- [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link], F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette. This is perhaps kind of an odd choice, given the song has no connection to the 1920’s or jazz, but if you listen to the lyrics, they essentially describe how Daisy seems to feel about Gatsby.
- [amazon_link id=”1456364278″ target=”_blank” ]Heart of Darkness[/amazon_link], Joseph Conrad: “Head Like a Hole” by NIN. OK, this song is really aggressive and may not jump out at you when you think of Heart of Darkness, but again, the lyrics seem to speak to the book’s themes. My favorite is comparing Kurtz’s last words, “The horror!” to the last line of the song, “You know what you are.” Isn’t that the horror Kurtz was talking about? The horror of realizing what he was? Of course that line is whispered on the recording, and I didn’t hear it in this video. But still.
- [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link], Jennifer Donnelly: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. I chose this song mainly because it is a motif in the story itself. The song becomes important to Andi both for its message and music.
- [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link], Ransom Riggs: “People are Strange” by The Doors. I am not a huge fan of The Doors. I liked them a lot more when I was in high school. However, I can’t deny there are some strange people in Riggs’s book.
- [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link], Donna Tartt: “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen. Any list like this is better for an Echo and the Bunnymen song. Plus I think the sort of gothic nature of the song (and the fact that it was recently featured in a commercial with vampires) goes with the book’s atmosphere. “Fate… up against your will” describes Richard Papen’s complicated feelings about Bunny’s murder. Plus, “killing.”
- [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link], Emily Brontë: “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush. Kind of a no-brainer. This video is nearly as weird as Catherine Earnshaw.
- [amazon_link id=”0743482751″ target=”_blank” ]Much Ado About Nothing[/amazon_link], William Shakespeare: “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons. Maybe because the song just alludes to a song in the play and quotes pieces of the play, but it fits anyway.
- [amazon_link id=”0393320979″ target=”_blank” ]Beowulf[/amazon_link], Anonymous: “The Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Because VIKINGS! That’s why.
- [amazon_link id=”0345409647″ target=”_blank” ]Interview with the Vampire[/amazon_link], Anne Rice: “Moon Over Bourbon Street” by Sting. Yes, he actually was inspired to write the song because of Rice’s book. Fitting.
- [amazon_link id=”0316769177″ target=”_blank” ]The Catcher in the Rye[/amazon_link], J. D. Salinger: “How Soon is Now?” by The Smiths. The song’s narrator is an angry, misunderstood loner, just like Holden Caulfield. And honestly, I think what Holden really does want is to be loved. Just like everybody else does.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday—how appropriate! What are my top ten books of 2011. Note: Not all of these books were published in 2011, but I read all of them in 2011.
- [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review): This part-contemporary YA novel/part time-travel story awakened an interest in the French Revolution that I previously did not have (I know, right?). I loved the musical aspect and had a lot of fun discussing this book with students who chose to read it for their summer reading selection. I wish Amadé Malherbeau were real!
- [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen (review): Jacob Jankowski is my BFF. I loved this story more than I thought I would. I didn’t think I’d like the circus aspect at all, but I found it fascinating.
- [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing[/amazon_link] by Stephen King (review): This book is the best, most practical book about writing I’ve ever read, and its advice has already proven invaluable.
- [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb (review): I love the idea of handing a song down from generation to generation, and as a family historian, I found that aspect of the novel particularly appealing. Sharyn McCrumb writers about her own ancestors in this novel.
- [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain (review): Stories about the Lost Generation are interesting. I loved this take on what happened in Paris told more from Hadley Hemingway’s point of view than Ernest Hemingway’s (for a change).
- [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs (review): This book was comical and completely engaging. I can’t wait for the sequel. I giggle every time I think of the Welsh teenagers trying to rap.
- [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt (review): I will never turn my back on a Classics major again. They are scary people.
- [amazon_link id=”0316068209″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link] by Sherman Alexie (review): I laughed all the way through this while still feeling empathy for Junior. Alexie is a gifted storyteller.
- [amazon_link id=”0312343698″ target=”_blank” ]Passion[/amazon_link] by Jude Morgan (review): I loved this novel of the lives of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats told through the eyes of the women who loved them. Mary Shelley comes across as fascinating and sympathetic, and Caroline Lamb was downright engaging.
