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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Arms and the Man by Bernard Shaw

Title: Arms and the Man (play)

Author: George Bernard Shaw (Irish, 1856-1950)
Originally published: 1894
Page count: 71

Dates read:
2022 book goal progress: 16 out of 21

Back to the Classics category: x
Mindful Readers' Family Bookclub 
genre/theme: July - Romance

Read my other book reviews for
my 2022 goals HERE.

Description on back of book:
One of Bernard Shaw's most glittering comedies, Arms and the Man is a burlesque of Victorian attitudes to heroism, war, and empire. In the contrast between Bluntschli, the mercenary soldier, and the brave leader, Sergius, the true nature of valor is revealed.

First line:
CATHERINE [entering hastily, full of good news] Raina! [She pronounces it Rah-eena, with the stress on the ee] Raina! [She goes to the bed, expecting to find Raina there]. Why, where - ? [Raina looks into the room]. Heavens child! are you out in the night air instead of in your bed? You'll catch your death. Louka told me you were asleep.

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 5/10 - ⭐⭐⭐/5
Characters      - 6
Atmosphere   - 5
Writing Style - 4
Plot                - 5
Intrigue          - 6
Logic             - 4
Enjoyment     - 5
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

Overall, I found this play to be meh. I didn't find it particularly funny, but maybe it'd be different if I saw it performed. I enjoyed the Don Quixote references. I tried reading the other 3 plays in Shaw's collection of Plays Pleasant, but I just couldn't get into them.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Shaw have the last words:

"He did it like an operatic tenor. A regular handsome fellow, with flashing eyes and lovely mustache, shouting his war-cry and charging like Don Quixote at the windmills. We did laugh."

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton

Title: The Man Who Was Thursday

GK Chesterton (English, 1874-1936)
Originally published: 1908
Page count: 181

Dates read:
2022 book goal progress: 15 out of 21

Back to the Classics category: Classic set in a place you'd like to visit. (London, England)
Mindful Readers' Family Bookclub 
genre/theme: June - Thriller

Read my other book reviews for my 2022 goals HERE.

Description on back of book:
The story centers around seven anarchists in turn-of-the-century London who call themselves by the days of the week. Fearing an impending act of terrorism, Gabriel Syme is sent by Scotland Yard to infiltrate their ranks by becoming "Thursday." Elected undercover into the Central European Council of Anarchists, Syme must avoid detection and save the world from future bombings.

First sentence:
"The suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, 
as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset."

Favorite quotes:
"The stranger who looked for the first time at the quaint red houses could only think how very oddly shaped the people must be who could fit into them. Nor when he met the people was he disappointed in this respect. The place was not only pleasant, but perfect, if once he could regard it not as a deception but rather as a dream. Even if the people were not 'artists,' the whole was nevertheless artistic... A man who stepped into its social atmosphere felt as if he had stepped into a written comedy."

"Through all this ordeal, his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one."

"Bad is so bad that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good that we feel certain that evil could be explained."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 5.1/10 - ⭐⭐⭐/5
Characters      - 8
Atmosphere   - 5
Writing Style - 7
Plot                - 6
Intrigue          - 4
Logic             - 2
Enjoyment     - 4
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

I was not impressed by this book. I found it very predictable, yet had an unexpected spiritual twist in the end, which felt forced and like it didn't belong with the rest of the book. The ending was strange and abrupt - and overall just didn't make sense. I did enjoy the dark humor in the book, but it didn't make it worth the read.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let GK Chesterton have the last words:

" 'My God!' said the colonel. 'Someone has shot at us.'

'It need not interrupt conversation,' said the gloomy Ratcliff. 'Pray resume your remarks, colonel. You were talking, I think, about the plain people of a peaceable French town.'

The staring colonel was long past minding satire. He rolled his eyes all around the street. 'It's extraordinary,' he said, 'most extraordinary.'

'A fastidious person,' said Syme, 'might even call it unpleasant.' "

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Brave African Huntress by Tutuola

Title: The Brave African Huntress

Amos Tutuola (Nigerian, 1920-1997)
Originally published: 1958
Page count: 169
Dates read: 5/30/22-6/4/22

Read my other book reviews for my 2022 goals HERE.

Description on back of book:
This is the story of Adebisi, a brave African huntress who sets out for the Jungle of the Pigmies to rescue her four brothers. Along the way, she conquers a giant, serves as the barber to a king, and endures the horrors of the pigmies' prison. Yet she will not give up. By employing her strength and intelligence, she finds a way to release her brothers and returns home to a hero's welcome.

First sentence:
"I Adebisi, the African huntress, will first relate the adventure of my late father, one of the ancient brave hunters, in brief."

I just could not get immersed in the story. I applaud Tutuola for writing a book in his second language, but I reworded every sentence in my head as I was reading. He overused the words 'like,' 'that,' and 'etc,' which became annoying. I wish he had written in his native language and then had the book translated. The story was also written more by telling rather than showing, which kept me from being immersed as well. I decided there were other books I wanted to read and didn't finish this one.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Amos Tutuola have the last words:

"The leaves on the tree on which I hid were so covered me that if I did not climb this tree on the presence of somebody there was nobody who could believe that I was there. Then everyone of us kept as quiet in his or her hiding place and stopped talking as when the heavy rain stopped the voices of birds."

Sunday, May 29, 2022

On Stories by CS Lewis

Title: On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature 

Author: CS Lewis (British, 1898-1963)
Originally published: 1937-1968
Page count: 261

Dates read: 5/3/22-5/15/22; 5/24/22-5/29/22
2022 book goal progress: 14 out of 21

Back to the Classics category: Nonfiction Classic
Mindful Readers' Family Bookclub 
genre/theme: x

Read my other 2022 book reviews HERE.

Description on back of book:
While CS Lewis was a professor of literature at Oxford University, he was renowned for his insightful and often witty presentations on the nature of stories. This collection assembles 20 essays that encapsulate his opinions of specific authors, as well as his ideas about reading, writing, and/or critiquing fiction. Usually, the genre involved is specifically children's stories, fantasy/fairytales, and/or science fiction.

Contents (and short notes):

1. On Stories (1947)
    -This was hard to wrap my head around. I didn't understand 'Story' vs. 'story.'
2. The Novels of Charles Williams (1949)
3. A Tribute to ER Eddision (1968)
4. On Three Ways of Writing for Children (1952)
    -This was one of my favorites!
5. Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to be Said (1956)
    -Much of the same as the previous essays.
6. On Juvenile Tastes (1958)
7. It All Began with a Picture (1960)
8. On Science Fiction (1955)
9. A Reply to Professor Haldane (1946)
10. The Hobbit (1937)
11. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1955)
12. A Panegyric for Dorothy L Sayers (1958)
    -This was not as positive as I would expect something to be for a memorial service.
13. The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard (1960)
14. George Orwell (1955)
    -This compares 1984 with Animal Farm, of which, Lewis views the latter as far superior.
15. The Death of Words (1944)
    -I really liked this one! It's about how the meaning of words change over time.
16. The Parthenon and the Optative (1944)
17. Period Criticism (1946)
    -This is about GK Chesterton.
18. Different Tastes in Literature (1946)
19. On Criticism (1966)
20. Unreal Estates (1962)
    -Transcript of a recorded conversation between CS Lewis, Kingsley Amis, and Brian Aldiss.

Overall, it's a good collection. As would be expected, some were much better than others. They were collected together because they all follow a similar theme, which sometimes felt repetitive. He often uses the term 'romance,' which I believe he uses as a sort of synonym to 'fiction,' rather than meaning the 'romance genre' that we think of today. 

