jfetting's 100 Books in 2009 Challenge
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My goals this year are
1) read 100 books
2) try to even out the nonfiction:fiction ratio a bit
3) reduce the number of books tagged "TBR"
Wish me luck!
ETA: There may be spoilers ahead. I'll try not to give away endings (so nothing along the lines of "Beth dies!"), but I just wanted to warn anyone reading this.
The first book of the year is a nonfiction one! A great book for obsessive baseball fans - particularly we long-suffering Cubs fans. Lots and lots of detail about the important games in the playoff races, which can be fascinating or mind-numbingly boring, depending on how much you like baseball. I loved it.
I started this before Jan 1, but finished it yesterday. I really enjoyed this bizarre, surreal, perhaps even Kafkaesque story. It's about a man, Cincinnatus C., who is imprisoned and sentenced to death by beheading for the heinous crime of "gnostic turpitude" (not defined, which is the point). So it's actually definitely Kafkaesque, though Nabokov insisted it wasn't.
This wasn't as good as his masterpieces Lolita and Pale Fire, but still an excellent read.
So, ok. Great book, sad story (I want to slap Goriot's daughters). BUT I am confused. Here is my problem: you are a fabulously wealthy society woman in Paris, complete with husband and lover. So, you are not exactly faithful to husband or lover, right? Then lover decides to get married. This is apparently a devastating betrayal, resulting in removal from Parisian society into a convent. Why? Why not just keep having an affair with the lover? I mean, it isn't like adultery is frowned on here. So now instead of 1 person committing adultery, 2 people do. Why is this a problem?
Also, I don't know what to think about Rastignac. He is the only person who looks out for Pere Goriot, but then at the end is he revealed as "Parisian society corrupt"?
I've read good and bad reviews on this book, so I didn't really know what to think going in. I ended up really enjoying it. I love Atwood all the time, and while this isn't exactly standard Atwood Book, I thought the retelling of the Odyssey from the point of view of the women involved was a fantastic idea.
The hanged-maids-as-Greek-chorus was brilliant.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! The plot is nothing special, and gets very silly by the end, but that really isn't the reason to read Coward, is it? I read him for the sharp, witty dialogue (in this case, the narrator's interior monologue also) and the constant bitchiness and perfectly timed humor.
Still more misadventures of Bertie and Jeeves. This one was a collection of short stories, and yes they are all pretty much the same. Yet I keep reading them, and keep loving them. If any other author tried to pull that, I'd be up in arms (ok. maybe Noel could get away with it.) but with Wodehouse its just fine.
Several of these stories appear in the BBC series "Jeeves and Wooster", starring a young, rosy-cheeked, blue-eyed, almost impossibly adorable Hugh Laurie. Sigh...
Where was I? Oh! The book. The best part is, the last story is told from Jeeves' perspective, not Bertie's. Which is awesome.
Be warned: I have Code of the Woosters from the library, so there will be more gushing about Wodehouse and Hugh Laurie shortly.
#7 Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman
I'm not normally a huge fan of Friedman, but I thought that this book was incredibly thought-provoking. The first half is standard scare tactics re: the environment, and then the second half is how to fix it. What I liked about this book is that I think he has a very realistic view of how the problem needs to be solved - a problem this big and this potentially catastrophic needs to be addressed first and foremost by governments and businesses. Small, personal changes (CFLs, shorter showers, turning the thermostat down) can only go so far, and he makes the very good point that the current emphasis on things like "10 Easy Ways to Save the Environment" isn't helping. It isn't enough, and it makes people complacent.
Plus, I think he is right in saying that big, polluting companies aren't necessarily the devil - they will make what people want, and they will produce whatever will make them money. So if the governments put in requirements (for solar or wind energy minimums, or fuel efficiency standards) that will stay in place and companies know they will have a market, they'll jump right into improving these technologies, and this'll bring down prices, etc etc.
Long story short, I think this is a really important read. It certainly made me see things differently. Couple of downsides: he spends A LOT of time talking about energy grids and fuel and technology and I, for one, find all that painfully dull. It is important, and I'm happy that engineer types are excited about such things, but the book drags in those spots. He repeats the phrase "hot, flat, and crowded" (and always in italics) about 750 times. He name-drops like a pro, and he italicizes random phrases.
I've read several reviews lately that describe this book as a "meh" at best. However, it was on my shelf and a nasty bout of insomnia drove me to it. I thought it was great, largely for two reasons:
1) the snarkiness with which Austen panned Bath society. She just comes out and says the nastiest things in the politest way. Although she does this in every novel, it is much less subtle in this one, and made me laugh.
2) Catherine's character. So well drawn! Her enthusiasm and gullibility and naivete and massive crush on Henry Tilney are perfect! The scene in the ballroom where she is avoiding all eye contact with John Thorpe so that she won't have dance with him, while searching everywhere for Henry so she will dance with him, is so familiar. Who hasn't done that? To be honest, Catherine reminds me very much of a 17-year-old jfetting.
So. Huh. How to describe this? A self-help book, where the advice-for-life comes from Proust (of all people)? With enough details of Proust's own life to make him seem like the last possible person from whom you'd want advice?
I liked it, I really did - as I was reading this I kept thinking "oh this is great" but now, trying to say anything at all coherent about the book, I just can't.
I'm sure this book had a point. However, overall it was too boring for me to care what that point was. (*)"
*grabs Folio Society Best of Saki from Medellia's library. Runs.*
*thinks about going back for PSmith. Changes mind. Runs.*
#11 The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Oh, I just feel so badly for Michael Henchard and the train wreck that is his life. He deserves everything he gets, but I think what Hardy does really well is to get the reader (me, anyway) on his side, even though he is such a jerk.
The BBC version is good, too.
A re-read (I think this is the 13th time I've read it). This dissertation-writing thing is hard, and very much brain-draining, so right now what little reading I'm doing doesn't require much thought or concentration. Today I'm giving myself a 2 hour break to finally finish The History of the Siege of Lisbon, though. I think there will be a lot of re-reads between now and April.
As for S&S, I'm totally on board with how Elinor's story turns out, but Marianne's fate always leaves me a little bit unsatisfied. The whole point of Jane Austen is that the characters don't end up settling, and I kinda feel that Marianne does.
ETA: of course, none of this stops me from absolutely loving the books, or the movie version of Sense and Sensibility.
Alan Rickman with Kate Winslet - that's like my daughter with a man my age. Yuck.
I agree. I think that you've hit on exactly what I meant wrt the age differences between Austen's characters. I'm sure that back then, it was completely acceptable for someone 17 to marry someone 35, or for a 30 year age difference to exist between a couple. I just can't turn off my 21st century mind - if a 35 year old man wanted to marry me when I was 17, my Mom would have been so NOT ok with it (nor would I have been). Different times, I guess.
First and foremost, I want to say that I did not give this book the attention it deserves. Even so, it is fantastic. Wow! I've never read Saramago before, and he is not easy. I had to go back and read each sentence several times (not super easy, since he is not so strict with the punctuation in this book) but it is really worth the effort. I've already put this on the re-read list, and the "to own asap" list.
I love the narrator, I love the story-within-a-story, I love Raimundo Silva, I love the 3-page-long sentences. This book should really be read in large chunks, and not the snippets I've managed to fit in.
Finally, last year I read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, and among the things I hated most about that book (and I hated many things about that book) were the ridiculously bad sex scenes. Truly terrible. Follett could learn a lot from Saramago in how to get them right.
Sorry, for rambling on, but I AM a history teacher : ). I like to see history presented accurately, even in novels. I guess Thomas Hardy is better for portraying the ordinary folk than Austen was!
I'd recommended this to another LTer yesterday, and then sat down to re-read it. It is a hard book to describe - it gives a little glimpse of the world as seen through the eyes of a dog. It is funny, and sweet, and touching.
Example quote: "Though it is a short drive, you regret their having taken you to Man Who Stings Your Hip"
Highly recommended to anyone who is currently or has previously been owned by a dog.
My latest ER book, and my full review is on the book's work page. My opinion in a nutshell: I loved the part about the Hermes perfume, and loathed the part about SJP's "Lovely". It's half a book about making perfume, and half about how awesome Sarah Jessica Parker is.
If I'm reading a book about the development of a perfume, I want to see lots of sentences like this:
He hands you four touches, ethyl vanillin plus natural essences of cinnamon, orange, and lime - each of these has the full olfactory range of the original material - and you smell an utterly realistic Coca-Cola. (p. 107)
If I'm reading a book about the development of a perfume, I want to read exactly ZERO sentences like this:
With thick black Italian hair and creamy olive skin over sculpted cheekbones, DiNapoli looked like a sylvan faun in Dolce & Gabbana jeans. (p. 26)
NO! nononononono! That is terrible! I don't even want to read sentences like that in fiction novels about sylvan fauns in D&G jeans! I want to read this sentence never!
If Burr had stuck to the Hermes perfume part, this would have been a fantastic book. But, no. As a marketing tool, it's pretty good. I'm dying to actually smell Jardin Sur le Nil (the book included a scented bookmark that smelled of Lovely, which isn't so bad, actually). I was happy to see that Burr approved of my own signature perfume (Amarige).
Finally, I'd like to leave you all with one last quote, my favorite in the whole book:
The smell of clean anus turns out to be extremely helpful in perfume. (p.249)
As good as everyone else has said. Heartbreaking, really. I couldn't put it down.
I'd forgotten how well Cather writes. This book was wonderful - the development of St. Peters's rebellion from the life he is supposed to lead, juxtaposed with the life of someone who never gets to make the mistake of burying his true self, is completely absorbing. Cather's writing is gorgeous - I particularly like the way she describes landscapes.
My definition of "comfort read", one of my top three favorite books ever, and the book I've read the most times. It's just wonderful. Rochester is one of the sexiest characters in all of fiction. Jane's independent spirit is so modern - I find it difficult to believe that she was written by a 20 something daughter of a clergyman who was raised in isolation on a windswept moor, with only her siblings as companions.
The Brontes are fascinating. How did they happen? Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were all excellent writers, and Charlotte and Emily were geniuses whose fame has lasted centuries and will last centuries more. How, with so little life experience of their own, did they manage to create characters and worlds that resonate almost 200 years later?
Anyway, I'm 260 pages into Parade's End and I'm really underwhelmed. So far I've seen nothing unusually evil about Sylvia, and I'm finding the whole thing rather blah. But I want to like it! I might as well, since I have to read the thing. Do you have any suggestions? How can I adjust my mindset to see this book in a more positive way?
Have you reached the second book of Parade's End, or are you still stuck in the first? Because this is one of those books that I enjoyed more as I went along, and after I finished it and thought about the book as a whole, it became even better. I do remember being bored in the first book, but it is necessary to set Christopher's character, and the world in which he lives. **Spoiler spoiler** To me, the book is "about" the destruction of a particular lifestyle (pre-war English society) and the adaptation or lack thereof to the new order by the protagonist. So it is set up like Book 1, pre-war; Book 2 & 3, WWI; Book 4, the new age. Which means you have to wade through 900 pages before the conflict is resolved.
Ford's style in the book doesn't help; more internal monologue and dialogue than action. I think I remember a lot of ellipses and repetition of phrases, which drive me nuts.
Sylvia gets worse, believe me. In Book 4 I found myself honestly wishing that she would die.
If you made it through my comment this far, my suggestions for mindset adjustment would be: 1) Things start to happen more in the later books, so you have that to look forward to. Especially when Christopher is in the trenches. 2) Wait with eager anticipation for Sylvia's next awful deed. 3) Count how many times within the span of 3 pages Ford uses the phrase "There will be no more parades..." in the book called "No More Parades". Roll your eyes, inform him that yeah, you get it, world is changing, move on. I really do think that in the end, the book is quite powerful.
God, I'm long-winded tonight. I wonder if there are any other challenge threads I can wander over to and expound in at length. You should see what I did to poor dihiba's thread.
Not at all! Your information on Parade's End is all fabulous and very helpful.
I just started the second book this morning, and I'm so relieved to hear that it gets better. I have to say that the first 300 pages have not been very rewarding.
**Spoiler spoiler** To me, the book is "about" the destruction of a particular lifestyle (pre-war English society) and the adaptation or lack thereof to the new order by the protagonist.
Well, I don't think that's much of a spoiler, since my prof talks about that EVERY class, and it applies to all the books we're reading this term (The General, Jacob's Room, Vile Bodies and Return of the Soldier). It's pretty much the theme for the class.
Ford's style in the book doesn't help; more internal monologue and dialogue than action. I think I remember a lot of ellipses and repetition of phrases, which drive me nuts.
Yes! My prof told us that the key to reading this book is to remember that "the sequence is the sequence of consciousness." It is modernism, after all. But on every page there is some sentence that makes me go "What the hell does that mean?" I get the story as a whole, but there are so many sentences that I just read and think "whatever . . ."
If you made it through my comment this far Are you kidding? It's so good to be able to discuss this with someone!
Count how many times within the span of 3 pages Ford uses the phrase "There will be no more parades..." in the book called "No More Parades". Roll your eyes, inform him that yeah, you get it, world is changing, move on.
I really do think that in the end, the book is quite powerful.. Hmmm. Okay. I just wish it wouldn't take 900 pages to get there. Another thing my prof said is that with modernist novels, you have to read them twice to understand them. The first time to gather all the bits, and the second time to see how all those bits fit together. I can tell you there is no way I'm going to reread this 900 page doorstop anytime soon though!
Anyway, thanks for all your help. I really appreciate it. I don't hate the book, but I'd like to like it a bit more. Thank goodness I don't have to write an essay or take an exam on it (my assignment that relates to the book has to do with the culture of the times, so I really could get away with not reading it at all, but I do want to read it).
Nonfiction book about the Great Depression and life in the Dust Bowl. Egan patiently explains how essentially, the farmers on the Great Plains were largely responsible for the miserable conditions: they plowed up the sod, which had been growing there for thousands of years, and tried to plant a grain which wasn't at all suited to the climate (and they were fooled by a decade of unusually high rainfall), and used old-fashioned farming techniques which basically allowed all the topsoil to blow away once the drought started. Now, the farmers didn't cause the drought, but the sod which should've held the dirt down was gone.
Apparently there were these huge dust storms, that looked like thunderclouds until they arrived and it was dirt. The dirt got in the lungs and stomachs of people and animals, and they died. I read this book after seeing it on Joycepa's challenge thread, and she reviews it much better than I can. So go look there!
Oh! And quick, ask me if we've learned our lesson about growing an unsustainable crop in a region completely unable to support it!?! No! No we have not. Instead, we're draining the Ogallala Aquifer. Future? Who cares about the future!
So. Depressing. I need to stop reading these kinds of books.
I loved Housekeeping, and I loved Gilead, and I love Home. Daughter goes back to her childhood home b/c she has nowhere else to go and her father is dying. The prodigal son also returns. There is lots of talking, and cooking of dinner. There is more talking. The book ends. It, too, is set in Gilead, IA and Rev. Ames and family make appearances (as Jack Broughton did in Gilead). A very different picture of Rev. Ames that Robinson paints in Gilead.
Robinson should not be read by anyone who needs much of a plot, or action, or anything at all to happen. But if you are looking for some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read, and an almost unparalleled ability to set a mood, look her up. Home had me craving summer evenings, not the hot, sticky, miserable Missouri summer evenings but ones where you can sit on the porch, and smell the fields, and watch the fireflies. In my mind Gilead, IA looks exactly like my grandparents' Wisconsin farm.
#48 - Donna have you ever read either of Robinson's nonfiction books? I've run through all her fiction and was just wondering what her essays are like.
#49 - I hope lots of people pick it up, since it is being discussed in several places. We really do need to realize that human activity can change the environment completely, and very quickly, and this can have horrifying consequences.
Sadly, the only sample of Fadiman's writing is the introduction where she mentions her adult reaction to C.S. Lewis's book The Horse and His Boy (and she is absolutely right - boy does that book ever make Clive's prejudices very, very clear). All the essays are written by other people, about rereading books years after the first reading, and how one's reactions change.
I'm a big rereader, and have had this experience with books, too. I loved Alcott unreservedly when I was little, now I find parts of her books to be almost insulting (I agree with her that little girls can do things just as well as little boys. I do not at all agree that little girls should hide this, or pretend not to, or lose on purpose to make the little boys happy and make home @#$%^&* paradise for their brothers by being doting and adoring sisters. I love my brother to pieces, and I try to beat him at every game I possibly can. LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE DO).
Anyway, the essays are interesting, and my favorites were the ones about fairy tales.
His first book, and it shows. Dostoevsky is one of my favorite authors ever, entirely due to Crime and Punishment, which hit me like a brick wall in high school (I'm going to re-read that later in the year with the Author Theme Reads group. Lets see how my opinions have changed since then!). This book is very different - it is an epistolary novel, the letters exchanged between an old civil servant and a young seamstress.
The struggles of poor people trying to keep body and soul together are well-illustrated, and heart-wrenching, and the ending is completely appropriate and in keeping with the themes of the novel. However. That language! Oh my goodness. So flowery, and overwrought, and excessively sentimental - I could hardly finish it. It reminded me a lot (a LOT) of The Sorrows of Young Werther, and it is difficult for me to insult a book or a writer more harshly than that.
But everyone has to start somewhere, right?
I finally managed to finish a book, and what a book! It's a work of art, really, in a way that many books aren't. Milton's description of Hell and the war between the angels and Satan's fall is awesome. Both in the inspiring-awe sense and the oh-my-God-so-cool sense. First time I read it, won't be the last. It'll become a favorite.
I have this fantastic edition from the Oxford UP that has an introduction by Phillip Pullman, and commentary before each chapter by the same. Even though I tried not to let his enthusiasm for the poem influence my feelings, I'm sure it did. Boy does Pullman ever love this work. The book is nice and heavy for its size and has the loveliest, softest, smoothest paper. And illustrations from the 1600s. Pretty, pretty.
You know who Milton doesn't think much of? Women. All of them. Eve especially, of course, but all of us in general. I had to shut off the part of my brain that automatically notes and disapproves of this sort of thing. "he for God alone, she for God in him..." Sigh.
I also have the Philip Pullman edition, and it's lovely. Really worth getting.
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who lived in a land far, far away. She had a boyfriend who shall be referred to as "The Boy". The Boy said to her one day, "Lets go on a voyage to a land even further away and spend the weekend at my dad's house". The Girl said sure, because his folks were nice and it was springtime and the country smelled nicer than the city. So the Boy and Girl journeyed to Country. Boy had brought with him two things: his beloved firearm and a book, The Sorrows of Young Werther. The Girl brought a book she was reading, too, called Of Human Bondage.
The Boy said to The Girl "Hey, me and my dad and my batshit crazy friend with the handguns and my little stepbrother are going into the fields with my beloved firearm to shoot skeet and also possible adorable furry creatures and birds that have never harmed anybody. Want to come?" The Girl said "Hell no". The Boy said "You know, we'll be gone a few hours - you should read the book I brought" and then he went on and on about how great Werther was and how he totally related to Young Werther and how it is like Goethe came forward in time and read his thoughts. The Girl, who hadn't read it yet, put down Of Human Bondage and said sure, she'd read it. Always important to know how the boyfriend is thinking.
Three hours later, The Girl was sitting on the porch, in the sunshine, staring in horror at the book in her hands. WTF? Seriously? This is how The Boy thinks? The Boy thinks that all this sentimental nonsense is PROFOUND? The Girl spent the entire book thinking "Werther, just kill yourself already!" The Girl knew that some serious soul-searching was in order, here. Was this something she could live with? Was she being too picky?
The Boy and family and crazy friend returned home, and gleefully recounted to The Girl how they had shot skeet and killed a bunny and also, with their firearms, destroyed A TREE. The Girl was appalled, and not appeased by their "It was just a sapling" excuse. Soul-searching over. Before you rush to judge The Girl - other issues too, proverbial camel/straw, etc.
True story! It happened to a friend of mine ;-)
I love short stories. These are wonderful. "The Necklace" itself is good, but I think the best story in the collection is "Boule de Suif". It is an unhappy story (I think maybe one story in the whole batch was happy-ish, and that is the adorable "In the Woods") and one of the best stories I've ever ever read. I'm not going to describe it, since I want everyone to read it for themselves, but do find a copy - you won't regret it.
"In the Woods" I'll describe, though. You should read it, too, but ruining the ending won't ruin the story. It is about this middle-aged couple (55 & 60) who are caught messing around in the bushes. They get arrested, tell there story to the cops, and end up not getting in trouble. So sweet, though. Maupassant is one of my favorites.
What really stings my friend, lo these many years later, is that Of Human Bondage is one of the greatest books ever.
And I'll take careful note of Of Human Bondage - have never read any Somerset Maugham!
#25 Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Maybe I should take back what I said about Maugham, because I wouldn't want to overhype him, because BAD THINGS happen when one reads a much-discussed-and-beloved-on-LT book.
Take, for example, Fingersmith. Highly praised, by people whose taste I trust. It's a 1001 book, even! Like Dickens, only different! Victorian era! Plot twists and turns! So it is bound to be a great read, right?
No. Only 1/3 right. The book is split into three parts (Narrator A, Narrator B, Narrator A again). Part 1 is gripping and interesting and super good. The narrator even mentions going to the bathroom, a lot, which never happens in novels (does anyone else remember reading the Ramona book in which she is obsessed with how Mike Mulligan goes to the bathroom when he is digging the hole with his steam shovel? Something I've noticed ever since). Then Part 2 arrives, and it all goes to pieces. By the end, I didn't care how the plot was resolved, I didn't care what happened to the main characters, I was disappointed and annoyed by the outcomes for my favorite side characters. If the book had ended at Part 1, it would have been a fun little novella. It ended up being a large brick of boring. Library book, happily, so I didn't spend any cash on it.
Either way, this has inspired me to dive into The Warden tonight.
#26 The Discovery of France by Graham Robb
Nonfiction, about the lives and languages and such of the people who lived in France (outside of Paris) between the Revolution and WWI. I learned a lot, and am surprised by how late French became the language spoken by people throughout France (standard only in 1850ish). So much of what I know of French history at that time comes from 1) history classes, which go from Louis XVI to Napoleon and then stop with France altogether and 2) French novels from the time, which are all Paris. I really enjoyed the book, but Robb needs to provide more maps. He mentions cities and regions that aren't labeled on the 3 maps he does provide.
