Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Search for Delicious - Natalie Babbitt

The Search for Delicious
Title: The Search for Delicious
Author: Natalie Babbitt
Publication Date: 1969
Pages: 176
How I Found It: I read it as a kid.
Date Completed: 7/23/17

Summary: When everyone at court disagrees on the definition of 'delicious' for the Prime Minister's dictionary, young Gaylan is sent to poll the people of the kingdom. Along the way, he finds himself embroiled with creatures of fantasy and a plot to overthrow the King. 

What I Thought: Natalie Babbitt wrote several books I read as a child and which have stayed with me over the years. Since I've been enjoying dipping my toe back into the world of children's literature lately, it seemed like a good time to revisit this one. 

It was as charming as I remember. I cannot really pinpoint what about this book stuck with me for so long. It is not particularly exceptional. Yet, there is something to it which I just enjoy. I think it has just the right balance of humor, fantasy, and intrigue for me. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 330
Genre: Fiction
How I Found It: A friend loaned it to me
Date Completed: 7/12/17

Summary: A quirky Seattle mother struggles with social interactions. When her daughter requests a trip to Antartica, things start falling apart.

What I Thought: Before we went to Michigan for my father-in-law's surgery, a friend gave me a few books she thought I might enjoy. This was one of them. I picked it up about a week into our trip and burned through it in a day. It had me laughing and thinking about personality and social interactions. 

After reading the book and looking it up on Goodreads for this post, I realized that Semple also for Arrested Development. This makes total sense to me. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

What's Next?

It feels so amazing to be done with the 100 Best Novels challenge. As I mentioned on in my posts earlier this week, I have been working on that list for over four years. Because I am a goal-setter, I have thought throughout that time about how I would like to challenge myself next. So, here we are to talk about just that.

Before we do, I do want to acknowledge how very much I am looking forward to reading utterly and completely for pleasure in the next few months. I've read so much heavy material in the past few years because of the list. I really pushed myself through the last twenty or thirty books. So, for a while, I want to read fiction that feels fluffy and good. Books I want to devour, not slog through. I know any new challenge will come with some books I'm not so interested in, so I don't want to jump into anything too quickly.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

What I Learned From the 100 Best Novels - Picking Favorites

If you've been hanging around this week, you know I have been reflecting on my time spent reading Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list. It took me four and a half years to finish this monstrous challenge, so it's not surprising I have a lot to say about it. Check out my posts from earlier this week regarding what makes a classic and diversity in literature

On this last day of retrospection, I want to hit on the two questions I got asked most often when I told people about this challenge: What has been your favorite book? and What has been your least favorite book?

My reflections the last two days were broader in scope, but today I want to get granular. I've spent time talking about big picture stuff and recognizing why books matter even if they aren't to my personal taste. Today, however, is my 30th birthday and, thus, I find it perfectly acceptable 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What I Learned From the 100 Best Novels - Why Diversity Matters

This week is all about my journey to finish the monstrous 100 Best Novels challenge. I am taking time to reflect on various aspects of my journey and thoughts I had along the way. Yesterday, I talked about what makes a book a classic in the first place. Tomorrow, I'll be sharing my favorites (and least favorites) from the list. 

Today, though, I wanted to talk about my biggest takeaway from this challenge. Over the past four years, I've told a lot of people about my efforts to read these books. If they inquire further about my experience, this is what I share. These are the thoughts I have not been able to shake for years. This is the sentiment which has weighed on me since very early on. 

In fact, I even talked about it in my post announcing that I was taking on the challenge. Throughout the whole journey, I have been so aware of this issue. I watched it manifest itself in countless ways as I read through the list. So, I want to spend some time talking about it today.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What I Learned From the 100 Best Novels - What Makes A Classic

In February 2013, I embarked on a challenge.  I determined to read through Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels. The list was compiled in 1998, so, by now, it is leaving out a good number of years of English writing. Of course, it's not like they picked anything too close to 1998 anyway. It's one of several such lists which were written at the end of the millennium. I chose the Modern Library list in part because it included Ulysses by James Joyce. It's often touted as the best novel ever written, so I wanted to include it. Go read my review of it to see what I thought about that.

Back when I started the challenge, I expected to finish in two years or so. I certainly did not expect it to take four years. Had I done the practical math at the time, I should have known it would take this long or even longer. I've really pushed myself the last year and a half or so to complete this before my 30th birthday (which is Thursday!).

Four and a half years later, I have completed the challenge. It feels amazing to have done something so big. Throughout the experience, I have developed a lot of thoughts and opinions about literature, the challenge, and the purpose of reading. This week, I want to share those thoughts with you. 

I started writing one big long post, but I quickly realized I have more thoughts than anyone wants to read in one sitting. So, I'm breaking by reflections on this challenge into three days. Tomorrow, I'll be I'm discussing diversity in literature. Thursday, I'm picking favorites - and least favorites! - from the list. And, as a bonus, on Friday I'll be looking ahead and considering what challenge to take on next. Make sure you come back every day this week to read the whole series of posts.

Before we dig into specifics, though, I want to look at this challenge through a larger lens. 

What Makes A Classic

I set off on this challenge because I recognized some big gaps in my "classical" literary education. I wanted to rectify that. These days, after having read 100 "classics," I have some thoughts about what even gives a book that classification. Who gets to decide what a classic even is? After reading this list, I have some complaints I'd like to file with the Modern Library board. Granted, they were not specifically defining these books as "classics," but putting something under the heading of 100 Best Novels certainly grants it a similar gravitas.

Monday, August 14, 2017

100 Best Novels Roundup, Vol. 6

This is it! I've completed the 100 Best Novels challenge! Every day this week, I'll be back with more thoughts on the challenge as a whole. Today, however, I have the final individual book reviews:
Point Counter Point

Title: Point Counter Point
Author: Aldous Huxley
Publication Date: 1928
Pages: 432
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 7/5/17

What I Thought: I didn't dislike this book, but it wasn't what I was expecting at all. After reading Huxley's most famous novel, Brave New World, I was expecting something similar in genre. This is totally different, though certainly not bad. Overall, it was definitely enjoyable. I think, though, I would have gotten much more out of this had I lived in the era in which it was published. Huxley famously based many of the characters in the novel on real people in his social circle. Since those personalities are no longer well known to the general public, or even someone like myself who makes a habit of reading historical classics, I felt I lost a lot of the intended experience. The book is still good if you don't know who the characters are meant to be, but I continually got the feeling it would have been better if I had known more of the backstory. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe