The 2013 Book Polygamist Awards!

Welcome Ladies, Gentlemen and super-intelligent cats who secretly surf the web while their owner is at work, to the 3rd Annual Book Polygamist Awards!

Since 2011 the Awards have been publicly aired on my humble little blog, rather than the bottomless pit of Facebook, or the relative privacy of my book journal, and as long as Book Polygamist sticks around each year I will share my quirky Awards with you, my precious few Bookbaggers 🙂

Like last year and the year before the Awards will be broken up into two categories: the Annual Awards, which are the same each year, and the Special Awards, which change with the calibre of books read and any patterns I notice.

This year, since I read more comics/graphic novels than ever before there will be some Awards specifically for the format i.e. Best Inside Art.

So without further ado I present: The 2013 Book Polygamist Awards!!!

Annual Awards

Shortest Read (Book):

the-amber-amuletThe Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey – approximately 1 hour

Honorable Mentions:

The Tiny Wife by  Andrew Kaufman – approximately 2 hours

Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen – 6 days

Longest Read:

Tales of mystery and imaginationTales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe – 1 year, 1 month and 1 day!!!

Honorable Mentions:

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – 43 weeks, 6 days!!

Kraken by China Miéville – 30 weeks, 3 days!

Most Books/Graphic Novels Read by a Single Author:

Gaiman,_Neil_(2007) Neil Gaiman – 2 books (Anansi Boys and Neverwhere) and 6 Graphic Novels (The Sandman Vol # 1, #2, #3 and # 4; Death: The High Cost of Living; and The Books of Magic)

Honorable Mentions:

Stacia Kane – 5 (Unholy Ghosts; Unholy Magic; City of Ghosts; Sacrificial Magic; Chasing Magic)

Gail Carriger – 5 (Changeless; Blameless; Heartless; Soulless Vol #1; Etiquette and Espionage)

Best “New” Author Award:

Every year I try to discover authors I’ve never read before (in addition to my old favourites and follow-ups to “new” authors from previous years) and then I compile a list of ones I want to read more from, and pick one from the bunch that’s the stand-out. It’s always a tricky process because I find so many great authors that are new to me, but usually I just weigh-up the impact they made on me with the amount of work they have that I can continue on with, plus take into account how new they are to writing, and how unknown they were to me (and sometimes others) before I discovered their work. In the case of the winner for this year I had never heard of them before picking up the first book, and since then their series was one of the highlights of my reading year and has become a bit of an obsession for me and my best friend, Sarah 🙂

stacia kaneStacia Kane (Unholy GhostsUnholy MagicCity of GhostsSacrificial MagicChasing Magic)

Honorable Mentions:

 China Miéville (Kraken)

 Max Brooks (World War Z)

 Jasper Fforde (Shades of Grey)

Special Awards

The Best End to a Series Award:

house of many waysHouse of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Honorable Mention:

chasing magicChasing Magic by Stacia Kane

This is a cheeky honorable mention because it’s not actually the end of the series, but at the time of reading it I did think it was the end, and it was a fucking awesome end! Lucky for me and Sarah the next book is due to be published at some point 😀

The Best Start to a Series Award:

shadesofgreyShades of Grey (Shades of Grey Book 1) by Jasper Fforde

Honorable Mentions:

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen

The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (writer), Sam Kieth (penciler),Malcolm Jones III (inker), Robbie Busch (colourist), Todd Klein (letterer)

 FreakAngels #1 by Warren Ellis (writer) and Paul Duffield (artist)

The Longest and Strangest Title Award:

BookofHumanInsectsThe Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

Honorable Mention:

Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp  (author) and George O’Connor (artist)

The Tick That Off The Bucket List Award:

catch22Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

in 2013 I continued the accidental tradition of reading a book from my Top 10 Classics I Want to Read list – in accidental order and all! – which definitely deserved another award! To continue this tradition I will have to read The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger this year so I better locate it quick smart 😛

The My Brain Hurts But I Love It! Award:

kraken-by-china-mieville-UKKraken by China Miéville

As I said in my Top 10 Books I Read in 2013 list, this book was the literary equivalent of taking a trip and at times the language and sheer craziness of the world hurt my brain, but I loved every second of it! 😛

Honorable Mentions:

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Best Cover Art (Book):

the-tiny-wifeThe Tiny Wife by  Andrew Kaufman

Honorable Mentions:

shadesofgreyShades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Neverwhere (1)Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

kraken-by-china-mieville-UKKraken by China Miéville

the-amber-amuletThe Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey

Best Cover Art (Graphic Novel):

willow wonderlandBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow – Wonderland 
by Jeff ParkerChristos N. Gage (writers) Brian Ching (penciler), Jason Gorder (inker),
Michelle Madsen (colourist), David Mack (cover artist), and Joss Whedon (executive producer)

