Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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100 Books by 40: KATHERINE

Title: Katherine
Author: Anya Seton
Published: 1954

This is gonna be a short one. Are two of the following things true for you?

  • Are you British?
  • Do you love The Royal Family?
  • Do you overly romanticize the Middle Ages despite the obvious fact that it was mostly likely a disgusting time to live?(Seriously… Bathing optional, lack of waste removal, lack of dental care, rotting corpses due to The Black Plague… I don’t need to elaborate further do I?)

Can you guess how many of those questions I answered yes to? Uh huh, that was five hundred pages of my life right there. And this is one hundred and twenty-six words. Let’s just say, all of that? Too much. Too much to energy to spend on this book.

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100 Books By 40: GORMENGHAST

Book: Gormenghast
Author: Mervyn Peake
Published: 1946-1959

The BBC has done it again. As indicated by the published range as opposed to a single year, this isn’t one book but three. The book that I got from the library is all three books in one. It is one thousand+ pages, and the type is obscenely small. Months of my life was spent with this book.

The book tells the story of a castle, and two generations of noblemen who rule it. At least that’s typically how these sorts of stories are arranged. The noblemen act on their domain. This book inverts that narrative such that the domain, the castle acts on its noblemen.

On the bright side, Mervyn Peake was primarily an illustrator. And his sense of the visual rings true in his writing. The mental imagery that this book evokes is a feast for the imagination. This stands as such a contrast in our CGI-ed existence; actual imagination shimmers from this books pages.

On the not so bright side, the plot of this book moves at a snail’s pace, which goes a long way in explaining why I was reading this for 8 months. The plot will sit idle for chapter after chapter, only to have several major twists happen in a four page chapter. It’s true that much of the preceding chapters are setting up context, but the visual imagery takes up a piece too. I would take issue with this as writing masturbation, but Peake seems to make settings characters that may also act on the plot.

The characters are so quirky. So very, very quirky. And yet when Peake drapes them in his macabre visual world. They seem completely at home, natural even.

Eight months is a long time to commit to anything. A word like entertaining simply doesn’t apply to a book like this. It’s a visual delicacy that’s to be savored, for perhaps eight months.

Picture of Gormenghast all three books in one

Just look at this monster. Granted, this is all three of the books in one. But really, BBC, time to change your best 100 books list to best 112 books.

Probably the right time for another update on where I am in my list.

Reading now:
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
**On The Road, Jack Kerouac (rereading for pleasure)

Finished reading:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen – only 99 cents for Kindle edition
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – have on Kindle
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy – have on Kindle
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson

Pending reading:
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


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100 Books by 40: COLD COMFORT FARM

Book: Cold Comfort Farm
Author: Stella Gibbons
Published: 1932

This is an ode to references. Stella Gibbons is poking fun at books that were popular at the time. Novels that idealized English rural life were common with quirky characters and regional dialects galore.

I purchased this as an audiobook because I was headed out of town for the weekend and wanted something to listen to in the car. Due to my lack of planning, I didn’t have time to get the audiobook from the library. I failed to grasp the implications of purchasing a “dramatized” reading. Dramatic, it is.

This dramatized reading is complete with different voice actors for each character as well as sound effects. I could live without the sound effects. I do, however enjoy the different voice actors.

This book is a little tough for me to get into. In order to fully appreciate parody, I would need to be more familiar with what is being lampooned. Imagine watching Spaceballs without seeing Star Wars. Sure, it’s still funny, but many of the jokes would fall flat. That’s my experience with this book.

I’ve read a couple of the authors that Gibbons is parodying. Via this list, I’ve read the Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy. But I sense that my familiarity would need to be more significant than one read through can give me.

Regardless, I enjoyed the book. I’m sure many jokes sailed over my head. And I suspect some of the absurd aspects of the plot were more obvious due to the voice actors interpretation. But, if you haven’t read any of the authors that this book lampoons, I suggest you skip it.

Reading now:
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett

Finished reading:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen – only 99 cents for Kindle edition
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – have on Kindle
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy – have on Kindle
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel

Pending reading:
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


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100 books by 40: BLEAK HOUSE

Book: Bleak House
Author: Charles Dickens
Published: 1853

Bleak is an accurate description of how I felt when I started this book. The gray Cincinnati winter seems the most suitable companion for slogging through this enormous book. I was cheered by the fact that this is the last Charles Dickens book in my list. All of my earlier struggles with The Bronte Sisters and Jane Austen have paid out in how quickly I jumped back into Dickens.

Of the many things to object to with this book, the obsession with 1800’s British legal system was most irritating. Long passages are devoted to the courts. I skimmed over those passages without guilt.

Fortune has put this book toward the end of my list. There are twenty books standing between me and my goal of finishing The BBC’s 100 Best Books list. The momentum of eighty books down and twenty to go carried me to the end of this book.

The sheer number of side characters in this book is overwhelming. I can’t say that the subplots add that much to the book. Actually, scratch that. I can’t say anything about the book added that much to my life. Great Expectations and David Copperfield deserved to be on this list. Bleak House, not so much. If you want to get into Dickens, steer clear of this one.


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100 Books by 40: THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS

Book: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Author: Robert Tressell
Published: 1955

The past comments on our present.

It may be objected that, considering the number of books dealing with these subjects already existing, such a work as this was uncalled for. The answer is that not only are the majority of people opposed to Socialism, but a very brief conversation with an average anti-socialist is sufficient to show that he does not know what Socialism means. – Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

I worked at Starbucks in the late 90’s. Memorable patrons abounded; I served as caffeine bartender to many jittery addicts. I continue to count myself among them. Socialist Rick was among a colorful list that included Iced Venti Americano Rick and Double Tall Latte Patti.
Rick came in most afternoons and stayed for an hour or two. He was polite, and his drip coffee couldn’t have been easier to prepare. Unlike Grande 2 pump Sugar Free Vanilla Skim Extra Hot Latte Hair Plugs for Men, his drink never seemed to be right. It was always one of the following: too hot, not hot enough, not enough vanilla, too much vanilla, or was more generally bad. He would bark this at me after having flung the lid off his 220 degree latte and taken two impossibly huge gulps of it. It’s a wonder the interior of his mouth had sensations at all given that it must be dead scar tissue in there. After bad drink number 50, I started keeping his drink behind the bar and offered him a baristas choice on his first go. I was vaguely gratified when one morning my choice happened to be a cast off Americano. Those are blistering hot due to the fact that they are comprised of espresso shots and 280 degree filtered water. His eyes watered just a bit when he took his pulls. I wasn’t sorry. He returned his drink less often after that.

In comparison, Rick was an easy customer. Overbearing isn’t an accurate word to describe Rick. My coworkers, already familiar with him, warned me of his fringe beliefs. But a coherent picture of Rick’s views didn’t develop until I had poured him at least thirty cups of coffee across weeks. My coworkers’ warnings looked to be unwarranted, as Rick wasn’t over-eager to discuss his views, but he certainly wouldn’t hold back should discussion wander into economics or politics.

Hindsight demonstrates that I was responding to Rick with indoctrination from history class and our capitalist culture. Going to a conservative Christian school, we were told ghoulish stories of all the martyrs sacrificed to the steely god of socialism. Innocent Russian boys and girls were thrown into the gaping maw of atheism only to be rended limb from limb by satan in the afterlife. (I realize that The USSR was a communist country, but communism and socialist were both painted with the same sloppy brush, so I didn’t perceive a difference between the two.) You should think I use hyperbole, but I don’t. I was raised to be terrified of socialism.

Terrified, I was. When my coworkers told me that Rick was a socialist; they might as well said that we molested children. I coolly responded to Rick’s polite small talk. You can’t let your gaurd down when something so sinister approaches.

