Thursday, March 08, 2007

Levar Burton is My Homeboy

So, I accepted the tag from European, aka Sonja, but I'm changing it up just a little because I feel compelled to leave commentary on this and I think it's a little hard to scan. I stuck with her scheme of bolding the books I've read and italicizing the ones I'd like to read, but haven't.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)-- I am of two minds on this one. On the one side, I have an allergy to anything that becomes such an overblown phenomenon. It takes quite a lot to overcome my prejudice in this regard-- for evidence, see my relatively late entrance into Harry Potter fanhood, which took place only after Finbar called me at 2:30 a.m. to tell me about this really great book he just read. I figured anything good enough to make him stay up past his rigidly observed bedtime AND think it would be a good idea to call me at 2:30 a.m. to tell me about it would have to be pretty good.

2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)-- I read this as a requirement for a European history class in college, and thoroughly expected to hate it, what with the irritating period movies they've made of it and all, but I was hooked by the end of the second chapter and finished it in one afternoon. Writing this just now, a memory floated to the surface of walking down the hill on the street that ran parallel to Clifton Avenue, behind the frat houses and along the hidden parking lot where the law students parked, sun shining through the leaves on the trees. I only had a few pages left to go and I was desperate to finish before I got to my car and had to drive to work.

3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)-- I think I read this as a requirement in school, maybe 9th grade English. I bought my own copy of it, which has been read and re-read so many times that it's creased and the yellowed pages are getting too delicate. It improves with each reading. I also loved the Gregory Peck movie of it, but oddly enough, it never managed to implant itself in my mind as the representation of the characters and how they look and talk and act. I wonder why that is? For example, Alan Rickman is Snape in my mind when I read the books, and I hear his voice reading the lines. But, much as I loved Gregory Peck's soft spoken Atticus Finch, I never hear his voice when I read Atticus in the book. Another odd memory tied to this book: I'm almost positive that this was assigned for 9th grade English because I remember watching the movie in class, and the teacher-- who was young and single, and therefore the object of much minor crushing among the girls, despite his distinct lack of hotness and curly black mullet-- took the time to point out to us that they'd tied a rope around the legs of the dog (in the scene where Atticus shoots the rabid dog) and you could see them pull the poor dog's legs out from under it when it gets "shot". Then he rewound the tape and replayed the scene several times, to the hoots and giggles of a classroom of 9th graders. I remember being mystified by what was supposed to be so funny.

4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)-- and I have no desire to read it. I also haven't seen the movie, and I can't imagine actually sitting through it, no matter how much of a masterpiece it's supposed to be.

5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)

Though I do own the Fellowship of the Ring and the Hobbit in German, both were gifts from a good friend, and I just can't bring myself to read them. I've tried, I really have! But they bore me to tears. (Right now, I bet Luneray is wringing her hands in (semi-mock) despair.)

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)

10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)

11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)

12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)-- I couldn't even be bothered to read The DaVinci Code-- wait! I just realized I never put my "on the other hand" part in up there. Here it is:
On the other hand, I've been told by several people whose taste I trust that it's a fun read, even though it's utter dreck, artistically/ literarily (I love to make up my own words. I think that might be one of them.). I may, at some point, decide to have a gander at it when I come across a $0.25 clearance copy of it at Half Price Books or something.

13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)

14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)-- I know that the two books have only a tenuous connection, but I recently (that is, in the last six or so months) read The Strangeness of Beauty, and I found it touching and compelling, so now I want to read this one. Again, I know that's a totally illogical chain of thought, but there it is. Sometime right after Christmas, Ash and I were in Barnes and Noble, and I spent a good hour paging through a huge picture book/ coffee table book about Geisha, their history, their culture, and their role in modern Japan. It was fascinating. So there's a more logical reason to want to read this.

16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)

17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)

18. The Stand (Stephen King)-- One of my favorites. I read it about once a year, usually when I feel the need for a good, cathartic reading experience. The first time I read it, it scared the crap out of me, in a good way. Now I really love the deliciously flawed characters and the good ol' good vs. evil fight.

19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)

20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)-- I have tried to read this book ever since I was a child, and I've never successfully finished it.

22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)-- This was one of the four or five books in English that a classmate of mine in Hamburg owned and let me borrow during those first horrible months when I desperately needed a break from the constant strain of speaking and hearing and reading and seeing German without quite understanding everything. Reading in German was not a pleasure for me at that point, and I was shocked at just how big a hole that left in my life. As you may have guessed, I am a voracious reader. Not being able to blow through 10 or 15 books a week really left an enormous void in my concept of myself and how to spend time. I adjusted, of course, and by the time Christmas rolled past, I was getting to the point where reading in German wasn't so arduous as to take all the pleasure and relaxation out of it, thereby preventing me from reaching that wonderful state where the real world ceases to exist and you slip into the world of the book. Side note: the first "real" book I read for pleasure in German was "Im Westen Nichts Neues", and it remains one of my very, very favorite books. Once, while I was in college, taking a class on translation issues in literature, I read it in English and was appalled at what a stiff, pompous book it came across as. In German, it's touching and tender and very human.

23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)-- Wow, was this good. I also read her memoir, Lucky. That was also very good, but oh, so harrowing. I don't know if I could ever re-read it.

25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)-- I tried to read this one, but couldn't make it past the first chapter.

26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)-- This is (was?) one of my high school friend's favorite books. If I remember, she pined to meet a man like Heathcliff.

28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)-- I read all of the Narnia books as a child because for whatever reason, my parents had no objection to my reading them during the sermon at Sunday evening services. I would do anything for a distraction from the terrible, boring sermons our pastor delivered. I used to play this game with myself where I would see how long I could hold my breath, timing myself on the large clock on the wall to the side of the pulpit, but the spirit of scientific inquiry could only hold my attention for so long. Ash recently made me watch the insipid piece of drivel that is "The Chronicles of Narnia". I hate movies with precious, precocious children who save the world. Except the Harry Potter movies. And that is because I am a hypocrite.

29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)-- This is one of the books that is in constant competition for the title of "My Favorite Book of All Time". I love Steinbeck, everything except "Winter of Our Discontent". For some reason, that one just fails to grab me. Anyway, I am stirred to the very quick of my soul by the power of the word "Timshel!", uttered by Lee, by Adam.

30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)-- This book repels me, the treacle of its premise seeping from under its cover.

31. Dune (Frank Herbert)

32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)-- God, I will never forgive Hulio for tricking me into reading this.

33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)

34. 1984 (Orwell)-- Another well-loved classic for me. I've read it several times, and it seems that each time I come away with a slightly different interpretation of it. I love it when that happens.

35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)

38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)-- So powerful. I read this at a time when we were starting to learn more about my birthmother and about the problems that my sister had struggled with all her life. For a time, it looked as though she might be developing a mental illness*, and I was worried that one day I might "go crazy", too. This book resonated with me on a very deep level because of that.

39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)

40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)

42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)

44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)-- Though not so treacly as the other book by this author, I still cannot bring myself to even try to want to read this.

45. Bible (though, as with European,not the whole thing)

46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)

47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)-- This is one of those books that I think I may be one of the only people in America not to have read it.

49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)-- Man, this book gets the bleeding heart, commie do-gooder in me fired up. Steinbeck totally knows how to push my buttons.

50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)-- I read this despite my misgivings at the "Oprah Book Club" sticker on the cover and was instantly in love with Wally Lamb.

51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)-- Another book that I read reluctantly due to its connection to Oprah**. Hulio raved about it and I found a copy on the clearance rack of Half Price, so I gave it a chance. It was a great read. Especially if you read it at the height of a very humid D.C. summer.

52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)-- This is kind of surprising, because I actually really like Dickens. By the time this would have been required reading, I had left the normal AP track behind in order to have the flexibility to go back and forth to Germany.

53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)

54. Great Expectations (Dickens)-- God, was the ending of this stupid! Even for Dickens! Who I love in spite of my mild allergy to happy endings with all the loose ends neatly tied up.

55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)-- This is one of the other contenders for "My Favorite Book of All Time".

56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)

57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)

58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)-- Hulio loves this book. She has, however, not tried to convince me to read it. Smart woman, I think. I know, I know: how can I judge something I've never read? I have to tell you: the television miniseries pretty much put paid to any chance I would ever pick this book up.

59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)-- At some point, I imagine Ash will convince me to read this book. Dostoyevsky is one of his favorite authors.

62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)-- This book was too beloved by the most obnoxious and pretentious pseudo-intellectuals I met in college for me to have ever been tempted by it.

63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)

64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)-- Trashy, but fun. The sequels, however, were not worth the paper on which they had been printed.

65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)

66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)-- I was surprised (very pleasantly so) by how much I liked this book. I have a fondness for children's and young adult literature, so I know that when it's good, it's sublime (The Giver, for example), but that it can be as trite and cliched and superficial as the scribblings of the 14 year old girls in its target audience. I honestly expected to find this one closer to the latter group, but instead I found it to be much more in the vein of Judy Blume.

68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

69. Les Miserables (Hugo)-- I love the unabridged version, with its long, meandering asides (I bet that's a shock to any of you who read this blog regularly, given the frequency with which I employ parentheticals***), especially the ones about argot and convents.

70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)-- In four languages so far, but never once as an assignment for school.

71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)-- I think I am the only woman of my age in America who did not read this, nor did I see the movie.

72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)-- I actually own a copy of this, but I never seem to get around to reading it.

73. Shogun (James Clavell)

74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)-- This is another book that was ruined for me by the movie-- even though I didn't see the movie, just suffered through the massive publicity campaign for it.

75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)-- The elementary school librarian lobbied hard for me to read this book. My tastes ran more to this and this and this (all books that I remember fondly from the third grade, when I had special permission to use the upper grades' shelves because the stuff in lower grades' shelves was far below my reading level-- and I'd already read almost all of it (literally!) anyway. I could come in early in the morning to pick out books when no one else was there, which was a very attractive perk for a child who already hated how different she was from her classmates, but who had also already decided that she liked the things that made her different too much to give them up.)

76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)

77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)

78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)

79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)

80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)-- And what child of my generation didn't love the cartoon, especially Tempelton's racous carouse through the fair?

81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)

82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)-- I talked my mom into reading this after I was assigned it in 10th grade English (Major American Authors II), and I remember walking into the kitchen after school to find her crying into the mashed potatoes over poor George and poor Lenny. I myself have never read it without crying.

83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)

85. Emma (Jane Austen)-- I read this for pleasure after I loved Pride and Prejudice so much. And I remember liking this one, too, but for the life of me, I don't remember anything about it at all.

86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)-- Ash thinks I should read this. Sometimes I think I should, too. But not enough to actually read it.

87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)-- I keep meaning to request this from the library. I've been meaning to read this for years.

88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)

89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)

90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)

91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)

92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)-- I've commented on this one before (see #70), and I only want to add that I re-read it a year or two ago and I don't really care for it.

93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)

94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)

95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)

96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)

99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)-- Heh. See #1 in this list, then add "I have a severe allergy to this kind of airy-fairy quasi-spiritual, New Age mumbo jumbo."

100. Ulysses (James Joyce)-- And I think its safe to say "Haha! No one will ever make me!"

*Instead of the very scary schizophrenia that was mentioned at one point around this time, it turned out that she was "just" struggling to deal with the frustrations of being borderline retarded and finding her path in the adult world. A good strong course of counseling together with a couple of years of antidepressants helped her over the really bad stuff. She still struggles at times, but she's managed to earn an associate's degree and found a good job, and that seemed to help quite a lot. It's frightening to me how very much in the dark we are when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental illness, and it angers me to hear the stigma attached to it. I guess it's human to hate and fear that which we do not understand and cannot control. It helps to alleviate the sense of helplessness, I suppose. But how on Earth are people supposed to seek the treatment they need-- treatments that can mean the difference between life and death (and I assure you that, without treatment, my sister would have eventually killed herself)-- when they have to fear being stigmatized, shunned, feared, written off as "crazy"?

** Not that I have anything against Oprah, per se. In fact, I admire her philanthropic efforts a great deal. But the Oprah Book Club just always kind of rubbed me the wrong way for a reason that I could never put my finger on. I am utterly in favor of encouraging people to read and broaden their horizons, and the recommendation of Oprah probably led a lot of women to read books that they never would have glanced at in the bookstore. Maybe it was just that it seemed so cultish. Maybe it's that darn allergy to overly huge phenomenon. Maybe I'm just a bad person. I don't know.

***I talk this way in real life, too. Sometimes, I'll be talking to Hulio and 20 minutes later, she asks me, "So, what were you saying about X?", and by that time, I've gotten so far afield of the original topic that it takes me a minute to regroup.


At 1:03 PM , Blogger European said...

HAHAHA! It took every tiny speck of restraint I had in me NOT to write commentary on every. single. title. on that list! Hahaha. Too bad you live way out there not here, or we could get together for coffee or something. And talk about literary dreck. :)

At 4:12 PM , Anonymous ctinabina said...

A note about Angles and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Somehow, I managed to read both of these books. Neither one of them was thrilling, but good, easy, and fun reads. However, both books are extremely similar in terms of the characters, the character development, and even the overall plot. Whichever one you read first I anticipate you will consider "good, easy, and fun" while the book that remains will be played, boring, and predictable.

At 10:17 PM , Blogger katze said...

Sonja, let's make a pact to meet if we ever end up within shouting distance. And hey! Who knows: maybe we'll both end up visiting Deutschland at the same time. :-)

At 9:51 PM , Blogger Rebecca said...

LOVED the comments...I have a total inability to not give a book report every time I read a book...I just have to describe why I liked/hated it.

At 10:59 PM , Blogger Liz said...

East of Eden is one of my all-time favorites, too.

A Fine Balance is up there, too, although it's a bit depressing.


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