Tag: 1001 books to read


Must Read Monday: Falling Man

Posted 28 September, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Falling ManFalling Man by Don DeLillo
Published by Pan Macmillan on September 23rd 2011
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 260
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Falling Man begins on September 11, in the smoke and ash of the burning towers. In the days and the years following, we trace the aftermath of this global tremor in the private lives of a few reticulated individuals. Theirs are lives choreographed by loss, by grief and by the enormous force of history. From these intimate portraits, DeLillo shifts to an extrapolated vision: he charts the way the events have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world.

I started Falling Man shortly after the 14th anniversary of 9/11. As a thirty-something American 9/11 was an event that affected me profoundly, perhaps shaped me in ways that I’m still not completely aware of. DeLillo’s Falling Man is brilliant and beautiful. It’s almost less a novel and more long form poetry.

The writing is gorgeous, the main characters are fully fleshed out and relatable. I anticipate a complaint that many readers may have is that there isn’t a whole lot of action. This is true, Falling Man is more of a character study than a plot driven novel, but I find these characters – an estranged husband and wife living in New York City when the towers fall to be fully fleshed out and completely believable and relatable to an extent. The horror, shock, and … to an extent PTSD that they experience in the days, months, and years after 9/11 is something that is familiar to many Americans.

Falling Man is both an everyman novel and a novel about what it means to belong and grieve, what it means to need religion to an extent that it is able to justify the killing of innocents, what it means to harbor unfair stereotypes and how sometimes it is impossible to rid ourselves of these unfair stereotypes.

I guess what I really want to say is that DeLillo is a genius and this slim novel is beautiful and beautifully written. People who need a lot of plot in their lives aren’t going to be a fan of this novel, but I can’t recommend Falling Man highly enough to those of us who love a good character study.

What about you, Reader? Whether you’re an American or international did 9/11 affect you profoundly? Are you a fan of character studies? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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If This, Then That: Emma and Clueless

Posted 14 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

If This, Then That: Emma and CluelessEmma by Jane Austen
Published by Wild Jot Press on 1815
Genres: Classics, Fiction
Pages: 298
Goodreads
four-stars

Arrogant, self-willed and egotistical, Emma is Jane Austen's most unusual heroine. Her interfering ways and inveterate matchmaking are at once shocking and comic. She is 'handsome, clever and rich' and has 'a disposition to think too well of herself'. When she decides to introduce the humble Harriet Smith to the delights of genteel society and to find her a suitable husband, she precipitates herself and her immediate circle into a web of misunderstanding and intrigue, from which no-one emerges unchanged. Juliet Stevenson, an incomparable reader, is for many the voice of Jane Austen.

I’ve long known that Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but since I’m not a huge Austen fan it took me a long time to verify for myself. I listened to Emma on audio and actually found it immensely enjoyable. Naturally, I was trying to figure out who was who in Clueless. According to the Wikipedia page, I was pretty on point except that I thought that Dionne and Murray were Ms. Taylor and Mr. Weston, instead of Isabella and John Knightly.

Clueless poster

Despite being set in ’90s Beverly Hills, Clueless is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of Austen’s classic. I loved Emma, even if she was a little shallow and well, rather… clueless. There were times when I pretty much wanted to shank her dad, Mr. Woodhouse. I wanted him to just let the people eat. I mean really. As if!

as if gif

I enjoyed the push and pull of Frank Churchill and Austen’s expert rendering of Emma’s inner dialogue. Her tumultuous feelings about Jane Fairfax that seemed to change at the drop of a hat, the cattiness and youthful irritation she feels towards Miss Bates — I just enjoyed it all.

I love that Emma is both a classic comedy of manners and a cautionary tale to young people who presume to know it all before their time, the dangers of assumptions, and why we should just all be up front and honest.

While when listening to the audio, I didn’t visualize most of the characters from Clueless, George Knightly was the exception I couldn’t envision the character chasing Emma up the hill or socializing in her sitting room without thinking of the adorable Paul Rudd.

prudd

I enjoyed Emma more than I thought I would, based on experiences by similar authors of this time period. It’s definitely worth the read. Clueless is definitely worth the comparison watch.

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about Austen? Clueless? Emma? Let’s chat!

