Thursday, December 22, 2011

5 books to kickstart your literary bucket list

List by Tosca

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend."
- Paul Sweeney

Every now and then I wonder about the quality of books I read. This thought is often followed by the idea that I'm not 'reading well' (and by 'well' I mean 'worthy'). I then feel guilty and decide that I need to do something about it. That something usually translates as checking a bunch of places (interwebs, books, magazine articles) to see, roughly, what other people are recommending, reading, enjoying, disliking. What I end up with is a huge list of 'possible reads' that I then try to narrow down to things. Stuff and things - see how scientific I am about it...? And then I pick (or try to pick, anyway), books that appeal. Sometimes by cover, sometimes by write-up/review and sometimes by title. Sometimes I'll deliberately pick ones that people thought were truly awful. One thing I discovered about myself years ago is that my opinion will, more often than not, be the total opposite of critics. Books that they wax lyrical about I don't see the same way. I often find myself appreciating the style of writing while not feeling any emotion or empathy for the characters or their journey. One book I return to every now and again for 'literary bucket list' ideas is The big read : book of books by the BBC. In 2003 they conducted a poll to find out what the British public considered their most popular 100 novels were, and the result was this book. It was a customer who first pointed this gem out to me. Back then I was working in City Centre Library, which used to be in Westfield Manukau mall. This particular customer was a regular and we'd often have some great discussions about all sorts of books. One day she brought the book up to the desk and declared that she was going to work her way through it. I remember we both commented on the fact that we'd read quite a few of the listed titles already, but that it'd be nice to continue to read as much of the rest as we could. Not all in one hit because, hey, life is what happens when you're making other plans, but in and around everything else. It's probably one of the more enjoyable literary bucket lists I could ever think to have. A sibling asked me the other week why this book, and the only reason I can think of that makes sense to me is that the authors, the titles, the writing styles are familiar to me. My parents either read them to me, or encouraged me to read them (or books much like them) for myself. This coming Christmas break I intend to cross another one or two books off, which will leave me with about 10-15 to go. Slow but steady. So if, like me, you have your own higgledy piggledy version of a literary bucket list, or if you want to kickstart one, here are some suggestions to get you started.

More suggestions:
  • Time Out 1000 books to change your life
  • 501 must-read books project editor Emma Beare
  • Best books - subject search with 80+ titles to choose from

  • Book lust to go : recommended reading for travelers, vagabonds, and dreamers / Nancy Pearl
    Includes both nonfiction and fiction reading recommendations for armchair or "real" travelers. This librarian famous for reader's advisory covers places as diverse as Afghanistan, Appalachia, Arizona, Baltimore, Boston, Burma, Congo, Corfu, Detroit, England, Finland, the Galapagos, Guernica, Hawaii, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Jordan, Korea, Law Vegas, Los Angeles, Maine, Malaysia, Martha's Vineyard, Miami, Nebraska, New York City, New Orleans, Niagara Falls, Norway, Ohio, Parma , Patagonia, Peru, Philadelphia, Poland, Provence, the Sahara, San Francisco, Siberia, Spain, Texas, Vienna, Vietnam, Wales, and many other real and imaginary places.

    Reviewer comment:
  • "It might have been easy to stick with the country structure for a book like this, but Pearl mixed it up, to good effect, with chapters like "So We/I Bought (or Built) A House In." which includes books about homes in Morocco, Mexico, France, Brazil, and Ireland. Pearl has produced a winner and the perfect bedside companion." (Publishers Weekly)
  • "This is recommended for voracious armchair travelers and librarians looking for a quick readers' advisory tool for patrons who value setting and frame." (Library Journal)

  • 500 essential cult books : the ultimate guide / Gina Mckinnon ; with Steve Holland
    This is the most definitive collection of cult classic books ever compiled, and readers will surely have fun debating and discussing the 500 choices. Not only does it include the classics of English literature, it also takes an international perspective. Sci-fi, horror, nonfiction, dramas, comedies, memoirs, mysteries-all the books that have endured due to their devoted and growing audiences are here! The 500 include: Naked City; The Anarchist's Cookbook; Howl; Carrie; The Killer Inside Me; Candy; Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas; Naked Lunch; I'm With the Band; Watership Down; A Walk on the Wild Side; Geek Love; Dune; Fahrenheit 451 and many, many more!

    The torchlight list : around the world in 200 books / Jim Flynn
    A professor for over 40 years, Jim Flynn found fewer and fewer of his students were in love with reading. However, they were willing to try if he gave them lists. This inspired him to create the definitive list: books so wonderful to read, and so revealing about times and places, that they make learning enjoyable and effortless. The title is in honour of the author's 'uneducated' Irish-American family, who made him love reading - including an uncle who, while an able seaman in World War I, read by torchlight on board ship. Flynn begins by offering five novels he believes will convince anyone to make reading a habit, including one that will change your life.

    1001 comics you must read before you die / general editor, Paul Gravett
    Over the centuries, comic books and their offshoots, such as graphic novels, and bandes dessinees have evolved into a phenomenally popular, influential, and unique art form with which we can express our opinions, our fantasies, our nightmares, and our dreams. In short: comics are emphatically no longer just for kids. This diverse, constantly evolving medium is truly coming into its own in the 21st century, from Hollywood's blockbuster adaptations of super-powered caped crusaders to the global spread of Japan's manga and its spinoffs, and from award-winning graphic novels such as Maus and Persepolis to new forms such as online webcomix. But comics also have a long and rich history, dating back at least to the Swiss teacher Rodolphe Topffer in the early 19th century, and far earlier in China. 1001 Comic Books You Must Read Before You Die is the perfect introduction to this dynamic and globally popular medium. There have been other guides to the best comic books, but none has embraced every genre and scoured the globe to glean the very greatest works of sequential art, graphic literature, bandes dessinees, tebeos, fumetti, manga, manhwa, komiks, strips, historietas, quadrinhos, beeldverhalen, and plain old comics. This authoritative guide is organized according to the year of first publication in the country of origin. An opening section acknowledges pioneering pre-1900 masterpieces, followed by sections divided by decade, creating a fascinating year-by-year chronicle of the comics medium worldwide.

    1001 books you must read before you die / general editor, Peter Boxall
    For discerning bibliophiles and readers who enjoy unforgettable classic literature, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a trove of reviews covering a century of memorable writing. Each work of literature featured here is a seminal work key to understanding and appreciating the written word.The featured works have been handpicked by a team of international critics and literary luminaries, including Derek Attridge (world expert on James Joyce), Cedric Watts (renowned authority on Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene), Laura Marcus (noted Virginia Woolf expert), and David Mariott (poet and expert on African-American literature), among some twenty others.Addictive, browsable, knowledgeable — 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die will be a boon companion for anyone who loves good writing and an inspiration for anyone who is just beginning to discover a love of books. Each entry is accompanied by an authoritative yet opinionated critical essay describing the importance and influence of the work in question. Also included are publishing history and career details about the authors, as well as reproductions of period dust jackets and book designs.


    Milady said...

    Melanie here! I enjoyed this piece, please email me--I have a question about your blog. MelanieLBowen[at]gmail[dot]com

    catatonia said...

    Emailed you just now :) And thank you so much for taking the time to comment on our blog!