Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's make a list, part I

So this is my first post. I had the idea to do this for a little while, but wanted to wait till December to do it. I got the idea from A Softer World's Emily Horne, which she apparently does every year. What idea do I refer? To make a list of all the books I've read this year. Of course, I left out short stories--unless I read a complete collection of them--and poetry--see first exception. So I'll get right to it, whether anyone cares or not. I'll say a bit about each book in case someone either wants to know my thoughts or doesn't know what the book is.

(An asterisk next to the title means I've read it before.)

Here goes:

1. The Archivist by Martha Cooley. I read this mostly because my fiancĂ© recommended it to me. It was her copy I read. It wasn’t exactly the greatest novel I’ve read, but the duel narration was interesting. Although, I felt the characters and their problems a little contrived.
2--5. Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, Conrad's Fate, and The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones.
I was on a huge Diana Wynne Jones kick at the beginning of the year. Her stories never leave me disappointed, though her prose does irk me sometimes as juvenile, but since these are written for “young adults” I feel I can hardly complain about that. I do love the mythos involved throughout though and the obvious influence from the Narnia series. Jones sat through some lectures by C.S. Lewis, and the influence is clear.
6. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald.
I barely even remembered reading this. There was hardly a plot, yet it leaves a strange sense of import with me, which is a slight deception. The book was not important, just entertaining. I feel like if it had been more elaborate, it would've been better.
7. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.*
I read this for the first time in January of 2007 and I remember quite enjoying it, but now that I know everything I know about Dickensian style, there is so much to be taken from the work. It stands as one of his best novels, and his most melancholy piece. I prefer the "happy ending" to his original, which I know is an unpopular stance with most critics today, but would it honestly be Dickens without a happy ending?
8. Dubliners by James Joyce.
How shall I explain my relationship towards Joyce? I think part of any writer loves the notion of Joyce, but when I read these stories, I grow frustrated. Many of them seemed pointless, while some were brimming with insight into not only the Irish mindset, but human nature as a whole. "The Dead" most definitely stands as the best work among these stories, though it mostly makes me wish the rest stood up to it's brilliance.
9. Very Good, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse.
These stories are absurd, which I find to be the highest draw point. Jeeves is the hero of the stories, but it is for Bertie we read them. And what a narrator he is! Bertie Wooster is wonderfully full of himself, and yet humble enough to rely almost entirely upon his valet. Only a large man can so openly contradict himself. The dialogue alone is worth the read. I was talking like a 1920’s Brit for a week afterwords.
10. The Dancing Mania and The Black Death by
Justus Friedrich Karl Hecker. Hecker is the father of medical history. He was a doctor from the 18th century and documented many diseases from the middle ages. He wrote another book about the English Sweat, which I would love to find, but it remains elusive. The Dancing Mania is perhaps the most fascinating phenomenon from the middle ages. Men and women would just dance. Documentation is clear that it was dancing, and furthermore, that they were not dancing of their own will. Some danced until they died. I encourage everyone to look it up. As for the Black Death, I've always been interested in it, and Hecker's description of it reminds me of a post-apocalyptic world.
11. Don Quixote vol. II by Miguel de Cervantes. (Translated by Walter Starkie) I read the first part of this magnificent work about a year before I read the second part. Both are a wonderful romp and while I've had arguments over this, I still say it: Don Quixote is the most influential novel of all time. Sometimes the influence is only through proxy, but it is there. Dickens' Pickwick Papers was merely a Victorian "re-imaging" and Fielding's Joseph Andrews takes ques from the work. Even authors such as Gustave Flaubert cite it as an influence. With enough analyzing, one can find The Knight of the Rueful Figure in almost every piece of literature--and even films--created since it was first published.
12. The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton. Written as a response to H. G. Wells' book The Outline of History, this powerful theological work goes through the history of religion--from early mythology to modern Christianity--to examine whether Christ is merely a amalgamation of old gods or the son of the Living God. Not only that, Chesterton shows, with his usual wit and charm, the usefulness of myths and fairytales to Christianity. Those Christians who deny the realm of faerie are denying their heritage, as Chesterton shows. It gets a bit dull towards the end, but when he's discussing myths--especially the Greek--he is wonderful.
13. I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Not exactly the ideal novel to follow a brilliant theological apologetic, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. What the book is exactly is a series of humorous essays about just about everything--from the difficulties of volunteer work, moving in New York City, Oregon Trail, and finding an unclaimed piece of feces in the middle of your bathroom. I don't feel I would've missed anything from not reading it, but I'm glad I read it regardless and would be eager to read anything else Crosley puts out.
14. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. Like every other Hardy novel I've read, this was mostly about being careful who your marry. In a similar fashion of Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy works the plot out so one person is devastated and another is free to achieve happiness. To be honest, I preferred The Woodlanders, but this is more a transition novel--from his earlier style into his later one. People call Hardy immoral or degenerate, but I've always found him to be one of more moral novelists of his generation. He constantly preaches consistency in love--even outside the bounds of marriage, as is the case with many of his heroes. Not only that, despite some of the more scandalous accusations towards him, he takes marriage very seriously. Again, his message is quite often, be careful who you marry--it's for life.
15. Overqualified by Joey Comeau. Speaking of A Softer World, the writer for that comic also wrote a book. How can I explain this novel. It's epistolary, which--for your who don't know--means it is told entirely in letters, a style not used quite often these days. I think the last truly monumental novel to use the style was Pamela in 1740, though Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther was rather influential and it was published in 1774. Still, I think you're getting the point--not a common style for a novel. But don't let me deceive you, this is nothing like Pamela or Young Werther. Mr. Comeau sent cover letters to different companies applying for a job. These cover letters contain lines such as 'You will notice a period of unemployment on my resume, as I faced several harassment suits and three charges of racism from Irish midgets I allegedly referred to as "my North Pole leprechauns."' Yeah. Joey Comeau is sick, and I love it. If your interest is peaked but you cannot afford his book, check out his free comic at A Softer World. There's a free short story there too about eating cats.

Well, that's it for now. I have fifteen more to add. I'll not add the books I'm reading for December to the list, though I will say that I am reading The Chimes, which I will follow with The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, The Haunted Man, and A Christmas Carol--all by Charles Dickens. I read his Christmas novels in December, which is why I see no point to add them.


  1. aww, you linked me.
    i swear you've read more books than these. what about "The Road" or "The Chimes". hmmm. i know there are much more.

  2. I mentioned The Chimes at the end and this is only half the books I've read this year. I wanted to get on with my day, so I decided to break it up into two.

  3. oops. i woud overlook such things. i look a fool.

  4. It's okay. I'll forgive you this once.