OscarWilde87's reading log 2020

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OscarWilde87's reading log 2020

1OscarWilde87
Dec 30, 2019, 8:18am

Hi there and welcome to my thread!
This is going to be my seventh year on CR and I just love being part of this group. So, thanks for having me.

I'm a teacher of English and mathematics at a German high school and I'm in my thirties. I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction, but I generally enjoy both. My reading is all over the board and I'm interested in a wide range of topics. You'll probably find me reading classics as well as popular fiction. I finish every book that I start and I will be reviewing everything I've read here.

Each year I set some reading goals for myself and my challenge for this year will be this:
1. Read a book with more than 1,000 pages. This is something I do every year and there have been so many amazing recommendations for which book that could be that I intend to read (at least) one of the books on that list.
2. Read at least 7,500 pages. In past years this goal read "read 25 books", but as I tend to read lots of bigger tomes I'm going for a change this year.

2OscarWilde87
Edited: Jan 2, 3:39am

This post will serve as my reading summary and provide some stats about my overall reading.

Reducing the TBR pile: This year's challenge (to be updated)


Currently reading:
My Life by Bill Clinton


__________________________
Finished in 2020

#1: Tom Jones by Henry Fielding ()
#2: The Why Are You Here Café by John P. Strelecky ()
#3: Different Seasons by Stephen King ()
#4: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson ()
#5: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen ()
#6: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett ()
#7: The Dark Half by Stephen King ()
#8: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ()
#9: The Godfather by Mario Puzo ()
#10: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe ()
#11: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor ()
#12: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck ()
#13: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin ()
#14: Sweat by Lynn Nottage ()
#15: It by Stephen King ()
#16: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ()
#17: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende ()
#18: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney ()

__________________________
2020
Books read: 18
Pages read: 9,191

2019
Books read: 20
Pages read: 12,414

2018
Books read: 17
Pages read: 9,373

2017
Books read: 18
Pages read: 6,403

2016
Books read: 28
Pages read: 10,426

2015
Books read: 20
Pages read: 8,280

2014
Books read: 27
Pages read: 7,164

2013
Books read: 26
Pages read: 11,618

3brodiew2
Jan 3, 2020, 1:54pm

Happy new year, OsxarWilde87! I hope all is well with you. I look forward to checking in on your progress.

Dropping star.

4NanaCC
Jan 3, 2020, 2:39pm

I’ll be peeking in to see what you are reading.

5OscarWilde87
Jan 3, 2020, 3:48pm

>3 brodiew2: Hi there and a happy new year! Will you be having a thread as well? I couldn't seem to find one just now.

6OscarWilde87
Jan 3, 2020, 3:49pm

>4 NanaCC: Welcome! I'll be lurking around your thread as well! Happy to see you again! :)

7brodiew2
Jan 3, 2020, 3:52pm

<5 My thread is over at the 75 ers. Come stop and if you have the notion.

8OscarWilde87
Jan 3, 2020, 3:56pm

>7 brodiew2: Found it and will be following! :)

9frahealee
Edited: Jan 3, 2020, 7:05pm

Now that's unfair! I just painstakingly posted on your 2019 thread about Steinbeck, mentioning The Ballad of Tom Joad, and I pop over here to see Springsteen staring me down in the first ten seconds! And you will never believe that I knew nothing about it!!! Hells bells. Fluke or fate? To be determined. =)

And I got Omerta and The Dark Arena for Christmas, since they're the only two Puzo's I haven't read yet, so there! My favourite is The Fortunate Pilgrim: A Novel because it describes his mother to a tee, and it's an unapologetically realistic NYC immigrant story. My back-to-back binge of The Godfather, The Sicilian, The Last Don was a family frenzy years ago. (Speaking of which, The Family was an oddity, having been finished by someone else when MP died. Brother/sister way too chummy, if you get my drift. There's enough of that nonsense in Faulkner, ugh.) Long after the films of course. Enjoy! I love Puzo's writing style, journalist that he was, reminded me of a pasta-loving hand-waving Hemingway. ; )

Star intact. All the best in your epic travels, both by book and blacktop! (slang for paved road fyi)

PS - My year began with The Happy Prince and Ben-Hur.

10dchaikin
Jan 3, 2020, 10:25pm

Happy New Year Wilde. I’m curious about Tom Jones and how it will go for you.

11OscarWilde87
Jan 4, 2020, 5:23am

>9 frahealee: Ha! And I just answered in my 2019 thread without having seen your post here. I love on how many channels communication can work here. I actually hadn't thought of the fact that the Springsteen book is on my to-read-list for this year. I seem to be wanting to go at it in summer, but then again, I can't only read in summer. I get most of my reading done in summer, though.

It seems you're way ahead of me with Puzo. I just saw the book in a second-hand book store (Barter Books in England, which is actually very amazing and the source of the "Keep calm and carry on" slogan, if you want to check it out online, go here. They have pictures and a video that gives you quite a good impression. Going there from Canada would be too long, I guess.)

The Happy Prince! Haven't read it so far, but as a big fan of the author (who woulda guessed, right?), it's certainly on my list. Interested in your thoughts. Ben Hur does not seem to be my cup of tea, but my tastes seem to change every couple of years, so who knows?

My travel plans for this year are not completely fixed, but I am planning to go to Florida in summer. Lots of people say that summer is a bad time for Florida, though. As I can deal with heat and humidity quite well, I still tend to want to go. But planning is still in its early stages.

12OscarWilde87
Edited: Jan 4, 2020, 5:25am

>10 dchaikin: Happy New Year to you too, Dan! I am curious about how I'll like Tom Jones, too, actually. I like it so far...
I can't find your 2020 thread. Have you set it up yet?

13ELiz_M
Jan 4, 2020, 7:58am

Happy New Year! Looking forward to hearing about the big books read and the other reviews as well.

14dchaikin
Edited: Jan 4, 2020, 10:21am

>11 OscarWilde87: is it the Bruce Springsteen memoir you’re referring to. That was terrific, if you’re a fan.

>12 OscarWilde87: haven’t set my thread up yet. Maybe today, but I might wait till I finish a book. Finding myself very indecisive...so holding off a bit.

15frahealee
Jan 4, 2020, 10:06am

>11 OscarWilde87: I get the urge to read Ben-Hur each time I watch my Pacino/Any Given Sunday (1999) dvd! Fallout of the literary variety.

I have been to Florida twice; once as a teenager to visit a cousin in Sarasota, once after college with a gal on vaca with her parents at Fort Meyers Beach. I am not the Miami Beach/Spring Break type so my regrets would be missing Key West where Hemingway's house is, and Key Largo from my dvd of the Bogart/Bacall/Barrymore film. Love the awesome effect of nature on Edward G. Robinson's arrogance. Claire Trevor is heartbreaking and set me on my film-noir path. So, Florida has significant ripples in my own life! Hope you love it, off-season rates and all. You are wiser than your years! Always get the most mileage for that poor travel buck.

16brodiew2
Jan 4, 2020, 10:45am

>15 frahealee: I went though a pretty heavy Film Noir stage in my 20s. In fact I picked up Out of the Past from the library this week. I look forward to seeing it again.

17OscarWilde87
Jan 5, 2020, 9:47am

>13 ELiz_M: Happy New Year! I have just discovered your thread and dropped my star there! :)

18OscarWilde87
Jan 5, 2020, 9:50am

>14 dchaikin: Happy to hear that you liked the Springsteen memoir. I am really looking forward to reading it! I'll also be on the lookout for your thread. It's been really interesting to follow in recent years. :)

19OscarWilde87
Jan 5, 2020, 9:52am

>15 frahealee: I don't know yet whether it's wise to go to Florida in summer or not, what with the rain and the risk of hurricanes. I am planning on seeing the Keys and Hemingway's house so I'll probably risk the adventure of Florida the summer. I'll keep you posted.

20AlisonY
Jan 6, 2020, 10:43am

Happy New Year! Dropping off my star for this year. Look forward to your 2020 reading. A visit to Hemingway's house sounds like a great plan!

21rocketjk
Jan 6, 2020, 11:37am

Greetings! Looking forward to seeing how your reading goes this year. For some reason, the links to the .jpgs you've posted up top are broken for me. The Springsteen autobiography is very good (I'm a huge fan of his music and have been since the mid-1970s) though it has some flaws. I don't know if you're a Philip Roth fan at all, but in one of the last interviews of his that I read, when talking about his recent reading, he mentioned how much he'd enjoyed Springsteen's book. Both are/were Jersey boys, of course (as am I).

Cheers!

22AnnieMod
Jan 6, 2020, 1:47pm

>21 rocketjk: the links to the .jpgs you've posted up top are broken for me.

Broken here as well until you accept the Amazon certificate.

