I00 books before the lights go out.

Discussão100 Books in 2024 Challenge

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I00 books before the lights go out.

1scunliffe
Jan 22, 11:42 pm

I have been away from Library Thing for a couple of years, and this seems a good way to return since I average 100+ books a year. Looking forward to meeting the rest of the group.

2scunliffe
Jan 22, 11:49 pm

Book #1 The Hamlet by William Faulkner. Faulkner light, but still heavy. Plenty of humor but it's dark. The usual Faulkner style, plenty of obscure narrative that the reader has to piece together. The first volume in the Snopes Trilogy; I will continue. Strange to say but it was Faulkner who helped me to get into Oxford University - the English version - a very long time ago, so I have a soft spot for him.

3pamelad
Jan 23, 1:06 am

Welcome to the 100 Books Challenge, Stephen.

4scunliffe
Jan 24, 12:58 pm

Book #2 The House of Doors Tan Twan Eng. This book has an intriguing concept, about a visit to Penang by an impoverished Somerset Maugham in search of material for a collection of short stories. One of his sources, and the narrator of this book, is the wife of the old friend he, together with his gay "secretary", stays with. She tells him the story of a planter's wife who had shot her lover, and been tried for it. This leads to what is probably the most memorable story of his collection of Tales of the East.
Unfortunately this book is very unevenly written, combining a lot dull prose and clunky metaphors with the occasional flash of brilliance. It also does not give a powerful impression of place....the author should have taken lessons from Somerset Maugham himself.

5scunliffe
Jan 24, 1:04 pm

Book #3 Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. A definitely creepy ghost story with a consistent build up of tension, mostly set in the endless dark of an Arctic Winter some time in the 1930's.
It is more than just a ghost story, it tells of class distinctions, the platonic love of one man for another, and his love for dogs.

6scunliffe
Jan 24, 1:15 pm

Book #4 Dissolution by C J Sansom. An excellent historical 'death in the monastery.' In the reign of Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell uses his powerful position to direct a hunchback lawyer, Mathew Shardlake, to explore the death of a Cromwell employee engaged in the dissolution of the monasteries.
In its own and very different way the book covers much the same ground as Hillary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies, involving the unprincipled scheming to convict and execute Anne Boleyn. Samson's Book predated Mantel's by roughly 10 years.

7scunliffe
Jan 25, 4:28 pm

Tracks in the Snow by Lord Charnwood aka G.F.Benson. Well written in 1906, a fine example of the old fashioned country house murder. Appropriately for its period, it is gently paced which may annoy the impatient.
I found it recommended in The Story of Classic crime in 100 books by Martin Edwards

8scunliffe
Jan 25, 6:06 pm

#6. Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig. Published in 1935, this tells the story of a Cavalry officer in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the unforeseen consequences of an unintended social gaffe he inadvertently makes. Zweig's works my seem a touch melodramatic but this is a consequence of his abilities to follow his characters into the depth of crises caused by loving too much. Zweig was a friend of Sigmund Freud, also a Viennese Jew.
After earning a worldwide reputation with his novellas such as Letter from an Unknown Woman,(ignore the movie) this is his only full length novel, and I really recommend it. If you are interested in cultural and social history I also recommend his autobiography The World of Yesterday.

9scunliffe
Jan 26, 1:42 pm

#7. The Wager by David Gramm. Obama picked this as one of his 2023 choices, and so did The Economist (!) so how could I not read it. This book is not the usual wrecked on an arctic island and gnawing on crew member's bones sort of story. There were some really interesting twists among the real life events. It was fascinating to me that The Admiralty, usually ferocious in its punishments for mutiny, essentially swept the whole incident under the rug in order to avoid revealing weaknesses in the emergent Royal Navy.

10scunliffe
Jan 26, 1:56 pm

#8. Pedro Palamo by Juan Rulfo. The New York Times book review recently ran a long essay about the relatively obscure Mexican author, who with this book is meant to have inspired Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and encouraged the development of magical realism. By pure coincidence I was already half way through it.A man visits a remote Mexican village in search of his father. Nearly all the population is dead and soon he is too. But communication goes on in the haunted village, once dominated and abused by a local landowner.
Rulfo claimed that it would take three readings of this short book to understand it. Once is definitely not enough, so I will be doing some re-reading

11pamelad
Editado: Jan 26, 2:14 pm

>10 scunliffe: I also missed many layers of Pedro Paramo, some of them because I don't know enough about Mexico.

>7 scunliffe: Found the free ebook on ManyBooks.

