4:11am

465. The Hive - Camilo Jose Cela. A snapshot of Madrid in the early 1940s. This intriguing novel lives up to its title with hundreds of characters jostling for our attention in short vignettes - someone has counted over 300 characters in the novels 200 pages - like trying to follow a bee in a hive. Inevitably you don't get to spend much time with any one character but quite a few are nicely drawn, and the book concludes with a tense ending as the fate of one key character is repeatedly read about in a newspaper but never revealed to the reader. Lots of poverty and prostitution (the book was banned in Franco's Spain), but not a depressing book. Nicely done. 3.5/5

Edited: Jan 25, 2016, 1:52am

466. The Awakening - Kate Chopin. A young married woman finds her desire for independence awakening while on a vacation. The reminded me of Edith Wharton, both in style and subject matter. A nicely paced short story with some wonderfully descriptive writing. 4/5

Edited: Jan 25, 2016, 1:51am

467. Soldiers of Salamis - Javier Cervas. In the closing days of the Spanish Civil War a leading fascist survives a mass execution by retreating Republican soldiers. A blend of fact and fiction (or at least speculation) involving an investigative journalist, Robert Bolano (of 1001 list fame) and aging survivors of the war. Interesting and ultimately moving. 4/5

Jan 28, 2016, 3:38am

468. On The Black Hill - Bruce Chatwin. Identical twin brothers spend their entire life on a farm in the Welsh borders. The novel spans 100 years in and around this farm. Colourful characters and nicely described rural landscapes and activities make this a pleasurable read. 3.5/5

Feb 2, 2016, 7:41pm

469. The Riddle of the Sands - Erskine Childers. Carruthers is invited to join a friend sailing along the Baltic coast and gets caught up in spying adventure. This book was a little old-fashioned and the ending wasn't really that exciting - a geo-political statement that possibly resonated with a British readership in 1903 but quickly overtaken by the events in Europe from 1914. For me the highlight was being immersed in the sand-flats off the north coast of Germany, an unlikely location for a thriller and an area that the author presumably had specialist knowledge of. Readable and mostly good fun. 3.5/5

Feb 2, 2016, 9:43pm

470. Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad. Jim spends his life being haunted/pursued by an act of apparent cowardice. Conrad is verbose and at times melodramatic in this tale of a young man seeking a second chance. However the pace improves in later parts of the book when Jim is running a remote jungle station. 3.5/5

Edited: Feb 6, 2016, 5:05am

471. The Wings of the Dove - Henry James. A young couple befriend an ailing heiress in order to inherit her money. This was hard work. There is a plot and it could have been suspenseful and/or moving, but James' grammatical gymnastics mean that you struggle to engage with anything he has to say. I found I paused at the end of each chapter and asked myself "what actually happened there?". A few nice phrases but otherwise the effort outweighed the rewards. 2/5

Feb 6, 2016, 5:41pm

472. The Voyage Out - Virginia Woolf. A young woman comes of age on a trip to the tropics. Woolfs earliest list novel is less experimental than some of her later works, but her ability to make observations on life and to paint atmospheric scenes in just a few words are as good as ever. 3/5

Edited: Feb 13, 2016, 7:09pm

473. Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Pierre Ambroise Choderlos de Laclos. Two deceitful aristocrats set out to seduce two virtuous women. The plot and structure of this book closely resembles Richardsons Clarissa, and the latter book is referenced on a couple of occasions. Some of the more overwrought letters do resemble the original book, but the characters are more interesting here, the intrigue more involved and the correspondence briefer and less repetitive. 3/5

Feb 16, 2016, 5:50pm

474. 2001 A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke. Millions of years ago an ape-man discovers a mysterious plinth close to his tribe's cave. The movie is one of the most highly rated and influential movies of all time, but I found it a bit too enigmatic. The book explains the plot a lot better and is more enjoyable, even if elements still leave you wondering. However it is a visionary ride through time and space. 3.5/5

Feb 22, 2016, 4:10pm

475. Les Enfants Terribles - Jean Cocteau. Two rich orphaned teenagers create a self indulgent fantasy world. For much of this short novel my only emotion was the desire to give everyone a good slap and a dose of reality. However as the Game becomes darker there my interest increased along with the tension. 3/5

Feb 26, 2016, 6:53pm

476. What a Carve Up! - Jonathan Coe. Michael Owen is commissioned to write a history of the greedy, immoral Winshaw family. I found this novel quite entertaining, and it captures the dubious morality of the "greed is good" Thatcher years. The tying up of all the loose ends in the closing chapters felt a bit rushed and farcical - or as one character had put it "like a third rate horror movie" - but overall worth a read. 3.5/5

Feb 29, 2016, 4:32am

Ha!... pretty much anything's briefer than the correspondence in Clarissa!

Feb 29, 2016, 5:19pm

477. Waiting for the Barbarians - J. M. Coetzee. A magistrate in a frontier town is shaken from his comfortable existence with the arrival of a ruthless army Colonel. This is my eighth list Coetzee and the most straightforward/readable to date. Its message of the colonials being more barbaric than the natives is kind of obvious, but this is a powerful and effective book. 4/5

Mar 10, 2016, 3:58am

478. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins. A fabulous Indian diamond disappears from a country house. One of the first detective stories and you can see the influences on Conan-Doyle, Christie et al with the sharp-eyed detective surrounded by bumbling "helpers". The story is entertaining enough though it shows its age with its patronizing view of women, foreigners, the disabled etc. 3.5/5

Mar 15, 2016, 7:27pm

479. Lion of Flanders - Hendrik Conscience. Describes the events leading up to the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. This is a much romanticised take on historical events in Flanders during the early 14th century. Written in a similar style to Sir Walter Scott's historical novels, and like Scott it doesn't allow facts or objectivity to get in the way of a good story. And it is a good entertaining story. 4/5

Mar 21, 2016, 4:26am

480. The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper. A young British officer and two sisters find themselves trapped by hostile native American Indians. This is a product of its time - overly wordy and melodramatic, with helpless women and savage "barbarians". However I'm happy to accept it as a product of 1826 and set aside these shortcomings to get into the drama. Some parts are well done - the geography/landscapes are nicely described, and the siege of Fort William Henry quite absorbing (if exaggerated). I liked this more than some others I think. 3/5

Edited: Mar 24, 2016, 4:48am

481. Pricksongs and Descants - Robert Coover. A collection of short stories including reimagined fables and Bible stories. An intriguing collection. Some stories are confronting, some didn't work for me, most require some effort by the reader with their shifting perspectives and non-linear storylines, but there is black humour and marvelous imagination and originality and on the basis of this alone I would rate this 4/5.

Mar 24, 2016, 5:15am

That sounds very interesting Puckers.

Mar 24, 2016, 2:41pm

>519 M1nks: Worth a read. Initially I thought I was going to dislike the book as the stories are not that easy to get in to, but they are short, varied and clever enough to suck you in. Some I've forgotten already, but there's the story of Noah told in the style that reminded me of Faulkner, there's the darkly humorous story of a young man dying under a truck while incompetent and absurdist characters argue about what to do with him (think Barthelme or Beckett), there's a couple of very creepy stories with rapidly shifting perspectives, a dystopian story of attempts to capture the last shepherd in the world, a grim Little Red Riding Hood, a magician performing tricks with a hat, and so on. Not bad for 200 pages.

Mar 27, 2016, 9:59pm

482. The Princess of Cleves - Madame de La Fayette. A young married woman finds mutual attraction in a Duke. This is all rather dull, partly because nothing really happens, and partly because there is little if any characterization of the various players. 2/5

Apr 5, 2016, 7:34am

483. Contact - Carl Sagan. Radio-astronomers receive a signal from outer space. I enjoyed the science described in this, and the fact that it is mainly based in the "real world". The emotional/relationship aspects of the story and the science v religion debate seemed like a bit of a distraction from the core story, but were relevant towards the end of the book. 3/5

Apr 6, 2016, 10:29pm

484. Everything that Rises must Converge - Flannery O'Connor. Nine short stories about individuals and families in the southern USA. The stories are written in a similar style, and broadly follow a similar theme - narrow-minded, self-righteous, mainly racist individuals make a stand for a principle and generally become unstuck. I did this as an audio-book with four different narrators (male and female) and this worked well for this book. All stories sucked me in and I enjoyed them despite their usually tragic endings. 4/5

Apr 8, 2016, 7:52pm

485. Arcadia - Jim Crace. Victor, the millionaire landlord of a noisy medieval marketplace decides to replace them with a modern mall, "Arcadia". The descriptions in much of the book are a treat for all the senses, and it continually provokes debate about whether modernization is improvement. 3/5

Edited: Apr 18, 2016, 1:48pm

486. The Hours - Michael Cunningham.
(re-read) Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf.
The first (later) book has three overlapping stories about women and Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Wolf writing the novel, a housewife reading the novel in the 1950s and a woman nicknamed "Mrs Dalloway" who is preparing a party for an ailing friend in 1990s New York. It is about 10 years since I read Mrs Dalloway and while I remember the gist of it I felt I was doing The Hours a disservice by not having a fresh memory of it. I hadn't really enjoyed Mrs Dalloway when I read it 10 years ago, and I had hoped that by re-reading it, my appreciation might improve now I've read 6 of Virginia Woolf's novels. Sadly no - I still found it a bit too modernist with its disjointed thoughts and rapid changes in perspective. Once we settled in one location and time at the party that closes the book it improved for me, but I still struggled to enjoy much 2.5/5.

As for The Hours, I found the reinterpretation in New York a bit clumsy once I realized how much he was mirroring the events of the original novel. The other stories worked better for me even if rather depressing. 3/5

Incidentally I haven't seen the movie and would be interested to know whether they included the New York scene where Mrs Dalloway (played by Meryl Streep in the movie I believe) tries to catch a glimpse of the movie star thought to be Meryl Streep!

Apr 18, 2016, 5:37am

And so on to the "D" authors in my TBR pile, starting with:

487. Fifth Business - Robertson Davies. Dunstan Ramsay, a retired schoolmaster tells the story of his life. I enjoyed this very readable and entertaining novel. 3.5/5

Apr 18, 2016, 10:17am

>525 puckers: Incidentally I haven't seen the movie and would be interested to know whether they included the New York scene where Mrs Dalloway (played by Meryl Streep in the movie I believe) tries to catch a glimpse of the movie star thought to be Meryl Streep!

Nope. That was funny in the book though, especially considering my copy had a picture of Meryl Streep on the cover. They also don't include the scene in the film Bridget Jones's Diary where they sit around at work and mock Hugh Grant.

I loved both those books when I read them multiple times a few years ago.

Edited: Apr 18, 2016, 3:20pm

>527 Nickelini: Thanks Nickelini. Yes it would have been a bit surreal Meryl Streep asking other actors whether they thought the actress they'd seen was Meryl Streep (though it could have resolved the question of whether it was Meryl Streep or Vanessa Redgrave!) Not in keeping with what was presumably a very serious movie.

Apr 21, 2016, 7:22am

488. Nervous Conditions - Tsitsi Dangarembga. The struggles of a girl from a rural settlement in Rhodesia who leaves her family to receive a school education. This (semi-autobiographical?) account of a native girl with skill and ambition brought in some of the usual evils of colonialism, but most of the conflict involved a girl who wanted to breakout from the role of women in a traditional culture, while bound by family ties. Throw in puberty and a few nuns and you have a supercharged piece of teenage angst. The ending was disappointing with the resolution of all this left for a sequel. Interesting but unresolved 3/5

Edited: Apr 24, 2016, 11:44pm

489. Dom Casmurro - Machado de Assis. Dom Casmurro as a teenager starts a life long love affair with his neighbours' daughter. Written in an engaging conversational style, there isn't much drama, but a pleasant and entertaining read. 3/5

Edited: Apr 26, 2016, 5:30am

490. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe. (For those of you who have been sleeping under a rock) Robinson Crusoe is marooned on an uninhabited island for 28 years. Everyone knows the basic premise of this novel, and it is a surprise that its taken 50+ years for me to read this. What really surprised me though was how modern the book feels for one published in 1719. It is a product of its time to the extent that the science/natural history is dubious on occasion, attitudes to the "savages" aren't the most modern, and there is an obsession with the providence of God. This latter attitude is quite modern though, with nothing of mystical miracles but rather reflections on how good fortune can arise from bad luck. The realism of the whole book was one that really struck me. Defoe goes in to great detail about how Crusoe provisioned himself, built his shelters,etc without any of the gothic overwrought drama and emotion that infects many books later in the 18th century. 3.5/5

Apr 27, 2016, 5:40am

491. Eugenie Grandet - Honore de Balzac. A very wealthy miser brings up his daughter in a run-down, joyless house. I didn't really care for anyone, including the set-upon mother and daughter, and therefore the story lacked an emotional punch, but the written was enjoyable with humour and bitterness, and a cast of memorable irredeemable characters. 4/5

Edited: May 6, 2016, 9:17pm

492. The Mandarins - Simone de Beauvoir. The lives of left-wing intellectuals in Paris immediately following liberation in 1944. The book is long (763 pages) and consists largely of conversations as leading intellectuals (based on Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir herself) seek a role/vision in post-war France. Not much action, no humour, some hysterical relationship drama, and a lot of serious thinking if you're in the mood. 3/5

May 9, 2016, 5:38am

493. Essays in Love - Alain de Botton. The arc of a love affair is described from a philosophical aspect. De Botton is well known for his dumbed-down practical philosophy books and this is similar but turned in to a work of fiction as the male in a relationship describes how and why his love blossomed and faded. I gave one or two nods of recognition but most of this was alien to my experience and as the whole is written in a remote/analytical style I found it all rather dull. 2.5/5

May 10, 2016, 2:18pm

>531 puckers: Nice review. I found pretty much the same as you did, to my recollection.

>533 puckers: Perhaps perversely, that does sound really appealing.

>534 puckers: Does de Botton sound lovelorn by the end? If so, I am prepared to fall in love and marry him for a share in his stupendous wealth.

May 10, 2016, 3:58pm

>535 Cliff-Rhu-Rhubarb: If De Botton approaches relationships like his protagonist he would be impossible to live with - good luck!

Despite its length and seriousness I was never bored with or depressed by The Mandarins so it is worth a read, just don't expect any light relief on the journey.

May 13, 2016, 3:43am

494. Billy Bathgate - E.L. Doctorow. 15 year old Billy Bathgate becomes a member of mobster Dutch Schultz's gang in 1930s New York. This is an entertaining piece, even if it didn't suck me in as much as Ragtime which I read a few years ago. 3.5/5

May 17, 2016, 5:41am

495. Chocky - John Wyndham. 11 year old Matthew Gore appears to have an imaginary friend. Knowing little about the story I had anticipated some sort of "possession" story (I think based on nothing more than the similarity of the name to Chucky, the possessed child's toy of horror movie fame!). This story turned out to be much more interesting if a lot less dramatic than that, and (without getting in to spoiler areas) contained some stimulating ideas. 3.5/5

May 19, 2016, 7:45pm

496. Libra - Don DeLillo. DeLillo's take on the conspiracy theories behind the assassination of JFK. DeLillo's writing is often disjointed, and he seems to assume a lot of knowledge of the minor players and events leading up to the assassination of the President. Nevertheless there is build up of tension as the various players converge on Dallas for 22 November 1963. 3/5

May 20, 2016, 4:54am

497. Thomas of Reading - Thomas Deloney. One of the first English novels (published around 1600), revolving around a group of cloth merchants. This book didn't suffer from two of the curses of many of the early novels on the Boxall list - length and endless repetition. Instead this short novel ranges through some bawdy comedy, murder, tragic love and a bit of 12th century English history. The digital version I read was clearly a scan of an early publication of the novel and consequently the "olde English" was a bit dodgy (letters appearing as symbols, page headings half way down the page and three different spellings of the same surname in the one paragraph), but I enjoyed it. 3.5/5

May 20, 2016, 5:36am

>539 puckers: Interesting. I read it a long time ago, but I was a Kennedy-reading weirdo in high school, so I was pretty well-versed in the subject matter. It didn't occur to me that it might be less accessible to others. Makes sense though.

May 20, 2016, 6:03am

>541 ursula: Being Australian/British I was aware of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, but the whole Bay of Pigs fiasco and Cuban missile crisis is not something we ever touched on at school. It seems to be a well researched book and the various CIA/paramilitaries that were (according to this novel) sufficiently frustrated by the Cuban failures to plot the assassination and framing of Oswald presumably existed (whether or not they ever plotted like this), but they did tend to blur together in my mind. DeLillo throws you straight in to the reflections of these people and assumes you know who they are and why the events in Cuba upset them. There was a lot of Wikipedia referencing going on during my read.

May 23, 2016, 7:31am

498. A Woman's Life - Guy de Maupassant. Jeanne marries badly and her life goes downhill. Nicely written but quite depressing. 3/5

499. Memento Mori - Muriel Spark. Centres on a group of elderly people, and phone calls that remind them that "remember you must die". Almost all the main characters in this book are over 70 with various obsessions and ailments, and the humour is dark and not always politically correct. Like The Driver's Seat Muriel Spark throws in the odd burst of dark violence to throw you off balance. 3.5/5

Edited: May 25, 2016, 6:00am

500. Ulysses - James Joyce. Yes. Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus wander the streets of Dublin on Thursday 16th June 1904. If only it was that straightforward! Ulysses is undoubtedly a difficult book to read with its dense narrative, laden with fantasy and obscure references, and rapid shifts in perspective through stream-of-consciousness. I had initially started to read this like other novels, ploughing through the difficult passages in the hope of relief later, but about two thirds through I ground to halt when I realised I’d read several pages without really understanding anything in them.

Around that time (6 years ago) I started following the weekly podcasts of Frank Delaney (http://blog.frankdelaney.com/re-joyce/). These podcasts are a dissection of Ulysses, sentence by sentence, and are now in their 6th year (and 156 pages in to the book). They’ve enabled me to appreciate Joyce’s writing style and his innovations, unpacked the numerous references to Irish culture and politics of the late 19th century and the allusions to Homer's The Odyssey and Shakespeare's Hamlet, and enjoy the subversive humour of his chief protagonist Leopold Bloom. Despite an increase in the output (now running at a page per week) I think there are another 10 years of these podcasts to go which gives you some idea of how much is hidden in Ulysses.

With renewed confidence I have now attacked the rest of the book, finishing the moving penultimate chapter as Bloom returns to his unfaithful wife on the morning of 17th June 1904, and the infamous concluding monologue by Molly Bloom.

So what rating should I give this difficult but brilliantly written book? I will seek refuge in arukiyomi’s matrix and rate it by:
1.Legacy – a book known to many who’ve never opened it, which pushed stream-of-consciousness to new levels 5/5
2.Plot – not much happens but there is a consistent theme 3/5
3.Characterisation – Joyce famously claimed that Dublin of 1904 could be rebuilt based on the detail in his book and there can’t be many Dublin buildings and Irish personalities that aren’t referenced somewhere here. However it’s not always easy to follow what is going on with his characters in the denser fantasy chapters. 4/5
4.Readability. The preface in my book notes “To complain that Ulysses is difficult is like complaining that Mount Everest is hard to climb”. Notwithstanding that point of view, this is not an easy book to read and enjoy particularly in the later chapters 1.5/5
5.Achievement. Did Joyce achieve something magnificent here. Undoubtedly. 5/5
6.Style. Often I feel Joyce was just showing off with his shifts in style without adding anything to the experience by doing so. At other times though I loved what he did. 3/5

So overall that averages at 3.6/5. Maybe when Mr Delaney has finished unpacking the book in 2026 I'll be able to rate it higher, which it feels like it deserves.

May 25, 2016, 6:37am

Congrats on the big 5-0-0 and another congrats on finding a unique way of reading a rather difficult book :)

May 25, 2016, 8:18am

Way to go Puckers! And what a magnificent book to wrap up the big 500 with!

May 25, 2016, 11:24am

Congratulations! Quite an achievement!

May 25, 2016, 11:34am

>544 puckers: Your interesting post is about as much as I care to read of Ulysses. Good job though!

May 26, 2016, 5:36am

well puckers... first of all congrats on finishing it. Secondly, I'm very flattered to see my rating scheme getting a mention.

It is, though, a tad more complicated than that as each of the rating categories is weighted with the more important categories scores counting for more in the final weighting as follows:
Legacy - /30
Plot - /40
Achievement - /60
Readability - /60
Characterisation - /40
Style - /40

This gives a total out of 270 which you convert to a percentage.

Judging from your scores above, I think you'd probably have rated it thus:
Legacy - 30/30
Plot - 24/40
Achievement - 60/60
Readability - 18/60
Characterisation - 32/40
Style - 24/40

giving a total of 188/270 i.e. 72% or "very good" and a radar thus:

Edited: May 26, 2016, 6:30am

>549 arukiyomi: Thanks for that - you're clearly a frustrated actuary! Your rating system proved very useful where like Ulysses I'm conflicted about the various aspects of the book and the reading experience, so thanks for sharing the method. I just missed the weightings, which make sense.

>545 Yells: >546 M1nks: >547 paruline: >548 Nickelini: Thank you. No rest though - I'm looking forward (not) to tackling 120 Days in Sodom in the next week or two.

May 26, 2016, 7:20am

I read 120 Days of Sodom last month and yes, it is depraved and gross but to be honest, it's also rather boring. Once he shocks you with something, it then gets repeated over and over again. A warning though, it gets worse as it goes along but fortunately, his descriptions of it get shorter as well.

May 26, 2016, 2:04pm

>544 puckers: Congratulations on reaching 500 and finishing Ulysses. I am planning to read it one of these months as well, your review is very helpful.

May 26, 2016, 7:30pm

>552 Simone2: Thanks, and good luck!

>551 Yells: I previously read Justine and found it excessive but boring as you say, redeemed only by a farcical ending that made me laugh out loud and add a star.

Edited: May 26, 2016, 7:37pm

501. Amadis of Gaul - Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo. Tales of Amadis, a Knight Errant, who wanders an imagined Europe on various quests. Originally written in 14th century and updated by Montalvo in the early 16th century, this is quite readable but like many books of that era suffers from excessive length and endless repetition. The geography of Europe is imaginary, and the lands seem to be devoid of ordinary folk with encounters restricted to knights and damsels in distress. Much jousting and smiting ensues, but for way too long. 2.5/5

May 27, 2016, 8:26pm

A belated congratulations for reaching number #500 (and Ulysses!)

May 27, 2016, 10:01pm

Another belated congrats! Ulysses is quite an accomplishment no matter at which number it occurs, but particularly good to be #500.

Jun 1, 2016, 11:17pm

>555 amerynth: >556 annamorphic: Thanks!

502. 120 Days of Sodom - Marquis de Sade. Four powerful libertines kidnap 16 children and take them to an isolated castle where they are subject to relentless sexual abuse and torture. (SPOILERS AHEAD). This is the product of a disturbed or at least immoral mind. de Sade's object here seems to be to see how far the reader can get before crying "Enough!". The structure/set-up of the story is intriguing and the writing is skilful enough, but at the end of the day we are dealing with the kidnap, violent sexual abuse, rape, mutilation and murder of children. The sexual perversions described are ridiculous enough to be divorced from reality so I got through about 80% largely unscathed, but de Sade constantly turns up the depravity and towards the end where his characters are dismembering the children while raping them the limits of my tolerance were reached. 2/5.

Jun 14, 2016, 7:25am

503. The House with the Blind Windows - Herbjorg Wassmo. An 11 year old girl in a poor Norwegian fishing village deals with an abusive step-father. This isn't as traumatic as the subject matter suggests, with much of the abuse alluded to rather than described. On the other hand while there are some strong characters, Tora is still left to deal with her abusive step-father and distant mother largely by herself which made this rather a depressing read for me. 3/5

Jun 20, 2016, 7:41pm

504.Clear Light of Day - Anita Desai. A family reunion in their parental home in Old Delhi brings out long standing frustrations. I enjoyed this book. Firstly the atmosphere of the neglected house and surrounds are described beautifully and it is easy to immerse yourself in the location. Secondly, the dynamics of the family (particularly the four siblings), with the past and present told from multiple perspectives, result in a rich Chekhovian family reunion drama. 4/5

Jun 21, 2016, 7:09am

505. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery. A golden-haired boy appears in a remote spot in the Sahara desert. A quirky little story which despite its brevity and simplicity stimulates thoughts about what is important in life. 3.5/5

Jun 26, 2016, 5:45am

506. All about H. Hatterr - G.V Desani. H Hatterr seeks out a variety of Indian gurus to discover truths about life. The mangled idiomatic English in this novel takes a little getting used to and while there are flashes of humour I didn't really get in to this. 2.5/5

Edited: Jun 29, 2016, 12:40am

507. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens. Follows the orphaned David Copperfield from childhood to young adulthood. This is a more melancholy and reflective Dickens, supposedly partly autobiographical (DC does develop in to a successful author). However there are the usual array of colourful and not always reputable characters that are typical of Dickens, and there is entertainment and tension throughout. 3.5/5

Jul 2, 2016, 3:39am

508. The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky. Three brothers are drawn together when their father is murdered. This was a great piece of literature. Initially it focused on the different attitudes to life of the three brothers (mirroring the various views of Russian society at the time), and was a combination of social drama and lengthy philosophical monologues. Then it morphs in to a murder investigation and trial. Eloquent throughout, it is hard to believe this was dumped from the 1001 list from 2008 onwards. 4.5/5

Jul 2, 2016, 2:06pm

well something had to make way for A Visit from the Goon Squad or The Sense of an Ending or Nemesis or The Marriage Plot or all those other far better pieces of literature that will still be read as classics in 100 years.

Jul 2, 2016, 11:18pm

>564 arukiyomi: You are quite right of course. I was forgetting about.....who did you say?

Jul 3, 2016, 7:30am

>564 arukiyomi:, >565 puckers: Agreed. I'm generally not impressed with the selections for books in this current generation. I think it goes to show that it takes time to weed out the "greats".

Jul 10, 2016, 3:58am

509. The Nun - Denis Diderot. A young nun seeks to renounce her vows. "A life cut off from society is depraving". I expected this to be a bit of a trial, and initially it is as the innocent young nun is subjected to the usual OTT 18th century sadistic persecution (Clarissa, Justine et al). Diderot then changes pace with the third party intervention, a lesbian Mother Superior and the revelation in the concluding "preface" that reveals that the whole novel was a ruse by Diderot to lure a friend back to Paris to assist our young heroine. While hardly a balanced view of life in a convent, it was more entertaining and varied then some other novels of the period. 3.5/5.

Edited: Jul 11, 2016, 5:34am

510. Play it as it Lays - Joan Didion. The bleak life of a Hollywood housewife in the 1960s. This a surprisingly quick read, and is well written but it is unrelenting downbeat in its depiction of a woman unable/unwilling to get anything fulfilling out of her life. 3/5

Edited: Jul 13, 2016, 2:06am

511. The Bitter Glass - Eilis Dillon. A group of young adults are isolated after the IRA blow up the only train and road bridges. I quite liked this. Dillon draws the location (poor remote Irish coastal village) and time (Irish civil war 1922) well, and there is enough tension in the various relationships to keep you interested. 3/5

Jul 14, 2016, 7:22pm

>569 puckers: That sounds like a book that I would want to read and I have never heard of it or the author before. Thanks for your review.

Jul 17, 2016, 6:05am

512. Out of Africa - Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). Baroness Blixen describes her life in Kenya during the early 20th century. "I had a farm in Africa" - I defy anyone to read these opening words using any voice other than Meryl Streep's! Blixen clearly has a great deal of love for the place she lived in for 20 years, and empathy for the various people she encountered there. While this should be classed as an autobiography, Blixen reveals very little about herself. Her (estranged?) husband gets one mention, on page 187, and while she appears to have deep feelings for Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford) she never opens up about their relationship. In some ways this makes this a remote and frustrating reminiscence, yet I loved the poetic and restrained passion in her descriptions and like her I was sorry to see her leave this place. 4/5

Edited: Jul 20, 2016, 2:26am

513. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas. Young D'Artagnan arrives in Paris seeking to join the Musketeers of the Guard. This swashbuckling novel has taken on a life of its own in popular culture, including its catch phrase of "All for one and one for all" (which I don't recall being said exactly like that anywhere in the novel). Initially I found it all a bit juvenile with the four friends getting up to various bits of mischief. The increasing role of the evil Milady de Winter and all powerful Cardinal Richelieu in the novel adds compelling suspense and life-and-death drama. As in Queen Margot Dumas is fast and loose with historical accuracy but writes a good fun adventure story. 4/5

Jul 20, 2016, 3:41am

>572 puckers: I just read it also, heh. Dumas is always fast & loose with his history - it only served to inspire and provide a bit of backdrop, but so long as you know that, it's all in good fun. :)

Jul 20, 2016, 6:39am

>573 .Monkey.: With both of his historical novels I've learnt a lot by looking up the characters in Wikipedia - then working out how much is built around the basic facts (sadly Milady de Winter is fictional, unlike the equally unrelenting and cunning Catherine de Medici from Queen Margot).

Edited: Jul 20, 2016, 7:05pm

514. Stone Junction - Jim Dodge. Teenage Daniel Pearce is taken under the wing of the Alliance of Magicians and Outlaws (AMO). I was nervous picking up this book as it has and introduction and ringing endorsement from Thomas Pynchon. Like Pynchon there are many characters with quirky names, loosely connected through an obscure underground organisation. Unlike Pynchon this has a linear storyline that you can follow without too many distractions, and a satisfying conclusion. 3.5/5

Edited: Aug 1, 2016, 3:18pm

515. Howard's End - E.M. Forster. Three families from different social strata interact at the turn of the twentieth century - the cultured Schlegels, the practical wealthy Wilcoxes, and the impoverished Basts. Forster has some wonderful writing in this with memorably poetic descriptions. He also introduces us to interesting if regularly annoying personalities, and while some coincidences seem a bit forced, this was an enjoyable and memorable read. 4/5

Aug 3, 2016, 11:13pm

516. The Child of Pleasure - Gabriele D'Annunzio. In late 19th century Italy a rich young man carries on affairs with two married women. The drama is full of dull but overwrought emotions. What I did enjoy was the descriptions of the locations in Rome and the countryside as we drift from gilded drawing room to the opera house and back through the snow-covered piazzas. 3/5

Aug 6, 2016, 12:57am

517. Cannery Row - John Steinbeck. The derelict residents of the Palace Flophouse and Grill on Cannery Row, Monterey decide to throw a party - twice. This is a pleasant read and despite much poverty and occasional violence, it is a tender portrait of a tight community during the Depression. 3.5/5

Aug 6, 2016, 5:50pm

518. U.S.A - John Dos Passos. US history in the early years of the twentieth century told through the eyes of a dozen young people. A long book (1184 pages) but a straightforward read. The chapters are bookended by news headlines, short biographies of key individuals, and some stream-of-consciousness passages which add variety and interest. There is a sweep of history with WW1, the rise of wealthy capitalists and conflict with labour unions being the main focus. My main frustration was that with a couple of exceptions the stories of the main characters seem to similar to each other so that when we meet them as bit players later in the book I found it hard to remember who was who. Lengthy but not intimidating. 3/5

Aug 7, 2016, 5:51am

519. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture - Apostolos Doxiadis. Petros Papachristos devotes his life to proving Goldbach's Conjecture. Goldbach's Conjecture is that ever even number greater than two is the sum of two prime numbers. Even though the book deals with pure mathematics, it is really a novel about the personal cost of obsession, and the thought that "Success in life is to be measured by the goals you set". This novel occasionally wanders in to areas of dry mathematical theory, but the quest by a nephew to understand his uncle is quite engaging. 3/5

Edited: Aug 9, 2016, 4:01pm

520. The Tartar Steppe - Dino Buzzati. A young soldier is placed in a remote fort where there appears to be no prospect of any military action. I quite liked this novel. While it is clearly about a wasted meaningless life, it also struck me as an indictment of massive military spending for no purpose on equipment that is obsolete before it is ever used. I think this is a book a lot of people could relate to - is anything we do in life meaningful, and how do we get trapped in to not reaching our potential? 3.5/5

Aug 9, 2016, 1:43pm

>581 puckers: Wow, that was firmly on my list of 1001 books that I had no interest in reading, but you may have changed my mind.

Edited: Aug 15, 2016, 5:22pm

521. The Red Queen - Margaret Drabble. Two stories relating to Lady Hong, the Crown Princess mother of a nineteenth century king of Korea - one retelling her life, the other a week in the life of an academic visiting South Korea in modern times. On paper this could have been a fascinating novel. The first is the retelling of the historical (factual) memoirs of the Crown Princess. The memoirs apparently cover murder, incest, policital intrigue etc yet this retelling feels cold and remote and Drabble seems to assume you have read the memoirs, allowing her to pass over some of the more interesting aspects. The second story involves an academic that the ghost of the Crown Princess choses to "haunt" and use as her agent to keep her story alive. This story wasn't convincing and while it had some interest in its own right the whole was less than the sum of its parts. 3/5

Aug 15, 2016, 9:24am

I just bought a used copy of that one (that and The Radiant Way. I have never read Drabble before but maybe I will start with RW first.

Aug 15, 2016, 3:39pm

>584 Yells: I rated both 3/5 (but LT rates The Radiant Way 0.6 higher than The Red Queen). I still quite liked the latter as it introduced me to a slice of history I was previously ignorant of, and the story was quite interesting; I just felt the novel could have been so much more than it was.

Aug 15, 2016, 4:18pm

That seems to be the general opinion from those readers I know who have commented on it.

Aug 15, 2016, 5:03pm

>586 M1nks: Yes, I've noticed that too. I'll still try both of her books on the list because the topics sound intriguing. Plus I need to compare her to her sister, A.S. Byatt, whose books I love!

Aug 15, 2016, 6:28pm

I got my used copy of The Red Queen for $0.25. I really wasn't interested in it at all, especially after all the negative comments on LT. But I gave it a try and it was a nice surprise for me. Maybe because my expectations were so low. I thought that if this was a bad book by her, then her other writing must be fabulous. I've now read other stuff by her and she's one of my favourite writers. The Radiant Way is in my TBR.

Aug 15, 2016, 7:52pm

Encouraging, thanks!

Aug 19, 2016, 6:33pm

522. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier. A shy girl marries the recently widowed owner of the estate of Manderley. This was a great read. I was particularly impressed by the characterization that du Maurier uses for the main players (the awkward, self-conscious (and unnamed!) heroine, the tormented Max de Winter) and the inanimate players (the house of Manderley and the deceased but every present Rebecca). As the secrets and twists are revealed it becomes a more routine thriller/mystery and while enjoyable it did pull the rating back to the pack for me. Still 4/5.

Aug 21, 2016, 2:55am

>590 puckers: I loved that book as well. Too bad there is no more DuMaurier on the list, she is a master in characterization and plot. I can also recommend My Cousin Rachel, though it isn't on the list.

Aug 21, 2016, 6:13am

>591 Simone2: My Cousin Rachel is on the Guardian 1000 list which I'm reading concurrently with Boxall, and it's on my TBR list so good to know there's another to look forward to.

Aug 22, 2016, 5:49am

523. Hallucinating Foucault - Patricia Duncker. A student sets out to find the author he is writing a thesis about, the (fictional) controversial French author Paul Michel. This book seeks to explore the relationship between writers and their readers, and the impact of writers lives on their work. For me the way the story pans out wasn't really believable and the themes not satisfactorily explored. A potentially interesting subject not really executed in a satisfying way. My particular book had a dedication in looping blue ink on the title page "Pour Nicholas amities Patricia"; I assumed this was a personal dedication from the author to a previous owner of this copy and given the theme of the connection of authors and readers I added half a star for pleasant serendipity. 3/5

Aug 23, 2016, 6:17am

524. The Ravishing of Lol V. Stein - Marguerite Stein. Lol is dumped by her fiancée at a dance when she is nineteen; ten years later, married with three kids, she returns to her home town. While this book is all about the impact of her traumatic failed love on her relationships, Duras writes in such a way that you never feel you understand Lol, or the other characters who are drawn to her. There is skill in writing a novel that resolves nothing, but this wasn't my cup of tea. 2/5

Aug 26, 2016, 9:31pm

525. Justine - Lawrence Durrell. In Alexandria, Egypt, an unnamed narrator has an adulterous affair with Justine. There were aspects of this book I quite liked - the descriptions of Alexandria brought the city to life in my imagination - but the vast majority of the novel is a rambling philosophical musing on the relationships in the narrators life. In the latter Durrell's language is often impenetrable and I didn't have the patience to try and absorb it all. 2.5/5

Aug 27, 2016, 9:25am

you hit the nail on the head there. Finished this in the last month or two and thought exactly the same way.

Aug 30, 2016, 12:57am

526. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackery. The going's on in the world of Vanity Fair where vanity, conceit and avarice are admirable qualities. I found this surprisingly enjoyable. Yes, it was written at the height of Victorian verbosity and consequently is around 500 pages longer than it needs to be, and it lacks any real pathos or seriousness even when children are being neglected, lovers separated and the innocent ripped off by scheming vixens. I have previously criticised audio-book narration by Frederick Davidson but I have to say that his affected sarcasm suited this tale very well. 3.5/5

Edited: Aug 30, 2016, 4:49am

years and years ago, I visited a flea market on a windswept jetty in Northumberland and found a 130 year old copy of Vanity Fair for no less than £1. It is an illustrated edition bound with a collection of Hogarth's prints. It's in storage at the moment, but once I settle back in Blighty, I am very much looking forward to the day when I curl up in front of my wood burning stove and start to read it. I'm sure it will make the extra 500 pages that much more enjoyable!

Aug 30, 2016, 5:17am

>598 arukiyomi: It is full of wonderfully old fashioned dry English humour - a Victorian edition and fire would suit it well, and can I suggest a glass of claret and an old smoking jacket as additional props. Enjoy!

Aug 31, 2016, 5:12am

I'll look out for the smoking jacket at other flea markets and order some claret!

Edited: Sep 6, 2016, 6:37am

527. The Gathering - Anne Enright. The Hegarty family gather for the funeral of their brother Liam who committed suicide. I have mixed feelings about this book. On the plus side Enright has an original frank conversational voice which makes for observations you can give a nod in recognition to. The story itself however is a bit depressing, disorganized and unresolved. Enright has a continuous bitter tone throughout which reflects where her protagonist is at in her life, but doesn't leave much light and shade in the story. She also leaps around in time so much that you often find yourself having to back track to work out where you are. Enright clearly has a talent; it just seems to be wasted here. 3/5

Sep 6, 2016, 7:31pm

528. Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco. Three academics stumble upon a 600 year old conspiracy by the Knights Templar, or do they? This is a sort of very intellectual version of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. The novel contains numerous references to 600 years of European history, world religions and the occult (pretty much "life, the universe and everything") so you could double your reading time by having Wikipedia on hand. I selectively checked references, and learnt a lot in the process. Much of the story is tense and the final twists raise bigger issues around what we choose to believe and whether it matters. I found some passages so dense with obscure references that you literally end up glazing over with a headache, but overall this is entertaining and eductational. 3.5/5

Sep 7, 2016, 3:46pm

>602 puckers: I think I said almost exactly the same thing about The Da Vinci Code when I did my review of this book. I quite enjoyed it but it did take quite a while to get through it.

Sep 8, 2016, 12:20am

>603 gypsysmom: I preferred Eco's book, though both are full of unlikely co-incidences and chance encounters that you don't want to dwell on to much if you want to get sucked in to the story.

Sep 8, 2016, 4:43am

No! the Da Vinci Code is a dumbed down version of Foucault's Pendulum, not the other way round ;-)

Brown would never have got a break had Eco not already written his novel for him.

I found The Name of the Rose a lot less esoteric while maintaining the tension of the conspiracy. Have you read that?

Sep 8, 2016, 5:34am

>605 arukiyomi: I read The Name of the Rose about 20 years ago and remember not really liking it. I suspect I would get more out of it now after devoting the last few years to Boxall's list and getting a wider appreciation of literary styles and historical references.

Sep 8, 2016, 6:54am

>605 arukiyomi: 'Brown would never have got a break had Eco not already written his novel for him'. Haha! I do agree! Brown's however, it has to be said, was a pageturner, while Eco was a fight (for me at least, but I read it a long long time ago, in the before Boxall-era. And I remember loving The Name of the Rose, which was even before Foucault's Pendulum.

Sep 9, 2016, 4:16am

529. The Music of Chance - Pail Auster. Jim Nashe is drifting through life on the road when he picks up a young poker player. What starts off as a fairly straightforward story gradually morphs in to something more sinister. It is quite a compelling read and you are constantly guessing how the story will develop right up to the end (and beyond as the outcome for several major players is left unresolved). 4/5

Sep 16, 2016, 8:03pm

530. A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan. Intersecting stories told from a variety of perspectives, centering on music producer Bennie and his assistant Sasha. This is original in construction, including 80 pages of Powerpoint graphics, but I found it was a matter of form over substance, and the shifting perspectives of time and people didn't really engage me. 3/5.

Sep 18, 2016, 6:43pm

531. Glamorama - Bret Easton Ellis. Vacuous super-models drift from party to party in New York, London and Paris. The novel revolves around Victor Ward, a famous male model, who parties and opens night clubs in New York before being sent on a mission to Paris. In the latter location Ellis' trademark extreme torture, violence and pornographic sex come to the fore. The plot also involves every moment of the action being filmed for an ill-defined reality movie, and although the book was written 20 years ago, the blurring of real and scripted dialogue between people with nothing more to offer than looks and wealth is as relevant now in Kardashian-centric 2016 as it was back in 1998. Having said that though, beyond this current relevance and witty nods to numerous cultural icons of the 90s, I didn't get much from this book and couldn't care less what happened to anyone in it. Maybe that is the point. 2/5

Sep 25, 2016, 6:52pm

532. Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison. An African American college student gets involved with political activism in New York. I enjoyed this book, particularly the first half where the naïve unnamed student has various encounters with larger-than-life characters as he discovers himself and his 'invisibility" as an individual. The second half deals with disillusionment with political processes in a more straightforward but interesting way. 4/5.

Sep 30, 2016, 1:28am

533. Woman at Point Zero - Nawal El Saadawi. A woman reflects on a life of abuse and oppression by men while she waits to be executed for murder. This is a uncompromising and brave book - the heroine is a (justifiable) "man hater" in a patriarchal Arab society. The author was later imprisoned under Sadat in Egypt for her stance on Egyptian women. Short and powerful but I didn't really connect with it. 3/5

Oct 2, 2016, 5:15pm

534. The Story of Blanche and Marie - Per Olov Enquist. Blanche Wittman (assistant to Marie Curie) tells the story of two love affairs - those of herself with Dr Charcot, and Marie with Prof Paul Langevin. The background story is interesting though never clear as to what is historical fact and fiction. The narration on the other hand is rambling and repetitive and never really gathers much of a head of steam. 3/5

Oct 4, 2016, 1:57am

>613 puckers: Enquist is a great writer, but this is by far the least interesting of the books I have read by him. Publication date seems to be the main reason for its inclusion in the list.

Oct 4, 2016, 4:16pm

>614 Henrik_Madsen: I don't know Enquist very well but I did read The Royal Physician's Visit and thought it much better than this listed one.

Oct 5, 2016, 12:51am

535. The Interesting Narrative - Olaudah Equiano. Equiano describes his slavery in the West Indies and on-going oppression once he was a free man. One of those list books that is of more historical importance than of current literary merit, this book was published 20 years before the British banned slavery and is an unflinching account of the brutality and dehumanizing effects of that trade. It is quite readable, but maybe less of a shock to us than it would have been to 18th century readers. I also read in Boxall (and subsequently on Wikipedia) that Equiano may have been born in the US rather than kidnapped from Africa, so maybe more fictional than it appears. Still quite an interesting narrative. 3/5

Edited: Oct 6, 2016, 10:43pm

536. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot. Daniel Deronda is tortured by not knowing who his parents are. I have previously enjoyed all of George Eliot's list books (this is my last one) so it was disappointing to end on a down note. I found the characters in this lengthy novel all rather dreary and there is a distinct lack of excitement throughout. The only person with any real spark about them is Gwendolyn Harleth, a precocious and self-seeking young woman, but even she has had the life bullied out of her by the second half of the book. Taking up arukiyomi's point re Adam Bede, the book could just as well have been called "Gwendolyn Harleth" as she takes up as many pages as the title character and is much more lively. There is a touch of poignancy in the dominant theme of Judaism in Europe with the knowledge of what was to occur there 50 years after this book was published, but this wasn't enough to rescue the novel for me. 2.5/5

Oct 7, 2016, 4:32am

Daniel Deronda is really two books not so well joined together(imo). There is the rather excellent story containing Gwendolyn and 'The Jewish Book' about Daniel Deronda. I liked the first one and found the second very tedious.

