BBC Book List

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So I've been seeing this list everywhere, like at Wicked Wonderful Words and Chasing Bawa and I love lists, so I couldn't resist.

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How incredibly depressing is that?

Put an 'x' after those you have read. Unless I counted wrong, I've read 71.75 (I'm counting the 3/4 of Shakespeare's complete works that I've read).

*UPDATED 1/5/16
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen [X]
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien [X]
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte [X]
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling [X]
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee [X]
6 The Bible [X]
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte [X]
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell [X]
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman [X]
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens [X]
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott [X]
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy [
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller [X]
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare [about 3/4]
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier [X]
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien [X]
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk [
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger [X]
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger [X]
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot [
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell [X]
22 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald [X]
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens [
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy [X]
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams [X]
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh [X]
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky [X]
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck [X]
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll [X]
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame [X]
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy [X]
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens [
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis [X]
34 Emma-Jane Austen [X]
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen [X]
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis [X]
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini [X]
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres [
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden [X]
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne [X]
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell [X]
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown [X]
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez [
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving [X]
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins [X]
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery [X]
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy [ ]
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood [X]
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding [X]
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan [X]
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel [X]
52 Dune - Frank Herbert [ ]
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons [
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen [X]
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth [ ]
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos RuIz Zafon [X]
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens [X]
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley [X]
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon [X]
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez [ ]
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck [X]
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov [X]
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt [
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold [X]
65 The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas [
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac [X]
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy [
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding [X]
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie [ ]
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville [
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens [X]
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker [X]
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnet [X]
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson [X]
75 Ulysses - James Joyce [ ]
76 The Inferno – Dante [X]
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome [
78 Germinal - Emile Zola []
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray [
80 Possession - AS Byat [X]
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens [X]
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell [
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker [X]
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro [X]
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert [X]
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry [ ]
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White [X]
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom [X]
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [X]
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton [ ]
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad [X]
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery [X]
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks [ ]
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams [X]
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole [X]
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute [ ]
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas [
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare [X]
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl [X]
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo [X]

Photo by moi.

Book Reviews: Promises to Keep

Monday, November 29, 2010

Promises to Keep
by: Jane Green

Green’s latest is an overlapping tale of a few women. Callie is a cancer survivor and a mother or two with loving, workaholic husband. Her sister Steffi is living with her rocker boyfriend and working as a vegan chef. Callie’s best friend Lila is an average looking girl who almost got married out of a sense of obligation, but backed out at the last minute. Now, at 42, she’s finally in love. Despite the surface summary, the plot takes a darker turn than many of Green’s previous novels, which gives it a bit more depth.

I didn’t love this book because there were far too many different stories being woven together. We hear bits and pieces from the point-of-view of the two sisters, their mother, their single father, their friend Lila, a customer of Steffi’s, etc.

Steffi’s subplot with her customer/friend Mason could easily have been axed. Also, the friend Lila’s decision to have or not have kids added little to the story. It’s not that the subplots are bad, they’re just distracting. Green also adds a recipe at the end of each chapter and that got old after a bit. It isn’t a cookbook and wasn’t really necessary.


Towards the second half of the book we realize that Callie’s cancer has relapsed and the book finds its much need focus.

“It was a dream in which Steffi was shocked and thrilled to find Callie was alive, that it had all been a terrible mistake. She awoke, the dream as vivid as life, and burst into tears. For the entire week she bore again the weight of the loss, suddenly as sharp and searing as it had ever been.”

That line is what told me Green experienced this loss, somehow, in her own life. I know those dreams and have had them too many times. You wake, completely forgetting that person is gone, and slowly the memory of their death creeps into your consciousness and breaks your heart all over again.

I found out later that Green lost a close friend to this rare form of breast cancer and this book was born of that grief.

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving (tomorrow)!

This year I'm so thankful for...

