Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The best I can say about this book is that #118 The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is free on Kindle and from Project Gutenberg. I absolutely hated the first 75% of this book, up to chapter 14. After that point, I got interested, briefly, and then ended up simply strongly disliking the rest of it. It reminded me of Perfume, in that it was unpleasant to read to the point where I wished it wasn’t on the list at all, and wondered who could possibly love this book, and also the manner of its unpleasantness.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the story of a beautiful young man. After sitting as an artist’s model, he realises that the portrait will never change, while for him, there’s nothing to look forward to but the ruin of his good looks. A fervent prayer seems to alter the natural order of things, and the painting begins to decay…

Hateful
The book is angry and bitter. The main character, Dorian, takes his tone from a friend of his, the louche Lord Henry. I can’t picture what these people would be like in person, as they’re so unpleasant to read about, yet they seem so charming, if the reactions of people about them are to be believed.

We’ve been watching Elementary and the description of an addict in that resonates with how both Lord Henry and Dorian act. They disregard the feelings and rights of others to the point where sociopath seems a good description. They are both set on following their own course, like an addict who prioritizes the next hit over anything else. They value nothing but their own continued existence, not love, friendship, money, or others’ lives. I can’t quite grasp what they’re searching for. They say ‘pleasure’ and yet, don’t seem to be enjoying much of anything. Oblivion, perhaps, when the experiments with drugs come up, but that doesn’t explain the previous decade.

Clever phrases
Wilde is famous for his clever turns of phrase, and he’s very quotable. His most famous quotations tend not to come from Dorian Gray, though, as the lines are so bleak. Lord Henry is the main mouthpiece for Wilde’s famous epigrams, and these are largely vicious.

Women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated.

I’ve read and rather like The Importance of Being Ernest. In that, the quips are tempered. In this, the hate is palpable and all the more dangerous for being cleverly worded. Wilde seems to have a particular hate for women, and refers to them constantly as inferior, dragging men down in one way or another. The middle and working classes come in for a bashing as well, as does anyone who presumes to have some kind of morality.

Moderation is a fatal thing. Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a feast.

I can’t tell and don’t care enough to find out which parts of this are supposed to be Wilde’s own beliefs and which are a clever satire of the society of the time. I found the whole thing unpleasant to read, and generally wished I wasn’t reading it. As it’s easy to put a book down, the novel took under 3 hours to read, stretched over at least four months. I also fundamentally disagree with the core premise of the book:

Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things.

And I don’t hold the same views on art. Sorry, that should be Art, with a capital A. Wilde treats art as something entirely separate from everyday living. He opens with a preface describing this view, which can be summed up in two of his neat phrases:

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

and:

The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is useless.

Latter, in a flash of insight, Dorian claims to have been harmed by a book lent to him by Lord Henry (who plays the role of the devil in this work quite effectively). Lord Henry counters:

As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. That is all.

And I would say: that is bullshit. What’s the point of art, or Art even, if it doesn’t stir some emotion? And how can we expect that all emotions thus stirred will be so fleeting as to pass through a life without a ripple? My life has certainly been changed, for better and for worse, by the books I’ve read at different times. The NHS now offers books on prescription, making official something many of us have been doing for years. When I want to feel cheered, I read something cheerful. When I want to be more productive, I read a book about someone who has accomplished great things, and I’m stirred to action. As a child, when I wanted to read a scary story at bedtime I learned to follow it up with a does of Enid Blyton, and then I slept well.

Just as there are books that can help and heal, that can encourage the reader to be their better self, there are books that can harm. It’s not always obvious which are which, as some people thrive on books that are poisonous to others, but I do believe that one can be poisoned by a book. In fact, this book felt toxic to me, and I’ll be happy when it’s gone from my system.

I’ve decided to try to read and review all 200 books on the BBC Big Read list. You can read more about the start of the project or see a list of all the books I’ve read and reviewed.

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

A very short book, #194 The War of the Worlds by HG Wells is free on Kindle and on Project Gutenberg. Early sci-fi, it’s held its charm and is interesting to read, particularly as humans have to fight the aliens without the power of flight, the motor car or the telephone.

A quiet suburb in Victorian London receives an unpleasant shock when a pod from Mars lands on the common. Over the next few days, the tragedy unfolds as it becomes obvious that the visitors are determined to be conquerors and humanity is in serious danger.