Oct 7, 2016, 5:46am

>618 M1nks: I agree the Gwendolyn story is more interesting, but I found it difficult to believe such a driven woman could become such a helpless blubbering mess, and Grancourt is a bit too one dimensional in his consistent mental cruelty.

Oct 9, 2016, 3:45am

537. Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich. A series of short stories told by various members of an extended native American family. It took a while to sort out who was who in this, with its fluid relationships and serial adultery. There is alcoholism, domestic violence, but also a connection with earth and water, and magic realism. While I didn't really connect with anyone here, it was an interesting insight in to a native American community. 3/5

Oct 9, 2016, 4:44am

really not looking forward to DD after that review from an Eliot fan puckers! I'll have to let Audible read it to me to get through it methinks...

Edited: Oct 9, 2016, 6:46am

>621 arukiyomi: I did DD as an Audible audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson. She does a good consistent job throughout its 36 hours.

Oct 10, 2016, 5:11am

ah... well that's something at least. Currently listening with the wife to The Golden Notebook by Juliet so I'll be used to her dulcet tones...

Oct 10, 2016, 5:42pm

538. Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel. Twelve months, twelve recipes, and the story of Tita de la Garza. I enjoyed this combination of food and life and how each influences the other. The recipes were quite mouthwatering as I made my way home to dinner! 4/5

Edited: Oct 10, 2016, 6:22pm

Has anyone ever tried making those recipes? Or something remotely approaching them?

Oct 10, 2016, 7:32pm

>625 M1nks: I wondered about that. They don't seem to be as detailed enough in terms to times, temperatures etc, but I suppose that makes them more authentic as ancient recipes handed down through the generations. Most seem real (and tasty) enough. You'd have to enjoy chilli to attempt most of them.

Oct 11, 2016, 5:23am

I tried the one for chocolate.

... tasted like water.

Oct 11, 2016, 10:00pm

>627 arukiyomi: -- Oh, groan!

>625 M1nks:, >626 puckers: I went out and cooked a Mexican feast right after finishing Like Water for Chocolate, but I didn't try those recipes. There wasn't enough info and they looked out of my league.

Oct 14, 2016, 7:05pm

539. Deep River - Shusaku Endo. A group of Japanese tourists visit the Ganges with memories of their past. Like Silence this book focuses on religion. However I found the latter book much more interesting. In this book, like the other, the examination of religious philosophy is a bit naïve, and I felt the characterization of the people was unconvincing (e.g. why would participants who were repulsed by both India and religion go on a tour of the religious sites of India?). 2.5/5

Oct 20, 2016, 3:49pm

540. Celestial Harmonies - Peter Esterhazy. Three hundred years of history of one of Hungary's leading families. The story is effectively told twice, each telling 400 pages long. The first one is a confusing and random series of writings about "my father" ("my father' being used for all males in the first half, without much context as to who that "father" is). This get very tedious. The second half is more linear and much more interesting, particularly in the later stages when this ruling family is reduced to poverty and forced labour under the communists in the 1950s. If you are not wedded to completism, I would skip the first book and read the second. Ratings - 1.5 for the first half, 3 for the second - overall 2.5/5.

Oct 23, 2016, 3:55am

541. The Absentee - Maria Edgeworth. The heir to an Irish estate returns to Ireland incognito to see the mismanagement of his father's estate. Like Castle Rackrent I enjoyed this more than many other readers seem to. It is entertaining and witty in parts and while the characters are either good or bad with little shading and the ending might be viewed through our cynical 21st century eyes as "pure Hollywood", it has a serious message about the neglected Irish estates of English based landowners. 3.5/5

Oct 24, 2016, 5:42am

542. The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides. Five young sisters commit suicide. The unnamed narrator, a boy at the time of the suicides, gathers photos and interviews contemporaries to recreate the events of that year (late 50s?). He speculates on the motivation of the girls but never really understands them. The recreation of events seems to be as much a yearning for those "virgin" school years before the town's character changed, the trees succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and the snows stopped falling. An intriguing unresolved tale. 3.5/5

Oct 26, 2016, 4:48am

I've finished my trawl through the "E" authors and now return to my annual visit to my "prolific authors". These I define as any author with three or more volumes on my TBR shelves (Boxall list and others). The first book (alphabetically by author) is:

543. Invisible - Paul Auster. A writer recalls an encounter he had with a mysterious Frenchman when he was a 20 year old student at Columbia University. I like books with twists and turns that take the narrative off in unexpected directions. In this case Auster uses metafiction with various drafts, perspectives and narrators completing the story in an entertaining/stimulating way. 4/5

Oct 27, 2016, 11:03am

How do you pick your books to read Puckers?

Oct 27, 2016, 3:05pm

I have around 800 books at home (just over 500 list books in that total), mainly physical books with some on Kindle and audiobooks. I decided a couple of years ago that if I just went for a random selection there would certain books that would be overlooked and never read so since Jan 2015 I've been working my way systematically through the shelves reading books alphabetically by author surname (one book per author). I estimate this will take about 5 years to get through to Z, but its an approach that offers good variety (unlike say the chronological by date of publication approach).

There are certain authors that I have many books to read (eg Graham Greene - I have about 10 on my shelves), or multivolume books like Proust. Once a year I get one book for all the authors that I have three or more volumes left and work my way through those.

Throw in the Group Reads for a bit of random variety and that's my reading life for the indefinite future!

Edited: Oct 30, 2016, 4:19am

544. Cocaine Nights - J.G. Ballard. Charles Prentice travels to an expat enclave in Spain to investigate a fatal fire his brother has pleaded guilty to. I seem to be incapable of being indifferent to Ballard and I either enjoy his books (Empire of the Sun, The Drowned World) or hate them (Crash, The Atrocity Exhibition). This book falls in to the former category. It starts as a sort of Agatha Christie mystery and then develops in to a dystopian view of these expat enclaves that can only be kept alive through sex, drugs and violence. 3-2 in favour of Ballard. 3.5/5

Oct 30, 2016, 7:08am

I'm a fan of Ballard. Cocaine Nights was all right for me and I remember it was fun, but my least favorite of the 3 I've read (The Drowned World and Crash are the other two).

Funny though, I see now I rated all of them 3.5 stars. Totally different reasons for those ratings.

Oct 31, 2016, 5:10pm

I am a fan as well, although I only read 2: Super Cannes and High Rise, both of which I remember vividly.

Nov 1, 2016, 5:03am

>638 Simone2: These are the last two books I have left to read - hopefully that means I'll end on a high.

Nov 4, 2016, 4:38pm

545. The Crow Road - Iain Banks. Prentice McHoan obsesses about Verity Walker and the disappearance of his Uncle Rory. Memorably opening with the line "It was the day my grandmother exploded", I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its mixture of sarcastic Scottish humour and the complexity of family relationships. I lived on the west coast of Scotland for 15 years so nostalgically embraced the locations that the story was set in and, while the large cast of characters takes a little while to sort out (particularly as Banks jumps between the present and the past), it builds to a satisfying conclusion. 4/5

Edited: Nov 6, 2016, 3:03am

546. Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence. Lady Chatterley has an intense physical affair with her husband's gamekeeper. A book known by many more than have read it - famous for being the subject of a number of famous obscenity trials. Certainly the descriptions and discussions of sex are frank but, notwithstanding a few "Fs and Cs" that caused the furor at the time, much of this would hardly raise an eyebrow these days. What of the rest of the novel? I have always found Lawrence's characters to be intense, miserable and unsympathetic. Here they are a little more interesting so I'll give this one 3/5.

In closing I can't resist quoting from "Field and Stream" magazines famous review of 1959 "This fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor minded readers, as it contains many passages on ... the chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midlands shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion this book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeping" (Ed Zern, Field and Stream, November 1959, p. 142)."

Nov 6, 2016, 4:05am

Oh that is precious! And told with deadpan humour :-)

Nov 6, 2016, 5:36am

The quote is hilarious :)

Nov 6, 2016, 8:29am

Love that quote! Starting my day with a smile - Thanks!

Nov 6, 2016, 12:44pm

>641 puckers: That's fabulous.

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:37pm

547. Portnoy's Complaint - Philip Roth. Alex Portnoy obsesses about his Jewishness and sex. At times this is laugh-out-loud funny provided you are not offended by bodily functions and expletives. I particularly enjoyed his childhood memories of his obsessive mother and constipated father. The storyline doesn't really go anywhere, but this is more about neuroses than plot. 3.5/5

Nov 9, 2016, 9:58pm

548. Seize the Day - Saul Bellow. Wilhelm Adler faces a day of reckoning as his personal crises come to a head. The protagonist in this is his own worst enemy and you find yourself siding to some extent with his old father who's attitude is of the "reap what you sow" kind. As a consequence I didn't really embrace this, but it was nicely written. 3/5

549. The End of the Affair - Graham Greene. Maurice Bendrix tells the story of his jealous and passionate affair with Sarah Miles. The story is bitter ("a record of hate" as Bendrix calls it) as he feels cheated by everyone including of course, as usual with Greene, the Catholic God. Greene's phrasing is wonderful, ably assisted in the audiobook by Colin Firth's narration. The latter was interesting; unlike most audio book readers, Colin Firth doesn't do "voices" but conveys his characters through subtle changes in tone and diction and you get used to women speaking like Mr Darcy! This is one of the saddest stories I've read (in the sense of misery and emotional pain rather than tragedy). 4/5

Nov 14, 2016, 4:09pm

550. Eva Trout - Elizabeth Bowen. Eva Trout is a wealthy but unworldly young woman. I found this a departure from the other Bowens I've read having more straightforward dialogue and wit. It does lose its way in the second half and while more readable than others I think I prefer her more elusive writing. 3/5

Edited: Nov 19, 2016, 9:08pm

551. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens. Scrooge is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve. Dickens' shortest list book, and probably his most familiar. The book contains more depth in its language than is conveyed by the Hollywood versions of this story, but the message is simple and uplifting. 4/5

Nov 25, 2016, 12:04am

Within a Budding Grove - Marcel Proust. The narrator enters his youth and his obsessions turn to young ladies. The second book in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, this book continues with its mixture of existential philosophy and psychology, and its sumptuous descriptions of people, places and objects. Beautiful writing even if at times it doesn't seem to be making much headway with the plot. 4/5

Edited: Mar 24, 2017, 7:18am

552. A Man of Feeling - Henry MacKenzie. A young man encounters various people on his travels. The encounters were completely unmemorable; I can't recall anything much about anything in this book. Not a difficult read, but quite forgettable. 2/5

Nov 26, 2016, 7:57am

>650 puckers: I'm encouraged to see that 4/5 stars for Proust's second volume. I'm planning to start at the beginning in January and seeing it as realistically a two year project.

Nov 26, 2016, 2:32pm

>652 japaul22: My vague plan is to read one volume per year and make this my 1001st read in 5 years time. Stay tuned!

Nov 27, 2016, 3:56am

there's a plot? First I've heard... and I finished it a couple of years ago!

Nov 27, 2016, 5:08pm

553. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - John Le Carre. Spy master Alec Leamas is called back to London from Berlin after all his agents are killed. Full of dubious morality and the sacrifice of individuals for the greater good, this novel keeps you guessing right to the end. Le Carre's chief protagonist in future novels, George Smiley, makes a couple of brief appearances. 4/5

Nov 27, 2016, 5:12pm

>654 arukiyomi: I use the word "plot" in the sense that the narrator displays some motives and there is some time progression (and regression) rather than a sense of "I wonder what will happen next".... I have some doubts about the plot thickening though!

Nov 28, 2016, 4:21am

ah... I see. You're more informed than I am about literature by the sounds of it!

Dec 5, 2016, 1:37am

554. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn and runaway slave Jim travel on a raft down the Mississippi. All pretty entertaining once you get over the incessant use of the "N" word. The narrator (Finn) has an affectionate regard for the African Americans he meets, most of which are slaves, but they are stereotypically wide-eyed, ignorant and uttering "Lordy" etc. His encounters with confidence tricksters King Louis XVII and Duke of Bilgewater were the most amusing passages, but it all ends rather farcically with the overelaborate efforts to free Jim from captivity which he could have achieved in seconds by walking out the door - lots of clowning around while dealing with the serious issue of slavery. 3/5

Dec 18, 2016, 1:14am

555. Joseph and His Brothers - Thomas Mann. A retelling of the biblical story of Jacob and Joseph. The Old Testament story of Jacob and Joseph takes up 15 chapters of Genesis. Mann takes this tale and expands it to a 1500 page novel in four volumes. With sex, deceit, slaughter and attempted fratricide this could have been a melodramatic retelling but Mann's story is a literary work. Paragraphs are long, the language (in the English translation) somewhat biblical (thee's and thine's abound) and this might not be to everyone's taste. However I found the slow building of foundations and motivations made more human and believable a story that many know only through Andrew Lloyd Webbers "Technicolor Dream Coat" musical. Mann also realizes he is playing with a foundation text of three world religions and so regularly interrupts the story with his interpretation of the importance and ambiguities of various numbers, time lapses and signs that are a stretch for many modern readers of the biblical story. To my mind this is a great achievement. 4/5

Dec 18, 2016, 8:43am

>189 puckers: Because I am reading The Green Hat now I came upon your review - which is not too hopeful :-). Anyhow, you mention your Triva list of the rankings of 1,001 books. That seems really interesting! Can you tell a bit more about it (the books ranking highest and lowest for example)?

Dec 18, 2016, 2:01pm

>660 Simone2: I have taken arukiyomi's spreadsheet and have added many columns over the years. One of these is the average LT reader rating for all the 1001 books. The average of averages is 3.8 compared with my average (for 555 books) of 3.25 so I can only conclude that I'm more miserable than the average LT member.

Anyway the ranking of books from lowest to highest rating was:

Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit - John Lyly 1.6 (5 ratings)
The Triple Mirror of Self - Zulfikar Ghose 2.33 (3 ratings)
Cataract - Mykhaylo Osadchy 2.5 (1 rating)
Fool's Gold - Maro Douka 2.58 ( 6 ratings)
The Man of Feeling - Henry MacKenzie 2.72 (30 ratings, including my own 2.0)
sadly The Green Hat has slipped in the ratings to 2.87 (23 ratings, including my 2.5)
The highest rated is (perhaps unsurprisingly) The Lord of the Rings at 4.52, closely followed by In Search of Lost Time at 4.5, and The Devil to Pay in The Backlands at 4.47 (71 ratings)

Dec 18, 2016, 2:26pm

>661 puckers: so I can only conclude that I'm more miserable than the average LT member.

I think the word you mean is "discerning." ;-)

Dec 18, 2016, 2:58pm

:-) there is definitely an argument to be made for that. I find it hard to believe reviews from someone with a particularly high average score.

Not that I don't think that they enjoyed the books but that I can't use them as a reliable barometer for my own selection process.

Dec 18, 2016, 3:09pm

>663 M1nks: I find it useful as a relative guide rather than absolute. If there are three books by an author I haven't read I will often pick the highest rated to give myself the best chance of enjoying it (and then quake in my boots about the remaining books if I can't stand the highest rated).

Dec 19, 2016, 4:11am

nah... you just haven't read any of the good ones!

Dec 19, 2016, 5:27am

I live in hope. No 5 star books this year so maybe next...

Dec 20, 2016, 4:29am

funny, I didn't have any make my Hall of Fame this year either which in the 10 years I've had my blog only happened once before in 2014. Does this mean I've read all the good ones?

Dec 20, 2016, 6:04am

>661 puckers: Very interesting as a guide in choosing between works, I'll add them to my spreadsheet as well.

Dec 23, 2016, 12:03am

556. The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett. An early influential noir/hard-boiled detective story. The movie with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade is better known than the book. Funnily I couldn't fit him in to the description of Hammett's hero whereas I had Lauren Bacall firmly in my head as the "femme fatale" even though Mary Astor played that part in the movie. The novel has all the hallmarks of noir - the cold deadpan detective, the plot twists, the seemingly innocent young woman who knows more than she's letting on..... Entertaining 4/5

Dec 23, 2016, 7:23am

>669 puckers: I too remember reading the descriptions of Spade and wondering how on earth Bogart ever got cast for the role! I mean, he was a great Sam Spade but there is no way I would have imagined him for it.

Dec 25, 2016, 4:33pm

557. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids - Kenzaburo Oe. During WWII a group of reformatory boys are relocated to a remote village in the mountains. Unrelentingly depressing as misery upon misery is heaped on the group of boys. Typically sparse writing for a Japanese novel, but annoyingly packed with similes that seemed a bit forced. Even though there were a dozen boys in the group only three are ever given a voice, the others being dismissed in collective emotions and actions which seemed odd given they were an isolated group under a lot of stress for much of the book. Unconvincing. 2.5/5

Jan 4, 2017, 4:20am

558. The First Circle - Aleksabr Solzhenitsyn. Centres on life in Mavrino, one of Stalins "research" prisons. Solzhenitsyn spent time in a similar institution during his imprisonment so this is likely authentic - a world of senseless rules, deprivation of contact with family, and paranoia. I enjoyed this quite readable book though the large cast of characters was frequently overwhelming. 3.5/5

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:31pm

559. Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell. The lives of old women in a small English village. A slight but amusing piece. A pleasant "amuse bouche" amongst the heavier fare of the Boxall list. 3/5.

Jan 18, 2017, 4:33pm

560. The Singapore Grip - J G Farrell. The weeks leading up to the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese. This is a more serious book than Farrell's other "Empire" novels, but there is black humour in the way various expats deal with the unfolding drama. Like our group read Troubles it is the location that is the focus of character development rather than individuals, and the major theme remains the impact of the rise and fall of the British Empire. "The Major" from the latter book is a major character in this novel. I enjoyed this book and like many mourn the early death of Farrell. 4/5

Jan 19, 2017, 4:08pm

561. The Castle of Crossed Destinies - Italo Calvino. Travelers meet in a castle where they are struck dumb and therefore tell their stories using tarot cards. As with Calvino's other books I loved the concept but found the execution unengaging. This "one trick" novel soon gets repetitive. 2.5/5

Jan 19, 2017, 4:15pm

That sounds very bizarre. I think I might take a look purely because of the concept as you say.

Jan 21, 2017, 8:00pm

562. Candide - Voltaire. Candide finds life constantly challenging his philosophy that "all is for the best". I enjoyed this satirical novel very much, particularly with the entertaining audio narration by Andrew Sachs. My favourite of the "old" books on the list so far. 4.5/5

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:25pm

Pilgrimage 2 - Dorothy Richardson. The fourth and fifth books in Richardson's Pilgrimage The Tunnel and Interim see Miriam Henderson living in a boarding house and working as a dental nurse. The stream of consciousness writing which Richardson pioneered leaves you struggling for context on occasion but I enjoyed her rambles around London. 3/5

Feb 1, 2017, 8:22pm

563. American Pastoral - Philip Roth. "Swede" Levov is living the American Dream - handsome, athletic, admired, wealthy, married to a beauty queen.... You know pretty quickly where this is likely to head as the USA evolves from post-war enthusiasm in to Vietnam and Nixon. Initially a really quite enjoyed the writing, but then the plot ceases to develop and Roth labours the few points he is trying to make. Overall 3/5.

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:24pm

564. Spring Torrents - Ivan Turgenev. In the summer of 1840 a young Russian man passing through Frankfurt falls passionately in love with a young Italian woman. I found this book hard to fault - beautiful writing, just the right length, interesting characters, emotion and drama without getting bogged down. The overall arc of the plot is perhaps predictable, but in any case I'll give this 5/5

Feb 3, 2017, 5:12pm

>680 puckers: He is one of my favourite Russians, but I haven't read Spring Torrents yet. Good to know it is another one to look forward to.

Feb 4, 2017, 6:19pm

You've definitely bumped Spring Torrents up on my tbr list. I generally love my Russians and haven't read anything by Turgenev yet.

Feb 7, 2017, 3:36am

565. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh. Charles Ryder recalls his relationships with the eccentric and privileged Marchmains and their large country estate, Brideshead. This story covers several decades and distinct locations and is varied enough to maintain interest, though I found none of the individuals sympathetic so the novel never really sucked me in. 3/5

Feb 9, 2017, 9:42pm

566. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton. Old moneyed society in 1870s New York is stirred up by the arrival of the tragic and unconventional Countess Olenska. This is wonderful writing and you are immersed in the life and hypocrisy of a rigid society with its inflexible conventions. Many wonderful characters to enjoy and a poignant finale. 4.5/5

Feb 11, 2017, 5:20pm

567. La Bete Humaine - Emile Zola. A tale of lust and murder amongst the railway stations of France in the 1860s. This is a gripping tale with twists and turns, and railways and trains are painted with as much character as the human players. I wasn't convinced by "hereditary lust for blood" with its "Kill! Kill!" mentality like a 1950s Hammer Horror, but the writing and the plot holds you fast. 4/5

Edited: Feb 14, 2017, 3:56am

568. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque. The experiences of a young German recruit on the Western Front in WWI. Remarque's book is a very individual reaction to the war; the bigger picture/tactics are never really commented on and the emphasis is almost exclusively on the way this young man tried to cope with what he was experiencing, and his will to survive. One thing that was striking about this experience was how young Baumer and his colleagues were. Recruited from school at 18 and those that survived to 19 were veterans training the next lot of school boys.

In many ways a familiar story, but one that needs to be read and thought about long in to the future. Lest We Forget. 4/5

Edited: Feb 15, 2017, 4:34am

you might want to try Storm of Steel if you appreciated this first hand individual experience. For me, it was a much more captivating read.

Edited: Feb 17, 2017, 9:00pm

Back to the alphabetical trawl through my TBR shelves with "F" and....

569. Under the Skin - Michael Faber. Isserley cruises the A9 picking up male hitchhikers. That much is disclosed in the first page of the book, and as much as I think you should know before reading this bizzare, disturbing but sometimes poignant novel. I can't say I enjoyed the book, but for imagination and originality I'll give this 3.5/5

Feb 18, 2017, 12:16am

I think I saw the movie adaption of this? I had no idea it was a book, but I thought the movie was a pretty good art house horror.

Feb 18, 2017, 1:28am

>689 fundevogel: I didn't know it was a movie so had a look at some reviews. Sounds like it was "based on" the book rather than a faithful adaptation. Without giving anything much away I'd think a movie of the book would be tough to make and gruesome to watch.

Edited: Feb 19, 2017, 4:39am

It's definitely on the surreal side and much is left for the viewer to interpret on their own, but there's some meaty themes of identity, sexual predation and role reversal. I thought it was pretty good if you're open to the sort story where what's actually going on is open to debate.

Feb 21, 2017, 3:08pm

570. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner. The story of the fractured Compson family of Jefferson, Mississippi.

"Life's...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act V, Scene v)

This novel is regarded by many as one of the greatest books of the twentieth century, and it has something of the air of an American Ulysses. The novel covers a period of three days (and one day 18 years earlier) told by four narrators. It starts with the stream of consciousness of a mentally handicapped son of the family which is very hard to get an anchor on. The second narrator also shifts rapidly across time and isn't that easy to follow. The third and fourth sections are much more straightforward and shed so much light on what has gone before that you realize how cleverly constructed this book is and that it really is a work of art worth revisiting again. 3.5/5

Feb 22, 2017, 1:28am

571. Troubling Love - Elena Ferrante. Following her mother's drowning Delia delves back in to both her mother's and her own past. I expected this to be more of a gripping investigation in to why her mother drowned and while various scenarios are raised none are particularly suspenseful or resolved. Instead we just have various characters being very nasty to each other. Skilful use of language and structure but not an appealing book. 2.5/5

Edited: Feb 24, 2017, 1:53am

I didn't like Ferrante's work at all before The Neapolitan Novels. They'll probably end up in the list as well - if there ever comes an update...

Edited: Mar 5, 2017, 9:47pm

One of my indulgences is collecting antiquarian books. I have a small collection of antique books including a few Boxall list books. The oldest Boxall list book I have is a 1640 translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. I enjoy sitting back with one of these books and imagining the people and places it might have passed through over the centuries (in one of my oldest books there is a message dated July 1661 - that was quite a thrill). Anyway I only raise this now because my alphabetical reading project has brought me to Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews. My copy is the sixth edition from 1762, and there is something almost surreal about turning the pages sitting on a train travelling at 100kph into the centre of Sydney - at the time this book was printed this was an undreamt of mode of transport, and the continent of Australia had not been discovered....

Enough of this; what of the book?

572. Joseph Andrews - Henry Fielding. Joseph Andrews and Parson Adams meet with various mishaps on a trip around southern England. A picaresque parody of charity and virtue as a counter point to Richardson's Pamela (who features in the latter half of the book). I quite enjoyed the wit and farce, but like other books of this era there are a number of irrelevant and uninteresting tales tagged on to pad out the basic plot as various characters they encounter tell their life histories. An easy read though, even if in my copy every "s" looked like an "f"! 3/5

Mar 6, 2017, 2:17am

What a great story and a great collection. I can imagine what you must think while holding such an antique book.

Mar 11, 2017, 5:56am

573. The Magus - John Fowles. A young English teacher is placed in a school on the Greek island of Phraxos where he meets the mysterious Maurice Conchis. I had mixed feelings about this book. Fowles writing as usual is very good, there are original twists and turns and like the narrator you end up not knowing what is "real" and what is acting. However some parts went on a bit too long, and perversely I found the more surreal situations rather dull. My biggest issue however was that I disliked the narrator with his selfish, arrogant cynicism. Having reached that conclusion I didn't really care as he became the victim of the various tricks and conspiracies that he experienced. 3/5

Mar 12, 2017, 12:46am

574. The Wars - Timothy Findley. A young Canadian officer's experiences in the Great War. This is a modern work of fiction told in the third person. I lacks the first hand immediacy of the horrors that are found in All Quiet on the , Western Front and Under Fire but the writing, structure and different slant to the war make this an interesting and worthwhile read. 4/5

Mar 16, 2017, 6:42am

575. Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald. Dick Diver, a psychiatrist, marries one of his very wealthy patients. I quite liked this. Fitzgerald captures again the glamour and dissipation of wealthy Americans before The Crash, though this time focuses on Americans in Europe. His descriptions of coastal Mediterranean are nicely done, as is his charting of the decline of the charismatic Diver. 3.5/5

Mar 16, 2017, 9:23pm

576. The Temptation of Saint Anthony - Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert's spin on the visions/temptations of third century hermit Saint Anthony in the deserts of Egypt. This is my last of the four Flaubert's on the Boxall list, and none of them have particularly grabbed me. This one largely consists of hallucinatory visions which individually show Flaubert had a vivid imagination (or was a heavy user of party drugs?!) but collectively get a bit repetitive. The philosophical/theological debates were more interesting but overall a bare pass. 2.5/5

Mar 23, 2017, 3:40pm

577. Effi Briest - Theodore Fontane. Effi Briest is married off to a man 20 years her senior with whom she has an unsatisfying relationship. Often quoted as the German Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina. "The affair" is conducted entirely off stage so that the reader is only aware of it when all the other characters become aware of it, and book deals more with the aftermath of the revelation without any of the drama/conflict of the affair itself. As such, like there is a lack of passion and the story eventually peters out without major twists and turns. It is nicely written though and a pleasant enough read. 3/5

Mar 24, 2017, 6:07am

Hi Everyone, apologies for being naïve (and new to this) but where do I actually find this list of 1001 books?

Mar 24, 2017, 7:03am

>702 LindyCrichtonBez5605: Good question! Many of us have been reading through the list for years and know it like an old (and at times frustrating) friend. I don't know that there are any threads here with all the books listed. Over at goodreads.com the 1001 Books to Read before you Die discussion group home page has links to sites that contain the full lists (actually 1305 books rather than 1001), and if you are keen to start exploring the list seriously the best tool is the 1001 Books app in the Apple app store. The actual book hasn't been updated since 2012 but you should be able to find a copy in bookshops and libraries. The author is Peter Boxall.

Mar 24, 2017, 8:45am

Here in LT belonging to the list is included in "Awards and Honors": https://www.librarything.com/bookaward/1001+Books+You+Must+Read+Before+You+Die

I haven't checked all if there are some strays missing or if it has been added to some wrong books (and in some cases there's of course a variety of editions).

Mar 24, 2017, 11:06am

>702 LindyCrichtonBez5605: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a fairly popular book--see if your library has a copy.

Mar 26, 2017, 5:30am

thanks for the push there puckers ;-)

there's also the spreadsheet if the iPhone is not your thing.

Mar 26, 2017, 7:03am

Thank you puckers. I will definitely be getting the app today!

Edited: Mar 29, 2017, 2:11pm

578. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen. The dynamics of relationships within the Mid-Western Berglund family. Like The Corrections each of the principal players is flawed and makes mistakes. Unlike this latter book though I found less to empathize with the Berglunds and didn't much care whether they sorted out their lives or not. The book has thought provoking tangents on the subject of personal and national/commercial freedom, though some passages are a bit long and preachy in their clearly anti-Bush ranting. Some subjects though (like coal mining in native forest) clearly resonate in the new Trump presidency. 3/5

Edited: Apr 3, 2017, 7:51pm

579. Parade's End - Ford Madox Ford. The story of Christopher Tietjens, a Yorkshire aristocrat, and the two women in his life during the years around WW1. There are four novels in this series written between 1924 and 1928, and each written very much in the modernist style of those times. You are thrown in to a situation with little context and the back story is revealed slowly over the course of the rest of the novel, largely through interior monologue. Initially this results in an elusive story but I liked the slow build and while it demands a little patience, the series is a worthwhile read. 3.5/5

Apr 10, 2017, 7:25pm

580. The Good Soldier Svejk - Jaroslav Hasek. Svejk is a Czech soldier who's apparent honesty and innocence causes endless confusion to those in authority as they move towards the Russian front in WW1. The book's satire is a mildly amusing even if the situations and Svejk's endless store of anecdotes are a bit repetitive. The second half shifts from Svejk's run-ins with the police to the confusion of military maneouvres. This includes some more serious scenes of carnage on the battlefields though Hasek continues to deal with this with satirical humour (debating the fertiliser benefits of corpses on crops). The story does sustain itself through its 750 page length even if it never reaches any great heights. I was taken aback a little by the anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews (particularly in the illustrations); I know this is a picaresque caricature of all strata of society and Hasek is merciless with them all, but it is sobering to think that the Jewish communities along the Hungarian-Russian front that he portrays bore the brunt of Hitler's extermination campaigns around 15 years after Hasek wrote this book. 3/5

Apr 11, 2017, 5:29am

indeed... did your edition have the wonderful original illustrations?

