December 29, 2007

Keepin' on with the book readin' thang...

They did so over a year ago, but hey, I've never claimed to be on top of things. The UK's Association of Librarians & Museum-ians who put it together. Each person was asked, "What is one book every adult should read before they die?" These were the 30 top vote-getters (in order, apparently).

Lists are predictably controversial. As this is a British poll, it's unsurprising that The Bible's represented but (apart from the very preachy Life of Pi) there are exactly zero alternative religious texts -- but as a Greek classics hobbyist, it's disappointing that Austen & Bronte have shown up Homer & Virgil. And hey, Dickens and Golding I get, Steinbeck even -- but how does the lone Canadian entry end up being Kenneth Graham??!?!? No Atwood? No Ondaatje? No Leacock? Apologies to Mr Hardy, but Tess of the D'urbervilles does NOT outrank Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Oscar Wilde's exclusion is criminal; equally sad is their naming Winnie the Pooh over, say, Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Richard Adams' outstanding Watership Down.

All complaints aside, there's not a volume here I'd turn away out of spite. Turns out I'm 33% finished my pre-death reading assignments. I've read 10 of these, and marked them with asterisks.

1. *To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. The Bible
3. *The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
4. *
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

5. *A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
6. *
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
7. *
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quiet on the Western Front by E M Remarque

9. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman

10. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

12. *The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

13. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

14. *Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne

16. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

17. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

18. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
19. *
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

21. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

22. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

24. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 

25. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

27. Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

29. *A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

30. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

December 27, 2007

Books, books and more books

I've always liked books, although I probably talk a bigger game than I actually play. I mean, I read and everything, but I'm not as well-read in the classics area as I probably should be. This year, I finally hit my goal of sitting down to read, cover to cover, at least 50 books in a calendar year; unlike the original 50 Book Challenge that I got the idea from, I include graphic novels, online books and non-fiction books in the total. I didn't count magazines, articles, essays or websites.

Of the 50-some books I kept track of this year:
- 19 were traditional novels of fiction
- 14 were graphic novels
- 8 were straight up children's books (15 if you count the Harry Potter series)
- 9 were non-fiction
- 2 were online publications
- 4 were purely academic reads (essay compilations for a Latin American history course)
- 8 more were books for courses that (luckily) doubled as pleasure reading
- 6 were classics (7 if you include the English Patient)
- 14 were repeat reads, not including multiple reads necessary for writing papers for courses

Some books fall under more than one category, of course, so if you're trying to get me on shaky math, nyah, nyah, nuh-nyah, nyah.

I normally don't get involved in memes, but here's one I grabbed from the ever-impressive erin-go-blog:

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. This list has not been adapted, nor edited, by me -- I've just followed the rules for bolding and such. I haven't hated any of them, but here are the rules, loathing instructions included...

Unfinished Book-ness Meme
Bold what you have read, italicize books you’ve started but haven't been able to finish, and strike through books you hated. Add an asterisk* to those you’ve read more than once. Underline those on your TBR list.

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick

Madame Bovary
The Odyssey****
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad**
The Blind Assassin
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian

A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray*
Mansfield Park
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels (In fact I blogged at length about it.)
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
A confederacy of dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The unbearable lightness of being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves**
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid*
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit*********** (I lost count, but it's a lot -- it's a great book to use for high advanced ESL students.)
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers