All I knew about this book going in was that there was a guy who didn't age because his portrait did instead. So I was a little confused when the first half of the book read as a typical Victorian novel. It could have been Dickens or Trollope that I was reading, not a creepy Oscar Wilde story. But the second half got weirder and creepier, and I was quite glad to finish the book. It was a well-told tale and would not have been out of place around a campfire with a flashlight shining on your face. I can't say I exactly enjoyed it, because creepy stories are really not my thing, but I am glad I had the experience of reading it.
I wanted my Classics Club list to branch out from the standard canon (although I could easily read Victorian novels all year long). So I added a couple modern "classics" - and I'll admit right up front that the only reason Howl made the list was because that was the book that Jess stole from Rory's room and returned with margin notes in Gilmore Girls. (Really, who can resist a boy who does that, even if we don't like writing in our margins??) The version of Howl that my library had was actually a graphic novel, with the illustrations coming from a movie based on the poem that was made in 2010. I know I got a lot more out of the poem by reading it this way (although because of the rather mature nature of the poem, sometimes I got more than I bargained for). I don't know a lot about the Beat movement, but Howl gave me some insight into the thoughts and feelings of those who lived that life.
How have I never read Treasure Island before? My only experience with this story is through Muppet Treasure Island, which is by far my favorite of all of the Muppet movies. But the book is quite a bit different. There's a lot more killing, for one thing (and fewer funny moments). It's actually quite violent on the island as the two factions are battling it out. But it's not terribly graphic, either, so I still wouldn't hesitate to hand this book to a eleven-year-old boy. There seems to be something about pirates that is endlessly fascinating to us (let us all witness the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which apparently never ends), and Treasure Island probably played a large part in why this is so. It's a fabulously adventurous tale, and I look forward to sharing it with my little boy in the future.
Goal: Fifteen pages per day
Number of days it took to read War and Peace: 91
Number of times I missed my goal and had to make it up the next day: Two (I'm pretty proud of this.)
Number of pages read: 1,361
Number of years since my first attempt at reading War and Peace: 18
Number of times I had to refer to the list of characters: A lot
Favorite character: Lively Natasha, before the melodramatic love affairs
Random thing I learned by reading War and Peace: Russia didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1918, so the list of dates at the beginning of each section had an "old date" (what Russia followed) and a "new date" (ten days later, which the rest of the Western world followed).
Number of times I fell asleep while reading: I have to be honest here. It did happen a few times.
Number of times I wanted to keep reading beyond my daily 15 pages: I'll be honest here, too. This also happened several times. It was occasionally hard to put down.
Which sections did I like better - the war-focused ones or the peace-focused ones? Peace, for sure. The peace sections focused on several aristocratic families and their social lives. The Jane Austen lover in me preferred stories of love and social engagements to the sometimes confusing descriptions of battles. I've never been one for war books, so my preference really isn't that surprising.
Am I glad I read it? Absolutely! I've been trying for so long, and I am very proud of myself for accomplishing this goal.
Will I read it again someday? Um, no. I'm quite satisfied with once.
Would I recommend it? It depends on what kind of reader you are. If you love classics or Russian/Napoleonic history, you would probably enjoy this book. I did learn a lot about this time period of Russian history, and it's always fun to learn as you read. It's definitely a time commitment (although reading it little by little worked surprisingly well). And it's not a book for everyone, although I did find it a much easier and less dense read than I expected. Would I recommend it? Hey, if you're interested, give it a try. Why not?
This is a book that has entered our culture to a certain extent, so I was surprised how little I knew about it when I started reading it. I knew the main character was named Nemo, and I knew it took place on a submarine. Here's a list of all the things I learned as I read:
I really did enjoy this book, but it was a much slower read than expected. I think this is one of the rare cases where I would have enjoyed the book more if I knew more about it going in. Either way, I'm glad I took this trip under the sea with Captain Nemo.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of those books that everyone knows the plot of, whether they've read it or not. Its premise has been recreated in various movies, from A Muppet Christmas Carol to Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. It's so embedded in our popular culture that calling someone a "scrooge" has meaning even if you have no idea that it's referring to a character in a book.
I am one of those people who, until recently, could summarize this book for you without ever having read it. I don't know how I missed reading it when I was younger, but somehow I did. I finally decided to rectify that this Christmas season.
It's strange to read a book for the first time whose story you already know. Nothing was a surprise to me, except some of the details. I enjoyed getting to know more about Scrooge's childhood and why he may have turned out the way he did. I enjoyed the descriptions of Victorian London and the feasts and parties that Scrooge viewed. I even laughed out loud a couple of times, which I honestly didn't expect from Dickens.
