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Flowers for Algernon #1–Short Story and Novel (a Short Review)

IMG_1888 When I was in the depths of despair, this summer, I happened upon a PDF of Daniel Keyes’ short story Flowers for Algernon and, before I knew it, I’d read it in one sitting. A day or two later, I even went and wrote up a blog post about it, but I was going through a lot at the time and I didn’t feel like posting it, so I didn’t. Fast-forward to October, I was at a book sale when I came across the novel version of Flowers for Algernon, and my heart leapt for joy! 🙂

So now I’ve also finished the novel and I’ve just had another look at what I wrote in July, and, well, I feel like posting it now. 🙂

July 20, 2017

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As per the pledge on the side of my blog, I don’t usually read short stories unless I have a printed copy, but the other night, before I really knew what was happening, I found myself reading and finishing Daniel Keyes’ twenty-two page, heartbreaking, masterpiece of a short story Flowers for Algernon. I cried a whole lot as I read the last entry. It probably wasn’t the best thing for me to read at this moment, but I’m still glad I did.

If you’ve never heard of Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon (the short story version), it’s a first person narrative story told in the form of “progress reports” written by a 37-year-old, mentally-challenged man who undergoes a procedure to triple his intelligence. As a short story, it’s pretty much flawless and epitomizes exactly what a short story should be. There is a whole lot of insight to be found in it’s it’s twenty two pages about the human condition and it leaves you with a broken heart, but broken in a way that should give you greater sympathy and understanding for yourself and others. It’s bittersweet and tragic and beautiful.

I don’t know if the subsequent novel version of this story is as good as the short story (I will probably read the, at some point in time, just not right now), but I think this is a short story that everyone should read, at least once.

In answer to my July self, I would say the novel version is as good as the short story. There are slight plot differences between the two, but in essence they’re both the same story and Charlie is the same person. It’s funny, this time I knew how the story would end, yet, as I read the last entry, I still wept nearly as much as I did the first time.

That said, if I had to choose one version to recommend, I’d choose the short story. What Daniel Keyes manages to pack into twenty-two pages is, in itself, a work of staggering genius. The novel version, with it’s additional 200 pages, fleshes things out and adds more food for thought, but the heart and impact of the story is all still contained in the original twenty-two pages.

There’s more I’d like to say about Flowers for Algernon, but for now, I’ll just reiterate what I said earlier, I think the short story version of Flowers for Algernon, is a story everyone should read, at least once. And if you do read it and find yourself moved by it, I’d highly recommend reading the novel as well. 🙂

Ps. If you are interested, here is a link to a PDF of the short story

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What I’m Reading #11

In light of my commitment to try start doing these What I’m Reading posts more regularly, again, I think it’s a good time to do another one of these posts.

Here’s a look at the books I’ve completed reading since April.

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  1. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
  2. How to be Decadent by George Mikes
  3. Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot
  4. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  5. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
  6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  7. Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
  8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  9. Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl—A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship by Sherry Argov
  10. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator) (I just realised I photographed the wrong version)
  11. St. Petersburg Tales (The Portrait, The Carriage) by Nikolai Gogol, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  12. The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  13. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    Not Pictured
  14. The Miracle Worker by William Gibson (I read a PDF version)
  15. Full Moon (Blandings Castle #7) by P.G. Wodehouse (audiobook)
  16. Pigs Have Wings (Blandings Castle #8) by P.G. Wodehouse (audiobook)

If you’re like me, you may have immediately noted a rather jarring title in this list of books and thought that it seemed incongruous and a bit of an eye sore. 😦 A few months ago, I was telling a good friend about this very title and my struggles with the idea of including it on my “2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge” list of completed books. It was such a jarring and off-putting title and I didn’t want my friends to think that was the sort of book I’m interested in reading, because it really isn’t and it isn’t a book I would have chosen to read for myself. At the same time, I wanted to be transparent and unashamed about the books I read.

