Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own." - Anna Quindlen

What to read, what to read.

I ditched Pushed, I finished Pledged, I decided I didn’t give two hoots about Plain Secrets.
I started The Long Exile and I think I am going to like it very much, but it’s much more nonfiction than I am in the mood for right now.
I picked up a copy of The Great Mortality at HPB this past weekend, so while I was fifty pages in and enjoying my library copy greatly, now the pressure to read it right this instant is off.
The other night, nauseated and headache-y, I resorted to an old favorite, Rosamunde Pilcher. I picked up Winter Solstice as I have only read that one maybe three times (as opposed to more than half a dozen time, like all her other big novels).
It hit the spot that evening, but what I long for right now is a big, fat story but one I haven’t read yet.

So I did what I do when this mood strikes: I consult Anna Quindlen’s list of “Ten Big Thick Wonderful Books that Could Take You All Summer to Read (but aren’t beach books).”

1. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
2. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
3. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
4. The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy
5. Buddenbrooks - Thomas Mann
6. Can You Forgive Her? - Anthony Trollope
7. Sophie’s Choice - William Styron
8. Henry and Clara - Thomas Mallon
9. Underworld - Dom DeLillo
10. Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

[ones already - and loved - in bold]

So. There you have it.

I guess my first reaction is, ‘Oh my God, I HATED Underworld, so she can’t possibly be right about that. And if she’s not right about THAT…’ then maybe the fact that I can’t seem to get any further than fifty pages into either Buddenbrooks or The Forsyte Saga is more an indication that she and I do not share book taste.

Even if I adored Gone with the Wind and read it in a week during my first week of grad school; or even if I gave Lonesome Dove a shot even though I don’t care for Westerns, and LOVED it, or for that matter, ignored the fact that it was an Oprah selection and gobbled down East of Eden. So, you know, she was right about those.

She was right about the Trollope too. Although Trollope can be hard going sometimes, and I am not really in the mood to work that hard right now.

And, um, yeah, I liked Sophie’s Choice so much that I read every other William Styron I could get my hands on..

I have Vanity Fair upstairs.

I could give Buddenbrooks another shot since I really enjoyed the fifty or so pages I read the first time I tried. Or maybe I should give the Mallon a first shot.

For that matter, I could dip into the reccs in the rest of Quindlen’s book and haul out my copy of Green Dolphin Street, but I found it at a yard sale and it’s unpleasantly musty-smelling – NOT what I need right now.


I want a big fat thick pleasant book to read – newish, so it doesn’t smell, and not too hard because more brain cells seem to hibernate by the day, and not too fluffy because right now I am easily bored. A cozy English novel would be best, but I also don’t see any reason to limit myself.

Sigh. You know, it’s really enough to make one turn to mindless television watching.

But what if there’s nothing on?


Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what book on that list is fantastic... Lonesome Dove. Don't let the fact that it's a western fool you. It's one of the great novels of my life time. Also they made a great mini series out of it.

Badger said...

I dunno from cozy English, but my suggestion would be The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow. Which technically I never finished reading (library book, haven't bought it yet), but I absolutely loved it while I was reading it. It is very long. Epic, in fact. But REALLY good and very interesting and historical and crappe like that. Strong female protagonist. Lots of inside lit references. Good stuff.

jenny said...

I'm not well versed in cozy english but have you tried The Historian? thick and semi-european...does that fit the bill?

BabelBabe said...

badge - that looks like it should just fit the bill. off to the library...i may pick up the mallon book while I am there...

and I read The Historian and liked it a bunch. that is exactly the sort of book I am wanting. Thx, Jenny!

Gina said...

Peyton Place? :-)

Anonymous said...

Mmm, I love Rosemund Pilcher. She's like an eiderdown.

I've been reading this awful James Patterson thing that I have to review - Maximum Ride. It was as dire as I'd anticipated.

Many of Quindlen's books would make my list, too. I'd have Pillars Of The Earth and The Fountainhead on there, though. I loved both of those.

Sinda said...

This is where I would pull out Mary Stewart.

cupcake said...

Can You Forgive Her? I loved that book. I think PBS made a miniseries out of it and I'm one muscle twitch away from ordering it off of It's only hard going for the first couple of chapters, then it settles down into a really good book. Another great Trollope is The Way We Live Now, which I enjoyed immensely.

Ditto Vanity Fair. Hie thee upstairs, grab it, and start reading.

Joke said...

Incidentally, if compelled to watch TV, I wildly recommend AMC's Mad Men.


BabelBabe said...

i did love Can You Forgive Her? I have never gotten further in the series though. Maybe I should pick up the next one.

Sarah Louise said...

Have you read any Dumas? I liked The Three Musketeers. I remember fondly reading it in 7 days--a little bit each day.

My sister's copy of VF was annotated and with footnotes, so I couldn't do it.

Dunno, I'm on a Nick Hornby binge at the moment, and re-reading Milk Glass Moon (Trigiani).

You'll let us know, right? (What you end up reading, I mean...)

Kathy said...

Can think of anything to read right now, but if you resort to TV, joke is so completely right about Mad Men -- it is wonderful.

Jess said...

War and Peace. I'm not kidding.

lazy cow said...

You know, I'm going to spend WAY too much time today pondering that question. Will get back to you (but agree with Jess, W&P is fine).

Gina said...

Jess and Lacy Cow are on to something! Pick a Russian--any Russian! Why didn't I think of that? In fact, I'm on my way upstairs to choose one for myself!

Anonymous said...

I majored in Russian literature many years ago. I'll second Jess's suggestion of War and Peace. Also: Anna Karenina by Tolstoy or The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov.

You've read Middlesex by Eugenides (not Russian), haven't you?

delta said...

Have you ever read any May Sarton? I love her novels. The Magnificent Spinster is one of my all-time favorites. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner? Another all-time favorite. Or his Angle of Repose? The Ferrol Sams trilogy: Run with the Horsemen, The Whisper of the River, and When all the World was Young??? Excellent! Name all the Animals by Alison Smith? My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain???? Now THAT may be just the novel you want to lose yourself in! "Kathleen de Burca, an Irish travel writer living in London, who throws over her life there to return to Ireland and write a book. What she is chasing down is an old scandal -- an affair in mid-nineteenth century Ireland between the wife of an English landlord and her Irish servant. But what she is really after is an understanding of passion itself...." Really a good read!
Sarah Waters: Night Watch (her latest), Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet? All well-written books and quite different from your ordinary reads. And you can never go wrong with the Russians. Anna Karenina and War and Peace come to my mind first. The Master and Margarita, I second the recommendation!
Lady's Maid by Margaret Forster, a novel about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, as told by her lady's maid.
The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. Quite compelling and long! Very Dickens-esque.
To Serve them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield. Dorothy Sayers? Gaudy Night? Lord Peter Wimsey novels? Elizabeth Taylor? The OTHER Elizabeth Taylor? Barbara Pym? Elizabeth Bowen?

Suse said...

Cosy English? I've just read A.S. Byatt's 'Angels and Insects', or is it 'Insects and Angels'? Anyway, very English, upperclass, lots of poetry. You've probably read it, as you were the one who put me on to Byatt in the first place, bless your dear cotton socks.

Hey guess what, I just had an email from an occasional reader offering to send me her copy of The Historian, after I posted that I'd listened to it, loved it and now had to look out for a copy in the op shop for my shelf. Don't you just adore the internet?

nutmeg said...

I see Middlesex got a vote - I would have to say read that if you haven't. I loved Vanity Fair - so witty and insightful. And I am contemplating re-reading Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary.

I ordered The Last Witchfinder from TBD a couple of months ago and am waiting for The Great Stink to subside a little and for the bad taste to go away after reading Havoc in its Third Year which I thought I was going to love but underwhelmed me.

Could I suggest Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francais, a bit of E.M. Forster (I loved Howards End), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or if you want something huge - The Count of Monte Cristo - which I have slated to read this year!

And I know it's a bit off topic but further to your/our Anne Fadiman thing I have been meaning to let you know about a book by a writer I saw last year at the Sydney Writer's Festival. She is a writer and a teacher and she has written a memoir of sorts about the writing craft, the influence of her family and her thoughts on teaching creative writing. I really just ate the book up: Reading, Writing and Leaving Home by Lynn Freed.

Anonymous said...

I've never read May Sarton, but I used to be her bank teller. She was a tiny little woman, very quiet and reserved, but pleasant.