Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bucket list of books to read (and those that I recommend to others)

These are some books that I'd like to read.
"Bucket list" is perhaps the wrong term to use, as I do plan to read the books on this list well before the end of my days. However, there isn't a sufficient term to describe the time frame of "longer than a few months, but not longer than a year and a half." Suffice to say, I'm giving myself 14.2 months to have read everything on this list. I give permission to everyone reading this to call me or Facebook me or tweet at me or show up at my place of residence at the end of 14.2 months to ask me if I've read all of these books. If I say yes, give me a handshake or a hug, but if I say no, then you may grimace or bite your thumb at me.

I've also written down some of the books that I have read and that I recommend to others, as said books have had an effect on me in one way or another. Though not an exhaustive list, all that are listed are pretty great, in my opinion.

In no particular order, on my "to-read" list:

  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Recommended reads:

  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan - This book, which I've read twice, captures experiences in the lives of three generations of Chinese-American women from four different families. Joy Luck Club is extremely well-written, and had such poignant, moving passages that I felt like I knew each character, and cried a few times while reading the book. I also recommend watching the movie after reading the book, as it complements it perfectly.
  •  Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell - This is a tome if I've ever read one. My mom urged me to read this in seventh grade, saying that I would love it and be incredibly moved by it, just as she was when she read it. First off, let me say that I was moved by the book - very much so - but I don't love it. Why? It's an emotional roller coaster encompassed within a few hundred pages, that's why. It's a powerful novel that charts the journey of Scarlett O'Hara, a beautiful and spoiled Southern belle, throughout a series of struggles that come upon her as a result of the Civil War breaking out in her previously peaceful home. Scarlett's stubbornness is the quality that both helps and hinders her throughout her life, and her relationships with the other characters throughout the book are either blighted or encouraged because of it. I cried a few times as I read this book, as author Margaret Mitchell knew exactly how to perfectly capture human responses to life events, both those that are burdensome and those that are happy and uplifting.
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - I started to read The Fountainhead after having read The Anthem, both by Ayn Rand. At first, I was unsure of what the underlying themes of the novel were or what the various characters' dispositions meant in the overall plot, but I grasped and understood more as the novel went on. This is one of the few books that I've read where the protagonist is, at least at the beginning, not a likeable character, or one that is endearing to the reader. This is probably what intrigued me about the novel; the fact that I couldn't peg the main characters' intent, though I knew that he seemed to resonate a superior attitude amongst his peers. The initial confusion about which character I should like and why ultimately gave way to a deeper understanding of the human condition. I haven't seen the film based off of this movie, but that is on my "bucket list". 
  • The Anthem by Ayn Rand - I read this book in ninth grade and disliked it because I didn't understand it (and didn't seek to). When it was on the required reading list for my senior year AP English class, I told my teacher I wasn't reading it. He told me to read it again and promised that I would see it differently. And I did. The book is an ode, encrypted within a ton of symbolism, to individualism and the pursuit of personal, subjective beliefs. Didn't catch that on the first read. 
  • The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Krauss - Yes, it is light and frothy, but is is funny. Not in the obvious, in-your-face funny. Instead, the humorous parts come when they are least expected, prompting uncontrollable laughter in the reader (me) on several occasions. The book tells the story of a young, recent college grad who takes a job as a nanny to a young boy from a very wealthy New York City-based family. The outrageous things that she witnesses while in this family's employment are ridiculous, but oh so funny for the reader.
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin - This novel shows the increasing discomfort that the main character, Edna, finds with her Southern, upper class lifestyle. At a time in society when a woman's role was to use her assets to find a suitable husband, get married, have children, and take care of the household, Edna finds herself asking what else is out there for her. As she cautiously moves further outside of the accepted norms befitting a woman of her station in life, the reader sees how Edna copes with the resulting consequences. The ending passage was hands-down one of the most gut-wrenching scenes I have ever read.
  • The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf 
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - Set in a future society where books are illegal, and where television, which implements and fosters stupidity in its viewers, reigns supreme. One man, after witnessing a neighbor commit suicide rather than let government workers burn her books, becomes intrigued by the knowledge that he might find within the banned texts. His desire to learn sets off a chain of events that have him running for his life. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn. 
  • Pretty Little Dirty by Amanda Boyden - Set in Kansas City, Missouri, this book follows two best friends from their middle school years throughout early adulthood. One girl is a bon vivant, always living life close to the edge, while her friend, though not overly apprehensive, tends to be the follower, always living in the peripheral view of the former. Author Boyden expertly crafted characters and events within this novel that are well-equipped to bring about every emotional response that a reader is capable of having. Highly recommended. 
  • Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall - If this wasn't in your childhood library, you missed out. It's not too late to enjoy, though. 
  • Outliers by Malcom Gladwell - An interesting non-fiction read that details why the so-called "geniuses" and "wunderkinds" within our society have certain traits that have led them to incredible successes while majority of the world's population do not. There has been a lot of speculation about the accuracy and truthfulness of the ideas presented in the book, but it is nevertheless a great thought-provoker.
  • Don't You Just Hate That? : 738 Annoying Things by Scott Cohen - I laughed out loud in the bookstore as I read through the list of things in this book that annoy almost everyone in America. I will casually pick up this book from my bookshelf every few months because I know of the inevitable laughter that will follow. Seriously. Some funny points on the list include: 
    • When the driver pushes the unlock button but you pull the handle at the same time and remain locked out.
    • Walking by the same person that you've already walked past in the dairy, produce and frozen food sections.
    • Waking up with your arm numb and thinking, 'This time it's paralyzed.'
    • That the most intense laughter you have usually comes at the least appropriate time. 
    • High fives that don't quite come off right. 
    • When your eyes dart instinctively to the side because the man sitting across the aisle caught you staring at him, heightening your urge to look one last time. So you slowly pan your eyes back, only to be caught again, further intensifying both your desire to peek again and your fear of getting caught a third time.

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