There are lots of DVD rental companies on the net but as I usually buy mine from Play.com or Amazon.co.uk (rental available) I could not advise you which is the best deal.
When you do come to UK I hope you have a great time.
However, trying to decide who is more awesome, Nigel Hawthorne or Geraldine McEwan or Alan Rickman just makes the decision that much more difficult.
About 400 pages too long. There is no way this story needed 775ish pages. Editors, please! I lost interest 350 pages in and plodded on through to the end, and I have to say that I did like the way the story ended. Mr. Wilkie Collins (for it is his story, really, despite the "Dickens obsessed w/ mysterious Drood!" hype) is a brilliantly unreliable narrator, and trying to figure out what is "real" and what is "crazy opium fantasy" redeems the book for me. But still - way too long.
edited to get touchstone right and fix spelling
#28 The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
Don't be put off by the title - there is only one chemical structure in the whole book, and it is a very pretty one. It is a memoir of Levi's life as a chemist. Each chapter is named after an element, and tells a story of some aspect of his life that relates to that particular element. I've never read Primo Levi before this, and I'm just happy I got Survival in Auschwitz out of the library at the same time because he is an amazing writer. There isn't much on his stay in the concentration camp in The Periodic Table, since he'd covered that in other works. Anyway, I can't recommend The Periodic Table highly enough. I need to own a copy ASAP.
I read it a while ago and posted a rather laboriously long review here if anyone is interested- mostly because I loved the book so much that I wanted to review and recollect and bring it together in my mind.
I love the way he uses the periodic elements as metaphors for his life as a scientist and a writer. He is one of my all time favourite authors. I have reread all his works obsessively. His genius is a wonder to behold.
(enough gushing for now)...
This book is hilarious. It's about the most dysfunctional marriage (and most dysfunctional sex life, and the most dysfunctional family) ever. They all lie to each other, and to their own diaries, and we can never tell when we are being told the truth or not. Well, I can never tell when I am being told the truth or not. And I'm curious about the "natural gift" that Ikuko possesses - I have a guess as to what that might be, but it isn't ever revealed.
I found this one on enheduanna's thread, and her review is much better than mine. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Also known as If This is a Man, which title I think I prefer since it brings to mind the wonderful poem that begins the book. This book is amazing - heartbreaking and powerful, and the writing is stunning. You can tell how painful the memories are for Levi, and how difficult it is for him to write his experiences, and yet how necessary it is for him to bear witness to the tragedy, and to make people understand. It made me cry. I think it should be required reading for all people everywhere.
One of the first groups I joined after discovering the LT Talk forums is the Anglophile group (being an obsessive Anglophile), and one of the threads is called "In Praise of Barbara Pym". I'd never heard of Barbara Pym, but the raving on the thread resulted in my picking up a copy of Excellent Women. So THANK YOU to all those Anglophiles, because this book is a gem. A jewel. A little piece of literary heaven. Practically perfect in every way.
What is a sandwich cake, though? Is it like a layer cake?
My mother, British born, used to make what she called a Victorian Sponge cake. Two layers, jam in the middle, sugar sprinkled on top. Very nice with tea, love. I think it is similar to what NAmericans call a layer cake.
A little Lenten reading. Borg is a modern theologian and liberal Christian. He is a big proponent of what he describes in this book as "emerging Christianity" as compared to "earlier Christianity", the more conservative, traditional view of Christianity with an emphasis on literal interpretations of the Bible. Emerging Christianity relies more on the idea of metaphor and social justice and religious pluralism.
I was raised UCC (a liberal mainline Protestant denomination), making me an obligate Borg fan, and the choir to whom he is preaching. I liked the book.
#33 Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott
More Lenten reading, sorta. Lamott is hilarious, and her essays are about her life, and her past screwups, and the are written with humor and warmth and honesty. Not super preachy, by any means. I think Anne Lamott would be a fun person to have at a dinner party.
I finished the book in one day (waiting at the Apple store for 2 hours so that they could tell me that my hard drive had died, taking with it several figures for my paper and a chunk of recent data). It was just what I needed yesterday.
D.'s second book didn't work for me at all. It is basically the story of a young girl (Netochka) in three different homes - with her mom and stepdad, with the Prince and his family, and with the Princess's oldest daughter and her husband. There is also a lengthy prologue about the stepdad's life and why he is such a screwup. The narrator is really the only thing connecting these stories, and nothing is really resolved (D. wrote it before being sent to Siberia, and never finished it properly since he went on to write books that didn't suck instead.
If the whole book had been the prologue plus story 1, it would have been much better. I am so glad I'm doing the author theme read in chronological order, because I wouldn't have read these early novels if I had to start them after finishing his later, better works.
The most recent Missouri readers group read is the story of three generations of one family living on the Mississippi, from their river pirate days to their Prohibition-era bootlegging. The book focuses on the women characters and their relationship to Jacques, fur trapper turned river pirate (I love that term) turned something else.
If the whole book had been Annie's story, told through Hedie's eyes (or Hedie's reading Annie's journal, rather) it would have been much better. The first part of the book was a quick and interesting read, and then everything fell apart as soon as Annie died. In the second generation, we meet my personal favorite character, the freed slave/river pirate (yay!) Omah. Omah would have made a good story, too. By the end, though, it seemed like Agee was just trying to finish up already (publisher deadline, maybe?), so she doesn't bother wrapping up loose ends or showing us character motivation or anything. It just kinda ends.
Why does everyone insist on writing huge 300 something page novels out of ideas that really only fit much shorter styles? There is nothing wrong with novellas. There is nothing wrong with the short story. Both are admirable forms of literature. Not EVERYTHING has to be a novel. I think this is like the 4th book this year I've said is too long. Why won't editors do their jobs?
The events of Holy Week put into historical context. Part history, part theology, entirely readable. They only look at Mark (although they do mention where Matthew and Luke have added things), trying to get an idea of why everything happened.
I got a ticket from KC police for expired tag last year - I was pretty annoyed. He would never have even noticed except that we were stuck in rush hour traffic on the freeway and he was directly behind me. I don't think it cost $100, though.
#37 The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by Jose Saramago
Ricardo Reis returns to Portugal after a 20 year residence in Brazil, in the year 1936. Not such a great time to be moving to Europe. Saramago's writing is beautiful, and he is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors.
I am now even more infatuated with the book and with Saramago than I was just minutes before.
Underwhelming, and disappointing. I'm a fan of Grant's blog (thethoughtfuldresser.blogspot.com) - you wouldn't realize it to look at me, but I love reading about fashion and clothes (my personal style right now is "grad school chic" - lots of ratty jeans and 5 year old T-shirts). So since I like her writing, I was really excited about this book, but the Booker shortlist shoulda warned me.
More fun than Outlander, action-packed and entertaining. I have one quibble with the book, and it's probably because I don't read romance novels and am unfamiliar with the genre. The tragic, passionate, across-the-centuries love story seems to me to be an awful lot like what a person who had never actually been in love would consider a perfect love. **Spoiler alert** So for example, if one's wife had essentially prostituted herself the the king of France to get one out of the Bastille, where one had been thrown for the sole purpose of getting one locked up and out of the way and unable to carry out the very important and history-altering scheme that one was up to, it is not a romantic and beautiful sign of true love to say "I wished you were dead, rather than thinking of you in another man's arms" or some such. Yet Gabaldon seems to think it is, since Jamie also has huge problems with Claire having been married before IN A DIFFERENT CENTURY. I know that I'm supposed to think that Jamie is this amazing ideal of manhood, like everyone else seems to, but I kept thinking he should grow the hell up and get over himself already.
And yes, probably ;-) Although I don't usually go for redheads.
Hi Jfetting, I thought I would stop by and browse. Enjoyed your book list and comments.
You were much kinder to the perfume book, Perfect Scent than I was. I thought the Hermes part was a mess too.
I enjoy the Outlander series, though I was so pissed off that book 2 started in the modern world, that when I read the start of the book I put it down and didn't continue for about 4 years.
She has a new nonfic out in the UK, which I guess from your comment must be based on her blog (it's also called something like The Thoughtful Dresser), and which has been quite positively reviewed.
Note to self: no climbing mountains.
I worked with a man who had climbed with most of these men and he couldn't even talk about it.
I kept my copy and will read it again one day; have stored with Shibumi by Trevanian but that one is fiction and kind of a hoot. Don't know why I put them together--one is about mountain climbing and the other is about cave "climbing". (and
Anyway, keep up the good work. You're doing great with your challenge.
This. Book. Is. Terrible. I'm so upset! Read that title. Doesn't it sound interesting? Well, no. It is not. It is horrible, on (at least) three different levels.
Level 1: For a book subtitled "Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington", it hasn't very much about Roald Dahl and his role in the British spy ring. Either this is because Conant couldn't be bothered to do his research, or because the true answer to the question "What did Roald Dahl do during the war?" is "not much". He basically passed info to the British about the US and it's airline plans for after the war. Oooh! Spoiler intentional, BTW, because I don't want anyone else to waste their time with this book. It seemed like the majority of the book consisted of conversations between Dahl and Charles Marsh either perving about girls or making fun of Lord Halifax.
Level 2: The organization is appalling - back and forth, consecutive paragraphs didn't have any connection, etc. I spent a lot of time confused.
Level 3: Conant is a terrible writer. This didn't read like a history OR like a biography; it read like a middle school English assignment in which the students were told to use as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. All Conant's hills are rolling, all jewels are sparkling (as are women's eyes), all women are breathtaking, all men are dashing. I spent one whole chapter trying to find a noun or verb that didn't have some sort of modifier or adj. in front of it and I could not. I shouldn't be playing stupid games like that while reading.
Level 4: nitpicky, but the book (hardcover) looked like an uncorrected proof. I picked out at least three typos that left sentences unclear. In one case, a whole clause appears to be missing. Oh dear!
Please don't read this book. I'm begging you.
Copy the questions into your own post and answer the questions.
1) What author do you own the most books by?
I think it is probably L.M. Montgomery or C. S. Lewis
2) What book do you own the most copies of?
Jane Eyre. I have 3 different versions (one in a Bronte omnibus)
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Not at all.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, Benedick, the Marquis of Carabas, Nick Jenkins, Zaphod Beeblebrox
5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Jane Eyre again. I cannot overemphasize this book's importance to me.
6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery
7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Nostromo. I just don't like Conrad.
8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
So hard to pick one! A Dance to the Music of Time? The Periodic Table? If On a Winter's Night a Traveler?
9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Lolita, the annotated version. Then we could talk about how great Nabokov is.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
I'd say Saramago but he already won.
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Neverwhere (I know there is one already, but it looks kinda crappy, so I want them to do it again and good this time)
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
The History of the Siege of Lisbon. The movie would never be able to get into Silva's brain the way the book does.
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
Don't have any. I hardly ever remember my dreams, and when I do they are about everyday events.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
Either the An Assembly Such as This faux Jane Austen books, or Outlander
15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
None of the obscure ones. Does Much Ado About Nothing count? What if it was a version set in the Wild West?
17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
18) Roth or Updike?
No, thank you.
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Neither. Back of cereal box would be better
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Oh, God, this one is hard. Shakespeare, I guess.
21) Austen or Eliot
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Really recent stuff, actually. The highly acclaimed books of the last 10 years, I probably haven't read.
23) What is your favorite novel?
Lolita. Jane Eyre. The Sound and the Fury
Hay Fever. Copenhagen. Hamlet
Mary Oliver's "The Journey". Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art". Milton's Paradise Lost
Stephen Jay Gould's essay in Bully for Brontosaurus about Ted Williams' great hitting year and how it was statistically impossible. Don't remember the name.
27) Short story?
"Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl. "Rappuccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
28) Work of nonfiction?
Man's Place in Nature by T.H. Huxley
29) Who is your favorite writer?
Can't narrow this - Nabokov, Charlotte Bronte, William Faulkner, Saramago, Ishiguro
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Dave Eggers. That guy who wrote "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime". Salman Rushdie. *ducks, covers*
31) What is your desert island book?
Shakespeare, complete works. I think there is a lifetime worth of material in there
32) And... what are you reading right now?
Decline and Fall, Noel Coward Collected Stories, The Complete Poems of John Keats
Hilariously, brilliantly, laugh-out-loud funny. It's a quick, easy read (I finished in one sitting). For someone like me, who thinks that D.H. Lawrence is obviously punishment for something I did in a previous life, this book is great.
Hilariously, brilliantly, laugh-out-loud funny. I think that this is one of his first (if not the first) novels. Mocking British upper-class society between the wars is Waugh's greatest strength. I just love him, and this book.
Maybe you are just pre-disposed to not like Sedaris, but if you are ever inclined to give him another chance, the audio versions of his books are fantastic. My favourite thing for 3 hour car trips.
Wow. Spectacular. Brilliant.
This is my most recent ER book, and I'd send you to my review on the book's page but it is mostly incoherent, and can be summed up by the "wow" etc up at the top.
The characters in this book (the narrators, I mean) are so well drawn. They all of them cope with fear, wanting and sometimes failing to be brave, trying to stay human and not just reactionary little animals. They're so real. I can't imagine living in situations like those in Sarajevo during the siege, but I expect that something like the mindset of the two male narrators would be mine, too. I wouldn't be able to be Arrow, the female sniper.
I strongly recommend this. It's a short and meaningful read.
Sandy - you'll like it. It's so, so, so good.
This is the biography, or rather the scienceography, of Barbara McClintock. She won the Nobel prize for medicine back in the early 80s for her work on the genetics of corn (she discovered transposable elements, little bits of DNA that jump around in the genome). She was a spectacular geneticist, and absolutely brilliant, and fought to have a scientific career back when women didn't do such things on their own - they worked in their husbands' labs, if they were lucky.
However, she very much fit the stereotype of brilliant scientist: unsociable, no personal life, obsessed with science, entirely unable to communicate her ideas and findings to her peers (much less a non-scientific audience). She withdrew into her little lab and worked alone. In many places, this is still held up to young scientists as the ideal scientist (especially the long hours and no-outside-interests bit). What good is the best research, really, if no one understands it and therefore can't act upon it for decades? Should one really be proud that one's work is so complicated and one's communication skills are so miserable that non-scientists can't possibly be expected to understand it?
The book is actually well-suited to the nonscientist. The genetics are explained very well, with lots of diagrams to help (in case anyone has forgotten the lesson on mitosis from high school bio) and a glossary. However, since it is almost 30 years old, the science is a bit out of date (and, now, McClintock's ideas are even MORE validated than they were when the book was published).
We read Cold Comfort Farm at school. My sadistic English teacher (I blame her Russian heritage) forced us to read Lawrence first. It was literally years before I could actually enjoy CCF (as opposed to itemising its brilliant satire line by line with exceedingly grudging pen and zero enthusiasm).
It surprises me how much I enjoy Keats's poetry. I wouldn't expect to like Romantic poetry, but these poems are beautiful. The sonnets are my favorites (sonnets are always my favorites) but the longer poems ('Endymion' etc) are wonderful too. Such a tragedy he died at 25.
Edited for typo.
#49 The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
So this has to be the 10th time I've read this? I'll admit it - I love these books. I am a huge nerd (the "I am a scientist" part may have already given that away), and love slipping away into Middle-Earth every now and again. I love the movies, too, especially Aragorn. Mmmm, Aragorn.
Love this book! Such beautiful descriptions of nature - springtime is the best time to read Anne. The other characters are fantastic; I love Mrs. Rachel Lynde and Marilla (who in my head always looks like Colleen Dewhurst) and Matthew. This was just what I needed right now.
This was an interesting look at life in China as a result of the cultural revolution. The main character, Lin, is so sad. He's not able to get his wife to let him have a divorce, he's not able to just cut things off with his girlfriend. Lin doesn't actively do anything - he just lets his life happen to him, while being vaguely dissatisfied with it. The female characters are more sympathetic, both the wife and the girlfriend.
Also, I am now craving Chinese food. Lots of yummy descriptions of steamed buns with pork and the like. Takeout for dinner, I think.
On another note, I have not followed up on your recommendation to read A Handful of Dust only because I haven't been able to locate a copy. I can't believe it is not in our library system. I was holding out hopes for our spring book sale, but had no luck. I may have to bite the bullet and use my B&N gift card.
I can't believe the library doesn't have A Handful of Dust!
When my wife and I were first dating and I was getting to know her family, her sister suggested we swap favourite books as a shortcut to getting to know more about each other. I have her One Hundred Years of Solitude and she gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She couldn't make head nor tail of me from the Garcia book, but I loved Tree Grows, and once I truly got to know her, it made perfect sense that that was her favourite.
My least favorite of the trilogy, which makes it a 4 star book, not a 5. I don't like how they split up the Frodo/Sam story and the Aragorn et al story. I like the parts with Elves, and Men, and Gandalf, so I often will skip the last half of the book altogether (except for the part where F&S meet Faramir).
His third novel, and he's getting better already. This is a very complicated story (kinda Dickensian with all the coincidences and unforeseen relationships between seemingly random characters), and very sad. His female characters are improving - they almost seem like real human women now. The saintly characters are excessively saintly, and the evil character is deliciously evil. It's no Crime and Punishment, but that's a high standard.
Finishing up the trilogy. I cried at the end, again. Love these books as much as ever.
I am apparently flying through the books right now, but that is entirely due to high stress levels and insomnia. I have a postdoc interview out in Maine on Monday, and am freaking out. Lots of reading time on the plane, though!
Bring something warm too. Its still can be in the 50s-60s here, and it is supposed to be rainy next week. I am in NH.
My wife is awesome, but it was her sister who gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It was a way to get to know her sister quicker. We lived in Calgary, her sister had been away at university in Toronto. So it was a shortcut to getting to know the one member of her family that I hadn't really spent much time with.
I'm not sure what book my wife would have given me back then (1991). She was an actress then, now she's a more of a playwright. Tastes change. Maybe it would have been Pat Conroy's The Great Santini as a warning about her dad. Heh.
Also, I'm 99.99% sure I have a thesis defense date - June 3. Yikes. Then I'll be Dr. jfetting (only not the kind that can help anybody). Whew!
#55 Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
This was our latest Missouri Readers book, and I'm so glad we picked it. It's about a girl, Ree, who lives in the Ozarks, in an area where practically everyone is related to each other, and involved in meth making and dealing and whatnot. Her dad disappears, misses a court hearing, and she needs to figure out what happened to him in order to keep from losing the house.
This is a great book - dark, and gritty, and intense. Woodrell is a wonderful writer - the relationships between the characters are beautifully drawn, but he doesn't insult us by telling us things. He shows. Like authors are supposed to. Ree is an amazing character - so tough and ballsy and yet caring and tender (in her way) with her brothers. It's a gory read (I do not like descriptions of beatings. Ever, thanks) but I couldn't put it down. Not my usual thing, but really worth it.
edited b/c I used "great" twice in consecutive sentences, proving once again that I am not a great writer.
Congrats ! Maine is beautiful, but much colder than St. Louis all year round. Where abouts in Maine are you thinking of going ?
I read Winter's Bone a few years ago and agree 100% with your review. Which reminds me that I have been meaning to look for more of his books. I didn't know he was a MO writer, though, probably because I read it before moving here.
Of course I'm staying in the MO readers group. It is small, but I like it, so I'm staying.
Especially glad to hear that you'll stay in the MO readers group - we'd miss you terribly if you left.
#167 marise, are you also in Missouri? I hope you'll consider joining us as well. So far, our books have all been set in Missouri, but not all the authors are natives. Here is the link to the Winter's Bone discussion, which is just getting going - feel free to chime in:
It should be no secret by now that I love and adore Noel Coward's writing, and that he can do no wrong in my eyes, and I will inevitably enjoy anything with his name on it. I'd pay $24.99 for a collection of his grocery lists in hardcover. This collection of short stories is no exception. They're surprisingly unfunny, ranging from satiric to sweet to tragic. My favorites were "This Time Tomorrow" about a woman who is afraid of flying (ahem), "Me and My Girls" which broke my heart, and "Mrs. Capper's Birthday" which was the sweetest of the bunch.
He can do anything! Plays, novels, short stories, and letters worth reading after his death.
#57 Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
I really enjoyed this book, even though I didn't like Bathsheba much until the very end. But she became sensible eventually, and I think she'll live happily ever after. Hardy is quickly becoming a favorite. Gabriel Oak is a fantastic character. Silly, silly Bathsheba!
I remember seeing Far from the Madding Crowd years ago on TV - with Julie Christie. It's one Hardy book I haven't read - it's on the TBR list - along with mountains more.
I always said if I moved to the US I would live in VT or NH - now I'll add Maine, at least to visit. You haven't sold St. Louis to me - yikes, way too hot!!
#58 At Large and at Small by Anne Fadiman
Lovely little collection of essays. The ice cream one is my favorite - I read it during a thesis-writing break on Friday afternoon (when it was 86 degrees outside and humid just before the storms came through) and it almost drove me to the store to buy myself a pint of Haagen Daaz. Yum ice cream!
I also have a little bit of a crush on Mr. Arabin. How to review this book? Hmmm... how about OMG I LOVE THIS BOOK!!11!eleventy!!. No, that probably isn't the proper way to review Trollope. I'm sure he'd do much better. In all seriousness - this book is great. I'm still unable to pinpoint exactly why his writing hits the spot so perfectly, but it does. So funny. So snarky.
You crack me up!~! Upon reading your "review" I immediately toggled over to the review site and all of them on the first page were 5 star reviews!! So it went--BOOM--on my TBR list.
You crack me up!~! Upon reading your "review" I immediately toggled over to the review site and all of them on the first page were 5 star reviews!! So it went--BOOM--on my TBR list. thanx and I'll catcha later.
This wasn't a re-read for me, and it tells the history of Middle-Earth from the creation of the world until the end of the Third Age. In short, it's Middle-Earth's book of Genesis.
At the end, there is an index of names which is really helpful because there are too many to keep track. There is also a thingy at the end that defines all the roots of various Elven words. For example, "el" and "elen" are "star", and this derives from the exclamation of the Eldar (the elves) when they first saw the stars. There is a whole chapter of this! It's fascinating! Words and word origins are so interesting (If I weren't a scientist, I'd want to be a linguist) and Tolkein made up this language and it has rules. So awesome.
I really like the imagery Tolkein uses where the First calls the world into being through song. Sounds so familiar, right? I wonder who had the idea first, Tolkein or Lewis.
I don't watch the news, read the papers, listen to the radio (except for musical purposes, and I don't vote. ***I know; all over America people are aiming their oozies at western Washington and all the little bullets have N/B etched into them*** All I see are the headlines on the homepage of msn.com. Sorry guys, it's just a religious reference.
You know--part of free to be you and me???
No books to update, since there is almost zero time for reading (and Voyager is like 1000 pages long!), but several updates in the life of jfetting:
1) I took the job in Maine. I'll be moving in early July
2) Dissertation was handed out to the committee members yesterday; the defense is next wednesday
3) my journal article got accepted into a prestigious-for-my-field journal, with only really minor revisions (for example, one reviewer is unhappy that I apparently invented the word "punctae" when there is a perfectly good word "puncta" available to serve as the plural of "punctum".) Pedantry is good - it means that the science is so sound that the reviewer had to resort to this sort of nonsense to find something wrong to complain about.
I'm having an exceptionally charmed week, this week.
I especially agree with your #3 conclusion. I am a contract accountant - I tell my clients much the same thing whenever they complain about the ridiculously minor things that show up in their auditor's reports.
What a lovely time to be leaving St Louis!
I've been putting off The Big Over Easy for fear that it won't measure up the Thursday Next series. What's your take, in comparison?
What's up with Voyager? I thought you hated Gabaldon (?).
Welcome to New England, I hope you enjoy it. It can be warm in July, though not at St. Louis levels. It can also be cool, often within the same 24 hours. Just now my heat is turning on because it has been in the 40s at night. We have had 3 days of rainy and cool weather (NH).
My favorite so far! Lots fun and exciting adventure, and since it takes place 20 years after Dragonfly in Amber Jamie did grow up, and doesn't say the things that make me so angry. Good, dirty fun.
#63 The Art of Love by Ovid
A sex/relationship self-help poem/book from ancient Rome. Gentlemen, make sure your nose hairs are trimmed. Ladies, shave those legs! And other helpful advice for people looking for some action.
#64 Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
A collection of 5 short stories, connected by the theme of music and musicians. Beautiful, haunting stories, just as you'd expect. Highly recommended.
WAY TO GO, JENNIFER! What are you doing to celebrate?
#65 Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Not the Shakespeare festival play (that is Merry Wives of Windsor) but it is my personal favorite and a wonderful thing to read when you are too anxious and stressed to sleep at night. I loves me some banter.
But sincerely, I am very proud of you and excited for all the new and fresh things and places coming your way. All the very best to you. (check enclosed)
Funny, silly, fluffy, mindless. Needs more Ultraviolent Zombie Action. Would make a great beach read, if you are lucky enough to be near a beach.
Also, re: Merry Wives. I played Falstaff in MW a few years ago in our local Shakespeare in the Park summer festival (it's one of those companies that tosses in a handful of professionals with a bunch of kids coming out of theatre school). Falstaff is some of the most fun I've had, but in MW, he's a little different than in the Henry plays. I don't know how to describe it, maybe a little less melancholy bravado? Anyway, let us know how went.
I've never read any of the Henry plays, so I can't compare Falstaff in them to Falstaff in Wives, but there was no melancholy in this play.
#67 Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
So I went and read it after the performance. Very funny, and the female characters were fantastic. I think that sometimes women don't necessarily get the fun parts in Shakespeare, but in this play they do.
#68 The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoevsky
This novel is based on D's experiences in a prison camp, where he was sent after some political naughtiness went bad. It's very good; I kept forgetting it was "fiction". Reminded me quite a bit of Survival in Auschwitz, except without the terror. Recommended.
And thank you all again! I'm happy.
Moll Flanders is one of my favorite kinds of fictional characters - the bad girl who lives a life of sin and vice and crime who ends up doing pretty well and living happily ever after (a la Becky Sharp and Sister Carrie). As opposed to women who live a life of sin and vice and crime who, in consequence, end up dying tragically via accidental laudanum overdose/throwing herself under a train/cyanide poisoning, or who live a life of sin and vice and crime and suffer by being abandoned by the man they love/sinned with b/c he goes back home to run the family factory or falls in love with the Dead Pure American Girl who she and he have just swindled out of her fortune. (Pop quiz - name the books just described!) Moll Flanders is a lot of fun, with many helpful pickpocketing tips should you, too, choose to take up a life of crime.
#70 The Best Life Diet by Bob Greene
So, studies have shown that when people are concentrating really hard on a mental task, such as memorizing strings of numbers or writing a dissertation, their self-control centers are shot to hell (the control groups chose either fruit or chocolate cake; 100% of the memorizers picked the cake). My own experiment (n=1) supports these data: dissertation writers are more likely to eat Cheetos/drink beer/eat donuts without any regard for the consequences. Then, they need to clean up said diets so that their pants fit well again. Bob Greene helps.
This particular self-help book I find useful just as inspiration - he says really basic things like "don't eat starting 2 hours before bedtime" and "exercise, already" and things that I know perfectly well are true. I just like being reminded. In a perfect world, were I independently wealthy, I'd have a personal trainer telling me what to do and a nutritionist telling me what to do. Sadly, he does not stop the wine from being opened, even though he says to lay off the sauce.
I wish NZ sauv blanc would go on sale - I love Kim Crawford, but I can't afford it unless there is a sale.
#71 The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
You know, I really liked this book. I flew through all 600 pages in about two days. I'm sure it isn't very historically accurate, but I enjoyed the story a lot. Nice and light - a perfect read for a lazy summer day. Or weekend.
Yeah, Falstaff is great fun, and the two wives are also great parts (especially the one that ultimately gets him into the laundry hamper). So much fun to watch them lead him along. As for the sex, I don't know why anyone would come to a Shakespeare play thinking it was going to be sexless. I have a 6 year old son, and we'd take him. I find he understands what he understands, and he makes sense of the rest in his own way quite happily. On the other hand, I'd be more leery about taking him to Titus Andronicus or even Macbeth; I shield him from violence more than from sex.
My latest ER book is a light, fluffy P&P knockoff that I managed to finish in about 2 hours. Told from Darcy's point of view, it covers the same sort of thing that all these books do. What I particularly liked about this book is the characterization of Bingley and Georgiana. Bingley is much less dependent on Darcy than some versions make him appear, and Georgiana gets over the whole Wickham thing and becomes a shy but fun-loving teenager. You don't really get a sense of Elizabeth, but I've decided that's ok since 1) we already know her (I mean, who is going to read P&P fanfic without reading P&P?) and 2) Darcy didn't really know her well, and the book is his alleged diary. Overall, not as good as the Pamela Aidan books, but still a fun read.
#73 The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Before I forget, the author is an actual descendant of an actual woman actually hanged for being a witch during the Salem witch trials! Wow!
"Wow" is a good description of how I felt about this book. Super, super good. It's one of those books (like The Historian), where the main character is a PhD student whose research leads them into supernatural mystery. In this case, hunting up the spellbook of the titular Deliverance Dane. This isn't amazing literature - Ishiguro has nothing to worry about - but it is such a great summer read. It is predictable, sure (I guessed who the bad guy was pretty quickly) but still! I highly recommend it to anyone who liked The Historian or any of those Barbara Michaels books.
ETA: I'm sulking now because my PhD research didn't lead me into any supernatural mysteries. Next life, I'm going to study history!
Both The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy sound really interesting...I'm glad that Georgiana gets a fuller characterization. She and Mary Bennet were the two side-characters I always wondered the most about.
legxleg - I suspected you might! and I'm glad you liked it as much as I did.
#74 Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
I'd never read anything by Gaskell before (although I watched the Cranford miniseries on PBS), so I didn't quite know what to expect. Didn't much care for it at first, but then it got really really good. I was really concerned about the characters, especially Jem. This is one of those "conditions of the working classes in England during the Industrial Revolution", and I think it is definitely a keeper. Time to look up some more Gaskell!
I have to ask from your questionnaire which works are the characters Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing?), the Marquis of Carabas, Nick Jenkins, Zaphod Beeblebrox from? I think I missed out on some literary works.
BTW, I can relate having a crush on Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester. For some reason, my husband wouldn't let me name either of our boys Colin (Darcy would have been too odd):-)
Benedick is indeed from Much Ado About Nothing (love the witty banter), the Marquis of Carabas is from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (I love the literary scoundrels), Nick Jenkins is the narrator from Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (love the witty banter), and Zaphrod Beeblebrox is from Douglas Adams's The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (another literary scoundrel). Zaphrod literally has two heads, which is a bit of a turnoff, but who doesn't love an intergalactic bad boy?
And a friend of mine named her son Darcy, and one of my cousins married a Darcy. Not completely out there. Although I'm yet to run into a young Fitzwilliam on the Sydney streets!
I really enjoyed this early novel - it was written before the Victorians came in and tamed everything, so there is a lot of sex and cursing. It's a very funny book; Fielding is really good at tongue in cheek humor. The story follows Tom Jones through a very eventful and misspent youth. Misfortunes befall him left and right, mostly because all but three of the characters are greedy, grasping liars. The book is huge, but worth the time invested.
Well, I've managed to move across the country to absolutely beautiful Portland, ME. I'm finally hooked up to the internet, so I can actually list some books!
#76 French Women For All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano
Another book by the same woman who wrote French Women Don't Get Fat, with nice lifestyle advice (more emphasis on fruits, vegetables, exercise, flowers, and clothes, and less emphasis on insane weekends spent only consuming leek broth and nothing else). I think she is fun, and she has the ideal job/life: head of Veuve Cliquot (mmmmmm), apartments in NYC and Paris and a house in Provence.
#77 Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I liked Sharp Objects, her first novel, but Dark Places was simply amazing. The story is about a young woman finding out more about the murder of over half her family, allegedly by her brother, when she was 7 years old. Crazy twist ending (no, I didn't at all manage to figure out the real killer(s)), and fantastic characterization. It was really difficult to read about the alienation of the brother, and the poverty of the family. This is just a terrific mystery book, and I highly recommend it.
I really liked this book while reading it, and right after I finished, but then after thinking about it a little bit I decided it was a little bit lacking. I liked the setup, and the writing, but I just didn't get the character's motivation - I had expected more alienation following 9/11, to explain the huge life change the protagonist made (moving from NYC and his super great job to Lahore, Pakistan), but it really wasn't there. Still, worth reading.
#79 Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (re-read)
I just do not understand this little book. At all. I enjoy reading it, but I don't get it at all. Some things are beyond my comprehension.
Love it! Especially the bad guys, and the minor characters. The "heroine" is your standard drippy boring Victorian feminine ideal (beautiful, pure, innocent, dull), and the "hero" is also drippy and boring. Everyone else is fantastic, especially the villain Count Fosco.
Now, I have to watch an interview with Gene Wilder on TCM (yay cable!). Gene Wilder is one of the greatest ever.
Nice and short, and pretty funny story about the culture clash between the Western (Europe, in this case) work ethic and the Japanese. It was entertaining and all, but I don't think it deserved to be on the 1001 list.
Where to begin? So, in this book Bloom gives a chapter to each of about 20 or 30 authors that he considers "canonical". Unfortunately, he begins the book with a chapter in which he rants and complains about how people (mostly Feminists and Marxists and African-Americans) have the audacity to claim that people should read other authors besides Bloom's favorites, even ones that are female or non-white. Gasp! And these people, these horrible women and minorities just keep GANGING UP on poor Harold and blah blah blah. Didn't really put me in a pro-Bloom mood, and he only sorta redeems himself by the fact that he loves Beckett's Endgame as much as I do.
The best part of this book is the index of suggested books at the back, because I always like lists of books I should read. The worst part of this book is that Bloom is a whiny pedant. In his favor, though, he did make me want to read the authors and books he discussed that I haven't already read.
I picked this up from the B&N bargain shelves, because I think Buddhism is interesting and that mindfulness and nonviolence are important concepts. Plus, I think that the Dalai Lama is charming. The book, however, is meant for people who are a lot more familiar with the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism that I am, because I was confused a lot.
I plan on avoiding Montaigne like the plague, though, because if even Harold Bloom thinks someone is anti-women, I think that someone will make me want to set things on fire. So.
It has taken me a shamefully long time to read this, given that every single biology prof I have even taken a class with (and they are legion) said that all scientists should read this. And they are right! We should. But so should all non-scientists. For anyone used to the writing style of the Victorians, at all, the language is not difficult. Darwin wrote for posterity, and for the masses, not just for scientists. This is just hands down one of the most important books ever written. Paradigms shifted. The world was never the same again after this was published, and the fallout from its publication is still around today.
Hope things are great in your neck of the woods. We are pretty warm here this summer but it's all good.
You take care and happy reading to you.
So-so biography of J.A., with some explanations of things like clothing and dresses and card games and what time supper was served. The most entertaining part was that this book was written in around 1905 or so, and some of the comments were a little disconcerting (like, how we would "nowadays" expect a man to make a call in a top hat. If only!!). I'm sure there are better bios of Austen out there, and better books about the times.
#86 Les Liasions Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
This book is fantastic! Merteuil and Valmont are each exactly the sort of fictional character that I love, all corrupt and worldly and extremely intelligent and very funny. The book cracked me up - I love all of the characters except one. That one is, of course, the beautiful, virtuous, saintly, boring, and whiny Madame de Tourvel. How someone as insipid as Tourvel managed to interest someone as awesome as Valmont (I'm adding him to my fictional crush list immediately) is completely beyond me, and absolutely the least believable thing in the whole book. The question is though, did Valmont really love her? When I read his letters, I feel like although he did feel something different for her than he'd ever felt before, it wasn't love. When I read Merteuil's letters, I think maybe he was in love with Tourvel. But I'm going to go with "no". Clearly, Valmont and Merteuil were meant for each other.
You have spurred me onwards to read Les Liasons Dangereuses - your review is inspiring. I always hesitate with translations which is why I haven't up to now.
kiwi- which book is that, the slavery one? Is that the tormented evolutionist book by Desmond & Moore? I was thinking of reading one; I liked Desmond's bio of Huxley, and wanted to try the Darwin ones too. Let me know what you think of the book!
re: #78 The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
I agree about something being missing, but at the same time there was something about that book that makes me want to re-read it. I really enjoyed it.
#82 The Western Canon by Harold Bloom
If you can get past Bloom's complaining about the enfranchisement of those he thinks are getting a free ride, he's amazing. I haven't read this one, but have heard him make that case in a podcast. Anyway, the stuff of his I've read on Shakespeare and on Whitman is fantastic.
re: Les Liasons Dangereuses
The play is also fantastic.
I second that. I enjoyed the original version, but the play, by Christopher Hampton, is even more entertaining.
I want to see the play! It hasn't ever been staged anywhere I've lived. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed that someday it'll come back.