Jans 1001 progress

Talk1001 Books to read before you die

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Jans 1001 progress

Edited: Jun 18, 2016, 5:53pm

I came across the 1001 books to read before you die list a few days ago and happily took up the challenge and was fortunate to also find this group. I will start with some of the smaller books and then add some longer as I like to read and listen to few books at the same time. I'm planning to read 1001 books from the combined list. My trusty app tells me that at 52 years old I can get this done by the time I'm 79 so I'll give it my best shot.

I had already read 41 books and many of these I'd enjoy to read again:

1. Robinson Crusoe
2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3. Oliver Twist
4. The Three Musketeers
5. Wuthering Heights
6. David Copperfield
7. Uncle Toms Cabin
8. Moby Dick
9. Walden
10. Great Expectations
11. Alices Adventures in Wonderland
12. Little Women
13. Through the Looking Glass
14. Treasure Island
15. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
16. Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
17. The Picture of Dorian Gray
18. Tess of D’Urbevilles
19. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
20. The Time Machine
21. Dracula
22. The Hound of the Baskervilles
23. The Forsyth Saga
24. Sons & Lovers
25. The Great Gatsby
26. Lady Chatterly's Lover
27. Gone With the Wind
28. The Hobbit
29. The Power and The Glory
30. Pippi Longstocking
31. The Catcher in The Rye
32. Lord of The Flies
33. The Lord of The Rings
34. To Kill A Mockingbird
35. Pride & Prejudice
36. Pilgrims Progress
37. A Christmas Carol
38. The Water Babies
39. Kidnapped
40. Day of The Triffids
41. Perfume

I'll post a summary post with my reactions to the books I've finished as I go along.
(edited to add some I'd missed)

Oct 20, 2015, 4:56pm

Welcome aboard! Best of luck to you!

Oct 20, 2015, 5:00pm

Looking forward to seeing your reviews.

Edited: Oct 21, 2015, 3:54am

Yes your list is definitely a list of the true classics. The 'crème de la crème' as Jean Brodie would say.

Oct 21, 2015, 6:27am


Edited: Nov 2, 2015, 12:53pm

thanks for the welcome :) I've been reading a few of the shorter books the last week or so and really enjoying it. So nice to just curl up with a book again.

42. A Modest Proposal

A satirical solution to the Irish potato famine by Jonathon Swift. Clever but doesn't encourage me to want to read more of Swift at all.

43. Castle Rackrent

I enjoyed this little tale. Narrated by Thady Quirk who has been the house servant for several generations of masters. It tells the story of each of them and how they fared in managing Castle Rackrent. It has a nice twist at the end and is an easy read.

44. The House of Usher

This short gothic horror story is about the last inhabitants of the House of Usher. I hadn't read Poe before and this made me want to read more, I like his style and the long descriptive sentences and language he uses.

45. The Pit & The Pendulum

Another very short story by Poe about a man facing his death with no apparent way of escape. Thoroughly enjoyed this and will be reading more of Poe

46. The Devils Pool

I found this an interesting story and enjoyed reading it. It is based on a series of woodcuts and each picture in the book is followed by the chapter about whats happening in that picture. Its basically a love story about a German widower who needs to find a wife. When I finished this story I spent some time looking up German wedding customs and traditions - I like it when a book makes me learn something new and this one did. A nice little love story.

47. The Yellow Wallpaper

Jane is suffering from a nervous breakdown and goes to the country with her husband to rest. This is written from her perspective as journal entries and its written very cleverly. I liked this story. I work in the metal heath field and could really relate to what happens to Jane as she lies in bed all day 'resting' for her health. Reading this just is a reminder of how woman were just considered so incapable in those times and how men made decisions on their behalf as a matter of routine. Its a good, short story and I think it could be analysed quite deeply, even though it appears simple and short. After reading this I definitely want to read more of Charlotte Perkins Gillman.

48. The Little Prince

I've heard so many good things about this children's book I was looking forward to it. Well it just didn't do much for me at all. I found it didn't keep my attention very well and I didn't enjoy it, was glad to be done with it.

49. A Tale of a Tub

A short story that seemed to go on forever! This is a moral tale of three brothers and the choices they make after their father dies. It just reinforced my feeling that I really don't want to read anything by Jonathon Swift. Part of is the style and format it's written in which I'm guessing is related to the time period. Didn't like it at all.

50. The Fox

Another love story but one with quite a few twists, turns and complex relationships between the main three characters. I liked this because it was different and I thought it was cleverly written. Two women live on a farm, possibly lovers, but thats left up to the reader to decide. There is a fox that comes around the farm after the chickens. A soldier comes to stay with them and so the relationships develop between the three of them. A love triangle that leads to conflict. I really like the way Laurence writes. His language is lovely and the emotions are intense. I enjoyed this and its a short read.

51. Northanger Abbey

For the most part this was an enjoyable read. I did enjoy the way Austen talks to the reader during the novel and shows her sense of humour about the 'heroine' of the story, Catherine, who travels to Bath with family friends and, of course, falls in love. Catherine likes reading gothic novels and so her imagination gets the better of her when she goes to stay at Northanger Abbey. It is a parody of the gothic novels of the time and has a nice sense of humour underlying the story. At times I got bored with reading how absolutely boring womens lives were in those times and the gossipy conversations they had about such trivial nonsense. Thank heavens times have changed! But overall it was an easy read

Oct 31, 2015, 5:34am

Nice set of reviews. Welcome and keep on reading.

Oct 31, 2015, 7:38am

The Little Prince didn't do anything for me either. I rather disappointed the person who thrust it into my hands and demanded I read it. I didn't dislike it, it just didn't touch my inner soul like it does with so many other people.

Oct 31, 2015, 8:21am

>6 Jan_1: Looks like you've been doing some excellent Halloween reading!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have some repeat titles in your first post -- Looking Glass, Finn, & Dorian Gray.

I know the strategy of reading shorter works to boost the numbers. ;) If you like absurdist works, I recommend Gogol's short story The Nose, I also quite enjoyed Süskind's The Pigeon. Stefan Zweig has a couple of excellent short works, Amok and Chess Story, but they are quite similar to each other. I recommend reading Amok first and then after a period of several months/years reading the even better Chess Story. I haven't read Of Mice and Men since high school English class, but Steinbeck is generally a superb writer. Passing is an excellent, short novella (also very good is her Quicksand). And then there are a couple of fun, short mysteries: The Postman Always Rings Twice and The 39 Steps.

Edited: Oct 31, 2015, 8:45am

I love all your Halloween reading- I'll have to pursue more of these. Your mini-reviews are spot on.

I just finished Northanger Abbey this month, too.

Edited: Oct 31, 2015, 1:22pm

ElizM - thanks for letting me know the repeats! ...the result of cut and paste :)

I'm looking up your recommendations, nice to have the short ones on standby for some quick reading.

Edited: Nov 2, 2015, 12:54pm

Well I've had a lovely weekend of reading. Still knocking over the short ones but have been organising some longer books that I hope to start later in the week. I'm just posting my list at the moment so I don't lose track and will be back a bit later to write up my thoughts on them

52. Animal Farm

I found this incredibly boring. I really did. I understand the social commentary and philosophical reasons that make this book important and perhaps if I'd read it at school along with lots of discussion and debate it might have been better. But as a straight read it's just not my cup of tea.

