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Simone2... reading until she dies - part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Simone2... reading until she dies.

1001 Books to read before you die

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Feb 3, 2016, 3:24pm Top

The perfect moment to start a new thread: I just finished book 501. So officially I am halfway through. In reality however not for a long time, because I read the combined list.

Feb 3, 2016, 3:31pm Top

501 - The Old Devils

What a disappointment. A long, long time ago I read Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis and I remember it as the funniest book I had read until then. So I looked forward to this novel, that was supposed to be funny too. Well, maybe it was... for aging Welshmen in the 80s perhaps. For me now it did do little. I sometimes smiled, but overall I was mostly irritated by all the booze all of those 'devils' are drinking continually. Some conversations were spot-on however, probably because drunken men always tell the truth. Those conversations (about aging, Wales, careers, marriage and adultery) were the few pearls which convinced me to give the book another half star.


Edited: Feb 4, 2016, 4:22am Top

502 - The Pigeon

I liked this one! Maybe partly due to its timing (I read mostly Literature with a capital L lately) I really enjoyed this novella about Jonathan, who lives his monotone life perfectly happy. After his childhood in WWII Germany with all its horrors, he grows up in France. His adult life he spends in a small room with a shared toilet in Paris. By day he works as a security guard at a bank. Every day is exactly the same and he is perfectly happy, because everything unexpected and out of the ordinary tends to get him off balance. So does the presence of a pigeon in the corridor of his house. Someone has opened the window, which is against the house rules! Those little things, I love them! Reading about Jonathan trying to keep up all that forms his identity despite the pigeon is heartbreaking.


Feb 4, 2016, 4:38am Top

I couldn't stand The Old Devils and had no idea why it was highly rated by anyone at all. Glad I'm not the only one!

Feb 4, 2016, 11:53am Top

I love The Pigeon as well. There was something about it that struck a chord in my structured little life. I am not sure I would react in quite the same way, but it did make me smile.

Feb 9, 2016, 2:56am Top

503 - Tipping the Velvet

Why, I learned something. Who would have imagined what the title meant? I didn't for sure :-)

I know Sarah Waters can read about history, but in this case the historical context was completely irrelevant to the main theme: the lesbian love, or rather, lesbian sex. Written about in a way that did not exactly arouse me, to say the least.
Reading this novel felt like one of the cheap romance novels I bought in the supermarket when I was in my teens. The ones in which you keep asking yourself whether the meant to be lovers will find each other and be happy after all. Still, just as then, I kept on reading and finished the book in a weekend. An easy read, but I can not guess why it should be on the list.


Feb 9, 2016, 7:19am Top

I had similar feelings but you were much more generous with your rating than I was. Mind you I don't think it is on the list any longer. The current one I mean.

Edited: Feb 9, 2016, 8:41am Top

>7 M1nks: O yes, it isn't on the list any longer? I didn't know that, I am reading the combined one. But I can fully understand Boxall's decision! I rated it with 3 stars because I was amused and wanted to keep reading on, just to know how it ended. I mostly rate 3 stars for a book that I more or less enjoy, but would not recommend to other people.

Feb 9, 2016, 10:54pm Top

It was removed in 2008... thankfully.

Feb 10, 2016, 4:24am Top

I mostly rate 3 stars for a book that I more or less enjoy, but would not recommend to other people.

That is the flaw with rating systems; they do have a tendency to vary greatly amongst readers. I use the Goodreads rating of 3 stars as 'Good' but even on that site I find some reviews totally at odds with their star rating. Last night I saw a one star accompanied by a really very favourable review. Perhaps that one was a slip of the hand.

I think I might put some sort of guide to my rating on my thread.

Feb 10, 2016, 10:44pm Top

this is exactly what caused me to come up with THIS M1nks.

Feb 11, 2016, 10:01am Top

That's a little too involved for me. I'm lazy enough already when it comes to writing up my reviews.

Feb 14, 2016, 3:06am Top

504 - A World of Love

Disappointed. I had been looking forward to reading Bowen, of whom I read some great reviews.
I obviously started with the wrong one (at least I hope), because I didn't enjoy it at all. A lousy plot, interesting characters but not well worked out and long sentences with nothing of interest in them.
Maybe I'll be more nuanced later on, but for now I am mostly disappointed.


Edited: Feb 15, 2016, 4:20pm Top

505 - The Unnamable

I'm sorry. I gave up. I reminded myself that reading should be something to enjoy, to look forward to etc. I have so many books waiting for me, I don't have to spend so much time with another monologue by a dying man, a monologue which goes way over my head and frankly am not interested in at the moment.


Feb 15, 2016, 5:15pm Top

>10 M1nks: I used to confidently rate books, based only on my personal priorities that no one outside my head would understand, but which was completely coherent to me. Then seemingly overnight, it stopped working, and I found myself unable to determine star ratings anymore. I think most of those books are 3 stars, some 4 if I can see the art or talent, even if I can't feel it.

There are lots of reviews here on LT where someone gives glowing comments, says they love the book, and then award it 2 stars. Drives me bananas.

Edited: Feb 16, 2016, 11:49am Top

>13 Simone2: Sounds like you've hit a blah patch. It happens too often, doesn't it.

I've read two Bowens, and I feel I should love her, but so far I find her more work than pleasure. I am determined to try again, and I have a few in my tbr so one day . . .

Edited: Feb 16, 2016, 12:40am Top

>10 M1nks: >11 arukiyomi: >15 Nickelini: I agree the rating system is completely subjective and, in my case at least, just personal. I love your system Arukiyomi, but I couldn't manage that. I always compare the ones I read with other books by that author or recent other books I read. Can't help that, I guess. After a while I noticed that in my case 3 stars is not a book I disliked, but not one I would recommend either. I hardly rate books with 5 stars (I used to do this more often in the past) either, and really don't have an explanation why not.

>16 Nickelini: Yes sometimes the list feels more like hard working. On average I rate the ones I read with 3 stars, which says it all :-) I am determined though, to try another Bowen soon. I still feel I could love her!

Edited: Feb 16, 2016, 3:05am Top

>17 Simone2: I have so far read three of the Bowen's on the list (not including A World of Love). I rated them all 3 - 3.5 (latter was for The House in Paris). With all three I've struggled to engage with the writing, but I find her books leave you with some pleasant reverie once finished - the whole is greater than the sum of the parts for me.

Feb 16, 2016, 4:37am Top

Hmm, Bowen might be something that grows on you or then again it might not. I have read five of them and all of them require some effort to get into (and none of them is big on plot) but they have been rewarding.
I must say though that generally I am not very language-biased reader, beautiful writing alone doesn't cut it, but Bowen's ornateness is one of the exceptions (even if much of the actual content is hidden away from the sentences), her English is just wonderful.

Feb 16, 2016, 11:52am Top

>17 Simone2: I hardly ever rate books 5 stars anymore either. I don't think I've given 5 stars since 2013 (for a reread of Pride and Prejudice-- nothing really compares).

I am encouraged to try Elizabeth Bowen again this year.

Feb 16, 2016, 12:02pm Top

Can someone please explain what this *list* is you are all
referring to?

Feb 16, 2016, 1:01pm Top

>21 alans: This group is for people reading through the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die by Boxall (although with re-writes etc., the list is now up to 1305 I believe). Join in if you would like!

Feb 16, 2016, 4:08pm Top

I'm a Bowen fan, although I only gave A World of Love 3 out of 5 stars. It's very Bowen-ish but not her best.

Feb 28, 2016, 6:40pm Top

506 - The Ragged Trousered Philantropists

A pleasant surprise this big novel about socialism in early 20th century England. The story is about a bunch of workmen who are working under inhuman circumstances. They have to work very hard without any assurance of keeping their job the next day. As soon as the job stops, starvation threatens them and their families.
One of the workmen is a socialist and tries to convince the others of the inequalities between the workers and the capitalist bosses. Some of them recognize what he says but to actually do something about it is a bridge too far. Change comes slowly and in the mean time poverty strikes.
An important book for its time I think, with a good vision on inequality.


Feb 29, 2016, 4:23am Top

"nothing compares" to Pride and Prejudice?? Surely there are others in the last 200 years who have written superb novels? Or maybe you just haven't found them yet, LOL!

Feb 29, 2016, 11:41am Top

>25 arukiyomi: Oh look, you're responding to me. Yep, last 5 star book I read and it was in 2013. Hence, my "nothing compares" comment. There are many wonderful books that have been written in the past 200 years, and I didn't suggest otherwise. P&P is still my favourite. I've studied it extensively and it just gets better and better.

Feb 29, 2016, 4:12pm Top

>24 Simone2: Ah, interesting. This has been on my 'to read' list since I was a teenager, simply for its great title.

Mar 1, 2016, 11:01am Top

507 -All the pretty horses

A real Western. Real men, few words, horses, bullets and prison. The description of the Mexican prairies is so real I can visualize all of it. Still it's a western and I am just not too fond of the genre, even though it is beautifully written. My fault, not McCarthy's.


Mar 5, 2016, 7:58am Top

508 - Lives of Girls and Women

How well she writes. The most difficult circumstances and feelings Munro is able to translate into fluent, easy proze with as little words as necessary. I admire this immensely although I thought the story less than The Beggar Maid, her other book on the list.

This is the coming of age of Del in a small Canadian city. Her father is a farmer, who lives partly (more and more) separated from her mother. Morher is kind of a feminist, who tries to give Del a good education and some wisdom on the subject of being a woman.
Del herself in the mean time, discovers sex, literature and men.

Will she be ready to create the future we as readers wish for her?


Mar 14, 2016, 5:29am Top

509 - The Nice and the Good

This Iris Murdoch novel, where I was looking forward to so much after reading The Sea, the Sea, was a bit over the top to my tase. Too many characters, too little worked out, too many storylines, too many (sexual!) relationships. I certainly enjoyed reading it and am still a fan of the Murdoch style and humour, but the end left me wondering what exactly she wanted to tell with this novel.


Mar 18, 2016, 1:55am Top

510 - Harriet Hume

Rebecca West shows us a man who thinks highly of himself but by kowing his thoughts we know he is actually rather stupid and one-dimensional. Because Harriet can read his thoughts she also knows, while at the same time she knows he's thinking the same of her.

I like this construction and have the feeling Harriet and we as readers make fun of Arnold. However, with 300 pages and long monologues it felt a bit too long to my taste.


Edited: Mar 26, 2016, 3:51pm Top

511 - Crossfire

A real good read during my holiday time. Pageturning and all about life in Tokyo, which I visited last year and am really fascinated by.
I don't know why it made it to the 1000 list, I don't think it will be a classic in time, but I certainly enjoyed reading this story about Junko Aoki who, with her power of pyrokinesis, takes justice in her own hands and sets fire to people getting away with murder. Detectives are following the trails she leaves behind, although no one is sure of the murder weapon. It is more than a mystery story however, more than a detective. It is the story of a lonely woman and real human detectives and other characters, each with their own history and weaknesses. This leads to many twists and to me, a lot of suspense.


Edited: Apr 10, 2016, 12:44am Top

512 - Contact

This is the story of Ellie, a scientist specialized in astronomy. The institute she is director of, is able to receive signals from Vega, a system 25 light years away. After a lot of science stuff, followed by religious stuff, a team of astronomers from around the world build a machine (based on a instructions from Vega) to travel towards this planet.
I did want to find out what was going to happen with the Machine. When it happened and what happened afterwards I did enjoy and thought rather plausible. Then I drowned again in an essay on 'pi' and the book ended with something happening in Ellie's personal life, something unexpected of which I am not sure what it meant or how it added to the story as a whole.