The truth is, during my trip to L.A., in May, I met up for brunch with a friend I hadn’t seen or been in contact with in years. Before we met up, I’d suggested that, after brunch, she could drop me off at at a nearby Barnes and Nobel, and I’d be happy to wait there for my ride. After brunch, she suggested we go to the bookstore together, which I was very glad to do, but it also meant the books I was interested would have to wait, as our tastes in books are very different, and, instead, I’d be spending my time hanging out with her.

When we got to the bookstore, I asked her to show me the books she was interested in and off we went to the self-help, marriage and relationships section. Once we were there, she looked around for a minute, then said, “Ah!” (or something like it) and pulled a book titled Why Men Love Bitches from off the shelf. I don’t think I’ve ever had quite as quick of a knee-jerk reaction to the title of a book before. 🙂 I cringed and said that the title seemed exactly like a book I would definitely not be interested in. 😦  She immediately explained that the author’s definition of “bitch” is a strong, confident woman who knows what she’s worth and stands up for herself.

My friend wanted to sit down and read the introduction with me right in the bookstore, so we did. 🙂 We read and discussed and I still wasn’t very keen on it or interested, but eventually came round to saying that the book seemed sensible enough, if you could get past the title. She, however, was so passionate about it and interested in reading it (and yet she said she never buys books for herself). I really wanted to get her a copy, but I knew that the only way I could get her to accept it as a gift, from me, was if I also bought one for myself and made it a “reading project” of sorts. So that’s exactly what I did.

I still remember cringing as I went to the cash register with not one but two (!!) copies of Why Men Love Bitches in my hand. It was the first time I’ve ever been embarrassed about buying a book. It was such a weird and foreign feeling. I even deliberately chose the woman cashier over the man to avoid further mortification. 😦 Anyway, that’s how I came to be the conflicted owner of a book titled Why Men Love Bitches. 🙂

At the time, I also thought it could be a good way to keep in touch with my friend, i.e., we could read the book and discuss our thoughts. That last idea didn’t exactly turn out, as she’s not much of a committed reader. But I finished the book, immediately after my return home, and thus ensued the struggle about adding it to my” Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge” list, which I resolved, by just owning my decision and adding it to my list. Struggle resolved, I forgot all about it. Or so I thought…

Fast-forward to to the other day, when I uploaded the above picture on to my computer. I hadn’t noticed it when I’d taken the picture, but looking at the picture in Lightroom, all I could see was the jarring and garish title of Why Men Love Bitches sticking out like a sore thumb; every other title faded into the background. (Tom, see what I mean!? :() Immediately, the struggle returned stronger than ever. I can’t quite explain just exactly how jarring the effect was on me, but, suffice it to say, it was significant and the desire to retake the photo, sans the source of my mortification, was extremely strong and tempting. However, in the name of authenticity I resisted and decided, instead, that I would post the picture and tell my story. 🙂

And since I’ve said so much about the the title, I should probably dedicate a few sentences to what the book is actually like: It isn’t all as bad as it sounds. There are some good parts, pretty basic, nothing too revelatory. There are also plenty of bad parts which are, well, bad, cringe-worthy and dumb. For example, there’s a chapter called “Dumb Like a Fox”, that is exactly as dumb as it sounds. As something all “bitches” should strive to emulate, Sherry Argov gives an example of a woman who turns off the breaker in her basement and acts like a damsel-in-distress so that her man can feel manly by fixing it (!). 😦  I would hope that any man I was with would be secure enough in my opinion of his manliness for me not to have to resort to going around and making up problems for him to fix. Life has enough problems as it is. As you can tell, I thought was a pretty stupid and a completely inauthentic way to have a relationship. I felt like I lost several brain cells reading that chapter. 😦 Overall, it’s not really a book I would recommend to anyone.

Anyway, enough about bad books. 🙂

Getting back to the book list, sixteen books here, plus the ten books I’d completed in April makes for twenty-six books this year. Four more books to go and I’ve completed my goal of thirty books for the year. 🙂

These are the four books I’m hoping to have completed by the end of the year.

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Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
Dove Descending: a Journey into T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets by Thomas Howard
The Divine Comedy
by Dante Aligheri

If I’m successful, it will mean, that I will have read T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets twice in one year. Though, by the time I’m finished Thomas Howard’s Dove Descending: a Journey into T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, I’ll likely have read it far more than twice this year, as I’ve been going over each section of each poem several times as I read Thomas Howard’s commentary.

Looking at the books I said I was hoping to read, in my last post, some I haven’t touched, but I actually managed to get around to finishing quite a few.April to readrs.png

I’m also going to try to finish the last few chapters of Notes from Underground (A Norton Critical Edition) by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Michael R. Katz (Translator/Editor) before the year is out. I will likely also read some of the T. S. Eliot essays and commentary.

But N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, Martin Buber’s I and Thou and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Poetry will be sitting out the rest of 2017. Maybe I’ll have another go at them next year. 🙂

Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon #1–Spoiler Free Review and Initial Thoughts

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I just finished reading this brilliant and under-appreciated masterpiece and have plenty of thoughts and a lot say about it. Too much, in fact, for one blog post, especially since I’m swamped with work and a tight deadline. I can’t say much more than a few paragraphs about it at the moment, so I thought I’d start with with a simple, spoiler-free review and some initial thoughts. Hopefully, this will be the first in a series of posts on this book. 🙂

This statement, by Arthur Koestler, that precedes the novel, pretty much sums up everything you need to know going into Darkness at Noon.

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The “so-called Moscow Trials” were a series of three show trials, held in the Soviet Union between 1936-1938, in which Stalin had several leading Bolsheviks from the Russian Revolution and top officials (anyone who could who could possibly threaten his power) arrested, tried for treason and found guilty. Most of those convicted were given the death sentence and shot. One of the most bewildering things about these trials were the seemingly voluntary and willing confessions of guilt obtained from the accused. The trials were a sham, the accused were hardened men, heroes from the revolution who had not committed the crimes they were accused of, so why did they confess (especially when confessing would almost certainly lead to their death)?

Darkness at Noon is Arthur Koestler’s 200 page attempt to answer that question and he does so with an insight and brilliance that is pretty amazing. Set during the time of the Moscow Trials, in the Soviet Union, we follow the story of Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik leader, as he is arrested, imprisoned, interrogated and tried for treason against the very government he helped bring to power and devoted his entire life to. While in prison, Rubashov deliberates on the question of whether or not to confess to crimes he has not committed and if so: why? and if not: why not?

Rubashov is a fictional person, but the people and events that the book is based on were real. Koestler, himself, was once enamored by the idea of a Communist utopia and an eager and fanatical member of the Communist Party.

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“I went to Communism as one goes to a spring of fresh water, and I left Communism as one clambers out of a poisoned river strewn with the wreckage of flooded cities and corpses of the drowned.”

Arthur Koestler The Invisible Writing

Drawing on his seven years as a member of the Communist Party, Koestler gets to the heart of the ideology behind the thoughts and struggles and actions of those committed to the Revolution. He creates an extremely well-rounded and lifelike portrait of someone who has rejected his conscience, made the Party his god, and spent his life sacrificing others for the Cause on “the principle that the end justifies the means–all means, without exception”–only to find that the Cause now demands that he be sacrificed (and there are no exceptions).

Something I thought about a lot as I was reading, that has continued to baffle me since I finished, is the question of why this book is not more well known. I imagine the answer may have something to do with the fall of Communist Russia, perhaps people think that it’s no longer that relevant. This is probably a subject to expound on in another post, but I’ll just say here that I think this book is as relevant today as it was when it was written because it deals with human nature and our tendency, as humans, to justify our means to get our ends, our tendency to see others as means to an end instead of an end in themselves, our tendency to paint the world in black and white and form tribes and groups that value the collective over the individual and it clearly shows the terrible place all that leads to.

Another thing about this book, that took me by surprise, from the get-go, was the undeniable connection and similarity I kept seeing between Darkness at Noon and Nineteen Eighty-Four. I even stopped to confirm that Nineteen Eighty-Four was written after Darkness at Noon and that it wasn’t the other way around. This is definitely subject I want to explore further in another post, because there’s stuff in Darkness at Noon that I’m sure George Orwell drew on in writing Nineteen Eighty-Four (and possibly Animal Farm, as well) and I think he was influenced by Koestler in a significant way.

That said, comparing Darkness at Noon to Nineteen Eighty-Four is a bit like comparing two of your favourite kinds of oranges against each other. Both have their merits, but Darkness at Noon is in no ways inferior; it can easily hold it’s own and is even superior in ways.

Like I said, I think this book is completely under-appreciated, so I’m determined to do my part to make sure this book does not fall into complete obscurity. 🙂 If you’re interested in politics or philosophy or psychology or literature; if you’re a fan of George Orwell or Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Dostoevsky, it’s highly probable that you’d like this book and I’d highly recommend it!

And if you do read it or if you’ve already read it, let me know what you think! I love to hear your thoughts about it. 😀

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Spent a rainy day reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

I don’t know exactly what I expected going into it, perhaps a whole lot more doom and gloom. I think I expected something more along the lines of the Nazi death camps. Everything I’d read about prison camps, up until this book, had been about the Nazi camps, which were, pretty much, set up for the sole purpose of extermination. Russian camps, on the other hand, were more along the line of slave labor camps, and while the reasons for incarceration and conditions and treatment of prisoners were still inhumane and terrible, when compared to a Nazi extermination camp, it’s terrible and weird to say, they seem relatively humane.

I think I was also expecting more of an exposé of the ideology behind the Communist/Stalinist regime, something more along the lines of what I imagine (since I haven’t read it yet) Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago is. I guess I hadn’t really taken into consideration the fact that One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was personally given the stamp of approval for publication by Nikita Khrushchev. I should have realised, for that reason alone, it wouldn’t be a blatant and searing indictment against Communism and the ideologies that led to the prison camps (though I can definitely see it being the beginning of a crack in the armour).

Instead, what I found was, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is exactly what it’s title professes it to be: one ordinary day in the life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, a prisoner, in a freezing Soviet labor camp. From the moment reveille sounds to the moment he goes to sleep, we follow him and get a close-up look at his life and thoughts and interactions with his fellow human beings. It’s a story of humanity and hope; a tribute to the dignity, strength and survival of the human spirit in the bleakest of circumstances.

There is a lingering theme through the book, put both at the beginning and end, first as a question and then as a statement:

AGNH6214rs“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?”

A man who is warm can’t understand a man who’s freezing.”

Yet, despite the impossibility, in this little novella, without any chapters, Solzhenitsyn, somehow, makes us feel and understand. He also opens our eyes to the gift of life and the treasures and wonders we have all around us, from moment to moment, and in the tiniest of things.

I have a lot more to say about this book, but, alas, time fails me. So, for now, I’ll just say, I highly recommend it. This is also one of those books that you really have to read until the last paragraph, to fully appreciate, but it’s a quick read (my book is 142 pages) and could easily be read from start to finish in a day.

I haven’t done much research into translations, but from the little I have done, I’d recommend the Ralph Parker translation (which is the one I have) over the Max Hayward/Ronald Hingley, translation which seems to be rather poorly translated with some blatant errors.

If you decide to read this book or if you already have, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about it. 🙂

What I’m Reading #10

After my last frustrating experience photographing a year’s worth of reading, I figure it’s probably a better idea to get back to doing my What I’m Reading posts more regularly. 🙂

Here’s a look at what I’ve read, so far, in 2017.DSC_8949rs

  1. The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  3. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle
  4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  5. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  6. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  7. The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  8. Nevsky Prospect, The Diary of a Madman, The Nose, The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol (four out of six of the St. Petersburg Tales), Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  9. Oddkins by Dean R. Koontz
  10. The Martian by Andy Weir (Not pictured because I borrowed it from a friend)
  11. Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #4) by Dan Simmons (Not pictured; I listened to the audiobook)

I’m having a bit of a dilemma regarding Nikolai Gogol’s works; I’m not exactly sure how to count or list them, as his tales are collected/listed differently depending on the publisher. I think I’ll just wait until I’ve finished reading the other two St. Petersburg Tales and then count all of them as one book. In that case, so far, I’ve finished reading ten books this year (1/3 of the way through my reading goal for the year, yay! 🙂 ). All of them were great reads, though I’ve only managed to blog about one. Hopefully, I’ll eventually get around to blogging about a few more of them.

These are the books I’m currently reading.DSC_8974rs

How to be Decadent by George Mikes
I and Thou by Martin Buber, Ronald Gregor Smith (Translator)
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
Notes from Underground (A Norton Critical Edition / 1st Edition) by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Michael R. Katz (Translator/Editor)
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
St. Petersburg Tales (The Portrait, The Carriage) by Nikolai Gogol, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N. T. Wright

For the last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. I’ll be meeting up with a friend this Sunday to discuss it, so I’ve been using that as impetus to really dig in and finish all the critical essays and background information included in my Norton Critical Edition. In addition to that, I’ve also been re-reading Notes from Underground for the second and third time simultaneously. (As you can see I’m somewhat obsessed. 🙂 ) I’m actually not exactly sure how you would count it, as I’m reading two different translations simultaneously (i.e. I finish a chapter in the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation, and then I read Michael R. Katz’s translation of the same chapter). I don’t think I could manage to pull off this kind of simultaneous reading with any other book, but Notes from Underground is short enough and such brilliant piece of work, I’m finding it’s actually a really interesting way to read it. 🙂

I’ve been slowly making my way through George Mikes’ How to be Decadent and Martin Buber’s I and Thou for about a year now. I actually started reading Buber’s I and Thou last May, but it was a tough read and hard to follow. I only got about 20 pages in before I put it down. I figured maybe it was problem with Ronald Smith’s translation and decided to wait till I could get my hands on a Walter Kaufmann translation instead. But, recently, I came across a few paragraphs from I and Thou that I really liked that turned out to be a section from the Ronald Smith translation just a few pages down from where I left off. So I figured maybe I’d just stopped before the good stuff, and decided to have another go at it. I’ll still likely still buy the Kaufmann translation, eventually, but I’m gonna give Ronald Smith another go and we’ll see how that turns out.

N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God is a tome I’ve been meaning to read for nearly a decade now. I finally bought a copy as a sort of Christmas present to myself last year and figured I’d make it my Lent reading project this year. Unfortunately, that plan got hijacked, by my Notes from Underground reading project. Still, I’ve been slowly chugging along at it. I’m only 50 pages in, so there’s no way I’m gonna finish it by Easter, but I’m determined to slowly make my way through it this year.

I haven’t started reading Dostoevsky’s The Gambler or the last two of Gogol’s Petersburg Tales, but they’re up next, after I’m finished with Notes from Underground.

Aside from those books, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I’m hoping to dig into some of the poetry of my two favourite poets T. S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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I especially want to focus on T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, and possibly “Ash Wedsnesday”. But definitely Four Quartets, which I think is the best of T. S. Eliot’s best. I’ve been wanting to really dig into to it ever since I read it for the first time in November, 2015.

It’s such a deep and profound and beautiful and perfect collection of poetry, I think I could explore and meditate on it for a lifetime and still have more to discover and explore. I feel like it will take me years to even begin to scratch the surface of it’s depth, but I’m looking forward to making some progress towards that this next month. 🙂

A Wrinkle in Time

It’s very rare that I come across something I truly wish I’d read when I was a kid or an adolescent, but that was one of the strongest feelings I had when I finished reading this beautiful little gem of a story last week.

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It was almost a feeling of regret and frustration at the injustice that I was not even aware of this book’s existence, at that age, because I know that my adolescent self would have truly appreciated and found a kindred spirit and guide in it. I even share the same name as the protagonist 🙂 (a first for me; although, we don’t share the same derivative) and I could see a lot of myself, especially, a much younger me in this Meg. I think this book could have given me wisdom and helped to fortify and guide me through a lot of the issues I faced growing up.

But I don’t really mind, that it took me this long to finally read it, because I found it surprisingly relevant to my life right now. It still seemed like the perfect timing to read it. 🙂

I may do a more in depth review on the book at some point, but to try to sum it up in one paragraph: A Wrinkle in Time is a story that explores deep truths about what it means to be truly human. It’s a book that looks at darkness and evil and uncertainty with the eyes of  faith, hope and love. It’s a book that gives the imagination worlds to explore and wings to fly, without bogging it down with too many details. It’s a story that explores difficult ideas and concepts–such as: equality of opportunity vs. equality of outcome; conformity vs. individuality; confronting and resisting ideologies and the herd mentality; how freedom and true joy requires responsibility and the risk of pain, mistakes and unhappiness; how life isn’t simple and often there are no easy solutions or quick fixes and we can only respond to life by being responsible; how we don’t have to be afraid of being afraid, or of life or of who we are (imperfections, vulnerabilities and weaknesses included); how weaknesses can also be our strengths (and vice versa); how often times, the only way out is through facing our fears (taking an honest look at who we are and the things we are most afraid of or least want to do), but if we are brave we’ll find we are strong enough to and that good can come of it–all in a relatively simple and uplifting way, that even a child could understand and synthesise.

Simply put, A Wrinkle in Time is a gift and a story for all ages. I love it and I would recommend it to just about anyone.

That said, I can imagine that there may be people this book may not appeal to. There’s this little gem of a quote I came across, for the first time, yesterday, at the end of C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. It pretty much sums up how I feel about recommending this book:

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“You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.”
C. S. Lewis,
The Problem of Pain

There’s so much of that secret thread–that binds books that I really love (and ideas that capture me) together–running through this book; it’s brimming with it. I’d say if you’ve read and loved, at least, two or three of the following titles: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series (as well as his Space Trilogy), Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, or George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin books (or his other fairy tales and stories), and maybe even Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, or even, Edwin A. Abbot’s Flatland and the Bible then you may be someone who as an inkling of that secret thread and you may enjoy this book too. 🙂

Actually, I’d still say to just about anyone: give this book a read. It isn’t a long book (a little over 200 pages) and a very easy read (I read it in a day). And, if you do read it, let me know what you think. 🙂

This was my first time to read anything by Madeleine L’Engle and it definitely won’t be my last. I’m sure this is a book I will revisit too. It’s on my list of favorites and I’m already looking forward to reading it again. 🙂

If you, dear reader, have already read this book, do you have any thoughts (positive or negative) on it? If so, I’d love to know what you think. 🙂

Books I Read in 2016 (What I’m Reading #9)

It’s been over six months since I posted anything here; mostly because, well, life. But I have been busy reading.

This is pretty much what my last year in books looked like. 🙂

dsc_8849rsAs a side note, taking this photo was, by far, the most frustrating experience I’ve had photographing books for my blog.

It took me three tries to get all the books in the stack right. Each time, it was only after I’d actually stacked the books, taken the picture, and nearly finished putting all the books away on my shelves, that I would suddenly realise I’d forgotten to include a book and back out all the books would have to come. 😦 In addition to that, there was always the matter of getting the balance right. See that wise old owl at the top of the stack? He’s only there so I could balance the darn thing. I can’t even count the amount of times the entire stack fell over. Fortunately, my stack was heavily cushioned and no books were damaged or hurt in the making of this photo. 🙂

Moving on…

In my last “official” What I’m Reading post, I mentioned I was going to be taking on the Goodreads’ Reading Challenge again. In 2015, I’d made it my goal to complete 36 books, but I found myself struggling at the end of the year. So I decided to be more realistic with my reading goals in 2016 and made it a goal to finish reading 30 books. I’m happy to say I reached my goal and even surpassed it! I read 33 books, which turns out to be the exactly same amount I read in 2015.

Here’s a complete list of the books I managed to complete, in the order they were read (generally speaking), with the latest reads appearing first.

2016-books

  1. What We Talk about When We Talk about God by Rob Bell
  2. Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3) by Dan Simmons
  3. The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #2) by Dan Simmons
  4. Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) by Dan Simmons
  5. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. Prayer: Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis
  7. Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford
  8. The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman
  9. The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philip Pullman
  10. The Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman
  11. The Brothers Karamazov: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1 by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ralph E. Matlaw (Editor/Translator, Constance Garnett (Translator)
  12. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter
  13. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constance Garnett (Translator)
  14. Mistress Masham’s Repose by T.H. White
  15. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  16. God Will Make a Way: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do by Henry Cloud, John Townsend
  17. Dune (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert
  18. Growing up and Other Vices by Sara Midda
  19. Twelve Step Fandango by Chris Haslam
  20. The Brothers Karamazov: A Novel in Four Parts With Epilogue by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)
  21. Eggs, Beans And Crumpets (Ukridge #1.3) by P.G. Wodehouse
  22. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  23. The Inner Life by Thomas à Kempis
  24. John for Everyone: Part One by N.T. Wright
  25. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  26. The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner
  27. The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner #2) by James Dashner
  28. The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner #1) by James Dashner
  29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  30. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
  31. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  32. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  33. The Wise Woman and Other Stories by George MacDonald

Here are a few more statistics. 🙂2016-in-review-editedIt’s interesting to compare 2016’s with 2015’s. They’re both surprisingly similar.2015 in review

Again, these stats aren’t entirely accurate.

For example, I’m sure Notes from the Underground is far more popular than the statistics here show. I chose this edition because it was the closest I could find to a stand-alone Constance Garnett translation, which is the version I completed (I’m still in the middle of reading the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation). The least popular book I read is actually Sarah Midda’s Growing up and Other Vices followed closely by Chris Haslam’s Twelve Step Fandango (which I only read because my friend wanted to know my opinion of it and promised me he’d read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World if I read Twelve Step Fandango. I kept my end of the bargain, he didn’t. Heh.).

In addition, I didn’t completely read both translations of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I read the entire Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation and read about 1/5 of the Norton Critical edition (translated by Constance Garnett and revised by Ralph E. Matlaw). The Norton Critical edition, includes about 140 pages of background and sources and critical essays, all of which I read, so I felt it was fine to count it as an additional book. The only drawback to including it in the list is that it added an extra 600-700 pages to my final page count for the year.

I also read both versions of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the 1890 Lippincott version and the 1891 revised and expanded version. So, technically, that would be two books, instead of one. But they were both included in the Norton Critical Edition and since I’d read a few other books that were terribly short, I figured I should just count it as one book to help even things out on the whole. 🙂

I’d say, overall, 2016 was a great year in reading. It included some of the best books I’ve ever read, as well as, some of the worst (*cough, James Dashner*); it also included the weirdest and most disturbing book I’ve ever read. Nearly every book was thought provoking in some way, which, to me, is the hallmark of a book worth reading.

I’d like to say, as I usually do, that I’ll be writing reviews for most or some of these books in the future, but, so far, that hasn’t seemed to have panned out. 😦 So I’ll refrain from saying anything this time, and que sera, sera. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

I’ve signed up again for the 2017 Goodreads’ Reading Challenge. My goal is, again, to complete 30 books. I’m hoping to read a lot of tomes and magnum opuses, several large and weighty books, this year, so I’m not sure I’ll complete my goal. But I still think 30 books is a good and realistic-enough goal to shoot for.

How about you? Do you have any reading goals for 2017? If so, I’d love to hear about them. 🙂