All-Time Favourite Classics #4

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Wahey we made it to part 4!! As I said in the first week, I’m going to pause this series after this post, though I’d like to continue it someday. For now though, I’m working with a more “realistic” (*ahem* mostly) theme to round off these favourite classics:

canterbury talesCanterbury Tales– I was endlessly surprised to find how realistic the characters in this were- not least because this was written OVER 600 YEARS AGO! And yet the fundamentals of human nature haven’t changed. What is also incredible is how complex and layered each of the stories are, how they tales interplay with their role in the prologue and how this all builds up the character study even more.

 

great expectationsGreat Expectations– ahh the king of realism- Dickens. And this happens to be my favourite I’ve read so far. A part of this comes down to how much I adore the story- and yet I find that somewhat imperfect- not intentionally so (I just prefer Dicken’s original ending where *spoiler alert* he doesn’t end up with Estella, it made more sense from a narrative standpoint). But mostly, because I cannot get over that image of Miss Havisham, sitting in her wedding dress. It’s both tragic and horrifying.

 

catcher in the ryeCatcher in the Rye– this one will surprise people straight off the bat, because it is such a Love-it or Hate-it book. I for one won’t pretend that I liked Holden Caulfield- in fact I spent a good deal of time disliking him- and yet… there was something so compelling about him. I could not deny the realistic tenor to his character. Nor could I say that I didn’t grow sympathetic to him over the course of the book. That change struck me and took me by surprise- it felt like getting to know an actual person. Yes he may be whiny and difficult on the surface- however strip away the layers and there is so much more to him. So feel free to love him or hate him, but you can’t deny that this book captures something very real.

 

to kill a mockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird– I genuinely do not have any words for this book. The realistic characters, the finest fictional father figure of all time, the story, the beautiful writing, the message- ah it makes me speechless. If you do not know why it is on this list, then quite simply you haven’t read it.

 

 

king learKing Lear– okay, yes I’m following with a shall-we-say less good fictional father? (yes, I will admit I didn’t know what book to put next). But on the positive side this play made me cry… wait a second… JK- what I mean is this is a deeply moving play (not that I’m a masochist who seeks out stories that will make me cry… okay I totally do that- whatever 😉 )

 

brothers karamazovBrother’s Karamazov– speaking of dysfunctional families (gosh I ought to make a “favourite dysfunctional families” list) In all seriousness, this book is magnificent- not least because this has some MAGNIFICENT characterisation. I have to say that I love the intellectual tussles between Ivan and Alyosha (#teamAlyosha… which is weird because I should rightly pick Ivan… whatever I’ll psychoanalyse that comment later 😉 ). Incidentally, anyone that knows me might be surprised to have found no Dostoevsky’s my favourites so far- never fear, this part has three- pahahaha!

 

hamletHamlet– but if what you’re looking for is philosophical questions, why not get to the crux of the existential issue. To be or not to be– damn I get shivers from that speech every time. There’s a reason it’s quoted a million times. And sure, Hamlet might procrastinate for half the play about whether to avenge his father, but all his romps through faux madness and his eventual spurts of violence are so worth it… err… sort of. Stay in school kids.

 

waiting for godotWaiting for Godot– well since we’re on the subject of existential despair, we may as well go in for a penny in for a pound. And okay, this slightly surreal play is kind of the opposite of the realism theme I’ve been leaning towards here. Despite the strangeness of the play, however, it’s very clear that the themes it plays with- the passage between life and death- are very tangible issues. Some could say the most real of all. And of course, I could give any number of reasons for this being on the list- but what I will say is that what makes this play special is how it makes you feel alive with laughter one minute, and then, all of a sudden the warmth fades away, and you are left with nothing but a chill.

 

notes from undergroundNotes from the Underground– I actually studied this for a “Novel and the Collapse of Humanism” course (I know, cheery stuff). Here Dostoevsky explores the paradoxical nature of man- both alien and atypical of his society. It is a work of pure genius- exhibiting the internal chaos of humankind- as we struggle to find our place in the world (and if you’re in any doubt as to how seriously cool this book is, this 19th century book smashes through the fourth wall, like a Deadpool comic)

 

idiotThe Idiot– and yet it is The Idiot which probably takes the spot as my favourite Dostoevsky. I’ve mentioned time and again how I love the hero, Prince Myshkin (#relationshipgoals), because he is one of the most saintly characters ever written… and that’s his greatest failing. Which leads me onto my rather bizarre favourite thing about this book- it kind of fizzles out at the end- yes, it’s unintentional, but that’s what I like about it- it’s a failed book about failure.

