OscarWilde87 might read 25 (or more) books this year

Diskutera25 in 2013 Challenge

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OscarWilde87 might read 25 (or more) books this year

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jan 2, 2013, 3:40 pm

Alright, off we go with the challenge for 2013. I managed to read 29 books in 2012 but I'm not sure whether I'll be able to beat that this year. We'll see.
Here's the first one I finished in 2013:

#1: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
(435 pages)

Year 3 at Hogwarts. Sirius Black, who had been held prisoner in Azkaban for the murder of Harry Potter's parents, escaped the wizard prison and is on the loose. Security is raised in Hogwarts in fear of an attack on Harry Potter. In the third novel of Rowling's series, Harry Potter faces new challenges at Hogwarts: the Quidditch Cup, new subjects, new teachers, trouble with Snape, trying to visit the wizard town of Hogsmeade without permission, and of course the threat by Sirius Black.
Of the first three novels, I liked The Prisoner of Azkaban best. What I criticized about the characters in the first two novels - namely them being to flat - has changed. The characters now start to get more depth and seem to become rounder by the page. I loved that more light is shed on Harry's past and the mysterious death of his parents. New teachers bring more depth to the story as a whole and it just becomes more lively (and lovely). On the whole, 4 stars for this one.

jan 20, 2013, 9:34 am

#2: The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
(415 pages)

The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is set in Sweden and narrates the story of a man who leaves his retirement home on his one-hundredth birthday because he cannot stand to let his life fade away there in sadness and boredom. The main plot is about the escape of the man who finds a suitcase full of money on his way to freedom and meets various people along the way that he shares that new found wealth with. The police try to catch him and try to solve several murder cases that sort of 'just happened' when the owners of the suitcase came to get their money back.
Next to the main plot, episodes of the protagonist's exciting and long life are narrated - how he helped in the creation of the atom bomb, how he met several heads of state from President Truman, over Stalin to Mao.
On the whole I liked to read the book but was at times disappointed in the story-telling. The attempt to be humorous fails at certain occasions and the diction sometimes seems a bit off. But maybe this is because I read a translation and not the Swedish original. Generally, I liked the 'historical' part of the book with all the little stories of how the old man influenced world history much better than the main plot. 3.5 stars for this one. It's not too bad but it isn't spectacular either.

Redigerat: jan 30, 2013, 3:49 pm

#3: Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann
(302 pages)

Measuring the World tells episodes from the lives of two great (German) geniuses, namely Gauß and Humboldt. The former a successful mathematician, exploring the world from his desk and not too fond of traveling, the latter going out into the world to explore it and measure everything he can measure - mountains, rivers, you name it. The two characters could not be more different in their methods of 'measuring the world'. Both, however, made a change in the world and at the end of their lives both wonder what method is more successful - working from your desk or exploring the world. A nicely written novel by German author Daniel Kehlmann which was not for nothing translated into many languages for readers all over the globe. If you are interested in science I can definitely recommend the book. Be aware, though, that this is a work of fiction, so the biographies of the two protagonists are fictionalized. Nice little book, 3.5 stars.

feb 13, 2013, 3:35 pm

#4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
(734 pages)

The fourth novel in Rowling's Harry Potter series traces the protagonist's way through the Triwizard Tournament, a tournament where wizards of the three major wizarding schools compete for money and fame. But this time, more than the intended three wizards compete as Harry Potter is entered into the competition by an (in the beginning) unknown person for (in the beginning) unknown reasons. Eventually, the inevitable happens: Lord Voldemort, the Dark Wizard, regains power.
In a thrilling novel, Rowling spins on her tale in a fantastic manner. While one could argue that the Harry Potter series was for written for children, The Goblet of Fire shows that the novel and its protagonists slowly start to grow up. Although a bit slow in the beginning, this novel is a fascinating read which picks up pace as the pages turn. 4 stars.

feb 18, 2013, 1:41 pm

I have never read any Harry Potters but think I will this year. At least the original one.

feb 18, 2013, 4:07 pm

Oh, I have been keeping a good distance from the Potter books for quite a few years now. But at the end of last year I just bought the first novel as a used book and gave it a try. I have to admit that I was very skeptical. However, I decided to go on reading aas people kept telling me that from the fourth novel on, the books start to become better for adults. So far I think this is quite true. You might wanna give them a try. I have read better but I definitely have read worse. Not too bad those books, no...

mar 14, 2013, 2:06 pm

#5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
(956 pages)

The fifth instalment in the Harry Potter series is, compared to the novels so far, the longest one and also the most adult one. The 'Order of the Phoenix' is a group of wizards that was once formed to fight down Voldemort and has now become active again as the Dark Lord rises to power. The order features several of the characters already introduced in past novels (especially the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers) but also comes along with some new ones. In The Order of the Phoenix the reader learns more about the past, a history that unfolds slowly as Harry Potter finds himself in situations heavily related to his past and that of his parents. Dumbledore is not longer headmaster at Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic turns mad under the lead of its Minister Cornelius Fudge and things start deteriorating. Harry Potter's romantic endeavor with Cho Chang, a fellow student at Hogwarts, only seems to be a minor issue in the novel.
On the whole, I liked the novel very much, though it was a little slow at times. I will definitely go along in the series now and read it until the very last page of the last novel. I really want to know how the prophecy about Harry and Voldemort (no spoiler here) is going to turn out. Now that's one thing I hadn't thought I would do when I (quite reluctantly) started reading the first novel. 4 stars.

mar 26, 2013, 6:33 am

#6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
(828 pages)

This is the second but last novel in the Harry Potter series and I have to say it is a very good one. Though slow at the start, the novel starts taking up pace and I read the second half of it almost at one go (which is something I do not usually do, especially considering that 'half the novel' in this case means about 400 pages).
In The Half-Blood Prince the secrets around Lord Voldemort slowly get lifted. We learn about his childhood, his background and how he managed to achieve immortality. Next to the main plot which is about Harry and Dumbledore investigating Voldemort's past and starting to fight him, Rowling also planted certain romances for Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione. Not wanting to spoil your reading, I will refrain from telling about the most important and probably most shocking plot twist of the series so far. Let me just say that I was devastated; still am, actually. Can't wait to get my hands on the last book in the series. 4 stars for this one.

mar 26, 2013, 12:53 pm

I love seeing reluctant Harry readers converted! They really are good reads.

apr 5, 2013, 9:45 am

I really have come to like the Potter novels. Though I'm afraid there's only one left which I will be reading shortly. Then the story will be over... Until now it did not seem to have an end. Strange feeling!

apr 5, 2013, 10:00 am

#7: Canada by Richard Ford
(418 pages)

Canada traces the life of Dell Parsons whose parents robbed a bank when he was only fifteen. When his parents are caught by the police Dell and his sister are suddenly on their own. While his sister runs away to California, Dell is taken to Canada by a friend of his mother. Spending the rest of his life there, Dell struggles on his way to adulthood and getting a proper education and eventually becomes a teacher. Through a series of events the protagonist narrates the story of his life and how he came to terms with it - even accepted it - never wasting a thought on what life would have been or could have been when his parents had not robbed a bank.
With this novel, Richard Ford created a masterpiece. His writing is insightful and there does not seem to be a word too much in the book. It's usually a criterion for a good book that you can't put it down. But with this one it's different: I could put it down, I even had to sometimes. But only to think about what I had just read. Some passages just made me want to put down the book, think about them, pick up the book and read them again before going on. This is probably the best novel I have read in 2013. 4.5 stars.

apr 30, 2013, 4:00 am

#8: A Place of Hiding by Elizabeth George
(630 pages)

With this book one can again see that being from "the number one bestselling author" is not an argument for quality in a book. It's probably the other way round: It's there to sell a book that otherwise wouldn't be sold. Well, I won't spend much time in describing the plot of this novel so let me just finish with a quick statement. I didn't like it and I thought it was a waste of time. Anyway, I struggled my way through to the very last page as I can't leave a book unfinished. 1 star.

maj 18, 2013, 3:01 am

#9: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
(759 pages)

I was really looking forward to reading what would finally happen to Harry and Voldemort in the last novel in the series. As there are maybe still people out there who want to find out the same thing, I won't go and tell what's happened now. Only thing I will say about this book is that it brings the story to a grand finale. I really enjoyed reading it. So, if you haven't already done so, read it! If you haven't started with the Harry Potter series because you think it's kids literature, you're mistaken. Read them all.
On the whole 4.5 stars for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

maj 19, 2013, 9:43 am

#10: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
(106 pages)

Of Mice and Men tells the story of two laborers, George and Lennie, who are working on a ranch in California and dreaming about "livin' of the fatta the lan'". It is a book that I am probably going to re-read more than just once. It is a tale of friendship and dreams - in a way, even, of life.

I was not so much attracted by the plot or suspense, but rather by the honesty, the sense of an ending that is not quite favorable to the protagonists, the longing for a dream that will never come true. The book is rather short, yes, but yet it contains so much more than the number of its pages indicate. 3.5 stars.

maj 28, 2013, 9:05 am

#11: The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
(230 pages)

This rather short novel by H. G. Wells describes the story of a man who becomes invisible in his own physical experiment. Once invisible he sees that while there might be some advantages to invisibility (the obvious ones each of us probably dreams of now and then), there are also great disadvantages, such as getting a job, food and rest. Being invisible renders the protagonists of this novel a social outcast trying to figure out a way back to visibility. On the way there, however, little injustices lead to murder and finally the death of the invisible man.
A nicely told story that lacked suspense at points. This novel is well thought through and at times very realistic. If you ever wondered what it was like to be invisible, read this novel. It might change your thoughts. On the whole, 3 stars.

jun 4, 2013, 3:33 am

#12: The Fat Woman's Joke by Fay Weldon
(195 pages)

I have to admit that I was intrigued by the short paragraph quoted on the back of the book: "That evening Alan and Esther lay in the double bed they had owned for eighteen years. It was five foot wide. Once they had occupied, happily, the two feet in the centre. Now they used the peripheries. They lay staring up at the ceiling, hungry, and presently they began to talk, which was not their usual custom in bed."
However, when I finally got to that passage in the book - which was on page 94 - I was already disliking Weldon's novel. The dialogs seemed quite shallow and there was no spark in there that somehow made me get sucked into the book. Apart from some passages, the wit I had hoped for was pretty much missing and it was quite a drag to get through the book. This was just not my cup of tea. 1.5 stars.

jun 12, 2013, 3:39 pm

#13: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
(187 pages)

Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps is a fairly good short novel. Set before the First World War, Buchan writes about a plot that will start a war which the protagonist Hannay somehow is drawn into. When he learns about the plot he gives shelter to the man that tells him the story. Soon after that the man is dead. Hannay flees his home and some steps further down the road finds himself preventing the plot from being acted out. I especially liked the little sentence at the end: "Three weeks later, as all the world knows, we went to war."
Although I didn't really get into the book, I rather liked it. 3 stars.

