LMNOP's 'Read As Many Books As I Can In One Year' Project
While I'm still finishing up last year's challenge, I wanted to get a start on my new project. Over the past few years, my fervor for reading has dwindled significantly. And it saddens me. Reading was a huge part of my life growing up, and I have college to thank for quelling my love of written/read word. I could reminisce endlessly about how, from an early age, illustrated books nourished my desire to draw; of smuggling parent-forbidden books into the house to read by flashlight; of the countless hours I spent drawing and listening to audio-books...
...but I won't bore you.
Instead, I want, this year, to read as many books as I can in order to jump-start my love again. In this, I am not strictly limiting the perimeters of what defines a book. Be it a short children's book, graphic novel (or decent comic issue/story), full-fledged novel, or set of encyclopedias, I will include them all, listing (as with last years challenge) a review discussing my thoughts toward it.
I would like to challenge myself to do a sketch for each book I read, but I won't make any promises. If you wonderful people have any suggestions (or books I should avoid), I'd love to hear them.
1. Hellboy: The Midnight Circus - Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, Dave Stewart
Even though Hellboy is by far my favorite comic creation, there are quite a few of his stories I have yet to read. I was blown away by The Midnight Circus, not only in terms of Mignola's ever enjoyable meshing of irreverent tone with ancient mythology but also in the fantastic art/coloring of Ducan Fegredo/Dave Stewart (whose style and color schemes (respectively) pay homage to what makes Hellboy great). It works both as a nugget of Hellboy's past (for avid readers of the comic) AND a sort of introduction to the character for newcomers (and a taste of the series as a whole (much like the short story Pancakes)).
2. Carrie - Stephen King
Having seen the original 1976 film adaptation beforehand, I wasn't in the dark about how the story of Carrie plays out. After finishing the book, though, something I was in the dark about (and something that was severely glossed-over/lost in the film(s)) is the amount of complex themes in the book. King masterfully sets up this story of puberty/telekinesis in a way that clues the reading into the eventual climax of the tale, but he does so in a way that encourages the reader to race to the end.
I do not mean that it makes the reader want to plow through for the sake of plowing through (as one might with an archaic novel); I mean that the prose is so expertly constructed (everyday speech mixed with the intertwined, complicated worries of the mind), and the themes so fully realized (the anxiety of puberty; the foolishness of youth; the trauma of abuse), that you'll arrive at the end before you'd like to. Add, also, that this is King's first foray into the world of published novels, and it's hard to view Carrie as anything but a modern classic.
3. Animal Farm - George Orwell
Though its narrative language is somewhat dated, Orwell's storytelling skills are on full display in Animal Farm (a short fable about animals rising up against their masters). Not once does he make stark comparison between the themes of the book and their relation to the events surrounding its publication, and there is not need to.
Animal Farm highlights/satirizes so many cultural pillars that it is, at times, hard to keep track of them all. The most relevant, unchanging theme, though, is the unfortunate cycle of conquest for an idyllic utopia. The answer that Orwell gives for this quest is simple: no such utopia can ever exist; in the presence of corruption and oppression there will always be an innate desire to overthrow it, and, inversely, in the presence of utopia there will always be, among some, a thirst to manipulate it.
I am only too glad that novels such as Orwell's were published before the rise of social censorship we are beginning to witness in society today.
4. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Although the repetitive nature of the story and imagery wore me down slightly at times, there's no denying the power behind the utter bleakness of the book. Even the title suggests the sparseness of the events in the novel, and yet McCarthy's prose is so eloquently composed that you can't help but view something as raw as the extinction of humankind as anything but beautiful and poetic. The messages in The Road are apparent throughout but aren't forced upon you through straightforward dialogue; as easy as it is to understand the world the author creates, there is also a sprawling vagueness, and, as much as it may seem contradictory, it actually adds to the experience of reading it. You need the focus to be on the characters (rather than the history behind how they came to be where they are) in order to feel their suffering so that you can rejoice in the small glimpses of hope that they stumble upon. Whatever small gripes I want to make about The Road are irrelevant compared to its importance as a work of art (and as urgent social commentary), and I continually recommend it to people who love to read and who, as the characters do, ponder the future of our species.
5. Blankets - Craig Thompson
In terms of imagery, Blankets is singular. Thompson pours so much of himself into this graphic novel that nearly every page aches with the emotions they communicate, and Blankets is elevated above most of its coming-of-age tropes because of it. A heartbreaking tale of love and lost faith, it never condemns its damaged characters nor the pursuits they chase after, choosing instead to focus on how the relationships we establish as young people can shape our perceptions of the world as adults. Thompson navigates the nearly 600 page recollection of his young life with painstaking detail and grace, and the reader is thrust forward effortlessly, retreading the journey alongside him, feeling, in tandem, his painful remembrances and personal triumphs. It's a must read for anyone interested in the power of the comics medium as a thoughtful examination of the human condition.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
7. Asterios Polyp - David Mazzucchelli
8. Blue Angel - Julie Maroh
9. Fables: Legends in Exile - Willingham, Medina, Leialoha, Hamilton
10. The Outsiders - S. E. Hinton
11. American Vampire Vol. 1 - Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Stephen King
12. Shopgirl - Steve Martin
13. Dolores Claiborne - Stephen King
(reading) 14. American Vampire Vol. 2 - Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Mateus Santolouco
(reading) 15. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
(reading) 16. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch - Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
On the Roster
- The Grapes of Wrath
- The Catcher in the Rye
- Watership Down
- Of Mice and Men
- A Tale of Two Cities
- Brave New World
- East of Eden
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- A Million Little Pieces
- Everything Is Illuminated
- Life of Pi
- Cloud Atlas
- White Teeth
- Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West
- Hocus Pocus
- Catch 22
- (finish) Cat's Cradle
- Fight Club
- (finish) A Clockwork Orange
- (finish) This is a Book
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series
- Something Wicked This Way Comes
- The Stand
- 'Salem's Lot
- The Shining
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
- The Girl Who Played With Fire
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
- The Dead Zone
- No Country For Old Men
- The Cuckoo's Calling
- The Green Mile
- Carter Beats The Devil
- Player Piano
- (finish) The Sirens of Titan
- Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!
- (finish) The Martian Chronicles
- American Gods
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
- Goodbye, Chunky Rice
- Black Hole
- American Vampire
- The Diary of Anne Frank
- Killing Yourself to Live