After reading a majority of women authors last year, this year I’ve exclusively read books by men. Englishmen at that. I didn’t plan it this way, but after finishing up the last two books of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the umpteenth time (by umpteenth, I mean third), I read A Clockwork Orange and then settled into some Dickens.
I had only read one of his books before, decades before, when I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school. This time I started with Oliver Twist, next Great Expectations, and just finished David Copperfield. That’s Copperfield with two p’s, not David Coperfield by Edmund Wells, and certainly not Rarnaby Rudge by Charles Dikkens, the well known Dutch author.
I enjoyed all three Dickens books with Copperfield my clear favorite, it’s jumped into my echelon of favorite novels. Based on the other Dickens books, before turning a page I knew it would be a story about a young boy born into a loving and caring middleclass family and whose mother most certainly would not die in childbirth. Copperfield is a weighty book, something I realized the moment I slid it into my laptop bag and slung it over my shoulders, and left me pining for a future of electronic books.
Nevertheless it’s a great book and I highly recommend it in either weighty or weightless form.
I read twelve books this year, a paltry sum compared to the copious quantities my wife reads, but pretty typical for me.
The twelve, in no particular order except the order in which I read them, are as follows:
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George
- One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
- Hear The Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami
- Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
- Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
- The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Some fun facts about the list that are sure to amuse:
- Of our three cats, two were named after books on this list, and all three were named after books by authors on this list.
- A full two-thirds of the books were authored by women. What can I say, I like the ladies!
- Most of these were first time reads for me with the exception of the Solzhenitsyn, Lee, and Tolkien tomes.
- The only book I didn’t enjoy was Wuthering Heights. I’m glad I read it but it won’t appear on any of my future book lists. I wasn’t particularly crazy about Mansfield Park either, it was no Pride & Prejudice, but it had its moments.
- All of these were books of fiction except for Wolf Willow, which had both fictional and non-fictional sections so I’m not sure how to classify it. In times like these I always ask myself, WWDDD? (What Would Dewey Decimal Do?)
- Louisa May did her best to get me to cry on the train but she did not succeed. Sure, I had a little something in my eye a day or two, but I was not crying! I later forgave her when I realized the events of the book were based on her life and that she wasn’t just playing with my heartstrings.
- Solzhenitsyn died after I finished reading Ivan Denisovich, but there was a six month gap between the two events so I don’t feel as though I particularly cursed him. Also because he was almost 90 years old.
- Of the twelve books, only one involved vampires although the jury is still out on Boo Radley.
- With Mansfield Park I have now read all of Jane Austen’s books at least once unless you count her unfinished work Who Weeps for the Wookiee?
This fall I stayed a couple of nights in the little town of Forks while hiking in the Quinalt and Hoh Rainforests. On my drive into town, I kept seeing signs like “Welcome Twilight Fans” but I didn’t know what Twilight was. When I checked into the hotel, the friendly woman behind the desk clued me into the wildly popular books.
I had a great time hiking in the rainforests with lovely scenes like these moss-draped trees in the Quinalt, so I decided to read the first book in the series even though I’m not exactly the target demographic — I am not now, nor have I ever been, a teenage girl.
Speaking of books, the other day I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep so I continued reading Fellowship of the Ring where I last left off. It was a cold morning and my electric blanket had turned itself off, so I basked in the toasty warmth of a Balrog.
I finished Emily BrontÃ«’s Wuthering Heights today, the first time I’ve read the book. I enjoyed the first third and the end but most of the characters are either extremely depressing or annoying. By the middle of the book I found myself wishing she had quickly concluded the novel by having a horrific lightning storm blow in and destroy both houses in a fiery cataclysm.
She could have called it BrontÃ«’s Inferno.
There are certain characters in Persuasion that annoy me so greatly that I want to reach across, not just time and space, but the chasm between the real world and the fictional world, and throttle them. I’ve felt this before with some of Austen’s characters, mainly with those beholden to the idea of class and rank.
This suggests one of two things:
- Jane Austen was a really good writer to get me so engaged in the story and her characters.
- I have severe psychological problems.
Jane Austen was a really good writer.