{Top Ten Tues} Most Intimidating Books

Once again I had a ‘top ten Tuesday‘ post prepped and ready to go, and once again I forgot to make sure it went live on a Tuesday. I’m organised when it matters, I promise.

This week’s theme is books that intimidate you. Books can be intimidating for a number of reasons… they might be really long, or be renowned for being difficult/life changing/unusual, or maybe they’re part of a series that you’ll then feel obligated to read… I’m generally quite brave when it comes to tackling new books, but there are definitely some that I’m not feeling too enthusiastic about.

Books I’m currently intimidated by:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Firstly there’s the question of length. This is one long book. And then there’s the title… you know it’s not going to be puppies and rainbows. I feel like I want to want to read this way more than I actually do. But as I have a copy on my shelf, on my Kindle and on my iTunes it is pretty much inevitable that I will wrestle with it at some point.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Almost everyone I ever discuss books with ask me if I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, and when I say no they descend into a *fascinating* monologue about how it’s the best book ever. I’m reluctant to crack it open because I just can’t imagine it living up to the hype.

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin – The thing in is, I adore the TV series.  Like really, really adore it. I have a number of worries about these books:
a) They might ruin the TV show by being way better
b) They might ruin the TV show by being rubbish
c) They might ruin the TV show by being quite different (so I’d be way more critical when the next season airs)
d) They might ruin the TV show by preparing me for certain plot twists
(Yes, I’m totally neurotic)

Anything by Chuck Palahniuk – After reading Diary I’m slightly worried that all his books will horrify and disturb me. I just don’t think I’m hip enough to appreciate his mind…

Books I was once intimidated by but am now reasonably comfortable with:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This was one of those books recommended by everyone. I’ve lost count of how many people have described it as their favourite book. I only ended up reading it because it was one of my set texts last year… and it was so massively underwhelming, I don’t know why I was so scared of it!

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – The only reason I finally picked these up was because I loved the films. I read all three over the course of about a week, and I hated every second of them. They are hands down three of the most unreadable books I’ve ever attempted, which is a shame because the actual stories are great.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens – Before this, I’d only read one Dickens (Hard Times) and I had a really hard time with it… I was convinced I was going to hate this one too, but I was hugely surprised. I loved it, and it definitely inspired a Dickens enthusiasm in me that I never knew existed.

Middlemarch by George Eliot – This was one of my set books this year, and the reason I was so intimidated? It was long. Very, very long. As in, it took me about a month to read. However, it was worth it. Considering the subject matter of a provincial village, and the period in which it was written, you would expect something frothy or something dense, and this was neither. I found it very readable,  but I still think it’s a little ambitious unless you’re a hardy classics reader.

So have you read any of the books that scare me? Am I being stupid? How about you, are there any books you find intimidating?

Whimsical Reading – Birds

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We haven’t talked about it in a while, but I’m still plodding away at the whimsical reading challenge (for more info, click on the tab above)… and today I thought I’d share a few more reading suggestions with you, this time on the theme of ‘birds’.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is one of those ‘must reads’ I’ve had on my shelf for a good long while… and my bestest friend in the whole wide world is always raving about it, so it’s inevitable I’ll get there one day!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Number#5 in the Harry Potter series seems to get a bit of a slating… but I love it! It’s not my favourite (that honour goes to the Prisoner of Azkaban) but it is far, far superior to the last two… call me crazy but they were just disappointing!

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

I’ve wanted to read this for years, ever since I saw the film adaptation starring Helena Bonham Carter (who I’ve always adored), I don’t really know why I haven’t got to it yet… especially considering I have a copy on my shelf and on my Kindle. I read another James novel this year, and I found it equally fabulous and frustrating, for my review of Portrait of a Lady click here.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This is the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. I rarely fall in love with book that gets loads of hype, but I just had to make an exception here!

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Every single charity shop I’ve walked into seems to have a copy on the shelves… and every single time I see it I think ‘hmm, I’d like to read that…’ – I love history, and Chinese history is something I really haven’t read a lot about… I just haven’t got to this one yet. Sometimes I think there aren’t enough years ahead of me to fit in all the books I’d like to read.

So have you picked your ‘bird’ book yet? Any recommendations?

D x

Dracula

drac

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is officially the last set book I’ll be reviewing for you this year, possibly ever (depending which courses I pick for next year). I didn’t manage to read them all this year… I skipped Heart of Darkness, but I couldn’t get into it, I didn’t have to do an assignment on it and I didn’t have to be examined on it… so to be honest there was very little incentive!

Anyway, back to Drac.

In all honesty I would probably never have picked this book for myself. It’s not that I don’t adore the vampire side of things – because I really am a bit of a junkie for vamp-infused TV… Dracula has just never really appealed. Maybe because I already knew the story so well, it seemed pointless to bother reading it.

However, there were actually things that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed the often poetic language. I enjoyed crazy Renfield (who doesn’t love a good fruit-loop?). And I enjoyed that it inspired an episode of Buffy (among many other things, obviously). But there were definitely things that grated on me. A lot.

The two main female characters (Mina and Lucy) were insipid. They were so morally sound and perfect and so unbelievable lovable that every man in the book couldn’t help but throw themselves at their feet. My other issue was with said men… how fickle were they?! They all adored Lucy, were willing to give her their blood and pretty much die for her. As soon as she was out of the picture, however, they had no issues desecrating her corpse and moving on to Mina. Not really the enduring love one would normally associate with vampire fiction, is it?

I find it quite hard reviewing books that I’ve studied… if you develop quite sturdy critical knowledge of a novel, it’s not so easy to talk about it in terms of entertainment… after my original reading, I quite enjoyed it (despite all the simpering, heartfelt postulations), but after going a bit more in-depth… I’m not so sure. One of my pet hates when reading stuff by the critics, is when they assume that every author is just writing about sex. But in this case, I have to admit that maybe it’s true. Each character seems to be living out some sort of Victorian taboo… however, I don’t think these references to lesbianism, sexual domination and incest are grotesque enough  o be obvious to all modern-day readers. You probably won’t be able to escape the total misogyny and shameless racism though.

I can say wholeheartedly that I will not be reading Dracula again. I’m glad I’ve read it once, but once was enough. Now that I’m aware that it’s about a bunch of sexual deviants, I don’t think it’s really quite so charming…

D x

The BBC Book List Challenge

I came across an annoying fact last night… apparently the BBC believes most people have not read more than six of the following books… I may not be the most well-read person in the world, but I still feel a bit outraged at this! And apparently the average GoodReads user has read twenty-three…

[‘Read’ books in bold]

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

So yeah… I’ve read thirty-five (because I refuse to count series of seven as single book!), a respectable score I think… Definitely more than six!

So how many have you read? Are you equally outraged that the BBC seems to think we’re all unread fools?

D x

Bye Bye BEA

Just a quick post today to bid farewell to Armchair BEA.

I really enjoyed taking part in this, I just wish I’d have found out about it sooner… but next year I’m on it! I would have loved to have had more time to explore the topics more, but the fact that it’s exam time and I’ve been taking part in BEDM has left me quite succinct!

Hands down the best part about this conference was discovering some amazing new blogs, and hopefully some new like-minded friends. I’m slowly working my way through all of the participants’ blogs so I don’t miss anything (click here to browse through yourself).

Check out some of my BEA posts and leave some love 🙂

Introduction

Classics

Blogger Development

Genre

Keeping it real/Ethics/Non-fiction

I’ll be having a much-needed revision break from my blog over the next few days, but I still have some scheduled posts for you so hopefully you won’t miss me too much!

D x

The nineteenth-century novel

Today is the second to last day of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge, and the topic of the day is all about inspiration. The obvious thing for me to do would be to talk about the artists that inspire me, but I’m considering a blog series along those lines, so instead I’m going to talk about my studies.

As you probably all know, I’m currently working on a Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University, and this year I’ve been studying AA316 (the nineteenth-century novel). Last summer when I was picking my courses I remember been torn between this one, ’20th century literature: texts and debates’ and ‘Shakespeare: text and performance’. What was the deciding factor, I hear you ask? Classics. I love ’em. I love reading books that take a bit of deciphering, that contain beautiful writing, not just an engaging plot. I love the total delusions of a lot of the characters. I love the quaintness of times gone by. I love the romance and the tragedy. Mostly, I love costume dramas.

