Challenge: 50 Books discussion

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*Retired* 2008 Lists > Bishop's 50...FINISHED!

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message 1: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments New to the site...and this sounds like my kind of challenge.

My list so far:
1. Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
2. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
3. Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
4. Mister B. Gone - Clive Barker
5. Macho - Victor Villasenor
6. N'nocent 7age (Rage) - Kweisi
7. The Waste Land and Other Poems - T.S. Eliot
8. The Island of Dr. Moreau - HG Wells*
9. The Innocent - Ian McEwan
10. The Antichrist - Friedrich Nietzsche
11. The Old Man and the Sea - Earnest Hemingway*
12. The Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons*
13. The Tain Bo Cuialnge - Thomas Kinsella
14. Saturday - Ian McEwan*
15. Everyman - Philip Roth
16. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald*
17. The Great Gatsby: Penguin Critical Studies Guide - Kathleen Parkinson
18. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood*
19. The Jungle - Upton Sinclair*
20. The Stranger - Albert Camus*
21. The Time Machine - HG Wells*
22. To Have and Have Not - Earnest Hemingway*
23. Slow Man - JM Coetzee*
24. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote*
25. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson*
26. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro*
27. Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut*
28. Night - Elie Wiesel
29. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner*
30. The Devil and Miss Prym - Paulo Coelho*
31. Sula - Toni Morrison*
32. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley*
33. Snuff - Chuck Palahniuk
34. The Breast - Philip Roth*
35. Siddhartha - Herman Hesse*
36. A Companion to Beowulf - Ruth Johnston Staver
37. Beowulf - Harold Bloom
38. As I lay Dying - William Fualkner
39. How To Read and Why - Harold Bloom
40. Miss Lonelyhearts - Nathanael West*
41. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller*
42. Grendel - John Gardner
43. Critical Approaches to Six Major English Works: Beowulf to Paradise Lost - R.M. Lumiansky
44. The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon*
45. Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift*
46. Beowulf - Seamus Heaney
47. The Odyssey - Homer (trans. Robert Fitzgerald)
48. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley*
49. The World According to Garp - John Irving*
50. Chimera - John Barth
51. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson*
52. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver*
53. Fathers and Sons - Ivan Turgenev*
54. The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton*
55. The Beautiful and Damned - F. Scott Fitzgerald
56. The Book of Imaginary Beings - Jorge Luis Borges
57. Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
58. Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's the Grapes of Wrath - Rick Wartzman
59. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad*
60. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde*
61. Doctor Faustus - Christopher Marlowe
62. Romeo & Juliet - William Shakespeare
63. Macbeth - William Shakespeare
64. A Room With a View - E.M. Forster*
65. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke*
66. House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski*
67. Inferno (Hell) - Dante Alighieri
68. Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton*
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville*
70. Essay on Man and Other Poems - Alexander Pope
71. Purgatorio (Purgatory)- Dante Alighieri
72. Indignation - Philip Roth
73. Armageddon in Retrospect - Kurt Vonnegut
74. Love - Toni Morrison
75. The Leaning Tower and Other Stories - Katherine Anne Porter
76. Rant - Chuck Palahniuk
77. The Husband - Dean Koontz

An (*) after each book indicates that it is on the 1001 books list.


message 2: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 38 comments How did you like Blood Meridian? Is it violent and/or depressing? Not that dark, violent books are a dealbreaker for me, but I was wondering if McCarthy ever wrote about anything less depressing


message 3: by Bishop (last edited Jan 26, 2008 08:08PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Blood Meridian is most definitely violent. However, much of the violence and gore is presented in such a matter-of-fact manner that I found myself responding less and less to it. Death and suffering become the norm.

It is not an easy read, but it is time well spent. There aren't many writers out there with McCarthy's command for the language and this book is an epic example of that.

Does he write anything that isn't depressing? I'm no expert, but it in my limited experience, not really.