- [amazon_link id=”B0043RSJQS” target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry (review): As the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, this novel about an adult with Asperger’s was fascinating. I also liked the cooking aspect and learned a truly good recipe for brownies.
Some time this week, I should finish my 44th book, which puts me in a good position to meet my goal of reading 50 books this year. As Halloween draws to a close, I’m happy to say I also finished the R.I.P. Challenge. I read four books: [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs (review), [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt (review), [amazon_link id=”0312558171″ target=”_blank” ]The Ballad of Tom Dooley[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb (review), [amazon_link id=”0441020674″ target=”_blank” ]Those Across the River[/amazon_link] by Christopher Buehlman (review), and [amazon_link id=”0385534639″ target=”_blank” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_link] by Erin Morgenstern (review).
At this point, I plan to focus on writing my NaNoWriMo book, which isn’t to say I won’t be reading (I certainly will), but it may impact my choices somewhat. I don’t plan to pick up anything difficult, heavy, or long this month. Meanwhile, I’ve been tearing through Stephen King’s [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft[/amazon_link], which has some great common sense advice. I am feeling sort of grateful for my experience as an English teacher. At least grammar and conventions aren’t a hurdle. I loved King’s advice to pick up a copy of Warriner’s Grammar. Best grammar text series ever.
I am really excited to start writing tomorrow.
[amazon_image id=”1400031702″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Secret History[/amazon_image]Critic A. O. Scott has called Donna Tartt’s novel [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] “a murder mystery in reverse.” In the first few pages of the novel, narrated by Richard Papen, a student in a small group of classics majors taught by charismatic and myterious Julian Morrow and which includes cold, enigmatic Henry Winter, twins Charles and Camilla Macaulay, foppish (he wears a pince-nez, I kid you not) Francis Abernathy, and Edmund “Bunny” Corcoran, the reader learns that the group has evidently conspired to murder Bunny and make it look like an accident. What the reader does not know is why. Richard slowly reveals the motive for the murder, as well as the ways in which it reverberates among the members of the group.
After recounting the murder, Richard tells the story more or less chronologically. At the beginning, he transfers to Hampden College in Vermont seemingly to get as far away from his parents in Plano, California, as he can. He becomes intrigued by the classics students, and having studied Greek previously, seeks entry into their exclusive courses. Julian initially denies Richard, and Richard becomes somewhat obsessed with the classics students. One day, he helps some of them with a Greek grammar question, and he is offered a place in their exclusive course of study. Initially, he is somewhat of an outsider in the group, who go on cliquish excursions to Francis’s house in the country and are oddly close-lipped around Richard. Over time, Richard is allowed into the group’s circle of friendship and he discovers a horrible secret about a wild night in the woods near Francis’s country house.
The Secret History is an intriguing thriller. Knowing from the outset that the group will murder one of their friends did nothing to diminish the mystery: quite the reverse, in fact. Initially, the group seem like such logical intellects and scholars that one can hardly imagine what will lead to Bunny’s murder, but as the book progresses, even events that seem outlandish on the surface are rendered in such a plausible way, that the reader hardly questions. (Of course a bunch of highly intelligent classics majors, seeking to get closer to the ancient Greeks they study, would stage a bacchanal. That’s perfectly logical!) Tartt offers an interesting character study into what prompts a murder and how it affects each member of the group differently. The Secret History is as much a character study as anything else, and I think the reader will be surprised by the ending (which did not go where I thought it would, for sure).
Tartt has a gift for description, choosing for her narrator a man who describes his own fatal flaw early in the novel:
Does such a thing as “the fatal flaw,” that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs. (7)
And Richard describes everything he sees with this rapt beauty, from the run-down room with the hole in the roof in a house owned by an aging hippie where he spends his winter (and nearly dies of pneumonia) to Bunny’s descent into the ravine, windmilling and grasping for something, anything, to prevent his fall. Richard struggles to see things as they really are and renders events as he seems to wish they had occurred. He even admits this flaw near the end, as he tells the reader how he would have liked to have described an event—his description would have rendered it more romantic.
Jenny has a great review of this book (in fact, it was her review that put the book on my radar). She says,
[A]s a classics geek, I love it that this book makes Latin students seem super dangerous and dark and edgy. This is not necessarily the typical portrayal of Latin students, but it appeals to me: Watch out for us classics people. We are loose cannons and might push you off a cliff if you cross us. Or we might not. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW.
