Monday, April 28, 2008

Books, books, books: part one

This is a list of 106 books that people have bought but have never got around to reading. Never one to mince his words Paul Anderson (where I got the list from - sorry Paul I'm having linking issues that I will try and resolve!) comments “Literary ornaments to make you look smart in other words.” Strangely enough, I’ve read more on this list than on the Toasts of the Century! And yes, I do believe that there would be a number of different books on here should the list have been compiled in Australia. Books that readily jump to mind would be ‘For The Term of his Natural Life’ and ‘My Brilliant Career’

To understand, the books that I have read are in bold, those that live in our home but I’ve never read (ie belong to Dave and he’s read them) are in italics. I have underlined those books that I would like to read and currently don't own.

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  • Anna Karenina (Dave is actually reading this at the moment)
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Catch-22
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Silmarillion
  • Life of Pi : a novel
  • The Name of the Rose (I did begin this last year after years of wanting to. The three page description of the chapel door near the start tripped my boredom/literary wanking tolerance and I put it back on the shelf. He knew too much and didn’t know what to leave out. Sad to say we got the movie out instead during the Christmas Holidays!)
  • Don Quixote
  • Moby Dick
  • Ulysses (but we have other James Joyce lying about)
  • Madame Bovary
  • The Odyssey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Tale of Two Cities
  • The Brothers Karamazov (the first book – Dave’s never been able to find Part Two)
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
  • War and Peace
  • Vanity Fair
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife (on Paul’s recommendations this sounds very interesting)
  • The Iliad
  • Emma
  • The Blind Assassin
  • The Kite Runner
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • Great Expectations (because I’ve seen just about every movie/mini series/tv adaptation and I should at least read one Dickens in my life!)
  • American Gods
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (we saw the movie a few years ago and I have always meant to read it and decide whether the movie was a good or bad adaptation)
  • Middlesex
  • Quicksilver
  • Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (is this what the musical Wicked is based on? Bonus points for someone who can answer me that!)
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Historian : a novel
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Brave New World (I read this for school – but I recently went back and started to read it again – sad to say that I haven’t finished it though, which is pathetic given that its not a long book. I also have Brave New World Revisited (1959) – which is Huxley’s review of history against his 1932 classic. His references to ‘herd poisoning’ in regards to Hitler and the use of propaganda have real bearings on our life today. A must read once you’ve tackled Brave New World)
  • The Fountainhead
  • Foucault’s Pendulum
  • Middlemarch
  • Frankenstein (picked up for $2 on a throw out table at the Fossey’s Variety Store in Forbes NSW and read in various wheat fields on the steps of a combine harvester in 1996. I love how the story came about – quoted from the preface of my book “The idea for Frankenstein came from Mary Shelley in a half-walking nightmare in the summer of 1816. She had been staying with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron on the shores of Lake Geneva when at Byron’s suggestion they were all challenged to make up a ghost story. Percy Bysshe Shelley is a distant relative of Dave and is noted as being a ‘black sheep of the family’.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Dracula (read in 1993 in a very old share house in Ballarat, in rooms that were pitch black and ice cold at night. This was not long after the movie with Gary Oldman came out – though I did read the book first! I exploded a can of condensed milk, in the process of making caramel, while reading this. Thus I’ll never forget reading it and scraping the caramel off the micro Venetian blinds in the kitchen. My Dad brought the ladder over and scrapped it off the ceiling.)
  • A Clockwork Orange (seen the movie)
  • Anansi Boys
  • The Once and Future King
  • The Grapes of Wrath (I read this while I was pregnant with Dylan and the final scene of the book haunted me in those early weeks of breastfeeding. It was also one of the seminal exposures of breastfeeding in strange circumstances that made a huge impact on me. I’ve just finished reading East of Eden and would love to re-read Grapes again.)
  • The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
  • 1984 (I read my Dad’s old Penguin copy some stage in my early 20’s. I’d seen the movie when I was in my late teens and it was a book that I always intended to read. Big Brother will always been all about Orwell for me!)
  • Angels & Demons
  • The Inferno
  • The Satanic Verses
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (bought on that same throw out table and read before Frankenstein. I had seen the movie in my teens and the book did not disappoint. It’s another of those books that has always stayed with me.)
  • Mansfield Park
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (seen the movie)
  • To the Lighthouse
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Oliver Twist
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Les Misérables
  • The Corrections
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Dune
  • The Prince
  • The Sound and the Fury
  • Angela’s Ashes : a memoir (I think my mother has this book now. It was a birthday present for my 25th birthday and I read it almost in one sitting. I will never forget the pig’s cheeks for Christmas lunch, nor the sugar water in the baby’s bottles. I’ve never laughed and cried so much, nor been so trusting in the human spirit to always rise up.)
  • The God of Small Things
  • A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Neverwhere
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything (I’ve read Tales from a Small Island and loved it – plus love the back of Down Under because – yes – I’ve been to that service station in the town of Hay … and I know just what the dudes who work there were like!)
  • Dubliners
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Beloved
  • Slaughterhouse-five
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • The Mists of Avalon (this was my first exposure to paganism and the goddess religions and it stuck with me – you could say it planted the seeds that lay dormant for quite a few years, until motherhood allowed them to shoot. I’ve gone on to read a number of her books – and do intend to go back and read Mists again some time soon.)
  • Oryx and Crake : a novel
  • Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Confusion
  • Lolita I cant help but want to know what the book is like – knowing all the controversy that surrounded the movie that came out in the late 90’s. I found the movie both compelling and confronting – and wondering where the book might push me)
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • On the Road
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
  • The Aeneid
  • Watership Down
  • Gravity’s Rainbow
  • The Hobbit (read when I was a teenager and I don’t remember ANY of it! I have since read The Lord of the Rings)
  • In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
  • White Teeth
  • Treasure Island (an abridged young adults version – at a time when I was reading some HG Wells as well – all bought from the little supermarket in our dodgey little country town!)
  • David Copperfield (seen the movie – not too keen to read the book)
  • The Three Musketeers

And you?


