Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Goal #16 COMPLETE: Top 100 Books

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.   

Goal #16 COMPLETE: Read ten books off of the BBC’s Top 100 Books list 

Being an avid reader, I'm actually surprised that it took me so long to complete this goal (never mind that I gave birth to twins four months ago and have been a smidge busy since). The lengthy completion could also have something to do with the fact that I spent a lot of time on the library hold list waiting to borrow all these books because I was too cheap frugal to buy them. Also, some of the books weren't quite as thrilling as I had hoped and it took me a while to find the motivation to finish them. While I love a good book and will stay up into the wee hours of the night page turning, I also have a bad habit of finishing books that I don't like. If I've invested three or four chapters worth of time into a fiction novel, chances are I'll finish it even if I think it's horrible. Which is, I'll admit, a little stupid (okay, fine, a lot of stupid).

After reading these literary classics (according to BBC's list) I feel only slightly more classy and cultured myself. Maybe I didn't have a clear picture of the historical significance of these books or perhaps I am not enough of an enlightened intellectual to "get it", but I was super unimpressed, even disturbed by some of the books that fell under the "classic" category. Some were good, a couple were great, most were just okay or just plain blah.

So here is what I read and what I thought:

Jane Erye: I really enjoyed this book. The story dragged in some places (which is normal for books from this era), but overall I was intrigued by the plot and the characters. I loved the story of redemption and renewal that was woven throughout the book - it made the horribly tragic parts so worth it in the end. It was the first of the ten I read and it was a great book to start this goal with!

Animal Farm: While I understand that this book is an interesting, historical allegory about the Russian Revolution, I just thought it was mostly weird. However, I can see why it is read in high schools as I'm sure it is a great tool for demonstrating creative and allegorical writing while teaching about historical events at the same time.

Holes: This book was so fun and is an excellent introduction to irony for young readers. Plus, the content is squeaky-clean, so I would have no problem recommending it to any young person.

Nineteen-Eighty-Four: At first I was completely sucked into and freaked out by the world of 1984 created by Wells. I even lay awake one night with thoughts of, "Holy smokes! What if that actually were to happen?!" However, the more I read the more I was surprised that this book was in the teen section. Sexual expression and promiscuity drive a large part of the plot. Which "makes sense" in the world of the book, but it was still unfortunate that it was included. There are many parts in the book that just sorta left me with a sick knot in my stomach, though not all for crude reasons. In the end, while I have mixed feelings about the book, it was a terrifying and fascinating story with a very Twilight Zone conclusion. 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Amusing. Strange. Odd. Weird. Definitely different. Pretty much completely pointless (which I think, ironically, was the whole point.) I liked the movie better (which I don't think I have ever said about a book.) And... That's about all I can say. 

The Count of Monte Cristo: This is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I was excited to finally read the book that inspired it. I was not disappointed. An excellent story that even with 900 pages of small type kept me engaged (nearly) the whole time (there were some historical backdrop scenes that dragged on a bit). The only downfall? I had to check it out from the library four times, because even though I'm a fast reader, I couldn't get through those 900 pages in the allotted two-week check-out time. And since I was apparently not the only one checking this book out, my reading was interrupted by one-to-two-weeks on the hold list every time I return it. 
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: This was one of my favorite movies growing up (both Disney's animated version and the super-weird live action version (which my dad somehow tracked down for me for Christmas this year)). However, the book made for a very strange reading experience. And the ending was lame. I hate lame endings. Makes me want to throw books across the room (fortunately for Alice, I was reading on my Kindle).

A Prayer for Owen Meany: This story was pretty tragic. The graphic, final chapters were burned into my mind's eye night after night once I finished it and it was not pretty. There was also this bitter, anti-war, anti- America diatribe that the main character/narrator weaved throughout the story that got really old and boring fast. Also, it was very crude in places and there was a lot of language. I will say however that the symbolism and foreshadowing used in this story was phenomenal - haunting even. 

Wuthering Heights: I have four younger siblings, so I can understand a little sibling rivalry (which is part of the reason I chose this book). I also get that different kids have different talent/styles/interest/etc. But personally, I thought Emily Brontë fell way short of what her sister, Charrolete Brontë, achieved in Jane Erye. Wuthering Heights was very close to the antithesis of Jane Erye. Maybe that was the point, but there was so much darkness in the story and no hope; no redemption; no purpose to the pain and evil caused by the actions of the characters. I really hated it. 

The Great Gatsby: This was the book that my readers most recommended. I'm sorry to say that I was not blown away by it. I did appreciate how poetically it was written, but the story itself didn't do much for me. Despite this, I kinda was to see the new movie version when it comes out in December. I don't know why. Maybe because I really like what I've seen so far from Carrie Mulligan (she'll play Daisy) and want to see her in another film.

So that's that. I think I'm going to stay away from the supposed "classics" for a while and read some things that actually matter and might make a difference in my life (maybe I'll start with Marla's on-line reading group that is going through 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. More details here). Or at the very least I'll read books that offer a relaxing and entertaining diversion. Which means I probably should should stop wasting time finishing books that I hate just because I've already read the first few chapters...

Anyone else reading something good right now? 


  1. Douglas Adams (hitchhiker's author) was an avowed and devoted athiest. So, the absurdity (and pointlessness) of life in the book makes more sense in that context. The books make me laugh...but also sad b/c they belie his belief in the futility and meaninglessness of all things...

    1. I figured a much. Super creative book, but sad in reality (like you said).

  2. I don't get the hoopla about Gatsby. I read it in high school and tried to re-read it a couple months ago but quit a few pages in.

    I had to read Jane Eyre for PUNISHMENT in 8th grade. I made fun of one of my teachers and got busted. So I automatically hate that book.

    And we get our books for FOUR weeks at our library. Score!!

    I'm reading A Place at the Table by Chris Seay right now. Good stuff. All about remembering the poor during Lent.

  3. I pretty much only read sci-fi/fantasy & also suffer from the compulsion to finish what I start no matter how much I hate it. Alas, most sci-fi/fantasy comes in trilogies +. Oh the amount of crap I've read! I think I do it because I always have hope that somehow the ending will blow me away. ;)

  4. I love this! So impressed by all these goals you are completing!

  5. Hi Jennifer,

    I just discovered your blog when a midwife friend of mine posted your "40+ week pregnant woman dances herself into labor" youtube clip. (Which I loved!)

    I have similar opinions about a lot of those books, though most I read back in high school because they were assigned, so it would be really interesting to read them again and see if anything's changed.

    But now, for the primary reason I'm commenting: I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Like, right now. I devoured it and then bought two extra copies just so I had lots to lend out to all my friends. In fact, I'd offer to lend you one of my copies, except I don't think I'm exactly local. It's going to mess up your life. You know, in a good way.

    Will be following your blog, so if you do end up reading it, looking forward to reading what you thought!

    1. I read "7" just a couple of months ago and LOVED it!!!


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