Point taken, Jenny. I’m not sure I’ll be able to turn my back on a classics major ever again. Awesome read, Jenny. Thanks for for recommending it.Rating:
This Sunday review shared as part of the Sunday Salon.
Full disclosure: I obtained this book from PaperBackSwap.
I should know better than to keep plugging away with a book when it’s just not grabbing me, but sometimes I second-guess myself. I recently picked up Bernard Schaffer’s [amazon_link id=”1463612214″ target=”_blank” ]Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes[/amazon_link] for two reasons: 1) I love Sherlock Holmes, and 2) the murders committed by Jack the Ripper are endlessly fascinating. I was encouraged by high ratings on both Goodreads and Amazon, too. Lucky me, it was available on Kindle for $2.99, so it seemed low-risk enough. I read about 25% of the book. This afternoon, I found myself not wanting to pick it up again. That’s when I knew I should probably just quit reading it. I am a little angry with myself for giving it that much of a chance, but I told myself it must get better because of the ratings. Listen, I am no prig. Not even close. But Holmes and Watson were Victorian-era gentlemen, and if you are going to appropriate another writer’s characters, I think working within the confines of their established characters should be a given. Up to the point I read, I felt Schaffer’s Holmes was faithful to Doyle’s, but Watson? Lestrade? I just can’t imagine Watson grabbing Mary Morstan’s breasts or saying sexually provocative things to her. It seems so unlike his nature. And Lestrade taking up with a prostitute in a dark alley as the prostitute’s daughter looks on from a distance? Well, I don’t like Lestrade either, but really? A significant portion of the part of the book I read is devoted to development of Jack the Ripper, who Schaffer has researched well. Schaffer’s depiction of the killer is spot on, as far as I could tell, but it’s cured me of wanting to read anything more about the case. Disgusting. I mean, obviously on an intellectual level, I knew the Whitechapel murders were the horrific, grisly work of an absolute psychopath, but actually seeing it through the character was too much. Maybe I’m squeamish, but I was really grossed out. I don’t think Schaffer is in the wrong, either. I think Jack the Ripper is buried under some layers of, for lack of a better word, Romanticism, and all Schaffer did was portray him as he probably was. So, I put the book down. I am not going to say it isn’t good because maybe it is, depending on your point of view. It just really wasn’t for me.
I picked up [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt instead, and I was immediately taken. The story begins in a crisp New England fall. At forty-five pages in, I am already sure I will like it. My point is that I should listen to my own advice more often. I gave the Schaffer a longer chance that I should have. I knew it wasn’t grabbing me long before I read so much of it. I was contemplating finishing it anyway and trying to imagine how I would rate it, when it occurred to me I didn’t really have to finish it. After all, don’t I tell everyone else it’s OK to give up on a book and that there are too many good books to read ones you don’t like? Of course! So why continue? Just to see if it gets better? OK, but what if it doesn’t, and how angry will I be with myself if I read the entire thing and wasted a week or more on a book I knew on day one wasn’t grabbing me? So I scrapped it, and now I am reading a book that has grabbed me absolutely within the first ten pages.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesdays topic is top ten books on my TBR list for fall.
- Right at the tippy top is [amazon_link id=”0312558171″ target=”_blank” ]The Ballad of Tom Dooley[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb. I have been working through her other ballad novels, and I am so anxious to read this one about perhaps one of the most famous murder ballads.
- [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs is on my list, too. It looks wonderful, doesn’t it?
- [amazon_link id=”031262168X” target=”_blank” ]The Witch’s Daughter[/amazon_link] by Paula Brackson looks good, but I don’t have it yet.
- I want to read [amazon_link id=”0345506014″ target=”_blank” ]Summer in the South[/amazon_link] by Cathy Holton before the weather cools too much and reading a “summer” book feels weird.
- [amazon_link id=”1416550550″ target=”_blank” ]The Forgotten Garden[/amazon_link] by Kate Morton is well-reviewed everywhere and perfect for the R.I.P. Challenge.
- [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt. When I made my prospective list of R.I.P. books the other day, I forgot I had this. I really want to read it this fall.
- [amazon_link id=”076793122X” target=”_blank” ]Dracula in Love[/amazon_link] by Karen Essex looks so good and would be perfect for R.I.P.
- Also, [amazon_link id=”0062049690″ target=”_blank” ]The Lantern[/amazon_link] by Deborah Lawrenson looks good.
- [amazon_link id=”1463612214″ target=”_blank” ]Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes[/amazon_link] by Bernard Schaffer—Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes. Awesome. Good reviews, too.
- [amazon_link id=”0553385615″ target=”_blank” ]Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery[/amazon_link] by Stephanie Barron because, after all, I am trying to complete the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge.
You have a big list for fall?
I’m on my way to my parents’ house to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Everyone in my family is an HP fan. You can look for my
review fangirly squee tomorrow. Meanwhile, I found a few good books this week to put in my TBR pile.
I’m not sure which of these books I’ll actually read or when, but I saved them for future reference in my to-read shelf on Goodreads. I wish I weren’t so bad at documenting how I heard about these books. If it was from you, thank you, and I’m sorry! I do remember where I found a few of them.
I’m the last book blogger to put a Donna Tartt on my list, but I found [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link]—academics, secrets—I’m there.
I can’t decide if [amazon_link id=”0670022691″ target=”_blank” ]Rules of Civility[/amazon_link] by Amor Towles is something I would like or not, but it has an extremely high rating on Goodreads, even after nearly a couple of dozen reviews. I think I found it via Shelf Awareness.
I think I came across [amazon_link id=”0500286965″ target=”_blank” ]The True History of Chocolate[/amazon_link] by Michael D. Coe and Sophie D. Coe on PaperBackSwap. I think it came up in a list of books similar to a different book I was trying to put on my wish list. But doesn’t it look good? I think I found [amazon_link id=”1594482691″ target=”_blank” ]The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World[/amazon_link] by Steven Johnson the same way.
[amazon_link id=”076793122X” target=”_blank” ]Dracula in Love[/amazon_link] by Karen Essex looks like a good book to store away for the R.I.P. Challenge. I ran across it when I read Essex’s recent post on the Writer Unboxed.
I just can’t remember where I found [amazon_link id=”006176910X” target=”_blank” ]A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice[/amazon_link] by Kenji Yoshino. I love books about Shakespeare and culture.
[amazon_image id=”1400031702″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Secret History[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0670022691″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Rules of Civility: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0500286965″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The True History of Chocolate (Second Edition)[/amazon_image]
[amazon_image id=”1594482691″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”076793122X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Dracula in Love[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”006176910X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice[/amazon_image]
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?
I just started reading Sarah Addison Allen’s first novel, [amazon_link id=”055338483X” target=”_blank” ]Garden Spells[/amazon_link], which I obtained through PaperBackSwap. I am enjoying it as much as I did [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] so far. I’m convinced I just don’t read paperbacks as fast I read Kindle books, though. I have a nonfiction book going on my Kindle—[amazon_link id=”1439170916″ target=”_blank” ]The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer[/amazon_link] by Siddhartha Mukherjee. So far, it’s fascinating. It reads almost like a thriller novel, or at least the first five percent has done so. Mukherjee described how leukemia was discovered and treated many years ago. I can already tell it will be a five-star read only a few chapters in.
I recently finished Jennifer Donnelly’s “Rose” trilogy: [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link] (review), [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link] (review), and [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link] (review). Very enjoyable reading, and I discovered that Jenners read them, too, and you can read her review, too.
I think next I’ll read Sarah Addison Allen’s [amazon_link id=”0553384848″ target=”_blank” ]The Sugar Queen[/amazon_link], which I also obtained from PaperBackSwap. Aside from that book, I’m not sure. I have a few interesting books coming via PaperBackSwap: [amazon_link id=”0452289661″ target=”_blank” ]Burning Bright[/amazon_link] by Tracy Chevalier, [amazon_link id=”B000V5WH7S” target=”_blank” ]All the King’s Men[/amazon_link] by Robert Penn Warren (which I am reading for my challenge), and [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt. I might want to save the Tartt for the R.I.P. Challenge—would it fit, anyone who has read it? I am thinking I probably will save Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs for the R.I.P. Challenge, much as I want to read it now.
What about you? What are you reading?