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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1001 Mini Reviews

Posted 24 July, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

So, as you can see from my tabs above I’m attempting the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010) challenge. I’m not reviewing every book, but when I get low on other things to talk about they make for some good backlist discussion. I have three recent reads turned mini reviews for you.

1001 mini

Zorba the Greek by: Nikos Kazantzakis – #573

Short Synopsis: Two men travel to Crete together. The narrator opens a lignite mine and Zorba talks a lot.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was definitely not my cuppa. I know it was originally published in 1946 but I found Zorba’s attitudes towards and about women to be nearly offensive. The meandering conversations between the narrator and Zorba feel absolutely dated and dull. Maybe something was lost in translation, but this book didn’t work at all for me. 2/5 stars.

Neuromancer by: William Gibson – #233

Short Synopsis: Gritty sci-fi, dystopian future where data thieves and hackers are major players in the criminal underworld and one hacker has to take on an AI for a mysterious employer.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was almost too gritty for me. I have to disagree with comparisons to 1984 and Brave New World, those are way better than Neuromancer. By no means is this book bad, I read it in a matter of days, but it was kind of ‘meh’ for me. I think that people who really enjoy this genre will really enjoy this book. 3/5 stars.

Underworld by: Don DeLillo – #71

Short Synopsis: … I can’t even. Here’s Goodreads:

While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the Cold War and American culture, compelling that “swerve from evenness” in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying.

Itty Bitty Review: I know… what? Which is pretty much my reaction to the whole book. Anyone who cares to explain this book to me I would greatly appreciate it. For real. I missed something deep AND important with this book and I love DeLillo’s White Noise. I can’t even rate it because I don’t know what the hell it’s about.

Read any big classic or modern classic novels lately, Reader?Does anyone understand Underworld?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Where She’s an Exhausted Reader

Posted 12 July, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sundaysalon-200-pixshark

Time // 8:27 AM EDT

This Week // Started my new job. I think it’s going to be a great fit, outside of the commute. I love prosecuting – largely because it doesn’t require me to bill hours or bring in new clients. Oh, and the whole justice for all thing being in my hands is fulfilling as well.  Yesterday Mr. SFR and I went to look at houses closer to the job site, but since he works in the opposite direction the whole thing is going to be tricky. Especially with Atlanta traffic.

Office

My big girl, fancy pants office that I’m quite pleased with.

Now // I brought some case files home that I need to work on a bit to get ahead for next week. I don’t anticipate every weekend being this way, but since I inherited a ton of files – well, it’s catchup time.

Needing // Time and inclination to write and schedule a ton of reviews in advance! My poor comrades at The Socratic Salon are always waiting on my to make my menial contributions to our discussions. Obviously the blog is in the pits as well.

Reading // Okay… well listening… I’ve been making some serious headway into Vanity Fair during my commute and while that time period is definitely far from my favorite — I’m kind of loving it. It’s smart, sassy, and I don’t care what people say about Becky Sharpe, she’s one smart cookie. Amelia makes me want to barf. Before I go to sleep at night I’m listening to Wizard and Glass still. I get home and I’m just so tired that audio is really working well for me all the way around.

Though, I have read the first fifty pages of the new Matthew Quick novel, Love May Fail, and it’s pretty arresting too. Hopefully it won’t take me a decade to finish it.

Good week here, Reader! How was yours? 

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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April Readin’ Roundup

Posted 2 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

This month I had some good, bad, and ugly. But let’s start with everyone’s favorite part – the stats!

I completed 12 books. Dept. of Speculation and Cinder not pictured above.

The page tally is technically 2997 because I finally ended my long suffering by finishing the audio version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Review forthcoming, but I really didn’t care for this book.

I actually kept up with most of my reviews!

Cinder
Lexicon
Flare
My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag
The Myth of the Spoiled Child
Little House on the Prairie
Dept. of Speculation

I didn’t review Lolita, however I did participate in the discussions hosted by Love at First Book. I may or may not write a review. I found this book to be complex, but detestable.

Part One
Part Two

The Door is a poetry collection by Margaret Atwood that I read in honor of National Poetry Month – I shared a poem called Gasoline from this collection. I’m still not sure how to go about reviewing a collection of unconnected poetry. 

