Amazon Books staff has compiled 2014 list of 100 must-reads into a list of “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime,”

Leyton Public Library, Leytonstone, London, UK 1944 WC
Leyton Public Library, Leytonstone, London, UK (1944, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and warmer, 68 degrees.

I have Olivia today, so no time for a real post. I know I’ve been absent. What can I say?

Life . . .

                   

Click here to read the full article from CNN

Amazon released its newly curated list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime on Tuesday.

Books on the list include Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (1925) and Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” (2013).

The list spans 200 years of literature, along with a wide range of genres and intended audiences; authors include David Sedaris, Salman Rushdie, J.D. Salinger, Michael Pollan and Shel Silverstein.

Sara Nelson, editorial director of print and Kindle books at Amazon.com, said the list was created through taxing months of deliberation among her team, though no mathematical algorithms were used.

“One of our tasks was to have books that don’t feel like homework: ‘eat your vegetables’ books,” Nelson said. “There was nothing in there except ‘I loved this book when I was 12 for this reason.’ We lobbied each other.”

The books are not ranked but rather are listed alphabetically to represent that “no book is more important than another,” she added.

(To see the Goodreads Readers’ Picks, click here.)

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  4. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  7. Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  9. All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  10. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  11. Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  12. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  15. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  18. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  19. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  20. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  21. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  22. Dune by Frank Herbert
  23. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  24. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  26. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  27. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  28. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  30. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  31. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  33. Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  34. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  35. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  36. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  39. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  40. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  41. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  42. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  43. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  44. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  45. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  46. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  47. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  48. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  49. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  50. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  51. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  52. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  53. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  54. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  55. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  56. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  57. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  58. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  59. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  60. The Color of Water by James McBride
  61. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  62. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  63. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  64. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  65. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  66. The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  67. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  69. The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  70. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  72. The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  73. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  74. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  75. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  76. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  77. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  78. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  79. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  80. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  81. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  82. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  83. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  84. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  85. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  86. The Shining by Stephen King
  87. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  88. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  89. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  90. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  91. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  92. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  93. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  94. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  95. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  96. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  97. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  98. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  99. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  100. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

“Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak . . . surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that.” ~ Hermann Hesse

The Fairy Host
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law*


“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still” ~ Sylvia Plath

Tuesday afternoon. Cloudy, showers, much cooler, low 60’s.

Well, Corey is in the Ascension Island for a few days. He hasn’t seen any giant sea turtles, but he says that the island is beautiful, crystal blue waters, clean beaches, no touristy stuff. Apparently, the turtles nest at night, and the road to their nesting ground is actually closed to traffic at night so as not to disturb the turtles. Isn’t that cool? Unfortunately for him, his watch shifts haven’t allowed him to be off the boat at the time the turtles are on the move, but he has seen the tracks in the sand, and he says that they are huge.

A Dream of Grace
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

From there, the ship is supposed to head to Brooklyn to go into the yard, where it will be for a month or so. He sounds content, but tired. I haven’t heard that tone in his voice in quite a while, so it’s very nice. I can’t express how wonderful it is to know that he’s doing something that he loves and is very good at doing, especially after four years of a roller coaster ride.

Four years? Yep, since 2008. Wow. That really is a long, long, long time to be unemployed and underemployed, but I know that we are fortunate because many people who lost their jobs when the recession hit are still out of work. I truly fear for this country, its shortsighted leaders who continue to believe that the struggling lower classes are lesser citizens, and who continue to reward the elite.

What happened to equity? Democracy? The American Dream?

“What syllable are you seeking,
Vocalissimus,
In the distances of sleep?
Speak it.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “To the Roaring Wind”

I don’t want to go off on a socio-political rant as it will just depress me, and I’m actually feeling a bit better emotionally. I haven’t been weepy in several days, so that’s a good thing.

White Knight of Bright Morning
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

We got a graduation announcement from Corey’s niece, his older brother’s daughter. Apparently Steve texted Corey twice for our address, which just stymies me as we send them a Christmas card every year, and have done so for over a decade. Anyway, his daughter is graduating, which is kind of weird as I remember when she was just a little girl who followed Eamonn around Corey’s parents’ house when we were visiting at Christmas.

They refuse to stay young.

In ten years they will all wish that they were just approaching their 20’s again. After ten years of the stresses of young adult life, they begin to see how easy life really was. I’m not at all saying that being a teenager is easy, because it’s not. The stressors are there, just of a different nature. And far too many young people come out of their teen years scarred and scared, with absolutely no idea of what the future might hold for them.

I never thought I’d be talking about today’s youth in that same tone of voice that I hated when I was younger, so I try to remember that all of those things that seemed terribly important, life-changing, heartbreaking, all of those things really did matter then. Only now am I able to place them in context.

“I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways.” ~ Rumi

I ate a snack bag of Cheetos last night, really wanted them, but today I’m paying for it as I can feel the migraine creeping into my head. MSG. I don’t understand why food producers continue to use MSG when so many other things are available and so many people are sensitive to the additive. I try to tell myself that it won’t bother me, but 98 percent of the time when I ingest something with MSG I get a migraine. It’s that two percent that I’m hoping for.

Filling Up the Sea
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Silly me.

Last night Richard Gere and Mari were in my dream. Very, very strange. Apparently, I knew Gere. In the dream I’m taking Mari to the airport, but we’re in the Underground in Crystal City, Arlington, and we keep making wrong turns. At some point, the cast from “Law & Order” makes an appearance, and Jack McCoy is standing outside of the courtroom talking to Abby. I think to myself that Abby really is just as beautiful in real life as she is on television. Then I notice that she has a scar running down the side of her legs, and I think that she’s had an operation to make her thighs smaller. Richard Gere is wearing a white dress shirt but no tie, and he’s going in the same direction as Mari and me. The newspaper is across the street. Mari tells me that she has chronic pain but wonders why she didn’t get my old job at GW. There is a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

Make of that what you will.

“Whatever I looked at was alive, everything had a voice,
but I never found out were you a friend, an enemy,
was it winter, summer? Smoke, singing, midnight heat.
I wrote thousands of lines. Not one told me.” ~ Anna Akhmatova, from “Fragment, 1959,” (trans. Stephen Berg)

That creative spurt that I was going through a few weeks ago seems to have dried up. Gone. For a while, I had poems running through my brain constantly. Lines upon lines kept appearing. Now the only thing in my brain is pain and bad dreams. I knew that it wouldn’t last.

Tam Lin the Knight
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I’ve started to request galleys of books again. I thought that I would try to get back into writing reviews, like I was doing a few years ago. I had stopped requesting galleys when I stopped reviewing the books I was being sent. Knowing the publishing process, it didn’t seem right to request an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) without writing a review.

I’m also trying to stay caught up on Goodreads. I hadn’t updated my profile in ages, so I set a reading goal for myself in 2012: 60 books. I’m a little behind, but I should be able to make my goal by the end of the year. I don’t really do the social part of Goodreads—chatting with other people about what they’re reading, making friends, all of that. I just don’t get into that whole social networking, even if it is a reading site.

I know. I’m a curmudgeon. But you can’t say that I’m not honest about it.

If you’re an avid reader, and you haven’t discovered Goodreads yet, you should click on the link on my sidebar. It really is a nice resource for readers; they do book giveaways each month, and people do write some good reviews of books. At the very least, it is a great site for keeping a record of your books and for finding literary quotes.

“‎When you do not speak, the thousand stars that lay upon your tongue slide back down your throat only to be swallowed one by one, jagged, pointed and weighing more than planets.” ~ Tama Kieves

Speaking of age, as I was earlier, the Doobie Brothers and the Beach Boys are touring. Aren’t they all 100 or so? I mean, even though Mick Jagger is ancient, I can kind of see him touring (not really sure why), but these guys? Whenever I think of the Beach Boys, unfortunately I think of Charles Manson. I know. It’s a weird association, but Manson’s desire to be taken seriously as a singer, his relationship with Dennis Wilson, are all part of what drove him to do the crazy things that he did.

Climbing the Dragon Gate
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

You know what’s really crazy? Manson’s music was actually used by some bands after he and his followers killed all of those people. Guns ‘n Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered his songs. Weird, huh?

If anyone does not deserve that kind of recognition, it’s Manson, but hey, we’re that kind of society: desirous of fame no matter what. Okay, maybe I’m generalizing, but I remember as a youth I wanted to be famous, wanted to sing on Broadway. Of course, my dreams of fame had nothing to do with being infamous, but I wanted that recognition, nonetheless.

The desire for fame is as old as time, though. As long as humans have been able to speak, someone has chosen to be the one to lead, and people have followed because of what they have heard. Even before speech, someone always stood out, took charge, and others went along. It’s a pack mentality that has evolved into the kinds of government that exist today. Think about it: Are our Congressional members really so different from the early hominids? In both cases, someone pounded their chest (literally or figuratively) and declared that he should be heeded because he, and only he knew what was right . . .

Yep.

More later. Peace.

*All images used with permission from the Fairy Tales and Mythology Gallery on Shadowscapes, the website of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. I recommend clicking on each image to see full size.

Music by the Alialujah Choir, “A House, A Home”

                   

Of Distress Being Humiliated by the Classical Chinese Poets

Masters, the mock orange is blooming in Syracuse without
scent, having been bred by patient horticulturalists
To make this greater display at the expense of fragrance.
But I miss the jasmine of my back-country home.
Your language has no tenses, which is why your poems can
never be translated whole into English;
Your minds are the minds of men who feel and imagine
without time.
The serenity of the present, the repose of my eyes in the cool
whiteness of sterile flowers.
Even now the headsman with his great curved blade and rank
odor is stalking the byways for some of you.
When everything happens at once, no conflicts can occur.
Reality is an impasse. Tell me again
How the white heron rises from among the reeds and flies
forever across the nacreous river at twilight
Toward the distant islands.