I don't read many books over and again, but I can almost guarantee that I will read this one again within the next couple of years. There is simply too much to absorb in one read.


message 4: by Bishop (last edited Jan 29, 2008 12:39PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

Read this one for a book club
5. Macho - Victor Villasenor



message 5: by Bishop (last edited Jan 29, 2008 12:38PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

New one finished today:
6. N'nocent 7age - Kweisi


message 6: by Bishop (last edited Feb 05, 2008 11:57AM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

7. The Waste Land and Other Poems - TS Eliot

I'm sure I didn't get the most out of this with such a casual reading, but it's been on my "to read" list forever...


message 7: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

OK...so I'm not quite done, but I will be by tonight and I won't be near a computer.

8. The Island of Dr. Moreau - HG Wells

It's a short one and a page turner. For what it's worth, I enjoyed it.


message 8: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 25 comments Bishop, I've never tried any Wells, so glad to hear a current review. Ok, another one added to my list...


message 9: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

9. The Innocent - Ian McEwan

My first book by McEwan and I won't soon forget it. He had me to the end. The man can write.


message 10: by Bishop (last edited Feb 11, 2008 01:53PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

10. The Antichrist - Friedrich Nietzsche

I haven't read much Nietzsche since college and I can't say that I've missed him all that much. His ideas are worth reading, but I always get the feeling that if I ever had the chance to meet Mr. Nietzsche, I would think him an unbearable prick. I could be wrong.


message 11: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) The Island of Dr Moreau, is it that good?
I've read The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, which I dislike and make me uninterested to read Wells' other works.


message 12: by Bishop (last edited Feb 11, 2008 01:53PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments I liked it better than both War of the Worlds and Time Machine. Is it good? Yes. Is it THAT good? I don't know. Will you like it? Maybe not. If you are turned off by Wells and his brand of early sci-fi, I probably wouldn't bother. There are lots o' fish in the sea.

To be honest, I never really planned on reading it until I saw a South Park episode based on Moreau and monkeys with four asses. At that point, I made myself a promise that I would read it, if for no other reason than to be more well-read than a bunch of foul-mouthed fourth-grade cartoon characters.

I wrote a longer review of it, if you care to read it.


message 13: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

11. The Old Man and the Sea - Earnest Hemingway

When I was younger, I hated Hemingway. As I get a bit older, I've come to appreciate him a lot more. I've read a good bit of his stuff, but never bothered with this one until this weekend. I'm glad I didn't read it in high school, I would have hated it. Having read it at this point in my life, I can't say that I loved it, but I certainly found it worthwhile.


message 14: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Just read your review on The Island of Dr Moreau. Hmmph, I guess I feel that I cannot connect to the Wells' stories (At least his books are usually thin). Different with Jules Verne's books, which I dote so much. Might take a look on Dr Moreau sometimes though, just to kill time like you said :)




message 15: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Update:

12. The Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

I'm still struggling through The Tain, but I finished this one. I don't usually read graphic novels, but a friend loaned it to me assuring me it was fantastic. It was. There are parts of this thing that are brilliant. It took me almost as long to read as a novel simply due to the detail of the drawings and the density of the text. Good stuff.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I dislike Hemingway's personality and have only read things like Hills Like White Elephants in lit class years ago but I found Old Man and the Sea on my own when I was 14 or 15 and reread it again about 5 tears ago. I would put it up there as one of the top 10 books of all time. To me it is his masterpiece and a true masterpiece of art.
that freakin rotting fish-what a metaphor for life


message 17: by Bishop (last edited Feb 22, 2008 09:19PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 13. The Tain Bo Cuialnge - Thomas Kinsella

I can't lie. I only wanted to read this due to the fact that I was intrigued The Decemberists EP of the same title. It took me a while to get through it. You have to be in the right mood to forge through ancient epics and this was no exception even though it is a relatively short work (~250 pages). I think I had a hard time connecting to the text because I know almost nothing about Ireland or Irish culture/history/etc.

I would probably get far more out of it if I had read it for a class or somthing. As it stands, I don't feel like I'm walking away with much.

To make matters worse, I still don't think I understand the song any better than I did before...except for the "loose the Hound" part. :)


message 18: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Interestingly enough, I was playing a video game in which one of the characters that you have to fight is named "Cuchulainn" (the Hound of Ulster). I never would have caught the reference to The Tain before. It makes me wonder just how many references like this I don't get.


message 19: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 14. Saturday - Ian McEwan

Wow...I've been so bogged down with work that I have had almost NO time to read in the past few weeks.

Saturday was my most recent and it was quite a let down. I really liked The Innocent, but this one was murder for me to get through. It's only 280 pages and the first 200 are dreadfully boring. For example, there's at least 10 - 15 pages describing a squash match. I am not now, nor have I ever been interested in squash (the food or the game). Yeah, yeah, yeah...metaphors...bla, bla. I just wasn't interested. In the end, it was ok, but not much more than that.




message 20: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 15. Everyman - Philip Roth

I like Roth quite a bit. For once, I'm glad that Roth kept it short. For what it is, it works. If it had been an extra hundred pages, I would not have cared for it. As it stands I liked it well enough, though it was not one of my favorites by Roth.


message 21: by Bishop (last edited Mar 12, 2008 06:22AM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 16. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

I teach this book, so I read it at least once a year and it gets better every year. This is definitely in my all time top ten. It is damn near perfect in its execution. If you haven't read this since you were 16, do yourself a favor. Except this time, pay attention! Amazing, as always.

17. The Great Gatsby: Penguin Critical Studies Guide - Kathleen Parkinson

There are some pretty good essays in this little critical studies book. I wouldn't recommend it for the casual reader, but its ok for the student. There are more than a few sections that are a bit weak, in my opinion, but it was worth the couple of bucks I spent on it.


message 22: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) Ditto that for me, Bishop!


message 23: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) Totally agree with this comment, Bishop! Really like McEwan!


message 24: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) Maureen, my thoughts are yours on Hemingway and "The Old Man and the Sea". I have trouble understanding how other titles get so much acclaim over this one -- definitely his best!


message 25: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) Agree with you, again, Bishop. I enjoy all of McEwan's books, but "Innocent" and "Atonement" were the best I've read so far. I didn't care nearly as much for "The Cement Garden", and "Saturday" ranked just about that one for me.


message 26: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments Can I count Romeo and Juliet? I read it four times this year with my classes. Does that count as a novel? Ha!


message 27: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 18. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

If you like to cozy up with a good dystopia, this one is for you.

I'm still in a reading lull...it's been slow going of late.


message 28: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 19. The Jungle - Upton Sinclair

This is one of the dreariest, most depressing novels I've ever read. No wonder it made such a stir when it was published!


message 29: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 20. The Stranger - Albert Camus

I can't lie, this book has been on my "to read" list for over 20 years. In 1985 or 1986, I got a copy of The Cure's, Standing on a Beach. Shortly thereafter I learned that the title track was based on Camus', The Stranger.

Actually, reading it really brought me back to Franz Kafka's, The Trial. I can't put my finger on why, but the general feeling of absurdity and unease at the trial's proceedings had the same effect on me.

Well, it's off my to read list, but now I want to go listen to that old record again. I enjoyed the book, but in the long run, I think the record will stay with me for longer...


message 30: by Bishop (last edited Apr 01, 2008 01:33PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 21. The Time Machine - HG Wells

I left my copy of To Have and Have Not at work, so I started reading The Sound and the Fury last night. Today, I picked up a copy of The Time Machine to pass the time (pun intended) and I finished it in my spare moments throughout the day.

I had read this thing years ago, and I felt a little nostalgic reading it again. I read The Island of Dr. Moreau earlier this year and I can safely say that I liked this one better (having reread it). When I read it the first time, I don't think I really tried to place the novel in its historical context, whereas this time, I found myself with a clearer understanding of Wells' vision of the future (800,000 years later) considering some of the dominant ideas of the time.

As with Moreau, if you are not a science fiction nerd, you might not enjoy this as much, but I found it to be a relatively entertaining way to kill an hour or two.


message 31: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 22. To Have and Have Not - Earnest Hemingway

I really liked this one. I know it is not as highly touted as some of his others, but it was satisfying to me, flaws and all. One of the reviewers on Goodreads mentioned that it's kind of like Hemingway's attempt at Steinbeck. I didn't read the review until after I was finished with the book, but I thought it was interesting that about halfway into this one, I had the same thought. I could complain about some of the dialogue, some of the editing, and some of the characterization, but I won't. It's all been said before.


message 32: by Bishop (last edited Apr 05, 2008 02:37PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 23. Slow Man - JM Coetzee

I found this one disappointing in a lot of ways. Characters arrive and depart without explanation. Subplots are introduced but never developed. Maybe I am just getting tired of reading novels where nothing happens and no one does anything, but this didn't even seem to be a profound exploration of that nothingness. I don't know, it just left me bored and apathetic.


message 33: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments The Sound and the Fury is KILLING ME!

Must...finish...book...


message 34: by Bishop (last edited Apr 16, 2008 11:49PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 24. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote

It was alright, not really my thing though. It was a nice break from Faulkner and I can't argue the Holly Golightly isn't intriguing, but I just was not all that interested. Also, believe it or not, I've never seen the movie, so I have no bias there.


message 35: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 25. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson

Sorry, WAY overrated. Yeah, I get it, you got high a lot. More social commentary, fewer stupid drug stories. I liked Hell's Angels quite a bit better than this one.


message 36: by Emily (new)

Emily | 74 comments Good call, Bishop. I feel this way about a lot of drug-induced memoir. While it may feel that way to the author, going way over the top with intoxicants is nothing new or original. However, as you mentioned, it could be interesting with some thoughtful additions.


message 37: by Bishop (last edited Apr 29, 2008 04:41PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 26. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

I like the premise of this book well enough, but the execution drove me nuts. It reads like an after-school-made-for-TV-movie. Every chapter and subchapter relies on the same device: introduce the idea, cut to commercial, come back for the reveal:

"We never understood why old man Witherspoon spent so much time in his shed until the night of the full moon...fade to black, cut to mac & cheese commercial...The night of the full moon came after bla bla bla..."

Seriously? The whole book is like this? Yes. Over and over and over and...

Maybe I'm just grumpy, but I found the characters annoying, immature, and relatively flat, certainly not enough to overcome the narration woes.

The only thing that kept me turning the pages was the notion of the "donations." In the end, it was ok, if predictable and slightly annoying.

Note: I just went and read other people's reviews of this one (which I NEVER read until after I've finished) and lots of people seem to LOVE this book, so what the hell do I know?



message 38: by Bishop (last edited May 02, 2008 08:17AM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 27. Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

What a relief! I've been reading a lot of books of late that just haven't been too satisfying. Fortunately, Vonnegut is like a big fat Snickers bar.

Was there a page of this book that didn't make me smile (if not laugh aloud)? I doubt it.

I'm not sure why I kept this one for one of the last of his books I've read. I just never got around to it, I suppose. I still think Slaughterhouse and Cat's Cradle rank above this one for me, but Vonnegut is like pizza: even bad, it's pretty good. And this one is no where near bad.


message 39: by Bishop (last edited May 02, 2008 03:41PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 28. Night - Elie Wiesel

Another one I reread every year with my classes. In addition to my own personal reread, I will read it (most of it) at least 4 more times in discussing it with my classes, so I am counting it!


message 40: by Emily (new)

Emily | 74 comments Thank you for re-inspiring me to pick up a Vonnegut. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but I've never read one of his books-- to the dismay of some of my friends and family. I am going to move one of the three that you mentioned (all on my home bookshelves by the way) to the top of my reading list. I could use some snickers and pizza right about now.


message 41: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 29. The Sound and the Fury - WIlliam Faulkner

This is the single most frustrating and difficult I've ever read (and I don't shy away from many books). I started reading it once years ago and had to set it aside--the only book I can recall not finishing. However, I decided to start over now that I am older and wiser--or perhaps just older--and I still found it to be difficult.

On one level, I recognize the brilliance of the book. Faulkner either must have had an amazing sense of the novel from the start or must have spent countless hours in revision. The complexity of the first two sections is pretty amazing. The story of the family is, at times, heart breaking. However, that does not necessarily make it enjoyable to read.

To me, reading this novel was like dumping a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle out onto a table. The first section provides the frame as you sort ou the edge pieces--with flashes of plot through Benjy's unreliable eyes, but you still have no idea how to fill it in. The second section of the novel gives you have more insight as you start to fit more of the puzzle together, but you still can't see the big picture--primarily due to Quentin's stream-of-consciousness which is at times only slightly clearer than Benjy's inability to understand the concept of time, control his thoughts, and organize his experiences.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that one can only experience what must have been Faulkner's intent in reading this novel over and again. Unfortunately, I am worn out. I'll read more Faulkner, but I don't plan on picking this one back up for years.


message 42: by Judith (last edited May 09, 2008 08:16AM) (new)

Judith (jloucks) The Sound and the Fury

Loved reading your reactions to Faulkner's most difficult book, Bishop. I loved the book and everything I have read by the author, but I fully understand what you are saying about this one. Great analogy of the puzzle!

Read on!


message 43: by Bishop (last edited May 18, 2008 02:33PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 30. The Devil and Miss Prym - Paulo Coelho

If I was an 11-year-old Christian whose faith needed some validation or perhaps an older man who was going through a midlife crisis of indecision and spiritual exhaustion, this book might speak to me. Since I am neither, it doesn't.

The writing is bad. I hope that some of this has to do with the translation. I hope. If not, the guy just isn't that good (based on this book alone). It reads like a rambling self-help book whose author writes as if he is writing for the dimmest star in the sky who needs a very simple idea repeated again and again and again...

The premise is bad and overly simplistic. The plot is poorly developed. The characters are flat. Don't even get me started on the angels and devils...ugh.

I won't be reading any more Coelho unless someone can convince me that almost every aspect of this book is an aberration from his tyical amazingosity.

Rubbish.


message 44: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 31. Sula - Toni Morrison

This is my third foray into Morrison's work and I continue to be pleasantly pleased. Much like The Bluest Eye, and Beloved, I found this to be a remarkably sad book. I don't think that it quite ranks as highly with me as the other two, but it was certainly worth the time it took to read it.


message 45: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 32. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Wow. What a different book than I expected this to be. I have been a bit of a closet horror buff for most of my life, but have never bothered with this one because I thought I knew the story--even though, incidentally, I have only seen the 1931 version of the film and whatever I might have picked up from popular culture. Boy, was I wrong. Frankenstein's monster is more profoundly human than I expected him/it to be. I kept bothering my wife by reading aloud passages of the monster's tale simply because I was incredulous about what I was reading. This is a classic example of gothic romanticism and I regret not reading it until now. If you haven't read it, this one is worth putting on your list.


message 46: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 33. Snuff - Chuck Palahniuk

The best thing about this book was the very long list of literary porn titles. Other than that, it was a fast read with very little to say.


message 47: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 34. The Breast - Philip Roth*

After reading a book about a 600-man gangbang, why not read a book about a man who actually BECOMES a female breast? Makes sense, right?

What a strange little book. This, apparently, is Roth's postmodern tip o' the hat to Kafka and for me, it worked. Yes, it's really quite short--there is only so much to say when you become a 150 pound mammary. The brevity is part of what makes it such fun. Not for everyone, I'm sure, but fun nonetheless.


message 48: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 35. Siddhartha - Herman Hesse

Uh...maybe I'm just a cynic, but I don't see what all the fuss is about.


message 49: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments I have some catching up to do, so here we go.

36. A Companion to Beowulf - Ruth Johnston Staver
37. Beowulf - Harold Bloom

These are both simply a collection of essays on Beowulf. Neither was all that fantastic, but Bloom's was better than Staver's as hers is written for high school students and glosses over quite a bit of scholarship.


message 50: by Bishop (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 152 comments 38. As I lay Dying - William Fualkner

I've been putting off writing about this one for a while now becuase I wasn't sure what I wanted to say about it. I should start by saying that it is a MUCH easier read than The Sound and the Fury. I think my initial reaction is to rate it higher for that reason alone, although I am not sure that it is techinically a better book. Upon rereading both, I might actually reverse my rating, but for now, suffice it to say that I enjoyed As I Lay Dying a bit more. However, once again with Faulkner, I find myself thinking that I really need to reread this one in order to really appreciate it.




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