Tag Archives: 1001 books

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

The Golden Notebook

Anna Wulf is a writer with one published work to her name. The book was fairly successful, enabling Anna to support herself and her young daughter with the profits from the royalties, as well as taking in boarders in her London house. Although she hasn’t gotten anything else published, Anna keeps up her writing, keeping four different notebooks. In a black notebook, she writes about her time as a young woman in Africa when she first became involved with the Communist Party. A red notebook describes her later disillusionment with the movement in the 1950’s. In a yellow notebook, she writes a novel that’s basically a fictionalized version of an affair she once had. A blue notebook is for her personal diary. Additionally, several chapters are titled “Free Women” and are a third-person description of Anna’s conversations with Molly, a friend from her Communist days.

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath

Chirst. This was a tough one to read.

I don’t just mean it was depressing. It was, obviously – a book about a poor family being forced from their home during the Great Depression and having to beg for the chance to pick cotton at fifteen cents per hour can’t be anything except depressing – but it wasn’t the most depressing book I’ve ever read. That honor probably goes to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, although I guess Angela’s Ashes is a close second.

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Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

Between the Acts

Maybe it’s because this is technically unfinished (a forward from Leonard Woolf states that although the draft was completed, Virginia Woolf died before she was able to make final corrections and revisions, so it was sent to the printers as is), but this one didn’t strike me quite in the way Woolf’s other books have. But that’s not to suggest that it isn’t good – remember, this is Virginia Woolf, so when I say that it didn’t strike me as much as her other ones, I only mean that this book felt like a minor blow to the head, rather than feeling like I was being remade from the inside out.

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Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Hadrian cover

Of the creation of Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar writes, “The idea for this book and the first writing of it, in whole or in part, and in various forms, date from the period between 1924 and 1929, between my twentieth and twenty-fifth year. All those manuscripts were destroyed, deservedly.” Over almost thirty years, Yourcenar kept returning to the idea – writing a fictional memoir of the Roman emperor Hadrian, written as a reflection on his life and his rule – and writing little bits here and there, before the finished product was finally published in 1951.

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Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children cover

“Please believe that I am falling apart.
I am not speaking metaphorically; nor is this the opening gambit of some melodramatic, riddling, grubby appeal for pity. I mean quite simply that I have begun to crack all over like an old jug – that my poor body, singular, unlovely, buffeted by too much history, subjected to drainage above and drainage below, mutilated by doors, brained by spittoons, has started coming apart at the seams. In short, I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment, although there are signs of acceleration. I ask you only to accept (as I have accepted) that I shall eventually crumble into (approximately) six hundred and thirty million particles of anonymous, and necessarily oblivious, dust. That is why I have resolved to confide in paper, before I forget. (We are a nation of forgetters.)”

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Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility cover

I hate romantic comedies.

I hate them for a wide variety of reasons – I hate their formulaic plots, their repeated character tropes that never seem to change (hmm, will this one have a sassy best friend who only exists to dispense advice?), I hate their consistent failing of the the Bechdel test, and I hate the way they try to make me believe that a skinny and gorgeous woman is incapable of finding a man because she’s clumsy or has a job or something.

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Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

Black Water cover

The firs time I heard about the so-called Chappaquiddick incident was in college. Right after Ted Kennedy died, we were talking about him in one of my classes, and we got around to the various Kennedy scandals, and then my professor remarked, “you know, everyone on the news keeps talking about all the good things that Ted Kennedy did during his life – everyone forgets that he was responsible for a woman’s death.”

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The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

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This is on The List? Really? I mean, I understand why The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man are on there, because they’re great, but as far as I’m concerned there was no reason to include this one as well.

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Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

Vampire cover

Damn you straight to hell, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, look what you made me do. You made me read a goddamn vampire book. Not only that, you made me read a vampire book with a cover made entirely of shiny ostentatious gold material that shouted to everyone in the library as I checked this out, “Look everyone! Madeline is reading a book about vampires! SHINY SHINY SHINY LOOK AT ME! I CONTAIN SEXY BROODING VAMPIRES AND I AM SO EFFING SHINY.”

(I cannot stress how shiny-gold this cover is. Like, the ancient Egyptians would look at this cover and say, “That’s a bit much.” It was awful.)

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The Years by Virginia Woolf

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Other reviews tell me that this isn’t as good as Mrs Dalloway or To The Lighthouse – having read all three books now, I will concede the Mrs Dalloway point, but I think I liked The Years better than To the Lighthouse. The two stories are similar, in that they deal with an extended family and the perspective switches from person to person and the closest you get to an action scene is everyone sitting around and talking, but the scope of The Years is much wider (it deals with several generations of a family and spans decades, rather than a couple years) and seemed, at least to me, to be slightly easier to follow than To the Lighthouse. I would definitely have better luck explaining the plot of this book to someone who had never read it.

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