Thursday, March 16, 2017

2017: The Classics

Yes, yes, I's March already. I'm behind. On everything. Without further ado....

BEHOLD! The classic novels I'll be reading in 2017:

JANUARY: The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. "The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant thousand-year conflict; to perform his duties without rancor and even rise up through military ranks. He's willing to do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But 'home' may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries." I like to do one true sci fi classic each year & this one got a lot of votes.

FEBRUARY: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. "Voodoo. Decadent socialites packing Lugars. Cotillions. With towns like Savannah, Georgia, who needs Fellini? Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil takes two narrative strands--each worthy of its own book--and weaves them together to make a single fascinating tale. The first is author John Berendt's loving depiction of the characters and rascals that prowled Savannah in the eight years it was his home-away-from-home. Then, on May 2, 1981, the book's second story line commences, when Jim Williams, a wealthy antique dealer and Savannah's host with the most, kills his "friend" Danny Hansford. (If those quotes make you suspect something, you should.) Was it self-defense, as Williams claimed--or murder? The book sketches four separate trials, during which the dark side of this genteel party town is well and truly plumbed."

MARCH (Women's History Month): The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. "The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder -- a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family's need for peace and closure. The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished."

APRIL: The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. "In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro's dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change."

MAY (Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month): The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. "In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined."

JUNE (Russian Heritage Month): The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. "The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia."

JULY: Atonement, by Ian McEwan. "Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose. On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece."

AUGUST: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. " 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the 'most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,' and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as 'irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.' "

SEPTEMBER (Banned Books Week): Lady Chatterly's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence. "Lawrence's frank portrayal of an extramarital affair and the explicit sexual explorations of the central characters caused this controversial book, now considered a masterpiece, to be banned as pornography until 1960."

OCTOBER: The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. "When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in." I dunno, I want to read an old detective novel.

NOVEMBER: Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. (Leftover from 2016, womp womp) "Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community." Overflow from last year that I didn't get to since I was busy re-reading the entire Lightbringer series. A lot of people have recommended this and I have never read Thomas Hardy.

DECEMBER: East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. (Again, leftover from 2016. :-/ )"Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence." Ditto. I haven't read Steinbeck since high school, so it's only fair to give him another shot.

Thanks for all your suggestions! :)

Other Books I'm Planning to Read this Year...

1 comment:

  1. Have you finished "The Lovely Bones" yet? Curious to know what you think. I loved "Far From the Madding Crowd" (though I've heard Hardy can be pretty love-or-hate -- had some arguments with grad school friends on what they think of him). "Atonement" is also on my to-read list!