~ Hayden Carruth

“To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare.” ~ Kenko Yoshida

“Fourth Avenue Bookstore,” by Andreas Feininger (ca 1940s)

  

“I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” ~ Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, Pensées Diverses
"Comic Book Readers, New York City," by Ruth Orkin (1947)

I really do miss the days of reading at least one book every weekend, but as with everything else in my life, I go through phases. Luckily for me, I’ve been in the mood to read lately. So just this week, I read two books that were as different from each other as is possible. Last week I read a collection of short stories.

I thought that I might do brief reviews of these three books, spread the wealth, as it were.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. It is wholesome and bracing for the mind to have its faculties kept on the stretch.” ~ August Hare

I was fortunate to win this first book in a Goodreads giveaway, and doub ly fortunate because it was one of the books for which I submitted my name that I really wanted to read. James Rollins writes what is called thriller/adventure novels. I am a junkie for these kinds of books as they are easy to read and can be read in one sitting. That and the fact that these books appeal to me in the same way that action movies appeal to me. I am fully aware that they are fluff, but fluff can be a great distraction.

I have read two or three other Rollins’ novels, can’t remember exactly, but this one, The Doomsday Key, is probably my favorite. One thing that I like about Rollins is that he always tries to base the plots of his books in some kind of historical fact. He also employs twists and devices that seem a bit far-fetched, only to reveal in the notes at the end that these things actually exist, take for example, WASP daggers.

The Doomsday Key is based on The Domesday Book, which was commissioned by William the Conqueror in 11th century England. King William sent royal commissioners to all parts of his kingdom to conduct a survey of the lands and properties, supposedly to measure the taxes owed to the crown. The completed book became an incredible source of information about Medieval life.

Rollins again uses his Sigma Force and recurring characters in an adventure that includes avalanches, polar bears, and honey bees. The book does not pretend to be anything but what it is—a romp through Rollins’s world of heroes and villains, and those who straddle the middle.

(526 pages, HarperCollins)

“When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me.” ~ William Somerset Maugham
"Kisling's Atelier," André Kertész (1933)

On the other end of the spectrum is Proust’s Overcoat, a true story about one man’s obsession with all things Proust.

Written by Lorenza Foschini, this small biography (literally at 144 pages) is a captivating tale about Jacques Guérin, a Parisian heir to a perfume company. Guérin’s passion lay not in perfume but in collecting rare books, manuscripts, and papers. After spending the day in the factory, he would stroll through Paris in the evenings, frequenting small bookstores, looking for treasures. That is how he came to find a proprietor who happened to have corrected proofs of Marcel Proust.

Ultimately, the book tells Guérin’s tale, as well as that of Proust, his brother Robert, Robert’s wife Marthe who bore no love for her brother-in-law, and the family shame over Proust’s homosexuality. It was this shame that led Marthe to destroy many of Marcel’s papers after his death, only later to realize that these papers and notebooks were valuable.

Foschini’s retelling of Guérin’s search for and amassing of Proust’s papers, furniture, and his famous overcoat reads lyrically: “Proust’s homosexuality surrounded him like an invisible and insurmountable wall. His family’s unwillingness to understand led to a history of silences that mutated into rancor. This in turn was transformed into acts of vandalism—papers destroyed, furniture abandoned” (71).

Proust’s Overcoat is a lovely afternoon read, one that can be appreciated by bibliophiles and historians alike.

(144 pages, black and white photographs, Imprint of HarperCollins)

“It is not enough merely to love literature, if one wishes to spend one’s life as a writer. It is a dangerous undertaking on the most primitive level. For, it seems to me, the act of writing with serious intent involves enormous personal risk. It entails the ongoing courage for self-discovery. It means one will walk forever on the tightrope, with each new step presenting the possibility of learning a truth about oneself that is too terrible to bear.” ~ Harlan Ellison
"New York City," André Kertész (1950)

And finally, there is The Dark End of the Street, a collection of short stories featuring the work of Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Hempel, Michael Connelly, and many others.

Edited by Jonathan Santlofer and S. J. Rozan, this book includes nineteen stories that take a new look at the old themes of sex and crime, violence and darkness. The stories feature serial killers, characters who fancy themselves killers, wives who have been wronged, cruel sadists, and characters who are just plain pitiable.  A few stories read a bit like detective true crime stories from the old magazines, but for the most part, the stories are evocative and intriguing, a memorable collection crafted by an enviable group of writers.

Plot twists abound. For example, Lee Child’s “Me & Mr. Rafferty” features a serial killer and a cop and their fixation on each other. Then there is the revenge with a twist in Laura Lippman’s “Tricks.” The idea of sadism is the focus in Lynn Freed’s “Sunshine,” as well as S. J. Rozan’s “Daybreak.” But my favorite story out of the collection is Jonathan Letham’s story, “The Salon.” I love the premise of a hair salon being a serial killer’s milieu. Letham’s narrator is deftly drawn, just dripping with sarcasm and a sardonic wit.

(291 pages, black and white illustrations, Bloomsbury)

“A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.” ~ Franz Kafka

I have three more books lined up for this weekend. Good times for me. Now go read a book.

More later. Peace.

Music by Chris Isaak, “Blue Moon”