“It was about how we as humans begin by burning books and end by burning people.”
Neil Gaiman (Introduction to Fahrenheit 451)
This is a list of books I already own, but are still “To Be Read.” I’ll update the list as I read through the collection and add to it (because, let’s be honest, I’m incapable of stopping myself). In no particular order:
- One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Gabriel García Márquez
- Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (2009), Karl Marlantes
- A Visit From the Goon Squad (2010), Jennifer Egan
- On Beauty (2005), Zadie Smith
- We Were the Mulvaneys (1996), Joyce Carol Oates
- Blood Meridian (1985), Cormac McCarthy
- Out of Africa and Shadows in the Grass (1937), Isak Dinesen
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), Junot Diaz
- Suite Francaise (2004), Irene Nemirovsky
- Positively 4th Street (2011), David Hadju
- Birthday Letters (1998), Ted Hughes
- Boom (2008), Tom Brokaw
- Her Fearful Symmetry (2009), Audrey Niffennegger
- The Casual Vacancy (2012), J.K. Rowling
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994), John Berendt
- 1776 (2005), David McCullough
- John Adams (2001), David McCullough
- Death Comes to Pemberley (2001), P.D. James
- Quite Early One Morning (1954), Dylan Thomas
- Everything is Illuminated (2002), Jonathan Safron Foer
- Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), Michael Chabon
- Hitchcock (1967), Francois Truffaut
- Anywhere But Here, Mona Simpson
- The Gilded Age, Mark Twain
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), Tom Hardy
- Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), Sherman Alexie
- A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Charles Dickens
- A Passage to India (1924), E.M. Forster
- The Forsyte Saga (1922), John Galsworthy
- A Portrait of a Lady (1881), Henry James
- Cat’s Eye (1988), Margaret Atwood
- Collapse (2005), Jared Diamond
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940), Carson McCullers
- The House of Mirth (1905), Edith Wharton
- Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), E.M. Forster
There’s a really great built-in bookshelf that wraps around one half of my room and I have big ground level windows that let in a lot of natural sunlight during the day, so I’ve been wanting to arrange my room so as to have a nice reading area. My bedroom isn’t very large, but I recently picked up this armchair from the Salvation Army ($25!), pushed my bed towards the opposite wall, and finally fulfilled a lifelong goal of having my own personal reading nook!
I have a pretty bad (but also great) habit of buying used books at library book sales and thrift stores for really cheap. Honestly, this is one of the best ways to build a personal library without spending a lot of money (usually you can buy a hardcover book for around a dollar), but it results in me having a lot more books than I actually have time to read.
All of the books in this picture are ones that I have picked up from book sales over the last few years, probably all for a dollar or less. Some of them I have started at one point, but for one reason or another, got bored or distracted, and never actually finished them. In any case, this summer I really want to finish those ones, and to keep reading from this pile of books.
I have been participating in the 2014 Reading Challenge on Goodreads.com, and I’m trying to stay up-to-date on tracking my reading for it. Twenty books seemed like a reasonable goal to achieve, and so far this year I haven’t been reading as much/as fast I would like to be, but I am on track to complete the challenge. However, I definitely anticipate reaching that goal, especially as summer nears (when I tend to be more motivated when it comes to reading), so I expect that number to expand as I read more books.
Thus far, the books I have already read are (from oldest to most recent):
The Interestings (2013), Meg Wolitzer
My housemates and I wanted to start a book club at the beginning of the year, and this book (which I suggested) was supposed to be the inaugural choice. I think that I was the only one who actually ended up finishing it, so the whole book club idea pretty much fell apart.
The novel follows a group of teenagers that meet at a summer camp for the arts in the early 70’s, and follows them until the present time. As time goes by, their friendships are tested by envy, success (or lack of it), money, and betrayal. It sympathetically explores what happens when the talent and creativity one has as a young person and one’s expectations of adulthood are confronted by the realities and disappointments that life brings. The first half or so of the book I really liked, which followed the group, who name themselves “The Interestings,” from adolescence into young adulthood, but started to lose interest as they moved quickly into marriage, parenthood, and middle age.
Parade’s End (1928), Ford Madox Ford
This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time. I’ve always really loved war stories, both books (The Things They Carried, A Farewell to Arms) and films/series (Band of Brothers, any Ken Burns documentary), so this one has been on my To Be Read list for awhile. Not coincidentally, HBO made a great miniseries in 2011 with Benedict Cumberbatch playing the main character Christopher Tietjens, which obviously made me want to read the book as well.
