I had tried to read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights at least twice before finally getting through it in January. The novel was never assigned to me, that I can recall. But it’s one of those books so often referenced that not having read it felt like an absence. Continue reading “Wuthering Heights and the power of love”
I can hardly believe we’ve arrived at the last month of 2016. My quest to read my own books is almost over, and I feel like it just began. Also, my tally of books read from my existing library reflects that. Ha. I might need to keep it for 2017. It’s that or descend into chaos. Probably.
In the meantime, here is my “read” pile for November. I feel like I should call it “the long and exhaustive list of books I read in November.” Because it turns out I read quite a few books this month!
Books I read:
An asterisk (*) indicates a Read My Own Damn Books book. I’m happy to report there are many more asterisks this month as compared to last. Eight of the 13 books I read came from my pre-2016 library. Using my extremely advanced computing skills, I’ve deduced that’s more than 50 percent, which has been my most recent goal.
Everblaze, Lodestar, and Neverseen by Shannon Messenger (e-book)
These are books 3, 4, and 5 in Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities fantasy series for middle grade readers. My friend Jessica turned me on to it. I’m heartily enjoying the adventures of Sophie Foster as she learns to navigate her magical abilities and battles the nefarious and mysterious Neverseen (geddit? ’cause they’re “never seen”?). The next book doesn’t come out until later in 2017. This is good. It means I have something to look forward to next fall. I mean, besides autumn, the most beautiful season of the year in New England.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (e-book) *
Reading this novel – which I picked up in an e-book sale … at some point I can no longer recall – fulfilled both my reading challenges this year: Read My Own Damn Books and When Are You Reading? (yay).
Set in Amsterdam in 1686-87, it tells the story of Nella, an 18-year-old girl who is married off to Johannes Brandt, a successful merchant 20 years her senior. Nella moves in with Johannes and his sister, Marin. Both harbor potentially fatal secrets that are gradually revealed with … consequences (spoilers). Their narratives alone make for compelling reading. Making it even more gripping is the story of the miniaturist, the shadowy figure who crafts a, yes, miniature of the Brandts’ house. As more objects – not commissioned by Brandt – arrive for the little house, it appears to be a prophetic instrument. I found his novel an unsettling, compelling read.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (e-book) *
Well’s protagonist, identified only as The Time Traveller, journeys into a dystopian future populated by hunter and hunted. In pursuit of ease and comfort, humanity has devolved, in the extreme. It’s a must-read for science fiction fans, given that it’s credited with inventing the genre. Now that I’ve written that, it occurs to me I’ve not reach much science fiction. Well, anyway, The Time Machine is worth reading for its sage insights on the human condition and acknowledgment of a paradoxical implication at the heart of it: What we want isn’t always good for us. Continue reading “The unabridged list of books I read in November”
Though time travel novels are a favorite of mine, I’d not, until last week, read the one that started them all: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. It’s one of the few time travel novels I can recall reading in which the main character travels to the future. Reading it made me realize how fixated I am on time travel to the past. I don’t seem to wonder as much about life in the future. I’m not sure what that says about me and whether I should like it, but there we are.
Wells’ classic, published in 1895, is credited with coining the term “time machine” and spawning the science fiction genre. It begins with a group of men discussing the nature of time and space. A scientist/inventor, known only as The Time Traveller, tells the group that time is a fourth dimension through which humans can move. He demonstrates with a tiny machine he holds in his hand. Before the men’s eyes, the machine vanishes. The Time Traveller claims to have sent it into the future.
At their next gathering, the men hear the story of The Time Traveller, who takes over as narrator. He describes his experiences traveling to the year 802,701, where he encounters two human-ish creatures – the Eloi and the Morlocks – in a desolate landscape of crumbling infrastructure and underground lairs. The Eloi, who live on the surface, are soft, helpless, and harmless. Meanwhile, the Morlocks live underground, ascending at night for sinister purposes.
The story is mesmerizing and haunting and, I’ve read, meant to comment on the Victorian era. I perceive that in the narrative’s skepticism towards the notion of progress, the idea that we move – or can move – steadily forward, gradually perfecting ourselves. As I’ve written before, I’m more inclined to believe cyclically rather than linearly about human progress. Steady forward progress would be ideal, obviously. But I don’t see as much evidence to support the notion historically. The desire for it, though, and the fear that we’re not actuating it persist, which may explain, at least in part, why The Time Machine continues to be read today. I don’t suppose it’s for the Victorian critique, in particular or isolation.
The Time Traveller is repeatedly struck by the Eloi’s incapacities. They’re kindly but hapless. He observes, “It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. […] There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.”
If we actually achieved the ideals we seek (in the context of the narrative, comfort and ease), the story seems to say, they would destroy us. This reminded me of what Azar Nafisi cautions in Reading Lolita in Tehran: “Be careful with your dreams. One day they may just come true.”
Later, a character remarks of The Time Traveller, “He, I know – for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made – thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so.”
It’s may not be the most cheering thought. But if hope is to be found, perhaps it’s in committing continually to strive, never to rest in the surety of our ideals, to recognize that even those ideals themselves may only ever be as imperfect as we are.
Since today’s reading roundup falls on the last day of August, I’m doing a full review of books read this month. A big, expressive thank you (as always) to Taking on a World of Words for hosting WWW Wednesday and to Coffee and Cats for the happy introduction to it.