53. The Purloined Letter

This is a very short story by Poe, about solving a crime of a stolen letter. It was an easy quick read but not that great compared to the others I read of his.

54. The Turn of the Screw

When I was at university one of my psychology lecturers was huge Henry James fan, so I was looking forward to reading this story. Its basically a ghost story about a governess to goes to look after two children, the master of the house lives elsewhere. The children can see the ghosts and the tension gradually builds but the ending is really unsatisfactory. I had mixed feelings as there were parts that had good potential and a good underlying premise, but the end result felt a bit disjointed. Its a fast, easy read but not that satisfying.

55. Candide

Oh, poor Candide! Seriously, this poor fellow and his companions go through trials and tribulations non stop. And it challenges his tutors simple philosophy that everything happens for the best. its a combination of satire, ethical dilemma and commentary on society. It reminded me of the book of Job. I enjoyed it and its made me interested to read more of Voltaire. I like the way he writes. This book was widely banned at the time and there is so much in it that could be discussed as we see Candide have to work out his own philosophy about life rather than accept his tutors views.

56. The Thirty-nine Steps

I loved the first chapter of this book. I enjoy a good thriller or mystery and it had the look of that. This was a quick read, the pace was nice and fast in the first few chapters. I'd be interested to see the movie now I've read the book. Richard Hannoy is suddenly drawn out of his ordinary life into a mystery as he discovers a plot that needs to be stopped on the eve of WWI. Nice easy read.

57. The Nose

Oh my goodness! I just didn't get this at all and thank heavens it was short. A public official loses his nose and finds it walking about in uniform. I'm sure there is a reason why this was on the 1001 list - just can't work out what it is.

58. The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Oh wow - my first Leo Tolstoy book and I just really want to read more of him. What insight into the human condition. This book is about the life and death of Ivan - who is really an everyman. I really enjoyed this book and I love the way he writes. So many wonderful quotes, I'll limit myself to one:

"Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible. "

I used to work in palliative care for many years so I've been through many deaths with families. Tolstoy has captured much of the experience here very well.

Edited: Nov 9, 2015, 2:31pm

Been reading non stop and finishing off a few more books. I usually have a couple on the go at a time and I use kindle & audible as well as paper books. I only count books that I have completed - can't start a book and not finish it!

59. Fanny Hill

Really interesting to read about the history of this book, first pornographic novel and banned for many years, written by the author while in debtors prison etc.

Overall its an interesting and at times amusing read. Its clear its written by a man, how many times can we hear about the size, power and awesomeness of his 'machinery' and how impressive his endowments are! a lot of male fantasy here I imagine.

I can see why it was shocking at the time, and probably still is to some people but its pretty tame in this day and age. Makes the point, similar to Moll Flanders, that women had few choices if they fell on hard times.

60. Moll Flanders

I was looking forward to reading this book and I enjoyed it up to her first move to America. Then I just got bored with it, it was find a man, stay till he dies or leaves, rinse and repeat - add a few abandoned babies in there for good measure. Later in the book Moll takes up thieving and it got interesting again for a while but i found the ending unsatisfying. Moll is a calculating woman who had no qualms about doing whatever she needed to do to survive and thrive. She was a survivor for sure and any 'repentance' at the end was simply another strategy for manipulation.

So the basic story line is good but just dragged out and too repetitive for me. Certainly highlights the lack of worth of woman in those times.

61. The Return of the Soldier

I enjoyed this story. It was the first WW1 novel written by a woman and it was published in wartime. It was also Rebecca Wests first novel. It tells the story of a soldier returned from the war with 'shell shock' which has caused him to lose his memory of most of his adult life. In his mind, he is still in love with his first love and he does not recognise his wife. The story follows three women, his wife, his cousin ( the narrator) and his first love.

I have worked with soldiers and treated those with PTSD so I found this book to be very sensitively written given what knowledge and understanding was available at the time. The responses of the women, his doctors and the decisions that are made were very similar to what i see happening in peoples lives today. From anger to compassion and the desire to 'resolve' the problem and the possible consequences, - she covers it all in this little story. A lot of insight into the human experience, many important themes about war, women and class. I've added Rebecca West to my list of authors I'd like to read more of.

62. Aesops Fables

When you consider that this has its origins in the 5th Century, its amazing how much of Aesops fables has become just part of our everyday culture and wisdom. The fables are short, most not even a page, and the stories are simply told, mostly with animals as subjects. Yet the lessons from the fables are timeless.

I enjoyed this very much. It reminded me of an Indigenous workshop I attended a few years ago where we had discuss the lessons for children of the Aboriginal dreamtime stories. The stories were so much more than what they appeared to be on the surface - lessons for keeping safe and navigating life when there was only the oral tradition to pass on to the next generation.

Aespos fables can appear deceptively simple but there is a lot of wisdom there if you are ready to look.

63. The Call of The Wild

I listened to this book and I must admit that in the first chapter I actually had to turn it off and take a break - I just cannot abide animals being hurt. Anyway I toughened up and the next day started listening again - by chapter three I was hooked on this beautifully written book. I can absolutely understand why this book is on the list! It just drew me in emotionally and I found myself with tears in my eyes in parts of it. Wonderful read! 5/5 and would read this again.

Edited: Nov 9, 2015, 3:32pm

64. The Collector

CREEPY! - well worth the read and I'd recommend the audible narration over the book, the narrator was wonderful and it really added to the creepiness of this novel.

Its worth looking into the background of this book which was written in 1963. There is much more to the story than the obvious. It looks into the minds of kidnapper and victim. It captured the victims constant attempt to keep the ever present panic under control as she tried different ways to escape. We see into the mind of The Collector - a mild mannered socially awkward fellow, who feels inferior and insignificant. An ending that took me by surprise and just reinforced that creepy feeling I was left with.

Very well written and not what I expected from the description. worth reading.

Nov 9, 2015, 3:41pm

65. The Castle of Otranto

Considered the first gothic novel, written in 1764 and thought to be a translation of an Italian manuscript from 1529. It's quick moving storyline complete with ghosts, mysterious deaths and young love. Its not the best gothic story by any means, not even scary really, but I can see it would have been scary at the time it was written. A quick easy read.

Nov 9, 2015, 4:42pm

>15 Jan_1: You seem to have missed the 2nd preface! The "it's an Italian diary!" thing was a sneaky gimmick he used, that got people really angry when they found out it wasn't "real." ;) When it was republished he put a second intro/preface thing about it.

Nov 9, 2015, 8:45pm

ah, thanks Monkey! :) I will go back and find that 2nd preface, sounds interesting

Nov 11, 2015, 2:54am

66. Miss Lonelyhearts

I seem to miss the 'comedy' in this supposed dark comedy completely. Miss lonelyhearts is a man who acts as an agony aunt for a newspaper. Its set in the depression and he is overwhelmed by the letters he receives and the futility of life. I found nothing likeable about him - hes a brutish, thug of a man sinking into depression and lashing out at the world.

I didn't like it, wouldn't recommend it and the dark comedy went totally over my head. Perhaps because I work with people like him and in those situations every day it just was a rather boring and annoying read for me.

67. Oroonoko

Written in 1688 this is considered one of the earliest English novels, though its quite a short read. Tells the story of Oroonoko, a king amongst his people taken into slavery. The writing style of the time is a bit of a difficult read but the story itself is good. More noticeable for me is the authors attitude towards slaves and admiration for Oroonoko, views that would have been pretty controversial at the time.

Its a reasonably quick read, not easy, but an interesting author.

68. The War of The Worlds

I know the story of this from being a fan of the soundtrack which I loved as a teen. I enjoyed reading this. It moves along quickly and has a nice writing style. Easy, enjoyable read.

69. The Life & Death of Harriet Frean

This is a short story and I really liked the writers style and insight into Harriets thoughts as she moves through her life trying to be 'good' and reaping the consequences of a decision that she allows to dominate her entire life. nicely written.

70. The Sorrows of Young Werther

Some really beautiful writing in this and a lovely look into the mind of young Werther who falls madly in love. But things don't work out the way he hopes and we follow his emotional journey as he is unable to give up his obsession for the woman he loves. Goethe was only 24 when he wrote this. I just loved the way he writes and it made me want to read more of his works. 5/5

Nov 13, 2015, 1:07pm

A few days of reading some of the shorter books and I also discovered one I had forgotten.

71. The Twins

Twins girls separated at age 6 end up on opposite sides of the war, one grow up with a Dutch family, the other German. They meet by chance when they are elderly and each tells their story, though there is more focus on Anna, who married a German soldier.

I really enjoyed this story. To me it spoke of the commonality of suffering, fear, love, hope, anger and the longing for connection that knows no nationalities or borders. It personalises what happened to millions of families across the world in WWII. It also gives voice to the everyday German experience of the war.

I found myself really liking Anna and admiring her as she reviews her life and attempts to reconnect with her sister. The ending was unexpected, yet satisfying. Lifes doesn't end neatly for most of us.

72. Ethan Frome

I liked the authors style of writing and this was an easy read. Tells the story of Ethan Frome and events that happened when he was young that account for his disposition. The story is not a happy one, love gone wrong, but I found it quite captivating. The ending was very abrupt.

73. The Awakening

I found this a bit hard to get into but once I did I found it really touched on some emotions for me. It was written in 1899 and tells the story of Edna Pontillier, a 29 year old married woman with two sons.

Edna meets Robert while on holidays and this awakens all sorts of feelings in her including a dissatisfaction with her own (boring) life. A life that was pretty typical of women in her class. Of course her dissatisfaction and decision to do as she pleases must mean there is something 'wrong' with her and so her husband consults the doctor who has this to say about women:

"Pontellier," said the Doctor, after a moment's reflection, "let your wife alone for a while. Don't bother her, and don't let her bother you. Woman, my dear friend, is a very peculiar and delicate organism—a sensitive and highly organized woman, such as I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is especially peculiar. It would require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them. And when ordinary fellows like you and me attempt to cope with their idiosyncrasies the result is bungling. Most women are moody and whimsical. This is some passing whim of your wife, due to some cause or causes which you and I needn't try to fathom. But it will pass happily over, especially if you let her alone. Send her around to see me."

Heaven forbid a woman should not find being a devoted wife and mother the ultimate fulfilment! And shocking to see a woman liberate herself sexually and domestically.

I am so impressed with this book. I totally understand why its in the 1001 list - early feminist writings and daring to write about such a topic at a time when women were still considered their husbands property.

brilliant! 5/5

thank god for the suffragettes is all I can say...

74. The Plague

Another short book that I'm really impressed with. Written by Albert Camus in 1947 this is a timeless story that could be told in many varied settings, this one just happens to be in a town which is struck down by the plague.

Camus writes about so many aspects of the human condition when disaster hits - the religious, the carers, the profiteers, the fearful, the ignorant - everyday people and how they react to human suffering.

His insight into people is very good and its well written. The story could easily be transplanted to the recent Ebola crisis, the Aids panic in the 80's, the earthquake in Haiti and so on throughout history.

Lots of good quotes but this is my favourite:

"Well, it's over now," Rieux said.
Tarrou said in a low voice that it was never over, and
there would be more victims, because that was in the order of things.
"Perhaps," the doctor answered. "But, you know, I feel
more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don't really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man."


75. Worstward Ho

Although this is listed as a book, it strikes me more as a poem that needs to read out loud. I chose it just because is had only 40 pages but it didn't appeal to me at all as something to read. When I read some out loud it made more ( but not much) sense and sounded much better.

not my cup of tea at all.

76. Wild Swans - I had read this before starting and missed it when checking the list so I've added it in here. A few years since I read it but I really liked this book a lot. Tells the story of the author, her mother and grandmother over the period of Maos cultural revolution and beyond. 5/5

Nov 13, 2015, 4:13pm

>19 Jan_1: I've read two of the books you mentioned Ethan Frome and The Awakening and I agree with your assessment of both. The Awakening was exceptional I thought.

Edited: Nov 16, 2015, 3:12pm

gypsymom, I thought The Awakening was really impressive.

Lots of reading over the weekend, I want to get to 100 books by the end of the year. Just posting my update and I'll add the reviews later.

77. Fruits of The Earth

I enjoyed this part prose -poetry, part travelogue by Andre Gide. It has some beautiful writing in it and the ultimate message is to live for today, enjoy the moment - the fruits of the earth, seek to live life to the full, don't settle for mediocrity or acceptance of societies expectations:

"While other people were publishing or working, I, on the contrary, devoted three years of travel to forgetting all that I had learned with my head. This unlearning was slow and difficult; it was more use to me than all the learning imposed by men, and was really the beginning of an education."

Reading this made me start researching the author and his other works and I definitely want to read more about & of him and I will re-read this more deeply. He had an interesting life; bought up in a religious household, discovering he was gay, an unconsumated marriage; a young gay partner; a daughter who was devoted to him. He won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1947.His works were on the Catholic churches banned books list. I found a copy of his book on scribd as a document. I'll be reading more of his works after this

78. The Unfortunate Traveller

Oh this was torture to read!! Written in old English with great blocks of text - I really did not enjoy this and though it might be short, it was by no means quick to read.

Published in 1594 its a story set in Henry VIII time, its the story of Jack Wiltons adventures travelling around Europe. There's women, wine and song and plenty of fighting and swindling in this story. Unfortunately for me any joy in the story was removed by the struggle of the old English text - I was relieved to finish this - its hard work!!

79. Madam Bovary

I had heard of this book but really had no idea of the story line. Madam Bovary is unhappily married and dissatisfied with her life as wife of a country doctor. We follow her struggle with this and the events that follow when she embarks on an affair.

This book is beautifully written and really highlights the restricted life and social expectations of women in the past. I was amazed that a man was able to capture her feelings and thoughts so well. Of course her despair and dissatisfaction is yet again diagnosed as illness - like so many woman condemned to this sort of domestic servitude. It also challenges the romantic / happily ever after ideas that still seem to continue today. Madam Bovary finds her own escape for a time, but eventually must bear the consequences.

When is was published as a serial it caused an outcry and a trial for public obscenity. It's very well written and very insightful. 5/5

I must admit to feeling like I need a remedy to all these books about women expected to be happy with such dull lives so I downloaded Emily Pankhursts' autobiography this morning to balance the scales a little :)

80. Brave New World

I've heard so much about this book and I really liked it. Easy to see why it has had such an impact on our culture and why it is on the list.