Honorable Mentions:

persepolis coverPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi

the unwritten vol 1The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity (The Unwritten, Volume # 1) by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry and Jeanne McGee(colourists) and Todd Klein (letterer)

BallPeenHammer_COVER_300rgb(1)Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp  (author) and George O’Connor (artist)

buffy talesBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales by Joss WhedonJane Espenson,  Becky Cloonan (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug PetrieLeinil Francis YuGene Colan and others (artists)

Best Inside Art (Graphic Novel):

buffy talesBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales by Joss WhedonJane Espenson,  Becky Cloonan (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug PetrieLeinil Francis YuGene Colan and others (artists)

This is a bit of a cop-out as this anthology contains a whole bunch of amazing artists making it the easy choice, but with such diverse art from story to story this was a clear winner. Below is an example of some of my favourite art styles for you to ogle 😛

Buffy tales art

Honorable Mentions:

Zombies Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Jim McCann (writers), David Baldeon (penciller), and Jordi Tarragona (inker)

Star Trek TNG: Hive by Brannon Braga (story) and Joe Corroney (art)

Most Fun Challenge:

comiccompanions-badge

While I set myself some great challenges last year, I had to choose Comic Companions as the best as it led me to read so many amazing comics and graphic novels! This year I’m not continuing this challenge but I’ve decided the graphic novels pile is just as important as the others so I’ve been going through the same process in reading them – when I finish one I pick another from the pile (or rather a random green piece of paper from my book-choosing jar so I don’t have to choose which wonderful graphic novel I want to read next – I’m chance’s bitch instead 🙂 )

Best Book Chosen for Old Books October:

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

guards guardsI haven’t actually finished Guards! Guards! since I’ve been pretty slack with reading this year, and I got distracted with other books and comics at the end of last year, so I’ve been reading this very funny Discworld novel for a while, but every time I do read a bit its highly entertaining! Plus the other book I chose for Old Books October is Brisingr by Christopher Paolini which I have been even more slack with, so this was a no-brainer 😛

Best Graphic Novel Chosen for Old Books October:

The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman (writer), Kelley JonesMalcolm Jones IIIMike DringenbergMatt WagnerP. Craig Russell,George PrattDick Giordano (artists), Daniel VozzoSteve Oliff (colourists), and Todd Klein (letterer)

sandman4

Best Book Chosen for New Books November:

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

shadesofgrey

Best Graphic Novel Chosen for New Books November:

 FreakAngels #1 by Warren Ellis (writer) and Paul Duffield (artist)

freak angels vol 1

2013 was a really interesting year for me, both in my reading life and personal/professional life, and I certainly have some good memories from it. I hope all my Bookbaggers also had an excellent year with a bevy of brilliant books (gosh I love alliteration :P) and tons of good memories, and that your 2014 is just as fruitful 🙂

Top 10 Villains

Wow its been a while between Top 10 posts huh?

My humble apologies oh beloved Bookbaggers of mine! This was meant to be a companion piece to the Top 10 Heroes post, but at the time I got so distracted that it remained forgotten in my drafts – until now! And how fitting is it for a list of villains to rise again after lulling everyone into a false sense of security where they were content to live with the assumption that those dastardly devils had vanished for good?

Well I’m sticking with that convenient theory anyway.

1. Goth

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

I couldn’t have Torkyn Gynt on my Top 10 Heroes list without having his polar opposite in the villains category. Despite the fact that Goth is not the official grand-supreme-bad-guy which usually features in fantasy sagas (that title goes to Orlac, a God who Tor is destined to defeat should he escape imprisonment and wreak havoc on all mankind) he stands out as the most despicable and disgusting character in the trilogy. From the start of the first book, Betrayal, Goth establishes himself as a hate-able character as the Chief Inquisitor, a powerful individual elected by the king to inflict his brand of  cruel ‘justice’ on suspected Sentients (people with heightened mental powers like telepathy). He then further earned his villain stripes by brutally raping one of the main characters (also in the first book) and from then on kept topping himself with even more dastardly, deplorable deeds. A character that made me cheer when he finally got what was coming to him!

Goth looking mighty evil atop a pissed off horse

2.  Inspector Fumero

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Inspector Fumero is one of those villains who is so awful because he isn’t some crazy caricature of a baddie, he’s an example of someone who could very well exist – a corrupt, sadistic cop. Some of the most unsettling and painful moments in this beautiful book were the responsibility of Fumero and I very quickly started to hate him. But sometimes doesn’t that make a book more interesting? Books would be pretty boring without someone truly rotten to hate, and Fumero certainly met The Shadow of the Wind‘s rotten bastard quota.