I got off to a quick start in August, then stalled, then was revived by Bout of Books. Ah, the thrilling roller coaster-ride that is the reading life… Continue reading “The unabridged list of books read in August”
I’m still working on The Odyssey by Homer. My book club book pushed it to the back burner this week. Now it’s back at the top of my list … assuming another book doesn’t grab my attention. That is always a possibility (gulp).
What did you recently finish reading?
I finished The Girl Under the Olive Tree by Leah Fleming. This book had been languishing in my Nook library for who-knows-how-long. It’s nice to tick another title off my terrifyingly long #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks list.
As I mentioned previously, this novel appealed to me for its depictions of life in WWII occupied Greece. It has a frame narrative: In 2001, octogenarian Penny prepares to travel from her home in England to Crete to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Crete. The trip inspires her to reflect on her time there working for the Greek resistance. With that, we travel back to Athens in the pre-war years. Continue reading “Wednesday reading roundup: August 24”
With my annual summer relocation happening this week, I’m behind. I could let it go and plan to catch up next week. But I won’t. It’s like with working out: If I let myself go one week, it’ll be too easy to let it go the next one. And the next one after that.
What are you currently reading?
Harry Mount’s Odyssey: Ancient Greece in the Footsteps of Odysseus by Harry Mount. I discovered it through this review in The Guardian. Oddly, it was the first title that came up when I googled “what’s the best translation of The Odyssey?” Mount’s project – to follow Odysseus’ journey from Troy back home – intrigued me. Busy days haven’t left me as much time for reading as I’d like, so it’s still early days for the book and me. So far, though, I’m enjoying the voice and writing quality.
What did you recently finished reading?
Earlier today, I finished Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. I enjoy ballet books and had this one on my list since it came out. And would you believe: All those e-book sales I get finally paid off: Last week, Tiny Pretty Things was on sale for $1.99, and I scooped it up.
It’s about high school students at an elite New York City ballet academy, where the pressure to excel pushes students to the brink physically and emotionally. The story unfolds through three first-person viewpoints. California girl Gigi feels the weight of being the only African-American student at an academy where “ballet blanc” is the unspoken code. June wants more than the understudy roles she’s been getting, especially since her mother has given her an ultimatum to get better roles or leave the academy. Bette, a legacy student, fits the prima ballerina description to perfection but struggles to replicate her older sister’s success.
The story begins with a student, Cassie, falling during a class, then fast-forwards to the following year. We discover Cassie is not longer at the school. She was injured in the fall. It turns out she was also the victim of intense bullying/harassment by other students, Bette at the head of the list. The bullies find a new target in Gigi, with the “pranks” becoming increasingly alarming. We spend the book not knowing exactly who is doing what. I raced to the end hoping to find out what was going on only to find the last page is the biggest cliffhanger of them all – sneaky! I guess I’ll have to read the sequel, Shiny Broken Pieces.
What do you think you’ll read next?
It’s hard to say at this point. I have quite a bit of Harry Mount’s Odyssey ahead of me. Earlier this week, my parents were showing me photos of their recent trip to Norway. As ridiculous as this sounds, the photos kind of made me want to read the first book in Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. A Hamish Macbeth mystery also sounds appealing.
So it remains to be seen what book lands on my “next up” list.
How about you? What books are on you read, reading, and to read list?
Ah, how I love Wednesday reading roundup day. Without it, I’d probably gorge away on books and forget to take a bit of time to think about what I’m reading. Many thanks as always to Taking on a World of Words for hosting WWW Wednesday and Coffee and Cats for introducing me to it!
What are you currently reading?
My May book-buying binge (courtesy of my birthday) included a novel called An Accidental Greek Wedding by Carol Grace. I bought it on a whim, though I’d never heard of it, because it’s set in – you guessed it – Greece. As I’m getting reading for my annual family visit there, I picked it up. I love reading novels set in the places to which I’m traveling. I haven’t read many novels set in Greece, either, so couldn’t resist trying this one. Continue reading “Wednesday reading roundup: July 6”
On Sunday, I named Infinite Jest as a book readers can benefit from dipping into, even if they never read it straight through to the end. Today, I’m prepared to elaborate on why. Continue reading “On reading the first chapter of Infinite Jest”
February delivered what feels suspiciously like a reading slump, but not exactly. I say “not exactly” because I’m still reading (what else is there to do? I have few other interests, really). But I’m distracted and a little bit restless.
#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks felt like my anchor and inspiration this month. When I struggled to focus on what the heck I wanted to be reading, I turned to the books that, at some point, felt like must-reads. That’s why they’re on my shelves, right? Some of them I read completely. Almost as many, I read only in parts. Continue reading “The unabridged list of what I read in February”
I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to figure out which Gilmore Girls episode features The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby’s delightful collection of book pieces.
Music by The Polyphonic Spree is featured in “Say Goodbye to Daisy Miller” (season 5, episode 1), but I have yet to find a reference to Hornby’s book. Was its inclusion on the official Gilmore Girls reading list a mistake, or does the book appear without a verbal reference? I dunno, but if you do, you are cordially invited to enlighten me.
In the meantime … whatever. The Polysyllabic Spree is on the list, and I embrace any opportunity to (re)read Nick Hornby. Continue reading “On reading Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree”