Books to Read in 2005
Submitted by Penny on Sat, 12/11/2004 - 06:29
- The Shining Stephen King It's not a contest, but I definitely preferred the book to Kubrick's movie adaptation. To portray Jack as a person who snaps rather than looney tunes from the get-go is much more chilling, and the grittier atmosphere more disturbingly satisfying.
- The Puttermesser Papers Cynthia Ozick Combines satire and magical realism, like 100 Years of Solitude, but more philosophical and following the constricted life of a New York lawyer rather than the bizarre history of the Buendia family. It works best if read as a series of short stories, each on a different stage of Puttermesser’s life (“Her Work History, Her Ancestry, Her Afterlife”). Best: “The Muscovite Cousin” and “Puttermesser in Paradise.”
- Death in Venice Thomas Mann I really wanted to prove Nabokov wrong here and emerge a Thomas Mann fan, but I was irritated by the cumulative, junky purple prose. Maybe it's partly the translator's fault. What I did like: the use of the human body as a metaphor for form and beauty in art, the atmosphere of German pre-war decadence, and the insights, especially the imagined Socratic dialogues.
- Ada Vladimir Nabokov A literary millefleur of arcane vocabulary and labyrinthine prose. More of a virtuoso performance than Lolita, and (therefore?) not quite as affecting, but the detachment enhances our appreciation of the word play, I guess. I still prefer Lolita and even the equally dispassionate Pale Fire.
- A Short History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson Describes scientists like extinct birds: rare, a little outlandish, and known for things other than reproducing. Bryson is particularly good at explaining things I either dimly understood or vaguely remembered from science classes (Einstein’s theory of relativity, continental drift, the discovery of DNA). Most definitely a worthwhile use of several of my allotted 750,000 hours or so (knock wood).
- Complete Short Stories Oscar Wilde
- Picnic, Lightning Billy Collins Sane and gentle and witty and inventive. Nabokov fan that I am, I'm also jealous that he thought of that title first. Like with my favorite albums and novels, I find myself continually changing my mind about which part I like best (currently it's "I Go Back to the House for a Book").
- Alternative Alices Ed. Carolyn Sigler
- The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell
- Age of Wonders: Exploring The World of Science Fiction Eds. Kathryn Cramwell and David Hartwell
- Ulysses James Joyce I read this for a class, VERY quickly and with a high fever. Somehow, I think it might deserve to be read attentively at 98.6.
- Middlemarch George Eliot Ditto the above, minus the high fever.
- Blonde Joyce Carol Oates Every so often, I have to check in with Oates to see if she's written anything as good as Marya, a Life or Son of the Morning.