Monday, December 7, 2009


Hello, dear readers! Well, whoever is left. Please accept my deepest of apologies for the lack of blogging (and reading). This semester was a new flavor of hell and Catch-22 was surprisingly difficult to get a hold of! I'm guessing it was required reading for high school this year or something of the sort. But have no fear! I have secured a copy of said book and even started reading it over Thanksgiving. I've only gotten about a fourth of the way through, but it has proved an enjoyable read!

My first impressions: it's actually funny! I think it's pretty hard to write a funny book. Terry Pratchett does well at it, but the classics aren't usually known for their giggle factor. I didn't know much about Catch-22 going into the book, but I was pleasantly surprised. For those who don't know, it's a satire about the fictional army of a fictional country circa WWII. The plot is scattered and convoluted, but in a good way... if that makes any sense.

I don't typically enjoy novels that are difficult to follow, but this is an exception. It's cliche, but this is a book that makes you think. Not just about grand themes and morals (maybe I'll get to that part later), but more along the lines of, "What the hell is going on?" In a good way.

If you like historical fiction, funny names, and political (well, military) satire, then I suggest this novel! Also, silly me, I didn't realize that the phrase "catch-22" came from the book, not the other way around. So far, Joseph Heller is an amusing, thought-provoking, and somewhat frustrating author. In a good way. I promise.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The first step is always the hardest

What better time to start then now? For future reference, here is the list I'm working off of:

  1. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

    2. 1984 – George Orwell

    3. Ulysses – James Joyce

    4. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

    5. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner

    6. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

    7. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

    8. The Illiad and the Odyssey – Homer

    9. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

    10. Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri

    11. Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

    12. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

    13. Middlemarch – George Eliot

    14. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

    15. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

    16. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

    17. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    18. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

    19. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

    20. Beloved – Toni Morrison

    21. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

    22. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

    23. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

    24. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

    25. Native Son – Richard Wright

    26. Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville

    27. On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin

    28. The Histories – Herodatus

    29. The Social Contract – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    30. Das Kapital – Karl Marx

    31. The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli

    32. Confessions – St. Augustine

    33. Leviathan – Thomas Hobbs

    34. The Histories of the Peloponnesian War – Thucydides

    35. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

    36. Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A. Milne

    37. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

    38. A Passage to India – E.M. Forster

    39. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

    40. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

    41. The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Edition

    42. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

    43. Light in August – William Faulkner

    44. The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois

    45. Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

    46. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

    47. Paradise Lost – John Milton

    48. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

    49. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

    50. King Lear – William Shakespeare

    51. Othello – William Shakespeare

    52. Sonnets – William Shakespeare

    53. Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman

    54. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

    55. Kim – Rudyard Kipling

    56. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

    57. Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison

    58. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

    59. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

    60. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

    61. Animal Farm – George Orwell

    62. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

    63. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

    64. The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing

    65. Remembrance of Things Past – Marcel Proust

    66. The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler

    67. As I Lay Dying – Willilam Faulkner

    68. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

    69. I, Claudius – Robert Graves

    70. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers

    71. Sons and Lovers – D.H. Lawrence

    72. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren

    73. Go Tell It on the Mountain – James Baldwin

    74. Charlotte’s Webb – E.B. White

    75. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

    76. Night – Elie Wiesel

    77. Rabbit, Run – John Updike

    78. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

    79. Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth

    80. An American Tragedy – Theodore Dreiser

    81. The Day of the Locust – Nathanael West

    82. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller

    83. The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

    84. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

    85. Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather

    86. The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud

    87. The Education of Henry Adams – Henry Adams

    88. Quotations from Chairman Mao – Mao Zedong

    89. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature – William James

    90. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

    91. Silent Spring – Rachel Carson

    92. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money – John Maynard Keyes

    93. Lord Jim – Joseph Conrad

    94. Goodbye to All That – Robert Graves

    95. The Affluent Society – John Kenneth Galbraith

    96. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

    97. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Alex Haley and Malcolm X

    98. Eminent Victorians – Lytton Strachey

    99. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

    100. The Second World War (The Gathering Storm; Their Finest Hour; The Grand Alliance; The Hinge of Fate; Triumph and Tragedy) – Winston Churchill

For starters, I'm eliminating two works from this list: Lord of the Flies and Hamlet. The only reason for this is that I've read both of these books within the past two years. I'm more interested in reading new things than revisiting something I read so recently.

Now, to begin! I rolled the dice this evening and the first number up is... 19!

Catch-22 it is!


100 of the Greatest Books Ever Written

On June 29, 2009, Newsweek compiled a list of the best books ever written.

On August 9, 2009, I decided I'd like to read them.

I like to fancy myself a writer, but to be honest, I've had a horrible case of writer's block for... oh, about three years. With young adult phenomenons like the Harry Potter and Twilight series convincing everyone to start reading again, I figure I might actually have a chance at accomplishing my dream: to become a fabulously wealthy full-time writer. However, I've really let my sharp writer's mind go in the past few years. It's amazing what college will do to you. What better way to hone my skills for actually completing a piece of than by reading the great works?

Let's be honest here folks, it's a rare person that reads the classics by choice. Most people wade drearily through novels like War and Peace and The Catcher in the Rye. I know that in my high school days, I would rather drown myself than read one more line of Heart of Darkness or Invisible Man. Now that I'm in college, there are fewer Bronte sisters and Hemingways to torture me. They've been replaced by new tormentors like Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce.

However, being ever the optimist and forever a believer in positive thinking (imagine your own sarcasm please), perhaps these lengthy and tumultuous works of fiction and non-fiction will be better stomached by a free mind. A mind open to the power of choice and thirsty for new knowledge. Disenchanted by everything from our government to my sparse refrigerator, I'm ready to embark on a journey of wisdom! This time, wrought by my own hand, and not that of overzealous English teachers and jaded literature professors!

I must take care, though. The path will be full of dangers--dark forms seeking to lead me astray, but mostly my own fears at taking on such monsters as William Faulkner and Ulysses. I'm a realist and I know how my mind works. I must be cautious in my methods. Leave myself too much freedom and I'll happily jump into old favorites like The Great Gatsby and new wonders like Wide Sargasso Sea. I need a fool-proof (and cheat-proof) way of deciding the order of these books. I could always start from the very beginning, but what fun is that? Besides, who would want to start such a perilous journey with War and Peace? I could start at the end, but how much more daunting does that make my task seem? Better to use a method of randomness. One that I can't argue with, but one familiar enough to trust in. Being a complete and utter nerd, I always keep dice handy for the unexpected game of D&D. Dice: the perfect companion in my journey. They will surely keep me on my toes.

And so it begins. One average (though somewhat embittered) college student, 100 of the Greatest Books Ever Written (though this is always arguable), and one pair of bright teal dice. Reading is cool again, so let the madness begin!