Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Enjoyed But Rarely Talk About


This week's topic is: Books I Enjoyed But Rarely Talk About

This week's topic is fairly straightforward, so I don't feel as though there's much explanation needed from me. This is a list of books that I love, but that for some reason don't come up in conversation nearly as much as they should, so let's dive right in!

Stoner
Stoner by John Williams
I read Stoner while I was in college and that was honestly the best time that I could've read it! It really meant a lot to me and I think about it fairly often. I think I may need to re-read it either this or next year...


"William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude. 

John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world." Goodreads


A Ladder to the Sky
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Most people might be aware of John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies and The Boy in Striped Pajames, but A Ladder to the Sky came out in 2018 and it was amazing! It didn't have quite the gut punch and emotional connection that The Heart's Invisible Furies had, but it was still a truly phenomenal read.
Review

"Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn't have is talent - but he's not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don't need to be his own. Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful - but desperately lonely - older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice's first novel. 

Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall..." Goodreads 


The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
I've read all of Candice Millard's nonfiction books that she's written so far and I have been glued to each and every one while reading. She has such a way of narrating these really fascinating pieces of history and I am immensely exceited for the book she's working on now, whatever it may be. The River of Doubt is about Theodore Roosevelt's journey in the Amazon rainforest (yes, you heard that right!) and it's incredible. She also has a book about Winston Churchill that I found really interesting, as well as a book about the assassination of James A. Garfield, which I highly recommend!
Review

"At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth. 

The River of Doubt—it is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron. 

After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, C├óndido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever." Goodreads


Killing Commendatore
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
I feel like most of Murakami's books don't usually come up a lot in discussion for me, which is odd since Haruki Murakami is aesily one of my favorite authors of all time and I've read most of his books by now. I chose Killing Commendatore because it's his most recent release and I absolutely loved it, it's probably actually one of my favorite of his books, which I know is somewhat controversial because it was pretty hit or miss for a lot of people. 

"In Killing Commendatore, a thirty-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a previously unseen painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors. A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art—as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby—Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers." Goodreads


Lucky Jim
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Lucky Jim is another novel set in an academic setting, but it is so full of the detail dry English wit and had me laughing so many times. I definitely need to re-read this one soon.

"Regarded by many as the finest, and funniest, comic novel of the twentieth century, Lucky Jim remains as trenchant, withering, and eloquently misanthropic as when it first scandalized readers in 1954. This is the story of Jim Dixon, a hapless lecturer in medieval history at a provincial university who knows better than most that “there was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.” Kingsley Amis’s scabrous debut leads the reader through a gallery of emphatically English bores, cranks, frauds, and neurotics with whom Dixon must contend in one way or another in order to hold on to his cushy academic perch and win the girl of his fancy. 

More than just a merciless satire of cloistered college life and stuffy postwar manners, Lucky Jim is an attack on the forces of boredom, whatever form they may take, and a work of art that at once distills and extends an entire tradition of English comic writing, from Fielding and Dickens through Wodehouse and Waugh. As Christopher Hitchens has written, “If you can picture Bertie or Jeeves being capable of actual malice, and simultaneously imagine Evelyn Waugh forgetting about original sin, you have the combination of innocence and experience that makes this short romp so imperishable.” Goodreads


The Crimson Petal and the White
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
This is one of my favorite books by one of my other all-time favorite authors, but I still think I don't necessarily mention it as often as I could. I would include all of Faber's books in this list, but I'm just picking one, though I recommend any of his books, including his amazing short story collections!
Review

"At the heart of this panoramic, multidimensional narrative is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter. Faber leads us back to 1870s London, where Sugar, a nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for escape to a better life. Her ascent through the strata of Victorian society offers us intimacy with a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters. They begin with William Rackham, an egotistical perfume magnate whose ambition is fueled by his lust for Sugar, and whose patronage brings her into proximity to his extended family and milieu: his unhinged, childlike wife, Agnes, who manages to overcome her chronic hysteria to make her appearances during “the Season”; his mysteriously hidden-away daughter, Sophie, left to the care of minions; his pious brother, Henry, foiled in his devotional calling by a persistently less-than-chaste love for the Widow Fox, whose efforts on behalf of The Rescue Society lead Henry into ever-more disturbing confrontations with flesh; all this overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all stripes and persuasions." Goodreads


The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
I actually picked this up in high school from a list of books that we could choose to read and make some report on. I chose this one because of my at-the-time interest in the Vietnam War and was not at all disappointed. This is a heavy, intense, and rather brutal story of tales from the Vietnam War, and I've read it multiple times already and probably will continue to do so in the future.