Apr 11, 2017, 6:36am

>711 arukiyomi: The Penguin Classics edition which I read has 156 of Josef Lada's illustrations. Even though today they are an integral part of Hasek's novel, and indeed Hasek's legacy, I was interested to read that the first time they were printed with the story was after Hasek's death so he never approved them.

Apr 11, 2017, 7:24am

He didn't want to pay for them ;-)

Apr 23, 2017, 7:55pm

581. A Passage to India - E.M. Forster. Adela Quested's visit to Chandrapore brings to the surface tensions between and among the Indians and British. I enjoyed this book. Forster skilfully describes the characters and locations, and builds on the different philosophies and prejudices of the British and Indians to create an atmosphere of confusion, where well-meaning individuals fail to breach the tensions between the various cultures. This confusion is highlighted by the confusion about what if anything happened in the major "incident" in the book, which Forster largely leaves to the readers imagination. 4/5

Apr 25, 2017, 5:34am

582. Thais - Anatole France. A monk travels to Alexandria to convert a courtesan to life as a nun. What surprised me initially was that this book was set in the same place and same time (4th century Egypt) as Flaubert's The Temptation of St Anthony which I read last month. Both were written by French novelists of the late 19th century so I assume Flaubert's work had some influence on Anatole France. In some ways the books are quite similar dealing with early Christian monks of Egypt experiencing visions and entering into theological/philosophical debates. I thought though that France's book benefited from having a plot and while was dull in parts it grew on me. 3/5

Edited: Apr 30, 2017, 5:38am

583. The Blind Side of the Heart - Julia Franck. A woman abandon's her seven year old son at a railway station in Germany in 1945 - why? I had expectations of a fairly miserable read given the relatively low LT rating and the subject matter (Jewish woman's life in Germany between and during the first and second world wars - what could possibly be depressing about that?!). I was therefore surprised to find this really quite engrossing; a complex and human story of one woman's way of dealing with love and loss. For once I rate a book higher than the LT average 4/5.

May 1, 2017, 7:15am

584. Henry of Ofterdingen - Novalis. An unfinished 18th century German romance that explores the essence of poetry. I had recently read The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald which is centred on the love of Friederich von Hardenberg (aka Novalis) for a teenage girl. The Blue Flower was the working title of what was to later become Henry of Ofterdingen. This latter work was never finished (Novalis died at 28), but his friends published it posthumously. It is a mixture of philosophical discussion on the nature of poetry, and some fairy tales. A couple of the latter I liked but the majority of the book left me glazing over. It is perhaps unfair to rate an unfinished work, but it made it to the Boxall list so someone found it a worthy inclusion. Sadly I didn't 2/5

May 8, 2017, 8:38am

585. Hideous Kinky - Esther Freud. A woman takes her young children through Morocco. This was a short and easy read, but lacked any sense of passion and drama. Supposedly narrated by a five year old, it had a certain naivety and contained the non-judgmental observations of a young person but the language was that of a much older person so it lacked some credibility from that perspective. I didn't dislike the book, but I wasn't hooked. 3/5

May 11, 2017, 4:42pm

586. Homo Faber - Max Frisch. Walter Faber, a rational engineer, experiences a series of encounters that leads him back to his first lover. The book contains a series of coincidences that would make your eyes roll in most novels, but here they are the major theme of the novel - chance or fate? An interesting chain of events, and nice descriptions of various places around the world, but I don't think I understood the moral of the story. I liked the last line of his narration as he waits in hospital for major surgery - "They're coming". 3/5

Edited: May 28, 2017, 8:19am

587. Legend - David Gemmell. Dros Delnech is under threat from 500,000 enemy troops. Can Druss the Legend rally a demoralized force to defend it? One of the few fantasy novels on the list. This is more "Game of Thrones" than LOTR with a medieval fortress and humans, and no elves and minimal magic. I like fantasy as a genre and this was a good choice for airport reading to and from Tokyo. Not quite sure how it made the List but I enjoyed it. 4/5

May 29, 2017, 7:30am

588. Misericordia - Benito Perez-Galdos. A tale from the slums and shanty towns of Madrid in late 19th century. Galdos was to Spain what Balzac was to France and Dickens to England, a realist novelist whose works concentrated on the "down and outs" of society. While he doesn't gloss over the daily struggles of the beggars in the novel, their fantasies ensure this isn't an unremitting tale of woe. There are a number of great characters in the novel, and I enjoyed it. 3.5/5

Jun 21, 2017, 4:04pm

589. The Recognitions - William Gaddis. An art forger in late 1940s New York, and the lives of other artists/writers whose paths intertwine. Jonathan Franzen described this book as "by a comfortable margin the most difficult book I ever voluntarily read". Not sure I fully agree with that (try Pynchon and Sinclair for "even more difficult"), but there are large parts of this where rambling conversations are barely comprehensible, and events/participants are deliberately confusing. Gaddis is quoted as saying said that the book is "not reader-friendly". At its best though there are some great descriptive passages (particularly at the start and end of the novel, away from New York) and witty multi person dialogue, with much dark humour. Still a struggle, and long at 950 pages. 2.5/5

Jun 22, 2017, 5:32am

Totally agree with this after consuming this by audio a month or so ago. Did remind me of Pynchon in places and grew into a grind.

Jun 24, 2017, 4:56pm

590. Memoirs of Hadrian - Marguerite Yourcenar. A dying Hadrian reflects on what he has achieved in life. A fascinating achievement as a modern female author inhabits the mind of a Roman emperor so convincingly that you forget this is a work of fiction (albeit one meticulously researched). A combination of moments in history and melancholy philosophizing on life, death and legacy. I found myself enjoying both these observations and the overall mood of this book. 4/5

Edited: Jun 26, 2017, 5:26pm

591. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Florentino Ariza has a lifelong love for Fermina Daza in turn of the century South America. I must be one of the few people who wasn't blown away by A Hundred Years of Solitude, so I was a bit uncertain how I'd react to Garcia Marquez's other major work. As it turned out I really liked it. The life long arc of the obsessive love of Florentino Ariza for Fermina Daza kept the "will they/won't they?' question open for the entire book, and the language was playful and engaging throughout. One of my favourite books of the year so far. 4.5/5

Jun 26, 2017, 1:00pm

you and me both on Solitude: http://arukiyomi.com/?p=283

Jun 26, 2017, 5:15pm

>726 arukiyomi: Tell us what you really think!

When people saw me reading Solitude they told me it was one of their favourite books so I felt let down when I found it so-so, more so because of the hype. Rather like opening a bottle of expensive wine and finding it corked.

Jun 27, 2017, 6:14am

I definately prefered Love in the Time of Cholera as well. I'm currently listening to No One Writes to the Colonel so I'll see if I like his short stories.

Jun 30, 2017, 4:32pm

592. Flowers for Mrs. Harris (aka Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris - Paul Gallico. Mrs Harris, a charwoman, goes to Paris to buy a dress from Dior. A short easy read. Maybe not a great work of literature, but it's feel good and every so often it is good to find a straightforward list book that as you turn the last page you can say "Ahh, that was nice". 3/5

Jul 1, 2017, 6:34am

593. Memory of Fire - Eduardo Galeano. A history of the Americas in around 1500 snapshots of events and people since Columbus. This is a poetic, intense and powerful work, hard to read in long sessions due to the unrelenting violence and injustice. If I have a criticism it is that it seems one-sided: all capitalists are rapacious murderers, while all communists and revolutionaries are doomed heroes. Mind you there does seem to be a lot to be one-sided about. 4/5

Jul 1, 2017, 10:50am

how does Memory compare to Blood Meridian?

Jul 1, 2017, 3:05pm

>725 puckers: I really did not care for Love in the Time of Cholera so I don't think I'll be picking up A Hundred Years of Solitude. Here's my review for Love in the Time of Cholera: http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/5696090/

Jul 1, 2017, 5:20pm

>731 arukiyomi: interesting comparison. Memory is more intense and unrelenting in that the violence is occurring simultaneously across the entire continent and there is no letup despite the passage of five hundred years. The book is entirely (if I feel selectively) factual, whereas Blood Meridan is novel built around one group of violent outlaws. My scores were 4 and 4.5 respectively so both made an impact.

Jul 2, 2017, 4:54am

thanks for that comparison. Interesting. I've not come across Memory so that's on my radar now...

Edited: Jul 2, 2017, 3:38pm

>734 arukiyomi: It's in three volumes - Genesis, Faces and Masks and Century of the Wind which cover to 1700, 1900 and 1984 respectively.

Jul 3, 2017, 4:48am

Ah... interesting. Thanks.

Jul 5, 2017, 4:29am

594. Promise at Dawn - Romain Gary. "In your mother's love, life makes you a promise at the dawn of life that it will never keep". Ostensibly the autobiography of the author Romain Gary, this is really a long love letter to his remarkably, focused and indomitable mother. At times a little affected and pretentious, this is nevertheless very readable with gentle humour. 3/5

Jul 6, 2017, 5:08am

how bizarre... this was the last book I finished.... only last week.

succinct and accurate review.

Jul 7, 2017, 12:48am

595. Mary Barton - Elizabeth Gaskell. Mary Barton lives with her father in industrial Manchester around 1840. Quite a contrast to Cranford; this is a much more serious work but not necessarily better for it. The opening chapters cover the poverty of the working classes and the conflict with the factory owners - all a bit too "Grim Up North" for me. Then it abandons that theme to go off on romance and murder. I found the title character too consistently whiny to build up any sympathy for her. Not very satisfying. 2.5/5

Edited: Jul 11, 2017, 3:31am

596. The Trick is to Keep Breathing - Janice Galloway. 27 year old Joy Stone suffers from depression following the death of her lover. This is told in the first person and is both skilfully written and skilfully narrated (by Siobhan Redman in the Audible version). You feel like you are inside the head of someone suffering from mental illness, and its not much fun being there. Despite the constant hopeless gloom I still found this a quite captivating read. 3.5/5

597. The Charterhouse of Parma - Stendahl. Court intrigues and romance in the Italian city of Parma in the early nineteenth century. I'm not sure exactly how to take this novel. The principal characters all seem to be a bit ridiculous. Fabrice is wilful, selfish and thoughtless yet his aunt (Countess Gina) and Prime Minister Mosca constantly bend over backwards to get him let off for his stupidity. The whole thing comes across to me as a bit of a parody yet Balzac and others have praised it for its realism and insights. The loose ends (i.e. death of all the principal players) are dealt with in less than a page at the end. I must be missing something but to me this is no better than 2.5/5

Edited: Jul 11, 2017, 4:04pm

598. Thursbitch - Alan Garner. Two stories set on the Pennines in Northern England two hundred years apart. An intriguing short novel. The eighteenth century story is narrated in heavy local dialect which is hard to follow and is full of paganism, and the modern story takes a while to get in to. The two stories are vaguely aware of each other (reminded me of The House of Doctor Dee in that sense) but there was too much left unsaid for me to feel any connection with them. 2.5/5

Jul 13, 2017, 8:29pm

599. The Shadow Lines - Amitav Ghosh. A young man reminisces about a childhood in Calcutta, and close family friends in London. This is one long chapterless reminiscence that frequently moves between different time periods and locations without warning. While I think this has something to do with the author expressing a view that we are all connected despite nationality, distance and time, it does make it all a bit disjointed and you never get to settle back in one story before you are elsewhere with different people. 3/5

Jul 15, 2017, 5:21pm

600. Romance of the Three Kingdoms -Luo Guanzhong. A history of China around 200-270AD. One of the four Great Classic Chinese Novels on the list, written around 1380. It covers a period from the fall of the Han dynasty to the reunification of China in 270AD. There is a cast of many hundreds but only a small number of importance so you can ignore most as they literally lose their heads a few pages after they've been introduced. While there a few diverting ghost stories, the vast majority of the book is caught up in political intrigues and military strategy, and the latter in particular gets to be repetitive (how many feigned retreats and ambushes does a general need to go through before he learns his lesson?). Undoubtedly an important book, but would have been more entertaining with some abridgement. 3/5

Jul 16, 2017, 11:08am


Jul 16, 2017, 11:42am

Well done!

Jul 16, 2017, 8:33pm

That's an impressive number. Congratulations.

Jul 16, 2017, 8:42pm

>744 Yells: >745 paruline: >746 gypsysmom: Thankyou all. Still not half way through the full list!

Jul 17, 2017, 7:12am

601. Strait is the Gate - Andre Gide. A young man waits in vain to marry his childhood sweetheart. I know this is supposed to be a critique of sacrifices of earthly happiness to achieve Christian/moral purity (the title is a quote from the Bible), but for me it was a throwback to those 18th/19th century novels where two people who should get together fail miserably to communicate their feelings despite ample opportunities to do so. Nicely enough written but annoying and towards the end a bit melodramatic. 2.5/5

Jul 19, 2017, 6:52pm

602. Elective Affinities - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. A wealthy couple find themselves irresistibly attracted to another couple of friends they invite to stay at their house. Goethe uses this book to express a theory that attraction between individuals is a chemical inevitability irrespective of issues of morality. There are parts of this that are entertaining, not withstanding a fairly ridiculous plot (the wife befriending a young woman that her husband wants to run off with and marry, just so she can keep her husband happy). The more philosophical parts drag. 2.5/5

Edited: Jul 24, 2017, 6:57am

603. Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol. Pavel Chichikov devises a plan to get rich by buying deceased serfs. A nineteenth century Russian author with a sense of humour - who would have thought! (I particularly liked the following which hit close to home - "Some book or other was always lying in his study, with a bookmark at the fourteenth page, which he had been reading constantly for the last two years"). The humour and structure was similar to a Dickens novel (The Pickwick Papers comes to mind) - a simple overarching set-up used as an excuse for encounters with various grotesque characters which don't usually move the story on very far. Gogol died before completing the novel but you get the impression that there would have been a lot more of the same had he lived. 3/5

Edited: Jul 26, 2017, 5:15am

604. Rites of Passage - William Golding. A young aristocrat keeps a journal as he travels by ship to Australia in the early 1800s. This book revisits the theme of Golding's more famous Lord of the Flies with the tensions and bullying that emerge in an isolated community. I liked the style of this - the journal of the snobbish young man who limits his contacts to the senior officers and wealthy passengers and misses the tragedy that is unfolding around him seems quite authentic for the nineteenth century. The switch to the journal of a set-upon clergyman enables you to revisit the first journal from another perspective. Atmospheric. 4/5

Jul 28, 2017, 4:35am

You're on a roll again, you have raced through the 500s. Congratulations!

Jul 28, 2017, 4:47am

>752 Simone2: Thanks - your not too far away from 600 yourself!

Jul 28, 2017, 8:46am

Just caught up with your thread Puckers. Well done you! And good little bite sized reviews as usual.

Edited: Jul 29, 2017, 8:33pm

>754 M1nks: Thanks - one more to add:

605. The Vicar of Wakefield - Oliver Goldsmith. A vicar and his family suffer a string of misfortunes. A novel written in 1766 that is much referenced in works of the 19th century. While this is a moral tale echoing the trials of Job, the vicar of the title is a very self righteous man who represses anyone who thinks differently from him and not any easy person to sympathise with. The various misfortunes (bankruptcy, arson, abduction etc) are written up with so little drama that it is hard to feel any tension. and overall this is a very dull book, relieved only by numerous illustrations in my gilded copy from 1890. The story rates 2/5.

Aug 2, 2017, 5:15am

606. Eclipse of the Crescent Moon - Geza Gardonyi. Follows the life of Gergely Bornemissza from his boyhood to his leading role with the Hungarian defence during the siege of Eger in 1552. This is apparently compulsory reading in Hungarian schools and you can understand why, with a small number of determined Hungarians defending the fort at Eger against countless Turkish barbarians (much as the Battle of Bannockburn was compulsory in the Scottish curriculum of my childhood). While the siege is a historical fact, Gardonyi fictionalises the life of the great hero and exaggerates the size of the Ottoman hordes by a factor of five, and the writing and plot are very much in a "Boys Own" style. If you can stop your eye-rolling at some of the more fanciful adventures, this is mildly entertaining. 3/5

Aug 3, 2017, 6:28pm

607. Oblomov - Ivan Goncharov. Indecisive and indolent Oblomov lives a life free of activity until he meets Olga. As you might expect from the synopsis not much happens in this book - it takes our hero 174 pages to get out of bed! However there are twists and turns as the story progresses, and much to enjoy in this novel. Even though I felt like giving Oblomov a good shake-up from time to time, you also feel some empathy for his chosen life style, and ending is quite poignant. 4/5

Aug 4, 2017, 7:18am

>757 puckers: "174 pages to get out of bed" - teenager?

Edited: Aug 7, 2017, 7:04pm

608. Burger's Daughter - Nadine Gordimer. Rosa Burger is the daughter of Lionel Burger, a leader of the Communist Party in South Africa who had been sentenced to life imprisonment. I can see why this book made the list - it was an anti-apartheid book published in South Africa in the apartheid era, and the writing style is inventive (stream of consciousness first person narrative mixed up with third person reporting). Important and worthy it might be, but not necessarily an entertaining read and I really struggled to engage with this. While it was hard to follow what was going on, for most of the book the problem was that nothing was going on! All a bit too much like hard work for little reward. 2/5

Aug 12, 2017, 7:44am

609. The Artamonov Business - Maxim Gorky. Three generations of an industrialist family in Russia in the years leading to 1917. Wikipedia does not list this as a notable work of Gorky, and it is a bit of a mystery as to why it makes the list. Not a difficult read but little to engage the reader. All the characters are miserable and unlikeable, wider historical events pass without any impact of interest, and there really doesn't seem to be any tension in or moral to the story. 2.5/5

Aug 15, 2017, 8:40pm

610. Marks of Identity - Juan Goytisolo. Alvaro returns to Barcelona in 1963 after 10 years of voluntary exile in France. The novel starts with a three page unpunctuated sentence, and there are numerous switches of style and perspective throughout. Mostly this works, but a few parts dragged. I got the disillusionment of the returned exile, but failed to notice either the narrators "search for poetry" that the back cover of my book mentions, or his being "torn between the Islamic and European worlds" that Wikipedia talks about, so maybe I missed something in the somewhat show-off style of the writing. 3/5

Aug 16, 2017, 3:31pm

boy... I never thought I'd read that anyone else had ever read this. I enjoyed it more than you... once I got past that first sentence!

Aug 17, 2017, 2:44am

Well once you hit the 600 book mark you have to start reading some of the more obscure books!

Aug 17, 2017, 3:45am

>763 M1nks: I still have a few of the more popular books to read, including Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. If I stick to my "alphabetically by author" assault I should get to those two around 2021!

There are a lot of less well known books to plough through before then. I won't be the first to have read them, thanks to the big "read every book on the list" project that we ran a couple of years ago, but I could be the second reader in this group for a few. Occasionally you find a gem amongst these obscure books, but often you realise why they aren't popular (skilfully written but not necessarily entertaining).

Aug 22, 2017, 8:53pm

611. The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass. Oskar gets a tin drum for his third birthday and decides to stop growing. I enjoyed the quirky events and characters in this book, reminiscent in some ways of the magic realism of Latin American authors. Even though it is set in Poland/Germany during WW2 the horror of those years is largely glossed over/made light of (though not ignored). 4/5

Edited: Aug 29, 2017, 3:27pm

Loving, Living, Party Going - Henry Green. Sounds like a good title for a novel, but this is in fact three unrelated short novels written by Henry Green between 1929 and 1945. All are separate entries on the Boxall list:

612. Loving. Life in an Irish estate during WW2. This has very much the flavour of Downton Abbey (TV series), though here the "upstairs" aristocracy are absent for much of the story. Some nicely drawn characters among the servants "downstairs", and entertaining even with the abrupt ending. 3.5/5

613. Living. Conflict between factory owners, managers and workers in a Birmingham foundry between the wars. This took longer to get in to, partly because of the device Green used whereby he dropped most of the "the"s in his narration - I didn't see any benefit of this and it got quite irritating. The aspirations of Lily the stay-at-home daughter of one of the workers was the most interesting part of the story. 3/5

614. Party Going. A group of young socialites and hangers-on plan to go on a trip to France but find themselves stranded by fog in a railway hotel. This book felt like it was written for the stage with most of the action (or rather conversation, action being thin on the ground) taking place in three hotel rooms. I liked this again for the characters which while none were likeable were well written. 3.5/5

These three novels are usually published in one volume and while they share no characters in common, there is a common style of writing with the emphasis on a cast of characters, often repeating themselves, rather than plot.

Aug 31, 2017, 5:14pm

615. England Made Me - Graham Greene. Kate gets her unreliable brother a job working for a powerful and corrupt business man in Sweden. An early Greene and not one of his best. Greene's usual theme of moral conflict dominates and his signature tortured Catholicism makes an appearance. Mostly entertaining enough but the modernist stream-of-consciousness passages were distracting and the ending was unsatisfactory. 3/5

Aug 31, 2017, 11:08pm

I just discovered Henry Green and am in the middle of Blindness. I quite like it so far. Glad to know his other stuff is good too.

Edited: Sep 1, 2017, 12:25am

>768 Yells: I read Caught a few years ago and it had a similar feel to it - a range of personalities in a location (in this case fire fighters in the Blitz in London) where the main thrust is character study rather than action/plot.

Sep 3, 2017, 12:10am

616. The Adventurous Simplicissimus -Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen. A naïve young man suffers and prospers and suffers again during the 30 Years War. Written in 1668 shortly after the 30 Years War ended, this book is a more entertaining read than many of its contemporaries, and reflects the swinging fortunes of the mercenary armies, and the suffering of the civilian populations, around Germany at that time. The humour is picaresque and only towards the end does it seem to be inventing subplots to fill the space available. 3/5

Sep 7, 2017, 7:23am

617. The Laws - Connie Palmen. I read the book in a couple of days. It isn't very long (200 pages) and the structure looked potentially interesting: seven chapters each dealing with seven men through whom a female student analyses her life. Unfortunately I found it all rather dry -lots of philosophical talking and not much drama/emotion. Each of the men appears and then disappears which given the apparently short time frame, the closeness of some of the relationships, and the static location didn't strike me as very realistic. Maybe I'm just not the target audience for this book. 2/5

Sep 16, 2017, 8:10am

618. The Diary of a Nobody - George Grossmith. The diary of a middle class suburban Englishman, obsessed with typically middle class English issues. Amusing if never laugh-out-loud. 3/5

Sep 16, 2017, 11:04am

I really liked that little book (and I think I did lol in several places). Thinking about the red painted bathtub still makes me grin.

Sep 16, 2017, 8:27pm

>773 M1nks: I found it amusing, but I think Three Men in a Boat would have been a funnier representative on the Boxall list of late Victorian British middle class obsession and humour. That book does make me LOL.

Edited: Sep 20, 2017, 12:48am

619. Memories of Rain - Sunetra Gupta. An Indian woman looks back on her failed marriage to an Englishman as she counts down its final days. It appears an intimidating book - short, but dense with multi-page-long sentences of "stream of consciousness". The writing however is beautiful - rich, poetic and repays the concentration it requires. Perhaps not a book to read on the drowsy train trip to work (I tried and it didn't work) but well worth reading. 4/5

Sep 20, 2017, 5:03am

sounds like a very apt title for us as we long for the end of summer in Saudi!

Sep 22, 2017, 2:39am

620. Dirty Havana Trilogy - Pedro Juan Gutierrez. Pedro Juan (presumably the authors alter-ego) describes his life in the slums of Havana. On a positive note, this novel gives an alternative view of those retro scenes popular with tour companies in downtown Havana - there are many people living in abject poverty in these streets straight from the '50s. However this is not an obviously political work; it is just constantly repeated hopeless tales of (graphic) sex and filth. Why the trilogy? There are three parts but they are indistinguishable from each other and there is no progress towards hope or destruction as you read it - just more of the same. Not a compelling read, but it is at least written in a readable manner if you can put up the numerous graphic descriptions of pointless sex. 3/5

Edited: Sep 29, 2017, 4:38pm

The "G" authors are finished so on to "H" with:

621. The Thin Man - Dashiell Hammett. Private investigator Nick Charles is on holiday in New York when he is drawn in to a murder investigation. This book spawned a famous movie series spin-off, and has more dry witty conversation and less violence than typical noir. A string of red herrings and unreliable witnesses leave you with little hope of working out "who did it", but it is all neatly wrapped up in the closing pages. 3/5

Sep 30, 2017, 11:32pm

622. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy. A young mans ambitions are thwarted. Even by Hardy's standards this is an unhappy book. However the writing is good and the various doomed characters are interesting. 3.5/5

Oct 1, 2017, 5:01am

Do you read every H author or just the books that you already have waiting to be read?

Oct 1, 2017, 5:15am

>780 M1nks: just the ones on my TBR pile but there are 24 H authors there so covers the majority of the list authors I haven't read yet.

Oct 3, 2017, 4:35am

623. Growth of the Soil - Knut Hamsun. Isak is the first settler in a remote part of Norway, and continues to follow the rhythm of the seasons as the world moves on around him. I enjoyed this very much - gentle story of man, family and nature. It reminded me very much of Independent People and like that novel I give this 4/5.

Oct 3, 2017, 4:26pm

624. The Left-handed Woman - Peter Handke. Marianne lives with her young son, after asking her husband to leave home. An intriguing short story. While the writing is not difficult, the actions of the various characters are unpredictable and their motives rarely explained. However it grew on me as it progressed. 3/5

Oct 4, 2017, 5:10am

Hmm I haven't read those last couple. Like the sound of the Hamsun - I've been reading too much harsh stuff lately!

Edited: Oct 19, 2017, 12:29am

625. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne. A adulterous woman is forced to wear a scarlet A on her blouse in Puritanical New England. The book captures the superstitious and strict moral code of the early Puritan settlements in the USA, but not a great deal really happens during the story. Nothing is told of the unlikely marriage between Hester Prynne and cuckolded husband, nor anything of the background to the affair that resulted in the child. Either would have added a bit more depth to the story. 3/5

Oct 7, 2017, 6:21pm

626. The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach. Baseball prodigy enrols in a small American college. Not sure why this made the list apart from the purely practical need to slot a current novel in to justify a 2012 edition of the list. The characters, plot and style of writing are nothing original, and the one unconventional relationship is hardly groundbreaking. Also everyone is basically likeable with no "bad guys" to add a bit of tension. However it's entertaining enough in its blandness. I suspect this will be cut from the next edition if we ever see one. 3/5

Edited: Oct 8, 2017, 8:10pm

A nod to the much-missed StevenTX as I pull alongside him on the Progress Index.

627. Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton. "Then he remembered what it was he had to do, he had to kill Netta Longdon...and then he was going to Maidenhead where he would be happy". George Harvey Bone is hopelessly infatuated with the cruelly indifferent Netta Longdon, but he has sudden spells/moods when he remembers that he must kill her. A dark comedy set in the months leading up to Britain's declaration of war on Nazi Germany, I wasn't caught up any parallels intended by the author between George's situation and those of a Britain heading inevitably to war. However as a piece of mildly amusing deadpan British humour it works quite nicely. 3.5/5

Oct 8, 2017, 12:58pm

I miss his thoughtful reviews and his presence in this group. That said, getting so high up in the Progress Index is quite an accomplishment!

Edited: Oct 10, 2017, 3:56am

628. The Last World - Christoph Ransmayr. Cotta travels to the port of Tomi by the Black Sea to seek the exiled Ovid. This is a most enjoyable book. I liked the way Ransmayr mixes a semi-fictionalised tale of Ovids exile with characters from his Metamorphoses. But even leaving the whole Ovid parallels to one side, this book is full of wonderful imagery and descriptions that transport you to a town at the ends of the (Roman) world. 4/5

Oct 10, 2017, 4:46am

I recently listened to a podcast about the ten books you don't need to read before you die (sounds like a great 1001 list). The Art of Fielding was listed and I thoroughly agreed with the podcast hosts that it was pants.

Oct 10, 2017, 4:56am

>790 arukiyomi: 1001 Books Not to Read Before You Die. I suspect I might have endured a few of them!

Oct 10, 2017, 7:34am

1001 Books to Read After You Die (Inferno Edition)

Oct 10, 2017, 10:05am

Oct 10, 2017, 2:02pm

>792 hdcanis: Maybe de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom repeated 1001 times would be most appropriate for that edition.

Oct 11, 2017, 5:32am

or a certain Dante tome!