This is a sweet little story, with a very important moral - give generously, help and love those around you. But I couldn't help but notice that the motivation for such behaviors was never really mentioned. We should give and help and love others because God first gave and helped and loved us. Living life with the "Christmas spirit" should really be living life filled with the Holy Spirit. I don't know what Charles Dickens' views on religion were, but I feel that this story would have only been made stronger and more powerful if God had been brought into it.
This is a great book to read at this time of year, with a cold wind howling outside and a house full of Christmas decorations. I'm sure I'll revisit it during future Christmases. I just won't let it replace the real Reason for the season.
The Moonstone is a mystery. Depending on who you ask, it's possibly the first detective novel written. The moonstone is a very large diamond stolen from India. It's given to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday, and inexplicably disappears in the middle of the night. Renowned Sergeant Cuff from London is called in to solve the case, but even he runs into dead ends as he attempts to figure out what happened that night.
I love the way this story is told. It is divided into nine sections, each told by a different narrator. Franklin Blake, Rachel's cousin and the deliverer of the moonstone, has asked the major witnesses to record their recollections and experiences involving the diamond. The first large section of the book is told by Gabriel Betteredge, the Verinders' steward. He is a wonderful character to get to know, just the sort of English butler you would suppose - except he finds inspiration and wisdom in Robinson Crusoe. Each new section is told by a character with a distinct voice and personality. The variety of narrators is part of what makes this book so enjoyable.
The mystery will also keep you guessing to the very end. It's very different than today's mystery novels, which often owe more to action and violence than clues and investigative work. This is not an action-packed book. Yet for all that, it is difficult to put down as each narrator adds their piece of the puzzle.
The Moonstone is not a short book, yet it is a surprisingly fast read. The mystery and the characters combine to draw you into the story completely. This is one detective novel that you won't be sorry that you read!
I really didn't know much about this book before I read it. I knew William Faulkner was one of our great American authors, which is why I added this book to my Classics Club list. I knew he used a stream-of-consciousness writing style. And that's pretty much it.
Maybe it would have helped if I knew more about it before I read it. But if I had known more about it, I probably never would have read it at all.
There are many people out there who will disagree with me, but I have to be honest about my reaction. I strongly disliked this book, and I don't understand why it's a classic.
The stream-of-consciousness thing wasn't so bad. It did make the first chapter hard to follow, although that was more because it was narrated by mentally challenged Benji, who really didn't have a clear idea of what was going on anyway. (Sidenote: That made it extremely hard to figure out who was who at the beginning. Especially when a character I thought was male was suddenly referred to as "she." What?? At least that made sense eventually, as I kept reading.)
The stream-of-consciousness style was interesting. That wasn't what troubled me about this book. My problem is that this book is essentially about incest. Why would you feel a need to write a book about that? And is that supposed to be the part that's so profound that this book becomes a classic? The family's troubled. I get it. But that didn't make me feel attached to them or want to cheer for them. It made me want to yell, "Get it together already!"
There's a quote from Malcolm Cowley on the back of my copy. It says, "Faulkner performed a labor of imagination that has not been equaled in our time. . . First, to invent a Mississippi county that was like a mythical kingdom, but was complete and living in all its details; second, to make his story of Yoknapatawpha County stand as a parable or legend of all the Deep South."
A parable of all the Deep South? I think if I lived in the South, I would be highly insulted at the idea that this book represents me. That probably just means that I didn't really understand the depths of this book at all. But really, I'm okay with that.
Brave New World was published in 1931 and set in 2540. Huxley's picture of the future is a grim one - but only if you value freedom. In the London of 2540, everyone is happy (and way too many of them are genetically identical). Through conditioning both before and after you are born, you are guaranteed to be content with your life, even if you are the lowest of the low. You're trained to find that that satisfies you and you want nothing different. And if you do start to feel dissatisfied, then there's always soma (some sort of futuristic drug) to make everything better.
Bernard Marx feels dissatisfied. As an Alpha Plus, his critical thinking works a bit better than most. But he ends up being much more attached to the society than he thinks. I figured he would start to rebel and try to take down the society, as in George Orwell's 1984. But he gets caught up in everyone's approval (which is really quite superficial) when he brings home a "Savage". That's certainly a sign of today's times - how often do we swallow our own thoughts or beliefs because they wouldn't be popular? Or because we're afraid of being mocked?
As a commentary on society and where it is heading, this book is quite powerful. As a work of fiction, though, I found the plot to be rather unsatisfying. It could have been more coherent, especially when the main focus switched to the Savage. You really couldn't read it for the plot or characters anymore. The point was the commentary, and there's nothing wrong with that. Just wasn't entirely what I was expecting.
Scientifically, I'm not too worried about this book coming true in the near future. I don't think we've found out how to create 72 identical babies out of one egg, nor discovered how precisely conditions in pregnancy affect the outcome of the child. But in other ways, I think we're a bit closer. The breakdown of families, the disregard of God and religion, the controlling of the information we get through the media. . . Yes, in other ways, we are scarily close.
I was told to read this book my freshman year of college. My college roommate had read it in high school and was horrified to hear that I had never read it. In fact, she was so determined that I needed to read it that she bought me a copy - which has sadly sat on my bookshelves for the past ten years. I finally dusted it off and read it last week - and now I know what she was talking about.
Uncle Tom is an upstanding, trustworthy, Christian man. But because of debts, his owner is forced to sell him. Uncle Tom's story just breaks my heart. If he were real, he would be a person that it would be an honor to know. Instead, he is sold as if he were property and mistreated as if that gentle spirit needed to be broken.
There are many different views of slavery given in this book. We hear perspectives from slave traders and hunters, nice and cruel owners, abolitionists, and the slaves themselves. Harriet Beecher Stowe covered all of her bases, but I was most curious to hear the author's opinion. She obviously disagreed with slavery strongly, which is why she wrote this book in the first place. But she also seemed to view "Africans" as a different, not necessarily equal, race.
Even so, the desire for freedom - the view that everyone should be free, that freedom is fair and right - came through on every page. The concept that the slaves were people just like the white owners were was illustrated again and again. It's hard to believe that the owners and slave traders thought that the slaves wouldn't mind being separated from their families, that they didn't have the same depth of connection and love and feeling that the owners did for their families.
This is a very powerful book, nearly as relevant now as it was 150 years ago. We still need to be reminded of the importance of freedom and equality. We still need to hear that God has created each and every one of us. We still need the message that God can help us through every struggle, no matter how difficult. This book will make you laugh and cry and think - and hopefully, act to right what is wrong in our world today.
I love the water. Sitting on the beach, watching and listening to it, that is. Being on the water - well, that's another story. Let's just say that I feel much better if I stay on land.
So if I want to experience life on the water, I need to live vicariously. And that's just what reading allows you to do. I recently read two books (very different from each other) about life on a boat. One is a classic, written in Victorian England. The other tells of a more recent adventure.
On the Water: Discovering America in a Rowboat by Nathaniel Stone is an inspiring book. Studying maps as a child, Nat figured out that the eastern United States is essentially an island. And in his 20s, he decided to row around that island - from the Hudson River to the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It was a trip of nearly 6,000 miles, and it was all done by rowing. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it. But Nat found that he liked life on a boat, even turning it into a tent for the second half of his voyage so he didn't have to leave it. More importantly, though, he discovered so many friendly people that cheered him on and helped him out. This book gives you hope for mankind and an uncommon perspective on the United States.
The second boat trip book I read was Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!) by Jerome K. Jerome. I think you can gather the general style simply from that amusing title. Three young British gentlemen (and their dog) decide to escape the daily grind by taking a leisurely boating trip down the Thames. It goes without saying that it ends up being anything but relaxing. Nothing goes right, not even making a good breakfast of scrambled eggs. Their antics are hilarious and full of slapstick humor that will have you laughing out loud. Picture Bertie Wooster on a boat, combined with two of his useless friends and without Jeeves to help him out, and you have a pretty good idea of this book. This is a boat trip that I would certainly not want to participate in, but would greatly enjoy watching the show from the shore.
Whether you are on the water or just the beach this summer, you can experience two boat trips that you may not want to live through - but will definitely enjoy reading about.
I first read The Great Gatsby in high school. I loved it, and looking back now, I honestly don’t know why. The ending is terrible and so sad! Not my sort of book at all. I think it was Fitzgerald’s writing and his picture of life in the Roaring ‘20s that hooked me. Which is why I thought reading some of his short stories would be safe. It would allow me to live in the ‘20s without the tragic ending.
Well, that turned out not to be entirely true. Tragedy is part of life, and Fitzgerald certainly writes about life. But he views life also as an amusement. He sees what is funny in a situation and includes that to balance out the sadness. And he is one of those writers that knows how to craft the perfect turn of phrase, one that leaves you thinking, “That couldn’t have been said any better.”
Tales of the Jazz Age holds a variety of stories. The first section includes stories similar to The Great Gatsby, realistic stories that take place in the everyday, crazy life of the Roaring ‘20s. The second section is entitled “Fantasies.” The title is quite accurate, because Fitzgerald certainly let his imagination fly. The third section is more miscellaneous, classified by Fitzgerald as “masterpieces.”
Fitzgerald annotated the table of contents, which was honestly one of my favorite parts of the book. It always adds something to a story or book to know a bit of the background. I’m not a big short story person, but I will gladly read an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story anytime. The characters and plot are often larger than life, but the heart of each story is something we can still relate to today.
My name is Julie, and I own a lot of books. As in, they are stacked on the floor because I've run out of room on the shelves. And those shelves? There are so many books on them that they smile -- not sag; smile. This blog will cover book reviews and all manner of other bookish things.
You can contact me at email@example.com.