After Moby Dick, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another 200-odd days at sea. But this time the journey was shared with a tiger and a few other zoo animals and only talked once about whales.
I had actually planned to add a bit of non-fiction to my reading list, and I asked a few key people at work for recommendations on inspirational books they’d read lately. I was expecting a bit of Simon Sinek or Brené Brown… when my trusted mentor answered, without hesitation, ‘You have to read the Life of Pi.’
It takes me about half a book of Austen before I start enjoying it. That first half is always such a struggle. I’m constantly looking at the page numbers and monitoring whether I’m a tenth through, a fifth through, a third through…
And then, just when I’m thinking I can’t possibly go on, something takes over. I am connected to each of the characters, I understand what drives them, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I wasn’t particularly drawn to Emma herself – she is the classic 19th century English woman, and somewhat annoying with her matchmaking – but the characters who surround her are brilliant. It always amazes me how I can read about people from the early 1800s and can immediately think of someone I know who has the exact same characteristics. Technology has changed so much over time… but it hasn’t done anything to change human nature.
Why did it take me so long to discover this book!?
I have to admit, the first chapter was one of the most tedious chapters I’ve read during this 100 book challenge. I was ready to give it the flick. Then a word here and there piqued my interest… there was a deep mystery, albeit so slightly mentioned, and from that page on I was hooked.
Invite me to your parties, Jay!
It’s the characters that make this story. The narrator, Nick, is fairly plain and uninteresting, but the people around him are such complex, intriguing and entertaining characters that I loved this book from beginning to end.
The story follows the life of the rich on Long Island in the 1920s. They invite themselves to parties, they complain about the heat and are utterly unhappy in their marriages. It’s the perfect recipe for an engaging story where the characters drive the plot, not the other way round.
After a few recent disappointments in my 100 book challenge, this was a refreshing change.
Is there a story you read in your childhood that has stayed with you forever? That when you go back and read it, even just a few lines, it brings back a wave of emotions that you thought you would never feel again?
Well for me, unfortunately, Charlotte’s Web wasn’t one of those books.
The eighth book in my 100 book challenge somehow missed my childhood altogether. I don’t remember reading it. At a stretch I might have seen the movie.
I used to find the literary technique ‘deep point of view’ pretty annoying. When I first heard it described in our writing workshop by tutor Karen Whitelaw I admit I put it in the I’ll-never-use-that basket. I believed good writing was about showing a character’s thoughts and opinions through their actions, not from spelling out exactly what was going on in their head. I guess I saw ‘deep point of view’ as the lazy way out.
Ahhhhh… but then I read The Catcher in the Rye.
A simple cover for a book that has well-earned its place on the classics list
This story, written in 1951 and set mainly in New York, is written deeply in the mind of teenager Holden Caulfield. It is written as though he sat down with you – no doubt over a packet of cigarettes – and rambled a story for a few hours, then it was transcribed word-for-word into a book.
Audrey Niffenegger is a genius. The impact of time-traveling on love is such a clever idea. The issues the main characters deal with in their relationship are common (love, lust, guilt, desire, pain) but the reason for the issues is so unique (Clare’s husband keeps disappearing unexpectedly because he’s a time traveller).
This is the 6th book of my 100 book challenge and while I was reading it I felt like shouting from the rooftop that everyone should read this book. Sure, the ending was a bit disappointing. But I’ll get to that.
Time travel is so confusing!
I’m the worst audience when it comes to stories about time travel. I always manage to get myself confused. In fact, the characters themselves don’t even have to time travel: a simple flashback in the story and I’m lost.
On Thursday 5th May 1999, I dressed in a long white robe and a fake golden beard, put a home-made halo on my head, and went with my venturer scout group to ‘Science at the Pub – a night with Douglas Adams’. I was dressed as a character from Adams’ book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Funnily enough, I didn’t know what character I was dressing as. I didn’t even know who Douglas Adams was and I certainly hadn’t read the book. I was merely going because it sounded like an interesting night out and a guy from my scout group said I’d make a perfect golden-bearded angel.
As with most sci-fi gatherings held at a local worker’s club at 7:30pm on a Thursday, a lot of people were dressed in costume. Of course the organisers ran a best-dressed competition. And low and behold, this little angel with a golden beard won.
As I stepped up on stage to shake the hand of Douglas Adams and receive a personally signed copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide, I was the awe of every pair of eyes in that room.
And I’d never heard of the man.
My beat-up (but personally signed) copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide
Feeling a little embarrassed about my win, I got home and started reading. It was heavy-going for a 17 year-old and I soon decided I had more important things to do than struggle through a 590-page book.
So I put it aside for a few years.