The Bookshelf started with a list I updated semi-regularly. After awhile, I realized that technique wasn't working, so I decided to make the book section a bit more full and functional.
I didn't get a degree in literature or anything, so keep in mind I have no idea what I'm talking about. However, I do read a lot, and I read all kinds of books. This is just where I keep track of them, and say what I think. My space, my thoughts, your comments. There you have it.
If you would like to read about the site author, you can do so here.
Below is the master book list provided by readers, followed by the beginning list that became the inspiration for the expanded version of the book section of my site. Eventually, I'll try to transfer worthy books over to having their own posts on the site.
Written on the Body - Jeanette Winterson
I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
3. Fermat's Enigma - Simon Singh (on hold)
4. Cracking India - Bapsi Sidhwa (on hold)
5. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth (on hold)
The Reader - Bernhard Schlink
7. Memoirs of an Invisible Man - H.F. Saint
8. Blindness - Jose Saramago
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
10. Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins
Choke - Chuck Palahniuk
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles - Haruki Murakami
13. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
14. Basque History of the World - Mark Kurlansky
15. Shutterbabe - Deborah Copaken Kogan
16. The Long Walk - Stephen King
Sometimes A Great Notion - Ken Kesey
18. The Trial - Kafka
19. Jesus' Son - Denis Johnson
20. Glass Bead Game - Hesse
21. Tumble Home - Amy Hempel
22. The Sixteen Pleasures - Robert Hellenga
23. Stones from the River - Ursula Hegi
24. Tess of the d'Ubervilles - Thomas Hardy
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
26. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
27. Drown - Junot Diaz
28. Feast of Snakes - Crews
29. In Patagonia - Bruce Chatwin
30. Godric - Frederick Buechner
I thought it would be fun to see how many books I read this year. Why the hell not? So I am going to just slowly update this list. And if somebody finds it useful, well, that's a good thing.
I am starting with this in February, 2003. So I'll try and list the books I have read thus far this month (it's the middle of the month) and we'll go from there. After the author's name I'll give a one-word thought (or more) as to whether it's worth reading or not. How's that sound?
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling - delightful (quick read)
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors - Roddy Doyle - excellent (really, really excellent; quick read)
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole - blah
Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle - worthwhile
I'm A Stranger Here Myself - Bill Bryson - funny
In the Country of Last Things - Paul Auster - fascinating
Book of the month: The Woman Who Walked Into Doors
- Roddy Doyle - amusing (quick read)
The New York Trilogy
- Paul Auster - unique (worthwhile, quick read)
The Music of Chance
- Paul Auster - gripping (quick read)
"Ruy Blas" - Victor Hugo - not-so-bad French play
- Paul Auster - awesome (quick read. As in, a matter of hours)
"Rhinoceros" - Eugene Ionesco - better, funnier French play
Book of the month: Leviathan
- Vladamir Nabokov - interesting, but I'm not a huge fan
The Power of Babel
- John McWhorter - mediocre
Written on the Body
- Jeanette Winterson - strange, interesting
I Capture the Castle
- Dodie Smith - fucking brilliant
- Roddy Doyle - fun
"La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu" - Jean Giradoux - so boring
Book of the month: I Capture the Castle
- Berhard Schlink - excellent, well-written
"Antigone" - Jean Anouilh - French play based on Sophocles', quick read but boring
- Paul Auster - fabulous
From the Land of Green Ghosts
- Pascal Khoo Thwe - Burmese autobiography, fabulous, mind-opening
Book of the month:The Reader
June, July, August 03
Le Livre du rire et de l'oubli
(They are getting lumped together because I forgot to update and don't know what I read when)
- Milan Kundera - I was surprised. I wouldn't read it again
L'enfant du sable
- Tahar ben Jelloun - Interesting story, rather dull expression.
- Tahar ben Jelloun - TbJ is also the author of "Racism Explained to My Daughter." I read "Islam Explained" because of the previous book. Very good explanation, very simple. Took less than an afternoon to finish.
The Book of Illusions
- Paul Auster - Less good than the others. The second half is better than the first.
El Coronel no Tiene Quien le Escribe
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez - I can't speak Spanish well enough to tell you if this is a good book or not. I found it grueling, but that's because I was reading it in Spanish, which I can't speak.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
- Haruki Murakami - Japanese book, totally unexpected. Fun, thoughtful, interesting.
Book of the month:The Book of Illusions
The Devil that Danced on Water
(grossly interrupted by a month-long vacation)
- Animinatta Forna - excellent autobiography/memoir written by the daughter of Sierra Leonan revolutionary Mohammed Forna. Well-written, informative, and captivating all at once
- Noam Chomsky - as always with Noam, it's a good book that is a bit hard to read without maintaining full concentration. And I get depressed about the state of world affairs when reading it. But otherwise, great stuff.
The Blind Assassin
- Margaret Atwood - winner of the Booker prize, one of the best books I have read in a long time. Simply fabulous.
- Roddy Doyle - In typical Doyle style, this book is funny, touching, and charming. A winner.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
- Milan Kundera - I don't know why I didn't learn my lesson with his first book. And I don't see why everybody loves this book so much. I found it terrifically boring. And aggravating.
Book of the month: The Blind Assassin (hands down)
Tous les morts ont la mÍme peau
- Boris Vian- Quick, good read. Pretty exciting actually.
The Blue Afternoon
- William Boyd - Awesome book. Read it in two days, couldn't put it down. Loved it.
December 03 - February 04
Note: so apparently I stopped keeping track, so everything is getting lumped together. I also know I am missing out on a whole lot of books, but I can't remember what I have read. So, here's what I can keep track of:
The Robber Bride
- Margaret Atwood - After reading The Blind Assassin
and realizing how much Atwood kicks ass, I picked this book up and read it in a matter of a day or two. It's excellent.
- Paul Auster - Yet another masterpiece by the man. I read it so quickly I wish I had savoured it more. But you can't do that with Auster books. I loved it, and recommend it without hesistation.
- Margaret Atwood - I must have subconciously bought this because of the repetition of the word "oracle." Anyway, a good book, but I recommend the other two before moving into this less mindblowing work of hers.
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
- Al Franken - a must-read for any leftist out there. Amusing, witty, and well-researched. Plenty of artillery for your next combat with a right-winger, at any rate. A definte thumbs up.
The Buddha of Suburbia
- Hanif Kureishi - A friend recommended this to me. I liked it, but didn't love it. It was funny, and I got into the story, but in the end I felt something was still missing. Still, I'd read it again if I didn't have six hundred other books waiting for me to devour.
Lies My Teacher Told Me
- James W Loewen - another non-fiction book about history and how poorly it is taught in the American education system. A disturbing book, but worth a read. It can be dry at times, which made me skim occasionally, but the overall idea was worth investigating and reading about.
All other books were linguistics textbooks, which I consumed at a disgustingly rapid rate in order to prepare for finals. Exams tend to put a bit of a damper on my usually fabulous reading season, but now that they are over and done with, I am back on the road. Will update regularly again as of March 04.
Book of the period: Oracle Night , but it's a close call this time.
February 04 - August 04
Note: so apparently I'm not all that good at keeping up with this. But that's ok. It's my web site. Here are the books I remember reading (I'm sure there were others...)
- Jeffrey Eugenides - an interesting book about a hermaphrodite, told from his (previously her) perspective. I read about half of the book and thought to myself, "This is pretty good," and then realized that it won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. So I guess I'm not alone in thinking that. Plus, it takes place in Michigan, so...
From Beirut to Jerusalem
- Thomas Friedman - great book for getting to know the troubles in the Middle East and what they're about. Nice mix of journalism (Friedman was the NY Times bureau chief in Beirut and Jersulem for several years each) and personal anecdotes. Even, oddly enough, funny, at times. Recommended for non-fiction lovers.
- Zadie Smith - Interesting and quirky, a fun book.
Naked In Baghdad
- Anne Garrels - Excellent book by NPR's correspondent on Baghdad during the Iraq "war." Fascinating for those interested in journalism. Garrels is an interesting and witty lady, it comes across in her writing.
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves
- Lynn Truss - A book about punctuation. It's better than it sounds, although I thought the writing got cheesy from time to time. Still, I appreciate anyone who gets pissed off about misplaced commas, so I give it a thumbs-up.
Book of the period: It's a toss-up: Middlesex is really good, and it gets even more interesting a few weeks after you finish it and you realize you're still thinking about it. Naked in Baghdad is just a straight up fascinating story, and one that I'll most likely think of often. One's fiction, one isn't. So they're both good in different ways.
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden- Bowl me over and call me amazed. I did not know a man could write with such sensitivity. This book is fabulous. I devoured it in a matter of days.
Anna Karinina - Leo Tolstoy- Ok, so I technically started this mammoth of a book in August. And then I noticed that I had about five unread New Yorkers lying around, so I finished those. And then I read a book about natural health, and another about nutrition. And then I thought I would pick up the book again, but I fell asleep the first three times I decided to try it. So you know what I decided? I don't like this book. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tolstoy's a genius. Whatever. I found the damn thing boring, and I'm giving up 3/4 through. Sue me.
Book of the month: Memoirs of a Geisha , although the competition obviously wasn't all that stiff. I spent the first half of September just catching up on all the New Yorker articles I missed while travelling over the summer, hence the lack of books.
October 04 - February 05
Dude, I admit it. I suck at keeping this up-to-date. Still, I'm going to make a sad attempt to remember everything I've read in the last five months
The Virgin Suicides
- Jeffrey Eugenides - I liked Middlesex
so much that I thought I should branch out into his other books. While I didn't like this one as much, it still had its merits. He's a gifted writer, I just found the story less interesting. Still, a worthwhile book - I haven't seen the movie yet but I don't see how it could possibly have done the book justice.
The Little Friend
- Donna Tartt - It's too bad this woman has only written two books because I have a pretty severe obsession. The Little Friend
is a pleasure all the way through, although the ending left me disappointed. This happens often when I read books that I never want to end, so no worries there. The story is told more-or-less from a young girl's perspective (still in third person though) and Tartt does such an amazing job of making the girl come to life, at one point I actually got confused and started telling somebody a story about a girl I knew, only to realize it was something I had read in the book!
Oryx and Crake
- Margaret Atwood - Ok, so I had started out thinking, "This book is totally weird and so un-Atwoody that I don't know if I can actually read it." I set it down in November and didn't pick it up again until January. But once I did, I freaked out and loved every minute of it. It's really trippy, and totally different than all of her other books. It's science-fiction/fantasy more than anything, which is so unlike Atwood that I'm surprised she managed to actually pull it off. I guess it just goes to show how versatile she is. I loved this book, although I hesitate to recommend it unconditionally, as I don't think it's for everyone.
The DaVinci Code
- Dan Brown - Frankly, I found this book to be really, really boring, and incredibly badly written. It's only redeeming quality was that it took place in Paris, and even that Brown managed to muck up repeatedly (inaccuracies and illogical things all over the place). NOT recommended.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
- This has been the favorite book of every Spanish teacher I have ever had (that's five people). At the risk of sounding like a literary moron, I have to say I wasn't thrilled with this book. It took me three tries to actually get past the first chapter. Everyone told me that it would eventually just "come together" and I would realize how wonderful it is. But I made it to the end, and that never happened. Maybe I'll "get it" when I try again in ten years.
Le Tarot d'aujourd'hui
- Some Tarot Person - Ok, shut up. Sometimes I like to read this kind of shit, ok?
- Jennifer Belle - The cover of this book is a woman with a mini skirt and high heels on, walking by a taxi cab. If that doesn't warn you to stay away, I don't know what will. Absolute crap fiction, but I needed a distraction, and it worked in that sense. For, you know, a day.
The Secret History
- Donna Tartt - She's back again. This was actually Tartt's first novel, but I am glad I read it before The Little Friend
because I preferred this one by far (even though I still liked the other!). It was brilliant, and I felt very attached to the characters in the same way I did in her second novel. Still, I felt the story itself was far more strong in this book than in her second, and, despite the fact the book is quite long, I finished it quickly. I brought it everywhere with me and read it whenever I got a spare moment. Loved it.
More coming... I have to think of them! (obviously they weren't the highlights)
Book of the Period: The Secret History, although ask me again tomorrow and I might say Oryx and Crake just to stir things up.