 

judeJude the Obscure– okay, let’s be honest, if we’re going to talk “doomed from the start”, Jude really takes the biscuit. I’m not saying that this is a dark book, I’m saying THIS IS THE MOST DEPRESSING THING I HAVE EVER READ IN MY LIFE. I really don’t blame people for not liking this one to be fair- nonetheless, for me, this is one of the most memorable books I have ever read. I can never shake the images it has planted in my brain. So I guess all that’s left to say is: hey Jude, don’t be afraid… watch out for women who try to trap you in marriage, just sayin’

 

richard iiiRichard III– okay to leave off on a more positive note- let’s talk about someone who actually deserved to get their comeuppance. Cos let’s face it, from the opening speech, we can be certain Richard’s the baddie. And I know, I know, some historians and novelists have tried to rewrite the character in a more sympathetic light BUT there’s no following Shakespeare. He is “determined to prove a villain”- and what a villain he is! Too bad he couldn’t get hold of a horse.

Previous Posts:

All-Time Favourite Classics #1

All-Time Favourite Classics #2

All-Time Favourite Classics #3

I will admit that over the course of these posts I did add to this list, but I’ve decided to give it a rest for now. Anyway, have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

All-Time Favourite Classics #3

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Yay I’m on a roll with these posts! (or I might have just done them all in a batch and scheduled them… but whatever) For those of you who are new here (hi!) or missed my last few posts (where were you?! JK 😉 ) I’m currently sharing my lovey-dovey feelings about my favourite classics. I went into how I was doing this in (probably too much) detail in the first week, so I’m not going to bore you with it- suffice to say this is part three of four and each week has a vaguish theme. This week it’s EPIC! (I mean the theme, not the post- though if you think my posts are epic, have a prize banana, I salute you 😉 )  Well sort of epics, some of these are just bunched into this group because they address BIG IDEAS.

count of monte cristoThe Count of Monte Cristo– boy this book has scope! From the ship docking in the opening chapter to the ever expansive horizons the protagonist treads, the reader is taken on quite the journey. On the surface, it is a wonderful adventure story- however simmering under the surface is a classic tale of revenge- one which holds many lessons.

 

theogony and works and daysTheogony– if we are talking scope, no story has more than the Theogony. We are talking the literal origins of the universe, from a Greek perspective of course (it’s upto you whether you take that literally 😉 ) And my goodness, Hesiod might have been one of the world’s most adept misogynists, but dude sure can spin a story. No matter how often I read this, I’m always entertained by these myths. Oh and Works and Days is great too 🙂

 

aeneidAeneid– I own the most atrocious translation of this- and yet this still struck me as one of the most powerful stories ever told- which says everything. If the majesty of such a story could shine through a translation (so bad it made me laugh out loud) then you can imagine just how good it is. One thing I love about it is how it manages to splice the basic narrative structure of both the Iliad and the Odyssey together, combining the two into one incredible tale. It may be technically unfinished- nonetheless it is one of the most tightly woven stories I have ever read.

 

war and peaceWar and Peace– I honestly never expected to love this as much as I did. For years, I saw it as little more than a challenge- but when I finally read it WOW– it blew me away. I was instantly wrapped up in the characters, the philosophical discussions, and the beauty of the imagery that crossed the boundary a translation often erects. Of course, it took a lot of commitment, yet ever since I read it, I’ve been itching to give it a reread (it did completely kill the adaptation for me though, cos nothing could live upto that level of epicness).

 

grapes of wrathGrapes of Wrath– speaking of language, this book has some of finest writing I have ever seen. I don’t care what you think of Steinbeck’s philosophy, no one can argue that the writing here is anything less than profoundly stunning. There are few books that have blown me away as much on sheer imagery alone and this is one of them.