23rocketjk
Jan 6, 2020, 2:11pm

>22 AnnieMod: Ah, that explains it. I try as much as possible to avoid connection to that company.

24frahealee
Jan 6, 2020, 8:44pm

>16 brodiew2: I had to research that title since it wasn't familiar to me, and I think I'd remember Mitchum in anything, so on my list it goes. Thanks for the new oldie.

25auntmarge64
Jan 6, 2020, 9:53pm

Got ya starred!

26frahealee
Edited: Jan 7, 2020, 9:10am

>11 OscarWilde87: That Barter Books link was stunning! Happy to go there in my mind's eye. Thank you for revealing its intrigue. Northumberland County in Ontario is just east of Toronto so a road trip may be in order. I wonder if they have any noteworthy used bookshops?... which would be a grand fluke! This visual makes for a lovely 'happy place' the whole year round.

27OscarWilde87
Jan 7, 2020, 1:51pm

>20 AlisonY: Happy New Year to you too! I have just found your thread and starred it, too, so the following will go both was.

28OscarWilde87
Jan 7, 2020, 1:52pm

>21 rocketjk: I do indeed like Roth's writing a lot. I just loved The Human Stain. There are just so many reasons now for reading the Springsteen book. I do have to get to it earlier than summer, maybe!

29OscarWilde87
Jan 7, 2020, 2:04pm

30OscarWilde87
Jan 7, 2020, 2:06pm

>26 frahealee: It's a really fantastic bookshop. I actually hadn't known that they had a website with videos but I was also delighted to see it when I checked ot to show you. A used bookshop in Canada's Northumberland County just as in Britain's Northumberland? That would be too much. :)

31OscarWilde87
Feb 2, 2020, 4:44am



#1: Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
(753 pages)

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling was written by Fielding in 1749 and is regarded as one of the first novels. As a blend of bildungsroman and picaresque novel it follows the life of Tom Jones from conception to a point towards the middle of his life. The book only features a small set of characters that often surface and resurface throughout the book as Jones grows up, leaves home and finally ... well, see for yourself, no spoilers here. The second most important character in the novel is Sophia Western, the love of Jones' life. She is a very well-educated upper-class girl whose beauty Fielding describes in great detail and probably hyperbole. As Jones is a foundling who has come into the well-reputed house of Mr Allworthy, the novel can also be read under aspects of class differences and whether ones birth or ones upbringing determines the class of someone.

I found the novel not as hard to follow as other 18th century books once I got attuned to the language used. My edition also had a glossary and notes, the former of which I did not make any use of. The notes helped in understanding allusions to Fielding's contemporaries and putting events in perspective and context. Also, as my Latin is somewhat rusty, I found the translations from Latin into English quite helpful at times.

The novel is divided into eighteen books, each of which is prefaced by the omniscient narrator. This preface sets the tone and establishes a moral framework to interpret what is to come in a light the narrator sees fit. At times the preface treats the novel itself on a meta level. For example, there is a preface about the use of prefaces that is actually quite entertaining. Both the structure and the comments the narrator makes throughout the story provide 18th-century moral guidance for the reader and at the same time can be regarded in an ironic way that entertains by contradicting auctorial comments and actual motives of the characters. This contradiction can also be seen in the way the narrator treats his story as a 'history', that is a narrative based on facts, and the narrated events that sometimes require a certain degree of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader as events do not always seem as coincidental as they are portrayed.

Tom Jones did not always make me want to continue reading to see what might happen to Jones next, but it also had parts where it actually did make me want to read the next chapter instantly. On the whole, 3.5 stars for a novel that I would probably have to read again (and yet again) to grasp the full depth it can provide.


32ELiz_M
Feb 2, 2020, 8:04am

>31 OscarWilde87: Nice review! I loved those prefaces.

33brodiew2
Feb 7, 2020, 11:50am

Hello OscarWilde87! I hope all is well with you.

I just want to drop and alert you to the fact that I am listening to The Institute by Stephen King. I am on the 5th disc (about a third of the way through) and enjoying it quite a bit.

>31 OscarWilde87: I'm sorry to hear Tom Jones fell short of your expectations. I have not read it or seen any screen adaptation.

I just started Mike Rowe's The Way I Heard It in print. Lots of fun already.

34OscarWilde87
Feb 7, 2020, 11:57am

>32 ELiz_M: Thanks! The prefaces are indeed part of the charm.

35OscarWilde87
Feb 7, 2020, 12:05pm

>33 brodiew2: Hi Brodie! I haven't read The Institute yet but I am really looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I might add it to my wishlist.

I wouldn't call Tom Jones a disappointment as such. It's just that there were many parts I liked but also quite a few things that bugged me. I feel there is more depth to it than what was possible for me to get in my first reading. A second reading will be unlikely, though. That might actually be the real disappointment. Too many books, too little time.

Glad you like The Way I Heard It. I have neither read it nor heard about it so far but I will make sure to read your review.

36frahealee
Edited: Feb 22, 2020, 9:23pm

>31 OscarWilde87: Believe it or not, I thought you'd be harder on it than you were! I've heard from various corners that it's equally sharp/smarmy/sassy, but it's featured in Becoming Jane (2007) in a funny library scene, so on the list it went.

I've been mired in the 19th century lately, so am looking forward to a few 18th options; The Nun by Denis Diderot, Vathek by Beckford, Tristram Shandy by Sterne (satire?), The Vicar of Wakefield by Goldsmith, Fanny Hill by Cleland, Clarissa/Pamela by Samuel Richardson, Moll Flanders/Roxana by Defoe. Marquis de Sade can wait (next year/decade?).

Tom Jones was included in a bildungsroman ebook collection, so now no excuses! Unsure why, but I expect it to resemble Nicholas Nickleby?! Funny coincidence, Under the Volcano is lined up for this summer, and both film adaptations feature Mr. Albert Finney. Of course, I'll wait to see the films until after the novels are complete. Works best for me that way (usually).

37OscarWilde87
Feb 9, 2020, 9:31am

>36 frahealee: Why did you think so? It's not like it's a bad novel, is it?

Interesting options for your 19th century reads you have there. Of those I've only read Tristram Shandy, which I found a little hard to follow at times but generally liked despite my temporary struggles. Defoe is certainly on my to read list.

I haven't read Nicholas Nickleby, so I cant really say whether it's similar to Tom Jones. What I can say is that Tom Jones can certainly be read as a bildungsroman as it follows the protagonist growing up and finding a viable space in society for himself. I also always read the novel first before turning to the film. Otherwise the film might ruin my imagination of the characters and places in the book. I love reading too much for that.

38OscarWilde87
Feb 9, 2020, 9:46am



#2: The Why Are You Here Café by John P. Strelecky
(130 pages)

At a mere 130 pages The Why Are You Here Café is a very short book that is easy to read at one go. Protagonist John is low on gas and on his way to find a gas station when he discovers the Why Are You Here café in the middle of nowhere. On the menu he does not just find food he would like to have but also three central questions that get him thinking: (1) Why are you here?, (2) Do you fear death? and (3) Are you fulfilled? Assisted by the waitress Casey, café owner Mike and a fellow patron Anne, John slowly starts to formulate answers for himself.

While the exploration of those three questions is certainly worthwhile and anecdotes related by the different characters give the reader food for thought, I found the book quite shallow and relatively simple. Sure, it got me thinking, too, which is why I did not read the book at one go, but paused at certain points so as to take time for myself to ponder those questions. Overall, though, the book did not really draw me in or inspire deeper insights than (I think) I would have had pondering those questions without ever having read the book.

Because of the length of the book I would recommend reading the book if you want to get started on pondering key questions for your life. It certainly does not make you lose too much time that could be better used another way. However, I would caution potential readers not to expect too much. 3 stars.


39frahealee
Edited: Feb 9, 2020, 1:57pm

>37 OscarWilde87: Oh it was nothing specific, more a sense of overall malaise from many who struggled through the story. I plan to binge on 18th century options the same way I embraced Mark Twain. Once you get into the language, it's easier to progress. Also, my short story preference gets balanced out with longer novels. 1000+ pages is really tough for me, but bracing myself with 600-900 page books helps with the transition.

You, as a teacher, are taught to read analytically, whereas I read for pure entertainment. I might reflect on moral lessons, or not, but there's no pressure to dissect it specifically to produce an opinion.

40OscarWilde87
Feb 9, 2020, 1:58pm

>39 frahealee: That sounds like a good plan. I also read for entertainment. Sometimes, however, I can't help seeing things from a more analytic point of view. Sometimes it just ruins the reading process when you try and dissect everything. Sometimes it adds to the experience, though. I'm living cognitive dissonance, I guess.