I couldn’t find anything to represent Inspector Fumero so here’s a cover of The Shadow of the Wind that I don’t think I’ve posted before

3. Gorgrael

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Gorgrael is the perfect fantasy saga grand-supreme-bad-guy. Firstly he is the hero’s half-brother. Secondly he is also called the Destroyer, a powerful evil that Axis (the hero) is destined to defeat. This alone would make him a classic villain but since the first book of the trilogy (Battleaxe AKA The Wayfarer Redemption) starts with him being born by eating his way out of his mother’s womb, he goes straight to the upper tiers of evilness. Also he’s all horned and demon-looking which always helps when identifying a villain.

Since I couldn’t find a picture of Gorgrael, here’s another one of his nemesis Axis rocking yellow

4. Voldemort

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

Just like HP had to be on the Top 10 Heroes list so does his arch nemesis – and for very similar reasons. While Harry is a hero because at a tender age he faces the big bad over and over and over, Voldemort deserves the title of Big Bad because he just keeps coming back! Not only did he kill countless powerful witches and wizards and terrorise the entire magical world before Harry was even born, but when he meets his match he drags himself virtually back from the dead to kill an terrorise all over again! This is a man so evil that from his teen years he splits his soul into pieces to ensure that he’ll never truly die; lives off unicorn blood to stay somewhat alive; inhabits the back of another guys head and gets him to do his bidding; gets another minion to kidnap a couple of teenage boys so that he can reclaim his old form; forces another teen boy to kill his headmaster; and otherwise tries to bloody murder the crap out of as many people as possible. And he’s damn creepy to boot.

Ralph Fiennes is way too good at being creepy

5. The White Witch

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

The terrifying White Witch that terrorised the inhabitants of Narnia and plunged the realm into perpetual winter is one of the first villains that really gave me the creeps. Ever since I was a kid I always kind of pitied and rooted for the baddies in Disney films (I loved Ursula, Maleficent, and the Queen in Snow White), but there was something instantly hate-able about the White Witch. I remember reading the book and listening to the audio tape at my friend’s house, and shivering inside a little every time she popped up. Maybe it was how she used Edmund against the other children by innocently offering him Turkish Delight and cocoa (similar to the witch in Hansel and Gretel), or how she could turn people into statues that she grotesquely displayed, or just that she was so cold and heartless, she just seemed so evil and I couldn’t find a shred of pity. And it certainly didn’t help when I saw the film adaptation – Tilda Swinton played her way too well O.o

Tilda Swinton portrayed the perfect cold-hearted White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

6. The Queen of Hearts

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

My love of Alice related things has already been well established, so there is no way that this list could exist without a nod to the furious Queen with an obsession for beheading! I think turning a simple Queen of Hearts in a deck of cards into an insane tyrant is a fantastic idea (kudos Mr Carroll/Dodgson) and thanks to the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the outrageous monarch has been re-imagined in many terrifying forms. My favourites include Kathy Bates’ quietly seething majesty in the mini-series, Alice (2009) ; the fat, pompous, bad-tempered old  tyrant in the Disney film; the sinister Redd Heart from The Looking-Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor; and, even though I was slightly disappointed with Tim Burton’s 2010 movie, Helena Bonham Carter’s big-headed Queen was a hoot!

There are so many incarnations of the Queen of Hearts/Red Queen that I just couldn’t decide and went with somethin a bit different – Redd Heart from The Looking Glass Wars – truly terrifying!

7. Bill Sikes

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

When I said that the White Witch was probably the first villain that creeped me out as a kid, Bill Sikes would be the other contender. I’m not sure which one I encountered first, but as a child (heck, even now) if I was in a dark alley faced with the White Witch at one end and Sikes at the other, I very well might pick the Witch (maybe she’d make me one of her minions?). The scary thing about Sikes is that he’s so real. Unlike most of the characters on this list, in the time that Oliver Twist was written there was plenty of men (and women) like him – and there’s plenty today. Bill Sikes used young orphans and street urchins as portable burglary tools, and unlike their master, Fagin, he didn’t care a jot what happened to them. The clincher for me was when Sikes killed his lady, Nancy, the kind-hearted prostitute/bar-maid who is the only soul who truly loves him – especially because she was my favourite character 😥

Oliver Reed as Sikes in the 1968 adaptation, Oliver! That stare just… *shudder*

8. blueeyedboy/Gloria Green

blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one is tricky because I can’t really explain why I listed both without completely giving away the ending of the book O.O I almost didn’t include them because of this, but the book left such a huge impression on me because of the “villains” that I couldn’t leave them out. What I can say is that throughout blueeyedboy your mind is in a constant state of confusion over what is “real” (as in real within the story) and fiction, and who is the real villain of the piece. I can’t say any more but I would urge anyone who is intrigued by this to go read it – It’s a great book!

You wouldn’t think this little boy would be on a list of villains O.O

9. Big Brother

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Big Brother is a unique villain because he is so prominent in the book, without actually being physically present – in fact Big Brother may not even be a real person, but instead the face of the controlling Party. Nineteen Eighty Four and Big Brother has spawned so much pop culture since its publication, that were it not for George Orwell, the world today would be a very different place. On the one hand this would be good – I don’t think Orwell would be happy with the deluge of reality TV, especially not the insipid show named after Big Brother, and the ways our society is constantly monitored by CCTV, phone and online bugging and other technologies probably would chill him to the bone. On the other hand, his book has helped create a similar flood of post-apocalyptic and dystopic fiction which makes people question our current ways, which may have given Orwell some hope. Anyway, the whole concept of Big Brother is damn creepy…

10. Count Olaf

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Ah Count Olaf. He is probably the most ridiculous villain in this list, but nevertheless he is quite the crafty fiend! Through 13 books Olaf concocts a multitude of intricate and bizarre plans, complete with increasingly clever disguises, so he can get to the Baudelaire fortune (with most of the plans revolving around killing the Baudelaire children, aged between infancy and 14). While I of course despised Count Olaf and sympathised with the Baudelaire children, I did enjoy Olaf’s ridiculous antics and the series would’ve been much less fun if he wasn’t so villainous 🙂 Despite the film adaptation being a bit lacking (I would’ve liked to see each book explored more and squishing the first three into a film and ignoring the other 10 just didn’t satisfy) I thought Jim Carrey was spot on!

The adoptive parent from hell

Well, I hope the really, really, ridiculously long wait was worth it! I do plan on doing more Top 10 lists because I have plenty more ideas, but I think in 2013 I won’t attempt to do a pair each month as it just doesn’t happen. Fear not! They are not gone for good, and I will try and post at least one half of a pair (or a stand alone) more often, and perhaps after a while I will be able to do them at the end/beginning of each month once again 🙂

Until then, feel free to share your own favourite baddies in the comments, and as always:

Happy Reading!

The Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination go to Uranus!!!!

It comes to the point in every tragic saga of movies/books/TV shows etc. when the creators have obviously run out of ideas and flog one last installment with a truly terrible pun title which could’ve been brainstormed by a 10-year-old….. *cough*….

The Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination go to Uranus!!!!

Code Noir by Marianne De Pierres

Even more exciting, engaging and confusing then the first Parrish Plessis book which together made it more addictive. This series is a unique Australian Sci Fi, with a strong, vaguely terrifying heroine, that’s worth a read, even if at times it does your head in.

Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood

A very entertaining an informative Phryne Fisher book. Explores Judaism in 1920s Melbourne, Zionism, and alchemy and has a very ingenious ‘murder weapon’. I’m a fan of all the Phryne books that I’ve read so far and would recommend them to anyone who likes a sassy, stylish female detective, and mysteries with a ton of class :).

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

Another fun, exciting and intense book in the Mortal Instruments series. Further plot and character development drew me in and the action made be keep reading well after I should have put it down to get some shut-eye. It’s easy to see why this series is so popular, especially with teens/young adults and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was turned into the next big blockbuster movie franchise. I for one would welcome it more than I did the Twilight saga!

The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadder

An amazing historical epic, especially for the author’s debut. Historical and fictional elements blended seamlessly into a very engaging story which twisted and turned like a raging river. The characters, especially Alison/Robert were intriguing, raw and deeply flawed which made them very believable. A tale of family secrets, power, betrayal and secret love but also a frank exploration of blood-soaked Scotland during the rule of the beautiful Mary, Queen of Scots.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Amazing. The epitome of the rambling epic but also a book that transcends the genre – part mythic fantasy, part road trip story, part murder mystery, part thoughtful examination of America and humankind’s changing values, plus a bunch of other elements twisted together to make a Frankenstein patchwork quilt of awesomeness. A book that I had to digest in small bites over time (16 weeks in fact) because it was like a big nourishing meal for the mind that you don’t want to end. Recommended for lovers of mythology, coin tricks, con jobs, the addictive voice of Neil Gaiman or anyone who wants a unique and insightful read.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

An insightful and important classic. Some of the language and themes are hard to stomach in this day and age but ultimately that makes the novel even more poignant. Even though there has been a lot of controversy regarding the use of the N word and so it has been removed from some schools, I think all kids should read it so they can see the prejudice and bigotry that was so prominent in the past and how in some ways society has grown but in others these evils still exist.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

A very exciting end to a fun trilogy…except the trilogy is now 5 books long O.o Not sure where it will go because City of Glass was so final and climatic, but as long as there’s still demon hunting, interesting looking faerie folk and funny dialogue I’ll be happy 🙂

So that was my final set of Forgotten Reviews, however in the meantime I have amassed a few more reviews, mainly ones which don’t really warrant a full-size one, plus I have really enjoyed writing these Micro Review posts and you, my clever and beautiful Bookbaggers seem to like them (in fact thanks to the first three posts I’ve received a couple of extra likes and followers which is always nice :)) so I have a question to pose to you all:

Should I continue writing Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination posts on a semi-regular basis (i.e. once a month or after I’ve amassed a list of 5 or so)?

My current idea (which I decided upon with advice from my best friend, Sarah :)) Is that I will do Micro Reviews for some of my reads that don’t really require a full review, and then do a full one for books that I think need expanding upon. For example I currently have a backlog of around 10 reviews, but since a lot of them are shorter books only about 4 or 5 of those really need the space of a large review and the others would be perfectly content sharing a Micro Reviews post.

As I like to get the opinion of my readers (coz its you that I write for after all) I thought I’d put it to you in a little poll:

The poll closes in a month so you have plenty of time to vote – and I’ll probably remind (*cough* pester *cough*) you all a few times before then.

I hope all my beloved Bookbaggers had a lovely holiday season, whatever you happen to celebrate (or not celebrate as the case may be) and as always:

Happy Reading! 😀

The second Free Pick – top of the list Classic

This afternoon I finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (let me just say – AMAZING! I was so into the ending that I got off the bus and sat on the bus stop bench to finish 🙂 I will write a review soon, but as I loved this book so much I don’t want to rush it).

As it is Free Pick February, and The Night Circus is one of my books, I was pyched to choose a new read from the Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile since it it the largest (at 18 strong) and there is a bunch i’m dying to read.

While I was walking home from the bus stop with The Night Circus tucked lovingly under my arm one book popped into my head, maybe because I posted my Top 10 Classics I Want to Read so recently, but as soon as I got home I decided that I will finally read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 😀

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Classics I Want to Read

As I said in my last Top 10 post I haven’t read many Classics, and that is something I want to rectify. Therefore this list compiles the Top 10 Classics I want to read at some point (hopefully soon!).

Feel free to recommend any others in the comments or further rave about/express disbelief that I haven’t read the 10 I’ve listed 🙂

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This Classic is one that gets the biggest gasps when I state that I have yet to read it and fair enough, it is on many people’s list of favourite books and regarded as one of the most loved books in print. I’m not certain why I have never gotten around to reading To Kill a Mockingbird, as I have known about it and had an interest for many, many years, but it was when I was researching for a presentation on Perth author Craig Silvey that my interest perked up again. In my research I found that Silvey’s novel Jasper Jones (which is one of my Top 10 Books of All Time) has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird many times and that intrigued me. Luckily I received the book for my birthday and since Free Pick February is in effect, perhaps I shall read it very soon 🙂

2. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

This is another unique war novel recommended by my mum, and another one that gets surprised gasps. Like many people I have used the phrase “Its a Catch 22” many times before when referring to a situation that has a series of conflicting and intertwined options that seemingly leaves no positive outcome, but I’ve always felt like a bit of a phony using it without reading the book that introduced the phrase to popular culture. Just like To Kill a Mockingbird I recently purchased a copy of this book so hopefully I will be able to read it soon and have a fuller understanding of the term when I am next in a situation that’s a Catch 22 😛

3. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

This Classic is one that I may have encountered at school if my path had been a bit different, and at that age it may have had a bit more impact as it explores themes of youthful rebellion, angst and confusion. However, I didn’t read it then which can’t be helped now, and so all I can do is read it in adulthood and reminisce about that strange time that is adolescence (many people would think of me as an adolescent still as I’m only 25, but my 25-year-old self seems a world away from my 13-18-year-old self!). Unlike my first two choices, I have not purchased The Catcher in the Rye yet but I am sure I will have no problem finding it at a bookstore (online or the old-fashioned physical-building-filled-with-books type that seems to be near extinction) or at the many libraries I’m a member of, as since it was first released in 1951 it has been published many times.

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Yes, yes, I’m sure readers especially of the Bookish female variety are probably scandalised by the fact that I have never read this classic love story, and in fact (hold onto your bonnets) I have never read a single book by any Brontë sister! This is not some kind of Brontë sister hate on my part, just laziness and distraction and once I have finally read about Catherine and Heathcliff I hope to become more acquainted with the talented sister’s works.

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy is like the Holy Grail to Literary types (in my opinion) as his works are not the easiest (or shortest!) books one could read but the reward is worth the journey. I have heard so many good things about Anna Karenina and I have wanted to read it since I was about 14, but I knew that I would need to develop my reading muscles for a while so I could fully enjoy it, so I stayed away. At 25 I think I have read enough confusing/complex/convoluted/vexing novels (or ones that were a trial in some other way) that I am prepared to tackle whatever this 864 page Russian Epic can throw at me 🙂

6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

If Tolstoy is the Literary Holy Grail, then War and Peace is a Holy Grail perched atop Mt Everest. I don’t know many people who have been able to read the entirety of this 1444 page behemoth, which Tolstoy himself considered more than simply a novel, quoted once as saying it was “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle.” I consider War and Peace my Everest and if I can read it before I die I will regret less all the many books I never got to experience.

7.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Unlike the preceeding books on the list, I had never heard of Atlas Shrugged until a few years ago when I saw it popping up in a few of the lists of award-winning and otherwise highly regarded literature which were sprinkled through my first Book Lover’s Journal. I didn’t give it much more than a passing thought until I stumbled across an old documentary/interview with Ayn Rand while channel surfing some lazy Sunday. Her personal story and general demeanour and intelligence was fascinating and as soon as she started speaking about her writing process for Atlas Shrugged, I knew I wanted to read it one day.

8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 

I have to admit while I have been interested in Oscar Wilde since I was a teenager and have read bits and pieces of his work (mainly poetry and children’s stories) I didn’t have a desire to read The Picture of Dorian Gray until I saw the recently made film, Dorian Gray last year. Even if it wasn’t the best movie, the story of a young, beautiful man’s descent into hedonism and darkness with the aid of an ominous painting of his likeness, instantly drew me in. If I enjoyed a so-so movie adaptation so much I can just imagine how much I’ll love the original work!

9. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This choice is one of childhood nostalgia. Who hasn’t seen a cartoon as a child that played on the idea of Dr Jekyll and his experimental elixir that turned him into the monstrous Mr Hyde? I can think of at least a dozen times I saw a play on the Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde idea in popular cartoons, from Looney Toons skits to the literary/adventure/fantasy film that I adored as a child, The Pagemaster (does any Bookbaggers who grew up in the 90’s remember that movie as fondly as I do? :)). And yet, even with the story so ingrained in pop culture I realised recently that I never read the original story by Robert Louis Stevenson! I shall have to rectify this on behalf of 10-year-old me don’t you think?

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is another book so ingrained in my popular culture memories and also one that has influenced so many of my beloved books, movies and TV shows (I was a Vampire fan long before they sparkled – ie. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike) that it seemed ridiculous that I have never read it. I actually bought a copy way back when I was 15 via a school book club brochure (for 2 dollars!!) and yet for some reason I didn’t read it at the time and it has stayed unread on my shelf ever since (a fact that my little brother finds very baffling). This year I hope to finally dig out the now old and dusty, yet untouched paperback and read the story that started the Vampire craze.

So there you go, my somewhat embarrassing list of Classics I’ve never read but would like to. As this year is the National Year of Reading I have made an unofficial pact with myself to read at least a couple of the books on this list, so if I keep my word you may hear my thoughts on a couple of them once I have finally achieved my goal 🙂

After this post goes out I will also be posting the last poll for Top 10 Themes. This doesn’t mean that the Top 10 posts will cease (I still have many ideas in the works) It just means that they will revert back to what they once were – themes chosen by me and a surprise for you the reader every month 🙂

Happy Reading! 😀

Top 10 “Classics”

I am somewhat ashamed to say as a book blogger, avid reader and Library studies student/library staff member that I have not read that many Classics in my 25 years. This is partly because my last few years of high school were pretty traumatic and unconventional (I caught Glandular fever in year nine which made me very ill leading many absences and transferring to an alternative school) so I “missed out” on all the enforced Classical Literature; partly because I have always found something new to read and so have neglected the Classics; and partly because I didn’t enjoy the Classics I was made to read (such as Pride and Prejudice) so was hesitant to seek out other books in the genre.

However, even with my limited experience with Classical Literature I have read a few wonderful books that I think of as classics. The Classics genre is a tricky one to define as it is changing all the time. Books that are widely regarded as Classics today, 100 years ago were comparatively modern and new, and books we now consider Modern Classics will one day be a new generation of Classical Literature. Dictionary.com defines a Classic as “an author or a literary work of the first rank, especially one of demonstrably enduring quality.” This is a pretty fitting definition in my mind, but for the purposes of this list (and the reason why it is Top 10 “Classics”) the Classics will be defined by my own criteria:

  1. They have to be reasonably old – not necessarily works from the 1800s or early 1900s but at least novels that are older than I am!;
  2. They have to be works that made an impact on me; and
  3. They have to be works that have stood the test of time and will be influential for generations to come.

I hope you enjoy my list and feel free to list your own Classic favourites in the comments 🙂

1. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

This is the first book that came to mind when I was compiling this list, because when I read it (at around age 18) It shook me to my core. The Australian version of Big Brother had already been running for a few years and I was curious to see where the idea originally came from so borrowed a battered old copy from a friend of my mum’s. Firstly I was amazed at George Orwell’s vision of the future, writing in 1948 and prophesying what 1984 (a far off future at the time) would be like if the politics and totalitarianism he saw around him was to continue and worsen. The fact that 1984 was two years before I was born but was a futuristic far-off year to Orwell was amazing to my young self and drew me right into the bleak and frightening story. Orwell’s writing is very readable and the plot and character structure is timeless enough to intrigue generations of readers, and especially in this time of reality television, and free-speech being a luxury that Western cultures take for granted it is a Classic that is gaining potency with every passing year.

I am thankful 1984 did not end up like this as I was born two years later and that would've been a sucky world to be born into!

2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I saw the movie adaptation (the 1990 version) well before I read the book because we watched it in my Government and Law class in year 9 and I picked up a second-hand copy of the novel when I was about 19, so I was somewhat prepared for a troubling read, but it was still sickening, distressing and very memorable. I know that this has been required reading in schools for a while and I am in two minds about that. On one hand It is a pretty intense and frightening book for children to read and could be a bit traumatizing (hell, I was traumatized at 19!) but on the other hand it is a cautionary tale for children (especially boys) that illuminated humankind’s primal instincts and how quickly we can revert back to them. Golding’s tale was first published in 1954 and has been a cult favourite ever since, and I think it will continue to have an impact for many years to come.

Bunch of pubescent boys left to turn wild = disturbing

3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I found All Quiet on the Western Front at the same school fête as Lord of the Flies and read it the same year, but I had been meaning to read it ever since my mum told me it was a must read (it was required reading when she was in high school). At school we had studied the first and second World War in some form every year since about year 4 or 5 and in year 9 English we read excerpts of different novels that explored war, but I had never read a wartime novel with the unique point of view that All Quiet on the Western Front has. It broke my heart to read the day-to-day trials of the young soldiers – boys who were my age or younger living through a time that could cripple the bodies and minds of men many years their senior. I think it is a novel that should be read by teens of this generation and ones to come because as we move further away from the time of WWI, it’s tragedies and horrors could be forgotten by people too young to even fathom that far in the past and knowing what boys just like them once went through would cast a light of perspective on the privilege they now have.

A beautiful but incredibly sad war novel

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

This one wouldn’t be a surprise at all to regular readers as I have flown my Alice fan-flag high many a time 🙂 From the first time I read Alice in Wonderland (around 7 years old I think) I have been enraptured by the crazy, bizarre and awesome world of Wonderland and all the unique and quirky characters that dwell there. Lewis Carroll wrote his masterpiece of absurdist Children’s Literature way back in 1865, followed by Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There in 1871, and after almost 150 years the story he created is still being recreated and beloved the world over. I know I will always be an Alice fan and I always like to see how it is being reimagined and how it has affected modern literature and cinema. Long live Alice! 😀

Curiouser and curiouser...

5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

As I’ve stated before The Wind in the Willows is the first chapter book I remember being read as a child and I still have fond memories of snuggling up while mum read me the antics of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad of Toadhall. Kenneth Grahame wrote the classic children’s story in 1908, and the characters were so beloved that they were revisited by William Horwood when he wrote a series of sequels from 1993 to 1998 (The Willows in WinterToad Triumphant;  The Willows and Beyond; and The Willows at Christmas) as well as a spin-off Willows in Winter series. Even ‘tho the book is set in the early 20th Century, complete with well-dressed gentlemen (albeit gentlemen that are actually woodland creatures) steamboats and early motor cars, its appeal is timeless and I hope that children will continue to treasure it for centuries.

My first "Classic" 🙂

6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I was lucky enough to be given a huge volume of Children’s Classics when I was very young, contained Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and Oliver Twist, otherwise I may never have read this great, if quite bleak little tale by Charles Dickens. The first time I remember reading it all the way through, I was 10 and at a Christmas family gathering down south. I had been a fan of the musical Oliver! a couple of years already and was quite eager to read the original story (even if it was devoid of songs and dance numbers!). While the story was a bit heavier and more depressing than the musical (surprise, surprise) I loved how it showed the dark underbelly of London in the early 19th Century which I knew little about at that age. Oliver Twist was originally published under the title Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress in 1838 and was Dickens second novel (following The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club aka The Pickwick Papers).

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

In hindsight I was probably too young to read this book when I did (around age 12 I think), and I was also probably too young to watch the movie adaptation which led me to the book in the first place, but in my Nana’s defence (as she borrowed the video from the library or video store while I was visiting) the film looked like a harmless children’s cartoon and not a retelling of Orwell’s tale of fascism in a farmyard. Even ‘tho seeing the movie and reading the book at a tender age may have been a tad inappropriate at the time, I don’t regret it because it led me to a great Classic. Written a few years before Nineteen Eighty-Four (in 1945) Animal Farm explores a similar theme – totalitarianism – but was specifically a satire on the dangers of Stalinism with common farm animals overthrowing the farmer and creating their own societal structure. While I wouldn’t recommend the book or movie to kids, as images of happy little pigs revolting against people and then lording over the other animals may be a bit upsetting, but once they reach an appropriate age I think it is a great way to explain other forms of government that make democracy seem like a walk in the park!

8. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

This is one of the few books (or play really in this case) on this list which actually was required reading when I was in high school. We had to read in for English Literature in year 12 and I was actually pretty pleased because we also got to watch the musical based on the play, My Fair Lady which I have loved since I was a child. It was great to read the story as it originally was meant to be enjoyed  when George Bernard Shaw wrote it in 1913 (as a humorous drama) and I would urge any fans of  My Fair Lady to find a copy, and if you’re dramatically inclined read it aloud with some friends 🙂

9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I have discussed this fantastic book before in Top 10 lists, and at first I wasn’t certain whether to include it or not as I wasn’t sure if it was a true Classic. Written in 1966 this is the newest book on the list, but even if it hasn’t been beloved for 100 plus years It fits my criteria in that it is older than I am; made a big impact on me; and is timeless. While Flowers for Algernon is not as widely read as most of the other books on this list, it should be as it is a touching and unique story with an evocative writing style. This is the other book which was required reading while I was at school, but unlike Pygmalion it was read to us (us being all senior students, from year 8 or 9 to year 12). This detracted from the impact of the book a little as we couldn’t see how the writing style, spelling and grammar evolved throughout, but I was able to appreciate this technique when I read it a second time a few years ago.

10. Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling

Many years ago my Poppy lent me a beautiful leather-bound first pocket edition of this collection of stories published in 1910, along with an old book of Victorian poetry because I had shown interest in the two little books out of his collection of fat novels. I had never read Kipling before and instantly fell in love with his funny little fantasy tales and witty narrative voice. I loved it so much that Poppy let me keep it, saying that he was going to leave most of his old books to me anyway. While some of Kipling’s works are much more famous (The Jungle Book; Kim; Just So Stories) this was my first pass into the world of Kipling and so will always have a place in my heart 🙂

A fine likeness of my copy 🙂

Classically fitting parcel

The other day I received another parcel in the mail from my bookclub and one that fit in nicely with this month’s Top 10 theme (Top 10 “Classics” and Top 10 Classics I Want to Read, which I hope to finish and post tomorrow).

The parcel contained a 4-book collection of children’s classics: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

Each volume has a beautiful embossed hardcover, is filled with illustrations by Robert Dunn, has a ribbon page marker and a short bio of the author at the back. The stories have been adapted for children by Ronne Randell so they are a bit shorter and less complex than the original, but are still a lovely collection and I can’t wait til I can read them to one of my friends’ children 🙂

In other news I have decided that this month will be Free Pick February, a month in which when I finish a book and choose a new one I will forgo my usual process and pick whichever book I want off the pile! I decided this when the same books I longed to read were being eliminated early on in my eeny meeny miny moe-ing, and while I like my weird habits I wanted to take a bit of a break from them for a while, and February being the shortest month it seemed like the perfect period of time 🙂

I have also made a decision about my back log of reviews. While I want to complete all the old reviews I also want to get back on track with the new ones so they don’t pile up as well, so each month I will do at least one old review and do the new reviews as soon as I finish a book, starting with the next one I finish. Hopefully this will flex my rusty reviewing muscles and the old reviews will be done before I know it 🙂

Happy Reading!