 

TheGreatGatsby_1925jacket.jpegThe Great Gatsby– and yet another beautifully written book. Here, my taste for lyrical, flowery prose shines through unashamedly again. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the Romantics and Fitzgerald drew heavily on their seductive style. Ergo, I adore this book. And if that wasn’t enough, I find the study of human nature in this book so compelling- especially because the characters are so ridiculously unlikeable. (Yes, I love to hate characters sometimes)

 

eastofedenEast of Eden– I actually love this for very different reasons to Grapes of Wrath. Yes, it has a lot of the same skill in terms of writing and yes, it likewise has a magnificent scope. However, what I love about this is the family drama and mirroring of the Kane and Abel story at the heart of the book. It is such a fascinating exploration of humanity, I cannot help but find this one of the most compelling family epics in existence.

 

the chosenThe Chosen– moving from a story about brotherly and fatherly love, to one about friendship. This story is a gorgeous modern day allegory about two friends who grow from being enemies on the baseball court to best friends. What I loved most about this was how it tackled Jewish philosophy and struck at the heart of the universal question of baseless hatred.

 

daniel derondaDaniel Deronda– I know that normally people are especially fond of Middlemarch by Eliot- and that’s cool, whatever floats your boat. Yet while I’ve read it twice and have been struck by the characters both times, the provincial life setting prevented me from fully forming an emotional connection. This book on the other hand… I do not expect everyone to be as in love with this as I am, yet I was fundamentally blown away not only about how it had mature philosophical debates and drew realistic Jewish characters (in a non-Holocaust book! without being anti-Semitic!), but also how it managed to show that people are not simply their group identity, they are textured and complex (I know *shocker*)

 

heart of darknessHeart of Darkness– this book is a puzzle- and yet I enjoy cracking it. Layer upon layer of meaning is coated onto this slightly bizarre, tightly woven book. I do not know that I will ever get to the bottom of it- all I know is that there is something which compels me to read and reread it.

 

fahrenheit-451Fahrenheit 451– well I had a burning desire to put this on the list 😉 (gosh- apologies for that appalling joke, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself 😉 ) Seriously though, this is one of the most illuminating, powerful books I’ve ever read. The imagery from beginning to end is burned into my brain. With a grand vision, this book illustrates the true horrors of collectivism.

 

1984 book1984– while I often envisage Fahrenheit 451 as depicting Nazism, 1984 strikes me as the cold knife of communism. Twice in my life I have read this book and twice I have put it down with no intention of picking it up again. Not because I dislike it, but because this book shakes me to my core. The imagery is terrifyingly realistic, the messages echo across time and the book paves the way for every dystopia that follows. There is nothing quite like it.

Previous Posts:

All-Time Favourite Classics #1

All-Time Favourite Classics #2

So have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! This feature will be back again next week… for the last time! (well for now)

All-Time Favourite Classics #2

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Well hello again- and welcome back to my second week of ALL-TIME FAVOURITE CLASSICS. I went into a bit more detail last week about how I’m doing this, so in case you missed it, you can read that here. Anyhoo, in the interest of saving time I’m not going to go into all that again- just know this is the second in a two part series, and each week will have a loose theme. Speaking of which, this week’s theme is gothicy, supernaturaly, childhoody stuff… yes they don’t all go together, they just go together more than the others did (I’m not wedded to this theme idea guys)

confessionsConfessions of a Justified Sinner– this takes me back so much. As you may (or may not know) I went to uni in Scotland, so was lucky enough to study a lot of Scottish literature. This happens to be one of the most striking, underrated gothic stories I have ever read. I really don’t want to spoil anything- only give you a taste- there’s murder, there’s madness, there’s mystery and there’s potentially even devils… (it also makes me laugh, which I often forget and catches me by surprise every time)

 

Arkham cover D finalPicture of Dorian Gray– I have loved this book ever since I first read it. Then I read it again and again and again. It never gets old. This book has a little taste of everything- romance, tragedy, wit, moral questions, an intense plot… and all of that packed into a short space. This is actually something I’d recommend to virtually everyone, because I see something in it for every sort of person.

 

jekyll and hydeDr Jekyll and Mr Hyde– this is just a great story. Sure, I know there’s a lot of depth to it, yet what gets me every time I read this one is how dramatic the story is– which is great if you have to read it loads for uni 😉 No matter how many times I read it, I was never bored.

 

 

turn of the screw 2Turn of the Screw– I’m really not into creepy books, yet I’m glad I had to read this at uni. I love books that pit madness against the supernatural- so you’re never quite sure how reliable the narrator is and there’s a surprise at every turn. Admittedly, I’m easily scared and had to turn on *ALL THE LIGHTS* half way through, just so I could get to the end.

 

frankensteinFrankenstein– I know a lot of people aren’t keen on the writing style for this but OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE IT. It’s no surprise since it is rumoured to have been edited by Percy Bysshe Shelley himself and naturally I am a huge fan of the Romantic poets (especially the later set). The language is succulent and exquisite- it’s exactly the kind of lyrical prose I enjoy most. On top of that, the story is engaging, I was invested in the romance (I know, me and no one else) and I frankly love the moral questions it deals with. Incidentally, that leads me onto…

 

The_Golem_(Isaac_Bashevis_Singer_novel_-_cover_art)The Golem– the myth of the Golem is the said inspiration for Frankenstein’s monster- yet they are very different stories. Where the drive for creation in Shelley’s story is hubris, the myth focuses on love and fear. Bashevis Singer perfectly adopts those elements in one of the most beautiful and heartfelt books I have ever read. It’s short and poetic, tying history to legend. I adored this book and it led me straight into the arms of one of my mother’s favourite writers.

 

dr faustusDr Faustus– not only do I love the language in this play, I love the ideas at the heart of it. The puzzle of Faustus’ pride and the question of ambition have been something that’s fascinated me for half my life. I love the tussle here with literal devils, as Marlowe plays out the inevitable rise and fall of hubris.

 

 

macbeth2Macbeth– since we’re talking of hubris, what better play than Macbeth? I read recently someone saying they didn’t like it cos Macbeth’s an unpleasant human… well duh. The point is that it captures the fallible human nature in us all- the part which strives and the part which falls short. I love this play, partly because it captures that struggle in us all and partly because it’s got plenty of sheer entertainment.

 

lorna dooneLorna Doone– speaking of entertainment, I love this book. I know it’s not a technically perfect book and I doubt it’ll blow people’s minds given how obvious some of the plot points are- but back when I encountered this the first time, I’d never read anything like it and thoroughly enjoyed the story (incidentally, the BBC adaptation is no masterpiece either, but it sure is fun!)

 

armadaleArmadale– this is also a lot of fun. Like most of Collin’s work, it does have a slightly mysterious, dark feel, though it’s not supposed to be his best. It is, however, one of those books which has stayed with me for one reason or another- it could be the adventurous, exciting spirit, it could be the complex plot, or it could very well be that it has a villain beyond compare!

 

peter pan and wendyPeter Pan– if you want to talk about staying power, this book is pretty unforgettable. At this point, the character and story have slipped into common parlance, so I really have no need to explain the appeal of a boy who never grows up and who can fly! I will say that I happily admit to suffering from just a teensy bit of Peter Pan syndrome- and I make no apologies for that 😉

 

Alice's_Adventures_in_WonderlandAlice in Wonderland– ahh one of the wackiest books in history- I adore it! As nonsensical and eccentric as can be, it’s also highly imaginative and oddly relatable. I think I’d have to be “mad, mad, mad as march hares” not to love it!

 

 

Previous Posts:

All-Time Favourite Classics #1

That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! I’ll have another of these next week!

All-Time Favourite Classics #1

Well hello! After my post the other day, where I showed off my bookshelves, and just generally talking a lot about books I love a lot recently, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favourite classics. Now of course, I quickly realised that there was no way I could do this in a single post, so decided to turn this into a mini-series. I’ve arbitrarily decided these posts will go out on Tuesdays for four weeks (basically because I wrote four posts before deciding to put a lid on it) so that’s what you’re getting… for now 😉

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Obviously, this list is not the “best” classics- just books that hit me on a deeply personal level. Nor is it a “finished” article: a) because I’ll be adding to it as I read more and b) because there were books that are hovering just outside the list and I’m always careful about saying whether a book is something I love vs a favourite. To my mind, it takes a significant amount of time and emotional connection for a book to be established as a favourite.