41frahealee
Edited: Feb 22, 2020, 9:20pm

>40 OscarWilde87: I'm confident that an early love of reading is what helped form your desire to become a teacher, and why you love doing both so much. =)

Having completed a few by Nathaniel Hawthorne recently, The Pilgrim's Progress was mentioned a few times in NYU lectures on American Gothic, so that allegory plus Ovid are on my 17th century radar (1001bymrbyd). Those will be a mind-over-matter mood thing. Not much of an open window for contemporary fiction, I'm afraid.

Your most recent read sounds like creative non-fiction, doing for cosmic knowledge what The Wealthy Barber did for finances. Not intended to be disrespectful to either author.

42OscarWilde87
Feb 14, 2020, 12:15pm

>41 frahealee: Oh, I quite liked The Pilgrim's Progress, actually. This is another example of where I had to get used to the language a little, but where I enjoyed the book as soon as I read longer stretches at a time.

Right now I'm off to pop fiction with Stephen King's collection of novellas, Different Seasons. I am a little more than halfway through the first novella (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption) and I like it a lot. I haven't seen the Shawshank movie, though. Books before movies. I might not even go and see the movie, actually.

43lisapeet
Feb 14, 2020, 12:56pm

>42 OscarWilde87: Three of those four were really excellent stories. I think the one called "Breathing Lesson" wasn't as strong as the others.

44OscarWilde87
Feb 15, 2020, 3:42am

>43 lisapeet: I just finished Shawshank and it was fantastic. With four stories in this one volume I'm thinking about writing up four reviews instead of just one to do each story justice. Especially since you say that one of them isn't as good this might make sense, I guess. "The Breathing Method" is the last story in the book and also the shortest one. Seeing King's usual page count that might be an indicator that he can't do short as well as he does longer stories?

45lisapeet
Feb 15, 2020, 7:17am

>44 OscarWilde87: "Breathing Method," that's the one. And interesting thought about King and short form. I remember reading a book of his short stories, I think Skeleton Crew, in the mid-'80s—I was a big King fan in my teens and early 20s—and not being as impressed by them, though I was a less critical/careful reader back then. So I'm not sure where I stand on that thought, but suspect you're right. King is good at weaving together a lot of tiny details to make the fabric of his books/stories tight and believable, and maybe the short form doesn't give him the space to do that the way he writes? I'd have to go back and reread, though, and I'm not sure how motivated I am to do that.

46OscarWilde87
Feb 15, 2020, 10:29am

>45 lisapeet: I just remembered that I was actually impressed by Full Dark, No Stars, another volume of short stories by Stephen King. So it might not just be because it's harder for King to write short(er) fiction. I will see about "The Breathing Method" soon enough, I guess.

47rhian_of_oz
Feb 16, 2020, 2:41am

>42 OscarWilde87: How on earth have you managed to not watch The Shawshank Redemption?

Despite having read a fair chunk of Mr King's work in the past I've not read Different Seasons because I've really only started reading shorter-form fiction more recently. I'm not sure whether I should read it now or not because the movie is so strong in my mind (I've seen it multiple times).

48OscarWilde87
Feb 16, 2020, 3:19am

>47 rhian_of_oz: I take it you would recommend watching The Shawshank Redemption then? Whoopsie. In times of streaming services I might get my hands on it somewhere, although it might ruin my reading impressions. For me, movies always tend to be worse than the novels they are based on.

49rhian_of_oz
Feb 17, 2020, 6:57am

>48 OscarWilde87: I'm a big fan but I haven't read the original story so I've never had any expectations about the movie in relation to the book. Reading a couple of opinions online suggests the film captures the essence of the story well, includes all the scenes in the story, though combines some characters into one representative character.

I absolutely understand your reticence in watching a movie adaptation of a book you've enjoyed.

50dchaikin
Feb 17, 2020, 4:11pm

>47 rhian_of_oz: How on earth have you managed to not watch The Shawshank Redemption?

See, I was thinking the same thing. It's one of favorite movies of all time. I started Different Seasons once, but King and I don't seem to speak to each other well. He just talks and talks and thinking, "just get to the point, man. This is the stuff you're supposed write and then edit out." Sorry, point is, I adore the movie, haven't read the story.

>31 OscarWilde87: delayed congrats on finishing Tom Jones. Thanks for the sense of reading it you provide in the review. Some day, Fielding...

>38 OscarWilde87: The idea of the The Why Are You Here Café in the middle of nowhwere is cute. Too bad it didn't go too far.

51brodiew2
Edited: Feb 21, 2020, 6:16pm

>42 OscarWilde87: I remember listening to an audio of 'Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption'. It was after I had seen the film a couple of times. The narrator was a guy named Frank Muller and it was fantastic. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I'm with >47 rhian_of_oz: >50 dchaikin:. How have you not seen the movie? The adaptation is good and the movie, on the whole, is great. Highly recommended.

52OscarWilde87
Feb 22, 2020, 4:34am

>47 rhian_of_oz: >50 dchaikin: >51 brodiew2: With all those recommendations I made up my mind to see the movie. There seems to be no way around it. :)

53frahealee
Edited: Feb 22, 2020, 9:45pm

>52 OscarWilde87: Quite an arm-wrestling match going on here, so I'll join in the round-robin … get it? Robbins?! Bad jokes aside, I saw 2 in the 90s as they hit theatres not knowing of King; The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999), Shawshank due to Tim Robbins from Bull Durham (1988) fame. Once was enough. Freeman in The Bucket List (2007) alongside Nicholson was fun, which reminds me, I've not seen/read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) nor The Shining (1980). Sometimes, I get my hackles up and refuse to buy into pop culture practices if distortion occurs. Even Carrie (1976) when I finally saw it, had no King link for me. Now I know better. I think we discussed this last year too.

I've made peace with filtering books &/or films through fate. They'll surface when my 'window' opens. One always suggests the next (I don't mean series), or names a new poet/historical figure worth a deep dive, providing that next link. If writing style is foremost ie. Faulkner or Hemingway or Steinbeck, a chrono-crawl from early works to their opus may be in order, as mere amusement. I've never been in a book club (dislike being told what to read) thus am no teacher nor university grad.

The problem with King for me is; he doesn't need my cash, his books are so dense my editing reflex may taint it, last year I bailed after a segment said it's tough to read King without reading ALL of King. Pure panic. So, nil for 8; Misery, Dolores Claiborne, Dead Zone (to read before films), The Green Mile (read after), The Shining, The Stand, Eyes of the Dragon, Cycle of the Werewolf, all apt beginners.

What's your usual selection process, contemporary or classics; newly released, see 1st read after, read 1st see after, friend/student/co-workers or book club choice, gifts, continuation with a favourite author? Likely all of the above.

54brodiew2
Feb 23, 2020, 1:01am

>52 OscarWilde87: Good choice, OscarW!

>53 frahealee: Hello Frahealee! Lovely post. I enjoyed reading it very much. Not that you asked me, but I will suggest that not ALL King must be read to enjoy SOME King. I am living proof of that. The books you mentioned in paragraph 3 are just my style I have not read a couple of them. I prefer his thrillers as apposed to his horror novels. Dead Zone is an excellent book and film; much like Shawshank. I rather enjoyed The Stand which walks the line between post apocalyptic thriller and horror. I also enjoyed his more recent Mr. Mercedes and plan to follow up on the second and third volumes of the trilogy.

I hope you will give him a chance.

As for my selection process, it is very loose. I have books I'm interested in, but always leave rooms for tangents, recommendations, and the wild fire warbling of LT users.

55frahealee
Edited: Feb 24, 2020, 9:21am

>54 brodiew2: Haha thx, 'tis the season for warbling! I'm getting my yayas out now, since minimizing screentime during the 6wks leading up to Easter has become an annual habit. Incidentally, good ole Jack Nicholson is responsible for me reading The Divine Comedy last year!

I have a love/hate view of most books based on true crimes, like Mr. Mercedes. Pondering in progress...

56OscarWilde87
Feb 24, 2020, 2:53pm

>53 frahealee: I saw The Green Mile ages ago and I liked it a lot. This is a case where I saw the movie before having read the book. That is why the book is quite low on my to-read list. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is simply superb, both the novel and the Jack Nicholson movie. Nicholson's performance in Kubrick's The Shining is also outstanding. I love those movies! So I guess there's a recommendation for you now.

King is not for everyone, granted. But just as >54 brodiew2: I would say that some King is just fine. There are different options, actually, for different interests. As for me, I was thrilled by The Stand, which actually did not leave me for quite a while. The same goes for The Dark Tower series. They are both rather long to be starting with King. Different Seasons, which is a collection of four novellas I'm reading at the minute, might be a better start in terms of page count, but in terms of writing style The Stand and The Dark Tower are probably better. Especially with the latter, I found that one can see King grow as a writer from one book to the next. This is just my humble opinion, though.