A link in the chain
HG Wells is famous as one of the fathers of modern science fiction, and I can see why. Published in 1898, when Queen Victoria was on the throne, it’s nonetheless strikingly similar to later books, like The Day of the Triffids, and its influence even shows through in the structure of modern zombie stories.

Wells definitely set a pattern that later writers followed. In fact, it’s very similar to the works of John Wyndham (author of Triffids) and if you like the one, you’ll probably enjoy the other. However, Wells draws on techniques used in previous adventure stories. The narrative structure is very similar to that of Treasure Island, for example. In both, the narrator puts pen to paper to recount the fabulous and unlikely tale that he has had the fortune (or misfortune) to live through, witnessing all the key events at first hand and being well-placed to prop his narrative up with second-hand reports from credible sources where required.

The book rattles along in first person, much as Treasure Island does. Interestingly, in both books, it’s clear that the narrator is writing the work some time after the events, and in The War of the Worlds, Wells seems to indicate the nature of the ending early on, within the first quarter, I’d say, if not sooner.

The future of the past
Reading The War of the Worlds was interesting at least partly because of the era it was written in. Today, alien invasions are so old hat that they’re almost a cliche. The invasion in The War of the Worlds is fresh, and it’s interesting because Wells’ society is missing some of the key technologies that we take for granted in the battles with aliens we imagine today. For example, in the earliest part of the book it takes a fair while for the existence of the aliens to be known outside the area where they’ve landed. Someone sends a telegram, but it’s dismissed as a hoax, so no one bothers to check. And pre-telephone, pre-internet, pre-smartphone, there’s no army of citizen journalists rushing to fill the void.

Throughout the book, characters have to get their information from printed new sheets. Travel is by foot, by horse, by rail or by boat. Sailing ships are common in the channel. Class divides are obvious, before a person even opens their mouth, their clothes give them away. There are no planes or cars. The Martians, by contrast, are a high-tech race. They don’t need to be all that high-tech, to beat Victorian Britain, but they’re shiny and powerful, putting humanity in real peril.

There’s a lot of science in the book, and most of it strikes me as very outdated. I feel like most of the assertions Wells uses to build his story have been proven false in the intervening hundred years, but I’m not totally sure, as I’m really not a scientist. If anyone with a bit more biology, physics or astronomy would like to take a look and clue me in, I’d be very grateful!

All in all, I quite enjoyed the book. It’s like reading Diary of a Nobody crossed with Day of the Triffids. And it’s rather less grim than Wyndham gets. Wells is also deeper into the age of Empire, and there are definitely tones of British supremacy throughout the book.

I’ve decided to try to read and review all 200 books on the BBC Big Read list. You can read more about the start of the project or see a list of all the books I’ve read and reviewed.

Christmas on the beach

Christmas on the beach

We came to the Norfolk coast for Christmas with family. We’ve had a whole week here, within spitting distance of the sea. It’s a real change for us, as we’ve been staying in a bricks-and-mortar house and we’re so close to the sea.

Blue grey sea under a blue sky with a few streaks of cloud. Grassy cliff edge in foreground.Being in a bricks-and-mortar house again is a little odd. There’s a lot more space, and a lot more people. There are different rooms for eating and sleeping and cooking and watching TV. The shower is bigger than the bathroom in the caravan (not that we shower in van very often at all).

One of the things I’ve been enjoying about being in a house is that this one has a PS3. I’ve been playing LEGO Lord of the Rings a lot. I really enjoy the LEGO games. They’re cooperative two-player or single-player games, and there’s a lot to mess around with. When I’d worked through all the standard levels, I was about 30% of the way through the complete game, with loads of extras to find. I’m not into LotR though, so my favourite is still LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.

Being by the sea is a lovely change, too. We’re really close to the beach, so I’ve been down to the sea almost every day – and in it once, for the Boxing Day Dip, a local tradition. Although this part of the coast wasn’t as badly hit by the recent storms as other areas nearby, you can still see the damage. Walkways and paths have tumbled down the cliff, there’s fresh landslides, and lots of plastic debris has been thrown up.

I’ve been having a really good Christmas, and I’m looking forward to 2014. I hope yours is a good one!

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Another children’s classic, #57 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome was written in 1930 and set just a year earlier. It paints an idyllic picture of a childhood holiday to the Lake District, which is in the north-west of England. There’s no sign of the financial troubles brewing or any grief left from the First World War. This England is, indeed, a green and pleasant land.

Swallows and Amazons follows the summer adventures of four siblings: John, Susan, Titty and Roger, on holiday with their mother and two-year-old sister Vicky in the Lake District. After they get permission from their father, away at sea, they are allowed to sail the small boat, Swallow, on the lake and camp on the deserted island nearby.

Then and now
Perhaps the most striking thing, as an adult reading the book, is the amount of freedom the kids have. They go off to camp on an island in the lake for about two weeks, with no adult in hailing distance. They’re expected to feed themselves, which includes cooking over an open fire. They sleep in tents on hay mattresses, and the tents are lit with candles. They row or sail on the lake and swim and bathe in it with no life preservers or any supervision. Roger, it turns out, can’t swim more than three strokes without putting his foot on the bottom.

It seems ferociously dangerous. It sounds like the sort of adventure that gets ill-prepared adults helicoptered down from Snowdon today, and the kids don’t have anyone to yell for if something goes wrong. I spent the whole book with my heart in my mouth, somehow expecting the narrative to slip, reality to kick in and them all to be drowned. But of course, it’s a novel (and the start of a series) so nothing too terrible can happen.

I can’t tell if I’m overly cautious or if their parents and society are just very relaxed about the whole thing. I can’t tell how old the kids are. I find it hard in books of this era, as teenagerdom doesn’t seem to have been invented. Children are children until, suddenly, they’re adults. You see the boundaries more in Agatha Christie novels than in children’s stories. I would peg John and Susan as being around 12, but they could just as well be 17 and 15, or 15 and 13, which would make more sense from a safety point of view. Roger sounds like he’s about 6.

Moreover, I come from a mountainous, cold place, where water can be deep, dark and dangerously cold even in summer, so falling in isn’t as trivial. Also, I don’t sail at all, and don’t know the Lake District, so I really don’t have a clear idea of what the real risks are. In any case, their father consents with a cavalier telegram:

Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown

and the children go off to begin their adventure. And what an adventure it is…

Child’s play
One of the things I did like about the book was that both boys and girls muck in. On the Swallow, John is the oldest, so he’s the captain. On the Amazon, Nancy is the oldest, so she’s the captain. Susan does the cooking, as first mate, Nancy doesn’t, as captains don’t. Titty is the second sister. In a Blyton book she would be relegated into obscurity, but Ransome gives her a strong and distinct character, perhaps the most enjoyable of all.

All the children have active imaginations, and the camping expedition is written as one long game of pretend. With the boat as the centre of their play, they’re castaways, pirates, Robinson Crusoe, a war vessel and more by turns, sometimes changing plot from minute to minute. It’s a beautiful thing to read. I remember, as a kid, being caught up for days in some complicated and detailed plot that my brother and/or a friend and I invented. We had one thing where the beds were spaceships that involved dozens of tiny bits of paper as currency, supplies and goods, and toys as crew and passagers and… it’s all very boring to a passerby, unless it’s well written. Ransome has the knack, and makes the fantasy within the fantasy and the reality within the fantasy blend together beautifully. It’s a very well crafted book, and in that sense reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was fascinating to read as a glimpse into a completely different world. I imagine it would be like someone reading about some of the stupid things my brother and I did (entirely safely) on skis, or how his scout troop, age about 10, went camping in the winter, without tents. (They dug snow holes and were all quite snug.) I do recommend the book. If nothing else, it will give a kid some great new ideas for let’s pretend.

I’ve decided to try to read and review all 200 books on the BBC Big Read list. You can read more about the start of the project or see a list of all the books I’ve read and reviewed.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Witches by Roald Dahl

I have a strong memory of reading #169 The Witches by Roald Dahl when I was a child. I remember reading it in a friend’s car, and I remember being so scared I couldn’t finish it. The friend in question moved away half way through year four, so that puts a fairly narrow time frame on it. It’s one of the few books I read when I was a kid that I remember vividly but didn’t reread a lot.

