Thursday, February 27, 2014

22 Books You Pretend You’ve Read But Actually Haven’t

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Why you should actually read it: Dickens gives readers a good lesson in why you should be kind to strangers, because you never know who they really are.
My take: Totally not interested.

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What you think it’s about: A couple of short dudes go on a long vacation with a taller dude, and eventually Ethan Hawke shows up.
Why you should actually read it: Before there was J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, there was J.R.R. Tolkien and The Hobbit. In order to have a handle on modern-day fantasy it’s always good to have some context.
My take: I have read it.

3. The Bible

What you think it’s about: A group of guys had a bet as to how many stories, characters, and themes they could fit into one book which would then spawn a number of organized religions and phenomenons.
Why you should actually read it: Regardless of your religious affiliation, the Bible is an integral piece of historical literature that shaped countless other texts.
My take: I have read it. Although, it took me three classes and a year to do so.

4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

What you think it’s about: Sailors who listen to electronic music get pissed when they can’t track down their favorite DJ. What a dick.
Why you should actually read it: Melville’s novel is one of the major works of American Romanticism and has one of the most famous first sentences in English literary history.
My take: I think I will pass, but thanks.

5. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

What you think it’s about: An architect skips class all the time and hangs out at the water fountain in his school hallway, which is how he earns this nickname that sticks with him forever.
Why you should actually read it: You shouldn’t.
My take: I will take your advice!

6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

What you think it’s about: An old guy goes on a fishing trip.
Why you should actually read it: Because you probably skipped it in high school and you’ll have a greater appreciation for it, and for the sea, as an older person.
My take: If that's the best reason you can give me (which is very weak), I don't think I will read it.

7. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

What you think it’s about: One college professor who gets way too close to his student’s younger sister is criticized for falling in love instead of babysitting her.
Why you should actually read it: It’s a pretty important lesson in what not to do when it comes to love, romance, and relationships.
My take: This one is on my list to read.

8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

What you think it’s about: A young Leonardo DiCaprio cons 22 people out of millions of dollars.
Why you should actually read it: The real plot in Catch-22 inspired a new phrase in the English language that means “a difficult situation for which there is no easy or possible solution.”
My take: I may read this one. Any title that adds a phrase to the lexicon is reason enough for me.

9. 1984 by George Orwell

What you think it’s about: A story based on one of the original Apple computer commercials.
Why you should actually read it: The problems highlighted in Orwell’s popular novel are still very relevant to the world we live in today.
My take: Read this one in high school

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What you think it’s about: A bird-watching walk gets completely out of hand.
Why you should actually read it: Harper Lee’s work of literature is an essential read that deals with serious historical issues around race that had often gone ignored.
My take: Read it and loved it.

11. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

What you think it’s about: A book about war that’s interesting until page 200, and then it mainly turns into a doorstop.
Why you should actually read it: To be able to say you’ve read a major “classic” and earn bragging rights since War and Peace is known as one of the longest books ever written.
My take: I don't need bragging rights. Give me a good reason.

12. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

What you think it’s about: Pirates spend their whole lives looking for gold but no one told them that “X” marks the spot.
Why you should actually read it: This classic tale is a glimpse into what young adult novels and children’s literature looked like in 19th century America.
My take: Poor pirates. I may look at adding this one to the list.

13. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

What you think it’s about: A bored lady who uses men and material things to fulfill her otherwise dull life, as told by a privileged male.
Why you should read it: To have a better understanding of sexism circa France in the mid-1800s.
My take: Interesting premise, and I may read it.

14. The Odyssey by Homer

What you think it’s about: One soldier goes on a very, very long vacation that shifts from a fun-filled adventure to a tale of survival.
Why you should actually read it: This tome was originally recited by Homer before it was written down, making The Odyssey a significant piece of history you can actually touch.
My take: Beautifully written, lyrical, and recommended.

15. Ulysses by James Joyce

What you think it’s about: A United States war general goes into lots of detail about his battle strategies.
Why you should actually read it: Ulysses is the trendsetter of highly experimental fiction and challenges your imagination to work in overdrive.
My take: "Highly experimental fiction"? I need to do some research on this.

16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What you think it’s about: All the ego and discrimination that’s fit to print.
Why you should read it: The novel shows readers that sometimes a search for identity and sense of self doesn’t have to come from a great adventure; it can also happen in the confines of day-to-day living.
My take: I have tried to read this so many times that I have lost count. Haven't succeeded yet.

17. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

What you think it’s about: A story about a woman who lives a very, very, very, very long life — 400 pages long, in fact.
Why you should actually read it: If you can get past the tough language and considerable amount of pages, Jane Eyre explores a number of important themes like gender, sexuality, class, and religion.
My take: Yuck

18. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

What you think it’s about: Walt Disney, a biography.
Why you should actually read it: It’s a short read that serves as a portrait of America during the Great Depression and is also an important depiction of friendship.
My take: Read it and didn't see the big deal.

19. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Why you should actually read it: Sylvia Plath unapologetically delves into the complicated nature of patriarchy and oppression.
My take: Plath was a whiney-crybaby who was able to provide good sound-bytes.

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

Why you should actually read it: J.D. Salinger wrote one of the best coming-of-age novels in recent history, and it definitely won’t leave you bored.
My take: I abhor all things Salinger, with this thinly-veiled biography at the top.

21. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Why you should actually read it: The Scarlet Letter is an important text that grapples with slut-shaming and gender politics that challenges 19th century American Puritanical values.
My take: Worth reading, in my opinion.

22. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Why you should actually read it: Dostoevsky addresses the concept of morality and causes readers to wonder whether the end really does justify the means.
My take: I can see why this is assigned reading. It's not a difficult book to read, and there is literary merit galore!
Correction: This article original stated that Madame Bovary is set in Russia, but it actually takes place in France.
Originally from

Friday, February 21, 2014

Children's Books - Da Heck?!

Thanks to

Who Pooped In The Park?

inappropriate kids books pooped park

Maggie Goes On A Diet

inappropriate kids books maggie diet

Pooh Gets Stuck

inappropriate kids books pooh stuck

Hiroshima No Pika

inappropriate kids books hiroshima

Who Cares About Disabled People?

inappropriate kids books disabled people

Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy

inappropriate kids books satan

Hair In Funny Places

inappropriate kids books

The Night Dad Went To Jail

inappropriate kids books dad jail

Binge-Reading - Nothing New for a Reader

I am seeing more and more articles on "binge-reading". I don't know if journalists are not readers, but I have to assume that's the case with these writers. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a big deal.

After all, binge-reading is nothing new for the committed, dedicated, life-long reader. We binge-read regularly, don't we?

I know readers who will wait until an entire series is out so they can read them back-to-back. I have found existing series that I do the same thing.

Some of my binge-reading:

Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews
Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz
The Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz
Jack Daniels Mysteries by J. A. Konrath
The Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson

So, what is the hubbub with this "new" term? We have been doing this since...the beginning of reading!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thomas Jefferson was a READER!

Thomas Jefferson

Name: Thomas Jefferson, President

Served: 1801-1809

Favorite Book: Whatever he was reading.

Background: If John Adams was a big reader, then his one-time friend and one-time enemy Thomas Jefferson was a HUGE reader. Jefferson was known to collect books on a wide manner of subjects and stash volumes throughout his home, Monticello, in various rooms in case he ever found himself bored or with time to kill.

At one point, Jefferson’s personal library was the largest personal collection in the country. He even sold it to the government to help replace the Library of Congress when the British burned Washington down during the War of 1812. Jefferson’s constant purchasing of books also seems to have been a detriment to his finances and probably played some part in his bankruptcy at the time of his death. So yeah… picking just one book beloved by Jefferson is probably impossible.

Did you know: The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was a book constructed by Thomas Jefferson in the latter years of his life by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson's condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels which contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages indicating Jesus was divine.

Crazy, huh?
Thanks to BuzzFeed and Google for this info

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen
Twenty-seven-year-old Josey is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season; she's a sorry excuse for a Southern belle; and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night. Until she finds her closet harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tender-hearted woman who is one part nemesis - and two parts fairy godmother.

My take: 4 looks
Goodness, how I love Sarah Addison Allen books. She is real, whimsical, and mystical all at once. That's quite the combination! And I love books in which books are a main character. And the books in this book are hilarious!

Main character Josey is strong, capable and a little damaged, just like most women in the world. She is a very likable character, and you are rooting for her from the first page.

