Tag Archives: fiction

Lists!

I found a couple of new lists of books on the web this week. In case you need reading suggestions for July, here they are:

  • The Top 20 Novels Set in Toronto. Local Literature! How exciting. I’ve read five from this list, including the Fionavar Trilogy, which is actually three books. In this case “top” means popular, which explains the breadth of the list. It includes fantasy (the Fionavar Trilogy), graphic novels (Scott Pilgrim), and books by CanLit icons (Atwood, Ondaatje). (5/20 = 25% of this list I’ve read)
  • 100 Greatest American Novels. 100 years, 100 novels, “American” novels, though some of the USAians listed work abroad (ex. Plath, Hemingway), and buddy who wrote the list includes William Gibson (born in the USA works in Canada) but not Carol Shields (same pedigree) which I find a tiny bit odd. His criteria are clear, and he invites revisions to the list with the rule being to add something you must eliminate something else. I’ve read 8/100 or 8% of this list. I tend to prefer British or Canadian writers I think, which may skew these results.
  • Time 100 Best Novels since 1923 (the beginning of TIME, haha.) I’ve read 19% of this list. Lev Grossman was involved in making the list, so he included Possession, a critical inclusion in my books.
  • Modern Library 100 best novels list includes two lists on one page, how handy. One list is the Modern Library Board’s list, the other is a Reader’s list. I’ve read 12% of the Board’s list and 26% of the Reader’s list. The Reader’s list is oddly skewed toward science fiction, which may indicate that somewhere someone was stuffing the ballot box in some way, or that only scifi fans found a way to participate in making the list.

So there you go, handy dandy reading lists for this July weekend.

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Seven Books I Am Not Interested In Reading

I’m not interested in these books, even though they are all on lists of the 100 books you should really read in your lifetime. Not Interested. These are the books that I’ve gotten close enough to to get a whiff of what they are about and what they are like and decided I was not interested. I’m not even sure I’m open to your arguments about why I should want to read them. But you can try.

  1. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by  Judy Blume
  2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  3. Ulysses by James Joyce
  4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  6. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

So tell me, why should I care about any of these?

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E is for Elephant?

Where the Elephant is in the room, the Elephant of unread books by authors whose names begin with E.

Actually E is for Eliot, as in George Eliot, the pen-name of Mary Ann Evans. I’ve read exactly one of Eliot’s novels, Silas Marner. I have other Eliot novels on my shelf in the to-be-read area. I also have a biography of Eliot in the to-be read area of my books. I think I should read Middlemarch next. But somehow, I never quite get to starting Middlemarch. Somehow Eliot/Evans never quite makes it off the shelf and into my hands. I’m not sure why this is the case, especially since I’m consciously trying to read older books these days. I found Silas Marner hard to get through, so I may be expecting the same of other Eliot works. Possibly you English Majors will tell me that SM was possibly not the George Eliot book to start with. I’d love to hear this, and also would appreciate hearing what you think I should attempt next.

What E-books have you read lately?

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Synchronized Reading

It is always interesting when I’m reading fiction and non-fiction that turn out to be about similar things. This doesn’t always happen. Of course, whenever I’m reading two books at once the two speak to each other. Even books I’m not reading right now also speak into what I’m currently reading. That is part of the fun of reading lots. Your brain works intertextually more and more. But I’ve just finished two fiction books that almost perfectly illustrate the first chapter of my current theological reading. That is pretty exciting.

My current theological read is The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic by James K.A. Smith. Smith’s book is about hermeneutics and reading texts. He discusses whether one can ever do this without interpretation. He claims that the need for hermeneutics is part of our status as creatures, created beings, not God, and thus it is not a result of the Fall (Garden of Eden, Eve, Adam, fruit, all that = Fall). I’ve just finished the first chapter in which he discusses and disputes a view of hermeneutics that I was raised with (and, it appears, so was he, #plymouthbrethren ftw). I enjoyed it very much. I’m interested to see how he builds the “Creational Hermeneutic” promised in the title of the book.

I just finished reading The Chosen and The Promise by Chaim Potok. These books are about growing up Jewish in New York in the 40s. The first book is set during World War II, and in it the protagonist learns about the holocaust. The second book is set in the years after the war with survivors of concentration camps living in New York. Both books discuss the reading and interpretation of sacred texts extensively. The key conflict in the second book is about the reading and study of the Talmud. It is very interesting. I’m glad I re-read these two just in time to start reading Smith’s book. It makes all of them more interesting.

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Crossover in Reverse

An enormous flap was made when J.K. Rowling, kid’s author, made the jump to Adult Fiction. Why is the same not true for people like John Grisham, Adult Novelist, who also wrote Kids Books? Or for Jasper Fforde, of Thursday Next fame, who has written some dragon books that look a lot like YA fiction? Or for Many Other Adult Novelists who have also published for children?

Let the flap commence.

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Another Reading List

I  found another list of books you must read. Cleverly, this is a personally adaptable list, and so almost everyone will read these ten books. It also has a really good reading chair picture which I will not replicate here. I will tell you about my 10 must-reads though, and you can figure out your own.

1. Every single book by your favourite author — I’ve got a few authors whose entire list I’ve read or am trying to read. These include P.D. James, Ian Rankin, Dorothy L. Sayers (even the translations of Dante, but those are still to be read).

2. The one that a friend recommends even though it’s in a genre you’ve never read — Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series. These are mysteries with a twist, and the TV series True Blood is based on them. I don’t usually read vampire books but my friend the Street Pastor was quite enthusiastic about them, so I gave them a try. I’ve read the first five, but now I think I’m done.

3. The one by the debut novelist you aren’t familiar with.What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. I saw a book review of this and went and got it based on the review. I seldom do this. It turned out to be a good read.

4. The books that mean something to your parents. I’ve read lots of books in this category, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ll stick with the fiction for now. For ADad, anything by Nevil Shute or Alaister MacLean. For AMom, I’ve got her old set of L.M. Alcott books in matching covers. I’ve also read them all. 1Mom is still passing me books. William Faulkner was an author I hadn’t read until she listed him as a favourite. Room we both thought spectacular.

5. At least one book that was written in another language (preferably a translated edition…unless you can speak the language. In that case, show off) — Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. It is the only Big Russian Novel I’ve read so far. People keep talking about Dostoyevsky, but I haven’t gone there yet.

6. The one with the really cool cover that caught your eye – The Firm by John Grisham. Really. I bought it because I liked the cover. I saw the cover everywhere because it was a bestseller, people were reading it, but the plain cover with the gold lettering caught my eye. There are others as well, but that is the one I clearly remember.

7. The one you found on a park bench/train carriage — I’ve not found a book in these locations yet, but I’ve found lots of freebies by the side of the road. Still in my to-be-read pile in the found category is A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews.

8. The one a struggling writer begs you to read — I can’t tell you about this one because it isn’t published yet, and the writer in question also begged me to keep it a secret. I’ll never tell.

9. The “adult” novel that was just ahead of your reading level when you were 13 — When I was about 13 I started reading Dorothy L. Sayers. I “get” her better now. I thought Gaudy Night was tedious then, I think anything but that now.

10. The Young Adult novel that one of your kids loved — I don’t have kids of my own, but other people’s kids recommended (and I read) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Hunger Games (and sequels) by Suzanne Collins, and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, though Snow Crash isn’t really a YA book. I taught high school and still work with youth, so I get a lot of recommendations in this category.

What books are on your personalized version of this list? Do tell.

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Why YOU should read

Apparently, people who read novels have better social skills than those who don’t. I’ve heard it argued that I shouldn’t read as then I wouldn’t be talking to people, and that is more important than reading some book. While talking to people is certainly important, reading a book, particularly a novel, may help with being able to communicate with people well. So do both. Read, then talk to people. Seems like a good plan to me.

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