50 Books- Harry Potter

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I had always planned to finished this challenge with this series. It was my shining light at the end of the tunnel, and as it would have me finishing on Harry Potter’s birthday, I thought it was appropriate.  When I took a little break, I intended to keep going for the most part.  Perhaps every other book.  Then I got so excited reading the books I felt like reading, I couldn’t quite get back to ‘required’ reading.  But of course, Harry Potter is different.

50 Books- The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

Where did I get the books and how many pages does it have?

I have had many copies of these books in my hands over the years.  The first copies I read (only 1-4) were my mother’s, followed by the books I waited in line to buy (5-7).  Later, my husband purchased paperback copies while he was away on work and wanted to read them.  One of the first books we bought when we bought a kindle was this series, and recently Oyster added them to their unlimited book collection.  During our travels, Big One began collecting the series in different languages, including the original UK version, a copy in Italian, and one copy in German.

I read the kindle copies this time, which don’t have page numbers most of the time, so I’m using numbers from other copies. So many versions of these books exist, I’m pretty sure there couldn’t be a standard number of pages.  Book 1-309 pages, book 2-341, book 3-435, book 4-743, book 5-870, book 6-652, and book 7-759, for a total of 4109 pages, if my math is correct.

Have I read this book before?

Yes.  A few times.  I resisted the pull at first.  I had a problem when I was younger with always wanting to avoid doing things that were popular.  I wanted to think I had more sophisticated tastes, and therefore if everyone was talking about something, I couldn’t jump on the bandwagon.  Yeah.  I’ve always been  uncool, but I wasn’t always okay with that.

Then, one rainy day while I was pregnant with Big One, I gave in.  I had nothing to do, no where to go, and nothing to read.  The first two books were read that day, followed quickly by the next two books.  Let’s be realistic, I knew I had been stupid to resist pretty quickly, and I was converted.  I read and reread the books while waiting for the other releases.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was actually the first chapter book I ever read to Big One, as she laid down to take naps as a baby.  Each of the later books were read in one day, and yeah, I know some people are surprised as the books were long, but I was unemployed, excited, and had a husband waiting desperately for his turn to read.  There were definitely a few times when we wished we had bought two copies, but I think it bugged my husband more than me.  Since I read faster, I got to read first.

My husband really wanted Big One to like the series, and recommended it to her several times, but she didn’t get into it on her own.  Just before she turned 11, we started reading the books as a family, one or two chapters a night, and watching the movies when we were done.  Both girls were converted.

I guess you could say I have read the books a little.

What did I already know?

Um, the first time?  Not much. I knew they were crazy popular, and that they had been protested by several religious groups for teaching witchcraft.  I think that was actually think that may have been what finally convinced me to read them.

As I read, and reread the series, there are always things that get a little better, as well as things that don’t make sense.  I find this series to have fewer inconsistencies than others, but there are still always questions.  One of the joys now, is rereading knowing not only how the stories end, but also the details released by JK Rowling that aren’t in the books.  Knowing how Voldemort began, knowing how Dumbledore became the person he was, and knowing what was going on behind the scenes, the stuff Harry didn’t know at the time.  It all makes you view the stories differently.  Basically, the first time through, you get to be Harry and learn it all as you go.  The second time through, you get to be Dumbledore, and know everything.

What do I think now?

A lot has been written about these books over the years, and I’m not sure I have much more to say.  Yes, it is about love, and friendship, and learning, and sacrifice. Yes it is both wonderfully written, and simplistically written.  As the books are for children, they have an easy style, but they also got a little harder as the series went on, showing a respect for the aging of the characters and the readers.  They were well planned, so you didn’t have to deal with information that was unnecessary to know at the time, but still fit within the lore when you learn later.  It’s all good there.  But let me break it down, a little further.

The Sorcerer’s Stone- A great opening to the series, but not my favorite of the series.  Definitely says that Dumbledore is insane for leaving this crap to the kids, and Harry is arrogant for thinking rules don’t apply to him and that he is smarter than everyone else. Of course, if he hadn’t things could have been bad.

The Chamber of Secrets-This one is my husbands favorite, because of all the ‘easter eggs’ hidden here that apply to the rest of the story.  Mostly I just love Dobby, and Lockhart.

The Prisoner of Azkaban- Big One’s favorite, due to the introduction of Sirius. I liked this book, as it revealed a lot about the night Harry’s parents died, and a bit more about Snape’s relationship with everyone.  I also loved Hermione in this book, but it’s hard to pin point why.  Loved Lupin, but I never really liked Sirius.  He was really pretty horrible, yet crazy self-righteous simply because he wasn’t Slytherin like the rest of his family.

The Goblet of Fire-This one is interesting, because it really expands the world to include other schools. The world cup was fun, the tournament was complex and intriguing, and the relationships between Harry, Ron, and Hermione changed a lot, which was necessary.  I also loved how close the bad guy was for the entire book.  I liked that he was close enough to kill Harry, but knew there was a greater purpose to keeping him alive.  The idea that a bad guy should strike just because he can is overly simplistic, as this proves.

The Order of the Phoenix-This one is my favorite.  To me, this is the turning point, the beginning of the end.  Sure, big things happen at the end of book 4, but they are dealing with them in this book.  I like the anger Harry expresses, because really, he should be angry.  He’s 15, and dealing with a lot.  I like the changes in relationships between people, the fighting, the mistrust, and mostly the fear.  This year also had my favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Umbridge.  People seem to think she is universally hated, and yes, she is horrible.  What I love about her, is how well she is written.  She isn’t pure evil, though she seems to get enjoyment out of the pain she inflicts on others.  Umbridge is someone who feels they are doing right, and is put in a position of power.  No matter what she does, she can convince herself that it is fine.  What is one person’s pain against the pain of thousands?  If this one person behaves, she can control everything, and that is necessary.  I love it, because it is real.  Wars have been fought for centuries because someone is convinced that they know better than everyone else.  This is just that same concept, on a small, personal scale.

The Half-Blood Prince- I think this is a close second on my favorites list.  I really felt for Draco.  He was in a bad place, and he really didn’t have great choices.  You can see how his entire world was falling apart, not only because of what he had been told to do, but also because of the things he had always believed. He really thought the purity of blood was important, and that there was a joy in the necessity of dominating others.  Instead, he was learning that it was hard and painful.  I’d like to think that he changed after all he lived through, but it’s hard to know for sure.

The Deathly Hallows-This is a strong ending to the story, and I liked how the format changed.  It felt like a real, and necessary change.  However, there were several things that pissed me off.  First of all, Dobby.  He deserved the hero’s death he received, but I wish it hadn’t happened.  Second of all, Fred.  I mean seriously?  Maybe because the twins were always my favorites, or maybe because it felt too much like when I lost my own brother, but this one pissed me off.  It was the only death in the series that made me cry.  Finally, Snape.  I hate that he is called a hero in the end.  To me, he wasn’t a hero.  He was a spoiled brat who made horrible choices, and pushed away his best friend.  I get that he loved Lily, and that he hated James for many different reasons, but that doesn’t excuse his actions.  He was willing to turn her son over to Voldemort.  This isn’t about the stupidity of thinking she would be spared, though he should have known better.  I just really want to know what he thought was going to happen after Harry and James died. Did he think Lily was going to just go running off to be a death eater with him?  If she hadn’t hated him at that point, she definitely would have after that, and considering how hard she had been fighting before, I think she would have stopped at nothing to get a little back for what she had lost.  I understand that things were hard for Snape, but he made his choices.  The only part of his memories that I felt were redeeming at all, was learning that taking George’s ear was actually an accident with a misaimed spell.

Should you read these books before you die?

Yes.  Read the books.  Many times.  Love them.  And do yourself a favor.  Take the house quiz at Pottermore before you get married or you will end up like me.  A proud Ravenclaw, stuck living in a house full of Slytherins.


50 Books- Diary of a Young Girl

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I know I removed the timeline, but I am still working my way through the list.   These posts will continue until all books are completed!

50 Books- Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Where did I get this book and how many pages does it have?

This book was available in my local library.  There were two copies, the one I read with 283 pages, and another ‘comprehensive’ version which was over six hundred pages and included a lot of analysis.  Since I was only looking to read the story, I went for Anne’s version.

Have I read this book before?

Yes.  I want to say it was required reading in junior high, but it could have been high school.

What do I already know?

Anne Frank was a young, Jewish girl, who went into hiding during WW2 with her family in order to avoid being taken to the camps.  During her time in hiding, they had to be completely silent in order to avoid being caught.  In spite of all of their work, her family was eventually found and Anne did not live to see the end of the war.

What do I think now?

I remember studying her during when we discussed the war in school, but there is so much about her life and story I did not remember.  Most of what stuck in my mind was the need to be silent and move as quietly as possible.  There was so much more to her story that I forgotten, including the fact that they went into hiding when papers were sent for her sixteen year old sister to go away.  I forgot that they were hiding for two years in Amsterdam.  I forgot how much time was spent talking about quarrels with the other family who was hiding with them, and how much time was spent on regular teenage angst at the beginning of the diary.  Anne Frank was a normal girl, with an extraordinary talent for storytelling, and a tragic story of her own.  She wrote about her friends, and the crushes she had on boys.  Even when she was terrified, she still had hope and plans for the future.  It is hard to imagine that she wouldn’t have had an amazing life, if only she had been given a chance.

The first time I read this book I was 13, the same age Anne was when they went into hiding.  The idea of being that quiet all day seemed impossible.  Now Big One is 13, and the idea of my daughter hiding, knowing if we were not careful she would not survive is heartbreaking.  I don’t like to think about it, and yet Anne Frank lived it.

Should you read this book before you die?

When I first heard the idea of holocaust denial I was shocked.  As far as I had been taught, the events of WW2, and the horrible actions done to Jewish people were a matter of historic fact.  There is so much documentation, witnesses, and survivors, how could anyone pretend it didn’t happen?  And yet, people do.  There are those who simply refuse to believe.

During my master’s program, I took a class that discussed teaching to different cultures.  There is such a strong push in the US to never overpower a person’s belief system with the insistence of teaching facts.  (Yes, I know that statement was strongly biased, but I think teaching should be focused on truth, not opinion.)  One example of the concessions teachers may have to make that was discussed was the holocaust.  I knew there were deniers, but the class mentioned that many places in Europe do not teach almost anything regarding WW2.  Schools near me might be pretending all of these events never happened.  There were many reasons given, everything from a continued belief that the Jewish people deserved what happened, to what I hope is denial out of shame for the events they helped to happen.

I know I have strong beliefs when it comes to education.  I fully believe that science should be taught, no matter what a person wants to be true.  Science is fact, and opinions should not matter here.  I believe the same of history.  Just because we don’t like what happened doesn’t mean who should ignore the truth.  Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Read Anne Frank’s diary, because this is a time we do not want repeated.

50 Books- A Passage to India

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50 Books- A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

Where did I get this book and how many pages?

This book is available on Oyster, which reports it as having 368 print pages.

Have I read this book before?


What do I already know?

I did not know much going into this one.  The beginning of the description mentioned something about racial differences and cultural tensions in England.  As this was originally published in 1924, and the beginning of the 20th century was marked by a desire for independence, it can be assumed there was some tension.  I do not have a large knowledge of the history of the area however, but I have just enough to understand it was not always perfect between the two cultures.

What do I think now?

There were some parts of this book that dragged for me, and others I found fascinating.  While they were beautifully written, I disliked the section that were describing the beauty and mystery of the area.  I think it was difficult to connect with these passages, as I have never been to India.  The places they were describing were, or could have been, real.  I wanted to picture them that way, not the way it was described in a book.