- The Huz and the hilarious zombie movies he watches

- Endless piles of books to read

- Our home, which includes my very own library

-Live theater and the fact that I get to enjoy it every week

- Wonderful new friends in the blogosphere

-My new job (being laid off is no fun)

-Family and friends that love and support me

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I'll be back on Monday.

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Book Reviews: All Creatures Great and Small

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small
by James Herriot

When I was young I wanted to be an author and a vet when I grew up. Knowing this, my parents introduced me to the writing of James Herriot, who was both. Later I decided that having to fiddle with animal innards everyday is not the same as owning pets and I veered more towards the writing side of my ambitions, but it never affected my love for Herriot’s writing. I’d already read his collections, Dog Stories, Animal Stories and Cat Stories and some of the tales in those volumes are drawn from this book. But they’re such sweet tales that it was a pleasure to re-read them.

This memoir, the first in the series, introduces us to James Herriot, a Scottish vet working in rural England in the first half of the 20th century. His writing has a wonderful warm feeling. He can find the humor in any situation, while at the same time understanding the seriousness of others. He manages to portray the bittersweet nature of his job with an admirable sincerity, never deriding his clients’ love of their animals and treating each case with the utmost importance.

I love reading Herriot’s funny stories about his early days as a vet. Each one is told with a dry British sense of humor. Some of them are a bit too detailed (talking about the animal procedures) and make me squeamish, but that’s to be expected and it’s always relevant info. His descriptions of the stoic farmers and eccentric partners are a constant source of amusement throughout the book. I found myself wishing that the book wouldn’t end, which is a rare thing.

Book Reviews: Voltaire's Calligrapher

Monday, November 22, 2010

Voltaire’s Calligrapher
by Pablo De Santis

Dalessius is a 20-year-old calligrapher who ends up working for the philosopher Voltaire in France during the Enlightenment. Interesting enough premise, but the plot never found its pace for me. It felt disjointed and confusing. There are automatons, secret messages written on naked women, a heart in a jar and other intriguing concepts, but they never mesh into a cohesive story.

The book is only 150 pages and yet it felt like it was much longer. I found myself never wanting to pick it up and I can’t help but wonder if something was lost in translation. Maybe the plot makes more sense in its native language.

I did really enjoy some of Santis’ descriptions of the people Dalessius meets on his journeys. Here’s one description of a watchmaker…

“Her many years around clocks had given her words a regular beat, as if each syllable corresponded exactly to a fraction of time.”

I received a complimentary copy of Voltaire’s Calligrapher by Pablo De Santis from Regal Literary to review.

Friday Favorites: Fahrenheit 451

Friday, November 19, 2010

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

That is undoubtedly one of the best opening lines in history. It’s simple, beautiful and so complex once you realize what they are burning. For me, Fahrenheit 451 was one of those rare books that shook me to my core. I had read Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, but this dystopia was so much more terrifying to me. It shows a world in which books were illegal paraphernalia and owning them was cause for death.

Our hero, Guy Montag, is a firefighter, but in this future reality firefighters are the ones who start the blaze, not put it out. They are employed to find and burn books and Montag never questions his profession. Then one night he meets a girl who changes everything for him. She’s not empty and cold like his wife. She sparks some bit of life in Montag and he begins to question the world around him.

The most disturbing aspect of the plot is that the people chose to stop reading books, no one forced them. They became obsessed with television and books take too much time and effort. It’s a bit too close to our current reality for comfort.


My favorite part of Fahrenheit 451 is the brilliance of how Bradbury decided to preserve books that must be burned. The characters themselves become the books. Individuals all over the world memorized and entire novel or book in the Bible and through them the book was kept alive.


If you’ve never read this classic I would encourage every book lover to pick it up. It’s less than 200 pages, but it packs such a powerful punch that it remains one of my favorite books of all-time.

I recently read the graphic novelization of this book and it was wonderful. The illustrations are done in vivid shades of orange and red throughout much of the book, bringing the fire to life on each page. The graphic novel pays close attention to the details and portrayed the story beautifully. I would recommend reading the actual novel first, so you can create the world in your own imagination first, but the graphic novel is a wonderful treat for those who are familiar with the book.

Book Reviews: The Haunting of Hill House

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson

Dr. Montague is a scientist attempting to prove the supernatural exists. To further his study he invites a small group of people to summer at Hill House, which is supposedly haunted. The invitation is accepted by Eleanor, a socially awkward, nervous woman and Theo, an outgoing beauty. Luke, who will one day inherit the house, also joins the gathering. Soon things start happening and all four people wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into.

Jackson’s ghost story has a similar feel to Henry James’ Turning of the Screw and Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. You know things are happening in the house, but you don’t know for sure whether it’s the inhabitants madness or ghosts or a combination of both.

Eleanor, who is the focus of the book, seems to have a predisposition to mental instability. She’s insecure and temperamental, a bit like a child. Her issues give the whole book and extra layer of creepiness and desperation.

Side Note: About 20 pages into the book I realized that the 1999 movie “The Haunting” was clearly based on it. I also watched the original film, also titled “The Haunting” after finishing the book. The older version stays much closer to the book and the spookiness factor is high. The movie “The House on Haunted Hill” actually has nothing to do with this book.

Wordless Wednesday: Crater Lake National Park

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crater Lake National Park

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox a.k.a. I love dystopian novels

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
by Mary E. Pearson

Jenna is a 17-year –old who wakes up after an 18 month coma. Slowly her memories begin to return and some disturbing truths are revealed. This dystopian novel deals mainly with science vs. ethics and is hard to put down.

I love dystopian novels. Some of my favorite books fall into this category. I love how truths of human nature are often revealed in these stories and the fact that they’re never very far from our current reality. Writing a book set in a future or parallel world gives the author the freedom to explore touchy issues in an abstract way.

In dystopian novels the line between good and bad is always blurred, it is an exploration of gray in a way that shows just how black and white things often are (if that makes any sense.) The bad guys always have a perfectly reasonable explanation for all the choices they’ve made. Sometimes they even make some convincing arguments, but then you remember what they’ve done and you’re horrified that you even considered siding with them for an instant.


For example, in Fahrenheit 451 they burn books, in The Giver they have forced euthanasia, in The Hunger Games it’s the slaughter of children for entertainment.

******SPOILER OVER*********

Though I was completely swept away by this book at first, it seemed to unravel a bit in the second half. I don’t think Pearson knew what point she was trying to make. It was like she was using the book as a platform to discuss the issue and in the first half she brought up some chilling points, then in the second half she seemed to just waffle back and forth on whether she thought it was right or wrong.

My favorite part of the whole book is the character of Lily, Jenna’s grandma. She is the grounding factor for me, the one I can relate to. She’s in the story, but she isn’t the one who has made any of the decisions, so she can be a bit more objective.

The inspiration for this book was born out of Pearson’s own experiences. Her eldest daughter was diagnosed with cancer, then a few years later her youngest daughter was diagnosed with the same cancer. Those traumatic events led her to explore the question of science vs. ethics and wonder how far a parent would be willing to go to save their child. It’s a fascinating exploration, but she didn’t seem to be able to answer her own question.

It’s definitely worth reading, but some elements are far-fetched and it seems to really have to reach to wrap everything up at the end. I do think this would be a fun one to discuss in a book club.

Fluttering Butterflies has a great review here.

Book Reviews: Nation

Monday, November 15, 2010

by Terry Pratchett

This was my first experience with Pratchett and it will not be my last. After hearing about him for years, I decided I just had to read something of his. Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot is a big Pratchett fan and was kind enough to suggest Nation as a good place to start.

It took me a minute to get into the book. I wasn’t sure what to expect and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of the story. It centers on Maw, the only survivor of the Nation, which is destroyed by a tsunami. He is left alone, disconnected from all he has ever known and he’s at once filled with grief, confusion and anger. He turns to the Nation’s gods for answers and is left feeling more lost than ever.

The plot really picks up when we meet Daphne (really Ermintrude, but she hates that name, so she says her name is Daphne.) She is a British girl whose ship has crashed on the island. Her relationship with Maw reminded me so much of Peter Pan and Wendy. She’s prim and proper at first and he is baffled by her ways, but soon they find a balance and develop a wonderful friendship.

The best parts of the book, for me, were the interactions between those two. Once they moved past their initial impressions they realized they could learn so much from one another. I also loved seeing Daphne gain confidence in herself. She was such a great character; part girl, part woman, trying to come to terms with her own grief and grow up at the same time.

With absolutely no spoilers included I do want to say how much I loved the ending. The characters grew on me throughout the book and by the end I felt so invested in them. The ending definitely increased my rating of the book and my overall love of it. So if it feels slow at first, definitely give it time.

I have to say I was really impressed with Pratchett. He has a similar writing style to Neil Gaiman (whom I adore) and the delightful sense of humor of Douglas Adams. So clearly he’s destined to become a favorite. He also manages to balance humor and a deeper message, which I really value in an author. I think that can be a hard thing to accomplish and he seemed to do it effortlessly. At first I didn’t even realize he had slipped such important issues into the fold of the story, but once I did I was really moved by the points-of-view he brings up. I’m looking forward to trying out his Discworld series, which I’ve heard is great. Any other Pratchett suggestions from fans of his out there?

Here's another great review at Chasing Bawa.

Friday Favorites: Book Lust To Go

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds and Dreamers
by Nancy Pearl

When I heard the Nancy Pearl was releasing a new Book Lust volume devoted to travel I was beyond thrilled. One of my favorite genres is travel memoirs; good ones, the kind that describe the locale and the author’s experience, not the kind that just whine about life. I love reading both fiction and nonfiction set in areas I’m about to travel to or reading about an exotic city and vicariously visiting it through the book.

I’m also attempting to read one fiction and nonfiction book set in each of our country’s 50 states and this book is a huge help towards that endeavor. I don’t want to read things that are loosely set in a state, I want books that make frequent reference to the area and are good representations of that particular state. Pearl’s suggestions are tailor-made for just that.

By this point I trust Pearl’s taste and so her specific comments about the books are great indicators of whether I should pick it up. For example, she’ll say about a title, “Fans of Gilead will probably enjoy it very much.” You can tell she’s a librarian at heart because she’s always trying to match readers with new authors or books she thinks they’ll enjoy. Reading her books feels like getting recommendations from a friend who knows your taste. If you haven’t already read her first two, Book Lust and More Book Lust, they’re absolutely wonderful.

Pearl also covers a lot of ground, literally, within the book. She has suggestions for everywhere, from Newfoundland to Cuba, Morocco to Australia. The variety of types of books is a huge plus too. There’s a bit of everything, nonfiction, biographies, memoirs, modern literary fiction, classics, etc. That’s exactly how I love to read, jumping between genres, time periods and countries to keep things fresh.

The books layout is a bit frustrating at times. Some sections are alphabetized, which means Martha’s Vineyard is next to Malaysia, while other cities and countries have whimsical categories, like Paris is under W for “We’ll Always Have Paris.” It makes it difficult to pick it up to reference a specific city or area.

Regardless of the organizational flow, this book is one that I will be referring to for decades to come. I’ve already highlighted all the books I’ve read and made a list of a dozen or so to add to my TBR immediately. Each time I plan a new trip, or whenever I need a literary journey, I’ll be pulling this off the shelf for another great recommendation from my favorite librarian.

*I received this review copy from the publisher.

Book Reviews: Naked

Thursday, November 11, 2010

by David Sedaris

Sedaris is always funny, but this isn't one of my favorites of his. The stories are a bit more tragic than humorous and tend to highlight his family's dysfunction, but not in a good way. He’s poking fun at his life, but most of the things he discusses just aren’t funny, not even in his hands. He writes about hitchhiking with a handicapped girl, his alcoholic mother making fun of him with his teachers, his fear of people discovering he’s gay; all of which left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve been unable to stop laugh while reading some of his books, but this one barely gave me a few chuckles. Maybe the pain he felt was a bit too fresh when he wrote them, but they came across lacking in his usual cheeky sarcasm. I’d recommend his book Me Talk Pretty One Day, over this one.

What’s on your nightstand?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yay for nightstands and the towering stacks of books they tend to hold. Whenever I reach November I get a bit anxious as I look at the many books I meant to read during the year that I haven’t gotten to yet. I always seem to have at least twenty that I want to read before the new year begins and hitting November reminds me that there’s no way I’ll get to all of them.

I know there’s always next year, but there’s always more books too. This year I really wanted to read Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, Allende’s The House of the Spirits, and a few others. I made it through some wonderful books so far in 2010, but I haven’t quite hit everything I wanted to.

I’ve found that book blogging adds to the problem, in a good way. I’m always reading about more great books that I want to read and the list continues to grow. My poor nightstand is going to crumble under the weight of the books I pile on it. It’s reassuring to know I won’t run out of reading material anytime soon, but it’s also daunting. I once heard someone say, you haven’t hit middle-age until you realize you won’t be able to read all the books you want to in your lifetime. At 26, I’m definitely not there yet, but I’m dreading the day when I come to that conclusion. Did you guys get through the books you wanted to read this year?

Book Reviews: Treasure Island

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the essential pirate story. Long before it became a popular topic, this story brought us swashbuckling at its best. Jim is a young English boy grieving the death of his father. When a mysterious treasure map is found, Jim finds himself traveling to Treasure Island aboard the Hispaniola. At the beginning of the story he is an innocent child, but circumstances on the ship force him to grow up quickly. A band of greedy pirates pit themselves against the British officers and soon they must battle it out on the island.

Treasure Island is an epic adventure story and I think it would be perfect for young boys. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’m really the target audience. I did love some of the characters, like the marooned Ben Gunn, who has been craving cheese for years. Stevenson created a wonderfully likable villain in Long John Silver. You know he’s the bad guy, but he’s so charismatic that you can’t help hoping he might just get away with it.

I’ve read Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I think he explores the psychology of evil in both books. Obviously Dr. Jekyll dives into a more in-depth look at the duality of human nature, but Treasure Island gives us a small taste of it as well and those elements provide my favorite parts of the book.

Book Reviews: Pronto

Monday, November 8, 2010


by Elmore Leonard


Stephen King has written a monthly column for Entertainment Weekly for years now. Every so often he writes about his love for audiobooks and recommends some great ones. One name that he has mentioned frequently is Elmore Leonard. He says Leonard writing is even better in audio than on the page. So for my first book by Leonard I just had to try the audio version.

Harry is a bookie in Miami when his shady mafia boss decides to have him whacked. He heads to Italy to escape and is pursued by his girlfriend, the hit man and a US Marshal. Interestingly Harry quickly becomes a supporting character in his own story. He’s a self-centered jerk and as a reader you don’t really care if he makes it or not.

Raylan Givens, on the other hand, is the US Marshal searching for Harry and he steals the show. He’s a cowboy with perfect manners and he seems to be a bit slow at first. Soon his determination and resourcefulness surprise everyone and you realize there’s more to him than meets the eye.

If you like Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries I think you’d like Pronto. It has the same kind of rapid pace, funny quips and quirky characters. I’ll be listening to more from Mr. Leonard.

Side Note: I didn’t find out that the FX series Justified is based on the character of Raylan until I’d already finished the book. I would think a show about him would make a great TV series.

Friday Favorites: The Time Traveler's Wife

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Time Traveler’s Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger

Meet Claire Abshire and Henry De Tamble, just a perfectly normal couple, except for the fact that Henry has Chrono-Displacement Disorder, which means he is a time traveler.

At its heart The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story, but one that’s more complicated than your average boy meets girl. The thing I love the most about this book is that it has an obvious gimmick - time travel, we know that from the title alone. It would have been so easy for Niffenegger to rely on that to tell the whole story. Instead she creates two beloved characters who feel so real that you root for them from the start. Henry and Claire feel like friends, people you could meet anywhere, and because of that the reader can suspend disbelief and embrace the time travel plot.

