“The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” – John Wooden
I am always struggling to balance between reading the books that have been sitting on my shelf for ages and the shiny new ones that they have on the displays at the store.
Unfortunately, my current struggles with reading are also my struggles with writing: time. I hate that everything seems to happen at once. Between work deadlines, moving, and the need to find a new car, I haven’t had as much time to write for my own blog as I would like (and I’ve run out of stock-piled posts). I should have more time during the first few weeks of next month and I’ve already set aside the time to read and write a review of Margaret Atwood’s new novel, MaddAddam, the conclusion of her Oryx and Crake trilogy (less than a week away, so excited).
For now, I will leave you with a few more thoughts on some of the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Or as I like to call it, Frankenwhine. I must say that while I loathed every minute of this novel the first time through, I gained an odd respect for it while re-reading it (and writing about it) for grad school. I still loathe the character of Victor, but I have gained respect for what Mary Shelley accomplished (and for the other characters of the novel that had to put up with Victor and his whining). There are just so many rich layers to the tale and depth to the messages that this novel cannot be overlooked. Even if it does make you want to shove something down Victor’s mouth so he’ll shut up long enough for you to lecture him on simple human decency.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
I read this novel for an English class my sophomore year of college, while doing laundry in my dorm. It was getting into winter and the laundry room was so warm and inviting, not to mention that one had an overstuffed couch. The white noise of the machines made it easy to concentrate and most kids didn’t bother with laundry or only came to check on it once in a while. It was one of my favorite reading spots on campus (also found quite a bit of spare change on the floor, funding many snack trips to the vending machine). I don’t remember as much about the plot of Giovanni’s Room as I remember the reaction I had to it. I loved it. The novel has an amazing way of opening the mind and Baldwin’s style is something that must be experienced, whether in his fiction or essays.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This is one of those books everyone seems to have to read at some point for school, whether high school or college. I did enjoy it but it isn’t my favorite Dickens novel by any means (though Miss Havisham is one of my favorite tragic, twisted characters). However, I do love the story of Dickens’ interaction with the ending. I love learning about the processes of other writers (particularly famous writers).
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
On the syllabus in my fantasy literature class junior year of college, we had to read The Vampire Lestat. Because I’m a nerd and just plain anal about some things, I made myself read Interview with the Vampire first. I wound up being one of the only ones who had read it and was called upon to give a summary of the novel for the rest of the class on the first day of discussion, taking care of my class participation for a while. I liked The Vampire Lestat much better but was glad to have had the background, even if it was more work. I still haven’t gotten around to making myself read Queen of the Damned though it’s been sitting on my shelf for almost five years now. Also, I have never seen the movie but knew Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were the two leads so the entire time I was reading the novel I ended up picturing for the opposite character from what they played. Now I won’t be able to see the movie without thinking they would be better swapping roles (no matter how good or bad they actually are).
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
I’ve had to read this novel three times for class. Summer reading in high school (when someone in class accidentally read H.G. Wells’ Invisible-Man), once during undergrad and once for graduate. I had to read Richard Wright’s Black Boy in high school first so I felt an odd sense of déjà vu during it the first time even though I felt Invisible Man was more compelling (I love the idea of its unnamed protagonist and the image of him sitting in a basement lined with light bulbs that are discreetly sapping electricity from the oblivious power company is one of my favorite images in literature). I always seem to lose steam and a little patience during the middle after the sort-of-accident at the paint manufacturer and during the hospital sequence. It’s so disorienting and feels so out of place I have to struggle to make myself continue reading.