Parade’s End is told from the perspective of aristocratic and intelligent Tietjens, a British civil servant and later officer in the French trenches, his cruel socialite wife Sylvia, and his idealistic suffragette mistress Valentine, beginning in 1912 through WWI and ending sometime after the end of the war. I really enjoyed this book: it could be humorous, bitingly harsh, and romantic at times. While the book is ostensible about the war, and is considered to be a definitive look at the First World War, the central conflict really lies between the triangle of Tietjens, his wife, and Valentine. Tietjens is a brilliant man, but his career, love life, and reputation are ruined by his personal code of integrity which disallows him from accepting the dishonesty and falseness of modern society.
High Fidelity (1996), Nick Hornby
Another book that’s been made into a movie, which I’ve wanted to read for a long time, but I’ve only just recently finally gotten to reading it. I loved the sad-sack British humor, the endless pop culture references (however, the more obscure British references often went over my head), and the fact that the book was a quick read (after reading Parade’s End, which was 800+ pages, this one was a breeze at only about 300). Although protagonist Rob would probably find my own musical taste (I unabashedly love The Eagles and Phil Collins) and complete lack of a record collection (except for a token copy of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, which is basically for decoration) inexcusable and something to scoff, its also that character’s straightforwardness and crippling insecurity that makes the book so enjoyable. In any case, what pop culture addict can’t relate to this quote: “What really matters is what you like, not what you are like.”?
The Group (1963), Mary McCarthy
This is a book I found while I was briefly signed up for the Oyster book service (there was a one month free trial). I vaguely remembered having seen a movie based on this book a few years ago on TCM, and thought I’d give it a chance. The book follows the titular “group” of eight Vassar Class of ‘33 friends as they drift apart and reunite in the years after graduation. The book is bookended by events that bring the women together: it begins with a wedding celebration a week after graduation and ends seven years later with the same bride’s funeral. Though it takes place in the 30s and was published in the early 60s, the McCarthy’s novel feels very modern and progressive in the topics it covers, and speaks frankly about sex, love, women’s rights, socialism, mental illness, and financial problems (it does take place during the depression).
The Age of Innocence (1921), Edith Wharton
An undisputed classic, it really is amazing that I’ve only just now finished reading Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning portrait of 1870s New York high society. Basically, this books ticks most of the boxes of things I love in a book: classic novel, social satire, doomed romance, unconventional heroine, opulent details, etc…. It’s a beautiful book, and Wharton sketches the upper crust of New York society with a biting critique that strips away the glittering gowns and grandeur of the Gilded Age, leaving one with the same sense of stifling dullness that protagonist Newland Archer himself begins to feel as gets closer to the Countess Olenska. The tragedy of the novel is that, though Newland comes to disdain the conventions and traditions of his society’s way of life, when he is presented with the opportunity to live and love free of those constraints, he doesn’t have the courage to leave the comfort and stability of that insular community.
So it’s been nearly two years since I first started this blog, and as anyone can see, I obviously did not follow through. Even as a child, I was awful at keeping a journal/diary, so it’s no surprise to me that I only successfully published three blog posts before forgetting/tiring of it. In any case, I am feeling somewhat more motivated to do something more productive (that doesn’t involve marathoning shows on Netflix), and am going to attempt to revive and revamp my blog. I have been reading a lot more lately, and I wish I had already been documenting my progress.
I am thinking about a name change and highlighting some other things I like to do (like my renewed interest in crocheting), but it would still primarily be a place to post about what I am reading. I think that shooting for at least one decent post per week is a realistic goal. To be honest, I’m not really that concerned with having many followers; I kind of just want to be accountable for my interests in a more active way than just updating my shelves on Goodreads (which I am pretty good about keeping up with). Anyway, we’ll see where this goes…hopefully I’ll have the momentum to make it past three posts this time!
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (2004), Chuck Klosterman
I just finished reading A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, which really made me want read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (pretty much immediately). Lucky for me a good friend of mine just happens to own it, and is now letting me borrow it. I’m already 100 pages in!
A Dance with Dragons (2011), George R.R. Martin
I’m finally getting into the 5th and latest book in the A Song of Fire and Ice series, which I started last summer. I actually started reading it a few months ago, but caught up with school, and finals, and my thesis so it’s been on the back burner since then. I’m excited to see where this book takes the story, but also nervous to finish it since Season 2 of Game of Thrones is finishing up on Sunday and who knows when the next book in the series will be out. How will I get my GoT fix when I’m done?
On the Queue: Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (1985), Cormac McCarthy