"In 1979, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato—a novel about the Vietnam War—won the National Book Award. In this, his second work of fiction about Vietnam, O'Brien's unique artistic vision is again clearly demonstrated. Neither a novel nor a short story collection, it is an arc of fictional episodes, taking place in the childhoods of its characters, in the jungles of Vietnam and back home in America two decades later" Goodreads


The World of Tomorrow
The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Matthews
Even though it's probably just considered historical fiction, I have an exceptionally difficult time figuring out how to describe this novel, sometimes, and I think that's probably why it doesn't come up a lot. That being said, I loved it and still very highly recommend it!
Review

"June 1939. Francis Dempsey and his shell-shocked brother Michael are on an ocean liner from Ireland bound for their brother Martin's home in New York City, having stolen a small fortune from the IRA. During the week that follows, the lives of these three brothers collide spectacularly with big-band jazz musicians, a talented but fragile heiress, a Jewish street photographer facing a return to Nazi-occupied Prague, a vengeful mob boss, and the ghosts of their own family's revolutionary past. 

When Tom Cronin, an erstwhile assassin forced into one last job, tracks the brothers down, their lives begin to fracture. Francis must surrender to blackmail, or have his family suffer fatal consequences. Michael, wandering alone, turns to Lilly Bloch, a heartsick artist, to recover his lost memory. And Martin and his wife, Rosemary, try to salvage their marriage and, ultimately, the lives of the other Dempseys. 

From the smoky jazz joints of Harlem to the Plaza Hotel, from the garrets of artists in the Bowery to the shadowy warehouses of mobsters in Hell's Kitchen, Brendan Mathews brings prewar New York to vivid, pulsing life, while the sweeping and intricate storytelling of this remarkable debut reveals an America that blithely hoped it could avoid another catastrophic war and focus instead on the promise of the World's Fair: a peaceful, prosperous World of Tomorrow." Goodreads


The Wicker King
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
This was such an odd but compelling and meaningful story. I'm never entirely sure how to classify it, so I don't include it in very many lists, I'm now realizing. I don't read a lot of YA contemporary, but this didn't really feel like a YA contemporary because of the unique way it's written and the sort of 'magical'-esque elements that were included and I really adored it.
Review

"When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not. August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.Goodreads


The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost WorldThe Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
So I could see this one coming up in conversation about nonfiction books or the like, but it doesn't come up as much as I'd like, which is a real shame! I had an amazing time learning more about dinosaurs and the earth's history in this book and highly recommend this to anyone even remotely interested in dinosaurs, I promise it'll draw you in.

"In this captivating narrative (enlivened with more than seventy original illustrations and photographs), Steve Brusatte, a young American paleontologist who has emerged as one of the foremost stars of the field—naming fifteen new species and leading groundbreaking scientific studies and fieldwork—masterfully tells the complete, surprising, and new history of the dinosaurs, drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy. Captivating and revelatory, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is a book for the ages. 

Brusatte traces the evolution of dinosaurs from their inauspicious start as small shadow dwellers—themselves the beneficiaries of a mass extinction caused by volcanic eruptions at the beginning of the Triassic period—into the dominant array of species every wide-eyed child memorizes today, T. rex, Triceratops, Brontosaurus, and more. This gifted scientist and writer re-creates the dinosaurs’ peak during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, when thousands of species thrived, and winged and feathered dinosaurs, the prehistoric ancestors of modern birds, emerged. The story continues to the end of the Cretaceous period, when a giant asteroid or comet struck the planet and nearly every dinosaur species (but not all) died out, in the most extraordinary extinction event in earth’s history, one full of lessons for today as we confront a “sixth extinction..Goodreads


Have you read any of these books? What books have you loved but find don't come up in conversation all that often? Let me know!

10 comments:

  1. I've heard so many good things about The Wicker King! I'll definitely have to check it out sometime :D

    My TTT

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  2. The Crimson Petal and the White was one I remember picking up in my 20s. I've reread it a couple times, too.

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  3. I've been meaning to read The Wicker King, I'm glad you mentioned it as a sort of reminder­čśü And I also loved The Crimson Petal and the White. I need to read more of Faber's books!

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  4. I'm glad you liked Stoner so much!

    My TTT.

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  5. Great list! The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs has been on my TBR for a while, so it's time I got around to it.

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  6. I loved Stoner and The Things They Carried too! I'm going to have to pick up a couple of the other books on your list to try

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  7. The River of Doubt sounds really good. I haven't read any of these yet.

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  8. I haven't read any of these, but I loved reading about them today. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. That dinosaur book looks fantastic, and I like the sound of Lucky Jim also.

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  10. I remember being curious about A Ladder to the Sky! And I LOVE The Wicker King.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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