The Witches tells the story of a brave boy and his grandma. After his parents are both killed in a tragic accident, the boy goes to live with his grandma, and they comfort each other. She lives in Norway, where there are many witches, and warns him to be wary of them, telling him how to spot them. Faced with the problem, the pair eventually come up with an unusual solution.

A Roald Dahl classic
The Witches is probably one of Dahl’s best-known books. It’s got all his favourite elements: a brave child, weird magic, absent parents and a fight with evil. The language is clear and simple without being condescending. In The Witches, Dahl treats the children in his audience like grown ups. More than that – he expects them to know and understand things that grown ups have forgotten, put aside or dismiss.

The edition I have is, to the best of my knowledge, the one I remember reading when I was about seven. It’s beautifully and very evocatively illustrated by Quentin Blake. I really do think the pictures are an important part of the story. They bring the characters to life in a particular way, giving them a form. I do wonder if some of Dahl’s books would be a little sparse without the pictures but perhaps that’s because I’ve only known and loved them this way.

Horror for children
As I mentioned, I remember being scared by The Witches, and I can’t imagine that Dahl wrote the book without being aware that he was writing a scary story. I have mixed feelings about scary stories for kids – and for adults, too, for that matter. In On Writing, Stephen King divides horror into, I think, three categories. I usually find that two are enough: gore and ghosts. In my definitions, gore is a story where the violence is the horror. I don’t like stories like this, as I find that the audience is usually expected to be enjoying the bloodshed, and I don’t. Stephen King’s Under the Dome fell into this category for me, as do a lot of mainstream horror and action films. 

Ghosts, on the other hand, are things that are scary because they aren’t real, but their presented as plausible. The Witches is this kind of horror, and it does it very well. I find that this sort of book can be fun to read as long as, to paraphrase Pratchett, the book shows you that the monsters can be killed.

As an aside, I thought about adding a third category, which is people. I’ve encountered a number of stories where the truly scary element was the human one. One example of this, sticking with King as he’s clearly a horror writer, was Rose Madder, where the monster is entirely human. A woman is on the run from her husband, as he’s violent and likely to kill her. The scary part is that there’s no way to deal with him, without invoking a supernatural element. In this case, it’s an inverse of the ghosts theme: the monsters are real, and, in the real world, the magic sword doesn’t work and they can’t be killed.

My point is that The Witches is deliberately scary in a plausible way. After reading the book, it would be all too possible to start seeing witches in real life (they look almost exactly like ordinary human women). As the book makes it clear that adults (even parents) can’t be expected to recognise a witch or to save a child when they’re in peril, it’s a pretty scary set of ideas.

I think it’s a good book, well written and effective – I’m just not sure that the intended effect, a good scare, will be enjoyable for every child. Perhaps one to rate PG or a 12A, although the reading level is probably first or second grade.

I’ve decided to try to read and review all 200 books on the BBC Big Read list. You can read more about the start of the project or see a list of all the books I’ve read and reviewed.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Another one from the top 10. I really loved rereading #6 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I first read the book in school, probably as a GCSE text. It’s one of the few books I remember reading for a class that I really enjoyed. That said, although I remembered I enjoyed it, I found that I didn’t remember the book very well at all. It’s much more clever and subtle than I remembered, and I probably won’t do it justice.

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Alabama in the 1930s. Scout Finch, age 6, is spending the summer rattling around the neighbourhood with her brother, Jem, getting into mischief and growing up. When their beloved father, Atticus, takes on a controversial case, Scout and Jem find themselves drawn into the web as the town takes sides.

A beautifully written book
Harper Lee is an exceptional writer, and To Kill a Mockingbird is a joy to read. It flows beautifully and I’d definitely recommend reading it if you’re a writer yourself.  The book is built up in layers, and might seem slow to start but the pay off is worthwhile. The language is lyrical and lovely, deftly descriptive and beautifully clear.

To Kill a Mockingbird covers some very serious topics, and it’s clear what has happened without Lee ever openly describing the gory details. It’s a very clever portrayal. The story is filtered twice, in a narrative sense, as it’s told by an older Scout, reflecting on the things she thought about and knew as a 6-year-old. As a result, the novel is, in my opinion, both less traumatic for the reader and far more moving.

