21 March 2010


I was chatting to some friends about various books I've read in the past, many of which came from my high school days. There were many that I loved, and read and re-read. I'm just going to plunge in and start with the ones I disliked.

Catcher in the Rye. Absolutely hated that piece of trash. It's a couple of hours that I'll never get back of my life. Every time someone talks about how it's such an amazing book, and how it changed their life, etc., I automatically lose respect for that person. It's akin to being a rabid fan of Ayn Rand, who I also cannot stand. Her books are entertaining, but her ideals are vomit inducing.

Then there was Great Gatsby. I could not STAND that load of tripe. It was as boring and vapid as a Jane Austen novel, and that's saying something. Nathaniel Hawthrone was fun, but that's mainly because our English teacher at the time was enchanted with him and would tell us the stories rather than reading through them. Else, I don't think that I could have dealt with more of his verbose chatter. Seriously, people. WHY is it necessary to ramble on about the details of the bloody door on Hester's house? I don't care enough to devote two whole pages to it. Move along.

My problem with Jane Austen, as is my problem with a lot of writers of the Romantic era, is that the characters are pretty annoying. I don't empathise with them, because I dislike them so much. Was it Flaubert that wrote Madam Bovary? I think so. Couldn't stand her either. Didn't like Pride and Prejudice either for the same reason. Also, my problem with Jane Austen is that the whole book drags along until the last 20 or 30 pages or so, and then everything happens all at once.

As a side note, I did enjoy the adaptation of P&P, called Bridget Jones's Diary. Both the book and film were good fun.

I did tremendously like Handmaid's Tale, by Atwood. I read it in high school for an English class, and was so engrossed in it that I couldn't actually keep myself from reading ahead. The teacher would assign a certain amount of chapters, and I'd be well past that point, and having to hold back not to spoil the rest of the book for the others. Oryx and Crake was another one by Atwood that I read on my own much later on, and enjoyed equally well. My only one issue with Atwood's books is that she starts them off in such a way that it takes a good four or five chapters to be drawn into the story. But if you're patient, you're well rewarded.

Then there were the dystopian books, like 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. Those were seriously good reads, if for no other reason than the fact that at the time I was reading them, there was a huge push in TV and other places that we're wrecking the planet, and should we go on like we are, we will end up with nothing at all and all the animals and plants will be gone. Fahrenheit 451 especially resonated strongly with me, because it was about books, which are a life-long passion for me.

In 10th grade, I had a teacher who would offer us extra credit if we read a book from the bookshelf behind her desk, and discussed it with her when we finished. She introduced me to Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, and Ken Follet, who I instantly fell in love with. I devoured Pillars of the Earth (Follet), Kane and Abel, As the Crow Flies (Archer), and all of Sidney Sheldon's books that she had. It was at the point where I'd get through a book in one day, and discuss it with her the next day. She'd be surprised, because I managed to read it in one day, and still keep up with my other classes.

I can't even count the amount of Mercedes Lackey I've read. And read again and again. At one point, I had all of her Velgarth series in hard cover (the ones that were offered in hard cover), along with the companion (if you've read the books, you'll get the pun) books to go with it.

Let's not forget Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo is still one of my favourites. I liked Three Musketeers, but not as much as Monte Cristo. Can't explain why. I guess it's because I read Count of Monte Cristo first.

Anne of Green Gables. Over the years, I've read and re-read that series many times over, and loved them dearly. To watch Anne go from an awkward, and fairly brash young girl into an elegant lady was tremendously enjoyable. "Why, you're better than a whole room full of boys, Anne." Oh, Matthew!

I never got into Shakespeare. Our teachers mostly had us read them, and the language was a hurdle. No, I'm not being fair. I liked MacBeth. I also like Othello. The Iago character was pretty awesome, although Othello himself seemed like a bit of an airhead. You know what the real problem is? They start you in high school with Romeo and Juliet. I think that's a mistake. Then, they move you onto Julius Caesar. And moreover, the teacher doesn't always have the class read it aloud. You read it at home, and are struggling to figure out what the heck is going on, and once you do, you want to roll your eyes at the story line. Why not start off with Merchant of Venice, and then move onto Midsummer Night's Dream or MacBeth or Hamlet? All three of those are pretty decent reads. Instead, they start you with the weepy romance (R&J) and move onto a fairly dense tragedy (Caesar), and by the time you get to MacBeth, which is actually a pretty decent read, you've lost interest.

My middle school teacher let us read MacBeth in class. That was a cool class for sure. She was a huge fan of the book, and took time to explain the stories surrounding the plot, and how the story fits into itself.

Then I got into college, and had an English teacher who rocked my world with Terry Pratchett. I haven't been able to feed my addiction to his books. I started with Equal Rites, and ran to the library to get more. They're like mental candy, but have plenty of satire and substance as well. Ordinarily, I don't care for satire, because it often tends to be heavy handed (Modest Proposal, anyone?) rather than subtle (Gulliver's Travels).

I haven't even nicked the surface of the ones I've enjoyed (or the ones I didn't), but I'm hungry, and I've said what was on my mind for now. Do you agree?

Oh. Tolkien. Can't stand him. Long, boring, rambling. I can put up with it in Dickens, because his novels started as serials, which got combined into a novel. What's Tolkien's excuse? Couldn't stay awake through the films either.

Oh. And Harry Potter. LOVE all the books, have read them multiple times, own all the films on DVD.