Paul said...

I've got yet another little gem from On Writing in my mind looking at this list, and my comment about "literary ornaments" - where King mentions that the bookbuying public don't want works of literary genius, they want a good story. Some people are lauded by the critics but go largely unread by the public. Some are devoured by the public, but the critics shun them. It's rare to find a writer who captures both audiences, and crucially, at the same time (I'm thinking how Dickins was popular, but not critically acclaimed.

Persevere with The Name of the Rose. Eco is very fond of description, and the first three times I tried to read it I gave up at the second page. It's definitely a rewarding read.

Jodi Cleghorn said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement regarding Eco. I was so disappointed with it, so perhaps knowing what to expect a second time and knowing that the book is much better than the movie, I will be inspired to wade through the stuff that bores me.

And yes - the same things that SK said were well discussed here. Bascially - as my partner says, do you want to write to make money or do you want to write to say something. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but being able to combine them seems near impossible.

It's very telling the part where he talks about getting a literary award and all the snobs who said that he didn't deserve to get it because he didn't write 'literature' ... and I wonder what they were saying about Shakespeare in his time?

I get hung up because I want to write and sell (because to sell means to be read) but I want to write something that is meaningful - and perhaps this is the beginning of the step away from years of enjoying cracking yarns and wanting something that pushed me intellectually.

I've joked many times that all you have to do is make it onto the school book list - and you'll have guaranteed sales. That's the only way that I can see you can have sales and meaning.

Do you think its possible to have both? Can you think of anyone who has pulled it off in their lifetime?

Dave said...

Hi Spunky,
I shouldn't be leaving a comment during work time, but what the heck!
Just a quick note, we also have Don Quixote, War and Peace and The God of Small Things at home!
I'm impressed by your "to read" wish list, I think it's the Artist's way that says that writers need to read voraciously and, importantly, outside their comfort zone, expanding their outlook and experiences.
Wicked was inspred by this book, the playwright was on spicks and specks last week.
Some comments on your notes - Lolita: I think I told you I was really impressed by the way Nabakov got the reader to sympathise with a basically disgusting character, written in the first voice, you realise what he's doing, but it's so effective that you see the issue from his point of view until near the end.
Grapes of Wrath: one of the few books I've never got into, too depressing, especially when read on the land during a drought!
I have some recommendations for your further reading on the list.
A portrait of the Artist as a young man: Joyce is not easily accessed (Finnigan's Wake is another book I never finished) but this is probably the best starting point to access his genious.
The unbearable Lightness of being (Milan Kundara); Love in the Time of Cholera: my favourite Gabriel Garcia Marquez; and one not on the list - Midnight's Children, my favourite Salmon Rushdie, although the Satanic Verses is excellent as well, but is probably better known for it's infamous fatwah against it.
Finally....I've read 43 on the list...does that make me smart, look smart, or I just need to get out more?

b said...

I like this list a lot and have only read about 30 of them. Some I have chosen to skip just because. Just because I have to struggle to stay with it does not, in my mind, make it a great book. But then that is just me.

I love these blogs on books. It just gets the juices flowing.


dailypanic said...

Shelfari is a great place to list the books you read. here is a link

I forget to put books on my shelf so mine looks bare, but I read 3-4 books at a time. Thanks Paul for the list! I see some titles I want to read again.
Happy Reading!

Jodi Cleghorn said...

Hi Daily Panic,
Thanks for the heads up about Shelfari - went straight in and grabbed myself an account, widget and passed the link on to others near and dead.

It seems like a pretty amazing place - another time killer by the looks of it.

Is there nothing that the internet cannot?

Thanks so much!

Paul said...

With Eco don't be surprised if you give up second time too. I think it was three or four attempts to get INTO it, let alone THROUGH it! And I'm soon to embark on my seventh or so attempt at The Three Musketeers...

In answer to your questions...

I want to do both (what writer doesn't?). To be read means sales, which means money, which means being able to do this for a living, rather than having to fit it around the real job. But will you be remembered, or even recognised? I think the film world has it easier - you can combine artistic with commercially successful, but nobody is going to confuse There Will Be Blood with Transformers...

I think you can do both. Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco are both critically acclaimed, and have managed reasonable commercial success. I think you have to trade one off against the other though.

Best tactic I guess is to write a combination of them, or hide the intellectual stuff in the ripping yarn. An example of this is in my story The Long Watch. The whole plot revolves around an obscure Christian theological concept. Dealing with that could be seen as "literature" whilst the story itself is a ripping yarn!

Smiler said...

I started writing a comment here but my reply ended up being so long that I decided to turn it into a full-fledged post on my blog. So yes, I will borrow the list which I'll be posting it later tonight (tomorrow evening for you) do feel free to come over and have a look!

Also been meaning to talk to you about Serenity Now - we're much overdue for a post - are you still interested in contributing? You can send me an email if you like at fritzliveshere at hotmail dot com or just write me a comment, as you wish.