Racism
In case you haven’t heard of To Kill a Mockingbird, I won’t say too much about the plot. The back of the book and all the online descriptions tell you the bare facts of the legal case at the heart of the book: a black man is accused of raping a white girl, and Atticus Finch has been chosen as the lawyer for the defense. In Alabama in the 1930s, the accusation is as good as a death sentence, and it seems that there’s only one way the case can go. But Atticus will fight nonetheless, because he believes it’s the right thing to do.

To Kill a Mockingbird is often lauded as one of the best American books written tackling racism, and Lee is seen as a hero for writing it. It’s probably true, if you add the word ‘white’ in there somewhere. To Kill a Mockingbird is a really good book, and it’s probably a great introduction to racism for white people. It’s also a great example of heroic white people taking a stand against racism. I don’t imagine Lee was aiming to write the definitive primer on racism, so I’m not going to treat the book as though it was. It’s great when people who don’t personally experience a particular type of discrimination come to understand the problems and start to combat it, in their own small way. This is all good. However, I do think that lists of great American books on racism should include more books by people of colour and fewer books by well-meaning white people, just as lists of great books should include more books by marginalized groups, including women and people of colour. Dead white dudes are so last century.

I strongly recommend this book. As a content note, I will say that there’s a discussion (not detailed or graphic) of rape and some violence, as well as aggressive questioning of a rape victim on the witness stand. It’s all told through the eyes of Scout, age 6, and is mostly age appropriate, although the book is not aimed at children of this age.

And as we’re talking about racism in the USA after the abolition of slavery, here are five books by black American authors that I recommend, all written or set in the 1930s or earlier. Unsurprisingly, racism is a theme in all of these. In no particular order:

I’ve decided to try to read and review all 200 books on the BBC Big Read list. You can read more about the start of the project or see a list of all the books I’ve read and reviewed.

Man and Boy by Tony Parsons

Man and Boy by Tony Parsons

I read #192 Man and Boy by Tony Parsons a couple weeks ago, and my shortest review has to be: like High Fidelity, if he had a kid. As you may remember, I didn’t love High Fidelity and didn’t much care for Man and Boy either, although it was easy reading.

Harry Silver is turning 30, and seems to have the perfect life, the one he always aimed for. He’s successful at work, married to a lovely woman (who has given up her dreams in favour of supporting his career and raising their child), has a lovely boy, a house with a shrinking mortgage and enough money to spend some on daft things, like a 2-seater car when he is part of a 3-person family. Naturally he has to screw up, ruin it all and spend the rest of the novel looking for a new normal that’s half as good as the old one.

On turning 30
I’ve just done this myself,  Big round numbers, like New Year’s Day, are a good opportunity to take stock, and I’d be surprised if there was anyone, anywhere who did that every decade and had nothing left to strive for, no one to miss, nothing done or undone to regret. I do like this quote, from the first chapter:

That’s what thirty should be – grown-up without being disappointed, settled without being complacent, worldly wise, but not so worldly wise you feel like chucking yourself under a train. The time of your life.

Harry is looking back at his life, and is disappointed. He doesn’t feel grown-up enough, exciting enough, rich enough. He definitely doesn’t feel like he’s man enough, and spends most of the novel comparing himself to his father, who fought in WWII and is, in Harry’s eyes, perfect. Harry, who is a first-person narrator, and his father are the best developed characters in the novel. His mother is definitely background, as is Harry’s own wife. His son is a source of joy or a problem, but doesn’t seem to have a second characteristic. (He does like Star Wars though. A lot.)

Not impressed
I didn’t have much sympathy for Harry. Parsons has written an engaging, easy to read book with a good flow, but I thought Harry was self-delusional to the point where his rude awakening was long overdue. I also didn’t quite believe the timeline – I thought he was too young at 30 to be where he’s described as being, if you see what I mean. Unless, that is, being a TV producer on a made-for-cable show pays phenomenally well, which I can’t imagine it does, or house prices have tripled since 1999. 
Most of my contemporaries are working on one of the major life projects he’s got all settled (dazzling career, mortgage, family) with or without a partner, and I certainly haven’t got it all figured out. Harry, incidentally, must have been on track in his career and married by about 25, which is just 2-3 years out of uni, as he has a 4-year old at 30 and met his wife at work.

