Tag Archives: rory gilmore reading list

2017 Reading Challenge – 6 month update

This is the first time I’ve tried to restrict my reading to books from a specific list. It’s just not really working for me in the way I’d originally hoped. I read 11 of the books in the first 3 months and only 3 in the last 3 months! Oooooops. I’ve just been majorly distracted by other books. I have got at least 16 of them ready to read and in my possession so I need to make space to get through them. A few I’ve bought specifically to read soon, but keep shelving them.

I don’t think I will bother with trying to forward plan my reading so closely again. It just doesn’t work for me!!!! and really the last thing I need is to feel bad for any reading I’ actually doing, or to feel guilty that i’m off list. How completely absurd.

Still, it’s true that most of the 35 books I’ve read from this list are really good. I still feel strongly that future favourites are hidden in the unread ones.

Here’s the updated list with the ones I’ve read in red:

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  •  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
  • Brick Lane by Monica Ali  
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood  
  • Emma by Jane Austen  
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 
  • Oracle Night by Paul Auster  
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (review)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov  
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin (review)
  • The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
  • Cousin Bette by Honore De Balzac
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos by Julia De Burgos
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant  
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky  
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco  
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding  
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
  • My Life in Orange by Tim Guest
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst by Virginia Holman
  • A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
  • The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (review)
  • Songbook by Nick Hornby
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo  
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland
  • The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  • Nervous System by Jan Lars Jensen  
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (review)
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (review)
  • On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes  
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd  
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • Extravagance by Gary Krist
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson 
  • The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
  • The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  • A Month Of Sundays by Julie Mars
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel 
  • Property by Valerie Martin
  • The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus         
  • Quattrocento by James McKean
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller  
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (review)
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger  
  • How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
  • 1984 by George Orwell 
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (review)
  • Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath  
  • Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  • The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (review)
  • Sybil by Flora Schreiber
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (review)
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (review)
  • Unless by Carol Shields
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (review)
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray 
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
  • Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (review)
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  • Night by Elie Wiesel (review)
  • The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde  
  • The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Old School by Tobias Wolff
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Book Review: The Awakening – Kate Chopin

A rich, married woman in 1890s New Orleans falls in love with a young man. She realises that she is completely dissatisfied with her life as a mother and housewife, and sets about changing her life so she is happy with it. A really evocative book about a woman’s rejection of society, and her discovery of who she really is.

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Edna Pontellier has what seems to be a pretty nice life. Her husband is a kind man – he doesn’t believe in ordering his wife about, or even worse. Her role is to, well, lounge about entertaining people from what I can gather. But she isn’t passionately in love with her husband. When she spends a summer in the company of Robert Lebrun she slowly realises that she is unfulfilled and desperately unhappy with the mundanity of life. She craves independence and passion.

An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish

As an insight into Edna’s state of mind, it’s really insightful, convincing, and beautifully written. A criticism would be that clearly Edna’s life is actually not that bad. She has an ok husband, who provides for her, is generous, and is supportive of her (so long as she behaves in away that fits in with societal expectations of her). She is expected to care for their children when their maid is not around, but she’s quite free to socialise as she likes. I’m not saying she should just put up with being unhappy, just that she actually has a whole lot of options – especially given that during the story she realises that with her paintings becoming better, she has a means to support herself.

She is quite indifferent to her children. She doesn’t have much to do with their day to day upbringing and she sends them away fairly often to her family.

She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them.

What The Awakening does really well is to describe how a daily life, living up to other peoples expectations of how she should behave, can grind you down and make you miserable. Edna decides to change things in her life…

Mr Pontellier had been a rather courteous husband so long as he met a certain tacit submissiveness in his wife. But her new and unexpected line of conduct completely bewildered him. It shocked him. Then her absolute disregard for her duties as a wife angered him. When Mr Pontellier became rude, Edna grew insolent. She had resolved to never take another step backward.

Her action so far had been to ditch her usual Tuesday receiving and visiting of other society ladies. Scandalous! It’s admirable how once Edna sets out to free herself she goes for it without giving a fuck what anyone else thinks.

…she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.

You need to be aware that as it was written in the 1890s there is a lot of racist language used in the descriptions of the staff they have serving their lives. There are specific words used to describe people that refer to the colour of their parents. In fact, these terms are used in place of their names. They are just referred to as ‘the …..’ or ‘the ……’ in reference to their skin colour. The lady that brings up Edna’s children is not even given a name.