12scunliffe
Jan 26, 5:49 pm

After a re-read in a month or so, I will see if I can penetrate some of those layers and let you know.

13scunliffe
Jan 31, 3:38 pm

#9. Dark Fire by C.J.Sansom. Second in the Shardlake series, not quite as good as the first but still an interesting mystery and very readable set in Tudor times. This has moved on to the period covered by Hilary Mantel in the third of her Wolf Hall series, the endless Mirror and the Light as Thomas Cromwell gets closer to losing his head. A new streetwise sidekick has joined Shardlake, and looks like he will still be with him in the next in the series. We shall see.

14scunliffe
Jan 31, 3:43 pm

#10 Wrecker by Carl Hiassen. When I finished this very quick read I wondered what had happened to the usually gritty Hiassen.
Then I saw the book was for mid-graders and YA's, a target which I don't quite fit.
My mistake.

15scunliffe
Jan 31, 9:12 pm

#11 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
I must confess to being a devotee of English Victorian literature, and particularly of the female authors. If you don't favor tomes of 600+ pages written in old fashioned eloquent prose, I can quite understand.
This book is not as good as Jane Eyre, it lacks the same depth of understanding of its characters, yet is more overtly feminist. It is definitely better than Wuthering Heights, which I just can't deal with.
It is a great romance story. A lovely young widow and her young son move into a semi-derelict country house, avoiding contact with the local gossipy community. But she does allow a local young gentleman to befriend her. He narrates about half of the book, the other part is her journal of about 7 years.
Will the course of true love run smooth? Most definitely not: there are some severe bumps in the road, threatening to wreck the happy ending that the reader hopes for.

16scunliffe
Jan 31, 9:25 pm

#12, January's last book. The pace will slow down when the weather encourages me to get outside.
Another Girl by Peter Grainger, the most recent of his King's Lake Series which follows on from the D.C.Smith series.
Grainger is quite obscure over here in the States, but he is one of my most favorite mystery writers. He somehow deals with the solving of horrible crimes in a warm and sympathetic voice. I highly recommend the audio versions read by Gildart Jackson.

17scunliffe
Fev 1, 11:18 pm

#13 Emperor of Rome by Mary Beard. A rare creature, a well respected academic who knows how to communicate, but this is not her best book of history. However by concentrating on two centuries of absolutist emperors beginning with Augustus, she does achieve her purpose of of describing what it was actually like to be to live and rule as the autocrat of an immense empire. Her final conclusion is that like with all autocrats, a lot of smoke and mirrors are needed to establish a semi-divine presence.

18scunliffe
Fev 3, 2:38 pm

#14 Mr. Magic by Kiersten White. Last year I set up a zoom book group of 12 people, which has formed into a really interesting group where each person has their distinctively different reading preference, and where two generations are represented. There is no assigned reading, we talk much more broadly, we each talk about any book we have read in either the previous week or the previous decades.
Mr. Magic came from a youngish (30's) reader who likes weird stuff, so I thought I would give it a try. Glad that I did, it was at times quite ominous and the resolution is one you can take as either a happy or sad ending. I opted for both.

19scunliffe
Fev 5, 1:42 pm

#15 Brief Encounters with Che Guavera by Ben Fountain. A great collection of short stories. The theme is mostly 'innocents abroad'. Set in what are politely but ridiculously called Developing Countries. Haiti, Sierra Leone are just two of them and are actually regressing rather than developing. Naive westerners come to face to face with the ugly realities of countries they would like to help, and react in different ways.
Definite shades of Graham Greene: The Quiet American and The Comedians.

20scunliffe
Fev 10, 11:35 pm

#16 re-read of Light in August by William Faulkner. My second favorite Faulkner, just behind The Sound and the Fury.
As striking as it was the first time I read it maybe 20 years ago. The character who really stays with me is The Reverend Gail Hightower, long ago ejected by his congregation for preaching solely about his grandfather's death in the Civil War, on the confederate side of course, this being the Deep South, and for the flagrantly adulterous behavior and death of his wife.
In the long story of Joe Christmas, who has almost undetectable black blood we learn of another continuing legacy of the south, deep hatred of the population who had once been slaves.
Hardly a comforting read, but it puts you straight into Mississippi in the 20's. Besides a veneer of modernity, I wonder how much it has really changed since then?

21bryanoz
Fev 13, 8:04 pm

>20 scunliffe: Light in August is my favourite Faulkner, must get to a reread someday.. keep up the great reading Stephen!

22scunliffe
Fev 14, 2:59 pm

>21 bryanoz: Thank you for the comment and encouragement.....

23scunliffe
Fev 14, 3:07 pm

#17 All the Sinners Bleed by S.A.Cosby. In an unintended juxtaposition with #16, Faulkner's Light in August, things in rural Virginia dont seem to have changed much from things in rural Mississipi a hundred years ago, whites can still hate blacks. Otherwise this is a 'routine' procedural involving a not so routine slasher and serial killer. There are a couple of well drawn characters.

24scunliffe
Fev 17, 3:49 pm

#18 The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes. Figes has written some very good books on Russian history, and in some ways I think this is best. As a narrative of 'Russia' from 500 to 2023 it is brief, not a source of detailed information.
The value of this book is the way it follows the myths that have supported the self perception of Russians as a unique people, namely Holy Russia, the Holy Tsar, the Russian Soul and Moscow as the Third Rome. These myths, much modified, are still in force in the time of Putin.
This is what I like about studying history, in which I got a Master's Degree so long ago as to be an historical times. I call it 'connecting the dots.' To understand an historicall event you have to understand what preceded it, and what followed it, and so on.

25Tanya-dogearedcopy
Fev 17, 9:05 pm

>24 scunliffe: I don’t have a good reason, but I’ve been intimidated by Orlando Figes’ work and have been letting the couple of books I have languish on the shelves. The Story of Russia sounds like a good place to start 🙂

26scunliffe
Fev 21, 9:22 pm

#19 What Maisie Knew by Henry James. When James wrote this he was well into his period of extreme verbosity.
F.R. Leavis thought this was the perfect novel, Nabokov thought it was rubbish. I am somewhere between the two, leaning towards ho-hum. I am glad that Maisie ended up well, with her head screwed on straight, in spite of the awful treatment she had from her divorced parents. She came to know a lot, but was not spoiled by it.

27scunliffe
Fev 25, 7:15 pm

#20 The History of Mary Price. 17th Century first hand account of a female slave in the British West Indies. Very short but it makes its powerful point, describing separation of families and sadistic violence.
This might make good background reading for Beloved in spite of different time and place. The horrors of slavery are universal.

28scunliffe
Fev 27, 8:36 pm

#21. Cheri by Colette. I very much liked this little book about the winding up of a seven year affair between an aging (49) but still lovely courtesan who has saved enough money to live a lavish life style and a young and very handsome dandy. She is a sympathetic character who although very much in love finds herself able to deal with the situation, whereas the dandy, who is an egotistical little twerp acts on whatever emotion he was feeling at the time.
Good psychological portraits, and equally good writing.

29scunliffe
Mar 1, 7:08 pm

#22 White Teeth byZadie Smith, finally got round to reading this reputation making book, and it fell a bit short of my expectations. The first half takes a long time to establish the main character, therefore repetitive with a tendency to caricature. Given that the dominant character is a south Asian moslem living in London, I preferred Rushdie's Satanic Verses.
But then the second half took off, as characters developed and children grew up. It becomes an impressive kaleidoscope of the mixed populations of the inner London suburbs, well plotted and moving fast, so it does require some concentration.
Lovely British irony throughout
3+5 /2=4

30scunliffe
Mar 3, 6:23 pm

#23 Warlight byMichael Ondaatje. The author is always a good storyteller, but I was not very impressed by the story itself. Also, all the loose ends were tied off in the last two chapters. Too neat and tidy for me, I prefer more enigma.

31scunliffe
Mar 11, 3:07 pm

#24 The Trees by Percival Everett. Southern Gothic lives on in this unusual, mystical, ironic to the point of absurdist, novel about mass killings of white men by black 'ghosts,' starting with retribution for the lynching of Emmett Till and moving on to retribution for all lynchings.

32scunliffe
Mar 11, 8:25 pm

#25 This is Happiness by Niall Williams. A magical novel, a treasure. A septuagenarian tells the story of growing up in a small rural community in County Clare. Full of lovely gentle Irish humor, warmth and gratitude. The fictional reminiscences are not full of nostalgia, mourning the change of times. They just tell stories that are free of of sadness or sentimentality, describing what seems to have been a much appreciated adolescence.

33scunliffe
Mar 15, 7:41 pm

#26 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Thanks to another reader in this group I was inspired to re-read this childhood favorite, which I quite recently listed as one of the 10 most influential books in my life.
It was published in 1930, and I first read it in the 50's, when it did not feel as dated as it does now. But dated or not it was still fun to go back to the idyllic setting of a lake in the English Lake District, where six children lead a dream life sailing and living almost independently of parental interference by establishing camp on a small island.
Solidly upper middle class, with references to nannies, Daddy commanding a naval vessel in the far east, and the prospect of going away to school when the vacation was over. Therefore aspirational for me, but not so much as to be remote. I just wished I was one of them.

34scunliffe
Mar 16, 10:03 pm

#27 Death of an Expert Witness by P.D.James.
I have a read a few of the Dalgleish series, and have tended to find them over-written, perhaps due to literary pretensions. Thought I would give the author one last try, and rather wish I hadn't.

35scunliffe
Editado: Mar 17, 8:26 pm

>11 pamelad: Right now I am reading On the Plain of Snakes, recently written by Paul Theroux about Mexico, and it gives a lot of background to the sort of poverty stricken and remote village described in Pedro Palamo, so I will soon be well equipped to start my second reading. Quite uintentionally I might add, just coincidence.

36scunliffe
Mar 19, 5:04 pm

#28 on the Plain of Snakes by Paul Theroux.I really enjoyed several of Theroux's early travel books until in 1982 he wrote The Island by the Sea in which he described England with condescending, and supercilious, disparagement. Admittedly this was not one of England's finest hours, and in fact I had emigrated the previous year, but I was offended and stopped reading him.
To show that I only hold grudges for 40 years I read his latest, a very good account of Mexico. He sticks mainly to the economically most miserable places: the border, Oaxaca and Chiapas and largely avoids Mexico City, perhaps too cosmopolitan for someone searching for a more 'authentic' version of Mexico, and thereby dismissing the importance of more than 20 million people. His tendency to harsh criticism has not left him, as he disdains some of the best Mexican literature for indulging in fantasy. Maybe I haven't entirely given up my grudge.
But otherwise it is a very good book, and I feel I learned a lot from it

37scunliffe
Mar 21, 6:57 pm

#29 The Aspern Papers by Henry James.
A relatively simple and early novella, before HJ was seduced by a dictaphone.
An unethical writer/publisher sets out to worm his way into the lives of an elderly woman and her middle aged spinster daughter, with the object of getting his hands on the love-letters of a deceased famous poet.
All he achieves is the destruction of the letters and the dashing of romantic feelings he had encouraged in the daughter.
I did not like it much at first, as the writer apparently had no conscience, but liked it better when he revealed apparently sincere sympathy and pity for the poor spinster.

38scunliffe
Editado: Mar 24, 8:02 pm

#30 A re-read of Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. I went back to this book, which the author claims takes three readings to understand, after reading Theroux's On the Plain of Snakes, which describes well the typical bleak setting of this book.
I certainly understood it better this time, partly because I read carefully and took notes. As a result was able to identify the relationships between characters, who appear in distinctly non chronological order, and in some sections are alive, and in others dead. And to grasp the key themes of poverty, oppression by ruthless landowners, and most of all, death.
This is a polarizing book. Should we really respect literature which is oblique and difficult to decipher? I believe we should. As in Faulkner's The Sound and there Fury the book does more than just tell a story, it paints a striking picture of the atmosphere of the place where it takes place.

39scunliffe
Editado: Mar 28, 6:02 pm

#31 The Franchise Affair by Josphine Tey A pleasant little mystery, well written with plenty of humor, which does not take itself too seriously. A country solicitor uses his wits and large amounts of luck to save and old lady and her daughter from a very credible but wrongful accusation.

40scunliffe
Mar 28, 6:09 pm

#32 Foster by Claire Keegan. A young girl from an Irish family of many children, with a mother hardly able to keep up and a father who would prefer to drink than help, is sent off to stay with her aunt and uncle for a few weeks.
There she is appreciated and loved in a way that does not happen at home. When she has to return to her own family we wish that something would happen to prevent her going.
But nothing happens, and we are left hoping that she will have more opportunity to visit her relatives and continue to grow in confidence there.
Not as well developed or as moving as Small Things Like These, but it is one of her earlier works.

