“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges
Each year I get a little closer to building that version of paradise in my room (I am up to eight bookcases and a smaller wall-mounted shelf though one of the bookcases is mostly movies right now). I have always been a complete nerd. The reward my parents dangled every week for good reports from teachers (and this was preschool through about the third grade) was a trip to the town library. I think it was around age ten when I got my first gift card to Walden Books (RIP) that I realized how much I liked the idea of holding onto my own copies (because then I could revisit them whenever I wanted without the need to finagle a ride from someone). And, truth be told, I was largely following the example of my parents. Outside of my room growing up, the house had at least four bookcases scattered throughout with many other surfaces taken up by their overflow.
Anyway, on to this installment of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I read this during the summer before I went into seventh grade. That was the summer when I did a lot of my reading outside. We’d just gotten a hammock and I loved pulling it out of the shed (so it wouldn’t get wet) and setting it up under the elm tree in the back yard. My second favorite spot was in the branches of one of the tulip trees out back. It had just the right slope in the trunk for hugging the small of my back. As far as the book goes, I’ve come to like Villette better but did enjoy Jane Eyre. I just don’t have much patience for her as a character. Okay, not as a character; just her relationship with Mr. Rochester. I can’t stand him and I don’t get her head-over-heels adoration (and forgiveness/forgetfulness). Toby Stephens’ portrayal in the 2006 TV mini-series adaptation was the first to have me cutting Jane some slack. I still don’t have a lot of sympathy for him though.
Jazz by Toni Morrison
As evidenced by my many posts on Toni Morrison, I’m an enormous fan of her work. I even got the opportunity this past January to hear her speak and read from her latest novel, Home (which is on my list to read and review in the near future). Jazz was one of my favorites. I remember writing a paper on it for my Toni Morrison class in my undergraduate days and converting a few of my classmates who hadn’t initially found it as compelling as I did. It’s not one of the ones that I had to read over and over for other classes but I wish it had been.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Who doesn’t love Little Women? I think I actually had two copies while growing up. My favorite was a minorly abridged but beautifully illustrated edition. Of course, I had to have a full copy to be able to read the whole thing and get the bits I’d missed. I’m also a huge fan of the film adaptation that came out in the 90s. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch it, I always cry when Beth dies (and I hope that’s not a big spoiler for anyone; I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone who didn’t already know that bit going in). Going to try to get out to Orchard Slope sometime soon for an installment of my Literary Travels.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
I have had to read Lolita twice for school, both undergrad and graduate. I enjoy the mind games of the novel and personally believe that Humbert Humbert ultimately falls victim to himself. There were always heated debates as far as the merits of this novel are concerned. Some just can’t get past the pedophilia aspect (which is disturbing). I have to admit, I found it way more disturbing the second time around. Part of that was due to the fact that with time crunches, I helped myself along by listening to the audiobook. Somehow, listening to Lolita read by Jeremy Irons was way creepier than when I read it to myself.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
I absolutely love One Hundred Years of Solitude and was hoping to enjoy Love in the Time of Cholera as well, but I didn’t find it quite as compelling. It was just a vastly different story. Still interesting and I still enjoy the magical realism (no one gets it right the way that García Márquez does), but I found it a little more tiresome. There weren’t as many subplots to keep me focused. Some of the problem may have been that I was trying to read it during the semester and in amongst a number of other assignments. I might need to try re-reading it at a time when I can focus on it exclusively (it’s amazing how often that can be the problem).