Given that the whole plot is driven by infidelity, or the idea of it, it is almost devoid of sexual interaction. This is not Jilly Cooper. When an illicit kiss happens it’s description is electric, and it’s a refection of the whole plot that she is the instigator:

She leaned over and kissed him – a soft, cool, delicate kiss, whose voluptuous sting penetrated his whole being – then she moved away from him.

It’s a fleeting glimpse into one character, but this small insight into the douchery of Robert is spectactular:

He looked at Edna’s book, which he had read; and he told her the end, to save her the trouble of wading through it, he said.

Un.be.liev.able. Run away, Edna! He’s a bad ‘un!

Book Challenge 2017 update

I leapt into this years book challenge with great enthusiasm after getting all giddy watching the new Gilmore Girls episodes. I saw the reading list and identified that, of all the books I had read, a lot were my favourites. I therefore decided that the rest of the list must be possible future favourites of mine.

All this is still true, but I’ve had more time to critically appraise the list and it’s just… it’s… so white, and so American and European. It’s turned out to be too restrictive in terms of what I want to read.

I’m still choosing books from the list, because what I said before is still true. But l have found myself adding in other books. I can’t just read books from that list this year. I need more options!

This is the first time I’ve tried to restrict my reading to books from a specific list. It’s just not really working for me in the way I’d originally hoped. I have read 11 more of the books though, and have really enjoyed them (score!). It’s just that I’ve also read 8 books that aren’t on it :-). Here’s the updated list with the ones I’ve read in red:

• The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

• Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

• The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

• Brick Lane by Monica Ali  

• Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood  

• Emma by Jane Austen  

• Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen  

• Oracle Night by Paul Auster  

• Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

• Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

• The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov  

• The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

• The Awakening by Kate Chopin

• The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer

• Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

• Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser

• Cousin Bette by Honore De Balzac

• Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos by Julia De Burgos

• The Red Tent by Anita Diamant  

• David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

• Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky  

• An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

• The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy

• The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas  

• Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 

• The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco  

• Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

• The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

• Time and Again by Jack Finney

• The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  

• A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

• Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

• Bee Season by Myla Goldberg

• Lord of the Flies by William Golding  

• Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

• My Life in Orange by Tim Guest

• The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 

• The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

• Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi

• The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

• Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

• Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

• Rescuing Patty Hearst by Virginia Holman

• A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall

• The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

• Songbook by Nick Hornby

• The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini  

• The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo  

• Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

• How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland

• The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

• Nervous System by Jan Lars Jensen  

• The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

• The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

• On The Road by Jack Kerouac

• One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

• Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes  

• The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd  

• A Separate Peace by John Knowles

• Extravagance by Gary Krist

• The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

• The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson  

• The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht

• The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

• Small Island by Andrea Levy

• Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire  

• A Month Of Sundays by Julie Mars

• Life of Pi by Yann Martel  

• Property by Valerie Martin

• The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

• The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus         

• Quattrocento by James McKean

• Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller  

• Beloved by Toni Morrison

• Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

• Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

• The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger  

• How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

• 1984 by George Orwell  

• When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

• Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

• Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

• The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

• My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

• The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath  

• Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

• The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

• Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

• The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson

• The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

• Empire Falls by Richard Russo

• The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

• Sybil by Flora Schreiber

• The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

• Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

• Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

• Hamlet by William Shakespeare

• Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

• Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  

• Unless by Carol Shields

• Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

• The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

• A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

• Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

• Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

• The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

• Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray  

• Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  

• A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

• The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker

• The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

• Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito

• Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

• Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

• Night by Elie Wiesel

• The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde  

• The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse

• Old School by Tobias Wolff

• The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Book Review: Night – Elie Wiesel

You don’t start a book about the holocaust expecting anything but horror. Horror that people are capable of the most inhumane, disgusting acts. Horror that this is not fiction. Horror that this could ever happen. I had to keep repeating to myself ‘This was what he saw. This is real. Real people did this.’

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Elie Wiesel was brought up in Sighet, Romania. Himself, his Mother and Father, and his little sister were moved into a Jewish Ghetto when German troops occupied the town in March 1944. Elie was 15 years old. In March 1944 they were deported to Auschwitz. His Mother and seven year old sister were murdered there. Elie and his Father were later transferred to Buchenwald camp. Before the camp was liberated on April 11th 1945 his Father died.

He wrote this book about 10 years  after the camp liberation. He explains in the introduction that he was writing it because so many couldn’t tell the story because they didn’t survive. He needed to give voice to the experience so it could not be forgotten.

I don’t even need to explain that this is a harrowing read. Harrowing, but important. I am shocked I had not heard of it before seeing it on my reading challenge list for this year. It’s a very short book, so if you haven’t read it yet, you can do it in an hour or so.

Book Review: Beloved – Toni Morrison

This is a book that will break your heart. The story of Sethe, and those she knows, gradually unravels. She was born into slavery and manages to escape, though of course, her experiences never leave her. It’s about an how someone might rather kill her children than see them taken back into slavery.

beloved

This book is about the worst in people. About racism and about how vile people can do vile things to other humans in the name of power, profit and thinking they are superior. It’s also about love and what on earth that can mean when you’re whole life makes you feel used and wretched.

Heartbreaking, difficult, raw, but with touches of hopefulness and joy. I’m glad I read this.

Update 26/2/2017

Last night I watched The Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. It is set in pre-civil war times in 1858, and covers themes of slavery in America. Beloved is set in the post civil war era (after 1865), but covers the same era as Django Unchained in the characters histories. It really helped bring Beloved to life to see a visualisation of the world of Beloved.

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I have never studied American history and had no clear visual idea of what 1860s Kentucky would look like, for example. In Django you see the American west (I hadn’t even managed to put together this era in the same time frame as Beloved!), then they move to the South and the plantations. You see the slave collars described in Beloved and generally get an idea of what the landscape might have looked like.

Django has it’s problems, but is a good entertaining film. There are issues with the representation of most of the slaves though and I certainly didn’t watch it thinking it was telling me anything real about slave life.

Book review: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Oh wow, I loved this book. Unbelievable that it was published in 1953, it felt like it could have been written last year. It’s also written in beautiful poetic prose.

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reading at my desk at work.

Guy Montag is a fireman. Firemen set fires in this dystopian future where books are banned. If books are discovered, the firemen are sent in to find them and burn them.

The population are kept busy with frivolous soaps and constant meaningless, shallow entertainment. To think deeply is not ok. When recounting their society’s history, it is said:

‘the word “intellectual”, of course,  became the swear word it deserved to be’

There was a race to make everyone feel like no one was their intellectual superior, and books were banned before they knew it.

Guy begins to realise he is unhappy with his life. He is utterly disconnected from his wife. A war is going on for reasons he can’t recall. He remembers dimly knowing that firemen used to put out fires, not start them…

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It’s scary how current this all feels. Attacks on facts and science and intellectualism seem to be rife in politics, especially in America. I know I’ve been shocked by political events this last year (Brexit, Trump, ffs! ) and perhaps I’m realising how much of an echo chamber I exist in.

This book read like a warning that we could all do with. I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie Nolan, a poor 11 year old girl, and her family. During the course of the book she becomes 17 and you will probably age about the same amount as Francie does, because this book is so very long.

Reading this book, I felt like I have been to Brooklyn in the 1900s. I feel like I’ve smelt the air, seen the streets and can recreate it in my mind. The truth is, I’ve never even been to modern day Brooklyn. The descriptions in this book are beautiful and vivid.

Francie has a desperately poor upbringing. Her mother is caring, strong willed and quite harsh with her in an effort to prepare her for a hard life, though she tries with all her might to make a better life for her kids. Her father is likeable, but an alcoholic who has always struggled with providing for his family. She has a younger brother and an extended family, with two aunts taking significant roles in Francie’s life.

Francie is a bright girl who struggles to make friends. She loves reading and is determined to get herself educated so she has a chance of escaping the awful poverty she’s grown up with.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn gets a bit sentimental at times, but it’s a lovely story of a young girl growing up and dealing with the shit life throws at you. The parts where she starts to see the shabbiness of her surrounding with more grown up eyes, and starts to see how other people see her shambles of a father are heartbreaking. This picture of family life is worth the investment of time and is an easy read.

I enjoyed this glimpse of Francie’s life. but I really wish it was 200 pages shorter!