Unfocused Reading: The Book Review List

During my year off from writing, I did try to keep up with my reading. One chapter or 25 pages a day, whichever felt easier at that particular moment. If writing is my passion, reading is the fuel that keeps that flame alive. I remember reading somewhere about the strong correlation between reading and one’s writing ability. And while I do strongly believe in that connection, I also believe that reading is the gateway to one’s emotional and mental expansion.

Reading, and specifically reading multiple forms and genres of literature, allows you to move between cultures, exercise your imagination, and cultivates empathy. It forces you into seeing things from another person’s, the author’s or the protagonist’s, perspective.

Now, I wasn’t always successful when it came to reading every day. I am, unfortunately, a creature of comfort—and comfortable reading means uninterrupted reading. Also, I have a tendency to read multiple books at the same time. I suppose it’s the very same lack of focus that’s hounded me from childhood and continues to affect me today. At the moment, I’m currently reading Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, Maria Arana’s and The Washington Post’s The Writing Life, Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. As for my active rereads, that would be Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes and Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project.

Suffice to say, my unfinished stack of books is prominently bigger than the ‘done’ pile. Besides, a book review requires a thorough rereading. The first time I read a book, I read for pleasure. The second time, for insight. Now, I’ve met many people, very intelligent and voracious readers, who never reread their books. But for me, rereading is an oddly and immensely comforting activity. It’s like spending time with an old and trusty friend who rarely ever disappoints.

Obviously, I’ve gone way off track here. Let me rein this post back in. The following, in no particular order, is my current Book Review and To-Reread List.

  1. Mercedes by Stephen King
  2. The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey
  3. Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
  4. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
  5. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  6. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  7. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  8. The Devil Earl by Deborah Simmons
  9. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  10. A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare

I did enjoy those books a lot, so here’s to hoping the rereads will help yield decent reviews.

Cheers!

September: The Jane Austen Marathon

 

September is my Austen Month—and what better way to kick-start my Jane Austen Marathon than with her first published work (and a personal favorite), Sense and Sensibility? Yes, I do intend to get swept off my feet by the wicked and dashing Willoughby. I also fully intend on immersing myself completely in Marianne’s and Elinor’s affairs. Never mind that I’ve read this novel far too many times for my own good—five times, but who’s keeping count, right? I will reread each of Austen’s novels and review each work. If all goes well, I’ll also be making side-by-side comparisons when it comes to character development, technique, and the general plot.

That may seem like a tall order, but ever the Girl Scout, I have started reading Sense and Sensibility. I started a couple of days ago and things are just about to get juicy. Just anticipating what will happen next creates a strange feeling in my bosom. A feeling that can only be accurately described as nerdgasmic.

 Now, over the last few years, I’ve formed certain opinions about Austen’s works. Let’s see if this year’s marathon will change any of them:

Favorite Work: Sense and Sensibility

Favorite Character: Elinor Dashwood (S&S)

Favorite Villain/s: Lucy Steele (S&S), Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park)

Favorite Love Interest: Fitzwilliam Darcy (P&P)

Least Favorite Character: Fanny Price (Mansfield Park)

Least Favorite Work: Mansfield Park

I can see a few changes in that list happening. But I refuse to replace anything without having finished all six of Austen’s novels. Now, I plan on reading her works by order of publication—which means I’ll start off with Sense and Sensibility (1811), followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), then Mansfield Park (1814), then Emma (1815), then Northanger Abbey (posthumous, 1818), and finally, end with Persuasion (posthumous, 1818). Should be a great month, I think. And, back to reading.

 

Image: Jane Austen as drawn by her sister, Cassandra Austen. (1810)

Book #7: The Virgin Suicides

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Genre: Fiction; Mystery/Drama

First Published: 1993

Status: Read

Pages: 243

Rating: A-

 

“Offering a stark and profound take on teenage suicide and how it affects an entire community, The Virgin Suicides is an extraordinary debut piece from an exceptional novelist.”

 

Set in Grosse Point, Michigan in the 1970s, The Virgin Suicides recounts the events leading to and following the suicides of the Lisbon sisters. In the book, Jeffrey Eugenides shows the viewpoint of a community trying to make sense of the girls’ deaths. The story is told in the first person plural perspective, where the narrator is a member of a group of boys who went to school with the sisters.

Like the rest of the community, the boys experience an intense fascination with the Lisbon sisters. Years after the girls’ deaths, the narrator is still remembering, recounting the events leading to the girls’ suicides. Interviews are conducted and recorded. Personal items are gathered as ‘evidence’. All possible information about the sisters are compiled and recorded in this book.

The book opens with the final suicide attempt from the last Lisbon daughter, Mary. Mary had overdosed on sleeping pills. Although the paramedics find her breathing, all efforts to save her are futile. Like the rest of her sisters, Mary was meant to die. Take it from the book’s title. This isn’t the case of a single suicide. All five of the Lisbon girls die—some in particularly gruesome ways.

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7 Books that Changed My Life

To quote James Bryce: “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” To me, the following books are wellsprings of information. In them are endless lessons on writing, life, faith, love, and everything in between. I don’t think it’s possible to outgrow or get tired of any of these books.

So, without further ado (and in no particular order), the 7 books that changed my life: 

#1: Letters to A Young Poet by Rainier Maria Rilke

First Read: Freshman Year, College (2003)

Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror” might’ve gotten me started on poetry, but it was Rilke’s letters which brought out my passion in writing. This collection of letters from Rilke gives some of the most poignant and practical advice on becoming a writer. With every letter Rilke writes to the “young poet”, Franz Xaver Kappus, we’re also somewhat privy to the innermost musings of one of the most beloved literary figures of the 20th century.

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Reading List: The Next 10 Books

In no particular order, except for the Jane Austen Marathon, my reading list for the next month or two.

Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture (2008)

Virginia Woolf – Three Guineas (1938) – reread

Jeffrey Eugenides – The Virgin Suicides (1993)

Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999)

THE JANE AUSTEN MARATHON

Sense and Sensibility (1811) – reread

Pride and Prejudice (1813) – reread

Mansfield Park (1814) – reread

Emma (1815)

Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)

Persuasion (1818, posthumous) – reread

Wild Card/s:

Woody Allen – Without Feathers (1975) reread

Woody Allen – The Insanity Defense: The Complete Prose (2007)

Book in Wish List: “I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie” – Miss Pamela Des Barres (love her!)

Next For Review: Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding (1996)

I promised myself I’d reread a book for every new book I buy, hence the number of items marked as rereads. Will now be scouring the net for other books to buy.