One of the things that inspired me to do this module was sheer book envy. That feeling you get, when you’re convinced you should read something but just never seem to get to it… that’s what pushed me into the world of the nineteenth-century novel.

Working through my set books, I’ve come across some real gems. I’ve discovered some things I’ve LOVED and some things that are headed straight to the charity shop… even though I really did hate some of them, I’m glad I suffered through (because at least now I know A- who to avoid and B- that a lot of the time other people are WRONG).

So these are those infamous books I’ve had to read (linked to reviews) –

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

My first ever Austen… underwhelming at best.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A book I’ve read many a time before, and will undoubtedly read many a time again.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

The book that changed my mind about Dickens! Despite my love for all BBC adaptations, my torturous experience of reading Hard Times really put me off… but I absolutely LOVED this one. Enough to download the rest onto my Kindle (thank God for Project Gutenberg!)

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I enjoyed studying passages from this novel more than actually reading it- there’s some truly stunning prose, but the dialects really bug me…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

In a word… long. Came from a snobby hypocrite, but an enjoyable read.

Germinal by Emile Zola

Enjoyed it waaaay more than I thought I would, could never be described as ‘nice’ but I’d recommend giving it a read… I’m currently trying to track down the rest in the series (not as easy as you’d think!)

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

After a slight struggle with the first chapter I really got into this one only to be left a bit cold at the end, not one to read if you’re looking for a bit of action!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

DREADFUL.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Again, long. A lot of build-up for a kind of boring scandal… I guess times have changed…

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

A good classic to start off with… purely because it’s so short! I thought it was ok the first time I read it but have enjoyed it more and more as I’ve had to study it. An appreciation for symbolism is required for this one.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Enjoyable, if well-known, story. It’s just a shame about the insipid declarations, total chauvinism and two-dimensional characters.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Started to read and couldn’t get into it, then I realized I wasn’t going to get examined on this one so I’m leaving it for another time, and doing some revision instead!

I’ve definitely got a lot more classics on my ‘to read’ list that I’m hoping to get through…

So what do you think of classics? Do you read them because you enjoy them or because you just feel like you should? Do you just stay away altogether?

D x

1,001 Books

So this is day 11 of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge, and I can’t believe I’ve managed to keep up! The prompt is to share some book love (so the perfect topic for a book fiend like me!)

I may not have mentioned this, but I’m in the middle of moving, which means only one thing… packing! I’m a danger when packing because I constantly find things I’ve forgotten about and just get distracted… this time it was 1,001 Books you must Read Before You Die. After a little flick through, I discovered I have read 30 of these:

Don Quixote * Oroonoko * Candide * Northanger Abbey * Jane Eyre * Wuthering Heights * Hard Times * Madame Bovary * The Woman in White * Little Women * Middlemarch * Far From the Madding Crowd * The Portrait of a Lady * The Death of Ivan Ilyich * Germinal * The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde * Dracula * The Awakening * The Hound of the Baskervilles * The Great Gatsby * Gone With the Wind * The Hobbit * Rebecca * Bonjour Tristesse * The Lord of the Rings * On the Road * Breakfast at Tiffany’s * The Bell Jar * Interview with the Vampire * Cloud Atlas

And if counting from the time I read the first one, I’m currently reading 2.72 per year. Meaning it will take me approximately 353 years to get through the lot. As it’s somewhat unlikely that I’ll last that long, I’m thinking I may need to speed up… so to my other 2013 reading targets, I’m adding the following:

Dangerous Liaisons * Pride and Prejudice * Last of the Mohicans * The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby * Fugitive Pieces * Fortunata and Jacinta * The Yellow Wallpaper * The Poisonwood Bible * The Wings of the Dove * The Green Hat * The Forsyte Saga * Testament of Youth * La Reine Margot * Of Mice and Men * The Picture of Dorian Gray * The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Even though it will still take me around 64 years if I read 15 per year… it’s a little more achievable!

So how about you? Any ambitious reading hopes for the year?

D x

P.S. To read about my other over ambitious reading dreams of 2013, click on the ‘reading list’ tab above.