Rory Gilmore ~ The First Thirty

rory gilmoreWhile browsing the internet with my coffee this morning I happened to come across a website bookreviews.me.uk, and was intrigued by a reading challenge the writer of the site was undertaking, The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, which encompasses some 339 books.  After doing some more searching, I also found out that this is rather a popular challenge so I thought I would put it out there and see how many books on the following list people have read.

I have to admit that I have never seen an episode of The Gilmore Girls; I have no clue who Rory Gilmore is, but I can say it’s a pleasure to hear of such a bookish person being featured in, what I can only assume, is a popular programme.  Going through the list I have marked those books I have read, whether or not they are reviewed on this site, and am going to try and get through some more of them as there appears to be some very interesting books on the list.  Because there are so many books, I’m only going feature the first thirty in this post, and will add the remainder over the coming weeks.  The list is composed of some of the best traditional and modern classics out there in my opinion, so hopefully everyone can find a few they would enjoy reading to fill the upcoming winter months.

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1984 ~ George Orwell (read)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ~ Mark Twain (read)
Alice in Wonderland ~ Lewis Carroll (read)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ~ Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy ~ Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes ~ Frank McCourt (read)
Anna Karenina ~ Leo Tolstoy
The Diary of a Young Girl ~ Anne Frank (read)
The Archidamian War ~ Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction ~ Henry James
The Art of War ~ Sun Tzu (read)
As I Lay Dying ~ William Faulkner
Atonement ~ Ian McEwan (read)
Autobiography of a Face ~ Lucy Grealy
The Awakening ~ Kate Chopin
Babe ~ Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women ~ Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress ~ Dai Sijie
Bel Canto ~ Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath (read)
Beloved ~ Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation ~ Seamus Heaney (read)
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews ~ Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays ~ Mary McCarthy
Brave New World ~ Aldous Huxley (read)
Brick Lane ~ Monica Ali
Bridgadoon ~ Alan Jay Lerner
Candide ~ Voltaire

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What to read next.

After finishing a good book in the early hours of the morning I often find myself with the problem of what to read next.  I usually go through my ‘to be read’ stack in the order of which books were added to it, but sometimes the book on the top of the pile doesn’t appeal to me at the very moment I need a new read.

This flowchart, found on Upworthy.com may help me, and others in the same predicament, head in the right direction and find something we are in the mood for.  Just because it says summer in the chart doesn’t mean you can’t use it anytime of the year, after all what better way is there to spend a rainy day than curled up in your favourite spot reading?

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Review: Search The Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge #3) ~ Charles Todd

Search the darkA mind-damaged veteran comes home from the Great War to be told his wife and two children were killed in the bombing of London. Refusing to believe the news, or unable to, the man thinks he spots them on the platform of the station of a small town in Dorset. Then a woman’s body is found there, and Rutledge is sent by his jealous rival at the Yard to locate the children.

 

4 Thumbs-UpI came across this book by accident, hiding on my shelf and opened it to scan the first page; later that day I closed the cover and sat back feeling I have used my time wisely.

The main protagonist in this book and all the other in this series is a Scotland Yard policeman.  Newly returned from the Great War, he has his own personal demons to deal with as well as helping those who are also dealing with their demons from fighting in this war.  Add to that the stress of trying to find the criminals, and it could make for a very unstable and highly strung character but the Author manages to avoid this wonderfully.  Instead he uses this character as a vehicle to bring the reader’s attention to the unseen horrors that many carried with them when they returned home.  This character is vulnerable, unsure whilst at the same time being very capable of doing his job and bringing the wrongdoer to justice.  I felt for this character as I don’t usually do in a cozy mystery, and wished there was some way I could help him find peace in his life.  In this one character the Author managed not only to show the inner turmoil of those who returned from the fighting, but he also shows in the other people he encounters in his enquiries the change in society that had taken place while he was away.  These range from total indifference to the way these returnees were feeling and going through, to those who wanted to cosset them and keep them wrapped up from the hurts that may come their way in everyday and finally to the group of people who refused to believe that, mentally, their loved ones would never return to normal.  This book is not loaded down with a bunch of secondary characters which helps the book move along at a steady clip and keeps the reader on track to the end.

What an end it was.  This is the kind of book I love.  I thought I had spotted the bad guy, then no it took a twist, and another, then another until the end I had no idea who the real criminal was, and when the reveal came I was blown away as I never thought it was this person.  Add to this the feeling of flying down country roads in a little old car when horses and carriages were still in good use, and it all combines to the kind of book that I just couldn’t put down.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, and those who enjoy a great read that will keep you guessing until the end.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

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Manifesto ~ Ellen Hopkins

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I hadn’t forgotten that this week is Banned Books Week, but I decided to take a more subdued approach than I did last year.  Simon & Schuster asked Ms. Hopkins to write the following poem for Banned Books Week, which they produced as a broadside. The broadside will be on Banned Books Week tables across the country.

Manifesto

To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.

You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.

You say you’re afraid for America,
the red, white and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
different seas.

You say you’re afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.

A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

Ellen Hopkins

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Review: Nella Last’s War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 ~ Nella Last

Nella LastIn September 1939, housewife and mother Nella Last began a diary whose entries, in their regularity, length and quality, have created a record of the Second World War which is powerful, fascinating and unique. When war broke out, Nella’s younger son joined the army while the rest of the family tried to adapt to civilian life. Writing each day for the “Mass Observation” project, Nella, a middle-aged housewife from the bombed town of Barrow, shows what people really felt during this time. This was the period in which she turned 50, saw her children leave home, and reviewed her life and her marriage – which she eventually compares to slavery. Her growing confidence as a result of her war work makes this a moving (though often comic) testimony, which, covering sex, death and fear of invasion, provides a new, unglamourised, female perspective on the war years. ‘Next to being a mother, I’d have loved to write books.’ Oct 8, 1939.

4 Thumbs-UpThere are many books out there that give us a perspective of World War II from the point of view of those fighting on the front lines, in the resistance and from Whitehall, but there are very few that show us what living through this war was like from the viewpoint of the civilian at home.  In 1937, the Mass Observation Project in England was founded by Charles Madge and Tom Harrisson.  They wanted to record the views of ordinary British people, and recruited volunteers to observe British life, and diarists to record a day-to-day account of their lives. These archives now give a unique insight into the lives of British civilians who found themselves going through a period when their country was at war.  Nella Last is one of these diarists and, far from giving the reader an uncomfortable feeling of reading something private, it opens up a world that few could have imagined existed during these austere times.  The writer is an ordinary small town English housewife, and her diary covers the period of time from the outbreak of war in September 1939 through to August 1945, although she did keep contributing to the project until 1965. Housewife 49, refers to how she headed her first entry; her occupation – Housewife, her age – 49.

Nella and her Family lived in Barrow-in-Furness in the North of England, which at the time was a shipbuilding town.  This meant that during the Barrow Blitz in April and May of 1941, it became a heavy target for German bombing.    This was a period when families were separated, and sometimes coping with the loss of a family member. Cities were being bombed, and housewives such as Nella had to find new ingenious ways to keep their homes together. This remarkable account depicts clearly what it was like for ordinary families living through World War Two.

The diary itself plays two different roles in our understanding of what it was like to live in these times, as it clearly seen that she writes about two distinct areas of her life; Family, friends and the role of women which are the more personal side of the diaries and the other area which reveals Nella’s opinions of public events such as the early war years, and the Barrow Blitz I mentioned above.

Nella’s diary is full of stories about her family, her marriage, her volunteer work and the difficulties of day-to-day life with blackout curtains, rationing and enemy bombers flying overhead. Gas for recreational use was cut off and they couldn’t go anywhere except by bus, a task many of us would balk at today. Rationing became severe in the last years of the war, so they tried to grow things like onions and tomatoes that were not available at the grocery store they were registered with, and Nella actually tore up their lawn to keep hens so they would have more than the 1 egg per week that rationing would allow.

Air raids sirens were a nightly occurrence meaning the Family, at times, slept in their clothes so they could get to their shelter quickly if need be and sometimes they even went to bed in the shelter.  Reading this diary brought back to mind when my Grandma would tell me about living in Leeds, Yorkshire during the war; the air raids, trying to raise three young children while her Husband was away and, when I asked her how she managed, she would tell me it was their way of making sure the Germans didn’t win on the home front, they picked themselves up and kept on going.

The diary isn’t all just hardship and grief, however, there are funny things such as happen in normal day-to-day life and Nella is very adept in conveying how much the value of laughter was cherished during these times.  Something that will strike most readers of the diary is how the war and everyday life bled into each other as Nella writes about an air raid and marmalade in the same entry without a change in direction.  The reader also sees how Nella grows from being the stereotypical Housewife of the day to being her own woman, something neither her Husband or sons were very keen on.

Apart from being an excellent historical record of the time, this diary serves to show us just how reliant on technology we have become as a society.  We have moved away from the self-reliance needed to get us through hard times, and lost our compassion for others in need.  It made me wonder how many people who read the diary would be able to successfully grow their own food and cope with the constant stress and tension the nightly bombings brought with them.

I highly recommend not only Nella Last’s War to everyone, but also the remaining two books of her diaries. Alone this is a learning experience, and a possible eye-opener for the more isolated of us out there but when combined with the other two books it becomes something everyone should read, and hopefully learn from.

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Make the Ordinary Come Alive ~ William Martin

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Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

William Martin

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I Hear America Singing ~ Walt Whitman

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I Hear America Singing

I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and
strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as
he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning,
or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or
of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to
her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman