Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Because everybody else is doing it...

Since the Times put out its list of 100 best novels, it seems to be quite the thing to make one's own list. Of course, I did it a long time ago, before it was cool, but since I love lists I thought I might as well try another one. But then I got bogged down in trying to figure out what books should be on a list of best novels; it could, of course, mean one's favorites, but could also be best-known novels, or classic novels, or books with superior style/plot/characters. So I decided to go back to my recent idea and create a list of novels that don't make you want to kill yourself. Happy reading!

?Watership Down, Richard Adams
An Old Fashioned Girl, Louisa May Alcott
Pride and Prejudice and Emma, Jane Austen
The Search for Delicious, Natalie Babbitt
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford
Possession, A.S. Byatt
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
Tam Lin, Pamela Dean
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Incident At Hawks Hill, Allan W. Eckert
Middlemarch, George Eliot
The Reivers, William Faulkner
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café, Fannie Flagg
A Room With A View, E.M. Forster
Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
Bread Alone, Judith Ryan Hendricks
The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett
A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
Betsy-Tacy, Maud Hart Lovelace
Christy, Catherine Marshall
Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne
In Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
The Deed of Paksenarrion, Elizabeth Moon
Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brian
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy
The Heaven Tree Trilogy, Edith Pargeter
Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
The Good Master, Kate Seredy
Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien
Carry On, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh
Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Hawk and the Dove, Penelope Wilcock
These Happy Golden Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

As a child I read a great deal of Madeleine L'Engle's books, but for some reason the Murry quartet were the only ones that stayed with me. I know I read some of the Austin books, but as our library didn't have them all, my comprehension was spotty; therefore it's been truly delightful to revisit them recently. The one I just read was quite possibly my favorite L'Engle so far (besides Many Waters, of course)--A Ring of Endless Light. Besides being a sucker for dolphin stories, I loved the pure clarity of this book, and the ability Vicky discovers in herself. What a fantastic gift!

Even the little love tangles in this one are interesting, though frankly I wouldn't mind seeing Zachary fall into a hole. I like Vicky's reactions to the three different boys, and how she becomes more herself through her budding relationships with them. I like the way she writes poetry and reads to her grandfather, how she cooks dinner and comforts her little brother. I like the simplicity and the familiar complexity of their family life. I like this book, a lot.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Odious is in the middle of his self-named NaNoReMo, chronicled on his own blog. However, despite his devouring of novels in a day, I've found it fairly easy to keep ahead in lazy leaps. Unfortunately he still has a lot of the good stuff before him, while I'm down to the books I didn't read because I didn't want to.

I decided to give Hemingway another chance, and managed a slog through A Farewell to Arms without too much pain. I just can't stand his style! I'm sure it's effective, ground-breaking, etc, but it makes me want to shake him. It's difficult to get any feel for his characters without more detail and description, and I end up not caring about them at all. The end of the novel is probably supposed to be sad, but to me it was inevitable, predictable, and not tremendously interesting. Also, his idea of a love scene is really appalling.

Before this I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which kept me hooked with a morbid fascination and sick desire for more dreadful revelations. It's like nothing I've ever read before, and while I'm glad I read it, at the same time I wish I didn't have that information in my head. I started it at work one day when I was covering someone else's hosting shift, and realized after an hour or so that it was not the best place for such a book. I found myself falling into despair, looking around and thinking, "Life is still like this! We all hang on to dead-end, worthless, insecure jobs that grind us down into poverty, and there's no escape! AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" At that point I put the book away.

Now I'm reading Invisible Man. It's kind of boring so far. I wish that, like Odious, I still had Howards End and Mrs. Dalloway to read. Like most great novels, those certainly have their depressing elements (I wonder why that is? I should start a new list--100 Novels That Don't Make You Want To Kill Yourself), but they're so much pleasanter...