So Harry has something rather good going on, and then it all collapses, as he does the one thing his wife cannot forgive. Now, despite the laundry list of perfection, I don’t get the impression that either Harry or Gina (his wife) were very happy. Gina, particularly, has given up her dreams of travel and an exciting career (she was trained as a Japanese translator) in favour of staying home and looking after their son full-time. As she’s not happy, I can see Gina’s looking for a shake up, having just turned 30 herself. However, both Harry and Gina seem hasty with the eject button on their relationship. For Gina, there seems to be no middle ground between ‘no work outside the home’ and ‘living in Japan’. I’m pretty sure there are, in real life and even in London, less extreme options. Harry, likewise, when he’s looking after his son full-time declares himself unable to combine childcare with any work. It’s bizarre. I’m in favour of increased levels of state-sponsored childcare anyway, but as free childcare for the preschool set would have allowed each parent in turn to work part-time, and thus prevented the novel entirely, I’m doubly committed to the cause. And in real life, when the money starts to run out, you step away from your dream job and get a bit of work on the side. Or sell the ridiculous, expensive car. Or rent out the London house and move somewhere cheaper for a bit. Or…

I wanted to like this book, as I think it’s a great that there’s chicklit with male main characters. That the book turns on emotional fulfillment in a very ordinary setting, yet is a favourite, is a good sign. Ultimately though, I thought it was all too convenient and the characters and scenarios were unconvincing.

I’ve decided to try to read and review all 200 books on the BBC Big Read list. You can read more about the start of the project or see a list of all the books I’ve read and reviewed.

100 books and now a slump

100 books and now a slump

My last Big Read review, Thief of Time was the 100th book I read and reviewed off the BBC Big Read list. I am pretty chuffed about that, and now I’m sick of all the Big Read books I have available so I haven’t finished one since.

I’ve picked up several, usually on a Thursday when I realise that Friday is going to follow on whether I like it or not, but none stuck. I’m looking for light and fun things when I’m reading at the moment, and what I’ve got on Kindle for The List is either apocalyptic SF (Brave New World1984) or dauntingly long and of unknown quality (The MagicianDune). So I simply haven’t been reading anything off the list, and as a result I haven’t been posting any reviews, and so I haven’t been posting anything at all. I was aiming for a book review each week, but that’s out the window. I think I might gorge myself on fun books while I’m at my childhood home next week and post a whole bunch of reviews around Christmas. Or I might not, because even if I quit now (which I’m not going to) I still have something to celebrate.

100 books!
Half way through!

What can I tell you about the books so far? Let’s update the post I published at 50 books. Out of the most recent 50 books:

  • Only 6 books came from the library (30 overall)
  • 14 books came from Project Gutenberg (21 overall)
  • I paid for 10 books (14 overall)
  • None cost more than £2 (most expensive over all was under £6)

The rest of the books I borrowed from friends or family, or had in my own collection before I started the challenge. I actually had a few of the books I paid for already, but as we don’t have space for a library, I’m happy to rebuy favourites on Kindle. Particularly when a flash sale means I can get The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and four sequels for 99p.

  • 36 different authors (64 overall)
  • 17 books I’d never read before (37 overall)
  • 3 books I’d never heard of (7 overall)

Classics and borrowed books mean I haven’t been reading that many new titles for the challenge. I’ve bought rather more books than I’ve read, and next year (2014) I plan to dive into some of them. There are an awful lot of long books on the list, like Gone with the Wind and The Pickwick Papers so I’m planning to tackle some of them.

  • 5 Dickens novels (the most shocking statistic so far, truth to tell!)
  • 5 Roald Dahl books (to balance up all that Dickens)
  • 3 Pratchett books
  • 3 Austen novels

I’m pleased to have made it this far. I’ve ticked a lot books I’d never quite gotten around to reading off my list, like Great Expectations and now feel justified in making disparaging remarks. I’ve discovered some books I didn’t used to like have grown on me, like Bridget Jones’s Diary, and that some I didn’t like 10 years ago I still don’t care for, like Memoirs of a Geisha. Thank you for sticking with me along the way, and let’s see what the next few books bring!

I’ve decided to try to read and review all 200 books on the BBC Big Read list. You can read more about the start of the project or see a list of all the books I’ve read and reviewed.