As for my selection process, well, it's not really something I overthink (just like >54 brodiew2:, I guess). What I do is make a list of books I'd like to read, both fiction and non-fiction, both pop fiction and what is deemed Literature with a capital L. Sometimes I have a plan of what to read next and then there's another booking getting in the way of that plan. Mostly it's based on whatever I feel like once I'm done with a book. The only plan I follow is my Steinbeck in summer plan, but we've talekd about that, I think. I've also never been in a book club, partly because I read in English and live in Germany and partly because I think being forced to read a certain book at a certain time might take away from the enjoyment.

57OscarWilde87
Mar 28, 2020, 8:13am



#3: Different Seasons by Stephen King
(679 pages)

Different Seasons is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King that the author himself thought hard to publish because of their length as they are somewhere in the range between a short story and a novel. Each story is assigned to a different season, which I thought was quite a nice idea to structure the collection. I will review each of the four novellas separately to do them more justice.

"Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption"
The first novella in Different Seasons is “Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption“. Narrated by protagonist Andy Dufresne's fellow prison inmate Red, the story gives an account of Andy Dufresne's life in prison. Dufresne, a banker, was convicted for the double murder of his wife and her lover, which he claimed to be innocent of. As readers we follow his rough start of rape and abuse in prison to his final ascent to power in the hierarchy of the penitentiary.

"Apt Pupil"
"Apt Pupil", the second novella in the book, is centered around protagonist Todd Bowden, initially a good student and generally a curious boy. The story starts with Todd confronting German immigrant Arthur Denker at the latter's doorstep with his Nazi past. Arthur Denker is actually Kurt Dussander, a former SS officer and Nazi war criminal. While everything starts with Todd blackmailing Dussander into telling him stories about Dussander's role as a commander in a concentration camp the relationship slowly starts to shift to Dussander being the one pressuring Todd Bowden. I found the exploration of the abyss of the human mind at the example of the two characters in this story particularly frightening and seeming all too real and plausible. The novella gave me shudders at various points and made me come away highly thoughtful and profoundly disturbed after each reading session.

"The Body"
This story is a rare case where I have seen the movie first and read the story afterwards. The movie is actually the reason I wanted to read the story and bought this collection. I have to say that I liked the book as much as I liked the movie as it expresses a certain youthful carelessness and freedom which I sometimes miss being an adult. So what is the story about? Summed up briefly, four friends hear about a dead body in the woods near the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. They decide to go and see it and in addition to relating their adventure the story explores the boys' different personal backgrounds. The whole story is told in retrospect by one of the boys who was twelve at the time and is now a grown-up and the only one of the four who is still alive.

"The Breathing Method"
The fourth novella in the collection is probably the most classical King horror. On the surface it is about an unmarried woman, Sandra, who is pregnant. As the story is set in the 1930s this a big issue as society is still very critical about 'illegitimate' children. Her doctor, however, is quite forward-thinking and treats her like any other patient, maybe even better as he admires her courage and her way of dealing with her situation. He suggests a breathing method, which was also unusual in the thirties, to help her through childbirth. When on a wintry December night Sandra is in the final stages of her labor she takes a cab to the hospital. Right in front of the hospital the cab crashes into an ambulance and Sandra is decapitated in the accident. However, her body mysteriously still continues to breathe until her doctor can deliver the child. Oh, and her head is still able to thank the doctor, in case you were wondering. On another level, the story might be about a mysterious men's club where this story within the story is narrated on a night before Christmas. I have not quite figured out what to make of this, though.

I enjoyed this collection of novellas a lot. As I am generally drawn by King's stories my rating of four stars might be a bit biased, but then again stories in this book have been turned into quite successful movies. I found Stephen King's assessment of his own writing quite witty and maybe an explanation for my (and so many other people's) literary cravings:
"Most of [my novels] have been plain fiction for plain folks, the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and a large fries from McDonald's."



58OscarWilde87
Edited: Apr 8, 2020, 8:23am



#4: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
(513 pages)

The President is Missing is advertised as a novel "with details only a President could know and the kind of suspense only James Patterson can deliver". The United States faces a threat that only the President and his Secretary of State know about. When a foreign actor comes to the White House and mentions the code word 'Dark Ages' which only eight people in the United States know about, the President is certain of the seriousness of the threat and knows that there has to be a mole in the highest ranks of his administration. Every US device connected to the internet is infected with a virus that will erase all the data on the device. This goes for normal citizens' smart phones as well as the servers in the Pentagon. As the President is not sure whom to trust he tries to avert the crisis by going undercover and meeting with the terrorists. While the nation thinks he is missing, he does his best to save the country.

Although the setting of the novel might not be something you have never read about before, I liked how the plot unfolded and how each piece of the puzzle was connected. In that sense, the book was a page-turner. What bugged me somewhat, however, was the writing style, which seemed somewhat stilted at times. The sentences were sometimes quite simple and only loosely connected. This disturbed the reading process for me. Other than that, an enjoyable yet light read. 3.5 stars.

59OscarWilde87
Apr 14, 2020, 6:25am



#5: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
(508 pages)

Bruce Springsteen's memoir Born to Run is one of the best non-fiction books I have read so far. Springsteen is very open in telling the readers not only about his successes but also about his (perceived?) failures. There is the complicated relationship to his father, there is his struggle with depression and there is him leading the band and keeping them on a short leash. Although Bruce Springsteen is an international superstar, you can still feel in the writing how he had to work hard for his success and still does. As Jon Stewart said in his tribute to Springsteen at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2009, Springsteen empties the tank everytime, for his family, for his music, for his audience and for his country. The same goes for this book.

Just like the lyrics to his songs, Springsteen's writing is always on-point and manages to capture emotions and feelings. The American songbook is richer for the work of Bruce Springsteen. I feel I am richer for reading this book. To my mind, Born to Run is a must read for Springsteen fans and probably everyone else, too. 5 stars.


60OscarWilde87
Apr 29, 2020, 11:52am



#6: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett
(913 pages)

A Column of Fire is the third novel in Ken Follet's Kingsbridge series. It is mainly set in England and covers a time span from 1558 to 1620. The novel follows a set of characters against the backdrop of fictionalized historical events such as Sir Francis Drake beating the Spanish Armada, Mary Stuart's claim to the English crown during Queen Elizabeth's reign, King James I succession to the throne and the Gunpowder Plot. At the heart of the novel is the debate about the right religion - Catholic or Protestant. This debate is embodied right from the start by the romance between protagonist Ned Willard, a Protestant, and Margery Fitzgerald, a devout Catholic. They fall in love as teenagers but are not permitted to marry as Margery is already promised to the son of an earl whom she reluctantly marries soon after. The novel then continues to explore the intrigue at the royal courts in London and Paris. Throughout the novel Ned and Margery meet under different circumstances and sometimes pretenses as Margery is enmeshed in various attempts of her brother to restore England to Catholicism while Ned works for the secret service established by Queen Elizabeth.

At a length of more than 900 pages this novel is surely detailed in that in manages to cover many historical facts and the personal consequences for the characters in the novel. I liked the historical backdrop that was fictionalized to a certain extent to make the story work. All in all, I enjoyed the novel a lot and can recommend it not only to readers of the previous novels in the Kingsbridge series but also to readers who are generally interested in (fictionalized) history. To my mind, it is not necessary at all to have read the prequels so you might just as well start with this novel. 4.5 stars.


61frahealee
May 6, 2020, 10:11am

Glad to see Springsteen delivered the goods.

Follett is tempting. As with King though, time factors in.

Currently trying to unclutter a few of my own sadly disordered lists that all seem jumbled together. One intention was to finish partially started short story collections, so down for the count went Seven Gothic Tales. For the win! (picture arm-wrestling not pro) Lots of musing there, since I was entirely unfamiliar with the author and with Denmark other than through Hamlet. Her name-dropping habit was almost annoying and had I read this 30yrs ago most of her references would've eluded me. Her command of English as her second language was astounding since she wrote this in English first then translated her own work back into Danish. This I find charming and captivating as it was impeccable writing style, grammar, etc. Her meteoric rise was due to a book club, which induces guilt on my part, that it likely would have passed me by initially. Babette's Feast now awaits, then Out of Africa. Story of my life; one step forward, two steps back.

Can I just voice a pet peeve here? I find all pen names exasperating!

Good thing you got your travels in last year, slightly prescient?!

62OscarWilde87
May 10, 2020, 12:37pm

>61 frahealee: Follett and King both take time, you are certainly right about that. I mean, I tend to read them faster than say, Chaucer, but then their books are also somewhat longer. Although saying this just got me wondering how the Canterbury Tales actually were... Nevermind.

Springsteen was indeed fantastic and I listen to some of his songs from a slightly different perspective now. I'm not saying that's a particularly good or bad thing, it is rather just personal observation. I like that.

I had to look at the author for Seven Gothic Tales because my first thought it might be a collection of Poe's stories. I can relate that you find the name-dropping habit frustrating if you feel like you miss out on important information. I find it interesting, though, that someone would choose to write short stories in their second language only to translate them back to their native language and be successful with it. I have had that thought once, but I lack both the skills and the time to write a good story, I'm afraid.

Yeah, traveling... Who would have thought, right? I do have two flights booked already, but I could not have known in January when I booked them. I guess they will either be canceled by the airline (or due to government regulations) or I will have to give traveling some serious planning in a totally different direction as usual (feasibility rather than 'what do I want to see'). Right now I do take everything one step at a time. Planning is pretty much futile these days. How are you doing? Are you and yours all well?

63frahealee
Edited: May 11, 2020, 7:27pm

>62 OscarWilde87: So far, so good. We operate on minimal internet usage, not unlimited, so we take turns according to need. Military paramedic eldest son helping out with elderly and hospital protocol. Other 3 are here with me. My daughter returns possibly May 31st to Grade 12. One twin works full time at a laboratory so had uninterrupted employment while his brother's been doing online projects/exams for final year of 3 post-secondary study. Can I just say, it snowed again today? Sure helps keep folks indoors! All the reading time I could ever hope for, between rosaries. Hoping that minimized distractions help centre the truly crucial human experience, distilling the finest from the frivolous. Put down the petty, to unite with ordered intelligent humility, so to speak. My kids tell me that even corporate greed slows science which makes me shake my head. Who are they planning to sell to after global populations are depleted? Like Italy cares about buying Fiats when they've lost 25,000+. Absurd.

Take care with any travel plans. If I had one good trip left in me, it would be to the Yukon for their Northern Lights. Film and photos will never catch it adequately. I watched Macbeth yesterday for the first time ever, on Mother's Day no less, but that's the mood that arose. "Hell is murky"...

64OscarWilde87
May 26, 2020, 2:46pm

>63 frahealee: Glad to hear you are all well. Reading that it just snowed was somewhat strange as it is quite warm around here with lots of sun. There is not going to be any snow until November or even December, I guess. I think this winter was quite rare in that it was rather warm and we only got two or three days of snow altogehter. I do have to say that I miss snow on Christmas, which we used to have regularly ten or fifteen years ago, if memory serves.

I like the idea of centering the human experience. I think society has come a little closer because of the virus, but I'm afraid all progress will be lost once that situation is over. While I do want this situation to be over, I am going to miss the way people have been behaving towards one another for quite a bit now.

Your travel plan sounds great. I am sure you still have that trip in you.

65OscarWilde87
May 26, 2020, 3:01pm



#7: The Dark Half by Stephen King
(469 pages)

Having read quite a few Stephen King books I was surprised that this was the one that shocked me most right at the start. As a kid Thad Beaumont starts hearing sparrows in his head and suddenly suffers from a seizure. When he is taken to the hospital a neurosurgeon removes what seemed to be a tumor in Thad's brain. What it was, though, really gave me the creeps. As a fetus Thad must have consumed his twin while still in the womb and what the surgeon removed from Thad's head was exactly this: a mass of an underdeveloped fetus that was starting to grow inside Thad's head. Rarely have I read something that terrifying and disgusting at the same time. After the removal of the 'tumor' Thad seems to be able to live a normal life and starts a career as a writer. While the novel he published under his own name is not very successful he has written successful novels under his pen name George Stark. It is exactly this conflict between himself and his alter ego George Stark who are fighting for his writing skills as George Stark becomes alive soon after he was symbolically buried by Thad in a PR stunt.

I was intrigued by the idea of this novel but I found it was not the page-turner I am used to with Stephen King. The novel most certainly has its moments and overall I enjoyed reading it, but I found myself unable to connect to the mysterious George Stark character coming alive and wreaking havoc. I was constantly wondering whether in the end it was just one and the same person and Thad Beaumont did all the killing for Stark. As this could clearly not be the case I was a little bit bugged by this supernatural element that is the living and breathing yet decaying George Stark. All in all, 3.5 stars.


66OscarWilde87
Jun 5, 2020, 3:27pm



#8: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
(370 pages)

Delia Owens' debut novel Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of Catherine Danielle Clark, who is called Kya by her family and her few friends and the Marsh Girl by other townspeople. At the beginning of the novel Kya is six years old and lives in a shack in the North Carolina swamps with her parents and her brother Jodie. The family, however, is haunted by her father's violent streaks when he is drunk, which happens quite often. Early on in the novel, Kya's mother leaves for good and her older brother Jodie leaves soon after. At her young age Kya has to cope with the loneliness of being out in the remote woods with her father who is absent more often than he is home. When her father also eventually leaves Kya is all on her own and has to develop survival strategies. Only having been in school for one single day in her life, Kya relies on her instincts and on being in touch with the nature around her. There are two plot lines that converge towards the last third of the novel: on the one hand there is Kya's story and on the other hand the reader is introduced to the murder of Chase Andrews, the son of wealthy parents who is found dead in the swamp. Where the Crawdads Sing, therefore, has elements of a crime novel, but is largely centered around the coming of age of protagonist Kya trying to find her viable space in society against all odds.

The novel is a moving account of a girl growing up in a society that does not accept her for who she is although she never had a choice to grow up in a different way. As readers we follow her struggles to make a living and simply survive out alone in the marsh, we see her making her first experiences with the other sex and finally seeing the first successes in a life that seemed to be doomed from the beginning. The character development in the story is marvelous and I found myself rooting for Kya right from the get go. The novel made me laugh and moved me to tears, it made me want to cry out loud for the injustice Kya is a victim to and it made me cheer for her successes in life. Where the Crawdads Sing is easily one of the best novels I have read this year and certainly among the best novels I have ever read. 5 stars for this downright beautiful work of fiction.


67frahealee
Jun 16, 2020, 8:43am

>65 OscarWilde87: It sounds awful but that grisly summary made me laugh. What came to mind was a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the marvelous Andrea Martin, talks about a similar 'incident'. =)

Crawdads was a Reese Witherspoon book club option and sounds like a good visit to the Deep South. She did name her youngest son Tennessee, after all. I'd trust her judgement and yours!

68OscarWilde87
Jul 1, 2020, 1:24pm



#9: The Godfather by Mario Puzo
(448 pages)

The United States after World War II. Vito Corleone is the head of one of the five major Italian mafia families that control New York City. When one family tries to enter the drug business and asks Don Vito Corleone for help, the Don kindly but strictly refuses on the grounds that this is not his type of business. This refusal is seen as an affront by the Tattaglia family and they attempt to kill Corleone which leads to a war of the five families. Don Corleone, however, survives and when he recovers he calls for a meeting with the other families to make peace. Not only do the other families abuse that peace to consolidate and enlarge their territories, they also kill Corleone's first-born son and likely successor to the family business. Michael, his second son, is soon about to take over from the aging Don and he plots revenge for his brother's death.

The first instalment in the series, The Godfather relates a captivating tale of the Mafia business in the mid-nineteenth century United States and also sheds a light on the Don's upbringing in New York after he had to flee the town of Corleone in Sicily, Italy. As a reader you get an insight into how decisions are made by the mafia boss who sees himself as an equal to presidents and other heads of state and hence tries to build his own empire with his own rules. What I especially liked about the novel is the way all actions are carefully explained by describing a moral framework that guides the decisions of members of the Italian mafia. The novel, a bestseller itself, has been turned into an Academy-Award-winning movie starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. 4 stars for a good read.


69frahealee
Edited: Jul 4, 2020, 11:55am

>9 frahealee:
>68 OscarWilde87:
That's a tactful but candid and clarifying summary. Reading the novels after seeing the 3 films was anticlimactic yet illuminating. His storytelling and writing style appeal to me enough to pursue as many as possible, so 3 more are lined up for summer; The Fourth K (479p. about a Kennedy nephew, thriller?) and Six Graves to Munich (216p. under Mario Cleri pen name which was actually his birth name) and Fools Die. I finished one early which I had planned for November, The Dark Arena, about post WW2 in Germany and it was sensitive yet enlightening, the same way All Quiet on the Western Front was. Tragic but unifying.

Puzo has a distinct USA viewpoint, also as a veteran, but from the perspective of an outsider, the proverbial immigrant trying to maintain some of the old with some of the new. Often unwelcome or intrusive, sometimes intentionally, sometimes awkwardly unaware. This friction and tension is what propels Puzo's fiction. I'm looking forward to the Kennedy story. Everyone is said to remember where they were when JFK was murdered, which I missed by one year, but in Canada, it's the 1972 series against Russia. Electrifying! I remember everything about that day! The moon landing was also a big day, but I was 4 and too young to understand the significance. Do you have anything like that, a galvinizing memory, pleasant or otherwise?

I'm taking a break today from Shakespeare, after watching 3h+ Antony and Cleopatra last night, for some D.H.Lawrence poetry and a Jamie Oliver cookbook Ultimate Veg. Comfort food on a hot day with a vodka cooler or lime 'n lager maybe within reach. Not anticipating any productivity whatsoever. =D Bon weekend!

PS - I have Germany on the brain this week, with the death of Benedict xvi's elder brother Georg Ratzinger at age 96 in Regensburg. Both ordained together in 1951. His contribution to the world of music is admirable. Wow.

70OscarWilde87
Edited: Jul 4, 2020, 3:52am

>69 frahealee: The Fourth K sounds intriguing. I was thinking about reading the two sequels to The Godfather and now there's a third Puzo on my to-read list. Please tell me how you liked it when you finish!
I have already seen all the Godfather movies (more than once actually) so plotwise there was no real surprise for me. I just love those movies, especially the Tarantella scene at the beginning of the first movie. I don't actually know why that scene always comes to my mind first when I think about the Godfather movies, but maybe it's the mood that is set there and the contrast between everything being light and merry on the outside (the wedding) and dark on the inside (the Godfather in his office listening to appeals from "friends" of the Family). Sorry for rambling... I just love it!

My "I'll always remember where I've been and what I've done that day" is certainly 9/11. I remember being at a friends house playing a soccer game on the computer almost all day and then taking a break to get something to eat. By chance, we saw the news specials on TV and I went home almost directly. I don't really know why I didn't stay because both of us remained glued to the TV the rest of the day. It all just felt so surreal. I remember that it took me a a while to actually be able to believe that this was happening and that it was not some sort of weird movie (it was in the afternoon here in Germany and it being a movie in the middle of the day was therefore highly unlikely!). When I went to school the next day, everything was about 9/11. Seeing how it impacted Germany and the people here I can't even begin to imagine how it must have affected the United States.

Hope you enjoyed the hot day and the food and drinks! You have a great weekend, too!

Edited to add: I just ordered The Sicilian, Omertà and The Fourth K from a used books dealer. My tbr pile is growing. For each book I finish there are two more I order, it seems.

71OscarWilde87
Jul 4, 2020, 4:44am



#10: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
(197 pages)

Set in the last moments of pre-colonial Nigeria, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart relates the story of Okonkwo, one of the greatest warriors of his clan. The novel starts by providing background on Okonkwo's father and Okonkwo's upbringing, both of which inform his decisions as a grown-up. While his father was said to be rather lazy and not going the extra mile to get a good harvest, Okonkwo is described as industrious and diligent. Okonkwo is also determined not to show weakness of any kind and his every decision is rooted in this feeling of having to show that he is the strongest and most fearsome warrior in his clan. Okonkwo's rise to power in the clan is, however, stopped by an act of violence and his subsequent banishment of seven years. When Okonkwo returns, colonialization is slowly starting and Christian missionaries are changing the lives of the people in his clan. How will Okonkwo deal with the intruders that completely disrupt life in the village?

Throughout the book the reader is confronted by characters speaking in proverbs that arise from oral traditions of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria. Right at the beginning of the novel it is stated that "Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten." For me this was a rather new and unfamiliar experience as I was constantly thinking that the proverbs carry a deeper meaning that I will never be able to grasp fully. Add to that the fact that they are used frequently and you get the first aspect that made me think about getting an annotated version or looking up explanations of the proverbs online. The second aspect is that I know next to nothing about pre-colonial Nigeria. This is, however, also the reason why I picked up this book. Eventually, I think this novel is a good starting point to start learning more about (pre-colonial) Nigeria.

As regards the plot, I found that there were many descriptions and many conversations which did contribute to the overall setting and understanding of Okonkwo's motivations but seemed to be negligible. For a long time I was missing a climax or some sort of turning point. To my mind, many important events could have been explored in more detail while others could have been passed over more quickly. The arrival of the European colonizers only comes quite late in the novel, but that is exactly the point where I would have wished for more as the conflict was obvious. It was also obvious that there would be no easy resolution to that conflict and Okonkwo's character trait of showing no weakness whatsoever provides a lot of potential that was not utilized. The following passages are very revealing as concerns the mindsets of colonized and colonizers:
The colonized: 'Tell the white man that we will not do him any harm,' he said to the interpreter. [...] 'You can stay with us if you like our ways. You can worship your own god. It is good that a man should worship the gods and the spirits of his fathers. [...]'
The colonizer: 'Tell them to go away from here. This is the house of God and I will not live to see it desecrated.'
That being said, I have to say that overall I liked the novel and only thought that it could have been longer. Immediately after I finished reading I felt like it was all exposition and only little else. Yet, the book managed to stay with me and I find myself constantly returning to "what would have happened if"-thoughts. 3.5 stars.


72frahealee
Edited: Jul 6, 2020, 11:01am

>70 OscarWilde87: Now that's what I call a deep dive! I truly hope that they prove enjoyable. In your honour, it's only fair for me to polish off two Steinbeck novels this summer, starting with The Wayward Bus. Faulkner can be agonizing so I deserve a break. =)

You'll forgive me for not thinking of 2001. I had 4 kids under age 4 and was rather bleary then.

73AnnieMod
Jul 6, 2020, 10:32pm

>68 OscarWilde87: >70 OscarWilde87: >72 frahealee:

There is an Italian TV series called "La piovra" (The Octopus) which back in the 1980s and 1990s used a lot of Bulgarian actors, including what was one of our best in a central role in one of the seasons. It was pretty popular back home and as a result Mario Puzo's mafia books were fully translated into Bulgarian. I read the books a long time before I saw the movies... I need to reread some of them one of those days. Have fun with them!

74OscarWilde87
Jul 7, 2020, 3:34am

>72 frahealee: My Steinbeck for this summer will be The Grapes of Wrath and I'm really looking forward to it. As I need a summery feeling with hot temperatures I'm still waiting a week or two, though. It's rather cold for summer right now. Please share your thoughts about The Wayward Bus. It could easily be my next Steinbeck.

I don't know when I'll get to all the Puzos, but it might just be after Steinbeck since your post really made me want to get into them. I don't like to plan my reading order too much, though, and there is also It sitting unread on my shelf. This is my 1000+ pages challenge this year. As for non-fiction I have started Clinton's autobiography My life a couple of days ago. A lot happening reading-wise

75OscarWilde87
Jul 7, 2020, 3:38am

>73 AnnieMod: Now I knew that Puzo had been translated into many languages, but I hand't known that. Also, I had not known that you were Bulgarian and I checked out your profile. I see we have a lot of books in common, mostly Grisham and Baldacci, but then you read way more than I do. How come you went to live in Arizona, if I may ask? I have been to Arizona once but only done all the touristy stuff. I loved Antelope Canyon near Page. I think it's much less known than Grand Canyon (which is fantastic as well, obviously) and I was utterly stunned by its beauty.

76AnnieMod
Jul 7, 2020, 4:03am

>75 OscarWilde87:

The most prosaic way possible - I worked for an American company back home and they asked me to move to headquarters and it just happened to be Phoenix.:) I don’t think I had been to Antelope Canyon yet but my to go place is Sedona - those red rocks always take my breath. That and driving up north and seeing how cacti country changes to tree country in front of you. :)

I think we will have a lot more books in common when I add my paper library (which I am technically working on but I keep starting to read the books I am trying to catalog) and some more of the “read before I moved” ones (if I ever get to them). What is now in my list are most of the older kindle books, the books I had read since 2010 (not all of them even) and some other odds and ends. :)

77OscarWilde87
Jul 8, 2020, 3:46am

>76 AnnieMod: Thanks for sharing the story! I just googled Sedona and it looks really nice indeed. It's going on my places to go list. Once it will be allowed to go places again, obviously.

So this library is not even all the books you've read? Wow! That's a lot of books then. I guess I'm too much of a slow reader and I will probably never read as many books in my life as the ones you have already read. ;)

78OscarWilde87
Jul 8, 2020, 4:38am



#11: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
(326 pages)

The girl's name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She had been looked for, everywhere.

Jon McGregor's Reservoir 13 is about 13-year old girl Rebecca Shaw who goes missing while on holiday in a small British town. A search starts immediately, but will she ever be found? At least that is what the book is about on the surface. However, the novel goes below that surface quite quickly and only uses the missing girl plot thread to relate the stories of the town's inhabitants. In thirteen chapters, each of which encompasses a whole year in the town, McGregor relates how life goes on in town after Rebecca Shaw goes missing, how relationships between characters start and end, how babies are born, how babies and teenagers grow up, how the annual cricket match against the neighboring town is generally lost and much more. It is the subleties of village life and intrapersonal interactions that Reservoir 13 deals in. And then there is nature. Foxes mate and have kits, birds build there nests and their eggs are stolen by badgers, a heron chases its prey.

I found it very hard to get into the novel at first as there is this big set of characters who are not introduced at all but who just enter the story mid-paragraph only to leave it again and return in the next chapter. The novel is structured in thirteen chapters, each of which is subdivided in twelve paragraphs, representing the months in each of the thirteen years the novel encompasses. And that is about it for structure. The paragraphs relate encounters of characters in the town or simply state what happened in passive voice, claiming that 'X was seen doing Y' or 'X was said to have done Y'. There is no authoritative voice, no narrator to consolidate the many chunks of information for the reader. There is no real dialogue in terms of direct speech. When there is dialogue, it is only reported. Once my mind was used to all this and I knew that I had to do all the work to connect the different characters to one another and remember what happened to them in their lives, it was easier to go on reading the novel. At one point I even wanted to start a character list and take notes but I discarded that idea because the novel is only little more 300 pages long. In the end, I actually think this might have been a good idea to keep track of everything and have a more thorough reading experience.

Despite my trouble to get into the novel, I liked the reading process. It was refreshingly different. I like the idea of starting with the case of a missing girl only to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the soul of the town in the years after the girl went missing. As for the execution, I would have wished for more structure, but then again the novel might not have worked in the way it does. I always felt like I was in that town, going to different places all the time without being seen and catching pieces of dialogue or seeing things happen.

Overall, I think this novel might not be for everyone and if you read it, I would recommend not to interrupt the reading that often, but rather to read large stretches of a book at a time as this makes it easier to remember all - let us be honest here, most - of the things that happen in town. 3.5 stars for a refreshingly different read.


79AnnieMod
Jul 8, 2020, 10:30am

>77 OscarWilde87: "So this library is not even all the books you've read?"

Not all of them - no. My Read collection (https://www.librarything.com/catalog/AnnieMod/read) is mostly what I had read since I moved here - so ~10 years worth of reading, ~1,400 books (with a few earlier ones added but some missing as well). I need to add some earlier ones as I did not stat reading series 10 years ago... :)

The ones not in Read are still waiting for me to get to them - very little of my paper books are added but the kindle ones until a year or two are all added -- I could not sleep once in a hotel room and decided to add them all... :)

It is not about the numbers - if one enjoys reading, it is all that matters. :) I was just noting that you have a lot more books in your library that I can see on my shelves than the LT catalogs show :)

>78 OscarWilde87:
BBC ran a reading of this one a couple of years ago - abridged of course, as most of their readings of novels are. I tend to listen to an episode or two of those when they do them - it is an easy way to see if I may like the novel... I had been thinking of picking the novel up. Thanks for reminding me of it.

80OscarWilde87
Jul 16, 2020, 5:55am

>79 AnnieMod: I am always impressed by people who manage to read so many books. I often wish I could do it, but as you say, it is not about numbers but about enjoying reading.

Th BBC readings sound intriguing, but as for audio books, I tried. I failed. I might try again, but so far I rather stick to the old-fashioned pen and paper.

81OscarWilde87
Jul 21, 2020, 4:33am



#12: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
(476 pages)

The Grapes of Wrath is often regarded as Steinbeck's crowning achievement. It won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer and is considered to be one of the main reasons for Steinbeck being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel is set in Oklahoma and California during the Great Depression. It deals with the situation of Dust Bowl farmers who set out west to seek their fortune in California.

Steinbeck relates the story of the Joads, one 'Okie' family that tries to escape their desperate situation at home. Each of the chapters about them is set off by a chapter that describes the general situation of American migrants during the Depression. By alternating these different types of chapters, Steinbeck always manages to give the reader a break from the more emotional chapters about the Joads and provide some more general background information. As a journalist doing extensive research of the farming situation in California, Steinbeck felt the need to write a 'complete' book that depicts the plight of the American migrants not merely as fiction.

The novel starts with protagonist Tom Joad hitching a ride back home after he got out of prison on parole. One can immediately feel the desperation on Oklahoman farms when Tom finds the farms empty and the buildings broken or torn down. His family's house is also broken. When he finds his family they have already made up their mind to go to California, where everything is supposed to be better. Steinbeck vividly portrays the desperate situation of sharecroppers in Oklahoma by contrasting it with the Joads' imagination of California as the Promised Land. The road to California is long and full of hardships, but there is always the driving thought that once you are there, everything is going to take a turn for the better. The American Dream of having your own land, your own house and to be able to provide your children with a better life than you had motivates the Joads and hundreds of thousands of others to go to California. The first glance at California lives up to exactly this promise: fields of oranges and peaches, fertile land as far as the eye can see. Hopes are immediately crushed, though, when there is no work, when Californians are hostile to what they regard as invaders of their land and when California does not live up the promise of having land and work for your own. The Joads, however, try to adapt, find work wherever they can to save up money to get their own house. Yet, soon after, they realize that saving money is utopian. Rather, they have to work hard in order to be able to eat and have a roof, any roof, over their heads.

The Grapes of Wrath oozes desperation, hardship and disappointment. Despite all this, the Joads never seem to give up, only to adapt and lower their expectations until they cannot be lowered anymore and it is merely about naked survival. The novel portrays the injustices of American society during the Depression, the stark contrast between rich and poor. The Grapes of Wrath is powerful and leaves a mark. Although it might be a different situation today, one cannot help seeing parallels in today's society. If you have not already done so, read this novel. 4.5 stars.


82dchaikin
Jul 21, 2020, 9:54am

Enjoyed this review and I have not read this. Actually I’ve only read one Steinbeck novel (To a God Unknown, and I loved it.) Another gap that needs filling.

83OscarWilde87
Jul 21, 2020, 1:31pm

>82 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan! This was my annual 'Steinbeck in summer' as I've come to call it. I might make To a God Unknown my next one.

84baswood
Jul 21, 2020, 4:25pm

Enjoyed your excellent review of Grapes of Wrath I have not read it - yet

85frahealee
Edited: Jul 23, 2020, 3:43pm

>81 OscarWilde87:
Nicely knit! I found that reading In Dubious Battle made more sense after reading Grapes. It made me angrier than I expected, whereas Grapes put me in a state of shock. I haven't seen The Irishman (2019) yet but that likely also lends vital perspective on labour unions. The one in control, if corrupt or greedy, infects the whole system, although it should be a conduit of goodness and prosperity. Absolute power corrupts absolutely?! Proven time and again.

One of my favourite scenes in Tom Ford's film from The Grapes of Wrath (1940) is with a terrific character actor who portrays Muley. Haunting. Very nearly named one of my kids Casy, boy or girl, when expecting twins.

I still love the serendipitous pairing of Bruce Springsteen with Steinbeck as a collective reading experience. High style! Full marks!

86AlisonY
Jul 28, 2020, 6:54pm

>81 OscarWilde87: I'm so delighted with your review, as I've been deliberately avoiding The Grapes of Wrath on my TBR for about 15 years now for no good reason. Your review encourages me to have a go.

87OscarWilde87
Aug 29, 2020, 3:22am

>84 baswood: Thanks, Bas!

88OscarWilde87
Aug 29, 2020, 3:24am

>85 frahealee: Thank you! I was also angry and did a lot of research on the situation of workers in California after reading Grapes. I also haven't seen The Irishman but I surely want to some time.

89OscarWilde87
Aug 29, 2020, 3:24am

>86 AlisonY: Oh, please tell me if you gave it a go and how you liked it.

90OscarWilde87
Aug 29, 2020, 3:27am

Sorry for not answering or posting at all in ages. Apparently work has consumed loads of my time. Oh, and I have been to Croatia for summer holidays and really enjoyed the country.
I had not really been aware of how long I haven't checked in here until now. I might finish A Dance With Dragons in a week or so and I'll try to be around here more often again.

91OscarWilde87
Sep 6, 2020, 2:52pm



#13: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
(1051 pages)

The fifth and to date latest instalment in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series starts parallel to the events of the previous novel in the series, but focuses on different characters, mainly Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. Eventually, once the events are caught up to the time where the previous novel left off, A Dance With Dragons continues the overall story. As it is impossible to start the series by reading this book, suffice it to say that the plot covers Jon Snow's decisions as the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Tyrion finding his place and fighting for his freedom after his flight from Westeros and Daenerys' struggle with the people of Meereen and Yunkai.

I quite enjoyed the various plot lines in this novel and am still a big fan of Tyrion Lannister's. Of course, I would only recommend this novel to readers of the previous books in the series. They will be as entertained by this novel as they have been by the preceding ones. 4 stars for a novel that leaves me waiting desperately for the sequel.


92sallypursell
Sep 9, 2020, 10:42pm

>91 OscarWilde87: I don't know. I was an early adopter of the written Game of Thrones, but I foundered on A Dance of Dragons for some reasion. I tried twice to read it, and it may have to do with not liking the Dragon Lady--Tragaeron, was that her name? It has been so long I don't remember. Maybe I'll read the whole series again, and then I might like it, who knows?

93OscarWilde87
Sep 17, 2020, 12:02pm

>92 sallypursell: I can imagine that the books are hard to get through with as they clock in at way above a thousand pages. One sure has to be a fan, I guess. Otherwise, putting the book down is highly understandable.

94OscarWilde87
Sep 17, 2020, 12:16pm



#14: Sweat by Lynn Nottage
(119 pages)

Lynn Nottage's two-act play Sweat is set in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest cities in the US. Most of the play is set in 2000 with only a couple of scenes set in 2008 to show what happened to the characters. The cast of nine characters tend to meet in a bar, where they discuss their lives, their jobs and their daily struggle of making a living in an economic crisis. Most of the characters are middle class American citizens from different backgrounds. With some characters being white, some black and one Hispanic character, race is an issue as well. Who is taking away jobs in a city that does not have to offer much in the way of prosperity anyway? Who is willing to accept lower wages? How does NAFTA affect factory workers? Is the American Dream still alive? Among others, these are the questions that are explored in the play.

The play was highly successful and staged on Broadway in 2017. It earned Nottage a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. I liked how Sweat portrays the life on main street and the attainability of key values of the American Dream such as the pursuit of happiness and upward mobility. I would really like to get my hands on a recording of a performance of the play. 4.5 stars.

95rocketjk
Sep 17, 2020, 12:23pm

>94 OscarWilde87: I saw this play on Broadway and thought it was very good. Also heard a fascinating interview with the playwright on NPR somewhere around that time. Remember going to plays?

96sallypursell
Sep 17, 2020, 10:42pm

>93 OscarWilde87: I read very rapidly, and I never let 1000 pages daunt me. I love Tyrion Lannister, too, but I just couldn't get into that dragon book. I wonder if the problem was in waiting for it to come out, and the gap between the previous one and this one. That's why I think it might work if I read them all through.

97OscarWilde87
Oct 10, 2020, 8:00am

>95 rocketjk: Ah, going to plays. Those were the days!

98OscarWilde87
Oct 10, 2020, 8:01am

>96 sallypursell: I'm impressed! Reading them all through would take me ages.

99OscarWilde87
Oct 25, 2020, 11:52am



#15: It by Stephen King
(1166 pages)

It is probably the work - or at least one of them - that finally brought global success to Stephen King. It has been turned into movies and a TV series and Pennywise the clown is part of common pop culture.

In its more than 1,000 pages the novel provides a window into the lives of its seven main characters, all of them children living in the ficitonal town of Derry, Maine, who found the Losers Club and set out to defeat their fears. The six boys and one girl are not very popular in school and do not have many friends. Bill's brother George is killed in what is first ruled an accident for which Bill blames himself. Ben is overweight and hence the victim of bullying at school - not just by his classmates, but also by his P.E. teacher. Beverly has a father whose idea of caring for her is beating her up because he 'worries a lot' about his daughter. Mike is the only black child in town and is terrorized by the neighbor kid Henry and his gang. Then there are Stan, a Jewish boy who likes bird-watching, Eddie, whose mother smothers him with love and medication he does not actually need, and Richie, whose glasses and buck teeth do not help him with his popularity at school. While they all deal with problems of their own, they find solace in their friendship towards one another. In this sense, the novel can be described as a coming-of-age tale: seven kids trying to find their place in society and to figure out what life holds for them. If their lives were not hard enough as they are, their hometown Derry is the place of several mysterious abductions and murders of children. The kids come into contact with the monster that haunts the city and make a plan to defeat it. Jump to 27 years later, when we see that all of them have become rather successful in their own way and have forgotten about Derry. The only one, who still lives in Derry is Mike. After another series of killings Mike calls the six others back to Maine to defeat that same monster - It - again, this time for good. Will they come out victoriously in the end? Find out and read the novel. It is well worth your while, will surely give you the creeps and might remind you of your own fears from when you were are child. 4 stars.

100OscarWilde87
Dec 23, 2020, 2:52pm



#16: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(307 pages)

Adichie's 2003 novel Purple Hibiscus tells the story of the young Nigerian girl Kambili and her family. It is set in postcolonial Nigeria and the political instability in the country shines through in several places. Kambili and her brother Jaja grow up in a well-to-do family as their father Eugene is a successful businessman. The novel follows Kambili in a decisive and formative period of her life and shows her struggles as a teenager trying to find her place in her family as well as in life.

Kambili's father is a devout Christian who rules his family with a strong hand. Everything has to go according to his will. He provides his children with daily schedules that are focused on learning and praying and do not leave much time for fun, hobbies or the things teenagers usually do. When something does not go according to his plan, Eugene punishes the members of his family, often violently. Aunty Ifeoma, Eugene's sister, provides the children with the much needed escape from the regime of their father. Although she is not wealthy and lives in rather simple living conditions with her own children, she can provide the love, the warmth and the interest that Kambili and Jaja lack in their own home. Eugene is obviously not happy with their children being out of his reach, even if it is just for a couple of days.

The novel's main themes are religion, family life and domestic violence. There is always the underlying dynamic between Christianity and traditional beliefs, between love and violence, between a father trying to keep the family together and actually driving them further apart. The title Purple Hibiscus can be seen as a symbol for Kambili's attempt at creating a life for herself between her father's upbringing and the newfound freedoms. Just as the purple hibiscus is a new creation, Kambili has to create meaning in her own life by trying to balance her father's violent but well-meant upbringing with her aunt's more open lifestyle.

I found Purple Hibiscus to be a fascinating bildungsroman that vividly portrays the sad story of Kambili growing up as a young girl in postcolonial Nigeria. 4.5 stars.

101OscarWilde87
Dec 27, 2020, 5:33am



#17: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
(475 pages)

Bastian Balthasar Bux, the protagonist of the story, is a fat twelve-year old who one day stumbles into an antique bookstore to escape some bullies on his way to school. There, he discovers the eponymous Neverending Story. He steals the book and takes it with him to school where he decides to skip classes only to go to the attic and read the book. The book captivates Bastian right from the beginning and eventually he completely forgets the world around him. The first half of the novel deals with the imminent downfall of the kingdom of Fantastica that can only be averted if its ruler, the Childlike Empress, is given a name by someone from the human realm. This is where Bastian comes into play and the book takes a turn and drags Bastian into the story. He enters Fantastica and is now responsible for the future of this imaginary world. But will he ever be able to return to the real world again? Does he even want to?

Michael Ende's The Neverending Story is one of the rare instances where I first saw the movie and then read the novel. In this case, however, it has probably been more than 25 years since I watched the movie. It is a distant yet a very fond childhood memory that I wanted to relive by reading the novel and I have to say: the novel certainly delivered. I know this is highly subjective, but the novel took me away not only to Fantastica but also to myself not even being ten years old and falling in love with the idea of a country where things went according to your wishes, where you could be who you want to be and where everything turned out fine in the end. Especially in the times we live in today and with all the stress and all the work I had this year, reading the novel provided a very welcome form of escapism for me. 4 stars.

102OscarWilde87
Dec 31, 2020, 3:35am



#18: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
(321 pages)

Conversations with Friends is set in Dublin and revolves around the experiences of twenty-one year-old student Frances. The protagonist is a spoken word performer who works and still spends a lot of time with her ex-girlfriend and now best friend Bobbi. Melissa is a photographer in her mid to late thirties and starts to work on a profile of Frances and Bobbi. She attends their performances, invites them to her home and eventually invites the couple to a vacation home in France. Melissa is married to Nick, an actor. Right from the beginning there seems to be chemistry between Melissa and Bobbi and Frances is reluctant to visit Melissa's and Nick's house. Soon Nick and Frances get closer and share a kiss. What will happen after that kiss? How will Nick and Frances deal with that? What about Melissa and Bobbi? Read the novel to find out more.

This novel is not about a fast-paced plot and driving the story further. It is rather a character study of Frances, who faces several problems in her life and is very self-conscious about herself. She does not come from an affluent background and faces student debt. She sometimes does not know how to pay for food. Her parents are divorced, her father is an alcoholic. Her mother cares about her, but Frances is not that open with her mom. Frances starts to have serious health issues. Add to that the relationship with Nick, who is not only eleven years older than her but also married. "What is a friend?" and "What is a conversation?" are two central questions that Frances or rather the novel asks. As a reader you will most likely not find those questions answered in the novel, but the way it makes you ponder the meaning of those two concepts - friendship and conversation - is well worth the ride and may lead to your own individual answers.

I enjoyed reading Conversations with Friends a lot because of the way the characters interact and the complications that arise and are never fully resolved. I can see why it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but for me the novel worked quite well. 4 stars.

103AlisonY
Jan 14, 4:00am

>102 OscarWilde87: I haven't got to any of Sally Rooney's novels yet, but I intend to at some point. Enjoyed your review - you're pushing her up my wish list.