Much more interesting to me were the sections with people.  I like people, and I love their stories.  There was so much going on in each scene, so many undertones that seemed to be at times incredibly obvious and at other times barely noticeable.  The tension between people from different cultures was remarkable.  Tiny comments that sound innocent but are meant to hurt.  It was honestly horrible.  This part was easier to connect with because it reminded me of racial tensions in American history.  There is a group who has power and wants to keep it; they work to keep it through the systematic pushing down of all others who might challenge their power.  Of course, this was more than just racial tensions within this story.  There was a conquering nation, working to impose its will on another.  Additionally, there were divisions between the Indians, divisions not of race, but of culture and religion.

The trial was incredibly fascinating as well.  So much pressure was placed on everyone to do ‘the right thing’ but there was very little that could be agreed upon as ‘right.’  Even when the trial was finished, everyone believed what they wanted to believe, not necessarily what was true.  It was definitive moment for all of those involved, and I was very glad that the aftermath was not ignored.

Should you read this book before you die?

This is an interesting take on the differences between people in the world, not only the racial or religious differences, but also the cultural differences.  It is an interesting read, and definitely one that could help to open minds to the lives and realities of other people.

What am I reading next?

I am doing a little retooling on the schedule, and bringing The Diary of Anne Frank next, followed by Money.

Happy Reading Everyone!

50 Books- Heart of Darkness

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Today almost didn’t have a book post.  As I was reading A Passage to India last night, seeing that I was only 25% through, I had a moment of extreme guilt.  There was no way I was going to finish 75% of the book that night, not while still being a fully functional human being today.  For the first time, I was going to have no book finished when I had a post due.  So far during this challenge, I have managed to always have a book.  I’ve never run out of time, often been very early, but usually at least done the night before and have the post already written.

Suddenly it occurred to me.  I was not planning on writing up A Passage to India today.  Today I was going to write on Heart of Darkness.  I had completely forgotten I had read the book.  This should tell you all you need to know about the impact this book had on me.

50 Books- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

This book is available on Oyster, with a reported 80 print pages.  Between the books I am reading myself, the books I want to read, and the books my daughters are reading, I am in love with this service.

Have I read this book before?

No.  Never heard of this book before, except the brief reading of the title on the list.

What do I already know?

Nothing.  I picked this book at the time because it was short and I was trying to get a little ahead on my reading to make time for The Lord of the Rings without being late with a post.  The most I learned before reading was from my husband who told me he was pretty sure this book was the basis of the movie Apocalypse Now (according to wikipedia, he is correct).  As I had never seen the movie, that meant nothing to me.

What do I think now?

I don’t think much now.  There was a moment at the beginning of the book where the author is describing four passengers in a boat.  He seemed to go on and on about the people, the ocean, the boat.  It felt to me like he would never shut up, but technically the passage was not very long.  In the end, the description was only to let me know one of them was going to tell the story.  It was a lot of description with very little purpose.  I instantly understood why there is a lot of warning against too much description when you are writing; when the text is not moving the story forward, you make people want to move away.

For me, it didn’t get much better.  There were portions of the book where I felt connected, and I understood what was going on.  Shortly after those points the book would seem to go onto a tangent that made me need to go back, reread, and figure out what was going on again.  At the end of the book, I wasn’t sure I felt like I understood any of it.  I certainly didn’t remember much.

Should you read this book before you die?

I’m beginning to wonder if I should leave this part out.  It seems to come down to two answers; I loved it so you should read it too, or I did not like it, but would love to know what you got out of it.  Either way I am still technically recommending the reading of the book.

Here, quite simply I did not connect to the book.  It could have been the writing style did not match my preferences, or that the story content was not for me.  Whatever the issue, I did not have a moment of enjoyment with this book.  It doesn’t mean I might not like it if I read it again later, or that you won’t love it.  It just means I didn’t see what I was supposed to see.