Surrounded by flawed characters, each person has a struggle to work through, and does so beautifully throughout the story. It's a book about love, overcoming fear, accepting fate, and letting go of the past. Wrap that up with a bow of magically appearing books and the hint of a murder, and you have a delicious reading treat!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

19 Short Novels For The Shortest Month Of The Year February is a brief month that lingers. The days are short on sunlight and long on emotion. The newness of resolutions fades far more quickly than the piles of snow growing in the streets. Valentine’s Day doesn’t help matters, breeding dread in much of the population and causing emotions to run riot — despair, fear, love, and some unholy combination of all three.
The titles below are novels that embody February. Some are turbulent and choppy, while others are beautifully lyrical; some bleed hard truths, and some are easy reads. All of them are short and brimming with emotion.

1. Tinkers by Paul Harding

Tinkers by Paul Harding
George Washington Carver is dying. The elderly clock repairman withers on his deathbed throughout Paul Harding’s remarkable debut novel. Amidst delusion and suffering, Carver remembers his life and his father, Howard. In the living room of the house he built, Carver evaluates the life he’s leaving. Tinkers is a slow, contemplative, and quiet book with long, beautiful descriptions of snow, dirt, and ticking clocks vivid enough to fill your senses for days.
Recommended for: The literature lover who wants to slow down. And those trapped inside because of massive snow drifts.

My take: at 192 pages, this is probably worth a read. Adding it to my list.
Sula by Toni Morrison

 2. Sula by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is best known for her Nobel Prize-winning novel Beloved, but her second novel Sula also features the emotional heft, racial analysis, and strong female protagonists for which Morrison is known. The novel follows the growth of Nel and Sula’s friendship as they fight to overcome overwhelming trauma throughout the course of their lives. Sula is more than a story about female friendship; it is a novel about how people live when reconciliation isn’t an option and betrayal becomes expected. Devotion in many forms is the backbone of Sula, whether it manifests as a dangerous, bulletproof love or a fiery, unforgivable passion.
Recommended for: Anyone interested in the impact that race in America can have on personal lives, and anyone with a best friend for a valentine.

My take: I cannot recommend anything by Toni Morrison.
Night by Elie Wiesel

3. Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is a story of the Holocaust. In this slim book that straddles the line between memoir and novel, Elie Wiesel guides readers through his experience with his father in the Nazi concentration camps. Wiesel’s father dies in the camps, and so does his belief in God and goodness. Everything is destroyed for Elie and his father in just over 100 pages. Despite its brevity, Night isn’t an easy book to read. With lines like, “They went by, fallen, dragging their packs, dragging their lives, deserting their homes, the years of their childhood, cringing like beaten dogs,” Night is a story about that which cannot be resolved.

Recommended for: Readers who love history, and those who want to feel the words that they read like bricks in their stomachs.

My take: Should be required reading, if only to ensure this event in history is never, ever forgotten
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

4. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

Twelve-year-old Frankie Addams loves her brother and his new wife so much that she is almost certain they’ll let her join them on their honeymoon. Frankie is bored with her life in her small Southern town, and — to amuse herself — takes on a very active role in her brother’s wedding, letting her unbridled imagination run free. But despite the humor that arises from Frankie’s delusions, The Member of the Wedding is a dark, brooding novel. Within McCullers’ depiction of Frankie’s awkward adolescence, there lies a powerful critique of race and gender in America.

Recommended for: Those suffering from extreme self-delusion and people who love Sylvia Plath.

My take: I read this many years ago, but don't remember much about it.
The Body Artist by Don Delillo

5. The Body Artist by Don Delillo

Grief can transform people completely. After her much-older husband commits suicide, Lauren Hartke throws herself into her performance art. Inside the house they once shared, she spends most of her time practicing aerobic training and stretching in preparation for her “body work.” The novel takes a surreal turn when Lauren begins to communicate with a man who transfigures each time she finds him in her deserted upstairs rooms. The Body Artist is a short book — especially for DeLillo — that focuses on the philosophical questions that saturate grief and death.

Recommended for: Those haunted by the ghosts of relationships past and readers of David Foster Wallace and science fiction.

My take: I am intrigued! Adding to the list.
All the Living by C. E. Morgan

6. All the Living by C. E. Morgan

Aloma is an orphan and a loner until she meets Orren. Their love is brutal and quickly swallows Aloma and the life she had planned for herself. She moves from the boarding school where she has been teaching piano to live with Orren on his father’s tobacco farm in Kentucky. The farm is a lonely place and Aloma is left to find her own creative stimulation as Orren becomes more and more withdrawn. All the Living is a story of young broken love, and Morgan’s writing is nothing short of phenomenal.
Recommended for: Anyone struggling to understand what happened to what was once head-over-heels love.
My take: Sounds like a real downer. No thanks.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness has a bad reputation from being over-assigned by high school teachers, but Conrad’s mystical story about a journey up the Congo River is more than a travel narrative. The story revolves around Charles Marlow, a British ivory trader, who travels through a land that devastates and demoralizes him in order to find a rogue ivory trader named Mr. Kurtz. This gripping and horrific tale of human suffering depicts the trials of colonization and the danger of imperial power.