41scunliffe
Mar 28, 8:49 pm

#32 Party Going by Henry Green.
The construction and style of this book make it a bit difficult to get into until you realize this is a reflection of the subject. Namely a group of young and wealthy travelers on their way from London to the South of France in the late 1930’s.
Because their lives are vacuous and meaningless so does the book at first sight appear to be the same. Their sole object in life is self gratification and avoidance of boredom.
The novel is in fact a brilliant caricature of class. There is a fundamental metaphor: the group is stuck in a London station by fog, moves into suites in the station hotel, and gazes down detachment on the great masses below.
Even among this small number of the upper class there are gradations. Two individuals rise above the rest, one very rich and handsome man and one very rich and beautiful woman. Besides being looked up to and rather mistrusted by the rest, they try to outmaneuver each other in a courting game, but with no more obvious purpose than self amusement. Seriousness is close to a mortal sin.
People like this really did exist, I rubbed shoulders with their children years ago at University, and they were just as bad. We lesser mortals used to call them ‘chinless wonders.’

42scunliffe
Mar 28, 9:03 pm

#33 Manon Lescaut by Abbe Prevost
I came across a beautiful 1935 Heritage Club edition in a used bookstore last week for less than $10, and having had it in mind to read for decades, I bought it and read it. (lovely thick paper with letterpress printing).
Written in France in the 1730’s it was something of a shocker because not only did it deal with undying love, but also a ‘kept’ woman.
The nub of the book is that the beautiful heroine believes that fidelity in love can co-exist with infidelity in sex. Naturally the infatuated hero sees things differently, and is condemned to heartbreak.
As you might expect, there is not a happy ending.

43pamelad
Abr 1, 5:56 pm

>41 scunliffe: I tried reading Living, Loving and Party Going when I was in my twenties and didn't get far, but a few years ago I read Blindness and was encouraged to try Henry Green again. Now that I'm ancient I have much more tolerance for ambiguity and have enjoyed all of his books. Party Going was a favourite. I've gone back through my old threads to find my review and posted it on the book page.

44scunliffe
Abr 2, 12:39 pm

I will take a look

45scunliffe
Abr 5, 1:50 pm

#34 Pym by Matt Johnson
I wanted to enjoy this black and white novel because of its clever premise that Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym was actually based on a true story that the very racist Poe learned from Pym himself.
The books starts well with some good academic satire but then comes up with characters based on a variety of stereotypes, and further loses any subtlety after a most unlikely all black expedition lands in Antarctica.
I skimmed the second half of the book and don't think I missed much.

46scunliffe
Abr 8, 6:55 pm

#35 Victory by Joseph Conrad
I have long been an admirer of Conrad, and have many times defended Heart of Darkness to people who have mis-read it, or not read it all and just taken on board common prejudice.
One of his strengths is the great variety - maritime stories excepted - of subjects he writes about. In this case most of the action takes place in a tropical archipelago, on an almost deserted island. Here an aristocratic and reclusive Swede has taken an English young woman who he has rescued from the clutches of a Dutch hotel keeper. They live together with the support of a Chinese servant. Then three undesirables arrive, with the encouragement of the vengeful hotel keeper. They are an amoral English former gentleman fallen from grace because he is a card sharp, a psychopathically murderous henchman, and a hairy simian servant of great strength.
They find themselves in a stand-off of mutual decision, and I wont reveal the ending which has a touch of Grand Guignol about it.
Does this sound like the makings of a very good novel, or a piece of pulp fiction? As I have presented it, the answer is pulp fiction. But in fact it is a fine novel, largely due to the way Conrad takes us into the minds of these six characters, who become real if somewhat grotesque individuals, rather than simple caricatures. And as ever, his writing is excellent.

47scunliffe
Abr 9, 8:01 pm

#36 A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine aka Ruth Rendel
This book seemed to be a hybrid between a regular novel and a mystery, and did not do particularly well at being either. It particularly fails any being a mystery, not least because we are told right at the beginning that there has been a murder, and who committed it. There are some mysterious elements, which are mostly revealed at the end, but you have to be pretty dumb not to have figured it out long before that. The psychological novel aspect became after a while, simply repetitive and dull.

48scunliffe
Abr 13, 7:09 pm

#37 Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman by Stefan Zweig
Typically for Zweig, a tale of obsession, which I for one rather enjoy in all its melodramatic splendor. In this case obsession with gambling is pitted against obsession with love, which turns out to be the shorter lasting of the two.

49scunliffe
Editado: Ontem, 1:17 pm

#38. What you are looking for is in the Library byMichiko Toyama
I know that for many readers this is a charming feel-good book, but for me it was a feel-bored book. Trite little stories of individuals who are dissatisfied with their lives, but find salvation in the obscure advice of a an eccentric librarian. Definitely not for me. Fortunately right now I am working on two excellent books so I wont have to sound so grumpy.