Perhaps that is the problem I have been having all along.  I’m not sure what I am supposed to see in these books, and therefore what I get out of them is completely up to me.

Come back next week to hear about the next book, A Passage to India.

Happy Reading!

50 Books- Anna Karenina

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50 Books- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I do not have a clue where I got this book.  Most likely one a base somewhere, sometime recently.  Wherever it came from, it is a monster of a book with 923 pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  I had heard of it, but that is all.

What do I already know?

Not much.  I was pretty sure it was Russian, but I wasn’t sure where that thought came from.  The cover of the book has a quote calling it one of the greatest love stories in world literature, however the quote is from Vladimir Nabokov, the author of Lolita, so there may be a different kind of love story in mind here.

What do I think now?

I did not like Anna Karenina.  I’m not talking about the book, I’m talking about he character in the book.  T

This is a book told in eight parts.  The way each part begins and ends gives the impression that this was originally released as a series of books, but I am not certain.  I know it was a way books used to be released, but of course, anything is possible.

During the first part, Anna is a sweet person.  She travels, trying to help her cheating brother save his marriage, and meets a young military man, Vronsky.  Her intense attraction sends her running away back to her husband.  This is the last moment when I understand and have any respect for the character.  Soon he follows her, and they begin having an affair.

Now, I know, everyone has their own opinion as to the romance level in stories involving extramarital affairs.  I personally do not enjoy them.  I don’t think betraying another person that way, no matter how horrible the person is, is something to be admired.  I know, some of these stories are from a different time, a time when leaving a spouse was not only not done, but almost impossible for a female.  Either way, I have a hard time thinking of a story that surrounds an illicit affair as a romance.  The longer the story went on, the less I liked the characters and the less I wanted them to be happy.  In the end their tragic romance ending seemed fitting.  Yes, it was horrible and sad, but not surprising in the least.  Okay, the exact details surprised me, but the fact that bad things happened did not.

I think one of the hardest parts of the story was the treatment of the husband.  In the beginning I had the impression they were happy.  Anna rushed home to him, and he greeted her lovingly.  Maybe it was just me projecting my own marriage and life, but I assumed they were happy.  Later, as Anna dives full in to her affair, suddenly there is extensive talk about how horrible of a person her husband is, painting him as controlling.  I found him to be excessively understanding.  When she tells him she is in love with someone else, and hates him, he shuts down in the moment.  He does not do well with tears and emotions, and he had been given bad news.  When he calms down a little he tells Anna, they will continue to be married (which gives them both the continued social protection their marriage always had) and all he asks is that she does not have her lover in their house.  He is not throwing her out, he is not making a scene, and he is not even demanding that she never sees him again.  Just, not in our house.  Trust me, my husband would NEVER react that way.  And Anna could not handle that one stipulation.  It just gave me more sympathy for the husband.

There was more romantic stories along the way.  The story between Kitty and Levin, a man who deeply loved someone, and waited, knowing if he could not have her, he would never love anyone else.  They had a few bumps, but I never stopped rooting for them.

The general story was well written and compelling.  It was slightly confusing along the way, as the names were foreign to me, and each character was known by at least two different names.  I didn’t like the ‘hero’ of the story, or at least the woman for whom the book was named, but I liked almost everything else.

Should you read this book before you die?

The tragic romance is an interesting genre, and not one I particularly enjoy.  I don’t root for these couples, and I am almost happy when things go bad for them.  However, that does not mean it is a useless style of story.  Just as much can be learned for the poor relationship examples as the wonderful ones.

Coming up next, Heart of Darkness, followed by A Passage to India.

Happy Reading everyone!

50 Books- Half Way Through!

There will be no book breakdown today, partially because I am still working on Anna Karenina, but mostly because I have 50 books and 52 weeks in a year.  A halfway check in just makes sense to me.

So, first off, lets go over the numbers.

I have completed 26 books from the list, 28 if we count extra books for the His Dark Materials Trilogy.  This means I have read a total of 6,018 pages.  This averages out to 231.5 pages per book (214.9 if you count 28 instead of 26), and 1,003 pages per month.  That seems like a really low number to me.  I guess I thought I read more on a regular basis.  Perhaps I do normally.  I’ve never actually checked.  Of course, all of these statistics include only books that have been completed  and written down, so nothing is included for those I am part way through.

The longest book I have completed was The Way We Live Now, which had 876 pages.  (Technically, if we are counting the His Dark Materials trilogy as one book it is longer, with 933 pages.)  The shortest book, by a lot, was Alice in Wonderland with only 41 pages.

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite from the list.  I’m not good at picking favorites; as soon as I pick a favorite book ever, I am basically giving up on every finding a better book.  I refuse to believe I will never fall in love with another book.

I would have to say the book with the best ending was Life of Pi.  I did not see that last 10 pages coming, though maybe I should have.

One of the books I was most surprised to enjoy was One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  It didn’t start out like a book I would normally choose, but it grabbed me.

The book I am least likely to ever read again is Ulysses.  I don’t care if it is supposed to be a brilliant work of art.  That book is a hot mess.

There are several books I will definitely read again: 1984, Frankenstein, The Bell Jar, Pride and Prejudice.  Not only did they have great writing, but the stories grabbed me much more than I would expect.

I feel like I am learning a lot about writing, and about publishing.  So many of these classic great novels do not have any of the elements current agents and publishers seem to be looking for now.  They are too long, or too short.  Their topics are off, and their stories might be seen as confusing.  More than anything, the first 10 pages (a typical request for potential novels) did not grab me.  If I was basing my reading on the first 10 pages alone, I would have put down more than half of these.  And let’s be honest, I have before.

Of course, I doubt I would ever write anything that would land me on a list like this, but it still makes me feel a little better.  Maybe openings are not my strongest point, but I am not alone.

More than anything, I am getting a little tired.  It’s not the reading itself that is exhausting, but the lack of choice in my books.  I am slowly filling a new book case with the books I plan to read when this is done, as well as having a nice long queue of books waiting in Oyster.  I’m itching to just read a book simply because it appeals to me, not because it is on a master list that someone thinks everyone should read at some point in their life.  I thought this would be easier on me.  Sure I would read these books within a year, but I figured I would have plenty of time to read other books as well.  I have so much more out there that I want to read, and I am tired of being chained to a list.  Six months in, I’m not backing down now, but I can’t help but wish I was done.

As I am still chained to a list, tune in again soon for the next book, Anna Karenina.

Happy Reading Everyone!

50 Books- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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50 Books- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I honestly cannot remember where I got this book.  Most likely ordered from amazon.com, as I have so few options to find good, English language books.  Wherever it came from it clocked in at 324 pages.

Have I read this book before?

Nope.  The opportunity never presented itself, and it was not a book I sought out.

What do I already know?

I went into this one knowing nothing.  After the first five pages I glanced at the back cover and saw it was about a guy in a mental hospital and was the origin of Nurse Ratched.  Maybe 25 pages in my husband informed me it was a movie with Jack Nickolson.  I almost wish he hadn’t told me, because I am sure it influenced how I saw the character, but in truth I think he would be perfect.  (I know about the movie now, I haven’t seen it.)

What do I think now?

When I started, I wasn’t excited.  I mean, seriously, not into the book.  I could not have cared any less, and I wasn’t really into it.  I had already read The Bell Jar, and had a committed person book I was loving.  I wasn’t sure I could like this one; it just didn’t seem like my style of book.  I mean, it was all about a testosterone fueled, swaggering, loud mouthed guy causing trouble; not my thing, but thanks.

Within about fifty pages, I was hooked.  Okay, yeah, McMurphy is everything I already said, but he was also incredibly smart and intuitive.  He knew how things were, and could see exactly what was really going on with everyone.  He read the patients, the nurses, the doctors, and could see their buttons.  He knew just how far he could push, and exactly what he could get away with before the consequences were past what he could deal with.  It doesn’t mean he always stuck within those limits, but he was smart.  The obnoxious layer everyone could see was truth, but it was also a cover; no one would look past that outside to see everything else he was.  He painted his outside in such a way that people could not see the depth within him.  More than that, he did more good for the patients than the doctors did, even if it didn’t seem like he should have.  His methods were strange, but he brought about real change.

The end of the story is heartbreaking, but I honestly could not see it ending any other way.  This story wasn’t really meant to have a happy ending.

Should you read this book before you die?

Yes.  Absolutely.  There is so much going on here, and it is such a good story about fighting what is keeping you down.  It might not be the happy inspiration you need, but it is still worth the work.

Coming up next, is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy followed by Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.

Happy Reading Everyone!

50 Books- The Way We Live Now

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50 Books to Read Before You Die- The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

This is another book I found on Oyster where it is listed as having 876 printed pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  I don’t think it has come up before in previous classes or conversations.

What do I already know?

Nothing except the book length.  I didn’t even read the description in Oyster before I started.

What do I think now?

In the very beginning of the book one of the characters, Lady Carbury, is working on having reviews written about a book she has recently written.  She is very concerned with how her book will be received by the general public.  She does not care about writing a great book, only writing a book that people think is great.  It may seem like the same thing, but in fact it is not. A book that is thought of as great, will sell well and make money, whereas a book that is actually great may or may not catch on.  It is all about perception.

This is definitely a theme throughout the entire book.  There are many characters who are thought of as great, but in truth they are no better than anyone else, and may in fact be horrible people.  It was a fascinating, and gripping study of human nature, assumedly in a specific time period.

There were many things I saw as relatable, particularly the desire to have a book I write perceived as a great work.  I mean, sure I want to write something that actually is amazing, but having people think it is amazing is just as important.  Great reviews can translate into sales, and high enough sales can translate into a paycheck, hopefully a paycheck high enough to allow the author to have the freedom to keep writing.  If you make enough money with one book, you don’t have to have a day job, you can just follow your dreams.  I mean honestly, who wouldn’t want that?

Should you read this book before you die?

This book was much better than I expected.  It was long, and for some reason I couldn’t read more than a few chapters at a time, but it was well worth the read.  Writing like this doesn’t come along everyday.  You try to write characters that feel real, and situations that allow them to act as a normal human would, but there are always flaws.  This came about as close as possible to a real picture of human behavior.  I loved it.

After this long read I need a slightly shorter book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, followed by Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Happy Reading Everyone!

50 Books- Wuthering Heights

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I already owned a kindle version of this book, which boasts 233 pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  A year, maybe two years ago, I decided to read it and couldn’t get past the fifth page.  I had only decided to read it based on a critique I had read of a character in another book that I didn’t totally understand.  Okay, fine, I was reading a critique of Bella from Twilight, researching the qualities that make a character largely disliked.  She wasn’t the only character I was reading about, just the one relevant for this discussion.  One of the critiques was her favorite book being Wuthering Heights.  (I’m not sure where that came from, so it might be wrong.  I’m not a Twilight person.)  This was considered to be a bad thing, because the character was depressed, and their favorite book (quoting from memory here, it’s been a long time) ‘had characters who literally died of depression.’  Having never read the book, I didn’t get the reference and wanted to understand.  I just couldn’t do it though.  The book didn’t grab me at the time, and I felt that was enough.

What do I already know?

Well, apparently people die from depression.  I know there is foggy moors, and someone named Catherine.  As far as I have heard, Mr. Heathcliff is considered to be romantic and sexy, much like Mr. Darcy.

What do I think now?

Um.  Well.  It’s not good.

All right, that is overly simplistic.  First of all, I have said before I am not a large fan of the Bronte sisters.  I find them to be dark in a depressing, not fun way.  I know I was going in with preconceptions, and I am happy to say that many of them were false.  Or at least not entirely accurate.

I did struggle with the beginning again.  I don’t like the dynamic of the story within a story.  I met many characters right away, and maybe it was intended to get me invested in their life but it actually was kind of confusing.  The story takes place over a a few months, but the story within the story is over decades.  By the time I saw the characters who were introduced in the beginning again, I couldn’t remember exactly what was going on with them.  Additionally, the breaks in the action occasionally threw me off as I tried to remember who was telling the story now, and how they were telling it.  It was a distraction, but no the end of the world.

In spite of the distraction, I did get into the story eventually.  I had to give it about 50 pages, but I got there.  I could see some of the bad stuff happening, and see how everything could come together to create such unhappy characters.  As compelling as the story became, I hated it.  It was depressing, and frustrating.  These are horrible people.  One household of cruel and unfeeling people who have been given the power to make so many others miserable as well.  I was almost happy with each death that occurred because it was either removing a horrible human being from existence, or freeing someone who was within their power.

More than anything, I do not understand how anyone can consider Heathcliff to be a romantic character.  He is an ass.  I’m sorry to be honest here, but let’s be realistic.  He couldn’t have the girl he loved, so he destroyed everyone’s life around him.  Comparing him to Mr. Darcy is completely inaccurate in my mind.  Sure, they were both a bit surly, but Mr. Darcy’s crankiness is explained by his ingrained pride and incredible shyness, both of which he works to overcome in order to win his love  Heathcliff was a snot nosed kid who worked to get money in order to make the people who were mean to him suffer.  No, his life wasn’t easy, but he chose to come back after he got out.  Seriously, I don’t get the attraction here.  Please, if you are in the Heathcliff fan club, explain the appeal of this man to me, because I do not get it at all.  Honestly, I would like to understand.

Should you read this book before you die?

As much as I did not like this book, I do see redeeming qualities.  The writing is good, and it is a good portrayal of anger, resentment, and revenge.  I might not like any of these people, but the story of their fate is still engaging and, well, entertaining.  It is great for what it is; it’s just not for me.

Coming up next is another long one, The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope followed by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

Happy Reading All!

50 Books- Men Without Women

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Men Without Women By Ernest Hemingway

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I found this book on Oyster, where it reports it would have 156 printed pages.  Having read the book on my phone, I am pretty sure it had many, many, many, more screens than the reported 156 pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  I have been thinking about reading Hemingway before, but I had not considered this one.  I have a copy of The Sun Also Rises on my shelf that I figured would be my first Hemingway.  I guess not.

What do I already know?

I didn’t know anything before this started.  When I decided to move this book ahead of a longer one, I learned it was a collection of short stories.  It is not a lot of information, but it was something.

What do I think now?

Some of the stories were good, some were not my thing.  I was surprised to learn I had read one of the stories before without ever knowing it, The Hills Like White Elephants.  It was part of my high school reading, though I cannot remember when.  I remember we were reading the story as much for everything that was not said between the couple as everything that was.  I don’t remember exactly what we were supposed to get from the story, but we were supposed to realize what the couple was talking about without them ever actually saying anything.  Rereading the story, I felt like they were talking about their relationship, like she wanted to get married but was trying not to push the topic, and he was just not that into things.  Looking it up on Cliffnotes I learned that apparently the girl was going to get an abortion and was terrified while the man was not concerned, telling her it wasn’t a big deal.  So not what I read, but I guess that was part of the beauty; the story was vague enough everyone can read something different into the story, apply it to their own life.

Should you read this book before you die?

One of the joys of this book is that it is a collection of short stories.  You can read just a little, and go through the emotional arc of the story in a much shorter time space.  It is like a introduction to the  classic, great writers, without the commitment of a 300+ page book.  It’s perfect.

Moving on past Hemingway, I am working to tackle Withering Heights by Emily Bronte followed by The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope.  Happy Reading Everyone!