Oct 13, 2017, 8:59pm

629. Metamorphoses - Ovid. A retelling of Greek and Roman mythology, from creation to Augustus Caesar. This is a handy summary of ancient mythology and their Gods. Some of the stories I was familiar with, while others I hadn't heard before. It tends to rattle through them at breakneck speed so it can be confusing, and some tales were uninteresting, but it was educational. I have two editions of this book which were very different in style - Sandy's 1640 translation (my oldest list book) which is in rhyming couplets, and a 1950s Penguin Classics edition which is standard narrative format. The latter was eminently more readable, even if it lacked the dramatic plates of the 17th century version. 3/5

Edited: Oct 16, 2017, 6:24pm

630. The Go-Between - L.P. Hartley. Twelve year-old Leo Colston spends the summer at his friend's estate in the country where he becomes messenger for a secret relationship. Reminded me of McEwan's Atonement - country house with a child witnessing adult relationships they don't fully comprehend, acting with unfortunate consequences and then revisiting the events in old age. This is nicely written and even if events take a predictable course, and the ending is a bit of a Hollywood tear-jerker, it is a good read. 4/5

Edited: Oct 17, 2017, 11:16pm

631. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A Heinlein. Valentine Michael Smith is The Man from Mars. This started off very nicely - I particularly enjoyed the humourous philosophy and politicking of Jubal Harshaw. However the second half of the book involves nothing much more than long conversations about sex and religion, and is rather tedious. I wavered on my rating of this book, but overall it is worth a look so 3/5.

Oct 18, 2017, 3:06am

That's a shame :/ Stranger has been on my TBR for ages - annoying that it falls into that sci-fi trap of trying to make a point and doing it very badly. Speaking of very badly, that was awfully explained, but you know what I mean!

Oct 18, 2017, 3:15am

>799 BekkaJo: I think the philosophies expressed in the second half (free love, everyone is God etc) were probably ahead of their time when this was published, but we’ve been through the 70s, John and Yoko, post-modernism etc since then and I thought this was a bit old hat now. You might like it though - the range of tastes and opinions of this group is wonderfully wide.

Edited: Oct 18, 2017, 8:26pm

I said pretty much the same thing when I read Strange in a Strange Land earlier this year. I loved the beginning but it just got weird halfway through. Sometimes I wish I could read books when they actually came out to get a better understanding of what was going on in the world around that time and how groundbreaking something like this was.

Oct 18, 2017, 1:56pm

I think it can one of those books that you need to be in the right time of your life for- I read it in high school and it quickly became one of my favorite books. I have not reread it for fear I will hate it.

Oct 19, 2017, 4:41am

I think Banks owes quite a lot to Stranger with his Player of Games which I think did a better job of critiquing human culture than Stranger did. Certainly more readable. People still use grok though... esp techies.

Edited: Oct 19, 2017, 5:56am

>803 arukiyomi: I did not grok Stranger in fullness so looking forward to Player of Games (read the prequel Consider Phlebas last month and enjoyed it).

Oct 19, 2017, 6:30am

632. Love in Excess - Eliza Haywood. The various love/lust interests of Count D'Elmont. One of the earliest novels on the list (1719) and full of the emotions common in that century - Charmers in a frenzy of Disorder and Confusion falling senseless to the ground, Tormentors set on ruining Virtue etc etc. Where Haywood succeeds where many of her contemporaries fail is that she knows how to keep a story moving on. Deaths occur over a couple of pages rather than lingering for endless chapters; misunderstandings are cleared up by rapid exchange of letters rather than left hanging for so long that you are left screaming "just speak to him!". The result is a surprisingly entertaining novel notwithstanding the improbabilities that you expect from the novels of the eighteenth century. 3.5/5

Oct 20, 2017, 9:31pm

>800 puckers: I read Stranger in a Strange Land soon after it was published (I know I was still in high school and I graduated in 1971) and I can attest to the fact that the philosophy was ground-breaking at the time. I've never re-read it, mostly because I'm afraid it won't live up to my memory, but I still have my copy which is battered and torn.

Edited: Nov 22, 2017, 5:59pm

633. The First Garden - Anne Hebert. An aging actress returns from France to her childhood home in Canada. One of the more obscure books on the list (in 60 members libraries against the usual 1000+), this is nonetheless a book worth seeking out. While short with bite-sized chapters, there is a lot packed in here as the actress inhabits various characters while trying to suppress her past. Quite mesmerizing. 4/5

Oct 27, 2017, 1:10am

634. Aethiopica - Heliodorus. A young man and woman are discovered shipwrecked on a beach in Egypt. This book was written around the third or fourth century but seems more modern than that in style and content. It is also surprisingly quite entertaining - with pirates, zombies and elephants how could it fail to be! 3/5

A word of caution - if you search for" Aethiopica" on Google there is a free version at archive.org but this is only the first volume; the full free version I downloaded from archive.org was in "The Greek Romances of Heliodorus, Longus and Achilles Tatius" and the Ethiopian Romance in that is called "The Adventures of Theagenes and Chariclea".

Oct 27, 2017, 3:47am

Thanks for the tip :)

Oct 27, 2017, 4:34pm

635. The Old Man and The Sea - Ernest Hemingway. An old fisherman catches a large marlin off the coast of Cuba. Short, with Hemingway’s signature pared back writing, and I found it too short and pared back to connect with. Pity. 2.5/5

Oct 27, 2017, 7:56pm

>807 puckers: I've been wondering about this book. I'm Canadian and know Canadian literature fairly well but I'd never heard of this book. Her other book Kamouraska is quite well known and I enjoyed it when I read it. So I think I'll have to get my hands on this one.

Oct 28, 2017, 1:42am

636. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller. Yossarian, a US air-force captain based in Italy, is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. I feel like a bit of a spoilsport, but I found this immensely popular book a bit too much. Like a long sit-com, the same characters keep repeating the same jokes without advancing the plot or developing their character, and some of the set-pieces come across as OTT college skits. That's not to say that I didn't find humor in this and I did laugh out loud on occasion. It is effective in lampooning the absurdity of aspects of military leadership and bureaucracy. But like a sitcom, half an hour or so at a sitting would have been enough. Maybe I'm just getting old. 3/5

Edited: Oct 29, 2017, 11:50am

>807 puckers:, >811 gypsysmom: It's even better if you're familiar with the history and geography of Quebec city.

Edited: Oct 30, 2017, 5:35am

637. Nowhere Man - Aleksandar Hemon. The story of Jozef Pronek, a young emigrant to Chicago from Bosnia. An interesting book as Jozef's story is told by various narrators with different perspectives on his personality. You're never sure who he is, and the penultimate chapter contains a cathartic outburst that indicates that maybe Jozef is over the ambiguity also. The final chapter is most unusual with little relation to anything that's gone before but leaves you questioning what exactly you've been reading. One of those books that you think about for a long time afterwards, which is never a bad thing. 3.5/5

Oct 31, 2017, 5:58am

638. Siddartha - Hermann Hesse. Siddartha leaves home to seek enlightenment. A book devoted to Eastern philosophy - Siddartha meets with and talks with the Buddha early on the book but choses to seek his own path (I learnt subsequently that Siddartha was the historical Buddha's original name). A slow meditative book and one that is best appreciated by those who approach it in that frame of mind and have time to ponder what they are reading. 3/5

Nov 7, 2017, 12:34am

639. Dispatches - Michael Herr. A US journalist recalls his memories from the Vietnam war. Another of the handful of non-fiction books on the Boxall list. This is quite absorbing and captures the madness and futility of the Vietnam War. It leaves you with a feeling of empathy for the young men involved in the combat zone and those who have struggled to adjust after the war ended. 3.5/5

Nov 9, 2017, 1:57pm

640. City of God - E.L. Doctorow. A priest and a rabbi are brought together following the theft of a cross from a church. This is not an easy narrative to follow, and there are distractions such as deconstructed songs which I saw as irrelevant. A couple of interesting story lines are cut short. While the theme of the place of God in the 20th/21st century experience is a big one, I was not drawn in to Doctorow's approach, and it all ends on a dull and unconvincing note. 2.5/5

Nov 10, 2017, 2:40am

Bum. That just arrived through the post. Ah well!

Nov 10, 2017, 3:18am

>who knows, you may love it,

Nov 10, 2017, 2:33pm

641. Reasons to Live - Amy Hempel. Short stories about coping with loss. I generally like short stories, but these are too short (1-12 pages), too elusive, and too much like each other. 2(too)/5

Edited: Nov 18, 2017, 3:12pm

642. The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith. Tom Ripley is sent to Europe by Mr Greenleaf to persuade his son Dickie to return to the US. This is an entertaining read, as Ripley tries to stay one step ahead of the consequences of his actions while continuing to dig deeper holes for himself. Not sure that the outcome is that credible, but the plot keeps you on edge to the end. 4/5

Nov 18, 2017, 3:12pm

643. Blind Man with a Pistol - Chester Himes. Random violence in the slums of Harlem. There is a plot here - a murder investigation and race riots - but these play second fiddle to the overall atmosphere that Himes creates of the poverty and anger in a sweltering 1960s Harlem. 3.5/5

Nov 20, 2017, 2:59am

644. A Kestrel for a Knave - Barry Hines. Billy Casper is fed up with school and fed up with everyone around him, but is devoted to training his pet kestrel. A fairly grim story, with no sugar-coating and you feel for this hopeless and directionless young man. The only weakness for me is that Hines occasionally lapses in to detailed descriptions of places and events that seem marginal to the main story e.g. 16 pages on a school soccer match. Made in to a famous movie by Ken Loach. 4/5

Edited: Nov 21, 2017, 1:52pm

645. Parable of the Blind - Gert Hofmann. A group of six blind men stumble around a field while waiting to be models in a painting. This is an interesting speculation about the 1568 painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The narrative is confined to one field on one day. It is written in a style similar to Samuel Beckett with circular conversations about nothing, and like a Beckett novel the group of blind men end up exactly where they started (the blind leading the blind). Study the painting before you read the book. 3/5

Edited: Nov 22, 2017, 6:05pm

646. Hyperion - Friedrich Holderlin. Hyperion looks back on his life and loves in Greece. Written in overblown poetic language this is all very dull and hard to get in to. I tried concentrating on the details but found some scanning to be just as enlightening (or not). I have no idea why this is framed as an epistolary novel as few of the numerous letters elicit any response (as MartinBodek rather cruelly points out in his review, that is presumably because his correspondents were similarly unable to make out what on earth Hyperion was trying to say!). There is some brief clarity/action in the battles between Russians and Turks, but not enough to save this from being 1.5/5.

Nov 22, 2017, 5:14pm

Look at that! I'm quoted! Thank you!

Nov 23, 2017, 8:34pm

647. The House on the Borderland - William Hope Hodgson. Two hikers come across an old manuscript in a remote ruined house. This didn't do much for me. There are two branches to the story - a horror story that is too ridiculous to have much horror, and a science-fiction description of the end of the world that has dry descriptions of planetary movements for many chapters. All a bit odd, but apparently a very early attempt at the horror/sci-fi fantasy genre, hence its place on the list. 2.5/5

Nov 27, 2017, 3:15am

648. The Swimming Pool Library - Alan Hollinghurst. Young gay aristocrat William Beckwith forms a friendship with gay octogenarian Lord Nantwich. This novel focuses on the lives of gay males in London in the twentieth century. There is a lot of explicit gay sex, and constant ogling in the private club showers gets a bit tedious. Leaving those bits to one side though, I liked much of Hollinghurst's writing and the world of the old London clubs, and he brings out the difficulties of trying to live an openly homosexual life particularly in the 20s and 30s (and the hazards of being unable to do so). 3/5

Edited: Nov 29, 2017, 6:25pm

649. Atomised - Michel Houellebecq. Two half-brothers reunite in their 40s. A strange blend - part existential philosophy, part pornography (at the risk of racial typecasting, it strikes me as being very French). I can see its intellectual appeal to some but its jarring extremes meant I never really engaged with it. The epilogue was the most thought provoking bit for me. 2.5/5

Nov 30, 2017, 2:50am

650. Closely Watched Trains - Bohumil Hrabal. Young Milos Hrma is station guard at a railway station in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. A quirky short story that varies from moments of slapstick through sexual awakening to deadly encounters with enemy troops. The book was adapted in to an Oscar winning movie that is on the 1001 movies list. 3.5/5

Edited: Dec 9, 2017, 6:59pm

651. Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels. Two men (and those around them) feel the impact of the Holocaust for decades after the event. A poetic piece of writing. The opening pages are quite stunning in prose and imagery, and while the later pages don't quite live up to this opening, there is much to admire here. I say admire rather than enjoy - the characters in the book are somewhat elusive and the mood is one of sadness and depression. Hence though there is some marvellous writing the whole experience is 3.5/5.

Dec 13, 2017, 5:24pm

652. What I Loved - Siri Hustvedt. An artist, an art teacher and their families become neighbours and close friends. This is an intense piece of writing covering love, marriage, parenthood, grief, modern neuroses.... basically much of "the human condition". Well written and at times tense, this is not a hopeful or uplifting novel but nevertheless one I found quite absorbing. 3.5/5

Dec 16, 2017, 7:49pm

653. Antic Hay - Aldous Huxley. The pointless lives of a group of friends in post WW1 London. I enjoyed the wit in this even if momentum was regularly broken by the use of words I’d never heard of. The story doesn’t go anywhere which I assume is the point (or lack thereof). 3/5

Aug 23, 2018, 6:47pm

>527 Nickelini: A postscript to the old post about actors talking about looking for themselves, I’m currently reading Get Shorty and in the book a movie producer, played by Gene Hackman in the movie, is talking about how he can’t get Gene Hackman to play the lead in a movie he is planning!

Jun 3, 2020, 7:57pm

I've read all of the "1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up" in the following age categories: 0-3, 3+, 5+. The hardest part of this enjoyable project has been to find some of the books! Here's my tips.

1. Local public library.

2. Local university library - often they have a collection for students in their Education Faculty who will become primary school teachers.

3. Interlibrary loan.

4. I'm lucky to live in Toronto, Canada, where the public library has a permanent children's reference collection called the Osborne Collection. Visit our city!

5. Older books whose copyright has expired are available from the Gutenberg Project. You can download in Kindle format to read on your smartphone. They also have HTML format; I usually print this to a PDF file which I can read with Adobe Acrobat Reader on my computer or smartphone.

6. Purchase on the internet. Bookfinder is an aggregator which will lead you to other web sites for new and used books dealers such as Amazon and Abe Books.

7. When searching, pay attention to the name of the author, in cases where you cannot find the book in English. Foreign language books are often only available in their original language. However, they are sometimes available in translations into Spanish or French. In all cases, I use Google Translate to get a pretty good translation. (Warning: the program learns from what people want, and what people want most is sex - so what the author innocently wrote and what the program spits out might not match.) You can also use your smartphone to photograph then scan a page of text and feed it into the Google Translate App.

8. When all else fails, get creative. The hardest book to find was the Swedish "Alvin Says Goodnight" by Ulf Löfgren. Nowhere was it available to borrow or buy. However, a friend of a friend was kind enough to photocopy for me the Stockholm Public Library's copy! I found a Finnish book at a public library in a community with a large Finnish emigre (and their descendants) population. A Spanish book I found by asking a bookseller who had a lot of the author's other books. I couldn't find the first edition of "Lion in the Meadow", but did find the journal in which it appeared before a publisher picked it up.

David Cohen
This topic was continued by puckers attempt to read 1001.