Across weeks of interaction, I started to relax. Rick was pleasant. He treated us like people. For those that haven’t worked in the service industry, it’s not uncommon for people to bark orders at you and wholly ignore you otherwise. The most common response to good morning or how are you was GRANDE LOW FAT LATTE with no eye contact or any other non-verbal acknowledgement. This was the case prior to smart phones. I can only imagine that this behavior grows more frequent with each passing day.

This is when the cognative dissonance started. Rick was pleasant and warm. Our interactions only occasionally touched on politics or economics, but when they did he said reasonable things. How can a socialist be kind and say sensible things while simultaneously being Satan’s child molester in chief? HOW?

I opted for the intellectually lazy path forward. I put Rick in the crazy box in my head, and responded to him as such regardless of his kind behavior and reasonable criticisms of the capitalist system. Occasionally, he would say something that would break out of the crazy box. But my discomfort at questioning my indoctrination, caused me to quickly push this away.

I have regrets. I regret that I closed myself off to Rick. Mostly because in the intervening decade I have become disillusioned with the glories of capitalism. I have come to believe that an egalitarian society needs labor to be valued more than capital. And it’s mystifying that of the seventy bucks that are spent on GAP jeans only pennies go to the Vietnamese laborers who made them. WHERE THE HELL DOES THE OTHER $69.96 GO? And more importantly, why does this arrangement make sense?

The Ragged Trousered Philantropists is a socialism text book masquerading as a novel. Typically I am annoyed with this dress-up game, but I appreciate that this book provided the most thorough argument for socialism I have ever read. I bet my indoctrination regarding socialism is representative of most Americans’ indoctrination, mostly lies sprinkled with threats of ruthless dictators. Which is to say that Americans don’t actually know what socialism is. The way the word was bandied about in the last presidential election cycle supports my point.

At other times the meeting resolved itself into a number of quarrelsome disputes between the Liberals and Tories that formed the crowd, which split itself up into a lot of little groups and whatever the original subject might have been they soon drifted to a hundred other things, for most of the supporters of the present system semed incapable of pursuing any one subject to its logical conclusion. A discussion would be started about something or other; presently an unimportant side issue would crop up, then the original subject would be left unfinished, and they would argue and shout about the side issue. In a little while another side issue would arise, and then the first side issue would be abandoned also unfinished, and an angry wrangle about the second issue would ensue, the original subject being altogether forgotten.

They did not seem to really desire to discover the truth or to find out the best way to bring about and improvement in their condition, their only object seemed to me to score off their opponents. – Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

I won’t be waving the socialist flag just yet. But this book was excellent. There are valid criticisms of how we choose to organize ourselves economically. And if the data is right, and we are headed into another guilded age, shit is only starting to hit the fan.

Here’s where I am in my list.
Reading Now
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Books that have been read
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.

Pending reading:
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


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100 Book by 40: FAR FROM THE MADDENING CROWD

I noticed some parallels between Far from the Maddening Crowd and The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen and Bathsheba Everdene share last names. Katniss is an accomplished female lead; Bathsheba breaks gender stereotypes and runs her own farm. Both Katniss and Bathsheba have multiple love interests, and a significant part of the plots of both books hang on romantic outcomes. This prompted me to investigate if Suzanne Collins has acknowledged these similarities. And as it turns out, Collins states that Far from the Maddening Crowd is one of her favorite books.

There’s one other parallel between the authors that comes from reading two of Hardy’s books. Hardy is cruel to his characters. He breaks them down. He makes them suffer. Collins does the same. I actually feel less critical of the way Collins ended her trilogy with this new perspective.

I could talk about Hardy’s sharp perception. I could talk about his wonderful way of capturing the nature of relationships. But I think I would rather let his speak for himself. I loved this book. If these quotes draw you, or you want to see what shaped Collins’ writing, Hardy is a great read.

The change at the root of this has been the recent supplanting of the class of stationary cottagers, who carried on the local traditions and humours, by a population of more or less migratory labourers, which has led to a break of continuity in local history, more fatal than any other thing to the preservation of legend, folk-lore, close inter-social relations, and eccentric individualities. For these the indispensable conditions of existence are attachment to the soil of one particular spot by generation after generation.

