Monday, May 26, 2008

The Twentieth Century

O.k., now on to the Twentieth Century books from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. In this time frame I've read:

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
Ulysses (James Joyce)
Billy Budd (Herman Melville)
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
Absalom! Absalom (William Faulkner)
Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
On the Road (Jack Kerouac)
Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Ken Kesey)
In Cold Blood (Truman Capote)
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)
The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)
Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison)
The World According to Garp (John Irving)
Beloved (Toni Morrison)
A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Louis de Bernieres)

The books I still have on my "to read" list for this century are The Color Purple (Alice Walker), Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five (both Kurt Vonnegut), Catch-22 (Joseph Heller), and three by Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye.

I think it was at this century that I was most acutely aware of how inappropriate the title of this book is. I definitely could have lived my entire life without reading either book by James Joyce, and I would have probably been better off for it. I've never been so turned off by a writer as I was by him. The Hobbit's only effect on me was to inform me that I don't like the fantasy genre. I was very surprised not to see any of Ayn Rand's books. I don't agree with her philosophy...I rarely agree with extremists, but I took a lot out of my experience of reading those. The World According to Garp was an entertaining read, but as a reader, I grew more from reading The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy. Reading is such a personal experience that no one list can be defined for all people of what they must read before they die. I think the greatest experience you can have is exposing yourself to a variety: a variety of genres, a variety of authors, a variety of time periods, a variety of philosophies...that is the great thing about reading...that variety is out there and you can CHOOSE it!

All that being said, I'll go ahead and wrap up the book with the Twenty-First Century, where I have read NONE of the books from the list. Of course given the fact that we've barely scratched the surface with this century, it isn't surprising. However, I was surprised to find several from my "to read" list here: Life of Pi (Yann Martel), The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen), Atonement (Ian McEwan) and Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides).

I haven't read much from their overall list - 51 total. I won't be running out to grab many of the ones I haven't read either. I'm very content in my reading these days. I don't really need a list to dictate to me what I should read. I have plenty to keep me busy for a long, long time!

Happy Reading!


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