Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Book Questions!

Now updated! (September 2011)

  1. Worst books ever - Those of you who are long-term readers of my blog will expect me to unequivocally say Henry James’s The Ambassadors and be done with it. But things have become much more complicated. The Ambassadors is perhaps the most poorly executed novel that is generally considered well executed. And Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School still gets the FUBAR award. But two books have come to incur my wrath even more than The Ambassadors: The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love

  2. Book-to-movie adaptations where, frankly, the movie was better - Sleepy Hollow. I thoroughly enjoy all the adaptations of this novella that I have ever seen, including the Disney version, but Irving's story is really boring. But that doesn't keep me from reading it again and again. "Maybe I'm just missing something..."

  3. Best book titles of all time - I love evocative titles...Tender is the Night, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Melancholy of Resistance, Of Human Bondage, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, etc.

  4. Books that I expected to be dirtier - Holy Terrors by Cocteau, The Lover by Duras, Intimacy by Kureishi, anything by D.H. Lawrence...the list goes on and on. I am continuously disappointed by the lack of dirt in a "dirty" book.

  5. My real guilty-pleasure reads, and not the decoys I talk openly about - I don't really have guilty-pleasure reads. I freely admit what I'm reading - I'm not ashamed. That said, I wouldn't exactly leave Delta of Venus lying around for my mother-in-law to see.

  6. Books I refused to read for a long time because too many (or the wrong) people recommended them - Life of Pi. I didn’t really like it, confirming that they were the wrong people to listen to. I only have one person currently in my life that I take book recommendations from, and that’s my step-mother-in-law. We’re fortunately on the same page a lot of times.

  7. Books I read only after seeing the movie - When I was 15, I was enamored with The English Patient. I tried to read the book, but was so confused I had to see the movie before I "got it." It was the first book that I read like that - the transition point between what I read as a child and what I would read as an adult. In general, I typically prefer to see the movie before I read a book. Some people may find this backwards, but when I do it the other way around, I can never pay attention to what happens in the movie.

  8. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Plots Gone Wild - Seriously, what the hell is going on in Foe by J.M. Coetzee?

  9. Books in which I liked the secondary characters better than the main character, - Miss Havisham from Great Expectations immediately comes to mind.

  10. Books in which I wanted to beat the main character senseless with a tire iron - Sebastian Dangerfield. Michael Henchard is a distant second.

  11. Books I read after Oprah recommended them - I have never read a book based on Oprah's recommendation. If I read a book that was recommended by Oprah, it was merely coincidence. If I saw a book that I wanted to buy, and it had one of those "Endorsed by Oprah" stickers on it (or whatever it is they say), I would look for a different edition.

  12. Books I will never read precisely because Oprah recommends them - It’s not that I wouldn’t read a book because Oprah recommended it, but it would likely make me think twice – especially her nonfiction picks.

  13. Books I only read to impress other people - Reading Ulysses was in some respect motivated by the fact that I could then say that I read it.

  14. Books I shouldn't admit made me cry like a baby - I am not ashamed to admit if a book has moved me to tears. Miracle in the Rain, by Ben Hecht, the novella that the movie of the same name was based on (my favorite of all time)...I read it in 2007 when I was riding the "Van of Misfit State Workers" for my hour+ commute to work, and I would have to stop almost every page so that I wouldn't just break down into uncontrollable sobbing. It's just the saddest, saddest story I have ever had the pleasure to come across.

  15. Books I only read for the title - Veronika Decides to Die. Great title, lame book.

  16. ooks I re-read when I have nothing else to read - I re-read because I want to, not because I have nothing else to read. Quite the opposite. The following are the top 5 chronic re-reads: The English Patient, The Awakening, On the Road, Hamlet, and The Great Gatsby

  17. Knee-jerk recommendations - depends on the person I'm recommending to, but it would probably include Confederacy of Dunces, The Great Gatsby and The Virgin Suicides. And maybe Jane Eyre, A Handmaid's Tale, Crime and Punishment, The Count of Monte Cristo, also To Kill A Mockingbird. It really depends, but those books have a general appeal. At least for people that I would bother recommending books to. If they didn't like any of them, then they shouldn’t be coming to me for recommendations.

  18. Books my teacher made me read that I really, really liked - Voices After Midnight, Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Silas Marner, The Awakening, Hamlet, The Stranger, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. Many of the novels my teacher made me read have become all time favorites that I return to again and again.

  19. Books my teacher made me read that made me question the value of my education - The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor. I loved you, Dr. Cohen, you were awesome, but that book was a complete waste of my time

  20. Literary characters I've developed crushes on - Almasy from The English Patient. But that probably has to do with the fact that Ralph Fiennes played him in the movie. Also, Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. You know...I like brooding, mysterious men. But in reality, it would really creep me out to find that someone I had a crush on kept his wife locked in the attic, even if there were compelling reasons to do so.

  21. Books I actually read but got a poorer grade on the paper I wrote on the subject than my best friend who did not read the book - I was just going to write that I didn't think that this happened, but in State & Local Government class in college, we were required to read The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor. I DETESTED the book, and so did all the other students who made an attempt at it. We would complain about it before class. When it came down to having to write a paper about it, I couldn't even muster enough good stuff about it that would allow me to lie. So, I told the truth: it was a complete waste of my time to read this book. When the papers came back, I had gotten a B on it, and Dr. Cohen's comments were essentially that I was the only person who didn't like the book. I'm sure some others in the class got higher grades for lying, and I'm sure some only watched the movie. Traitors.

  22. Books I read because the author looked hot - Um, I don't think that I've ever picked up a book, looked at the photo of the author and thought, hmmmm...yes. He's a good looking fellow, so he must be a good writer. In fact, most authors (males, at least) aren't that good looking. Salman Rushdie anyone? I will admit that I do think Jack Kerouac was handsome, especially in the mid-to late 1950s, about the time On the Road came out. And Rupert Brooke, the poet...totally dreamy...but completely unrelated to any opinion I have about them as writers.

  23. Books I use as a booster seat for my child - Haha, someday I'm sure Dance to the Music of Time will come in handy for that purpose.

  24. Books I love even though the last 20 pages made no damn sense - Faulkner sometimes makes no sense to me and not just in the last 20 pages, but I still love him. I just have to pay very close attention. I wouldn't have believed I would ever say that when I had to read "Barn Burning" in H.S., but whatever. Even when a chapter consists only of the following sentence, "My mother is a fish," I still love him. Sometimes you just have to hang in there.

  25. Books I keep meaning to read, but then I see something shiny - I will go into a FRENZY to get a particular book - I will HUNT IT DOWN FRANTICALLY. Then it will sit on my shelf for 2+ years. It’s a serious problem. The latest one has been The Things They Carried.

  26. Books that were on the "To Be Read" list the longest - One Hundred Years of Solitude. I first heard of this book when I was 14 or 15 (I think 14) when MTV aired a special called "Freaks, Geeks and Weirdos" or some such title. Of course, this was a program for me! I watched it every time they showed it. On that special, there was a girl who was shown reading that book. I went out and bought it. That was 15 years ago. I started it when I was in college but didn't make it very far. Someday, maybe I'll get to it!

  27. Books I hated having to read in school, but now love - All of English literature. Mr. Cox made it so horrible, it took me almost a decade to get over it.

  28. Books which, when it comes right down to it, I would have no problem burning - I’ve struggled with my own naturally judgmental nature, love of high-brow lit and concern for the “dumbing” of America versus my feelings that just reading period is important, not necessarily what you read. Unless you’re a crazy who will kill people over what you read, but if you are one of them, you will likely find some excuse to kill people over, be it a book or not. Anyhoo. In the past I have stated chick lit may be a candidate for burning. That was an uninformed generalization of books marketed towards women, and should have specifically been targeted against so-called Shoe Porn. But the better angels have prevailed, especially after I thought long and hard about the Koran burning crisis we had last year. I support the right to burn books as a form of protest if someone is so inclined, but burning books also has a specific connotation (like totalitarianism), and involves the destruction of knowledge, which I am against. So, I suppose, shoe porn can stay.

  29. Books I pretend to like so people won't think I'm a snob, or books I pretend to like so I won't hurt your feelings - If you recommend a book to me, and I don't like it, I will be nice about it. To each his own. But I won't pretend that I liked it. And I’m not afraid of appearing snobbish – or even, dare I say it? elitist about books. I’m a nerd and I read cerebral, intellectual books. Learn to deal with your own insecurities, as I have learned to deal with mine.

  30. Books with covers so embarrassing you can't read them in public - I wouldn't say the cover is embarrassing, but I am afraid of reading them in public because people might recognize the title and know what I'm reading. Vox, Story of O, Fanny Hill, etc. Some books are best kept behind closed doors.

  31. Books that gave you a hangover - Ulysses

  32. Books you are sorry you didn't read decades ago - I wish that it hadn't taken me so long to find ancient Greek and Roman literature (Homer, Virgil, etc.).

  33. Books I have read at least four times - The Great Gatsby, Hamlet, On the Road, The English Patient, The Awakening

  34. Books that should be made into movies - No Exit. Oh wait, it was - Beetlejuice.

  35. Books that I have physically torn up because they were so bad - After I finished Eat, Pray, Love, I noticed that some of the pages were falling out. I'm not sure if that was due to my throwing it around with the intention of hurting it or just poor construction. And The Ginger Man went in the garbage as soon as I finished it, since that’s where it belonged.

  36. Books that people need to STFU about already - This was from a few years ago, but The Da Vinci Code. He writes fiction. He does not have insight into worldwide, eon spanning mass conspiracies. The whole vampire and zombie thing is getting a bit old as well. Seriously, i totally missed the bus with the zombie thing. Where did that come from?

  37. Movies that would have been better as books - This isn't because they would have been better as books, but because I would have liked to read the book they were based on, or a book like the movie: Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Does anyone write books like the movies Lynch makes?

  38. Books that make me wish I could have lunch with the author - obviously I wish that I could have met Jack Kerouac, and Joseph Campbell. I would also love to have lunch with some bold women writers - Radclyffe Hall, Gertrude Stein, Kate Chopin, Rebecca West, and Jeannette Winterson. I would love to hear about their lives. I also wish I could have met H.G. Wells since he seems so colorful. Actually, the more that I think about it, I'd like to have lunch with a lot of writers.

  39. Books that have had an impact on me and changed me or the way I think in some fundamental way - There have been a few. The first was On the Road. I read that when I was 16...absolute perfect timing. It changed my life. Then came The Awakening. I adored it when I had to read it for AP English in 12th grade, but when I was 23, and in a horrible marriage, I finally got REALLY got it. And I thought to myself - I don't have to be in this relationship. And fortunately I had more choices than Edna. Then came Joseph Campbell, which really started with a documentary on PBS, not a book, but I got a book then and devoured it. It made complete sense, and has really influenced by "religious" thinking over the last 5 years.

  40. Books I only read because they're on every must-read list in existence, didn't like at the time, but later grew to appreciate - Don Quixote. I liked it, but didn't understand why it was considered the greatest of all time. I think I get it now.

  41. Books I keep re-reading, but only after enough time has passed that I've forgotten the ending (which means I must not like them THAT much and should therefore not even bother) - Peyton Place.

  42. Books you've returned to the bookstore because they blew - I should have returned Water for Elephants.

  43. Books that I was sad to finish because I'd never get to read them again for the first time - To Kill a Mockingbird. Even as a 13 year old, I got how important and damn good it was.

  44. Books a man has given me that made me swear to NEVER go on another date with him EVER again - This has never actually happened to me, but I can pretend for a minute: Books that reveal an inherent lack of understanding for my reading habits, my taste, and my sense of personality (sarcastic, pessimistic, brooding, off-beat). That pretty much covers it.

  45. Books I have hated so much I have alienated nice people (who for some reason have incredibly poor taste to like these books) - The Ginger Man. This may have something to do with the fact that I said in my review that only assholes like it. I stand by that statement.

  46. Books you feel compelled to own in two versions (a beat-up paperback you read over and over and a handsome leather version you keep on the shelf) - I have 2 copies of The Great Gatsby for that reason, though my nicer one isn't a handsome leather version, just a clean paperback copy. I don't know if I thought they were going to stop printing it or what that I bought two.

  47. Food that makes you think of a specific book/character/author every time you eat it - I've never eaten it (yet), but in The Mayor of Casterbridge, they are always going on about frumenty. It appears to be some type of sweet pudding type thing with wheat, and is sometimes served with venison. I have a recipe hanging on the refrigerator door...I intended to make it every winter but always forget. Maybe this year.

  48. Books you've put notes in (or added to existing notes) warning other readers not to bother - You know, I never thought of that.

  49. Books that are so terrible, either in style or content, that they inspire you to turn them over or put another book in front or on top of them at bookstores in a guerrilla-style effort to keep others from reading them - I never thought of that either, but I should.

  50. Books too depressing to finish - There is no such thing

  51. Books with WAY too many characters - Most Russian literature. Also, Dance to the Music of Time. When readers require a guidebook to keep track of them all, there are too many.

  52. Books bought for me by loved ones - People don't usually buy me books unless I give them a list because they are afraid of getting me a book I already have or one that I wouldn't like. Which, in the case of most people who would buy me books, is probably true. But in most instances, I would much rather someone buy me one book that I happen to already have (especially if it’s one I liked!) but that they took the time to find on their own than get ten books from someone that they just chose off a list.

  53. Stupid books that I have read and forgotten but would totally read a again (despite the fact that they are, as I've already mentioned, stupid) - I really hated Catcher in the Rye when I read it in h.s., but I'll probably give it another try in the next few years. Same thing with Heart of Darkness...I just didn't get it when I read it when I was 17 or 18. Now that I'm more into Conrad...and understand the dedication it sometimes takes to get through his novels, I might be more inclined to like it.


Robby Virus said...

You should move "One Hundred Years of Solitude" up your list. This is one of my favorite books of all time, perhaps THE favorite. It's beautiful, moving, mysterious, captivating. I can't say enough about it. It also has one of the best first sentences of any book I've ever read.

Kristin said...

I will definately take your recommendation to heart. I'm starting to look at my 2009 reading list...I'll make sure it gets a spot near the top.

SocrMom78 said...

This was absolutely hilarious and profound at the same time. I am so jealous that you are so well-read. Very inspiring. Although I have to agree that Sebastian Dangerfield could use a good tire iron. :)

Tina said...

I have to say that I am 100% in accord with you over disliking PROFOUNDLY Eat, Pray, Love, Water for Elephants, and wasn't/still not fond of Catcher in the Rye. And, unfortunately, the first two were recommended to me by the librarian at the public high school where I teach and the latter is one I have to revisit in my junior year English course annually! My students have such mixed reactions to Catcher; hope it isn't because I still can't stand it!