Hardy, Thomas (2012-05-17). Far from the Madding Crowd . . Kindle Edition.

This quote is in reference to Oak’s sheep dog, George and his pup. George’s pup triumphantly took Oak to the cliff from which his entire flock plummeted. The implication is that George’s son did such a great job of driving the sheep, that he drove them to their deaths. I love the pivot that Hardy makes to draw a larger conclusion in that this type of single-mindedness is just as undesirable in people.

George’s son had done his work so thoroughly that he was considered too good a workman to live, and was, in fact, taken and tragically shot at twelve o’clock that same day— another instance of the untoward fate which so often attends dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent conduct in a world made up so largely of compromise.

Hardy, Thomas (2012-05-17). Far from the Madding Crowd (p. 28). . Kindle Edition.

This is a quote in reference to one of Bathsheba’s more reserved suitors. This man probably would have given everything for her happiness, but she spurns him for a foppish, handsome soldier.

He had no light and careless touches in his constitution, either for good or for evil. Stern in the outlines of action, mild in the details, he was serious throughout all . He saw no absurd sides to the follies of life, and thus, though not quite companionable in the eyes of merry men and scoffers, and those to whom all things show life as a jest, he was not intolerable to the earnest and those acquainted with grief. Being a man who read all the dramas of life seriously, if he failed to please when they were comedies, there was no frivolous treatment to reproach him for when they chanced to end tragically.

Hardy, Thomas (2012-05-17). Far from the Madding Crowd (p. 93). . Kindle Edition.

Truth.

The rarest offerings of the purest loves are but a self-indulgence, and no generosity at all.

Hardy, Thomas (2012-05-17). Far from the Madding Crowd (p. 101). . Kindle Edition.

Interesting observation about the differences between men and women and their motivation to marry.

It appears that ordinary men take wives because possession is not possible without marriage, and that ordinary women accept husbands because marriage is not possible without possession ; with totally differing aims the method is the same on both sides.

Hardy, Thomas (2012-05-17). Far from the Madding Crowd (p. 101). . Kindle Edition.

Here’s an update on my reading list.
Reading now:
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

Finished reading:

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.

Pending reading:
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


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100 Books by 40: GOOD NIGHT, MR TOM

Picking up this book was a delightful break from the tedium that was reading The Count of Monte Cristo. The book is a young adult title about a boy that was evacuated from London during World War II. While the writing wasn’t challenging to read, the novel covered some heavy topics.

The boy, Willie, left an abusive mother and taken in by a man that had cut himself off from others after the death of his wife and young child. The story centers around the transformation of the boy and the man. They are wounded souls who find healing in each other’s company.

My facebook feed brings many things to my attention, but I would say the vast majority highlight the negative power that we have to belittle and harm both those around us and ourselves. It’s refreshing to contemplate the best that we can be versus the worst. On the rare occasion that someone shares something positive or beautiful, I feel relieved, but those things fail to over-power the negative emotions that I am often left with.

I know people have either left their facebook accounts or blocked certain posts from turning up in their feed, and I get that. There’s just some stuff that doesn’t add value to your life and only brings up negative emotions. There are moments were we can be constructively challenged, but social media is rarely the space for it.

I’ve already limited my consumption of certain types of news media for the reason stated above. Twenty-four hours news stations were among the first things to get winnowed out of my information diet. I’m considering that facebook might get a similar treatment. I am going to pare back my facebook browsing for a while, and see how that goes.

Mister Tom is a nice, easy read. The characters are charming. The setting reminds me how little Americans have been touched by war since the Civil War. The towns people in the book all pitch in to help with the war effort. Much like Americans accepted rationing and planted victory gardens to support WWII, people accepted a certain level of shared sacrifice for the greater good. We aren’t so far from that time to make it impossible for our culture to value self sacrifice again. In fact, I am sure that millions of people in their own small way are still doing this today. There’s a big world out there full of people who are doing their best, and social media isn’t a great lens to take a look at it.