Category Archives: 100 Books Before I Die

As I lay dying

I was kind of looking at books and I started wondering if there was something in iTunes that I could download. Instead I found a Yale course on among other things Faulkner and “As I Lay Dying”. There were three lectures each about an hour on the book. I am going to listen to them. I did not see any audio recordings of the book. I am not sure how I completely feel on audio vs. actual reading. I think reading is different and important. So I am going to listen to the recordings and then possibly buy the book to read. I can get a book (ebook) in iTunes for $10. I think I prefer the physical copy ($17 Amazon)

Reading Infinite Jest

I have been fascinated with David Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” ever since I read a review by Steven King. The first attempt I made was soon after I read that review. I went to a Barnes and Noble and read the first chapter. I was completely lost. I had no idea what I had read even though I knew all the words. I put it back on the shelf. Then I saw an interview that Charlie Rose had with David Wallace and I thought I would try it again. Then while I was dithering I found out that David had killed himself in 2008. I read about that and wondered if reading his book would be worth it. I read Catch-22. It was on my list of 100 books. I then remembered that Steven King had said that he hadn’t read a book as brilliant since Catch-22. So I went to our library and put my name on the waiting list. I read the first chapter and wondered why I had thought it so hard to understand. I realized that it was a different kind of reading. Sentences mattered. words mattered. I couldn’t speed read for plot. I started enjoying. Then hardly through the first 200 pages (there are over 1,000) I realized I wasn’t jumping into bed hoping to get a few minutes with the book. It started becoming more of a chore. I took it back and got Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

The Reckoning

I just finished a book written by my cousin Tanya Parker Mills. It was OK. It was certainly better than the garbage I finally threw away called Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I have a hard time not finishing things, but I was so disgusted by this book I couldn’t even tell Kim what bothered me. Now Tanya’s book enjoyable. It wasn’t as good as “The Hunger Games” still my favorite so far this year, but better than anything I could have produced. I surprised how many times I ran across a sentence and thought an editor would have caught that. I am no one to tell anyone how they could do a better job, but there were some things missing. Mostly I would have asked what was the point of the story. Not that there wasn’t a plot or anything, but what was it that she hoped we would get out of the story. That there is torture in the world. That there are good people who probably torture unwillingly? I don’t think that either of these are what she would say, but I would ask what is the story. There seemed at the same time too little and too much. Too little insight in to who some of these people really were and too much information that didn’t seem to help the central theme. So if she would have written twice as much and then cut half of the stuff that didn’t matter we might have got a tighter novel. I had problems believing the relationship between Theresa and her interrogator. The casual wistfulness of their recollecting there common college experience was believable, but the romance that sprung up out of their relationship didn’t work for me. Maybe if she had made the central theme of her book how someone can be tortured by someone who cares for them and for them to have the possibility of a positive romantic relationship we could have explored that more but I don’t think that was the theme and it stuck out too much for me to just forget. Ok I have read so many mediocre books I have to add that this was above those books. So my criticism is probably overly critical.

I have to pick up a new book. We are at Kim’s Dad’s place and he always has a few books lying around. I want to read Catch-22. I don’t want to spend any money and I haven’t found it at our local library branch. I need to start writing more (not here, but elsewhere). I know the habit and practice will be good for me.

Alex de Toqueville’s De la Democratie en Amerique

I bought this book at a book store here in France. I may be a bit ambitious in thinking I will read the book in the original French, but if anything I am way more ambitous than reasonable. I am trying to sound the words out while typing in the French into Google Translate. The boys here tell me that the words are very old and no one talks like that, not even their teachers.

So I typed in:

Depuis 1930 environ, l’oeuvre de Tocquieville a connu un etonnant regain de faveur

And I got:

Since about 1930, the work of Tocquieville had a surprising resurgence of favor

Which I can make sense of. I didn’t type any of the extra accents or strange characters and it seemed to work

I have to be careful because I originally typed:

Depuis 1930 environ, l’oeuvre de Tocquieville a connu un entonnant regain de faveur

And I got:

Since about 1930, the work of Tocquieville experienced a renewed interest in singing

Which makes no sense and it took me awhile to find the error.

My List

I tend to have more fun creating these lists than I do actually reading the books. Here is yet another iteration of the list. This one is actual a straight copy of a Newsweek list published in 2009. It was a compilation of many lists and I had a few complaints like the fact that there are many authors with more than one book, but I have reconciled that I am ok with that now. As for reading I am reading Anna Karenina (#47) with Miranda. Here is the list in an ugly table that was created by excel because I was too lazy to make it pretty. I continue to tweek it, but it is what it is. Notice that there are only 99 books. that is because I left the Illiad and Odyssy off the list. I read them and found them completely unreadable.

Number Title Author Read
1 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
2 1984 George Orwell x
3 Ulysses James Joyce
4 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
5 The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner
6 Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
7 To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
8 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
9 Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri
10 Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer
11 Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
12 Middlemarch George Eliot
13 Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
14 The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger
15 Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell x
16 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
17 The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald x
18 Catch-22 Joseph Heller
19 Beloved Toni Morrison
20 The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck x
21 Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie
22 Brave New World Aldous Huxley x
23 Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf
24 Native Son Richard Wright
25 Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville
26 On the Origin of Species Charles Darwin
27 The Histories Herodotus
28 The Social Contract Jean-Jacques Rousseau
29 Das Kapital Karl Marx
30 The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli x
31 Confessions St. Augustine
32 Leviathan Thomas Hobbes
33 The History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides
34 The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
35 Winnie-the-Pooh A. A. Milne
36 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C. S. Lewis
37 A Passage to India E. M. Forster
38 On the Road Jack Kerouac
39 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee x
40 The Holy Bible x
41 A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
42 Light in August William Faulkner
43 The Souls of Black Folk W. E. B. Du Bois
44 Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys
45 Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
46 Paradise Lost John Milton
47 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
48 Hamlet William Shakespeare
49 King Lear William Shakespeare
50 Othello William Shakespeare
51 Sonnets William Shakespeare
52 Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman
53 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain x
54 Kim Rudyard Kipling
55 Frankenstein Mary Shelley
56 Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
57 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey
58 For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway
59 Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut
60 Animal Farm George Orwell
61 Lord of the Flies William Golding
62 In Cold Blood Truman Capote
63 The Golden Notebook Doris Lessing
64 Remembrance of Things Past Marcel Proust
65 The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
66 As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
67 The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
68 I, Claudius Robert Graves
69 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
70 Sons and Lovers D. H. Lawrence
71 All the King’s Men Robert Penn Warren
72 Go Tell It on the Mountain James Baldwin
73 Charlotte’s Web E. B. White x
74 Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
75 Night Elie Wiesel
76 Rabbit, Run John Updike
77 The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton
78 Portnoy’s Complaint Philip Roth
79 An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser
80 The Day of the Locust Nathanael West
81 Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller
82 The Maltese Falcon Dashiell Hammett
83 His Dark Materials Philip Pullman
84 Death Comes for the Archbishop Willa Cather
85 The Interpretation of Dreams Sigmund Freud
86 The Education of Henry Adams Henry Adams
87 Quotations from Chairman Mao Mao Zedong
88 The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature William James 
89 Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh
90 Silent Spring Rachel Carson
91 The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money John Maynard Keynes
92 Lord Jim Joseph Conrad
93 Goodbye to All That Robert Graves
94 The Affluent Society John Kenneth Galbraith
95 The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
96 The Autobiography of Malcolm X Alex Haley and Malcolm X
97 Eminent Victorians Lytton Strachey
98 The Color Purple Alice Walker
99 The Second World War (The Gathering Storm; Their Finest Hour; The Grand Alliance; The Hinge of Fate;) Winston Churchill
xx The Good Earth Pearl S Buck
xx Extremely Loud and Incredible Close Jonathan Safran Foer.