Good Bones and Simple Murders was an amazing collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood, I can’t wait to write my review… except of course, I haven’t.
Finally, there was Pastrix which is quite simply one of the most amazing books that I’ve read all year. It’s queued up for review. But I’ll tell you right now, you need to go read it.
What about you, Reader? How was your bookish/reading April?
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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Femme Friday: A Town Like Alice

Posted 24 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Femme Friday: A Town Like AliceA Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, General, Historical
Pages: 351
Goodreads
four-stars

Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean is back in England, the nightmare behind her. However, an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved her life. Jean travels leads her to a desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she finds a challenge that will draw on all the resourcefulness and spirit that carried her through her war-time ordeals.

I was pleasantly surprised with A Town Like Alice. I was a little afraid to pick it up because I love On the Beach so much, and I knew that this was going to be a completely different type of novel.

 Different it was, but it was still incredibly well done. A Town Like Alice chronicles the experience of a woman taken prisoner by the Japanese in WWII-era Malaysia. This is the strongest section of the book and is made even more fascinating by the fact that it was based on a true story. 

Jean Paget is a formidable heroine who endures setting up shop in the Australian outback and working in Malaysian rice paddies with strength and dignity. It’s been a long time since I’ve run across a female lead who was as strong, smart, and determined as Jean is. 

Every time I thought I grasped what the central plot or theme of the book was, it changed. I love that the reader is taken from Scotland to Malaysia to London to Australia. It can’t quite be described as a travelogue as the travel settings are generally quite harrowing. 

There’s a ‘love’ element in this book, but I definitely felt like it played second fiddle to the other trials that Jean goes through, it’s not really a central theme in the book. It’s used more as a plot device to propel the story forward at times.

 Excellent piece of fiction, it definitely deserves to be on the zillion ‘best-of’ lists that it’s found on.
#545 – 1001 Books You Must Read (2010)
April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Looking Towards 2014 in Books

Posted 1 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

I’m pretty pleased with my reading in 2013. 83 books, 23,444 pages up from 18,930 pages and 61 books in 2012. I need to consider my goals for this year. I far exceeded the 65 books that I set for myself in 2013… I blame the blog.

I suppose this is as good of a place as any to list out reading challenges for 2014. This is my first New Years with the blog, so I’ll just start with the challenges that I already am thinking about. 

We’ll start with Goodreads: 

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
April has read 0 books toward her goal of 100 books.
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Though with Goodreads pages are really more important to me than books, so I’m also going to aim for 25,000 pages.

The Chunkster Challenge

 I like big books and I cannot lie. I know, that was super original. This year, I pledge at least 12 Chunksters.

Chunkster (noun):an adult or YA book, non-fiction or fiction, that’s 450 pages or more.

 

1001 Book You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
I want to read at least fifteen books towards the 1001 Book Challenge.

I’m missing reading challenges. I know it. Comment and tell me which ones I need to add!

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Surprising Sunday: Tess of d’Urbervilles

Posted 22 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Surprising Sunday: Tess of d’UrbervillesTess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Published by Harper & Brothers Publishers on 1920
Pages: 508
four-half-stars

Tess Durbeyfield, a peasant girl and cast-off descendant of English aristocracy, has become one of the most famous female protagonists in 19th-century British literature. Betrayed by the two men in her life - Alec D’Urberville, her seducer/rapist and father of her fated child; and Angel, her intellectual and pious husband - Tess takes justice, and her own destiny, into her delicate hands. In telling her desperate and passionate story, Hardy brings Tess to life with an extraordinary vividness that makes her live in the heart of the reader long after the novel is concluded.

I decided to pick up this audio-book for my drive from Chicago to Atlanta. I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it was. I had been dreading this book for a long time, but knew I was going to have to read it eventually if I ever wanted to complete the 1001 Books to Read Challenge.

This book was surprisingly modern. Tess is a strong female character. From the beginning she’s not afraid to do what is necessary for her family, even when her mother and father seem childish and much more naive than Tess. She takes responsibility for things that she feels are her fault and works extraordinarily hard throughout the entire novel. 

She can’t quite be classified as a feminist, as she accepts her lot and often feels as if it’s her fault. But she is stoic and strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas Hardy was a feminist of sorts. That of course, is solely based on this novel. 

Alec d’Urberville is immediately unlikable. This is (naturally) reinforced after he rapes Tess. The language that Hardy uses surrounding the rape is full of euphemisms. It probably took me about half of the book to solidly determine that she had been raped and not just seduced. 


Angel Clare starts out likable enough, wooing and insisting on Tess to take his hand in marriage, that is until he turns into a total hypocritical ass. He’s also nearly an atheist in a family of pious people. His choice to reject the faith of his father results in his loss of the opportunity for a university education – instead he decides to take up the lifestyle of a gentleman farmer, which puts Tess directly in his path. 

I was rather shocked by the ending. 

Narration was good, unremarkable.

#814 – 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Formidable Friday: Infinite Jest

Posted 20 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Formidable Friday: Infinite JestInfinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Published by Little, Brown Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 1088
Goodreads
five-stars

A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human - and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do.

Upon finishing this book the first feeling that I had was elation that I had actually finished it. Infinite Jest is an extraordinary book, but it is difficult and you do have to want it.

Catch-22 and Brave New World seem to have influenced Wallace in writing this book. There are tons of characters and the point of view changes at the drop of a hat. This is not a book to be read casually. I read every night before I go to bed but this book requires both concentration and dedication, do not try to read this after you’ve had a few drinks, you’ll probably get lost and crash somewhere in the desert. (If you’re lucky you’ll get to talk to a cross-dressing spy.)


There are points where Wallace gets a little Ayn Rand-ish. He goes off on long tangents (usually about tennis) that don’t hold a lot of substance for the story, but I think that if you focus on it, it’s easy enough to comprehend and there were only a few times I found myself bored.

Despite all of my dread warnings, I really did enjoy this book. It delves into the meaning of entertainment, addiction, and possibly where the two intersect. This is a fantastic book, but it’s not for everyone. Most of the story takes place between an elite private tennis academy and a halfway house that share the same name in ‘near-future’ Boston. Part of what makes this book difficult are copious undefined acronyms – intentionally undefined acronyms, most of them are resolved by the latter third of the book, but trying to work out what exactly they mean both engages the reader and is kind of fun.

Published in 1998, Wallace managed to predict the rise of the internet in the life of a modern American, the War on Terror, and the continuation of vapid consumerism in our culture. It is incredibly relevant today.

 “In a 2008 retrospective by The New York Times, Infinite Jest was described as “a masterpiece that’s also a monster — nearly 1,100 pages of mind-blowing inventiveness and disarming sweetness. Its size and complexity make it forbidding and esoteric.”

This book made me fall in love with David Foster Wallace, but after reading it you have to decompress. I’m (slowly) making my way through Consider the Lobster which is a collection of his essays. If you’re unsure whether or not this book is for you try a few of his essays to see if you enjoy his writing style or not.

#84 – 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Frightful Friday: This Way for the the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

Posted 25 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Frightful Friday: This Way for the the Gas, Ladies and GentlemenThis Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski
Published by Penguin on 1976
Genres: Classics, Fiction, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 180
Goodreads
four-stars

Published in Poland after World War II, this collection of concentration camp stories shows atrocious crimes becoming an unremarkable part of a daily routine. Prisoners eat, work, sleep, and fall in love a few yards from where other prisoners are systematically slaughtered. The will to survive overrides compassion, and the line between the normal and the abnormal wavers, then vanishes. Borowski, a concentration camp victim himself, understood what human beings will do to endure the unendurable. Together, these stories constitute not only a masterpiece of Polish - and world - literature but stand as cruel testimony to the level of inhumanity of which man is capable.


This book is simply amazing. As Monty Python might say, “…and now for something completely different…”

I’ve read much literature written out of the Nazi concentration camps. It’s all dreadful. Most famously Eli Wiesel’s account in Night. One aches when they read it. 

This is just as horrible… but extraordinarily different. For one, this is written by a Pole, an ‘Aryan’, in Auschwitz. Because of this fact he was granted more ‘rights’ than the Jews. This is not an account that I have read before. What’s so dreadful about Borowski’s account is the ordinariness of which he describes the day by day life in the camp in. 

It seems as if there is a “Yes, yes. We just saw 20k people who are on their way to the gas chamber to be slaughtered — but what can I trade you for that onion?”

Fabulous. Read it.

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#556 – 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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