Books: a collection of lists

August 1, 2012

I’m heading off to the south coast for a few days of rest soon, and I’ve been thinking about what book I might like to read. All this ponderin’ has reminded me of some of the great books I’ve read in the past…and some of the ones I haven’t.

Books I’ve Always Wanted to Read But Never Have

Life of Pi (Yann Martel) – A guy I met in Scarborough once read out a beautiful passage from this book in our small group, and I thought at that moment it sounded like something I’d like to read.  That was nine years ago, so…

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) – This was a favorite of one my best friends in high school.  It’s really long.

Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott) –  A writer’s must-read, allegedly.

Books I Couldn’t Put Down

Blue Like Jazz (Donald Miller) – This is one of those books I put off reading for ages because everyone was reading it and I get a bit eye-rolly about books everyone is reading.  But then I read it.  And it was worth it.  Eye-roll repentance.

A Separate Peace (John Knowles) – I loved the Dead Poets’ Society feel of this book.  I underlined several striking passages.  Beautifully written, and you’ll feel classy reading it in a coffee shop.

The Help (Kathryn Stockett) – Glory be.  A good holiday book – my friend Sarah loaned it to me at the beach last year, and I gobbled it up.  I laughed, cried, cringed, and praised the good Lord.  And I haven’t seen the film yet…does it do the book justice?

The Nanny Diaries  (Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus) – Don’t judge.  This was another great beach book.  Smarter and funnier than you’d expect, and WAY better than the Scarlett Johanssen/Dakota Fanning movie interpretation.  (No offense, ladies.  I don’t blame you.)

Walking on Water (Madeleine L’Engle) – One of the best books I’ve ever read on art and Christianity.

Books I Gave Up On

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) – I’ve got a theory about how sometimes it’s just “not the right time” for a specific book, and when I tried to read this one a few years ago, the jumping dates just stressed me out.  I’m thinking maybe I’ve chilled out enough to try it again.

Possession (A S Byatt) – I started reading this one because my friend Emily, a kindred spirit in films and baking and literature, recommended it.  I tried, y’all; I really did.  But I just couldn’t hack it.  I usually explain it by saying I felt it was all a bit self-indulgent for Byatt, but in truth, I think Emily’s just smarter than me.

On the Road (Jack Kerouac) – I really, really wanted to read this when I was young teenager, because I thought I was misunderstood and angsty, and I felt like ol’ Jack could really speak to me.  But I read a couple of pages and, well, I just didn’t get it.  I was about 14 though, so there were quite a few things I didn’t get.

Books I Should’ve Read for My English Degree But Didn’t

Y’all might be about to lose quite a lot of respect for me.  Ready?  Deep breaths.

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)

Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier)

In my defense, I lose motivation to read anything when I’m forced to do it.  And now I can read these babies for pure enjoyment.  Just don’t tell me I have to.

What are your favorite holiday reads?  And what are you most embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

29 responses to “Books: a collection of lists”

  1. whitney says:

    Happy travels, Faith! I’m currently obsessed with Gone Girl — I mean, run, don’t walk, to get it. Seriously. On your list, Rebecca and Pride & Prejudice are favorites of all time. And, yes, Bird by Bird is a must. You will underline and highlight and read out loud to yourself. It’s that brilliant. Other good, recent beach reads: On the Island, The Ex-Pats, State of Wonder. If you get to Life of Pi, let us know about it. I tried for book club years ago and never got past page 3.

  2. AlisaG says:

    if you need some good story-telling, check out 1000 white women by jim fergus. amazing summertime candy for the brain.

  3. lissie says:

    My favorite holiday reads are Bossy Pants by Tina Fey, she’s hilarious, smart, and its fun to get some behind the scenes looks at SNL and her career.
    The Immortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare is a very guilty, embarrassing pleasure. it’s teen fantasy romance fiction at it’s best, with love triangels, vampires, werewolfs, demon hunters and nonstop action. don’t judge me.
    The next two i want to read are Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling and Most Talkative by Andy Cohen. I love a good memoir.

  4. Kari Andrews says:

    My all-time favorite is Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. It’s a funny, easy read but also a great peek into human nature. I want to finish reading “Love Does” by Bob Goff (I read as much as I could for free on the Barnes & Noble website before they told me I had to buy it to finish) ;] What I read of “Love Does” made me laugh out loud, inspired and challenged me, and well, it was just so good!

  5. Audrey says:

    Faith, you said “holiday!” They are truly rubbing off on you over there– and it made me grin.

    I have not read many of the classics: Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, The Scarlet Letter…

    Books I loved: “Memoirs of a Geisha” (not necessarily light subject matter but the story is so well-written you won’t want to put it down– it’s long, I finished it in 3 days)

    “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” (you will laugh out loud countless times, even though the book is about a child with autism– it will open your eyes to that world in a way that is humorous but draws awareness)

    “How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed” (each short chapter is written like a mini-sketch about how they chose to live happy lives despite the circumstances– truly refreshing)

    Enjoy your vacation!

  6. I loved The Help! And The Secret Life of Bees. And The Fountainhead!!!

  7. I just read Jane Eyre last winter and it was a good read. I read aloud, The Scarlet Letter, to my 12 & 14 year old, this year, and we were all spellbound.
    One of the happiest things I have ever heard is that there are so many good books to read that we can never read them all in a lifetime. How good is that? Love it! Have a nice holiday. ~ Wendy

  8. One of my favorite vacation reads ever was “Confessions of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella. This is also embarrassing for me because the main character reminded me so much of myself back then (and a little bit now too). My all-time favorite books are “The Lord of the Rings” and I generally like anything by Dickens.

  9. Patsy says:

    Oh! Jane Eyre’s my favorite classic. Haha! I also wasn’t able to finish Time Traveler’s Wife, not because I got stressed out, but because my mom took it away from me because I wouldn’t start studying. Haha! By the time I got the book back, I didn’t feel like reading it anymore. Hmm.. I’ve been reading young adult books, and I really liked Divergent and Delirium. I haven’t read The Help, but I have it sitting in my shelf (sadly collecting dust) most probably because I already watched the film, but I still might go for it anyway. 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

  10. Nel says:

    You’ve never read Pride and Prejudice?!?!??? Love that book!!! It’s actually a fairly easy read for an older book. Austen keeps up the pace and she’s got a delightfully dry sense of humor.

  11. Faith, love that you wrote about your favorites and “need-to-reads”. I’ve been searching for something as well!
    Here are my favorites: To Kill A Mockingbird, Red Tent, and The Mark of The Lion Series by Francine Rivers (3 books- with incredible characters that really made me want to be a better person, more like Jesus).

  12. Jorie says:

    Oh, my, my…you simply MUST read Life of Pi. It is the best contemporary book I have ever read. And I highly recommend “The Great Gatsby” from your Classics list. But I know what you mean: the minute someone tells you that you “should” read something, you feel less and less like reading it. The irony!

  13. Ronnie! says:

    Faith, I just read Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani and I really liked it! It’s a great summer read. I’m a bit obsessed with being a lady (going out of the house groomed, wearing perfume and with my hankie), Mad Men and Italian names right now, so this (although it was set in the 1950s and not the 1960s like Mad Men) was a perfect fit. It’s set in NYC and is a fun mix of old-world Italian tradition meets independent city girl. I liked it so much I’m starting to read a trilogy by Trigiani!
    Also, Anna Karenina…didn’t love it. I think it’s overrated (Don’t hate me, everyone else who did! I tried to like it, but I just couldn’t.) I’m sure all those historians and literature professors know what they’re talking about (although it wasn’t prescribed reading for my degree either), but I just don’t Russian literature.
    Happy reading! xo

  14. Sarah says:

    My most favorite book is A Severe Mercy. You simply must read it, especially as an American in the UK. It is a memoir about love – love between a husband and wife and love of Christ on a couple, and how a friendship with CS Lewis changed everything. In won the national book award the year it was published, which was in the 70’s.

  15. Courtney says:

    Loved these:
    The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls) MUST READ!!
    Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden), read it 3 times and want to read it again!!
    The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
    A Painted House (John Grisham)
    The Alchemist (Donna Boyd, Paulo Coelho)
    Saving Grace (Lee Smith)

    Never could get into:
    Life of Pi
    Indian Summer

    Hope you have fun on your holiday and don’t forget to take lots I snaps!!

  16. misslavallee says:

    Don’t read Jayne Eyre. I did it for my undergrad, because I was forced to, and absolutely hated it. I guarantee if I picked it up now I would still hate it. And I don’t throw the word “hate” around for just any book. I’m sorry if I’ve insulted anyone, but I really did not enjoy the setting, the plot or the main character. I’m just not a fan. Gatsby however, I loved! I read it with my grade 12 English class this year and loved it.
    Book I gave up on:
    The Hound of the Baskervilles

    Have a great holiday and enjoy your reads!

  17. Andrea Kelly says:

    You’re definitely not missing anything by not finishing The Time Traveler’s Wife.

    Books I Couldn’t get into: Jane Eyre, The Life of Pi, or On The Road (I tried reading it at 14 as well). I also disliked As I Lay Dying and Madame Bovary.

    Books I couldn’t put down? But there are so many! Definitely Pride and Prejudice, Love Walked in by Marisa de los Santos, and pretty much anything by Fannie Flagg or Barbara Kingsolver.

  18. Betty says:

    I am a huge thriller fan, so my favorite read this summer, “The In-Ko-Pah Spirit” by Wally Runnels. Great story about a mercenary who is paid to track down a rebellious member of a Mexicali drug cartel in the In-Ko-Pah Mountains, an isolated region on the Mexican/American Border.

  19. Jaimie says:

    Eh, I read Bird by Bird in my professional writing capstone class, and I found it touchy-feely, universalistic and generally unhelpful for myself as a writer. The fact that the author hasn’t written anything well-known since her book on writing also suggests that it’s more hype than help.

  20. L. Palmer says:

    I’ve begun Bird By Bird, and The Time Traveller’s Wife. I’ve finished neither. I was disgusted by The Time Traveller’s Wife – beyond the difficult to follow story, I couldn’t believe the romance between the two main characters. As for Bird by Bird, what I’ve read has great analogies I’ve used in other situations outside of writing i.e. ‘Writing a book is like fitting an octopus inside a suitcase.’ I’ve used that analogy for wrangling 6-7 year olds at summer camp. That book, and many others, remain unread in a box in my parents garaged. When I can afford my own apartment again, I intend on finishing it and about fifty other books.
    Too much good stuff.

  21. I loved The Help. I think the movie did do it justice. I also had a friend tell me to get that one on an audio book because the voices are fantastic and add a lot to it. Great post! Thanks

  22. Ashley says:

    My heart shattered when I read that you hadn’t read Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice. Then it pretty much dissolved at The Great Gatsby being added to that list. I do understand, however, that when someone tells you that you HAVE to read something your first instinct is to never read it.
    They are worth it though.
    And I have to say, Anna Karenina was one of my favorites – definitely worth plowing through, if only to dissect the emotions of the different characters.
    Other greats – Oliver Twist, Tale of Two Cities. Agatha Christie Miss Marple mysteries are fabulous beach reads. Even better if you’re at the shore in England since that’s where a lot of them take place. Lord of the Flies was gripping, but it made my heart cry for humanity.
    Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer is probably more of a teen book, but the writing is so good that I would read it again.
    If all else fails, read Junie B. Jones. It’ll at least make you laugh.

  23. Life of Pi is such a beautiful book. It’s spellbinding.
    Another book is The Art Of Racing in The Rain. This book. Good lord. It honestly changed my perspective on contemporary books. I read the last page, put the book down, and said to myself “I want to write like that.” I think you’ll like it.
    I’ll have to check out Bird by Bird myself. I’ve never heard of it.
    A beautiful book about writing is Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. Not exactly a beach or holiday read, but definitely inspiring.

  24. meigrowstall says:

    I read Life of Pi this summer actually! Its beautifully written and makes you think deeply about the importance of story. It also has interesting passages concerning religion, and I enjoyed how it made me evaluate my own beliefs! I recommend! And Pride and Prejudice is a must read! Elizabeth is a sassy woman you cant help but love and relate to. Even in 2012.

  25. Nindya says:

    My current favorites are anything by Neil Gaiman. He has this specific style in explaining things and telling stories, and I should admit, I love his style.

    Another one is Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of The Rose’. For thriller genre, I opt for Stieg Larsson’s trilogy 🙂

  26. Ha, I did the exact same thing with On The Road except that I was 19, but it was one of the most boring, here-are-the-events-of-this-time-in-my-life-in-consecutive-order book I’ve ever read. And The Help movie is of course not as good as the book but it does come close! Although I wouldn’t have cast Emma Stone, she’s a little weird in it. (And Bird by Bird is worth it!)
    Good beach reads:
    The Art of Racing in the Rain (major tears-inducing)
    Zoology by Ben Dolnick, one of my favorite books because it’s just so charming and light.
    Beach Music by Pat Conroy, especially great because half is set in Italy and the other half set in South Carolina! I loved it.
    Shadow of the Wind & Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a little darker and suspenseful but SO beautiful.
    Are you on GoodReads?
    Love, Rhonnie

  27. Rachel H says:

    ‘The Life of Pi’ is definitely worth it, and I had a similar experience with ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’. Please tell me you’ve read ‘Wuthering Heights’, though?!

    Two of my favourite books at the moment are ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith and ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ by Susanna Clarke. Possibly both a bit heavy to read on a beach, however…

  28. I loved “Blue Like Jazz” but “Searching For God Knows What” is still my favorite Donald Miller book.

  29. I totally get what you mean about being forced to read books. I’m so glad I didn’t read Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice in high school. Jane Eyre was one of the best books I have ever read and I wouldn’t have liked it if I hadn’t read it on my own.

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