81. Bunner Sisters

The story of two sisters who live and work together in their shop who are both interested in the same man. He sells them a clock and they start spending time together. While both sisters are interested in them, only one is willing to marry.

This story started out OK and I was enjoying it but then it felt like it just ended because it was an easy out. So, for me, it felt like it had promise to be a good story but the ending didn't match the writing leading up to it. It was an easy, short read, but dissapointing.

82. The Old Man and The Sea

I found this book had some deep themes of life, old age, death and struggle. Its an interesting read and I liked the way Hemmingway wrote. I know this is often a read for school kids - I think my reaction this story is very much a product of being older and I wondered how kids react to this story.

I loved the relationship between the old man and the boy and could relate to old mans struggle. Not one I would read again, but glad I read it.

Nov 15, 2015, 7:56am

>21 Jan_1: I will be interested to hear your thoughts about The Unfortunate Traveller. I've heard it can be traumatizing....?

Nov 15, 2015, 10:59am

>21 Jan_1: >22 ELiz_M: personally I found Bunner Sisters more traumatizing than anything the Elizabethans could dream up!

Nov 15, 2015, 4:52pm

If you're still interested in reading short books from the list, I found the old thread "Short Books" and bumped it up to the top of the list for you. You've read a bunch of them for sure, but you'll probably find some other suggestions. And you can add any we missed.

Nov 16, 2015, 3:13pm

>Nickelin - thanks for bumping the thread, Its great being able to find the shorter works in one spot.

Nov 21, 2015, 3:37pm

well I didn't get near as much time to read last week as I would of liked so I'll have to try and make up for it this week.

83. The Garden Party

I liked this short story. It is about a young girl who's family is hosting a garden party and then she finds out that a neighbour has died. The story touches on themes of life, death, purpose, social class and I thought it was quite clever to be able to raise those themes in a thought provoking way in such a short piece of writing.

84. Of Mice and Men

I found the story and most of the characters to be pretty unpleasant so I did not enjoy this. But at the same time it did provoke an emotional reaction from me, of disgust, frustration, sadness and really, that is what good writing does ( in my humble opinion) and it does show attitudes that do exist. So I can appreciate it has value, but no, I didn't like this at all and I'm glad it was short - couldn't stomach much more of it.

When I was reading it I was wondering about it being read in schools and how it is received. It has a lot of quite mature themes in it and it certainly is pretty degrading about women - so I wondered how a group of young people would feel about this story in this day and age compared to in the past.

Nov 21, 2015, 3:58pm

>26 Jan_1: My daughter read Of Mice and Men in high school, I think in grade 11 (I read it in grade 9 way back in the olden days). She didn't like it, although she saw it's merit. She particularly commented on the lack of women/treatment of the women that were in the book.

Edited: Dec 4, 2015, 4:04pm

nickelini - thats interesting to hear, I think the year 11's would manage it much better than the year 9s, I sometimes think the book choices we get in high school can have a big influence on how we view reading. I was always a reader but was introduced to Tennyson in high school and TS Eliot - just love them and may not have ever found them otherwise. I think if I'd read Steinbeck and wasn't a reader it would have been a bit discouraging.

My reading has slowed down a bit as I'm busy at work trying to get finished before my holidays. I've been listening to audio books so sometimes I can work and 'read'.

85. Persuasion

I found myself enjoying parts of this novel but at times getting a bit frustrated that it seemed to move a bit too slow for me. It was reasonably good, but not so much that I'd want to read it again. Anne is persuaded to break off an engagement by a woman friend and 8 years later they meet again.

I found myself thinking about the theme of Persuasion and how it affects how our lives. How much more easily persuaded we are when we are young, and often make decisions about partners that can lead to huge regrets when older. I wonder how much of this is a reflection on Jane Austens' own life and perhaps decisions that were made that she now had regrets about.

I have to admit that I just find a lot of these era books frustrating in that a womans life it just as boring as boring can be - because her sole purpose and use in life was to be married off. So I'm glad they were written because they are relevant, and they evoke a response in me -but the storylines can be hard to get excited about. I think Jane Austen is quite an amazing author, she writes beautifully but her books are not ones I'd read again.

I like this quote - I just love the last line:

“Captain Harvile: Poor Phoebe, she would not have forgotten him so soon. It was not in her nature.

Anne Elliot: It would not be in the nature of any woman who truly loved.

Captain Harvile: Do you claim that for your sex?

Anne Elliot: We do not forget you as soon as you forget us. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You always have business of some sort or other to take you back into the world.

Captain Harvile: I won't allow it to be any more man's nature than women's to be inconstant or to forget those they love or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe... Let me just observe that all histories are against you, all stories, prose, and verse. I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which did not have something to say on women's fickleness.

Anne Elliot: But they were all written by men. ”

86. The Princess of Cleves

This is considered the 'first psychological novel' and so as a psychologist I was looking forward to reading it. It is set in the 16th century French court. The Princess of Cleves falls in love with a man who she is not married too. She is a pious woman and so she decides to stay faithful to her husband and we see how this plays out. I found it an interesting book and it does deal with a lot of self reflection and feelings of the characters. I could certainly recognise the reactions, thoughts and feelings in clients I have worked with dealing with these issues so though its set in a royal court there are themes here that are quite timeless. A short easy read.

87. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime

I really enjoyed this book! Having worked with lots of teens similar to the main character I was very impressed with the authors ability to capture the way the character thinks and the logic behind his decisions. I found myself smiling and remembering similar conversations I've had as I reading.

Christopher is 15 and has Aspergers. He finds a dog that has been killed and sets out to discover who killed it.

This is an excellent book. 4/5

88. Gullivers Travels

I listened to the libravox recording when I was working. I didn't think I'd like it but even though some parts were a bit slow I found mysef drawn into the story.

The storyline is well known but what makes this book interesting is that its really making a lot of comment on society and government and there is a lot of insight into human behaviour. I can see why this book is important - its much deeper than the childrens story its often seen as.

Dec 5, 2015, 10:39am

I listened to Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time as an audio book and it was fantastic. Whoever read it nailed Christopher's character.

Edited: Dec 5, 2015, 2:22pm

bucketyell, audiobooks add a whole other dimension to the characters I think, might look up the audio and have a listen.

89. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher who selects and grooms selected students in the girls school. She a very interesting character, an unfulfilled spinster, an intelligent woman with 'modern' ideas for the time; she enjoys the power & influence she has over 'her set'.

Though it can appear her efforts are for good purposes - (to broaden the girls minds beyond the three R's), in reality she is living vicariously through them and has no real care for their wellbeing. As the girls get older the relationship with Miss Brodie changes and doubts set in for the main character - Sandy.

By the end of this book I was left thinking about the contrast between Miss Brodie and Sandy - both probably unfulfilled, one avoiding people, the other living through them - it also made me think of Persuasion and how powerful other peoples opinions can be on young lives.

I really liked the way this book would change the time period so freely, from one paragraph to another and was able to do this easily, without interrupting the flow of the story. An interesting, unusual quick book to read.

Dec 5, 2015, 3:44pm

The back-and-forth hopping in time periods shows up in several other books of hers too, Spark really is a master of foreshadowing.

Dec 9, 2015, 11:55pm

90. The Heart of Darkness

I enjoyed this. I listened to the Audible recording and the narrator was really good. It really added to the whole atmosphere of the book.

The book is the retelling of events on a voyage up the Congo in the 1800's and based on some of the authors experiences. It certainly reflects the colonial and racist ideas of the times. Its well written and I like the descriptiveness of it. 4/5

Dec 14, 2015, 9:07am

I felt the same way as you about Persusasion - good enough but it didn't feel as rich in socially snarky fun as some of the other Austen's I read this year. That was absolutely my favorite passage, too.

I'm also glad you liked The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I took annamorphic's advice and watched the movie of it this weekend. Wonderful!

Edited: Dec 16, 2015, 4:34am

It isn't as sarcastic but I agree with the general comments that it has an 'autumnal' beauty that the others lack. I find it a very graceful, sweetly sad read, definitely her most mature work. Along with P&P it's my other 5 star Austen read.

Edited: Dec 30, 2015, 2:44pm

91. The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad
I read the online book from Gutenberg. The story is about an undercover spy in 1886 who has been told that he needs to perform an attack against 'science' as he has not been doing enough over recent years.
I was surprised by this book, it went in a direction that I did not expect at all from the way it started and that I couldn't have predicted. I enjoyed it and I can see why its on the list. Its still relevant in this day and age of terrorist acts happening around the world.
I like the way it moves back and forth in time and the way it gets into the motivations and psychology of the spy and his wife.
This book is said to have been a big influence on the Unabomber who used versions of the name Conrad as alias' and was inspired by characters in the story.
Its a good, quick read.

92. Great Expectations - I loved the first part of this where Pip was growing up and we get to understand his relationships with the other characters. Then Pip moves to London and, oh dear, it just really dragged for me after that. It just felt that it went for too long, even though the underlying story was good. Apparently it was first written as a serial, so I can see that it would work very well that way.

Dec 30, 2015, 7:41pm

I'll have to keep The Secret Agent in mind when I need to balance out some of the door stoppers. Interesting info about the connection to the Unabomber which I wasn't aware of.

Dec 31, 2015, 3:48am

yes its good to have the short ones to break up things a bit, I read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett yesterday, just needed a bit of humour to change things up.

93. Agnes Gray . Debut novel by Anne Bronte about a girl who becomes a governess for a horrible family after her family falls on hard times. She writes well but I just find it uninteresting. Glad it was short and looking forward to taking a break from this type genre for a while.

Dec 31, 2015, 10:15am

Wow for someone that just found the 1001 list in Nov your off to a great start. Looking forward to see you on your journey.

Edited: Jun 5, 2016, 3:32pm

thanks Alwinn, I was fortunate to have holidays and I read a lot of short ones, I've slowed down a bit now I'm back at work.

94. Birdsong
When I started this book I wasn't really into for the first couple of chapters, then I just got completely into the story and could not put it down.

Its both a love story and a war story, set it WWI. It probably gives the best insight into the horrors of trench warfare that I've read, but its much more than that and the characters are interesting.

I found myself very moved by this book as it made me think about an old man who lived next door to us when I was young. He went to war at age 15 - he fought at Gallipoli, in the trenches. He used to patiently listen to my read my homework to him each day after school - sitting out the back of his shed, smoking his rolled cigarettes. Every year on Anzac day a taxi would arrive and he would be driven in the parade - wearing his medals - one of the original Anzacs. He never married, kept to himself but always had time for me.

As I read Birdsong I thought of my own son and his friends at 15, and just cried to think of the senseless loss of life and the horrors they endured - just boys. I found myself thinking about the story long after I finished the book. A must read - 5/5

94. Silence

I wanted to read Silence as we had been to Japan and while we were there we heard stories about the early Christians and the missionaries, visiting the oldest church in Japan and some of the places mentioned in the book. I listened to it on Audible and really enjoyed this book.

Set in 1640s, a passionate jesuit priest goes to Japan to minister to the persecuted Christians. He discovers that his mentor has renounced his faith. It follows his journey to examine his own faith, as he is forced to watch and endure the religious persecution of the Christians.

I found this book thought provoking and very well written. The author captures the complexities of such moral dilemmas very well. I also love the title - Silence - if there is a God why is he silent to the horrific suffering of his people. excellent 5/5

Jan 19, 2016, 9:32am

Birdsong is one of my fav reads I sure hoped you enjoyed it as well. I have found a few of the older books on audio on youtube that I can knock out in an afternoon, which is great because some of the 1700's are really hard to read and listening isn't has painful.

Jan 25, 2016, 2:09am

Alwinn I really enjoyed Birdsong, at first i wasn't sure I would but then I just got pulled right into the story, it was one that i find I keep thinking about.

Edited: Jan 25, 2016, 2:46am

>41 Jan_1: Me too and I read it years ago. Those birds... When I hear about WWI, I think of Birdsong.

May 19, 2016, 6:36pm

oh dear , can't believe I haven't read anything this year and its already May! Once I went back to work I just got swamped - have been plodding along at War & Peace but no time for reading really, too much work and too tired. I have to get back to reading, need it for my sanity lol!

May 19, 2016, 7:23pm

Good luck, it is so much more difficult to keep reading when work gets into full swing.

Jun 4, 2016, 8:27pm

95. Metamorphoses this is the second book on the list. Its an epic poem of the history of the world, the gods and goddesses and its a non stop- drama!
Its very visceral and filled with plenty of violence, rapes, death and love.

Many stories of different transformations and its an important read. In a sense its like aesops fables in that so much of Metamorphoses is just part of our shared history - the stories are all recognisable and part of our cultural heritage. I found myself reminded of Harry Potter and the three headed dog, Kalese and the dragons in Game of Thrones and of course romeo and juliet and many other well known stories. Though its long it has some really lovely verse and some great action in it. Its one of those foundational reads and I'm glad I read it reasonably early in my 1001 list.

The final chapter has a different feel to it. Its much more philosophical. It speaks of our human journey from embryo through to death and the transmigration of the soul. It also talks of all matter just changing form - really interesting to think this idea was written and spoken about so many years ago.

All the while I was reading this I felt like I was listening to a performance by a really good storyteller. A long, but worthwhile read.

Jun 5, 2016, 3:00pm

96. Chaireas and Kallirhoe This is thought to be the oldest surviving, complete ancient prose romance, probably written mid 1st century AD, the first historical novel. Set in 400BC its a 'love' story and while its well written - its just not my cup of tea - its just SO over the top and of course, the womans only use is to look beautiful, and only value is her chastity - yawn....

So yes its full of drama ( in the desperate housewives kind of way), and I could see it would have been a thrilling tale in its time but I just was bored by it and bored by the vacuous characters in it, but I can appreciate its historical value.

Jun 6, 2016, 12:26pm

Now that you've read Metamorphoses, read The Last World (only on one version of the list, I believe). It is beautiful and magical and directly linked to Ovid. I read them in the opposite order, but I wish I had read Ovid first.

Jun 6, 2016, 2:33pm

thanks so much for telling me about The Last World - its sounds like a book I'd like. - will track down a copy

Jun 12, 2016, 4:18pm

97. War and Peace

I've had this last week off work so I spent a lot of the time reading to get this completed. I enjoyed this! Tolstoy writes in a very readable way. I got drawn into the story and Pierre was certainly a favourite character for me. The very personal stories of the characters against the huge backdrop of the war creates a great story. I could have done without the epilogues at the end; I just wanted to savour the story but the second epilogue does give an insight into Tolstoys philosophies.

Overal its a grand story and it certainly deserves it place on the list. I think its a much easier read than its made out to be. The writing is deceptively simple and moves along a good pace. Glad I read it and I'm looking forward to seeing the BBC series. Now I'm after a quick three reads to get up to 100 books.

Jun 12, 2016, 7:02pm

98. Notes from the Underground

This is considered one of the first existential novels. I found it to be the rantings of a sociopath, revolting. Feel like I need a shower after reading it.

Jun 12, 2016, 7:11pm

>50 Jan_1: Oh, fun. (Yikes. At least it's very short).

Jun 14, 2016, 4:50pm

99. Summer by Edith Wharton

I am not sure why this is even on the list to be honest. wikepedia tells me its about the 'sexual awakening' of the young protagonist - its a boring read, its another frustrating story about women being powerless and having their lives determined by men. Nothing sexy or enlightening about it at all.
I think I need to move to another time period where women were not such objects.

(not sure why touchstones is linking this to Harry Potter?)

Jun 18, 2016, 3:03am

100. Diary of a Nobody

This was a quick little read, quite enjoyable. It initially appeared as a serial in Punch magazine and is classed as a comic novel. I think the charm of this story is thats is just about the everyday events of the family and their friends. The main character, Charles Pooter would like to be a bit more upper class than he actually is and often puts his foot in his mouth or makes a social gaffe. I read the kindle version with the original illustrations and it was an easy read.

Edited: Jun 18, 2016, 6:29pm

101. Chess Story

A quick and enjoyable read about a chess champion who is on a cruise and agrees to play one of the passengers. It turns into a group game of chess and then the story takes an interesting turn. Nice quick read, with a lot of psychological meanings underneath the obvious story, at least there were for me. It was the last book written by Stefan Zweig, while he was in exile, having fled Austria as Hitler advanced. It was submitted to his publisher just a few days before he committed suicide. Its a powerful book if you look below the surface.

Jun 18, 2016, 6:38pm

Congratulations on 100!

Jun 19, 2016, 1:53pm

thanks puckers :)

102. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I really enjoyed this book, the first of a series of autobiographies. Mayas' writing style is lovely, descriptive and emotional. I will certainly be reading the rest of her books now.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:14pm

Just back from five weeks holidays and as well as having a great time I was able to finally get some reading done!

103. The Tartar Steppe I enjoyed this book. We spent time visiting old forts on our trip and I think that added to my enjoyment as I could easily imagine the fort and the daily work of the soldiers there. I thought there was some really lovely writing in this book and would read it again.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:22pm

104. Tender is the Night oh dear, I just did not enjoy this book at all - I wonder if F.Scott Fitzgerald actually ever met an intelligent woman in his lifetime - I just found this boring- apparently his wife was a schizophrenic and he wrote this at 'the bleakest period of his life'. He considered it one of his best works. I guess I'm just not a Fitzgerald fan.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:26pm

105. The Invisible Man A nice short book by H.G. Wells. I enjoyed this - its the story of a man who has made himself invisible and how he deals with this - there is a moral tale to the story as well as the science fiction aspect of it.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:31pm

106. The Moonstone This is considered the first detective novel written in English and it was really good. I liked the way the story is written as you have several different people giving their version of the events. A diamond is stolen and a detective called in to investigate, then the plot thickens! very good.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:42pm

107. Eugenie Grandet published in 1833 - Eugenies father was a miserly old coot and after he dies she ends up naively wasting her life waiting for her 'love/cad' of a cousin to return to marry her. Eugenie ends up wealthy and childless, after making a deal to marry someone else and retain her virginity, the husband dies and though she should be miserable, she is quite content with her life by the end. Its an interesting story from a womans perspective, early on she is naive, but she ends up taking control of her life and using what power she had for that time.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:45pm

I agree with your thoughts on Tender is the Night... I didn't think it read well. If I'm remembering correctly, he wrote it over the course of a decade and incorporated a bunch of unfinished stories in it... and I didn't think everything blended together well.

Everything Fitzgerald really pales in comparison to The Great Gatsby, I think!

Oct 1, 2016, 5:48pm

108. The English Patient I didn't expect to enjoy this book having seen the movie years ago, but I quite liked it. I actually read it on the same day we were travelling in the area the book is set in which was nice co-incidence. I really like the way this author writes, its a different style to most books - it feels like 'stream of consciousness' writing and creates a very 'here and now' feeling. There is a lightness to the writing and its much, much better than the movie was. Its a short, easy read, but a deep story with complex characters and themes.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:52pm

109. Brighton Rock - a murder thriller by Graham Greene, written in 1938. I was looking forward to reading this - I loved Greenes The Power & the Glory so settled in ready for a good read. - I found it hard to get through to be honest - it wasn't till the last few chapters that I felt any depth and connection to the characters - just felt like this was all over the place till it was about to end, then it seemed to come together. very disappointed with it.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:56pm

yes, even though I'm not a huge fan of Gatsby I can appreciate the story, the good writing, the value of the book and its well written. I didnt realise he wrote Tender over a decade, that probably explains why it feels like it never quite comes together.

Oct 2, 2016, 3:18am

I didn't like it either :-) It was well written so far as language goes but the characters and situations were just uninteresting to me. And yes, very bleak.

Nov 22, 2016, 12:09pm

110. Portnoys Complaint

I found it quite interesting, the typical 'stream of consciousness' thoughts of high anxiety in the 60's, a time of sexual 'revolution' for a jewish man riddled with guilt. I enjoyed the descriptions of his parents - some really funny incidents there, especially dads constipation.

I liked the ending, after we've heard this verbal unloading of guilt & anxiety and we reach the 'end' of the story -the work of psychoanalysis is only just starting. Lots of psychoanalytic themes in it - repressed sexuality being the cause of just about every problem one has, along with mothers.
interesting book, I can see why its on the list, not shocking in this day and age but would have been quite outrageous at the time.

Edited: Nov 22, 2016, 3:07pm

111. The Breast A short story by Phillip Roth. hmm... this guy certainly has an interest in sex...

A man wakes up with a rash on around his penis and then one night he turns into a breast - yep... so the first part of the story is basically him getting his jollies off as a breast and being paranoid that he is being watched now that he is an inpatient.

The second part of the story, essentially the psychoanalysis of his problem is where its more interesting. It has similarities to The Nose and references it, and several other books on the 1001 books list in the story during the analysis. Reading The Nose first helped, even though it didn't make much sense :)

interesting in an odd analytical way, but also a bit weird.

Dec 6, 2016, 2:21am

112 . Kim Rudyard Kipling. I don't know how I missed reading this as a kid, I really enjoyed it! I listened to the audio on Libravox which was quite good, only the one reader. I could easily read this again in book form though.

Kim is an orphan in India, the child of an Irish soldier, who befriends a lama on his quest to find enlightenment. Its a grand story - well deserving of its place on the list.

Edited: Dec 6, 2016, 2:32am

113. After the Quake Haruki Murakami.

This is six short stories of peoples lives after the Kobe earthquake. I really liked this and I am keen to read more of Murkamis work - I like the way he writes. The stories touch on existential themes and some fantasy themes - I think I'm a Murakami fan :)

Dec 29, 2016, 4:21pm

114. Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens.

I listened to this on Libravox and I think that influenced my enjoyment of this book. There were some very good readers and a couple of very bad ones, they really did make it hard to get through! The story is good, and Dickens writes beautifully but I think I would have enjoyed it more either by reading it instead of listening to it.

Dec 29, 2016, 4:58pm

Libravox has been the ruin of many a good book :-)

Dec 29, 2016, 8:01pm

yes, I'll think twice before using it again :)

Edited: Jan 1, 2017, 6:11pm

115. Sputnik Sweetheart Haruki Murakami

well reading this just confirmed to me that I am a Murakami fan and I'll have to read all his other books now. I really like the way Murakami writes.

The story on the surface is about unrequited love, but there other layers to it and some wonderful reflections about life near the end. I find it hard to say much more without giving away the plot - 5/5

Edited: Jan 1, 2017, 11:06pm

>74 Jan_1: it is the only Murakami on the list I haven't read yet. My absolute favourite among the ones I did read is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, I am sure you'll like it as well.

Jan 2, 2017, 7:15am

Murakami is one of my faves as well.

Jan 5, 2017, 4:52pm

glad to know there are other Murakami fans out there :)

116. A Room With a View E.M. Foster

what a wonderful book! Set in Florence & Italy in 1908, the story of a young women in changing times. Its a love story but its also a real reflection about womans roles, the role of religion vs science and the class system. I really enjoyed this - it fully deserves its place on the list. 5/5.

Edited: May 5, 2017, 8:05pm

117. Harriet Hume Rebecca West

I found this an odd sort of story. At times I was really enjoying it and then it seemed to lose me. An interesting read.

Edited: May 5, 2017, 8:10pm

118. Queer William Burroughs.

I enjoyed reading the history around this and learning about Burroughs life. The book itself was a good read.

May 6, 2017, 10:40am

119 Spring Torrents
Three stories about love. I found the writing in the introduction was really good, but then I just got bored with the stories. OK, but nothing outstanding for me.

May 6, 2017, 10:49am

120. Barabas
I just noticed that this was on the list & it's one I've already read in the past and enjoyed.

May 6, 2017, 2:02pm

Three stories about love? Have you put down the wrong title Jan?

Edited: May 6, 2017, 5:02pm

thanks Minks, in checking I see that the edition I read had three stories with Spring Torrents as the first. the others were First Love & Mumu - my mistake - thats what I get for reading at 1am lol!

I really liked the intro to Spring Torrents, some beautiful writing, the story was OK, but perhaps a bit predictable.

May 8, 2017, 7:01pm

121. The Golden Ass

Another tale of metamorphoses, its the only Ancient Roman novel written in Latin to survive complete.

Lucius interest in magic results in him being turned into an ass, instead of a bird, and the story then goes on to describe his various adventures and misfortunes. I think it would have been a thrilling, perhaps scandalous story in its time and I quite enjoyed it. The main difficulty is the great slabs of text are bit hard to read at times.
Overall a reasonably enjoyable read.

May 15, 2017, 7:49pm

122. Hunger

An interesting story, published 1890, it describes the experiences of a young man living almost a vagrant's life, yet this would not be apparent to most people meeting him. There is a lot of description of the desperation he is feeling, the hunger the overwhelm of his circumstances.
This story was considered one to be the first of modern,20th-century psychological driven narratives. Its hard looking back at this to see it as anything exceptional as this sort of writing is not unusual to us, but apparently, it has been quite an influence on modern writing - hence its inclusion in the list.

May 16, 2017, 3:51pm

123. Reveries of a Solitary Walker

My first Rousseau book and I really like it- beautifully written! The last, unfinished book by Rousseau, it is reflective and deeply thoughtful about life. I would read it again - there is lots of wisdom here. 4/5

May 16, 2017, 5:20pm

124. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter

10th Century Japanese Fairy Tale - oldest known 'fictional prose narrative'. I enjoyed this.

May 17, 2017, 2:05am

125. Story of the Eye

well, this is an interesting one... on reading the story it basically has lots of teenage lust, masturbation, sex & 'golden showers' - for me no great literary merit and I couldn't find WHY it was included in the 1001 so I'd love to know if anyone has the answer. For me its nothing great, more suited to a badly written porn magazine.

I can say I'll never look at eggs the same again...

However what WAS interesting to me was reading from the author about the childhood factors that happened that explain all the elements in the story. I guess in reading this I put my psychologist hat on and could make sense of his experience.

not my cup of tea but the back story was more interesting to me.

May 17, 2017, 4:59am

126. The Last of the Mohicans

I noticed that I hadn't included this in my count, read it when I was younger and loved it!

May 17, 2017, 10:42pm

127. Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress

I really enjoyed this book by Daniel Defoe! Much better than Moll Flanders with a much more likeable main character, and it moves along at a better pace too.

Roxana is married off at 15, has five children and a husband who leaves on a business trip and doesn't come back. As she falls into poverty she used her wits and her body to vastly improve her fortunes and live a very adventurous life as mistress to various men.

Written in 1724 & published anonymously it raises topics still being talked about today - the idea of a women's right to her own financial and sexual independence, the right to own property and to have control of her affairs. The difference between freedom over her own life as a mistress versus slavery and subjugation to a husband's decisions as a wife.

Daniel Defoe shows a real insight into women's (lack of) rights in this - will have to find out more about him

Edited: Jun 6, 2017, 12:42am

128. Death Sentence

129. The Newton Letter

130. 1984

reviews to come

Edited: Oct 8, 2017, 10:34pm

131. The Handmaids Tale

Loved this book! 5/5

132. The Poisonwood Bible

This was a really enjoyable read and my best read this year. The book is the story of a missionary preachers family of four daughters when they travel to the Congo in late 50's. I have to say the book really surprised me and I found myself quickly immersed in the story.Each of the girls and the mother tell their story in first person in the chapters. Its a book I want to read again so I can savour it. excellent! 5/5

Oct 8, 2017, 10:29pm

133. Slaughterhouse-Five

Tells the story of Billy Pilgrim who was a WWII vet, surviving the Dresden bombing. Thought to be semi-autobiographical. I really enjoyed this book. It moves constantly between different time zones and different real and imagined scenes from Billy's life. I listened to the audible book read by James Franco. 4/5

Oct 9, 2017, 1:40am

134. A Prayer for Owen Meaney

I listened to this as an audiobook and had to speed it up as I found the narrators voice was really slow. It took me quite a while to get into this story. at times I was bored with it and then it would get interesting again. However I ended up really enjoying and when it became apparent how it would end I felt quite sad.

Owen Meaney is a little kid for his age with an annoying nasal voice. The story is told from the perspective of his best friend, looking back as an adult Theres a lot of reflection on life and meaning. A terrible event occurs early in the story. Owen is convinced he has a special purpose, though we don't find out why he thinks this till much later. Overall its a much better read than it first appears. 4/5

Dec 30, 2017, 4:01pm

135. Vanity Fair

This was originally written as a serial and follows the story of two friends, Becky & Emma as they go through lifes ups and downs. Becky is a street smart & determined to better her circumstances, willing to do whatever is needed and Emma is from a wealthy family, sweet & only thinks the best of people.

The narrator speaks to the reader which I really liked. The title is taken from Pilgrims Progress, Vanity Fair is one of the stops along his journey where people are caught up in vain pursuits. Its really a story about relationships, its gossipy,enjoyable enough but not outstanding.

Edited: Jan 1, 2018, 1:14pm

2018 start

136. Silk

I enjoyed this short story about a silk merchant who travels to Japan for his silk-worm eggs & falls for the concubine of the baron he buys from.
The writing style is interesting and there is an economy of words and descriptions which I liked, it kept the story focused.
It was written in 1996, which surprised me, the style felt much older, but I can't find why it was included on the list.
enjoyable short read!

Edited: Jan 1, 2018, 1:28pm

137. The Drivers Seat

I listened to this on audible with Judi Dench doing a wonderful job at narrating it. I found this an intriguing book and now at the finish I feel I am left with more questions than answers.

Lise is 34, unmarried & about to go on a holiday. Very early in the book we know the ending and once known it I found myself listening intently for every clue- yet the ending of the book still surprised me and left me wanting to know more. Its a book you want to go back and re-read slowly now you know the ending to savour it a bit longer:

"“It's a whydunnit in q-sharp major and it has a message: never talk to the sort of girls that you wouldn't leave lying about in your drawing-room for the servants to pick up.” - The Drivers Seat

Apparently Muriel thought it was one of her best novels and creepiest. I'm impressed with Muriel Sparks writing and looking forward to reading more of her books.

Jan 21, 2018, 1:10am

138. The Scarlet Letter

I listened to this on audiobook and really enjoyed it. Apparently it was one of the first mass produced books. It tells the story of Hester who has committed adultery and wears a scarlet letter on her dress. Hester is, in her own way,quite independent and determined. The story follows her relationships with the local minister and the doctor and how she survives being stigmatised by the local people.

Jan 21, 2018, 1:14am

139. Cranford

Initially I was enjoying this but then it felt like it just went all over the place. Its about the lives of various people living in Cranford & there is some really good parts to it, but it was just very disjointed. After reading it I read a bit about it an apparently it was first developed as a set of eight satirical sketches published in serial format - so the structure ( or lack of) made much more sense knowing this.

Jan 21, 2018, 1:17am

140. 2001: A Space Odyssey

I was excited to read this as I really like sci-fi/ space stories and it did not disappoint. I listened to the audible version and it began with an interview with the author which was really helpful in understanding how & why the book was written. Really enjoyed it. 4/5

Jan 21, 2018, 1:25am

141. A Tale of Two Cities

I found this to be the best Dickens I've read yet. It seemed much more focused and better edited than others I've read so at no point did I feel like it was too long and rambling. Loved the story, felt quite emotionally involved by the end of it. It is about the French Revolution and begins with one of the best openings ever:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we going direct the other way."

really good - 5/5

Jan 21, 2018, 7:48am

I loved The Driver's Seat too. There was so much in it and it kept surprising me.

Also, A Tale of Two Cities is my favorite Dickens (actually one of the only ones I liked at all) for the same reasons you mention. Best first and last lines ever!!

Jan 21, 2018, 9:29am

Yeah, Spark is a master of foreshadowing-but-still-surprising and The Driver's Seat is really a trip.

And while generally Dickens seems to not be my kind of author (me liking more focused works), I've been considering A Tale of Two Cities, so your comments do suggest that it would be a likeable book...

Jan 26, 2018, 3:57pm

yes, Muriel Spark has such an interesting way of writing - I'm quite intrigued by her- so I read another:)

142. The Girls of Slender Means

The story is mostly set in the May Tek Club - hostel for "Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years, who are obliged to reside apart from their Families in order to follow an Occupation in London."

The main characters are a group of girls from the hostel. The 'slender' in the title is also reference to their hip size, as only the slender girls can sneak out of the skylight window - & this becomes an important part of the story.

The story moves backwards and forwards in time, but I found it a bit more difficult to follow. At the start we hear of a death in Haiti of the missionary Nicholas Farrington and then we go back to just after the war to learn more about him & his contact with the girls of slender means.

I enjoyed the story and yet again I feel like I'd like to reread it slowly now I know the ending. Some wonderful quotes including:

"Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions. ......
... All the nice people were poor; at least that was a general axiom, the best of the rich being poor in spirit."

“You don't know what it's like trying to eat enough to live on and at the same time avoid fats and carbohydrates.”

"Few people alive at the time, were more delightful, more ingenuous, more movingly lovely, and as it might happen, more savage than the girls of slender means."

Mar 23, 2018, 7:06pm

143. Age of Innocence

Edith Wharton won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for this book and was the first woman to win it.

Its the story of a couple who are about to be married when the brides cousin enters the scene from Europe-Countess Olenska. The groom, Newland starts to question his choice and the life that is expected of him. It's a fairly straightforward story about doing whats 'right' and meeting social obligations rather than following your feelings. The last chapter is probably the best as many years have passed and Newland reflects back on his life.
It also was made into a movie which I haven't seen.

Overall it was OK, but not one I'd want to read again.

Mar 29, 2018, 6:23pm

144. The Island of Dr Moreau

I enjoyed this H.G. Wells story. Edward gets shipwrecked and ends up n the island where the dr has been conducting experiments in vivisection.
a good read.

Jul 14, 2018, 10:45pm

144. Momento Mori -another good read from Muriel Spark!

"Remember you must die" - A group of elderly acquaintances receive regular phone calls where this is said to them and the reader follows their stories. I really enjoyed this book. 4/5

Jul 14, 2018, 10:57pm

145. Half a Yellow Sun

This story is set around the Nigerian Civil war. I listened to it on audiobook and the narrator was excellent. I enjoyed the story but found it a bit slow in places. It was nice to read a story about an event that I knew very little about. A good read. 3/5

Jul 17, 2018, 2:36pm

146. Mansfield Park

Fanny Brice is sent to live with relatives at Mansfield Park when she is 10 and this is a fairly typical Jane Austen novel. It was quite enjoyable if somewhat predictable.

Jun 1, 2019, 11:07pm

147. Cats Cradle

I can't believe its been a year since I read off the list!! - and I have missed it - decided this week I need to make it a priority and kicked it off with Cats Cradle.

I found parts of this interesting but overall it just didn't keep me that entertained - I usually like science fiction but this just didn't do it for me.

Jun 4, 2019, 12:09am

148. Breakfast at Tiffanys

I really enjoyed this. I have never seen the movie but from what I knew of the story I was expecting a light hearted romance. Now having read the book, its very different to what I imagined. Holly Go-Lightly is a great character, much more complex and street smart than the name suggests. I thought this was a good read and have no desire to see the movie, which I expect has ruined a really good book.

Aug 10, 2019, 5:52pm

149. Sense and Sensibility

A very enjoyable Jane Austen novel. Tells the story of two sisters, Elinor and Maryanne Dashwood and their romantic ups and downs with a fairly predictable happy ending.

Edited: Jul 8, 2020, 7:16pm

Just posting to say I can't believe how long it is since I've read from 1001 list! and I've missed it. Life has been pretty busy but time for me to get back to reading instead of watching the (miserable) news too much.

I've downloaded the spreadsheet & my new total is 160 books read, I found some more that I had missed, I think it was easier to find them in the spreadsheet. So next book will be 161.

I've ordered the The Master from the library for the months group read.