Recommended for: Lovers of heavy plot lines and people who feel like February is a journey that never ends.

My Take: Read it, liked it, recommend it.
Silas Marner by George Eliot

8. Silas Marner by George Eliot

Silas Marner has one of the worst best friends in literary history. William Dane frames Silas for stealing money from their Calvinist congregation and then promptly steals the woman Silas was supposed to marry, leaving him alone and hopeless. But Silas Marner is a tale of love and hope. When Silas discovers a young orphan girl named Eppie, he raises her on his own to become the beauty and the pride of his new village. His case is never cleared, but Eppie delivers him redemption. George Eliot’s famous tome Middlemarch is the subject of book groups across the country right now, but Silas Marner is its slimmer, religious cousin.
Recommended for: Those who want to escape into another world just as complex as their own.

My take: At 364 pages, I don't consider this a novella. If you have the time, read it simply because it's a classic, but if you are looking for a reread of a novel assigned in high school, skip it.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

9. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

After their mother commits suicide, Ruth and her younger sister Lucille are raised by a rotating cast of relatives in Fingerbone, Idaho. Housekeeping is a novel about abandonment and eccentricity. The sisters fight as Ruth adjusts to their unconventional and uncomfortable lifestyle and Lucille returns to normal society. Robinson’s prose wraps her characters in a haunting, lyrical novel that can be as cold and dark as the frozen lake the story revolves around.
Recommended for: Those whose greatest lost loves were their relatives and readers who value metaphor.

My take: Doesn't sound very inspiring, but I am intrigued by the story. At just over 220 pages, I think I will give this a go.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

10. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Nicole Krauss’ second novel A History of Love takes place in the lifetimes of two very different characters. The first, 15-year-old Alma Singer, is a young girl learning to cope with her father’s death and her mother’s withdrawal. She is named after the character in her parents’ favorite book, which, coincidentally, was written by the second major character, the now very old Leo. Krauss weaves a masterful story about love and loss that spans both generations and cultures.
Recommended for: Those who enjoy a novel that will leave them lying on the floor for days, and people who believe that a beautiful love is a hard one.

My take: I bought this at a used bookstore, so it is on my list, but at over 250 pages, it will have to wait. Also, I don't look forward to "a novel that will leave my lying on the floor for days."
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

11. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Clarissa Dalloway is a 52-year-old English socialite who will do almost anything to make sure that her upper-class party goes off without a hitch. Mrs. Dalloway takes place on a single day in June, as Clarissa busily prepares for her evening party. But Woolf’s prose goes everywhere, winding through the entire lives of each of her characters through flashbacks. The bulk of the novel focuses on Clarissa and a World War I veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Woolf’s novel, though centered around a celebration, is more concretely about social structures and the alienation they can enable.
Recommended for: Those who feel alone at the party.

My take: Okay, these books are getting longer and longer. Almost 300 pages, it's not a tome, but no novella, either. I am going to have to start rejecting these outright simply because they don't meet the initial criteria. On the other hand, this is considered Woolf's best, and I am a sucker for "a day in the life" stories. Added to the list.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

12. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros strikes the reader with the abruptness of her prose. The House on Mango Street is structured as a series of very short chapters, sometimes consisting of only two or three sentences, told from the perspective of the adolescent Esperanza. With its themes of poverty, immigration, family, and the impermanence of home, this novel is incredibly revealing of the human condition. Lines like “Sally got married like we knew she would, young and not ready but married just the same,” comment on gender and, later, abuse, but keep the reader close to Esperanza and her perspective as a young woman growing up in a difficult, impoverished community.
Recommended for: Those in a hard place, and readers who are interested in the struggle of integration after immigration.