Well, in the end I am just glad I finished it. I don't think I'll go watch the movie. On to the next!


Apr 14, 2016, 12:42am Top

513 - Of Human Bondage

I enjoyed very much reading of Philip Carey's coming to age. I loved the humor, I loved the British-ness.
I loved the storyline and the ending. Perfectly satisfying!


Apr 14, 2016, 4:52am Top

513 is one of my faves. Your review of Contact is great. A perfect example of how to tell us all about it while completely avoiding spoilers!

Apr 14, 2016, 11:19am Top

>35 arukiyomi: Thank you! Yes, I can imagine Of Human Bondage being an all-time favourite. You want to keep on reading and knowing how things will go for Philip.
And Maugham's writing style is British at its best (to me). I am looking forward to his other books on the list.

Apr 19, 2016, 4:45pm Top

514 - The Pursuit of Love

This book tells the story of the Radlett family, and primarily one of the daughters Linda. Told through the eyes of her cousin Fanny, Linda embarks on a search for love.

Linda seems to have no thought whatsoever for anybody's feelings except her own, falling in love at first sight and abandoning her daughter because she thinks her boring. No one criticizes her, which bewildered me a little. Everyone adores her.
I read somewhere that her character is based on Nancy Mitford herself, which does explain it, but doesn't make me sympathize.

I did like Mitford's humor though. She is quite sharp and funny. All in all an entertaining read.


Edited: May 3, 2016, 2:54am Top

515 - The Untouchable

Intriguing novel about an Irish man, living in England and spying for the Russians in and after WWII.
Banville draw me in immediately with his beautiful sentences which are so spot-on.
However, the story about espionage and a decadent life with a lot of booze and sex, couldn't hold my attention for 400 pages, despite the jewels of sentences now and then.
I think I must read another book by John Banville soon, because I do like his writing style a lot.


May 1, 2016, 8:43pm Top

>38 Simone2: Would it have helped you to know that this book is based on the true story of Anthony Blunt, a very well-known art historian who was knighted and served as Keeper of the Queen's Pictures? Or maybe it said that on your dust jacket. Anyway, it's what made the book fascinating for me!

May 2, 2016, 2:51am Top

>39 annamorphic: Yes I read about the Cambridge Five while reading this book (hadn't heard of them before). You're right that it is a fascinating story, regarding their positions in British society. It is just that the spying part is not the most interesting part of the book, imo. I had high expectations!

May 2, 2016, 1:43pm Top

The Sea was my first (and only, thus far) Banville and I absolutely agree about his writing. I look forward to reading more of his work.

Edited: May 3, 2016, 4:07pm Top

516 - The Sun also Rises

Hemingway certainly knows how to bring a lot of variety in the themes he tackles and the books he writes.
This is the last one on the list I had to read and I think I have a good image of him now, as the voice of the 'lost generation', the ones born before WWI and growing up afterwards.

On the surface The Sun also Rises is a book about a couple of young, rich, bored people who travel through Europe in search of something they don't find. They are drunk all the time and all in love with the beautiful Brett, who falls for (the image of) the bullfighter Romero.

However, there is more than the surface. I have to admit Shmoop pointed this out. These people lived through WWI, which shook up the world in such a manner that everyone walked out of the trenches and into a collective loss of innocence. Realizing this, the book makes a lot of sense.


May 3, 2016, 10:48am Top

Yea Shmoop!

May 3, 2016, 4:09pm Top

>43 Nickelini: Still happy you made me visit that site :-)!

Edited: May 16, 2016, 2:47am Top

517 - Gabriela, Cinnamon and Clove

It is a men's world, at least in Jorge Amado's Brazil.
Gabriela is one of the many characters who live in Ilheus, a coast town which develops quickly. The men in town are divided in their opinion regarding the future. Some are very conservative, for others the changes can't go fast enough. The political developments form a mayor part of the book.

When it comes to women however, all men in Ilheus think alike; 'machismo' is flourishing. In a nutshell: women must be obedient and faithful, men can do as they please.

I even suspect Amado himself of machismo-behaviour: the Gabriela he describes is, imo, not a real woman. She is a man's fantasy.
But maybe it is exactly that which Amado intended and which makes this books stand out.


May 22, 2016, 5:49am Top

518 - Rabbit is Rich

The last Rabbit for the list. A four star read. Why? Because Updike writes so good. So vividly. He really gets to me. Not always in a positive way but he always does.
You simple have to care for Harry Angstrom although he remains an egoistic man, always thinking of sex, un-healthy, too harsh towards his son etc.
He is so unmistakably human - and American.
I feel like I really know him, though he is the kind of man I probably wouldn't have known in real life.
Updike does that. And I like that a lot.


May 23, 2016, 10:39am Top

519 - The Home and the World

This is a novel about India's struggle for independence, shown to the reader by two of the three main characters: Nikhil (the conservative and good meaning) and Sandip (the artist, the revolutionary-thinking). The struggle takes place in the home of Nikhil and his wife Bimala.
Bimala is torn between the traditional culture she was raised in and a future, shown to her by Sandip, who teaches her about the Swadeshi-movement. This movement is aimed at reachting self-sufficiency for India and thus being independent of Europe.

The book is written so that in each chapter, all three of them give an account of the story from their differing points of view. It makes Bimala, Sandip, and Nikhil unique and realistic, although not really likeable.


Jun 1, 2016, 2:42pm Top

520 - The Black Prince

While I write the title above I wonder what it actually means. It doesn't relate at all to the story I just read, or does it?
Just one more question added to the many others Murdoch leaves me with after finishing this brilliant novel.
I really loved this one. On forehand I had no idea what it was about, I just dived in and only came back to the surface after the last page.
And now I want to start all over again, because of all the twists. This book is a mind f***, I have no clue what happened and what didn't. Fiction at its best I think!
My favourite Murdoch so far, I liked it even better than The Sea, the Sea!


Jun 1, 2016, 3:31pm Top

>48 Simone2: I thought the title had something to do with Hamlet, who is also known as the Black Prince. Haven't read the novel though, so I don't know. Just something I think I heard in passing.

Jun 1, 2016, 4:31pm Top

>49 Nickelini: That could very well be the answer, Hamlet does play a role in the book indeed. I didn't know he is known as the Black prince. Shame on me...

Jun 4, 2016, 1:45am Top

521 - The House with the Blind Glass Windows

This is the story of Tora, a 11-years old girl living on a Norwegian island in the aftermath of WWII. She is a social outcast because her father was a German soldier. Beside she is being abused by her stepfather and not able to connect with her mother.

Despite all those heartbreaking facts it is also a story about strenght and hope, love and dreams, female solidarity.

Amongst all tragedy Tora keeps searching for the light and I think she will succeed, as the niece of her independent aunt Rakel.

An impressive read.


Jun 4, 2016, 1:15pm Top

Funny, I'm in the middle of the Black Prince and, only last night, I mentioned Mrs Arukiyomi that it was reminding me a lot of the protagonist in The Sea, the Sea. I'm really getting into it and wondering where on earth it's going to end. Glad to know it might even trump The Sea as I loved that one.

Jun 4, 2016, 3:04pm Top

>52 arukiyomi: Yeah it reminded me of the protagonist in The Sea, the Sea as well. Also there are constantly visitors coming by in both books!

Jun 12, 2016, 9:38am Top

522 - Santa Evita

Quite surprising story about Eva Peron and especially what happened with her body after she died.
It is a story of truths and lies, of trust and deceit, of three replicas and the mummified body, all travelling around the world. After reading it, you still don't know what is true and what is not. I guess that is exactly how the Argentinian people felt after her death. And it all adds to the mythe she was and maybe still is.


Jun 25, 2016, 2:11am Top

523 - The Heather Blazing

I recently read Nora Webster and loved it. So I was looking forward to another Toibin.
I enjoyed this one very much too. He writes so honest, his personages are so real. Nothing much happens, it is just those people and the way they think and act. Not too nice, not too perfect, just very very human.
This is the story of an Irish judge, a very introvert man, who doesn't really realize he needs other people until it is too late. Or almost.
A quiet novel with beautiful descriptions of the Irish coast.


Edited: Jul 12, 2016, 11:13pm Top

524 - The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

The garden of the family Finzi-Contini, where young jewish adults play tennis while Hitler's star is rising, forms the background of the lovestory between two young adults. His love is not returned, in this book he remembers those days with melancholy. Those days on the eve of WWII, that would kill his beloved Micol.


Jul 19, 2016, 2:50am Top

525 - Blaming

I enjoyed reading this book of Amy, who loses her husband and grieves, accompanied by her butler, the family doctor, her son and this strange American woman who is interested in the English way of life. Many storylines in this short novel and I am afraid
I didn't get the point of some of them. What was it really about? What did Taylor want to tell with this novel she was writing while dying herself?


Jul 22, 2016, 1:23am Top

526 - Neuromancer

Four stars on LT, a huge influence on Orwell and Huxley and the inventor of the word 'cyberspace': I couldn't finish it though. I haven't got a clue what it's about or what's happening.
Partly I due that to the fact that there are many, many words I don't understand (I read English books all the time and normally don't even notice that I am not reading in my own language) and partly because I am just not interested enough, I guess.
I am on holidays, sailing in Croatia, with a bag full of books I have been looking forward to. I don't have the patiente for this struggle and will settle for one of the others that has been calling me from out of this bag!


Jul 22, 2016, 7:18am Top

>58 Simone2:
Croatia is one of the most beautiful paradises in the world. Enjoy! I went there in 2014 and found my family. My grandfather came from Croatia to America in 1914 and we were not in touch with our family for 100 years.

Jul 25, 2016, 7:01am Top

>59 EadieB: That must be so special, to catch up with your past and cultural background.
And yes, I do enjoy Croatie very much as well!

Edited: Jul 25, 2016, 1:12pm Top

527 - In Cold Blood

Wow, this for sure is one of my favourite reads this year, and of the list as well probably.
Of course I knew what it was about, the brute murder in 1959 of a whole family by two men who at last are sentenced to death. The fact that Capone was obsessed by the story and the murderers makes this book fascinating research journalism (I now know all about the lives and motives of the murderers) as well as a page turner. It kept me reading and googling most of the night and gives me something to think of for some time to come.


Jul 25, 2016, 10:38am Top

Sounds good. It's always great to read a book which engages you to such an extent.

Jul 25, 2016, 11:41am Top

I read that one earlier this year and quite enjoyed it as well. The man can write!

Edited: Jul 26, 2016, 4:02pm Top

528 - Ulysses

Well, I finished it, helped by various websites and a very good group discussion on Good Reads (Thanks, M1nks!): https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group_folder/257698?group_id=19860

I am impressed by the different styles Joyce uses, the connection with the Oddysey and the readability of it, sometimes. I liked the parts that exist of Bloom's thoughts during the day (He is a working man, but man, I am glad he is no collegae of mine, he hardly does anything, except for walking through Dublin). I can imagine how new this way of writing must have been at the time. For example, Bloom often doesn't finish his thoughts, is distracted by trivial stuff as food, women etc. It makes him quite real and likeable. However, in other episodes other people make fun of him and what to think of the moment he masturbates while watching a girl on the beach - who is aware of that? All these different points of view give a complete description of Bloom and make Ulysses a worthy read in itself. I can imagine its influence on readers and other writers.

The above is what I got out of the book, but a lot of it went over my head. The parts about Dedalus for example, who is philosophing all day, first sober, later drunk.
Also some episodes were written in old-English, in one long sentence (when Molly speaks) etc. I admit I sometimes skipped parts or read them diagonally.

Still, I am glad I read it - and finished it. The 3 stars are due to my incapability to understand all.


Jul 29, 2016, 2:25am Top

529 - The Color Purple

I am probably the last one in this group who read the book, so I don't need to tell you what it is about.
Despite Celie's hard times, it was a real feel good book, with the unevitable happy ending that brought tears in my eyes.


Edited: Jul 29, 2016, 5:16am Top

>65 Simone2: Not the last - it is on my TBR pile and scheduled for reading around 2019. It is on a low shelf in my shed and my eldest daughter when she was 3 regularly picked it out due to its purple spine and asked me to read it. I find I need to be very selective in the words/themes I read out loud to her!

Jul 29, 2016, 12:02pm Top

Yeah, not a good one for a three year old, even with the eye catching purple cover. Good call, although she probably wouldn't have had a clue what you were saying

Aug 8, 2016, 2:01am Top

530 - The Tartar Steppe

This is the story of Giovanni Drogo, who goes as a lieutenant to a fortress in the desolate mountains, where the military have been waiting for centuries to protect the country from the Tartar. No one has ever seen them, nor is there any way they could have attacked the fortress by surprise because there are no roads at all. Only mountains and steppe.

With little to do, Drogi decides to leave as soon as possible. He stays however for more than forty years and watches his life going by in an endless daily routine.

Desolation and resignation (hopefully the right words to express what I mean) are everywhere, Giovanni becomes one with his surroundings, which is very depressing and also imaginable somehow.

When the Tartar finally do arrive, Giovanni can not even be excited about it. All this waiting, and then the deception.


Aug 10, 2016, 5:28pm Top

531 - We

Strong beginning, with a fascinating description of a totalitarian world, completely based on sense and order. There is no room for emotions in this dystopian world, however D-503, whose diary we are reading, falls in love with I-330. She is very critical of the system.

Ingredients for a great novel but unfortunately it gets very hysteric and vague. I lost my interest and had to struggle to finish it.


Edited: Aug 14, 2016, 11:35am Top

532 - Love's Work

I felt very uncomfortable reading this book. In 144 pages Rose confronts us with all possible kinds of death; AIDS, Auschwitz and she herself, dying of cancer when she writes the book.

On the one hand I was not really interested in the lives (and deaths) of people she knew, they stay complete strangers to me, Rose seems to write purely for herself and is not interested at all in her readers.
Which can very well be true because she is dying and writing her memoirs. I am just not sure why they were published.

On the other hand, the one chapter about the cancer and the process she goes through chilled me to the bone. She writes it all down very clinically, but it is so very sad. Such a horrible disease.


Aug 21, 2016, 4:56pm Top

533 - The Scarlet Letter

Finally I read this book of which I knew most of the story already. Still it was nice to read. The drama, the triangle between the beauty, the sufferer and the evil man. And the strange girl Pearl. I don't think Hawthorne knew many children himself. Anyhow, amusing. No more than that.


Aug 30, 2016, 3:35am Top

534 - Transit

Another novel I am the 1001 list grateful for. I never would have read it otherwise.
This is the novel of a German refugee in WWII, who arrives in Marseilles. This city is full of refugees, (almost) all of them trying to get on a ship out of Europe.
The narrator is a young man, who arrives in Marseille from Paris with a manuscript of a German writer, who died and whose widow he is looking for. In Marseille, his identity accidentally gets mixed up with this of the writer. He fills his days with cruising the city, talking to all the waiting people and amusing himself with the way people try to get visas, which is a real Kafkaesk process.
At first he has no intention of leaving on a ship himself, but then he meets the widow and falls in love with her. She doesn’t know her husband has died, because she hears from the various consulates that the is alive and in town. Of course she doesn’t know about the mixed up identities of her husband and the narrator.
Read the book to see how their story continues. The best about it, in my opinion, is the fact that it sketches a situation in WWII that I didn’t know about. A situation that seems pretty comparable to that of all refugees in Europe right know. Waiting, not knowing, fear and boredom.


Sep 4, 2016, 4:16pm Top

535 - The Music of Chance

Paul Auster at his best, I think. I always like his characters and his bizarre storylines.
This one is about Jim Nashe, who leaves everything behind when he inherits a lot of money. He drives through the country in his new Saab and enjoys this freedom until he runs almost out of money. Then he meets Pozzi, a hitchhiking poker player. Pozzi offers him a chance to make some money.

So far, so good. They have a poker appointment with two eccentric men. Then it becomes a real Auster-story, with all kinds of strange details (many quite symbolic), unrealistic situations and uncommon human relationships. Freedom and chance are the main themes.

I have read the book in one read just to know what on earth was happening and where it would end.
It ended as it should and it left me with a lot of questions as well - as Auster always does. Recommended!


Sep 17, 2016, 2:09am Top

536 - The Heart of the Matter

What a depressive read. Maybe it is my overall mood but I feel quite heavy after finishing it.
It is the story of Scoby, police officer in a unnamed West-African country, and one of the few who is not corrupt. Until he falls in love and commits adultery. Then all becomes a web of lies which consequences he did not foresee.


Oct 3, 2016, 6:04am Top

537 - The Master of Petersburg

The Master of Petersburg describes two weeks in the life of Dostoyevsky in 1869. The writer, who lives in Germany during those years, returns briefly to Petersburg to take care of the possessions of his stepson Pavel, who has died under suspicious circumstances. He discovers that Pavel was not the person whom he loved; worse still, Dostoyevsky's love for him was anything but mutual. He also discovers that Pavel was close friends with the notorious Netsjajev, for whom Dostoevsky feels a deep disgust.

Coetzees story is both true and not true. Dostoyevsky for instance had indeed a stepson Pavel, but he did not die in 1869. And Netsjajev was a historical figure, but Dostoevsky never met him. Beside them Coetzees introduces characters in his story who appear to come right out of Dostoyevsky’s own novels. He combines, in short, facts from both Dostoyevski's life as from his books. This is a smart and original concept, however, as with many of Coetzee’s novels, I didn’t like reading it at all.


Oct 3, 2016, 8:44am Top

Interesting, I really loved Master of Petersburg!

Edited: Oct 3, 2016, 8:53am Top

>76 .Monkey.: You're one of many, he is one of the greatest writers today. It is just that I most of the time don't really like his books, with the execption of Disgrace. But, I still have 5 to read for the list, so maybe I'll change my opinion.

Oct 3, 2016, 9:01am Top

It's the only one I've read so far, though I own Disgrace. Just haven't gotten to any more yet! :P

Oct 9, 2016, 9:13am Top

538 - Manhattan Transfer

This is the story of New York City. Some persons are playing a role in its story, but most of all it is about the city becoming a major one. People from all over the world arrive by boat in search of a better life. Some succeed, the ones who see and grab opportunities, some don't. The city develops fast into a metropole and not all can keep up with it.
Good written story, but I got the picture halfway through and have to admit I only skimmed the second half, looking for chapters about the characters I was interested in.


Nov 10, 2016, 11:40am Top

539 - Portnoy's Complaint

What a funny book, I had to laugh many, many times. His childhood memories are hilarious, the ones of 'The Monkey', his girlfriend with a mannequin's ass but who can't spell, as well.

Really sharp observations and thoughts make this an excellent read. Especially considering the rather serious subject Portnoy is talking about to his 'doctor' in his long monologue: the consequences of being Jewish in Newark in the 40s and 50s. He complains about his Jewish parents and their traditions and beliefs, he complains about religion in general, but as a grown up he discovers he cannot escape his own roots.


Nov 25, 2016, 11:05pm Top

540 - Kirstin Lavransdatter

Set in medieval Norway, this is the story of Kristin and her family. It is utterly believable: the landscape, the way of life, the unquestionable presence of religion mixed up with superstition, the attitude towards death and so on.

It is so completely different from life in the 21th century: to travel for days to meet someone, to not know how someone is doing for months, to be able to travel as a woman by night and through desolate dark woods without any fear, and to put up with hard things in life without much complaining or a therapist, to name a few.

And then it is not so different after all: love and jealousy, lust and grieve, ambition and nonchalance are the same in medieval, cold Norway as they are nowadays. It is this setting, in combination with the perfectly worked out characters, that make this novel so special.


Nov 27, 2016, 3:58am Top

aaaah... it's great isn't it!

Edited: Dec 15, 2016, 3:28pm Top

541 - Wise Blood

Hazel Motes, 24 years old, comes back from the war in Europe to the American South. His home is gone and so are his illusions. Having little left to believe in, he becomes a priest for the 'Church without Christ'. This is a rather unconventional message in the South and one hard to sell. What's more, all the people he meets seem to come out of a freak show. No love for Haze, no light, no luck. Just bitter humor.


Dec 15, 2016, 3:21pm Top

542 - Looking for the Possible Dance

A lot of seemingly loose storylines and then in the end you realize it all makes sense.
This is the story of Margaret, who is raised by and very close to her father. He learns her lots of stuff but not how to live her life. This has its effects on her relationship with her boyfriend Colin, but also on her position as an employee. And perhaps even on the friendship between her and a handicapped boy in the train to London.
Intimate and weird this novel.


Edited: Dec 24, 2016, 2:34am Top

543 - The Green Hat

While reading the first half of this book I kept wondering why there should be yet another novel on the 1001 Books list about wealthy people in London during the roaring twenties. I thought of A Dance to the Music of Time and The Forsyte Saga and, although set in America, The Great Gatsby. Which novel would be able to match those? A novel which I never even heard of before?
It couldn't match them, but the second half of the novel did make me forget the comparison. Iris Storm, the main character of the story, is a remarkable heroine, and the climax is built up carefully and unexpected.
So a three star read after all!


Dec 27, 2016, 10:58am Top

plenty more to come if you haven't read Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust, Love in a Cold Climate or Crome Yellow...

Dec 27, 2016, 11:13am Top

>86 arukiyomi: Ah, indeed, I forgot about Waugh... of course. And I also still have to read Mitford. I'll have to stop comparing interbellum literature to The Dance!

Dec 27, 2016, 12:00pm Top

new word for me! Thanks for sharing.

... forgot to mention Antic Hay which I finished recently and was one of the more amusing.

Dec 27, 2016, 3:56pm Top

>88 arukiyomi: And let's not forget The Pursuit of Love...!

Dec 30, 2016, 5:05am Top

I was trying to... I haven't read it yet!

Jan 23, 2017, 3:05am Top

544 - Complicity

Scary, violent novel of a journalist who is being trapped in a series of murders. The journalist is addicted to a lot of things: speed, cigarettes, his computergame, whisky and his mistress. In between his addictions he writes for a Scottish newspaper and is trapped into a murder investigation. He is beign acccused of being the murderer of all those evil-men-who-deserved-it?
What follows is a smart story about responsibility, friendship, betrayal and yes, complicity.
No simple whodunnit but aA real Iain Banks again, which can't let you untouched.


Feb 7, 2017, 7:21am Top

545 - The Counterfeiters

The Counterfeiters is a story of people moving in and out of an upperclass Paris setting in the early twentieth century. There are some adolescent friends, their parents, their teachers, an uncle etc and all are woven into many plotlines.
I loved it from page one. Not a word too much is being said, the dialogues are witty, the relations realistic and underneath a lot is happening. The fact that the adolescents act too wise for their age, that homosexual feelings are never outspoken, and even that there it is a novel-within-a-novel: it doesn't matter. It all adds up to a great story in which all of the many characters really come to life.