In the interest of keeping this list to a reasonable length, I also won’t be including: fantasy, sci fi, non-epic poetry, literary fiction or basically any other genre fiction. This is not a comment on whether they are/could be classics- only that I would prefer to talk about them in other lists- in fact I have a favourite fantasy list which I *definitely* plan on adding to with new favourites at some point cos they’ve been mounting up.

Lastly, before we get into this week’s selection, I’ve split these vaguely based on theme and don’t be alarmed by the fact there’s an uneven number each week (even after everything I’ve just said, I didn’t want to be stuck with silly, self-imposed rules)

Okay, rather long winded preamble- let’s get started with my rather romantic first set of favourites:

Emma_Jane_Austen_book_coverEmma– what could I actually say about Emma that hasn’t already been said? There’s a reason why this has been dubbed the perfect novel: the character growth, the plot structure, the romance, the friendship and the lessons that are so subtly woven into the story. I could go on, but the reason why this hits a personal note for me is that this was the book that made me appreciate Austen’s humour (though it was not the first Austen I read) and it’s because of this that I came to love all her work. I also happen to think Mr Knightley is the most appealing of all Austen’s love interests- sorry Mr Darcy fans 😉

 

little womenLittle Women– oh gosh, this book gives me the warm fuzzies whenever I think about it. There’s so much to love about it- the romance, the heartbreaking ups and downs of the story, the characters- however one of the biggest elements which always strikes me with this story *has to be* the family dynamic- the March sisters really capture that feeling of sisterhood.

 

i capture the castleI Capture the Castle– speaking of families and relationships, this one is slightly more dysfunction. Still, this quirky coming of age story is set in a crumbling castle and will always have a place in my heart (and inspires me to one day live in my own derelict castle… even though I hate the cold… whatever it’s a nice dream 😉 )

 

rebeccaRebecca– so, spoiler alert, next week I’ll be doing more gothic-y themed books and this book could certainly compete there. However one of the best things about this book is the romance- no not the romance between the unnamed protagonist and her new husband- but the ongoing romance with his dearly departed wife. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t read it, but this book illustrates what it feels like to be a third wheel… even though the third person in the relationship is in fact already dead.

 

wuthering heights bookWuthering Heights – speaking of more gothic-type books, this certainly has that feel some of the time. Yet it also is one of the most intense romances I’ve ever read. Now, I will admit that there are some faults on a structural level- however the heart of this book is one of the most sublime, passionate affairs I’ve ever read. And yes, Heathcliff and Cathy are horrible people- that’s half the point- their sole redeeming quality is there love for each other (well, it’s also their doom, so there’s that)

 

jane eyreJane Eyre– we can’t speak of one Bronte sister without mentioning another, and this book is wonderful in a different way. Of course, the main characters are flawed, but they’re not totally unlikeable; there are elements of destructive love, but it’s not the end of the world (mostly); and I can safely say the structure is tidier. And, above all, the romance still captures my imagination (that and the mad woman in the attic)

 

tess of the d'urbervillesTess of the D’Urbervilles– however if you’re looking for something slightly more on the tragic side- look no further. It’s such a sob-worthy story, from beginning to end. Poor Tess can’t catch a break. This is the book that made me fall in love with Hardy’s bleak, fatalistic outlook and visualistic world. Yes, I admit it, I’m somewhat pessimistic and this appeals to my dark side.

 

romeo-and-juliet-one-sheetRomeo and Juliet– speaking of star crossed lovers- where would we be without the ultimate ill-fated duo? (still referring to Tristan and Isolde no doubt, but I digress) I have two reasons for adoring this play: 1) the language and 2) the play with genre (yes I’m a dork)- it’s a fairly straightforward ploy of tricking the viewer into thinking it’s a comedy and then *BAM* Mercutio gets it and we’re into tragic territory. Simple, yet genius.

 

persuasionPersuasion– a slightly more romantic Austen, I read this one last in my Austen journey, and it’s always competing in my mind with Emma for the position of favourite Austen (incidentally most Austen books could have ended up on this list). Unrequited or long lost love really gets to me, so I found myself crying when they kept being frustrated in their romance (yes, I know it’s not a sad book, only the heightened romantic feel gets to me, cos I’m a sap)

 

midsummer night's dreamMidsummer Night’s Dream– this was my first ever Shakespeare play and can always put me in a good mood. Lighthearted and fun, there’s a spirit of mischief in the air. One of my absolute favourite things about it though, is how Helena’s story in particular captures that feeling of being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. It’s still just as poignant as ever.

 

Importance_earnest_dvdImportance of Being Earnest– and let’s round this off with the play that is the most fun of all! Why do I love it? Because this is Wilde at his wittiest and honestly this can still make me laugh, no matter how many times I hear the jokes (I also highly recommend the 1952 movie version)

 

 

Hope you enjoyed that- I loved making it. Have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! And I’ll have another one of these next week…

My Pratchett Journey- So Far… A Love Story

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I’m absolutely giddy for today’s post! Because today, on the day of love, I’m going to tell you the story of how I fell head over heels with Pratchett books. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the giant orange monkey you see now. In fact, once upon a time when I was a wee uni student, two of my closest friends (hi if you’re reading!) were astounded to find that I was a barely familiar with the Discworld. Sure, I’d heard of Pratchett (who hasn’t?)- I even had vague but pleasant memories of The Wee Free Men from when I was younger- yet I’d never launched fully immersed myself in the wackiness of Pratchett’s universe. That, of course, was a mistake 😉

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it”

mort nice editionBecause I knew, the second I started reading Mort that I was reading something special. And, incidentally, so did the rest of my train carriage, where I sat for four hours, smothering laughter through my hand. I instantly fell in love with the humour. I mean, even years on, I still find myself randomly cracking up over the Great A’Tuin- a giant turtle hurtling through space with four elephants resting on its back which support the Discworld… Seriously, I just finished that sentence and I’m laughing again!  Really the jokes and wit *never* gets old.

“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

“Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, “The mountain is, and is not.” They would think, “The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.”

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this”

hogfatherSoon I’d leapt into the rest of the series- in fact the Death series ran away with me- I couldn’t stop with that one. I absolutely loved the quirks and eccentricities of the entire world- not least of the characters! I still chuckle over the fact that Death enjoys a good curry- that is so quintessentially English and I love it!! (chicken tikka masala is the national dish after all). Plus, oh my goodness, the stories are so unconventional! If you’re looking for a different Christmas story, you won’t get anything better than the Hogfather.

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom”

witches abroadAnd actually that leads me onto the pure genius of the ideas. Not only is Hogfather a lovingly satirical take on the way we all act around Christmas, but it also gets right into the heart of the love of stories. Actually, this is a running theme with Pratchett- and is especially noticeable in the witch’s plots, such as the play with fairy tales in Witches Abroad and the *double double toil and trouble* Shakespearean mischief of Lords and Ladies. It’s this complexity and depth which makes the series *so awesome*.

“HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”

going postalAs you know, I absolutely *love* satire, and this is such witty and intelligent fare. And on such varied topics as well! Sometimes it’s simply about some good fantasy tropes like dragons in Guards, Guards. Sometimes it’s on a much larger scale, like questions around war, in Jingo. And sometimes books like Going Postal are just about that weird British obsession with the post office dammit- incidentally this is one of my favourites and the only one I’ve reviewed.

“What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.” 

guards-guardsAnd yet there’s more to it than all that. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love time and again with so many bonkers, wacky and fun characters from the series! If they were simply flat archetypes for satirical fodder, they wouldn’t be half as endearing as they are. But no! They are so much deeper than that. Death, the anthropomorphic personification of death, doesn’t just exist as a vehicle for the plot- NO!– he actually comes to learn about and sympathise with humanity. Vimes, the slightly world weary copper, who manages to upstage everyone with his unbending sense of right and wrong. Granny “I can’t be having with that kind of thing” Weatherwax, who takes common sense to a whole new level. Vetinari is the kind of despotic politician I can admire (thank you Sir P for giving me the opportunity to utter such odd sentences). Then there’s other favourites like the Death of Rats, Susan and Moist. And lastly, but certainly not least…

“Ook.”

unseen academicalsThe Librarian- who inspired me to create this blog! For those of you who don’t know, the Librarian is one of my favourite Discworld characters. My monkey owes its existence to the great big monkey in the sky… or something (*ahem* that sounded more poetic in my head…) Say hello to my little friend!

“If you try to to take my bananas from me, I will reclaim them from your cold dead hands.”

shepherd's crownAnd so we’re coming to the end of my journey so far… And the fact that I can say “so far” is something else that I’m happy about. Because, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I’m not done yet- and that only makes me more excited!! I have heard so many wonderful things about books I haven’t got to- not least the Shepherd’s Crown– and I’ve got to say I can’t wait!

So have you read Pratchett? Are you inspired to pick any up now? Let me know in the comments!

Perfectly Imperfect Books

Books are like people. They’re temperamental, diverse and it’s the little things that make them special. Sometimes we love them inexplicably, warts and all. So today I decided to dedicate a list to the books that I love ALL THE MORE *because* of their imperfections. Here are my top ten perfectly imperfect books:

idiot1. The Idiot– so years ago when I reviewed this book I talked a little about how this book is technically a failed book about failure. I mean, it doesn’t have a satisfactory conclusion, it swerves off topic on multiple occasions and the plot is a little all over the place. BUT if you asked me which books have had the most impact on me, this would be on that list. Sure, this book may have some pretty random tangents- but man, the philosophy espoused here is endlessly deep. So yes, this book may not be as polished as some of Dostoevsky’s other work, but it’s perfect in its own way.

Emma_Jane_Austen_book_cover2. Emma– okay this one’s cheating a little- cos I think this one’s practically perfect in every way. In fact, I recall a professor of mine describing it as such. And it’s true, because the moral of self-improvement, the biting humour, the character development and the structure of the novel are all perfectly balanced (I could literally go on forever- but if you want more details my review’s here). However, interestingly enough, what makes this so successful as a novel is how imperfect Emma is as a character- and for me that’s what makes it so great.

Hobbit_cover3. The Hobbit– as you all know I *adore* this book. It was my gateway to fantasy and *arghh* it’s just so complex and amazing! BUT it does rightly get some criticism for being episodic. My response to that is this only adds to the story, since every episode moves the plot along, whilst containing its own unique message. The other criticism it gets is “it’s just a children’s book”- to which I say “eff off” or in more adult terms “if you haven’t learnt by now that there’s more to children’s books than meet the eye then you still have a lot of growing up to do” (see I can be mature 😉 ) Incidentally I should have known the movie franchise was doomed when Jackson said that.

ovid erotic poems4. Ovid’s Erotic Poems– OH GAWD I LOVE THESE- okay now I’ve got that out my system… These can be read in multiple ways- read it too literally and you might end up hating Ovid as a person- but if you get the subtext it’s one of the most hilarious books ever written. However, like most books that can be read in multiple directions, it’s easily either going to be one of the best things you ever read or the worst. Plus you may end up concentrating so hard on it that you develop a tension headache 😉

carry on5. Carry On– as a parody of Harry Potter, it obviously has to bear a lot of similarities with the original in order to work, but as is so often the case with satire, the humour is often missed by critics and I’ve seen this labelled “unoriginal” umpteen times. To that I would say, people need to do a better exploration of what satire is– but then getting undue criticism is also kinda a part of the genre too- so it’s a catch 22. Regardless, to me this is top notch stuff, plus it’s got Baz and Simon- nuff said 😉

poison chris wooding6. Poison– no one’s heard of this book, so I can say what I like about it- though *oh my goodness*, everyone’s missing out. This is one of the most impactful, clever books I’ve ever read and it will always be a favourite. But it’s weird- super weird- so I’m always reluctant to recommend it cos there’s a fifty percent chance people’ll love it, and a fifty percent chance they’ll say “what did I just read?”

aeneid7. The Aeneid– alright I’m stumped… I can’t actually think of any imperfections… Seriously… this is a tough cookie. The reason it’s on the list is that it was technically unfinished- but plebs like me will never be able to pick out its flaws, so I doubt it matters unless you’re a serious scholar. I guess I could say that my edition wasn’t perfect though (protip: never translation read of ancient poetry into English that’s been made to rhyme- unfortunately for me my lecturer insisted on it :/ ).

wuthering heights book8. Wuthering Heights– this one *had to* go on the list, because from a purely technical sense, this has some structural flaws, with an odd and maybe even out of place frame around the narrative and some pretty detestable characters BUT it also has some of the finest emotional moments in literature. No book has ever, or will ever, make you feel as wildly passionate as this. And it’s why, although I gave both books 5*, this one edges it out over Jane Eyre for me (which incidentally is a pretty flawless book). And speaking of emotions…

jude9. Jude the Obscure– ah Hardy- if you want to experience true pain, this is where you go. No one does tragedy like Hardy. So what’s its fatal flaw? Well, some people would say the way it deals with mental health… or doesn’t deal with it. You see, as I’ve mentioned before, there are two kinds of mental health in books- the would-be educational kind and the ones that present it as is. Personally my preference is for the latter, because if I want to be educated about mental health, which I frequently do, I go to psychology papers, not literature (not to mention that the “educational” kinds frequently fail). As for this being one of the darkest books in existence so be it. The world is frequently dark, twisted and bleak. Better that than preaching to me “suicide is bad” or “depression isn’t anyone’s fault”- yeah no shit Sherlock.

we were liars10. We Were Liars– first of all *no spoilers* but this book was perfection for me BECAUSE of the style, where ironically a lot of people don’t like this BECAUSE of said style. So I guess that’s the moral of the story here- what makes something perfect for one person may not work for someone else…

 

So what do you think about perfectly imperfect books? Do you have any books that you love in spite of their flaws? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books of 2016

Alrighty then- it’s finally time for my top ten of 2016!!! I’m really pleased to say competition for a spot on my top ten was really tough this year- I’ve read some incredible books- so much so that I felt the need to highlight my honorary picks yesterday in a post all of their own! Honestly, it got to the point in the year when I felt like I should stop reading good books so there would be less competition on this list!

For that reason this year’s list is special- these aren’t just great books- but books that are going to stay with me for years to come. I hope that some of them will do the same for you. Without further ado- here’s my top ten in ascending order:

(All reviews are linked to the pics)

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a_monster_calls

This is the only book on the list I didn’t review- but that was actually because my emotions were too fraught after reading to come up with anything coherent. What I will say now is that it was nothing short of beautiful– beautifully written, beautifully conceived and beautifully illustrated. It was quite simply, the perfect story. (For the record it gets *all the bananas* from me!)

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infidel

Such an important book to read– this book is only lower down on this list because, while brilliant, it is a heavy subject. That description of FGM at the start is not for the faint of heart!

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Red Rising Pierce Browns

This series blew me away. It’s bloodydamn brilliant!! Shout out to Kat and everyone else that told me to read this- so, so grateful!

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the martian

One of the best things to come out of this year has been my sudden interest in sci fi- I am so excited to read more in the coming years, but I feel like this was my gateway drug. Ever since I read it, I just kept going back to how perfect it was- sciencey terms and all! (Come on, it’s got Mark Watney!)

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war and peace

I can’t believe this was the year I finally read War and Peace! This tome has been on my tbr forever- but this year I felt spurred on to tackle it- and I’m so glad I did, because it turned out to be rewarding for all the right reasons: fantastic plot, realistic characters and thoughts that will make your head hurt! (In a good way 😉 )

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The_Golem_(Isaac_Bashevis_Singer_novel_-_cover_art)

And this is the point in the list where things get really personal. This may be a children’s story, but I was moved so much by this and found Singer’s version to be truly telling about some of the horrors faced by Jews during the pogroms.

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MissPeregrineCover (1).jpg

I read the second one of the series the other day and was just as blown away as with the first one. The imagery and symbolism here is simply magnificent. I love what this series is doing and adore Riggs unique style.

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the chosen

This book didn’t just feel personal to me, it had a universal message– the central allegory of this story, of letting go of baseless hatred, is one I think we can all learn from. This story is bound to stay with me for quite some time!

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NeverendingStory1997Edition

A book about books, when it’s done well, has to be one of my favourite things ever! And this book is one of the finest I have ever read. Imaginative, philosophical and just plain beautiful- what more could one ask for! I am also eternally grateful that this book was recommended to me by Zezee– book blogging gets you the best recommendations!

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shadow of the wind

Yes, the top two books on here are books about books! This book is up there for me as one of the best books I have *ever* read. It is in the realm of the Book Thief and is without a doubt the best book I have read this year.

That was so fun to do! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what was your favourite book of 2016? Let me know in the comments!