Friday, August 28, 2015

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte, Brontë

August's 2015 Classic Read was Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë!

I think sometimes it's difficult to fully appreciate classics because the reason they are classics has mainly to do with the context in which they were written. Reading Jane Eyre for the first time in 2015, I have to admit that I spent most of it rolling my eyes & ready to chuck it across the room. Really, Jane? Really? It's so painfully clear that Mr. Rochester is a dire shitbird, and you are utterly pathetic for not realizing this almost immediately. (Though, I will also admit that she gets a little less pathetic as the book goes on, but he is still a shitbird, and their conversations are honestly kind of gross.)

BUT, I do get that it was rather revolutionary and radical for 1847 and (kind of hilariously) was actually lambasted for being anti-God/Church (ie, a woman every once in a while having an original thought and maybe occasionally for half a second not doing exactly what some rando self-important dude tells her to do). Still, a part of me was screaming throughout, JANE, YOU IDIOT! DTMFA!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The BBC's "The Big Read"

The BBC's top 200 literary works, based on a survey of over 750,000 UK readers! I literally just found out about this & am now compelled to mark up the list with ones I've read (bold) & which are on my imminent 'to read' list.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien - Junior year of college (too late; I never really got into it & the whole thing was sort of a slog.)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I'm ambivalent about this book but I feel like I should read it just, y'know, to do it.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman - grad school

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Summer between freshman & sophomore years of college

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling - Junior year of college

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - summer 2014

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne - Oh god. No idea. Middle school?

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - freshman year of high school, mostly under the desk in biology

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis - grad school

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë - just finished!

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller - summer 2014

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë - again...just never been able to muster the enthusiasm

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - 9th grade, for school

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger - 2011ish I think?

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - 7th grade, for school

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling - junior year of college

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling - junior year of college

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling - junior year of college

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - junior year of high school maybe?

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy - on the list!

Middlemarch by George Eliot - on the list!

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - just a month or so ago

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - 11th grade, for school

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - middle school, I think?

The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez early 2014?

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Dune by Frank Herbert - 2010?

Emma by Jane Austen

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Watership Down by Richard Adams - over Christmas 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 11th grade, for school

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Animal Farm by George Orwell - 9th grade, for school

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - just last Christmas

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy - on the list!

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - 6th or 7th grade? Not sure.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck summer between 9th & 10th grade

The Stand by Stephen King

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - summer 2014

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The BFG by Roald Dahl - elementary school, not sure

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell - 2nd or 3rd grade, I think?

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - earlier this summer

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - 12th grade, for school

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Mort by Terry Pratchett

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

The Magus by John Fowles

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett - 2008?

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Perfume by Patrick Süskind

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding - early 2014

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - 2005 or 2006 I think

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Ulysses by James Joyce

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson

The Twits by Roald Dahl

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Holes by Louis Sachar

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - just a couple of months ago

Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - 9th grade, for school

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Magician by Raymond E. Feist

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett - on the list!

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - been on the list for quite sometime actually...

Katherine by Anya Seton

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Girls in Love by Jacqueline Wilson

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie - will read at some point for sure because Salman Rushdie

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome - After reading Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog, I have to admit I'm curious.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett - I started reading this in college & would like to go back & finish it!

The Beach by Alex Garland

Dracula by Bram Stoker - 2005. LOVE.

Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo - I seriously doubt I will ever read this one

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

The Dare Game by Jacqueline Wilson

Bad Girls by Jacqueline Wilson

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - this year!

Shōgun by James Clavell

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - on the list!

Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - 2008 or '09 I think?

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - People keep recommending this to me so I suppose I should just read it.

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov - A friend loves this one so I may give it a shot.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - In one sitting, junior year of college

Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

Girls in Tears by Jacqueline Wilson

Sleepovers by Jacqueline Wilson

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

It by Stephen King

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

The Green Mile by Stephen King

Papillon by Henri Charrière

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian

Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Secrets by Jacqueline Wilson

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - this year!

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - 12th grade, for school

Kim by Rudyard Kipling - After Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Declare, I'm curious to read this one.

Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville - Let's be real, it ain't happening.

River God by Wilbur Smith

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

The World According to Garp by John Irving - on the list!

Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore

Girls Out Late by Jacqueline Wilson

The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White - 4th grade maybe?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - 12th grade, for school

They Used to Play on Grass by Terry Venables and Gordon Williams

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - on the list!

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - 2007, I think?

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Dustbin Baby by Jacqueline Wilson

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - I'll admit I'm morbidly curious.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - meant to read this one last year & got sidetracked, so definitely on the list

The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay - on the list

Silas Marner by George Eliot

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis - DEF on the list

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera - on the list

Man and Boy by Tony Parsons

The Truth by Terry Pratchett

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

The Once and Future King by T. H. White - on the list

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - Oh god. 1st grade? Kindergarten? Lord knows.

Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

Saturday, August 8, 2015

I'll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson

This may be the absolute best modern YA novel I've ever read in terms of teenage characters who are actually believable in terms of how they think, act, and (especially) talk.

It's also just a lovely, if bittersweet, story about a set of artsy teenage twins trying to navigate their own & each other's tumultuous lives in the wake of their parents' own issues, and manages to strike a nice balance of humor, heartache, sweetness, and raw teenage emotion without veering too much into melodrama (or trying so hard to ape modern teenage lingo that it's painful).

Still a *bit* too much schmoopy in places for my taste, but not so much as to make me want to vomit (which more or less seems to be the norm with YA). A great read for 12/13+, but there's plenty going on for adults to appreciate as well.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Blue Girl, by Laurie Foos

A super quick, easy, fairly minimalist read, and at the same time amazingly, gorgeously, breathtakingly written. I'm not sure how you do both of those things at the same time, but somehow Foos pulled it off.

A silent blue girl has appeared in an unnamed lake town; after one of their daughters saves the blue girl from drowning, three sad, middle-aged women with sad, middle-aged husbands, teenage daughters, and troubled sons sneak out at night to the cabin in the woods where the blue girl lives with an old woman to feed her the secrets they've baked into homemade moon pies. When the kids catch on, everything changes.

Again, I don't understand how she did it, but these 220 dream-like pages weave together some of the most brilliant character development I've read in a while with profound narrative themes & symbolism. Not a wasted word anywhere. Heartbreakingly beautiful.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk

Late to the party on this one! I picked it up in the airport because I wanted something short to read on a plane (it's ~200 pages or so), & having only seen the movie & never read any Palahniuk Chuck, I was curious. Super entertaining & amazingly well-written & well crafted. My only regret is that I wish I'd read it before seeing the movie. I also enjoyed the afterword at the end about how the book began as a six-page short story no one paid any attention to & evolved into an international blockbuster. The question now is, which Palahniuk to read next?