I had never read anything by Gide and am happy the 1001 list brought him to my attention, I'll make sure to read more by him.


Feb 7, 2017, 9:52am Top

>545 That is the best thing about the list and other lists: Finding things you wouldn't have found otherwise.

Feb 7, 2017, 12:25pm Top

>93 Henrik_Madsen: Yes that's really so rewarding, to discover new writers!

Feb 19, 2017, 8:48am Top

Swann's Way

Well, I did it, I finished my first Proust! The sentences kept meandering and I couldn't keep concentrated all the time, but overall I think I have an impression of what to expect of this series. Some beautiful things he says, and so recognizable. Other parts I cannot relate to myself (the obsessive love for example) but I liked the lyrical way Proust tells about those feelings.
I was a little bit disappointed by the much referred-to scene of the madelines (although I do recognize the importance of the senses in Proust's writing), had to laugh about the part on monocles and am ready to give the second part a try as well!


Feb 19, 2017, 8:52am Top

>95 Simone2: I was a bit disappointed by the Madeline scene as well - probably because you have read about it so much, that it was bound to disappoint. But it is a good example of his method which I thought was executed with more feeling when he talks about the thorn bushes or the tower of the cathedral in Combray.

Feb 19, 2017, 12:13pm Top

>96 Henrik_Madsen: I agree, I enjoyed those scenes better, especially the one about the tower of the cathedral. I had to Google it as well and would like to visit Combray some day, just because of its (views on the) tower.

Feb 19, 2017, 3:03pm Top

>97 Simone2: I thought Combray was a fictive place, which it sort of is. (Lagerkrantz mentions that the city is moved to the battlezone in the volumes taken place during the first world war)

From the French Wikipedia:

Combray est une ville imaginaire qui tient une place importante dans À la recherche du temps perdu de Marcel Proust. Cette ville fictive, éponyme du titre de la première partie de Du côté de chez Swann, premier volume de la série, est inspirée en partie de la ville réelle d'Illiers, que fréquentait l'écrivain lorsqu'il était enfant, et qui a pris par la suite en hommage le nom d'Illiers-Combray.

So, Combray is an imagined town inspired by the town "Illiers" which has afterwards chosen to adopt the name "Illiers-Combray" to honour Proust. Literature really do make its own reality!

Feb 19, 2017, 3:11pm Top

>98 Henrik_Madsen: I thought that Illiers is the town where Proust spent his summers during his youth and that the church of Illiers is the one he describes. So, although Combray does not exist, the place Proust describes does, isn't it?

Feb 19, 2017, 4:55pm Top

>99 Simone2: I believe that is a good example of a more general debate on Proust: Was he inspired by places, people and events but transformed them into something new in his art or is it possible to decipher who he is actually talking about in the novel? He was inspired by the church from his childhood, but is the church in Illiers really the same as the church he describes in the novel?

I'm not sure which is right but I wouldn't mind seeing Illiers anyway ;-)

Feb 20, 2017, 12:34am Top

>100 Henrik_Madsen: That is an interesting question. Perhaps the book you mentioned on your thread about Proust will have something to say about it?

Feb 23, 2017, 3:20pm Top

546 - The Hothouse

There was no match between me and this book. I think the subject can be interesting (a German man getting his life back on track after WWII), but it wasn't to me. Those endless sentences, I could not concentrate and skimmed them. I did get the story but probably missed all the beauty hidden in the sentences. It doesn't really bother me, perhaps another day I'll read it again.


Feb 25, 2017, 2:30pm Top

>101 Simone2: It does - Lagercrantz very much believes that Proust uses more or less everything he has experienced but it does not go 1:1 into the novel. It is transformed into art and thus into something which like van Goghs fields are inspired by reality but cannot be reduced to it.

I agree with this, not just regarding Proust but with literature in general. Autofiction is a pretty big thing in Scandinavian literature these days, but I don't think it is very interesting to what degree the author is using his own experiences. (If you are mentioned in a less favorable light in a novel, you might disagree.) Any book worth reading, even a biography, must transform experience into something else, into art.

None of which would deter me from taking a closer look at the cathedral in Villiers of course!

Feb 28, 2017, 2:50am Top

547 - Pnin

I am a big fan of Lolita, despite its subject, and have always thought no other Nabokov could live up to that one.
Pnin couldn't, indeed, but I loved it nevertheless.

It took some time to get into the story of Pnin, a Russian immigrant in the US who teaches Russian a Waindell University. In seven chapters Nabokov tells about his life and his past.
The book starts as a satire, with Pnin being some kind of caricature; his English is bad, his classes are empty, he missed his train etc. I felt he was being made fun of.

And then suddenly there is this moment (I don't know exactly where) it is no longer funny. The moment when I started to feel deeply sorry for the lonely man, building his life as best as he can far away from home.

I think this is exactly what Nabokov had in mind with this book and in my opinion he succeeded absolutely.


Edited: Mar 18, 2017, 2:25am Top

548 - Jacob's Room

What a fight, this one. My mind kept wandering off and Woolf did nothing to prevent it.
A book consisting of flards of the lives of people around Jacob. Himself we hardly get to know.
I know how many of you love Virginia Woolf. I am not one of them I am afraid to admit. O yes, I liked Orlando and Mrs Dalloway but I just can't relate to her experimental novels, like The Waves and this one.


Mar 17, 2017, 6:48pm Top

>105 Simone2: I loved Jacob's Room because I studied it at uni and had to write about it. If I had just read it on my own I would have found it a slog.

Mar 18, 2017, 2:28am Top

>106 Nickelini: I can imagine there's a lot to study about this book and a lot going one between the lines, but to me as an ordinary reader it was kind of a slog indeed. Maybe one day, I'll have the courage to dive into it!

Mar 18, 2017, 6:58am Top

this one didn't do it for me either. The Waves though... oh my...

Mar 29, 2017, 2:26am Top

549 - Life is a caravanserai

This book reads like a dreamy trip. It is the coming of age story of a girl in Turkey, but it is also the story of her family and ancestors, and their stories and beliefs. Mix this with some fairy tales, some magical realism a bit of Islam and the vividly described smells and spices of Turkey and you get this exceptional novel. Surely worth the read.


Mar 31, 2017, 6:15am Top

What did you mean to say when you said 'flards'? Shards?

Mar 31, 2017, 1:36pm Top

Portmanteau of 'flashes' and 'shards'?

Apr 1, 2017, 6:04am Top

>110 M1nks: >111 hdcanis: Oh, my English.. Passive so much better than active. The literal translation of what I mean is 'tatters' or 'patches' but if that's correct in this context, I doubt...
What I mean is that you only get to know small parts of anyone's lives, without a clear beginning or ending.
I hope this makes it a bit clearer?

Apr 1, 2017, 8:39am Top

Yes - so perhaps shards would work. Or bits and pieces.

Apr 1, 2017, 10:14am Top

Or fragments. (but I kinda like 'flards', maybe it should be a thing)

Apr 1, 2017, 3:41pm Top

>113 M1nks: >114 hdcanis: Fragments! That's it! Mixed with shards, I think 'flards' might be the perfect word after all :).

Apr 1, 2017, 3:52pm Top

>114 hdcanis: >115 Simone2: Maybe one day in the future linguists roaming the internet will determine that the very first use of the new all-purpose phrase 'flards' happened right here, on this thread, March 18th 2017. 8-)

Edited: Apr 15, 2017, 2:35am Top

550 - King Lear of the Steppes

While the app mentions that this is a 400 pages book, my version was only 100. So I am not sure if I read the complete book, although I can find it online only as part of a collected stories book as well.

However, I do think 100 pages were sufficient. Turgenev may well be my favourite Russian writer, but this novel is not his best.
It is the story of Charlow, a man as big as a giant and the neighbour of the storyteller. He owns a lot of land and after a dream that predicts his death, he divides his property between his daughters (hence the reference to Shakespeare's King Lear). He is left empty handed but trusts his daughters to treat him right.

It is a story about fate and it is certainly well told (as always with Turgenev I can visualize all characters and the setting of the story), it is just not that good.


Edited: Apr 21, 2017, 6:27am Top

551 - The Good Soldier Svejk

This is the very long story of Svejk, a soldier in WWI (who actually never comes close to the real front), who behaves (perhaps he is, but I don't think so) very ignorant and incompetent and in this way is able to show us a very critical view on what happened in Austria-Hungary at the time. It shows the pointlessness and futility of military discipline and is a real anti-war novel. Written in 1938, the way Hasek writes about and makes fun of the Jews with the knowledge we have now, is quite sobering.

I did enjoy parts of the book, but got the overall idea pretty quickly and then it became a lot of repetition. Svejks answers almost all questions with broad stories which have nothing to do with the plot. 'Examples from his chronicle of human suffering', Hasek calles them. They are sometimes great and funny and poignant, but in my opinion there are way too much and they definitely invited me to start skimming.

Anyhow, the book definitely had an impact on later readers, writers, thinkers and the Czech people so I think it deserves its place on the list.


Apr 23, 2017, 2:15pm Top

>118 Simone2: Hasek died in 1923 - which doesn't necessarily make his statements less troubling.

Apr 23, 2017, 4:09pm Top

>119 Henrik_Madsen: You are right, in both ways. I meant to write 1928, but that would have been mistaken as well.

Apr 24, 2017, 9:57am Top

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

Reading Proust to me is really hard working at times, I find it difficult to keep following his thoughts and not be distracted. More than a few times I finished a page without remembering what I've read. And I have to admit that, between the streams of consciousness, I keep looking forward to some action (like a conversation). I am proud of myself for finishing the second book of Proust’s In Search of Lost Times.

In the first part, ‘Madame Swann at home’, the narrator writes about his love for Gilberte, Swann’s daughter. As the title already suggests, the story is much more about Madame Swann (Odette) than about Gilberte herself. I haven't got a clue what Gilberte looks like, for example, while I could draw out Odette in various outfits. I keep wondering what Proust means by this, but can’t figure it out. Maybe later…
I liked the way the narrator convinces himself that it is best not to meet Gilberte anymore to protect himself the hurting of seeing her, however, it all seems so sensible, while everything regarding Odette is more emotional somehow.

In the second and third part of the book, the narrator is staying in Balbec with his grandmother. To me, these have been the best parts so far. I loved the ambiance of the hotel and the rich people. I also loved Marcel's role in this surroundings, his fears and his dreams. Finally I start to understand him a bit. I feel sorry for him with his poor health, and the way he manages to live with this without complaining too much. He is busy all the time thinking about the people in the hotel and the way he should treat them, what to say, how to behave etc.
In Balbec he meets the ‘girls in flower’, a group of girls who he admires enormously because of their free attitude and the uncomplicated fun they have. He tries to get acquainted to them and at last he succeeds. He likes them all, thinks of them as one person almost. When Albertine writes him she likes him, she becomes his girlfriend (although Marcel himself hardly has a choice in this, he just accepts what happens). Immediately the carelessness of their relationship disappears because the narrator keeps anticipating on conversations and situations that could happen to protect himself and instead, makes things pretty hard for himself.

As I said, reading Proust is hard working at times, but so far it has not been as hard as I expected. Actually, it is getting better and I am aware that I might grow into the young narrator’s musing about almost everything.


Apr 25, 2017, 4:41am Top

"More than a few times I finished a page without remembering what I've read."

heh... I'm sure Proust himself finished many a page without remembering what he'd written, so no worries!

Apr 27, 2017, 6:41am Top

552 - The Club Dumas

I really don't know why this book made it to the list. I could have lived perfectly happy without reading it. Not that it is bad, not at all. It is an easy to read mystery story centered around The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (which I haven't read yet). A hand written chapter of this book sets in motion a lot of action mixed with occult aspects and satan worshipping. I read it almost in one go, wanted the mystery to be solved. So that is good.
Now I know I am a bit disappointed and guess that I won't remember this book for long.


Apr 27, 2017, 9:53am Top

>123 Simone2: I'll keep this in mind for an easy one!

Edited: Apr 27, 2017, 3:21pm Top

>124 japaul22: Do. It certainly is an engaging read, that will keep you interested until the last page. Perfect for an easy read.

Apr 29, 2017, 6:55pm Top

>123 Simone2:
Have you read The Flanders Panel by Perez-Reverte? I thought it was far superior to The Club Dumas and if I was going to put one of his books on the list that would be the one I would pick.

May 2, 2017, 3:39pm Top

>126 gypsysmom: No I haven't but I will remember it. Thank you!

Edited: May 12, 2017, 4:04am Top

553 - The Well of Loneliness

The Well of Loneliness is a lesbian novel from the early 20th century. It follows the life of Stephen Gordon, an English girl who is obviously gay from an early age. Her father understands and tries to protect her but after his death she has to face the cruel world, in which homosexuality is still a huge taboo. She moves to Paris and falls in love with Mary. Their love is met with hostility, isolation and rejection until they become befriended with other lesbian women in Paris’ nightlife.

I loved the first part of this book, with Stephen still a girl and the tender relations and conversations she has with people who try to protect her, like her father and her teacher, who becomes a very dear friend. The coming-out dialogue with her mother is heartbreaking.
The second part of the book I liked less. Why do so many authors have to write about salons and clubs in Paris in the early 20th century? I was a bit bored by Stephen’s life with Mary. The end however, is very touching again, unexpected and shocking.

With Stephen’s desperate words to God, ‘Give us also the right to our existence’ the novel was also a plea for being accepted as gay. A plea which ninety years later is unfortunately still as relevant as it was in Hall's time. All in all a novel that absolutely deserves its place on the 1001-list.


May 17, 2017, 3:32am Top

554 - Spring Torrents

This is the rather unbelievable story of Dimitri who, on his way to Russia, misses his diligence and therefore runs into the beautiful Gemma. Within a week he falls in love, he is duelling for her, and he submits to another woman in order to sell his Russian estate and be able to marry Gemma. The course of this week determines the rest of his life.

Too much happens in a too short period of time and the main characters do not come to life in my opionion. And yet, this is Turgenev, and he is always able to sketch an impressing picture of life in his time.


Edited: Jun 11, 2017, 2:11pm Top

555 - Time's Arrow

Wow, what a mindblowing read this was. It describes life with a reversed chronology. And Amis works this out perfectly, and shockingly.


It is the story of the American doctor Tod Friendly, who keeps wondering about the meaning of life because doctors are the ones who demolish human bodies. He feels something is wrong, but later in life, when he gets younger, he becomes nazi doctor Odilo Unverdorben and then all makes sense: then he is able as a doctor to create life, he creates Jews out of ashes and is able to reunite families.

This is not a spoiler, you know from the start what will happen - however it is so shocking when reading it.
Especially because it is a funny book as well, explaining life backwards. The protagonist for example is pleasantly surprised that NY yellowcabs are always exactly there where you need them, no wonder people salute them for hours after arriving, waving goodbye!

A highly original, disturbing read.


Jun 11, 2017, 5:17am Top

Er... don't know what edition you read but I don't remember anything at the start so I was very careful when I reviewed it not to give the game away. What does it say at the start that tells us this?

Jun 11, 2017, 2:10pm Top

It is the first sentence on the back cover...
I'll add a spoiler alert though, thanks for mentioning it!

Jun 12, 2017, 5:44am Top

Ah it wasn't on my cover...

Jun 12, 2017, 8:32am Top

I've been caught out like that before with some books merrily giving away what I consider horrendous spoilers on their book blurbs. I never read introductions anymore but with actual book covers it's pretty much impossible to avoid reading them. ¥€%©&$¿%!

Jun 12, 2017, 2:04pm Top

>134 M1nks: Exactly! I always read introductions after I finish a book, but avoiding the cover is almost impossible. However, I didn't mind knowing it is this case.

Edited: Jun 12, 2017, 4:03pm Top

>130 Simone2: This is one of the most memorable books on the list. A disturbing mix of the worst of human behaviour told from a constructive point of view, and some nice comedic moments. Glad you enjoyed it.

Jun 13, 2017, 12:58am Top

>134 M1nks: >135 Simone2: For some reason I didn't read the cover text of my edition of Embers, which gave away much more than it should, until I had read the book.

That was mostly luck but also a result of the list: Since it was on it there was no need for independant thought about reading it or not!

Jun 18, 2017, 2:17pm Top

The Guermantes Way

I have finished The Guermantes Way and it turned out very readable. I enjoyed this book a lot. Could it perhaps mean that I begin to understand and appreciate Proust?!

In this first part Marcel becomes a bit obsessed with the Duchesse de Guermantes and is looking for ways to get in contact with her. He tries by visiting his friend Robert de Saint Loup, who is at his army base. Interesting discussions follow among the soldiers because the Dreyfus affair is hot indeed.
Via Robert he meets the much anticipated mistress (an interesting scene!) and gets introduced in the higher circles of society, where the nobility and aristocrats meet. At the salon of Mme de Villeparisis the Dreyfus affair is a main subject as well. I learned a lot about the nobility in France at the time and about anti semitism being very fashionable among them.

After leaving Mme de Villeparisis's party, the narrator is accompanied by Baron de Charlus, who is an interesting character and of whom we'll see more in the fourth book.

In the second half of the book the narrator is invited by the Duchesse de Guermantes for a dinner party. This is a very long, boring part of the book, but then again: the dinner party is very boring. Marcel sees through the façade of the nobility: always behaving as one is supposed to.

In the end, Swann appears suddenly and things become clear for Marcel. I love most characters and am impressed by the way Proust builds his characters.


Edited: Aug 23, 2017, 5:13pm Top

556 - Our Lady of the Assassins

Fernando is an older man, who comes back to the country he left years before: Colombia. In the city where he was born, Medellin, he falls in love with a 'sicario', a 12 year old assassin, working for Escobar's drug cartel.

What follows is a tirade against Medellin, the poverty, the violence and the corruption, while Fernando at the same time becomes part of it, by witnessing his young lover murder everyone who's in his way.

I appreciated the book because I am in Medellin at the moment and experience (fortunately) a city that has dealt with its violent past and is now an example for other Latin American cities, fighting poverty and violence. Otherwise I don't know if it would have made as much sense.


Aug 21, 2017, 9:38pm Top

>139 Simone2: I don't remember reading this book. What I do remember is that I acquired it through an inter-library loan and it came in at the same time as Blood and Guts in High School. That got an eyebrow raise and a comment from the librarian. :D

And, you're in Columbia!?!! Wow.

Edited: Aug 22, 2017, 7:26am Top

>140 ELiz_M: Haha, I can imagine it raised eyebrows with those titles! Yes I am in Colombia on holiday. It is a fantastic country so far!

Aug 22, 2017, 11:54am Top

My co-worker is from Colombia and she is visiting with her family this week. No idea where she is though. It is a beautiful place if her photos are anything to judge it by. Have fun!

Oct 1, 2017, 5:11pm Top

557 - Old Masters

For more than thirty years Reger has spend his mornings in the art history museum in Vienna, where he always faces Tintoretto's ‘Man with a white beard’. Reger is filled with a deep disgust of almost anything. He complains about Vienna, Austria and the Austrians, about writers, composers, philosophers and especially the Old Masters of painting. The reason for Reger’s hating the arts becomes slowly clear: after the death of his wife, art is the only thing he can still cling to.

This is a typical Bernhard novel, so cynical, but I kind of like him.


Oct 2, 2017, 11:44pm Top

558 - The Kingdom of this World

I read this book because I was looking for a book about Haïti, where I am right now for work with an international development organisation. I hoped to learn a bit about this unknown country, one of the poorest, neglected by most developed countries. Unfortunately I learned not much. Carpentier writes passionately about voodoo and wars and slavery and sex. And with lot of magical realism of course.... I lost it, I’ve got no clue of what he tried to say.


Oct 3, 2017, 1:39am Top

>144 Simone2: That's a pity - I really enjoyed that book and ended up giving it 5 stars! Good luck with your work.

Oct 7, 2017, 11:48pm Top

>145 puckers: Really? Then I must absolutely have missed the point.

Oct 8, 2017, 5:22am Top

>145 puckers: >146 Simone2: I read that one too.

Rating 4 stars
Shelves 1001-books-to-read-challenge, read, read-2015
November 2, 2015 – Finished Reading

Review: This was an interesting magical realism story about the history of Haiti. It was a short easy to read book with beautiful prose depicting striking images of racial strife, class wars and the survival and redemption of the Haitian slaves. I would recommend this book if you are interested in historical fiction and the Haitian history.

Edited: Nov 28, 2017, 1:59am Top

559 - Invisible Man

This book is an important one. It deals with many of the social and intellectual problems faced by Afro-Americans in the early twentieth century when searching for their identity as free men.

The story is told by a narrator who moves from the South to New York and gets involved in The Brotherhood, a movement for equal rights.

I feel sorry to admit that I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I think I should. The style, the preaching, I don’t know, it didn’t really grab me.


Nov 9, 2017, 5:49am Top

>148 Simone2: Good intentions are not enough - the story and characters have to be engaging as well.

BTW - the touchstone is for the H.G. Wells classic.

Nov 28, 2017, 2:00am Top

>149 Henrik_Madsen: Thanks for noticing. I changed it!

Nov 28, 2017, 2:00am Top

560 - The Year of the Hare

The frustrated journalist Vatanen nearly kills a hare with his car. The animal hides wounded in the forest, Vatanen runs after him. The moment he takes the hare in his arms, he decides not to return to his car or life. He leaves the city life and his wife behind and starts a journey through the wilderness of Finland - a country I really want to visit now.
Great story, great ending.


Nov 28, 2017, 4:32am Top

Welcome, though not right now, November in Finland is a pretty good argument for any other place :)

Jan 2, 2018, 2:08am Top

561 - The Art of Fielding

I don’t know much about baseball but I liked this book a lot. There’s so much more to it. It’s about friendship and failing, about fear of one’s future and willpower. Highly recommended!


Jan 9, 2018, 4:21am Top

I think this is the first time I've read a positive review of this!

Jan 9, 2018, 8:05am Top

>154 arukiyomi: I was surprised to find that I really liked this, too.

Jan 9, 2018, 1:20pm Top

>153 Simone2: I gave it at least 4 stars, if not 5. I really enjoyed it.

Jan 21, 2018, 9:09am Top

>154 arukiyomi: >155 japaul22: >156 amaryann21: I was surprised too but I really liked it. Have you read it, Arukiyomi?

Jan 21, 2018, 8:14pm Top

>153 Simone2: I'm another who really liked this book! I actually sent copies of it to my father & my uncle, who is a baseball writer too.

Edited: Jan 31, 2018, 11:33pm Top

562 - The Time Machine

When Darwin wrote about the survival of the fittest, people foresaw a better and smarter world. In the same years, Wells wrote this story about a scientist traveling into the future to discover that things don't always get better as time goes on – just the opposite. When travelling in the future, the narrator views the passing of human intelligence: people were smart enough to make the world a more comfortable place – but as the world got more comfortable, people became less smart. I think Wells might be right…

All in all this is a very interesting read with lots of interesting theories and insights. However I read it as an audiobook and had trouble staying concentrated. Because it is a bit boring as well.


Jan 31, 2018, 1:44pm Top

>159 Simone2: Yeah, I thought the premise of the story was pretty good, but the story itself was eh.

Feb 8, 2018, 4:27am Top

Art of Fielding my wife bought for me a couple of birthdays ago. Sadly, I thought it was pants.

Feb 14, 2018, 1:52am Top

563 - The Nine Tailors

The title refers to the nine strokes of a church bell to announce the death of a man. And a man is found dead, in the grave of another in a small English village. Fortunately Lord Peter Wimsley happens to be around and soon he is part of the investigation. A lot is happening, many questions need to be answered. And I learned a lot about ‘change ringing’, the traditional British art of ringing a set of tunes bells in a controlled manner to produce variations in their striking sequences.


Feb 14, 2018, 6:31am Top

564 - Bunner Sisters

My second audio read turned out to be a better choice that the first. Librivox has plenty of free audiobooks from the 1001 list, but the narrators are not always that good. This one was though.

The two Bunner sisters, Ann Eliza the elder, and Evelina the younger, keep a small shop. They are not rich but can manage and are happy. When the sistes become involved with Herbert Ramy, both sisters fall a bit in love with him. Ann Eliza decides to sacrifice her own hopes and yearnings for those of her younger sister. Evelina is very egocentrical and doesn’t even notice what Ann Eliza does for her. This is the main theme of this sweet and very sad story.

Once again Edith Wharton succeeded in creating a very real main character that’ll stay with me for some time to come.


Feb 16, 2018, 3:14am Top

565 - Life and Death of Harriett Frean

What a confronting read in only 100 pages. This is the story of Harriett Frean (no surprise there) who lives in the 19th century as so many girls under the oppressive weight and strength of the chains of family love, of the craving for parental approval. By denying the love of her life for moral reasons (and thus the approval of het parents), Harriett stays alone for the rest of her life.

The way she grows old is so confronting: she grows bitter and judgemental (for example, someone has a cat, she hates thats person because a cat is a surrogate for a baby, the baby she never had). She sees her friends aging and hates them for it. Because they grow fat or are complaining all the time. The only one she isn’t very critical of, is herself. Because she has high morals als everyone must know.

I recognise some elements of this story in my own environment and that makes it a painful read sometimes. Is this the way life goes?? I certainly hope not.


Feb 21, 2018, 11:21am Top

566 - Passing

Clare and Irene are childhood friends who lost touch when Clare's father died and she moved in with two white aunts. By hiding that Clare was part-black, she was able to 'pass' as a white woman and married a white bigot. The novel centers on when they meet again twelve years later. Irene despises Clare for passing and also for threatening her secure and safe middle class lifestyle. But if Irene doesn't help Clare, she will feel as if she is betraying her race.

Irene fights so many conflicts within herself, which Larsen knows perfectly to describe. The narrator on Librivox (Elizabeth Klett) is great, I immediately downloaded another book by her.


Feb 25, 2018, 5:32pm Top

Hi Barbara, are you taking a hiatus from CR for a while? Missing your book bullets over there :)

Feb 28, 2018, 12:05pm Top

>166 AlisonY: Hi Alison, How good to hear from you. I’ve been a bit too lazy to write reviews of all books I read but I have been missing you and some others and your bookish thoughts. Actually you make me reconsider. I could still jump in, don’t you think?

Edited: Mar 7, 2018, 4:09pm Top

567 - Summer

This started out as a romance and although this is of course Wharton and the characters are not-perfect people and the romance became less romantic in the end, this story was still a bit too sweet for my taste. My least favorite by her.


Feb 28, 2018, 6:31pm Top

>167 Simone2: Sure Barbara! We'd love to see you posting back in CR again! But if not, I've starred your thread here so I can still catch those book bullets.

Mar 7, 2018, 4:09pm Top

568 - A Confederacy of Dunces

I just don’t like slapstick. And Ignatius is pure slapstick. He made me laugh a few times but I preferred the storylines without him (The Levy’s, Miss Trixie, Mrs Reilly, New Orleans).

I know I am in the minority and I hope I don’t offend the ones who love him, but I think Ignatius is above all an annoying character.


Edited: Mar 27, 2018, 7:55am Top

569 - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

She’s a tough lady, Maya Angelou. Just like all women in her family. Strong black women, it is fascinating to read how they cope with the hard circumstances in which African American have to live in the first half of the 20th century. Maya Angelou writes beautifully about growing up, making choices and setting goals.


Mar 17, 2018, 10:30am Top

>171 Simone2: I note 3 stars only. What was missing in it for you? I'm curious as it's been languishing on my wish list for a while but I've not reached out to pick it up yet.

Mar 19, 2018, 6:02am Top

570 - Deep Rivers

The protagonist of this book about Peru is 14-year-old Ernesto who, after years of traveling with his father through the country, ends up in a catholic boarding school.
His life reflects the internal conflicts in Peru: the silent struggle between the Spanish upper class and the oppressed indigenous population, the role of religion and the economic struggles.
Unfortunately, the style made it a struggle for me to read and finish the story.


Mar 19, 2018, 6:05am Top

>172 AlisonY: This may sound horrible, I don't intend to, but I have lately read so many books about the struggle of African Americans in the US that I think I grew a bit tired of it. I don't want to deny it or trivialize it, but the subject didn't touch me as it used to. Time for a break I think, of this kind of literature, so that I can get its full meaning again .

Edited: Mar 27, 2018, 7:55am Top

571 - Emma

Who ends up with who, that’s the question, and it takes a long time to get there. 400 pages full of social talks and outings. They give us insight in Emma’s character (I like her a lot) and in life in the 19th century, in which people keep seeking out eachother’s company for amusement and diversion. It is a fascinating and funny book, timeless in parts, boring in others. My last Jane Austen, now I’ve read them all...


Mar 27, 2018, 7:55am Top

572 - Vile Bodies

Life is one big party, or isn’t it? In the roaring twenties England’s Young Bright People show their disapproval of the establishment by partying non-stop, thinking of nothing and caring for nothing. In the mean time Adam tries to gain enough money to be able to marry Nina. He gains some, he loses some, he doesn’t mind. But then things start changing because nothing lasts forever.


Edited: Mar 29, 2018, 8:16am Top

573 - Tarzan of the Apes

What a pleasant surprise. This was a very entertaining book, an adventure novel of course, but one with a great character development of the person/apeman Tarzan. I don't think the storyline is correct everywhere (for example, how can someone who can read but does not know the sounds of the words, write his own name correctly?), but that did not really matter to me. I was fascinated by what was going to happen and the end came as a complete surprise for me. Oh yes, and did I miss the phrase 'Me Tarzan, you Jane' or does it really not appear in the book?


Apr 17, 2018, 5:19am Top

I was also surprised by this one and really enjoyed it, particularly the ending.

Apr 17, 2018, 8:07am Top

>178 arukiyomi: Yes the ending came as a complete surpise, so unexpected!

Edited: Apr 17, 2018, 8:13am Top

574 - Zorba the Greek

An unnamed narrator leaves for the island of Crete to exploit a mine. He brings Zorba to manage the work in the mine. Zorba turns out to be the man he always wanted to be: he does all he does with passion, whether he is working, drinking, eating or ‘making women his’. After a 100 pages I think I have enough however, I get the point and am not enjoying it at all. On to the next.


Apr 17, 2018, 4:06pm Top

>180 Simone2: I'm a little sad you didn't finish it... I definitely feel like it was more redeeming by the end. Zorba turned more lovable, for me.

Apr 23, 2018, 4:29pm Top

>181 amaryann21: Now I regret that I didn’t finish it. I read a review (maybe yours?) of someone who didn’t want to part with Zorba in the end. I guess there is more to him than I gave him credit for!

Apr 24, 2018, 10:42am Top

>182 Simone2: I'd have to go back and look, but it could be mine. But maybe this wasn't the time for you and Zorba. I know I've put books aside and come back to them later.

Apr 27, 2018, 3:23am Top

Sodom and Gomorra

I finally finished Sodom and Gomorra, the fourth installment of In Search of Lost Times. It starts with Marcel discovering that M. De Charlus is gay and he becomes obsessed with homosexuality. He sees gays and lesbians everywhere and is afraid Albertine might be one as well. He gets terribly jealous and keeps her by his side all the time. They pretend she is his cousin when they are both in Balbec again.
These are the times in which the aristocratic salons of the Guermantes are still unchanged and timeless but are eventually surpassed by the intellectual salons of civilian women like Mme Verdurin and Odette Swann.
Marcel is visiting all the time, having intellectual discussions with everyone and keeping track of how everyone is related to everyone. He grows bored in the end - of Balbec, of the conversations, the people and of Albertine.

It is interesting how his mind works and to follow it in the future. I will start The Captive soon.

May 26, 2018, 2:21am Top

575 - The Children's Book

For years I had been looking forward to this book, as it got so many raving reviews here. Now I finally got to it and I didn't care for it at all. There are so many characters and storylines (why??), all are potentially interesting. However because there are so many, none is really worked out well. All subjects (war, art, anarchism, etc.) are being touched upon and then onto the next. On me this had the effect that I ended up not being interested in any of the subjects or the characters. I really wonder what point Byatt wants to make with this book.


May 26, 2018, 3:32am Top

>185 Simone2: Sigh. I'm about 60 pages in, have been for months - can't seem to get into it or generate any enthusiasm for it.

May 26, 2018, 5:09am Top

>186 BekkaJo: Exactly! And each time i became engrossed in a storyline it was cut short. Really frustrating!

May 28, 2018, 5:29am Top

“And I’m now sitting here thinking that if Byatt can create such a vivid world, why didn’t I rate it better than “Good?” I think it’s because, throughout, I felt that there was something missing which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I honestly think it’s because the novel simply isn’t long enough. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a book. As it is, it’s over 600 closely-typed pages. But I just got the feeling that inside this one is an epic story of an era waiting to get out and that, were it, say, double the length, it would be an astonishing masterpiece.”

From my review back in 2012.

May 30, 2018, 4:46pm Top

>188 arukiyomi: Yes, I can see what you mean. It should have been even longer, then Byatt could have better worked out her characters and the events. I would have preferred different books though; one about Tom, one about Dorothy, one about Philip etc.

May 30, 2018, 4:48pm Top

576 - Bleak House

This is the story of Esther Summerson, uncovering the truth about her parents and in the process setting off a chain of events that include murder, blackmail and suicide. We also learn how she is related to the lawsuit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, that has been going on for decennia!

Second, this is a story about morality, about whether the rich should take care of the poor.

The story is told by Esther (a personal storyline) and by an unknown narrator (a very critical observer).

All in all it is a novel that has it all: suspense, romance, dialogue, scenery, tragedy. Combine this with a lot of characters and you have the ultimate Dickens.


May 30, 2018, 8:40pm Top

>190 Simone2: It does have it all, even death by spontaneous combustion!!!

Jun 5, 2018, 1:33am Top

>191 ELiz_M: That was weird!!

Edited: Jun 28, 2018, 8:34pm Top

577 - In a Free State

Two English people, Bobby and Linda, undertake a long car journey across an unnamed East African country (Uganda?) where a coup by the president has just displaced the king. Just freed of colonialism the president’s men replicate the selfsame power structures, similar instruments of oppression of their own peoples as the whites did before. During their road trip Bobby and Linda (both so white and racist) become aware of how serious the situation has become.
While I write this summary I realize the plot is very good. Yet somehow I didn’t enjoy reading it. It’s Naipaul’s style, the dialogues and the racism that botters me.


Jun 5, 2018, 1:58pm Top

Have you read The Enigma of Arrival? That’s by far my fave but it’s autobiographical.

Jun 13, 2018, 8:25am Top

>194 arukiyomi: No I haven’t but I did love his travel books so I am willing to give him another chance!

Jun 13, 2018, 8:27am Top

578 - What Maisie Knew

Maisie is the product of a broken home. Her parents hate each other, and Maisie is being ping-ponged between them, or even their new partners. All the adults are utterly self-centered and Maisie never comes first. They use her as a weapon in their own battles, thinking she won’t understand because she’s just a child.
This theme was probably more shocking in the 19th century than nowadays. For me, the novel lost much of its relevance.


Jun 19, 2018, 11:54am Top

579 - Treasure Island

No, life is too short for books like these. I really tried but it bored me to death, so I must bail. I definitely don’t like pirates and adventures.

Jul 1, 2018, 5:33am Top

580 - Red Harvest

This book read like an action movie, filled with crime and corruption. Had it been a movie, I would have zapped to another channel. I read on however because it is a book off the 1001 books-list and because I was mildly interested. Glad it’s done though!


Jul 8, 2018, 2:00pm Top

581 - Villette

I can’t believe this is the author of Jane Eyre, I really didn't like this one. So much French and no plot at all. Very uninteresting.


Jul 8, 2018, 3:45pm Top

>199 Simone2: I thought Villette was boring too, and I loved Jane Eyre. Isn't Villette the one that is semi-autobiographical? Either way, I remember sort of forcing my way through it. It's made me very hesitant to pick up Shirley, the last of the Bronte books I have to read.

Jul 8, 2018, 4:54pm Top

>200 japaul22: I enjoyed Shirley (3.5/5) much more than Villette (2.5/5) so don’t give up.

Jul 8, 2018, 5:50pm Top

>201 puckers: that’s good to hear!

Jul 9, 2018, 5:27am Top

I couldn't believe Villette was written by the same author either. Jane Eyre is contrived melodrama. Villette is far more mature and she was just finding her stride with Shirley when she was taken from us.

Jul 29, 2018, 12:41pm Top

>200 japaul22: >203 arukiyomi: >201 puckers: I am glad I am not alone in this one and also good to know that Shirley is better again!

Jul 29, 2018, 12:42pm Top

582 - The Leopard

I read this book now because it is set in Sicily where I am holidaying at the moment. Is is the story of the downfall of the Sicilian aristocracy in the 19th century. Not a subject that I am really interested in. I liked the setting and the historical context but all in all I was not really interested in the Salina family and caught myself skimming the pages more than once.


Oct 10, 2018, 6:33am Top

Thanks to the new update of the Boxall, I can add some more books that I read and reviewed earlier:

583 - H is for Hawk

Without getting sentimental Macdonalds writes in this autobiographical story one of the best books about grief that I have ever read.
She is able to do this because instead of giving in to her loss and sorrow, she focusses on training a goshawk. She knows all about these birds, has been reading about them all her life, and is convinced - shortly after her fathers death - this is the time to tame one herself.
The training and her attitude towards Mabel, the goshawk, show a lot of parallels with her grieving process and bring back memories of her father.

The way Macdonald writes about both subjects (the hawk and her loss) is superb.
Until reading this book I knew nothing of falconry and author TH White (whose biography and falconry had a big influence on Macdonald). However, I became eager to know more about both while reading the book.
The memories of her father are tender, her grief is raw, very raw. The way she deals with it is admirable and painful at the same time. The way she describes it all is very impressive.


584 - The Story of the Lost Child

Finishing The Neapolitan Novels leaves me feeling empty. In the fourth book Elena is back in Naples, where Lina is the queen of the old neigbourhood. Everyone respects her independent attitude. Elena observes and keeps wondering why Lina isn't more ambitious with her intelligence and capabilities.

They become close friends again though not on an equal level. Elena is a succesful writer now but she keeps comparing herself to Lina. Every bitchy remark from her friend keeps touching her deeply. Often those remarks touch a subject Elena is insecure about (her relationship with Nino, motherhood, her books), which Lina seems to feel and likes to point out. The result is that things go as Lina foresees - it seems as if Elena acts according to them. Certainly, Lina is very observant, she is smart and streetwise, but so is Elena. Why is the latter such a victim of what's happening to her?

On the other hand, Elena decides when she is ready to listen to Lina: when Elena does things she is not too confident about (like with Nino) she just avoids Lila for a while. She probably knows exactly what's happening but won't let her conscious (Lila) speak until she is ready to listen.

I am surprised at how much these novels appeal to me. I have never liked Lila but in the end I don't like Elena much either. And still, their story makes a great read as do the descriptions of Naples and the other (all worked out very good) characters.

About the ending I have to think a bit more. It was rather abrupt to me (I don't get why Lina disappears exactly af the mentioned moment) and I didn't understand the meaning of the gift Elena receives in the end.

I am still wondering how autobiographical the story is but in the end I am leaning towards the thought that it is - but partly. Perhaps it is, but without Lina. Perhaps Ferrante wrote a story about Naples and Elena (herself?), needing Lina to explain herself and the choices she made in life. Needing Lina as an opponent and a conscious. Needing Lina to feel better.


585 - Winter

This is certainly not an easy read. I really had to concentrate to follow all storylines. A lot is happening between the lines.
Four people are meeting for Christmas, four completely different people with a different perception of the past, the present and the future. The dialogue at the dinner table is brilliant. I love the political references Ali Smith is making all the time.

I am already looking forward to Spring!


586 - The Goldfinch

I read this in 2014 before I wrote reviews. I remember liking it, especially the parts about art, but didn't think it as good as The Secret History or The Little Friend.


587 - The Circle

Another one I read back in 2014. I liked the concept and it started out strong but Eggers couldn't keep up the premise in my opinion. This is definitely not his best book, I wish another one of his would have made the list as he is indeed one of the authors you should read at least one book of.


Oct 14, 2018, 4:55am Top

would you recommend all the Ferrante quartet or just the last that's on the list?

Oct 22, 2018, 3:04pm Top

>207 arukiyomi: All of them. You really cannot read only the last one as it is not a stand-alone book. The four books are more or less inseparable.

Oct 22, 2018, 3:05pm Top

588 - The Labyrinth of Solitude

In a series of essays Octavio Paz tries to understand and analyze the Mexican people. It bothers me a lot though that he speaks of 'the Mexican' throughout the whole book. As if they are all the same. I wanted to know more about Mexico because I am going there this week for my work, but this book didn’t work for me.


Oct 23, 2018, 5:07am Top

thanks for that Simone2... I'll postpone my reading of it until I've read the rest.

Nov 4, 2018, 3:26pm Top

589 - A Girl is a Half-formed Thing

What a harshness and misery in this book, filled with religion and abuse. Set in a stream-of-conscience style, a girl who only cares for her brother, uses sex for an escape because she thinks she’s not worthy of love. So much sadness, so much violence. It is written well but I’d say don’t read it if you don’t have to, it’s one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read.


Nov 4, 2018, 4:35pm Top

>211 Simone2: I totally agree. Such a brutal subject. I just don't want to read about such dark happenings.

Nov 15, 2018, 2:57am Top

Nov 15, 2018, 12:37pm Top

>213 Simone2: Yeah, this is one I'll never read as I know I'll feel the same!

Nov 17, 2018, 12:01pm Top

212> Did you finish it? I really wonder why it’s added to the list.

>214 japaul22: Many people seem to love it though!

Nov 17, 2018, 12:01pm Top

591 - Phineas Finn

This book deals with both British parliamentary politics of the 1860s and with Phineas Finn's romances with women. The political parts were killing me in the end (Too much and too difficult or boring for me to understand what all the fuss was about), but I loved the romance parts. Trollope’s female characters are so strong and independent, I’d like most of them as my friends!
When I make up the balance though, I think the women couldn’t make up for the men and I am taking a break from Trollope’s Palliser series for now.


Edited: Nov 24, 2018, 3:33am Top

592 - Breakfast of Champions

Vonnegut has a humorous, quite ironic view at the US, illustrated by antihero Dwayne Hoover (a rich but mentally ill Pontignac dealer), about to meet pulp SF writer Kilgore Trout in the cocktail lobby of his local Holiday Inn.

Also, Mr Rosewater makes his appearance, as does Mr Vonnegut himself.

Last but not least there are many illustrations and statistics of penis sizes. And a lot of (in the end anti-) racism. Highly original!


Nov 29, 2018, 4:08pm Top

593 - The Glimpses of the Moon

Another enjoyable Wharton, the last I needed to read for the list.
Susy and live the live of the wealthy, a world where the idle rich flit between the playgrounds of estates in Europe. They have fallen in love, and come up with their own experiment: to marry and to live as long as possible on the hospitality of their friends. Should the chance of a better marriage come along for either of them the other will move aside. However this bargain doesn’t take into consideration their real feelings.


Dec 3, 2018, 4:46am Top

594 - Carry me Down by MJ Hyland

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, on the list of 1001 books and yet I had never heard about this book before.

And that while it is really good. Told (so convincingly!) from the POV of an unstable but lovely 11-year old boy who considers himself a human lie detector. Because there are many lies in his family, even though his parents are trying to be honest. Painful and beautiful.


Dec 3, 2018, 7:55am Top

>219 Simone2: Interesting! I've never heard of that one either.

Edited: Dec 3, 2018, 9:13am Top

>219 Simone2: I just bought a copy of that one. It sounded a little like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time but maybe not so from your description?

Dec 11, 2018, 3:39am Top

>221 Yells: No it's not like The Curious Incident to me. The boy in this novel seems rather normal, I don't even know what mental illness he suffers of.

Dec 11, 2018, 3:39am Top

595 - News From Nowhere

A man in 1890 falls asleep to awaken in an idyllic, communist world of sometime in the 21st century. What follows is mostly a Q&A between the man and the all so friendly and happy inhabitants of this future utopian world. It is interesting to read how Morris expected or wanted the world to turn out. The communists explain how they can live in a world without fear, without money, without war and without government, yet to me it raises many questions, a lot of which are not answered. The 1890 man buys it all though, and sleeps in this future London ‘with a fear to wake up in the old, miserable world of worn-out pleasures, and hopes that were half fears’.


Jan 23, 11:33am Top

596 - Go Down, Moses

I couldn’t finish this one, I couldn’t even read it. The short stories in this book together form a novel. I started each story but finished none. It’s me, I know. I loved Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, but now the typical Mississippi accent just irritated me (reading English is difficult enough as it is). So no, not for me.


Feb 1, 11:14am Top

597 - The Invisible Man

Griffin was a brilliant medical student who discovered how to turn invisible. He wants to use this superpower to terrorize people. He confides in his old friend Kemp who tries to stop him.
I really didn’t care for this book, its plot or its characters.


Feb 2, 11:45am Top

wait a minute... you can't rate a book you didn't read!

If you can, I'm giving all the remaining Pynchon's on the list 1* - I've read the cover. That's enough right!


Feb 2, 1:32pm Top

>226 arukiyomi: I feel like if I spend "enough" time with a book and it's really not for me, I'm going to cross it off the list. I don't do this often, but it has happened. The one I remember is The Mysteries of Udolpho. I read the first third (which is hundreds of pages!) and decided I "got" why it was on the list but didn't need to waste my time on it!

Most "list" books I feel compelled to finish because I figure someone liked it enough to recommend it for a list like this; but in the end, I'm not going to completely waste my time on books I don't enjoy. Life is too short!

>224 Simone2: Don't completely give up on Faulkner, though! I love The Sound and the Fury.

Feb 2, 1:47pm Top

If I read a significant amount of a book, I usually count it as read. I look at it this way -- my edition of Heart of Darkness is 67 pages. If I read 100 pages of a 300 page book, I'm already past HOD and all the short stories on the list. However, I didn't count books like The Black Dahlia which I refused to read past page 2. That one just went on the list of "Tried, but no way."

It helps that I have no intention to read all the books on the list.

Feb 6, 4:28am Top

Mysteries of Udolpho is awful, I agree. I read it all and had no idea why it was on the list except to illustrate how bleak the literary landscape was in 1794 so if you got it after 1001 pages, good for you!

I'm in the first third of the Sound and the Fury. It's not easy but I'm not giving up. I'm hoping to see what you loved japaul22.

Feb 9, 8:35am Top

>226 arukiyomi: >227 japaul22: >228 Nickelini: I’ve made a set of rules for myself too: if I read more than half of a book and decide to bail on it, I count it as read. As a reward for trying :)

I won’t give up on Faulkner, Jennifer. I loved As I Lay Dying so I’m definitely going to read The Sound and the Fury!

Speaking of books hard to finish though, read my next post. What a horrible book. But I did read it, John!

Feb 9, 8:36am Top

598 - Vathek by William Beckford

Vathek, ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides, is tempted by a supernatural being (‘the Giaour’), who promises to bestow on him the treasures and talismans of the ‘palace of subterranean fire’. Encouraged by his ambitious mother, the sorceress Carathis, Vathek embarks on a journey through exotic landscapes and begins a descent into hell. It is kind of a fairy tale that mixes eastern mythology and Islamic culture.
The book may be worth reading only for its historic value or if you’re a hardcore fan of weird gothic/fantasy, which I am not.


Feb 9, 2:08pm Top

>229 arukiyomi: >230 Simone2: The Sound and the Fury is for me a great example of why you shouldn’t stop half way through a book. The opening story is very confusing, the second story not that much clearer but by the third telling/perspective everything starts to fall in to place and you see the opening story in quite a different light. I thought it very cleverly written and certainly worth sticking with.

Feb 14, 11:59pm Top

glad to hear it. I'm getting there...

Mar 14, 4:09am Top

The Captive part 2

Marcel is so jealous that his girlfriend Albertine is hardly able to leave the house. Though he may seem the captive the title revers to (his weak health keeps him in bed often), in reality she is. To make it worse: when he has in fact tamed the wild girl in her, he misses her former self.
The plot is really good, it’s just that it takes sooo many words to get there! But I did it, now on to part 6 of 7!


Mar 14, 7:58am Top

>234 Simone2: Woohoo! That volume is the worst of them and now you are almost finished. The last volume has some stunning moments, I think you'll enjoy it.

Mar 14, 2:25pm Top

>235 ELiz_M: I am so relieved to hear that, though I need yo read two more. First, The Fugitive

Mar 21, 4:09pm Top

599 - David Copperfield

I finished my one-Dickens-a-year! More autobiographic, less grotesk characters but still typical Dickens. David is an orphan, growing up in a rather well to do environment, but with a lot of distress. There are always people however, who care for him, and guide him into adulthood.

My next Dickens will be Our Mutual Friend, I think. But that’ll have to wait until next year!


Mar 22, 4:12pm Top

600 - Silas Marner

When Silas Marner, a weaver, is falsely accused of stealing the congregation's funds, his life is shattered. He leaves for Raveloe, a rural community where he is unknown. Here he lives an isolated life, saving and cherishing the gold he earns by weaving as his only diversion. When his money is stolen Silas gets very depressed until a little girl walks into his house to stay. She feels like a gift from heaven.
The strange thing about this novel is that we learn a lot about live in and the people of Raveloe and their interactions with Silas, while he himself remains mainly a mystery and we never get to know him or his thoughts. An okay read for me, not more then that.


Mar 22, 6:22pm Top

>238 Simone2: Congratulations on 600! Sorry you didn’t enjoy Silas Marner more; I found it moving.

Mar 22, 7:28pm Top

Congratulations on reaching 600! Well done!

Mar 22, 8:30pm Top


Mar 23, 7:36am Top

Apr 7, 3:57am Top

>238 Simone2: Wow, 600 - congratulations!

Apr 7, 9:37am Top

Congratulations on 600! Well done! I hope you find a five-star book for #601 -- it's been a while since you've read one you really loved.

I'm with you (and some others) on not forcing yourself to finish books that are obviously not worth it. If I had forced myself to read every page of The Blindness of the Heart, I might have given up on the list altogether. Even so, I am currently reading a mindless entertaining book to cleanse my brain.

May 20, 12:31pm Top

601 - The Count of Monte Cristo

I can’t imagine the effect this book must have had on readers in the 19th century when there was so much less diversion than today and when it was published in episodes in the newspaper. How readers must have looked forward to the next installment.

In the 21th century this book still is the ultimate revenge novel, the revenge of Edmond Dantès who, after having innocently spent years in a dungeon, returns as the Count of Monte Cristo.


May 28, 11:19am Top

602 - Frankenstein

Frankenstein is so gifted in the natural sciences that he is able to create a living creature, Partly human, partly monstrous this creature takes control of Frankenstein’s life.
I’m glad I finally read this classic but that’s about it. Enjoyable, no more nor less.


Jun 15, 7:30am Top

603 - A Severed Head

What a strange book. Six people in London, living a merry go round of relationships. With eachother. They are so unlikable, all of them. And stubborn and vain and stupid. Murdoch did a great job making me feel this way but in the end it’s certainly not my favorite book by her.


Jun 24, 2:27am Top

604 - Far from the Madding Crowd

It may be that for a non-native like me English books are harder to listen to than to read.
I think I understand what I hear but audiobooks don’t often touch me as deep as a book that I read myself.
Far from the madding crowd is an example of this. A famous classic, though for me it felt just like listening to a lot of landscape with sheep descriptions, and a soap opera in which three men circle around one woman. There must and will be more to it, but I missed it.


Jun 25, 3:50am Top

>249 Simone2: I'm not sure it's down to being a native, I don't get Hardy either. I read one at school and it put me off so much I didn't read him again for 30 years! It's all very descriptive, but I felt he preferred landscape to people, it seemed to be treated better than his characters.

Jun 25, 12:44pm Top

>249 Simone2: I am a Hardy fan and Far from the Madding Crowd is probably my favourite Hardy. You might want to watch one of the film adaptations of this book which show the countryside that is such an integral part of Hardy's writing. You may want to give Hardy's other books on the list a pass because FFTMC is by far the most optimistic of his books so if you didn't like this one you may find the others very depressing.

Jun 25, 6:56pm Top

>249 Simone2:, >250 Helenliz:, >251 gypsysmom:

I haven't read that one so can't comment, but it sounds a little like Jude, except Jude kinda lulled me along and then exploded in violent, shocking content. I liked Tess because there was more going on and not quite as much countryside. So I do recommend that one. It's depressing though for sure.

Jun 26, 5:09am Top

the opening of the Mayor of Casterbridge is one of the best in any novel you're likely to read. It's also, like Jude or Tess, a great study of a character. Hardy is one of my favourite authors because, for me, he seems to catch what it is to be human so well. Couldn't wait to finish Return of the Native though!

Jul 3, 9:18am Top

>250 Helenliz: >251 gypsysmom: >252 Nickelini: >253 arukiyomi:

Interesting discussion. I have read and enjoyed Tess. That it’s depressing adds a lot to the atmosphere I think. And I have good things about The Mayor too so I am definitely going to read that one as well. I think I may have read FFTMC too hastil and at the wrong time.

Jul 3, 9:18am Top

605 - Around the World in Eighty Days

I really really liked this one. And I didn’t for a moment expect to since I was so annoyed by Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
But this is a book about a merry control freak (so like myself 😉) who has a tight schedule to travel the world in 80 days. I learned a bit about travelling in the old days and it kind of read like an adventure.


Edited: Jul 5, 4:29am Top

606 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This was an example of the wrong book at the wrong time I think. I wasn’t in the least grabbed or interested in all hardship and drama Oscar and his family had to deal with in life. I felt even annoyed by how all went wrong. All. Fuku they call it in the Dominican Republic where part of the book is set.


Jul 31, 6:28am Top

607 - Chocky by John Wyndham

Matthew, 12 years old, develops the habit of talking to himself. Or is there someone else? asks his father. Yes, says Matthew, I talk to Chocky, a supernatural invader who asks questions and learns Matthew scientific facts beyond his years.

Starting from this fact, John Wyndham has written a clever and fascinating SF story, centered around the intriguing question: If there are intelligent beings from another world, how and when will they get in touch?


Aug 2, 7:48am Top

608 - Aesop’s Fables by Aesop

I have to admit these fables bored the hell out of me. I’m sure it’s a masterpiece which influenced many later books but listening to all those short stories (many of which I knew already because I am old and wise 😂) just was too much.


Aug 13, 11:15am Top

609 - The Poisonwood Bible

Four sisters come to live in the jungle of the Congo with their parents since their father is a fanatic missionary. All girls and their mother deal differently with this new reality that has an impact on the rest of their lives.
What I especially enjoyed about this book was all I learned about Congo’s history. It felt so real that the country grew on me a bit as well. Also the characters of the family are great (Rachel is hilarious!). Just one minus: for me the book could have had a hundred pages less.


Aug 14, 12:54am Top

>259 Simone2: -- I liked that one quite a bit more than 3.5 stars*, but I completely agree that it needed to end sooner. 100 pages sounds about right.

*I just checked, and I rated it 4.5. It was years ago that I read it, but I'm sure it would have been 5 stars if it had been shorter.

Sep 18, 4:39pm Top

610 - Watchmen

I read this graphic novel only because it’s on the list but I didn’t fell for the genre. For me, looking at pictures is way more difficult than to just read, all those images soon dazzle me. And then it is about superheroes... in which I’m not interested at all. However, I was intrigued and it kept me reading on. Never again though!


Nov 1, 10:03am Top

611 - The Princess of Cleves

A classic from the 1001 list. Really short but I didn't manage to finish it. I think it is supposed to be a kind of classic soap novel but I really couldn't keep track of all the character. Sometimes it seemed as if in every other sentence a new character was introduced or mentioned.

Nov 9, 3:16am Top

612 - The Glass Bees

This is a disturbing story of a jobless former soldier who feels lost in an overmechanized world symbolized by artificial bees. He has an unusual job interview at Zapparoni Works.
The narrative blends his depiction of this interview, flashbacks to his childhood and his days as a soldier, and reflection on the themes of technology and morality.


Group: 1001 Books to read before you die

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