There’s no sugar-sweetness in this story. It has harsh moments where the reader finds Henry stranded somewhere in time or Claire is left alone for days, not knowing where he is. Just because he isn’t leaving intentionally doesn’t make it any easier for her when he’s gone. It also doesn’t mean that Claire or Henry are perfect people. They are selfish and flawed just like anyone else.

The thing that surprised me the most was that there is not a single sci-fi element in the book except time travel. Niffenegger treats Henry’s condition just like it’s any other disease, which removes any absurdity from the story. It’s a hurdle that complicates their lives, but it’s a reasonable one within the confines of the book.

In the end I fell in love with the story and the characters. It was one of those books I just couldn’t put down. I re-read it recently and loved it just as much the second time around. It felt like revisiting old friends in the way that only the best books can.

Side Note: I have read Her Fearful Symmetry, Niffenegger’s most recent novel, and I wasn’t too impressed. I also saw the movie version of Time Traveler and I enjoyed it, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the book.

Book Reviews: Murder in the Cathedral

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Murder in the Cathedral
by T.S. Eliot

I’d heard the story of the troublesome Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, from a variety of sources. My first introduction to it was from a guide while visiting the Canterbury cathedral, where Becket was murdered. Later I read a slightly fictionalized version of the event in Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. So, before I picked up Eliot’s play version I had a good idea of how it would unfold and was already interested in the material.

The Archbishop was embroiled in a disagreement with the king of England, Henry II, and was assassinated in 1170. That infamous line, “Will no one rid of me this turbulent priest?” was supposedly said by Henry II in reference to Becket. Four knights interpreted that as a command and traveled to Canterbury to kill him.

Sounds pretty thrilling right? A priest standing up against a king, that king (inadvertently or not) having him killed, then the priest is canonized. That’s a lot of action, yet somehow Eliot turns it into one of the most boring plays I’ve ever read. In the play Becket is tempted to abandon his stance in a similar way to Christ’s temptation in the Bible. He gives sermons and pontificates and I completely lost interest. I read the whole play, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Maybe this is one that needs to be seen and not read.

Wordless Wednesday: Castello di Amorosa

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Castello di Amorosa

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Photo by moi.

Book Reviews: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Vol. 1
by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

Set in 1898 this graphic novel is a delight for literary buffs. The cast includes classic characters like Poe's Detective Dupin, Stoker's Mina Harker, Verne's Captain Nemo, Stevenson's Dr/Jekyll/Mr. Hyde re-imagined as a team of misfits trying to save the British Empire. I've read many of the original books, but I want to pick up the ones I've haven't read that originated such great characters.

I loved that the "heroes" are such deeply flawed individuals: an opium addict, a selfish a man who is out for his own gain, another trapped by his darker subconscious, etc. There aren’t any “good guys,” just people trying to do something good.

The plot wasn’t flawless and the illustrations were sometimes geared too much towards teenage boys (think ridiculous busty women with tiny waists), but the premise hooked me. I love revisiting some of these characters in a completely new setting. I will definitely pick up the next volume.

p.s. Anyone else think it's odd that one of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's primary members is a woman? Possible not the best name for your organization.

Book Reviews: What the Dog Saw

Monday, November 1, 2010

What the Dog Saw
by Malcolm Gladwell

I've always enjoyed Gladwell's books. He somehow makes the most random things fascinating and this book is by far one of his best. It's a collection of articles that have been published in the New Yorker. They deal with everything from hair coloring, the dog whisperer, the history of birth control pills, infomercials, ketchup, and a dozen other things.

At the beginning of the book Gladwell talks about what makes a writer different from other people. They have to find the most mundane things in the world interesting. They need to see the story in everything. I think he does that so well! His interest is sparked by the smallest thing and peels away the layers until the underlying story is revealed. He profiles people and works hard to understand how their personal lives affected their success or failure. By including all the gritty details he’s able to give a more complete picture of the subject matter.

If you’ve enjoyed Blink or The Tipping Point, or if you’re new to Gladwell, this book is a wonderful read.