A Graphic Novel Feast

sexyshoelessgodofwar

This line is far more exciting the second time he says it.

Order of the Stick is a stick-figure comic -hence the name- set in an explicitly Dungeons and Dragons rules-inspired world featuring very genre-aware characters. It also features an actual long-term plot, character growth,intelligent villains and heroes, unique characters unconstrained by alignment along either axes (quite deliberately). It has dumb gags and heroic sacrifices, but also brilliantly executed plans and counter-plans and frequent reminders that heroic sacrifices, no matter how stirring, don’t matter if far too many people die in the process.

I started reading it last night and am currently on Strip 611. (Granted, I’m in the middle of the sea and have little else to do, but even so. These aren’t 3 panel strips. They’re whole pages, sometimes several, per strip.)

fablescrossover fablesinheritthewind

I also finished Fables 83-121 in the day or two before that. It remains great, and also incapable of being reviewed properly without spoiling the entire grand narrative of the first 80 issues. The storyline is still based on our beloved Fables in exile-they were driven out of their Homelands by the Evil Emperor, who is no longer their Emperor and whose Evils have been forgive-in their completely out of character interpretations. That is to say, Bigby (Big Bad, get it?) Wolf, Snow White, Jack Horner (of the beanstalk), Rose Red, King Cole, an assortment of witches. This set features as antagonists the Literals (part of)  and the mysterious Mr. Dark, a personification of the powers of darkness. Sub-plots galore, too, few of which make sense without prior acquaintance with the characters.

I remember wondering why I would ever want a tablet when I could have a smartphone and an e-reader, but reading gorgeous full-coloured comics on an iPad is a truly magnificent experience. Too bad it’s also ridiculously expensive to do so legally.

Fables also stands as an example that you can enjoy a book tremendously without either buying into or endorsing the author’s politics, in this case Bill Willingham’s stated view that Fabletown is an allegory for the state of Israel.

Habibi by Craig Thompson is also exquisitely gorgeous, but the tale it tells is far more heart-breaking. From wikipedia:

The 672-page book is set in a fictional Islamic fairytale landscape, and depicts the relationship between Dodola and Zam, two escaped child slaves, who are torn apart and undergo many transformations as they grow into new names and new bodies, which prove to be obstacles to their love when they later reunite.The book’s website describes its concept thus as a love story and a parable about humanity’s relationship to the natural world that explores such themes as the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam.

The scale is truly epic: “many transformations” seems far too commonplace a phrase to use for what they have to go through as they struggle to find happiness with each other in a world that is not simply uncaring, but feels actively malevolent. But oh, the poetry, and oh, the calligraphy! Deserts seem to breed beauty and misery on either hand.

Buy it. Read it. I got the hardcover, which might have been a mistake considering that I have had to lug it over 5 flights/chopper rides with the rest of my overweight luggage in the last month, but you will appreciate having a nice heavy volume to keep on your shelf. (Assuming, that is, that you do not share my current nomadic lifestyle or homelessness.)

PS: Also, here. Pretty pictures.

Count and Countess (Rose Christo)

Count and Countess is an epistolary novel that describes the never-fulfilled romance between Vladislaus Drakulya, Prince of Wallachia, and Elizabeth Bathory, Princess of Hungary, who find as children that though they are separated from each other by a hundred years, they can send letters to each other. It is part historical fiction/alternate history and part paranormal romance; but more Wuthering Heights with gore than Twilight, and not just because it takes great care never to mention the word vampire.

I found this book on tvtropes – I don’t think it even has a wikipedia page – fell in love with the premise, and immediately bought it from the Kindle Store. It’s gory from start to finish, but the character development is the interesting part; they grow from somewhat entitled, slightly abnormal kids in trying circumstances to being simply deranged and psychopathic, holding onto each other all the more desperately as everything else falls apart. I wouldn’t say it paints a sympathetic portrait of the characters – hard to, when it describes so calmly how Elizabeth kills her ladies in waiting, or Vlad impales thousands of Turkish men, women and children, or how he decorates his dining halls with the heads of his page boys and doesn’t understand why his guests leave before the dinner is over- but it certainly shows a side to them that’s interesting. Elizabeth, especially, is more tragic than horrific, and even Vlad, as he ends the book saying that he looks forward to finally being with her in hell as he knows neither of them are destined for heaven, evokes a certain pity.

There’s plenty more on the tvtropes page linked above, but at $2.99, I would just advise anyone who finds this interesting to buy and read it.

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant. The movie is not. Oh, it’s fine if you need a big screen and comfy seats to rest in for 2.5 hours(!), but it will likely disappoint many hard-core fans.The fact that my seats were 10 feet from the screen and the assholes behind me who insisted on laughing during scenes that were meant to be poignant might have had something to do with why I didn’t enjoy it as much as you might; but considering that I had to work from memories of the book to evoke said poignancy myself, I don’t think I need to reserve judgement.

It’s not the cast, who generally acquit themselves quite well. It might be the direction- too many close-ups, too many quick pans and cross-cuts, too many of various other problems that I could feel but do not know enough film theory to explain. It might be the marketing: “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” did sound a bit foreboding. But most of all I think it’s the “flattening out,” the appeal to a queasy mainstream: as Andrew O’Hehir hints at in this Salon piece ,

The problem really isn’t the lack of explicit violence; far more important, we get no sense of the hunger, thirst, cold, disease and harrowing physical torment undergone by Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the shy, blond District 12 baker’s son who has long loved her from afar. OK, they get a few superficial nicks and scratches, but they look as well-fed and runway-ready in the second half of the movie as they did at the beginning.

(I should note that the rest of his issues with the franchise don’t bug me as much, though.) Because while “The Hunger Games” is, in many ways, rather typical (good) YA speculative fiction, the books managed to retain a sense of calculated brutality that was quite jarring, considering the intended audience.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[MINOR SPOILERS] The one-line hook of the series, for those few who still haven’t been exposed to it, is: “Teenage girl is forced to fight in a televised free-for-all fight to the death between children by a tyrannical state and eventually leads a revolution against it” but the structure is not quite that simple: Katniss has no intention of being a rebel leader, she just wants to save herself and her family, and the nature of war (the “glorious revolution” that most of us were rooting for as soon as we were introduced to the world) and its resolution depicted in the third book is… not pretty. The ending tries for a certain hopefulness but the philosophy espoused is deliberately inward-looking, as the author simply can’t think of a positive spin on the way the world is going, both within the book and by the barest of analogies the world today. But for all that it is an incredibly gripping series, not nearly as much “work” as I might have made it sound like, and I finished all 3 of the books in a week. Overall, well worth a read, but only worth a watch if you don’t expect too much.

PS: I did have a problem with the book initially: namely, an  instinctive rejection of the idea that anything quite so brutal as the premise could become so thoroughly legitimized within the context of the story. But as soon as the aptness of the dominant allegory- Panem is the Roman Empire, of course- stuck I realized that that was my problem, not the book’s. Of course brutal things can happen on a wide scale, and of course they can be normalised: it happens every day! Every war-zone, every “Killing Fields”, produces societies with  hierarchies of repression far less veiled than the ones our more extreme liberal brethren are inclined to see (not without reason) everywhere. In retrospect, I’m rather surprised at my initial naiveté, even though that was barely a month back.

UPDATE: Check out Yglesias’s post on the viability of Panem’s economy and some other interesting ideas.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The book is excellent and so is the movie, which glosses over the very small parts where John le Carre bemoans (through his characters, principally his villain, thereby never actually betraying the thought incontrovertibly as his own) the passing of Empire into history, at least for the Brits. George Smiley is an excellent character, I can’t say as much for the rest in the movie but they all rather shine in the book. Principally both are brilliant at evoking the atmosphere of the age, the “Great Game” and these quite human gentleman-spies. There were descriptions of the movie as principally being “long lingering shots of manila folders being passed from hand to hand” and while it is rather slow, you might prefer to use the word sedate. In any case it is hardly devoid of action and I found the plot quite thrilling, even if a lot of the really interesting parts happen inside the character’s heads. Avoid too much context or moralising “outside the box” while reading (not much chance of it during the movie), even though moralizing within it is apparently the chief draw for many of its fans.

I watched the movie first and then read the book (and then was inspired to start on a list of le Carre’s other major spy novels; so far my expectations have been fulfilled) but for any readers of mine who wish to go about it the proper way here is a suggestion: first, read the book at whatever pace you normally employ. Then either alone or with a quiet friend or significant other- someone you are comfortable with and do not need to be careful around or impress- watch the movie with either a steaming cup of tea or a warm alcoholic beverage (I recommend ginger tea with dark rum, as a matter of fact) in a slightly-too-cold room under a blanket. Expect a slow but steady pace, watch out for the scenery, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Go in expecting early James Bond and, well, you’ll still be surprised.

I should probably provide more of an introduction for the work itself but I will outsource that to Wikipedia:

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a 1974 spy novel by British author John le Carré, featuring George Smiley. Smiley is a middle-aged, taciturn, perspicaciousintelligence expert who has been forced to retire. He is recalled to hunt down a Soviet mole in the “Circus”, the highest echelon of the British Secret Intelligence Service. In keeping with le Carré’s work, the narrative begins in medias res with the repatriation of a captured British spy. The background is supplied during the book through a series of flashbacks.

Film:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 Anglo-French espionage film directed by Tomas Alfredson, from a screenplay written by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan based on the 1974 novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. The film stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, and co-stars Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ciarán Hinds. Set in London in the early 1970s, the story follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service.

The film was produced through the British company Working Title Films and financed by France’s StudioCanal. It premiered in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. The film was a critical and commercial success and was the highest-grossing film at the British box office for three consecutive weeks. It received three Academy Award nominations including a Best Actornomination for Oldman.

In defence of Chetan Bhagat

Photograph of Chetan Bhagat, Novelist, while h...

Chetan Bhagat-Image via Wikipedia

So the man isn’t really a good writer, all right? I mean, he can string sentences together in a perfectly competent manner, but you would never read a passage from his books and think it came from Rushdie or Roy, for instance. But nonetheless, it rings throughout with- and I hate using this word, but for once I mean it- authenticity. Now, there currently exists in the front sections of most Indian bookstores rows of perfectly authentic (Indian) writing that also happens, alas, to be unreadable excrescence in many cases (I would have said most, but I couldn’t bring myself to try out a larger sample size, and saying most would be intellectually dishonest.) But Chetan Bhagat manages to pull off authenticity and still not grate, which is a rarer achievement than you would expect. Of course the fact that most conversations are in fairly colloquial “Indian English” means there’s at least one thing “wrong” in most paragraphs, but you only have to tune out your pedantic inner self a little, not stuff red-hot pokers up every possible orifice until it finally stops screaming.

Authenticity, however, isn’t even the main thing that makes him worth defending. The reason he is unambiguously a “good thing” to happen to this country is that he is a reasonable man, in the most obvious sense of the word, who also happens to be enormously popular. I’m not really familiar with his political positions in any detail but his books- books that literally millions of Indians who have read practically nothing else of a similar length in the English language- pushes mostly secular, liberal, universalist views on a populace that cannot by and large be described using those words[1]. I have no idea how much of an impact he’s having, if at all- I do know that the man sees himself as more than just a writer, perhaps as an activist of some sort, and I remember articles mocking him for his “pretensions” when what he does, essentially, (at least according to that reviewer) is sell pulp- but every bit counts, right?

[1] Do I sound like a tool here? I’ll admit that it sounds classist to paint such vast swathes of his readership with the same brush, but I’m pretty sure it’s applicable to a good portion of them.

Logicomix

 

Logicomix

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

Logicomix is a simply brilliant book written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou and coloured/designed by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna. It is about Bertrand Russell‘s quest for the Foundations of Mathematics and the (tenuous and rather loosely interpreted) connections between the study of logic and madness. It also spends a lot of time on Russell’s life. It is not only self-referential, it has layered self-reference: we see the authors talking about the story, in their book, which features Russell giving a lecture where he recounts most of the major scenes in the book. The narrative structure even includes some rather edifying “time-outs” in between where the authors write pages of themselves arguing over the story and how they are presenting it, and also time-outs on the “middle level” where Russell pauses his story to explain some necessary background information or is interrupted by a question. (1) The authors do take a few liberties with the text, as they explain at the end, making up fictional encounters where the characters only corresponded or dramatizing certain elements of their personal lives.

The book is beautifully drawn -more should be said here, but I’m just not the right person to say it- and it’s very impressive how well they give a general idea of all the mathematical discussions going on at that time without actually using any maths, although for my part I would have gladly dealt with a few more symbols and numbers in exchange for some more detail on the substance of their debate. This is, however, a perfectly reasonable level of detail for a popular book and the fact that it deals with logic rather than another aspect of mathematics does mean that it manages to make the central arguments sufficiently clear.  When the package first arrived from flipkart I was pleasantly surprised at the heft of it, because I’m not used to graphic novels this size, but it certainly doesn’t go on any longer than it has to, and they manage to end a story that has such an inconclusive-at-best ending in a very pleasantly self-aware way, by picturing and commenting on the ancient Greek tragedy of Oresteia. (It makes sense in context.) Overall, definitely recommended.

PS: This was originally supposed to be part of a much longer post in which I also mixed in where Wittgenstein picked up from Russell, reviewed A.C. Grayling‘s “A Very Short Introduction to Wittgenstein” and explained very, very briefly all the little things I jotted down while reading that book, most of which Grayling also uses at the end when he criticises Wittgenstein’s theories. Then I realized that a) the dude wrote a lot of stuff and a lot of it is, quite frankly, meaningless, b) Logicomix is actually not very related to the sort of thing Wittgenstein was primarily concerned with, even though it’s about the Foundations of Mathematics and Wittgenstein ostensibly started off concerned about the Foundations of Mathematics(2) and c) at the end of the book even Grayling says that “the dude wrote a lot of stuff and most of it is, quite frankly, meaningless”.

OK, actually he points out a few fairly fundamental contradictions in Wittgenstein’s work, which for all his assertions and vagueness does contain some sort of positive theses, and says Wittgenstein is important in the sense that a small minority of dedicated “Wittgensteinians” wrote copious amounts of material where they praised Wittgenstein in very enthusiastic terms, but not important in the “perhaps more accurate” sense that his work meaningfully changed the future direction of philosophy, even though it’s too early to predict that at this point. Wittgenstein’s work (both early and late) is certainly quite exciting, in many ways, and it’s easy to see why his later work might be very appealing to some people, especially for rationally inclined people who feel the need to be at ease with their religious impulses. It certainly seemed appealing to me while I was reading it the first time around. I’m also very happy that I didn’t attempt to read Wittgenstein in the original, judging by the quotes in this book, although of course if Grayling had any insidious motives it could easily have been cherry-picking. And now that I’ve said all this, I don’t believe I’ll be doing a separate post either, if only because d) it would be real hubris to try to critique a philosopher’s ideas in just one blog post when the very notion of reading his unabridged work fills you with dread.

 

Footnotes: (Which wordpress should really provide a better way of using)

  1. Christos argues with Apostolos on 2 major points, namely the tenuousness of that connection and the extent to which the main quest was a failure and, therefore, the extent to which this book is a tragedy:
    Apostolos: “Russell himself called it a failure, and they never really got to the Foundations of Mathematics.”
    Christos: “But it provided a framework, and it led to the development of computers!”
    And it certainly seems likely that computer science would not have developed in the way that it did without all this as background, so yay! I guess?
  2. In fact, in the book Wittgenstein really only figures as yet another Giant of Logic who was “eccentric”/maybe the teeniest bit off his rocker, but as I already mentioned they do stretch this link between logic and madness quite a bit.

An “Autobiographical” Book Meme

The link says “momental”, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. Via kalafudra:

Write about five books that left a lasting impression from five different times of your life (or more if you’ve lived longer). Don’t limit yourself to the “best books ever”. Books can leave an impression for other reasons. This meme was inspired by A Diary of a Mad Mammy.

First Book Read to Me
I honestly don’t remember, although I’m fairly sure it would have been something from one of many “toddler tales” sort of books in Malayalam, or some bible stories or something from the Mahabharatha or the Ramayana. I have a far better memory of the first books I read, which was a lot of the Amar Chitra Katha stories; by the time I was 7 or 8 I would (apparently, that is, according to my grandparents- I remember reading, and I remember talking, but I don’t remember it ever getting out of control or anything) completely pester neighbours and relatives and random people by telling them little bits of mythology. Also around that time, like practically everyone else I knew- everyone else that read anything at all, I mean- there was a lot of Enid Blyton– Famous Five and Secret Seven and Tales of Toyland (that was a thing, right?) and so on.

First Book I Coveted

Cover of the original UK paperback edition of ...

Image via Wikipedia

Again, I really don’t know for sure. I got almost all of the books I wanted, and since I didn’t read the sort of magazines in which there are book reviews and of course, I didn’t have any access to the internet, there wasn’t a lot that I knew about but couldn’t get. The earliest memory I have of really wanting something are the Harry Potter books, when I was in 6th or so… 1999, I think. My father had bought the first 2 books, which I devoured quite quickly, and I was really anxious to read the 3rd one, which had either already been out but was unavailable anywhere nearby (and this was long before any of us were used to the idea of online retail or pre-orders or anything), or hadn’t been released yet. Also around the same time, my father bought the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while we were traveling somewhere, and I read the first few chapters before my father decided that he should check out whether it was appropriate for me to read or not. This wasn’t something he did very often, though, either because he didn’t think it mattered or because it just wasn’t feasible- I found and surreptitiously read the few books he definitely told me not to read, like The Seven Minutes (not quite pornographical, but a really good novel by Irving Wallace about freedom of speech and obscenity laws, centered around a trial). In any case, on the train ride home I remember being distinctly displeased because I really wanted to see where this was going and my father wouldn’t even let me have it while he was on the phone or doing something else, which I thought then to be most unfair, although of course it makes sense if the idea is to vet it 🙂 .

The Teen YearsAtlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged

Image via Wikipedia

Can’t avoid this one, I’m afraid. There were others, of course, but I read Atlas Shrugged when I was in 7th or 8th (i.e. 12 or 13) and although I didn’t understand all- perhaps even most- of it, the rhetoric swept me up completely. In retrospect, it was really obvious that it would- what rather unpopular, nerdy, arrogant teenage boy from an authoritarian culture doesn’t want to hear about how smart people are always unjustly crucified and made to bear the sins of a weak and ungrateful world, and everyone else can literally go to hell while all the smart people re-build the world in their image? It formed the core of my philosophy for at least the next 3 years, although I don’t think I was ever able to convince anyone. Not that I tried- I always had the idea that it was very unlikely to work, anyway. It took me until 11th or 12th (and, it must be said, some measure of comfort with school life, which also only came about by then) to slowly release myself from its grasp, and I only really grew out of it by the time I got to college. You could probably trace back my vestigial libertarianism to it as well, but I can deal with that. Honourable mentions would be every Jeffrey Archer/ Frederick Forsythe/ Michael Crichton book till then, in the fiction department, and An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin in the non-fiction department. There was a lot of other pulp and science fiction as well, of course, including a lot of Asimov.

The Roaring Twenties – The Wheel of Time series
Strictly speaking, this is from about 17-22, which is as far as I’ve got so far. And it has hardly been only this series. I’ve read considerably more non-fiction in college than before,as well as a lot of literary fiction. Honourable mentions include the later Harry Potter books (again, I’m talking about the last 5 or 6 years), some Murakami and Ishiguro, some Malcolm Gladwell and similar books, // many of the Discworld novels (Terry Pratchett), and oh, so much SF&F. There’s nothing I can point to as some sort of summary or zeitgeist of the period, so the Wheel of Time series will have to do.

How To Be Good, Full Dark, No Stars, and The Theory of Everything

Finished all 3 today, although I have a lot of other books that I’m part of the way through. It’s just been that kind of day 🙂 .

Cover of

Cover of How to Be Good

How To Be Good is a rather characteristic Nick Hornby novel – funny, dark, with strongly liberal themes but an almost apologetically conservative ending. OK, I guess that’s less true for High Fidelity, but it’s exactly the same feeling I got when I read About a Boy, except that it isn’t as funny, and it made me think a lot more. The basic plot revolves around Dr. Katie Carr and her marriage. Her husband, who used to be “the Angriest Man in Holloway” undergoes a spiritual conversion after his chronic back-pain is “healed” by a, well, spiritual healer. He starts making radical changes to their lives, such as trying to get all the neighbours to put up a homeless person in their spare rooms and write a book about convincing people to donate all money above the national median wage to charity (not, of course, a novel idea). The book deals with all the resultant friction and was a realistic if rather bland look at “20th century morality”. It’s a good book to read lazily, picking it up every now and then when you have nothing better to do.

Cover of

Cover of Full Dark, No Stars

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King. The wiki page points out that all 4 deal with “retribution”, and that’s clearly true, although they’re all really very different kinds of retribution and they all had entirely different “feels”.

1922 is an old farmer’s confessional about how he murdered his wife and the fallout it had and is a fairly standard story of this type, although the way King brought out the landscape and the sense of the time (just before the Depression set in, and of course that features quite heavily, too) was simply brilliant. It was set in Nebraska; the other 3, like most of King’s novels, are set in New England.

Big Driver uses a rather different voice, and although there isn’t much to spoil- it’s the details and the atmosphere he evokes that really shines out, even though he likes to talk about how he believes that plot should come above everything… or rather that storytelling should, and atmosphere is a fairly integral part of storytelling, isn’t it?- I don’t think I can describe it further without taking away some of the joy that would come from reading it. Suffice it to say that it is about a woman and what happens to her one lonely evening as she’s trying to return home to her comfortable life.

Fair Extension shifts voices yet again; it’s about the deal that a cancer-struck executive strikes with a “peddler” on the road, and has a rather unexpected storyline. A Good Marriage is the story of a perfectly content wife who finds out that her accountant husband is not quite who she thinks he is. I will confess to having felt a rather strong sense of “natural justice” at the end of both “A Good Marriage” and “Big Driver”.

All 4 are interesting, and all 4 are well written, so this collection is definitely recommended.

Cover of "The Theory of Everything: The O...

Cover via Amazon

The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe is apparently an unauthorized book of lectures by Stephen Hawking, although in the edition I borrowed from a friend his name appears quite clearly on the front. I did wonder why he was repeating material he dealt with elsewhere, but in any case, this is a very short and reasonably clear explanation of astrophysics, principally about black holes and so on, because that’s really what he’s done his research in. I don’t want to sell it too short- it was educational and interesting, and you really can’t ask much more from a book like this if you also want it to be easy to read- but I wouldn’t really recommend it over, well, anything else by him, unless you’re not that curious anyway and you just want a quick primer to all this stuff so that you can look educated if it ever comes up at a party or something. Although of course even in my college that’s not very likely.

Yet another Top 100 Books Meme

The BBC Top 100 books meme, via LiberryDwarf. I’ve read a lot more of these than the last one I took, whichever that was. Anyway, same rules: Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.  Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt. Apparently most people have read only 6 of these.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia series – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis (given #33, why is this here??)

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (I read the whole thing, but it was an abridged version. Started the full version recently, and well, Dickens talks too much.)

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville (again, abridged, back in school)

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (again, abridged, back in school)

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker (again, abridged, back in school)

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce (ha! as if.)

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (again, abridged, back in school)

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


Towers of Midnight

I was going to write a rather incoherent review that anyone who hasn’t read all 13 books to date will not get, but then I saw Leigh Butler’s review on tor.com, which is pretty much exactly what I wanted to say, so I will link and refrain. Warning: Extremely spoilerific review, so don’t read unless you’ve read.

And I do mean exactly the same reactions, to so many things. I too thought Perrin‘s arc was awesome, though I don’t like Perrin that much, and I too thought Mat‘s rescue mission was rather underwhelming after waiting for it for so long, and I too don’t think he’s being written as well as he should be, or was earlier. I miss Mat from the Knife of Dreams! That is Mat as he’s really meant to be. Messiah Rand-Jesus Rand as Leigh calls it- is a little irritating, as I said on facebook, but I accept its inevitability. I miss old Rand, though. I identified with that angst, even when he was practically ready to destroy the world. I guess it’s a not-long-past-teenage thing.

I realize that there’s no way that they could have finished it off already, and I also understand that a lot of things have been accomplished in this book, but I’m still deeply dissatisfied at having to wait another year for so many, many old problems and new ones to be resolved. Rescuing Moiraine and convincing the Borderlanders is all very awesome, but the ending, just as in the last book, seemed just a tad anticlimactic.

Perhaps I’m ragging on it a little too much: it really was a great book. Maybe it could have been written better- no, Sanderson is not as good a writer as Jordan, although I suppose the publishers can always claim they “have different strengths”- but the story carried itself and the language didn’t interfere, or not too much. But then I hardly think I need to convince anyone who’s been reading the series to read this book, so I’m not going to spend any time on that.