Redigerat: jul 24, 2013, 5:44 am

#14: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
(170 pages)

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a book I always wanted to read. My first contact with Frankenstein was via television and I have to admit that I have been thinking that Frankenstein was the name of the creature for quite some time (shame on me!). I think the story of Frankenstein need not be summarized here as it is probably one of the most well-known stories on the planet.
What I especially liked about the book was the comparison of grief and pain that Frankenstein and his creature had to endure. At various stages in the book I found myself sympathizing with the creature even though I knew that 'it' had murdered several people. Probably this sympathy was due to the changing points of view in the novel. There are basically three narrators in the story: Walton, Frankenstein, and the creature. What I did not like about the book were the extensive descriptions of surroundings, feelings and nature. I expected that in a 19th century Romantic work, though.
On the whole, really a nicely written book that I can only recommend to everyone. 3.5 stars.

jul 16, 2013, 5:07 am

#15: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
(231 pages)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid tells the story of Greg, a kid in Middle School, whose goal it is to become popular in class and make it on the class favorites page in the yearbook. His somewhat desperate attempts to get there are narrated in journal form which makes it funny and easy to read.
I read this book together with my class at school. My students really enjoyed reading it and had fun working with the book. I probably would not have read this book myself but I actually enjoyed it just as much as my students.
On the whole, 4 stars for this one. I'd recommend it for kids, though.

jul 23, 2013, 4:42 pm

I really liked Frankenstein and like you only found out that Frankenstein was the creator not the 'monster' after reading the book! Definitely share the sympathy for the 'monster'. I guess ultimately he decided to become the monster that the peoples prejudices and fears had led them to believe he must be due to his appearance. I like to think that Frankenstein created an innocent creature and these prejudices and fears created the monster.

jul 26, 2013, 3:52 am

Glad to hear that I am not alone with that misconception... What the media can do to the ignorant...
I think you got a point there with your interpretation of the creature being an outcast making it turn into a monster.

Redigerat: jul 26, 2013, 4:08 am

#16: Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy
(928 pages)

Red Rabbit tells a Cold War story with KGB planning to assassinate the Pope. British SIS and American CIA get hold of a defector who tells them about the Soviet plot in exchange for a life in the United States. The intelligence services then make a combined effort to prevent the assassination.

As this was my first Clancy novel, my expectations were actually quite high. So I wasn't taken aback by the length of the novel. But some hundred pages in, I thought I knew why the book was so long. Clancy just tried to put in as many pieces of information as he could, a lot of which I found were not really useful or in any way contributing to the story. Sure, characters should get a background and the reader should get to know more details than neccessary to understand what is going on but what Clancy did was just way over the top. As I have never put a book away before finishing it, I struggled from page to page until I was somewhere in the middle. And I have to say that after around 500 pages the novel got more interesting as the plot finally kept moving on. From then on, reading went rather fast and I even came to like the novel a little more.
To sum up, the first half was boring and the second half couldn't quite make up for that. In the end, it was just a spy story with a somewhat predictable outcome. 2.5 stars for this one.

jul 31, 2013, 3:30 am

#17: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
(248 pages)

As I Lay Dying narrates the story of Addie Bundren's death and burial from a variety of perspectives. The novel is set in the fictitious Yoknapatawpha County in the U.S. South. This is reflected in the language the characters speak. In the beginning of the novel Addie Bundren is still alive but already on her deathbed. Through the course of the book, different characters narrate parts of the story as they see it. Addie Bundren dies and it was her wish to be buried in Jefferson. Her husband Anse wants to keep that promise (and get himself a set of new teeth) and the family take the coffin and their dead mother on a journey to town. However, they have to overcome several obstacles on their way.
At first I struggled to get into the novel as the use of a Deep South vernacular combined with a sort of stream-of-consciousness narration made the novel harder to grasp for me. Not less contributing to that fact were the many perspectives. Each chapter is named after the person narrating it and in the beginning I had a hard time figuring out who was who. After Addie Bundren's death the novel gained momentum and I liked it way better. It was also a lot easier to understand after I figured out the relations of all the characters. On the whole I cannot really say that I loved As I Lay Dying but neither did I find it really bad. It sort of grew on me in the end. 3 stars.

aug 8, 2013, 11:51 am

#18: Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
(452 pages)

This novel cannot be described with just a few words. Probably one cannot describe the story at all. Tristram Shandy - or, more accurately, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman - is an attempt by said Tristram to lay down the story of his life. As the story is interrupted by countless digressions which are themselves again interrupted by digressions the 'author' comes around to relating his birth only on page 195. Actually, not much is revealed of the life of Tristram Shandy. But you get his opinions on the importance of noses, of a name, and of hobby-horses. What is more, we get to know his uncle Toby quite well throughout the story.

"If I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road, - or should sometimes put on a fool's cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along, - don't fly off, - but rather courteously give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears on my outside; - and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do anything, - only keep your temper." (p. 8)

I think the quotation above describes the reading experience best: You laugh with Tristram, you laugh at him, you despair at points, you wish for something else and then again you're sucked back into the book. Reading Tristram Shandy is anything but your usual reading. Although this is not a five star book for me, I can surely see how people would rate it with five stars easily. But on the whole, it was not completely convincing and at times it was even a struggle. I can only recommend to give it a try, though, and advise you to "keep your temper". 3.5 stars.

aug 29, 2013, 3:54 pm

#19: John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek
(711 pages)

I was always intrigued by the life and - not less - the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's death. Dallek understands to write a biography that provides a nicely written portrait of one of the greatest American presidents. Foreign and domestic issues of Kennedy's presidency are touched alike. But, as in Kennedy's presidency, there is a strong focus on foreign politics, especially on the Cold War.
On the whole, this biography was an interesting read. 3 stars.

sep 13, 2013, 9:09 am

#20: Oscar Wilde for Pleasure
(187 pages)

Being a huge Wilde fan I always look for books by or about Oscar Wilde. This one is a little anthology, including some of Wilde's short stories, parts of his novels and dramas and some of his letters. They are arranged under various captions but on the whole, they do not provide you with new material. When I read the little book I quite liked the way the editor arranged the material, but for someone who has not read the complete works (of which only excerpts are given in this book, of course) it might not be as much fun to read. I can just say that I definitely want to do some re-reads of Wilde's works, especially The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, both of which are amazing. 3 stars for this book.

okt 30, 2013, 12:59 pm

#21: Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
(1275 pages)

The second Clancy novel I read, Executive Orders reminded me very much of the first one I read (Red Rabbit). Let me quickly sum up the plot: A plane crashes into the Capitol Building, the President and most of the government are killed and former CIA agent Jack Ryan becomes President as he was sworn in for the office of Vice President only shortly before the plane crash. Iran and Iraq become united under a dictatorship, attack the USA with biological weapons and declare war on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. New President Ryan has to solve several crises at once.
To my mind, this book was way too long and very detailed, especially when it comes to the description of military action and giving background information. I guess it is Clancy's style but, personally, I don't like it all too much. On the whole, it was an interesting book but it took me ages to finish as there were a lot of boring (and probably unnecessary) passages. 3 stars.

nov 23, 2013, 3:34 am

#22: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
(335 pages)

Probably Stephen King will never be finished with his Dark Tower series. The Wind Through the Keyhole appeared after the initial completion of the cycle of seven books as book 4.5 in the series. Hence, it provides some further background on what happened between Wizard and Glass and The Wolves of the Calla. The novel is about the Skin-Man, a human who turns into a snake and kills people. It derives its name from a story called "The Wind Through the Keyhole" that Roland's mother used to tell him and he in turn now tells to a boy who lost his family to the Skin-Man.
I liked the novel, but I have to say that it didn't grip me as much as the rest of the Dark Tower novels. On the whole, 3.5 stars.

dec 14, 2013, 5:02 pm

#23: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
(308 pages)

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is not so much a novel as rather a collection of stories which, seen as a whole, tell the story of Americans trying to build up a settlement on Mars. It can be read as a work of criticism of colonization and pushing the frontier further. After exploring the west, the American people go into space and sort of invade Mars. The interesting thing is the view that is taken on invasion and colonization as a lot of chapters are written from the point of view of Martians.
I found The Martian Chronicles an interesting read. What I especially liked were the allusions to Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and Bradbury's own Fahrenheit 451, both of which I enjoyed very much. However, at times I thought the story-telling a little tedious which I attribute to Bradbury's style of writing. Although his writing is certainly not bad, it's probably just not my cup of tea. On the whole, 3 stars for this book.

dec 21, 2013, 1:50 pm

#24: Wanting America: Selected Stories by Bharati Mukherjee
(100 pages)

This little collection of Mukherjee's short stories contains "The Lady from Lucknow", "A Father", "Tamurlane", "Visitors" and "The Imaginary Assassin." The stories revolve around the topic of Indian immigrants in search of their own identity in the United States of America. On the one hand, they "want America" but on the other hand, their Indian roots remain an important part in their lives.
I actually quite liked this collection of short stories as they provided some interesting insights into the minds and thoughts of Indian immigrants to the US. The cognitive dissonance between traditional Indian culture and modern New World thoughts was omnipresent. As the stories are really very short I would recommend them to anyone interested in literature by the "emerging minorities." They are definitely worth a try.
On the whole, 3.5 stars.

Redigerat: dec 24, 2013, 9:38 am

#25: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
(231 pages)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age novel written in an epistolary fashion. Protagonist Charlie writes about the most important events in his adolescent life to an unknown friend.
Now, what is this novel really about? It is not hard to find something that I could write to answer that question. It is much harder to choose what not to write. If I were to use one word to describe the contents of this book, it would be 'life'. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about life. And it is about so many other things. Narrated in the first-person, the novel relates little episodes about love, sex, abortion, drugs, friendship, homosexuality and abuse. Throughout all those episodes, Charlie is just a kid trying to find his space in society. In this process he is influenced by books like Naked Lunch, On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. And then there is music. Songs like The Beatles' 'Something' and 'Blackbird', and The Smiths' 'Asleep' set the mood.
I have to say that this was one of the best novels I have read this year. Although deep down there was always this thought about how Charlie would commit suicide at some point in the novel. In the end, however, I would even go so far as to call this novel life-affirming.
On the whole, I loved reading this book as there were so many passages in there that just sounded plausible. Not, not just plausible. They sounded realistic. They sounded real. Chbosky manages to give the reader an insight into a slice of life that one can relate to very easily. This book does not deserve less than 5 stars. An amazing reading experience.

dec 29, 2013, 10:52 am

#26: American Short Stories of the 19th Century
(247 pages)

As the title suggests this book is a volume of American short stories. It contains seven short stories, which I'm going to rate on their own:

Rip van Winkle by Washington Irving (4 stars)
Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne (3 stars)
A Descent into the Maelstrom by Edgar Allan Poe (3 stars)
The Piazza by Herman Melville (2 stars)
The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain (4 stars)
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce (5 stars)
The Real Thing by Henry James (2 stars)

On the whole, I enjoyed reading this collection of short stories. 3.5 stars.

dec 29, 2013, 11:14 am

Since I probably won't be able to read any more books this year I took a quick look at my achievements in 2013. I have to say that I read a lot of YA books and somehow I almost always ended up liking them. Throughout the year I always had the "1001 books you must read before you die" challenge in the back of my mind, but I didn't really manage to make dent into that list. In general, I think I read a lot of medium (3-star) books this year. I hope this is going to change in 2014.

Now, what is the best book I've read in 2013? That's a hard decision and if I had to pick just one I think it would be Richard Ford's Canada. In retrospect I think I should have given it a five-star rating, but I'm going to stick with my initial 4.5 stars. Anyway, it's probably still the best novel I read this year.

I made a few resolutions for next year's reading. Here they are:
1) Read more than five books from the "1001 books you must read before you die" list. (i.e., more than this year)
2) Read a book with more than 1000 pages.
3) Attack The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. (I got that one as a Christmas present.)
4) Give Clancy one more (last?) try.
5) Try "something completely different." Whatever that may be...