My take: I will read this one for the title alone.
Billy Budd by Herman Melville

13. Billy Budd by Herman Melville

Hailed as a masterpiece by D.H. Lawrence and other great modernists, Herman Melville’s only posthumous publication is also his shortest. Melville, who is known for the great American tome Moby-Dick, wrote Billy Budd in the last five years of his life. The story follows a charismatic seaman named Billy Budd, who is accused of staging a mutiny. Soon, due to quickly escalating circumstances, Billy finds himself on trial for murder and condemned to be hanged. Melville’s writing here is just as stacked with symbolism as Moby-Dick but more approachable in its lyricism and length.
Recommended for: People who want to read a great American canonical work without the fear of an 800-page tome.

My take: Will definitely read this one.
Passing by Nella Larsen

14. Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing is one of the best short novels about race in America. Written in 1920 and set in Harlem, New York, Passing is the story of two childhood friends and their struggles to “pass” as white. The central tension of the story emerges when Irene discovers that her friend Clare is married to a racist white man who believes Clare is white as well. Love, in Passing, is full of struggle and misunderstanding, and friendships crumble when they are built on a past that no longer exists.
Recommended for: Those who might need to leave a lover, or reunite with a past friend.

My take: I am sick of stories on race. What they mean is that they are stories about blacks and whites. "Race" had become ubiquitous with "blacks" and I reject it. Give me a book about Native Americans and call THAT a race war. I will watch "Imitation of Life" instead.
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

15. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

O Pioneers! is Little House on the Prairie for grown-ups. Alexandra Bergson comes from a family of Swedish immigrants living on the prairie. When her father dies, she becomes the matriarch, as well as one of the only prosperous farm owners in the Nebraska countryside. The novel tracks her abandonment by her favorite brother and love interest and her decision to fight forward for a better life for herself. It is a story of the redemptive power of great tragedy, the loss of close friends, and the struggle to survive.
Recommended for: Those who are waiting for a lost lover to return.

My take: Hmmm. I don't think so.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

16. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein isn’t just a green mask children wear on Halloween. It’s also a compelling winter read. Mary Shelley’s story of the creation of a mad monster by a possibly insane scientist is one oft-retold in American popular culture, but the nuances of Shelley’s original tale are lost in translation. The doctor, Victor Frankenstein, is himself a lonely man who creates a creature who longs for love. The Creature is remorseful, self-conscious, worried, and lonely, but he is also incredibly destructive. Frankenstein quietly evaluates the emotions that compose humanity and the connection between man and his creation.
Recommended for: Lovers of science fiction, and those desperate like the creature for a mate.

My take: I tried to read this years ago, with no luck.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

17. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Before Hemingway and Faulkner, there was Kate Chopin. Her most famous novel, The Awakening, revolves around Edna Pontellier, a wife and mother who isn’t sure that she wants to be either. While on vacation, Edna falls in love with a man who is not her husband and fights to reconcile her feelings of maternal duty with her desire to be with her lover. Edna struggles to understand her own desires, and begins to realize that her true wish is for independence. The Awakening is not a happy book with a happy ending, but Chopin’s depiction of the trapped housewife is astute and frustratingly accurate.
Recommended for: Women who do not yet know what they want in love or in life.

My take: No thanks, I read "The Bridges of Madison County."
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

18. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

When Their Eyes Were Watching God hit bookshelves in 1937, it was immediately criticized for featuring black characters who didn’t try to conform to the standards of white society. The novel centers around a 40-year-old African-American woman named Janie Crawford, who tells the stories of her three marriages to three very different men. Janie must battle feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and frustration throughout her journey through love. She questions the meaning and the import of marriage and, as a result, is faced with nasty gossip from the women of her hometown. Zora Neale Hurston writes clearly in a conversational tone, but with the complexity and lyricism of the best poets.
Recommended for: Readers feeling lost in love.

My take: One of the best books ever written. Read it every year, for the rest of your life.
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

19. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s novel is about more than Audrey Hepburn’s famous rendition of the protagonist Holly Golightly. Holly is a country girl transplanted into the upper echelons of New York high society. She lives in an Upper East Side brownstone with the narrator, whom she nicknames “Fred” after her brother. He pays for her rent and frivolities by socializing with Manhattan’s elite men. Unlike the famous movie, though, Capote’s story does not end on a light note. Holly is left in the end stranded on Manhattan without a single substantive relationship. Despite the dark undertones of the story, Capote’s prose is light and utterly precise.
Recommended for: Hopeless romantics and those who struggle to value their relationships.

My take: Terrible book, highly over-rated, with nothing in common with the movie except the title. Very disappointing.

My recommendations:
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Anthem by Ayn Rand
Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez