Literary litany.

Ohhh! It just rolls off the tongue.

Not really.

But I digress.

Two months ago, my friends and I decided to embark on a rousing “intellectual” journey together this summer.

We’re starting a book club!

Mind you, we came up with this while smoking hookah and drinking tea until maybe 1 or 2 a.m. Light-headed good times in Encino. Might I also add that it certainly was
only hookah, nothing more.

At any rate, our idea certainly isn’t an original one, but it is something we’ve never done before. Most of us are voracious readers (all except one).

And before I forget, the group I’m talking about consists of Cozette, Mari, Justin, EJ and myself.

We’re not going to do the typical thing of choosing a single book for the entire group to read. I believe what we agreed upon was for each of us to come up with a list of our favorite books. We would then rotate the lists and each person could choose something on that list to read. We would come together after a week or two, discuss, and repeat the process.

I suppose this is meant to be an exercise that will encourage us to read more often, and also learn more about each other on a different level. A person’s choice in literature can be very telling.

We’ll see. I’m sure we’ll figure out all of the kinks.

Let me know if I’m incorrect about anything, guys.

Generating a list of favorite reads has been in the back of my mind for the last few weeks, especially now that finals have loomed and passed.

Here it goes, I suppose:

  1. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

    • I became intrigued by Ms. Atwood when I first read “A Handmaid’s Tale,” so I decided to follow her a bit more. This led me to “The Blind Assassin,” which quickly became one of my favorites. You’re essentially getting three stories in one, and Ms. Atwood weaves in and out of them which so much ease. It is a very sad tale of the dreams that seem to come and go with youth, and the secrets that we all end up holding in.
  2. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & David Lloyd

    • There is no shortage of dystopias in literature, but Mr. Moore’s version has always stood out to me. Perhaps it is the enigmatic idealism of the character V that propels this story more than the actual society Mr. Moore describes, even though at times it is eerily similar to our own. This is a story that is both visually arresting and intellectually stimulating, though for me personally, Mr. Moore’s words are what haunt me most when I’m finished.
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    • Another dystopia, but this one focuses on the ramifications of certain advances in reproductive and mental/emotional technology. I hope that sounds frightening to you already. In this society, with the advent of absolute technological reign, uncritical egoistic hedonism reigns. In Huxley’s terrible vision, society is kept in line by giving it free reign over any distraction/pleasure that it desires.
  4. The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

    • You’ve heard of this, more than likely. I list it here because it was a series I loved when I was a kid, long before I realized it was an allegory.

 

  • Any graphic novel in the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman

    • I owe Leibs for pointing me to these graphic novels. They are what propelled me into reading comics again. The Sandman is such a bizarre and unique anti-hero. The whole series leads up to one point: we all must change, or die.
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

    • This is a tale set in Prague in 1968. It details the lives of four artists/intellectuals and their relationships with one another while trying to survive in Communist Czechoslovakia. Read it to figure out what the title means.
  • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

    • Here is the first love story on my list, and another historical fiction set in Cephallonia during World War II. I enjoyed this story because I found the characters extremely realistic in their ambiguity. They are neither good nor evil; you are led to believe that some of the atrocities they commit may be partially blamed on poor circumstances than any real lapses in integrity or morality.
  • The World’s Religions by Huston Smith

    • The first nonfiction item on my list. Mr. Smith gave me a fair overview of the world’s major religions, from Christianity and Judaism to Buddhism and Hinduism. Excellent if you’re just starting to become fascinated by the human affliction called religion.

 

 

  • Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

    • If you liked “Catcher in the Rye,” you’ll like Mr. Salinger’s collection of short stories.
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

    • This is a terribly shocking and depressing novel. Read this for an amazing look at how far a man can be ruined by Life itself. It takes place just as industrialization is starting to take hold in England.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    • One of my favorite authors. This novel details the life of a young student driven by desperation to murder a pawnbroker, and the subsequent toll the murder takes on his sanity. This is a story of a man who believed he was above the ordinary, and that he could move beyond the confines of societal law if it meant he could do more good.
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

    • This novel offers a glimpse of a young woman’s descent into madness. It touches on disillusionment with society and fears of inadequacy. You might find that it is very easy to sympathize with the main character’s fears and doubts; many of them still ring true for me.
  • Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    • If you’ve ever been curious about existentialism, this might be of interest to you. An unnamed narrator describes his alienation from modern society. Short read, but ridiculously fascinating.
  • Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

    • I’m starting to notice a little bit of a trend. My list is slightly depressing, but eh. All good reads, and all are interesting treatises on psychology. Anyway, Kilgore Trout has no idea of the effect his writing has had on Dwayne Hoover. Hoover has become mentally unstable and believes Trout’s fictions to be truth. Circumstances cause them to eventually meet. Extremely satirical. I think this is one of my favorite Vonnegut novels because the author has a literal voice in the story.
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

    • I’m a sucker for Middle English, and this collection of 14th century stories is a wonderful mix of the comical and the serious.
  • The Sin City series by Frank Miller

    • This is another comics series with striking visuals. It is very film noir, with most panels playing with black and white. Primary colors are occasionally used to accentuate certain characters. Most of the stories are the damsel-in-distress type. Read them if you like occasional gritty, gratuitous violence.
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    • I love Mr. Gaiman’s brain. I really do. He has a wonderfully effortless way of melding various theologies, cosmologies and mythologies.
  • Beowulf

    • An Old English epic poem about a hero who could probably kick Odysseus’s butt.

 

 

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean

    • Batman comes to terms with his own vein of insanity with the help of the always entertaining supervillains he has locked up in Arkham.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    • An extreme vision of the evils of Narcissism and the brevity of youth. Young Dorian Gray leads his life believing that beauty is Life’s only worthwhile aspect.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

    • Gah. Compiling this list has been an interesting exercise in its own right. Here is another dystopia. This one explores the extremes of female subjugation. Scary.
  • A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

    • This play is sharply critical of marriage in the Victorian era. Here, we follow Nora, a typical housewife, as she comes to terms with the fact that she’s been living a lie her entire life.
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore

    • A movie based on this graphic novel will come out next year. That always makes me nervous. Here is a depiction of superheroes as real people dealing with personal and ethical issues. Most of them lack what we consider conventional superhero powers. They are simply ordinary people attempting to do extraordinary things to help others.
  • MAUS by Art Spiegelman

    • This is probably the strangest thing I have ever read about World War II. In this comic, Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats. Ultimately, the story is about the artist’s relationship with his father, a man who survived the Holocaust.
  • Batman: Black & White, Vol. 1 by various artists

    • If you want a taste of several different authors and artists in the comics medium, read this. You’ll meet a new Batman every few pages.
  • Any book from His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

    • Do you remember all of the hullabaloo over the film adaptation of “The Golden Compass” last year? Some Christian groups were calling for a boycott of the film, because they believed Pullman was trying to teach atheism to children through his books. Now, I’ll likely never know if there is any real validity to that accusation, but I never interpreted any of the books that way when I read them as a kid. To me, they were always more about teaching the concept that you should never blindly trust any authority figure.
  • Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

    • Here is Mr. Moore’s take on the Joker, his origins as well as his dementia. This isn’t the silly clown you might remember.
  • Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

    • This is a philosophical examination of our relationship to photographs of war. Here’s a quote that sums up the book: “Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens, and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function. The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing — may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self-righteously. Don’t forget.”
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

    • Simply an adventure novel. I read it in eighth grade and I really enjoyed it.
  • Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

    • This is a tale of people who go to extreme lengths to ditch the lives they are leading.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garciz Marquez

    • The theme of the subjectivity of reality is explored through a massive story that involves generations of one family in a small town.
  • Sexus: The Rosy Crucifixion I by Henry Miller

    • In between all of the raunchy sex he’s having, Mr. Miller writes down a number of interesting reflections on life. It’s probably the strangest autobiographical piece I’ve ever read. It’s good for laughs as well.
  • 1984 by George Orwell

    • Yes, another dystopic novel. Mr. Orwell is most concerned with a society that has lost interest in human intellectual feats: literature, art and music. This is a society in which every aspect of our lives is severely monitored. It is controlled by fear and pain.

 

There are so many to choose from. I think this is only a fraction of the things I’ve read and own, and obviously I got lazier as I went down the list.

I hope it is a fair representation of the breadth and depth of my literary endeavors.

Huzzah for summer time and the increased opportunities to read!

6 thoughts on “Literary litany.

  1. “all except one”…haha. that’s ME!i’ve read a doll’s house for an english class before. it wasn’t bad. and i didn’t know i signed up for this. but i guess i did. so just to warn everyone: i’m gonna try reading jane austen novels this summer. coz i love the movies. haha.

  2. Yeah!I saw it once before, but love the songs cause I sang mst of ’em in choir in h.s. Last one, and Aaron drives us mad!!I trust MAtt filled u in on the drama (s) of last week?

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