quickfire book reviews.

So in case you haven’t already noticed, the Reading Lists page contains a lot of reading lists. Lists I intend to read all of. And may have already read some of. As long ago as 2001, in some cases.

Anyway, I’m gradually crossing things out as I read them, but basically I want to start this entire Reading Lists Project (which includes but is not limited to the reading part of the Twenties Project, which I will talk about later) by doing a quick, paragraph-maximum review of, sound bite from, or memory concerning each of the books I’ve already read, and then keep doing small, quick paragraphs as I make my way through the actual list.

Great. Here we go.

1984 by George Orwell – I read this my freshman year of high school, having borrowed it from my boyfriend of the time, and I quite like what little I remember of it. One of the things I’m awkwardly enthusiastic about is realistic sex in literature – as in, inexperienced people actually being inexperienced, nobody’s body being perfect, etc. Like I said, awkwardly enthusiastic. But that’s one of the great things about this book. As well as the terrifying setting and the dehumanization of nearly everyone in the end and just wow. Maybe I need to read this again.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – I am not enthusiastic about this book. I have little patience for Emma Bovary. She is unhappy, yes, but she always turns outward for the fix. I don’t believe that’s feasible.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – I love this book. I happen to have named my phone Yuri and my camera Lara after the two main people (no spoilers). I read this book in pieces and am convinced that if I went back to read it again I would find a lot more about it that I like. Frankly, I am quite fond of (spoilers) the scene in which Pasha commits suicide. I have, as I have said, always been sort of fascinated with Russia, and I enjoy the image of his blood on the snow in a way that makes me think the two (my two fascinations with odd things) are related. Also, metaphorical rowanberries.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – I read this ages ago, when I borrowed it from Derek before we were seniors, which, even chronologically, has been a long time. I liked it. It’s a lot more complex than sixteen-year-old me could understand, though – involved social commentary, etc. Although I quite like the idea that Huxley’s dystopia involves a society in which we have become obsessed with the trivial.

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – Best fantasy epic in the world. Enough said. As Devo and I discussed ages ago, sometimes it’s not the plot, it’s the characters. I would be impossibly fond of Frodo Baggins even if Elijah Wood were not as attractive as he is. And nobody doesn’t love Samwise Gamgee.

My Antonia by Willa Cather – I love this book. I haven’t read it in a long time but I remember thinking it was impossibly beautiful, and it is. Frankly, the best passage is the one right after (spoilers) Mr. Shimerda is buried, about no weary traveler on those roads ever stopped without noticing his grave, and you just imagine this incredible journey in the dusk and people whose lonely graves might be all around you, or lost in the middle of nowhere, or both.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I love this book too. The earliest I remember reading it is in the summer of 2008, which I think is probably the earliest I read it. This book is, for me, about self-respect, but also trust, as in the words of Maya Angelou, “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen – okay, well, I’m not crazy about this one. I have about as much patience for Nora Helmer as I have for Emma Bovary – and I have about as much patience for them as I have for mosquitoes. I managed to pull some deeper meaning out of this, though, delving into the question of “can Nora really love her children if she leaves them like that?” but posing the possibility that she legitimately believes that no mother figure for them is better than the mother figure she would be, and that that belief possibly makes it right for her to leave. But I still don’t like this play very much.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – nobody doesn’t like this book. Maudie Atkinson is everything I want to be. So is Atticus Finch, for that matter. It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – yes, I have read the entire thing, although it was in my senior year of high school which is a long mental time ago now. Mostly, I enjoy the bowl of petunias.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – this is the book which I originally read in 2001. I laugh now to remember how I interpreted it at the age of six. I think I like it mostly now for Alice’s possibly literal descent into madness, and how things don’t have to make sense to be wonderful.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Confession about this book: I’ve only read it all the way through like one time. I finally finished it after seeing the third dramatic version of it I ever saw at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis the summer before college. I love it anyway, though. George R. R. Martin said that “We read…to find the colors again, I think,” and though the story of guy gets girl is older than dirt, Pride and Prejudice is sweetly vibrant.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles – I actually kept my copy of this after humanities was over freshman year (I still think last fall, though of course it wasn’t) at my dad’s advice. I don’t know why he suggested it. But oh well. There’s something really amazing about Greek theater – perhaps this comes from a personal fascination with Greek culture past and present, but there’s something incredible about stories which survive so long. It makes me simultaneously eager and terrified to write.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy – As I remember, I read this after sophomore year of high school and Rachel spoiled it for me early. But it didn’t matter, because at the time, I was caught up enough in the story to forget what she had told me until the end. I was so hopeful that Tess would find the love she deserved after all her trials, and when it didn’t work I cried. And then I hated the ending, but you know. In all honesty it was a rather important book for me to have read at the time.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – I read this while my father was in the hospital, and finished it while I drank champagne on Christmas night (and choked violently on the third swallow). I’m sort of obsessed by the idea of Catherine Barkley and her approach to her life and her love, and I suppose things are different in wartime.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman – They don’t make ’em like this anymore. I don’t know if they ever did. William Goldman is one of a kind, and this, at least, is a good thing that he did.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – I read this in the spring of my freshman year of college, right on the heels of the intensity of my still-fresh obsession with Doctor Who, and the time travel boggled my mind, but so did everything else in the book. Verity is my hero.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I will say this: I am not one of those people who actually goes through the “nights of their lives” and finds the best and the worst and everything, but aside from when Connor McClellan agreed to slow dance with me at junior prom, reading A Study in Scarlet late at night on my apartment couch as I rode further into the valleys of Utah, with love and death at stake, is one of the better ones. There’s just something about the second part which draws you in and makes you delightfully, deliciously, literarily sick.

The Enormous Room by e. e. cummings – I’ll say it again, “There’s a man up here called Christ who likes the violin.”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Best book about books ever.

Divergent and companions by Veronica Roth – AHHHHH. Okay, first of all: Worst. Ending. Ever. (No spoilers.) But holy cow this series, while an odd sort of political, made me remember how great dystopias are. And I just love it. I’ve discovered (see A Study in Scarlet and Doctor Zhivago) that the best books make me an odd kind of sick. These did too. They made me want to be an action hero and grow out of my shell. Also, I would probably be an Erudite. Sorry. Or not.

There you go. This will continue, as I read more, but I’m not there yet. They will be tagged “Reading List Project” if you ever have the desire to read all of them at once.


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