Some fun facts: Many people know that Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, but many don't know he actually wrote a Space Trilogy, which is quite fantastic. Did you know that CS Lewis died the same day President JFK was assassinated? Did you know that CS Lewis died the day before the very first episode of Doctor Who was aired? I wish we could have gotten his critique of the show!

Book suggestions:
Well, with critiquing a bunch of books, if nothing else, I have greatly expanded my list of books I want to read:

Voyage to Arcturus, Worm of Ouroboros, Wind in the Willows, Bastable Trilogy, Flatland, The Borrowers, Brave New World, Iter Extaticum Celeste, Sayers' detective stories, The Mind of the Maker, The Zeal of Thy House, Sayers' translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, Essays Presented to Charles Williams, She, King of Solomon's Mines, The Ancient Mariner, The Well at the Word's End, Deirdre, Sheckley's Sci-Fi shorts, Lucky Jim

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let CS Lewis have the last words with a multitude of quotes:

"Good stories often introduce the marvelous or supernatural, and nothing about Story has been so often misunderstood as this. Thus, for example, Dr. Johnson, if I remember rightly, thought that children liked the marvelous because they were too ignorant to know that they were impossible. But children do not always like them, nor are those who like them always children; and to enjoy reading about fairies - much more about giants and dragons - it is not necessary to believe in them. Belief at best is irrelevant; it may be a positive disadvantage." 
-On Stories

"It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one's adult enjoyment of what are called 'children's books.' I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more ) worth reading at the age of fifty - except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all." 
-On Stories

"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story." 
-On Three Ways of Writing for Children

"What shows we are reading myth, not allegory, is that there are no pointers to a specifically theological, or political, or psychological application. A myth points, for each reader, to the realm he lives in most. It is a master key; use it on the door you like." 
-Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

" 'But why,' (some ask), 'why if you have a serious comment to make on the real life of men, must you do it by talking about a phantasmagoric never-never land of your own?' Because, I take it, one of the main things the author wants to say is that the real life of men is of that mythical and heroic quality... And Man as a whole, Man pitted against the universe, have we seen him at all till we see that he is like a hero in a fairy tale?... The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores them to the rich significance which has been hidden by 'the veil of familiarity.' " 
-Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

LEWIS: I've never started [a story] from a message or a moral, have you?
AMIS: No, never. You get interested in the situation.
LEWIS: The story itself should force its moral upon you. You find out what the moral is by writing the story.
AMIS: Exactly. I think that sort of thing is true of all kinds of fiction.
-Unreal Estates

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Fun Statistics!

Here's my 100 Must-Read Books: An Inclusive List

How did I come up with the list?
Out of 898 books, 130 of them were mentioned in 3-10 of the 27 lists.

Then those were narrowed down to:
100 books total by 86 authors
39 books by female authors
36 books in translation (not originally written in English)
26 books by world authors
25 books written in English by white men

5 books in translation by female world authors:
23. The Tale of Genji (1012) by Murasaki Shikibu (Japanese, ~973-1031)
27. Like Water for Chocolate (1992) by Laura Esquivel (Mexican, 1950- )
51. The House of the Spirits (1982) by Isabel Allende (Chilean, 1942- )
66. So Long a Letter (1979) by Mariama Ba (Senegalese, 1929-1981)
98. Half a Lifelong Romance (1948) by Eileen Chang (Chinese-American, 1920-1995)
Overall (by a female) – 1. Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley (English, 1797-1851)
By a world author (and in translation) – 4. One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) 
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombian, 1927-2014)
By a white man – 9. Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce (Irish, 1882-1941)
Oldest overall book (in translation) – 24. The Iliad (~725 BC) 
by Homer (Greek)
Oldest by a word author - 45. One Thousand and One Nights (~750) 
by Unknown Collection (Middle Eastern and South Asian)
Oldest by a female - 23. The Tale of Genji (~1008) 
by Murasaki Shikibu (Japanese, ~973-1031)
Oldest in (Middle) English - 89. The Canterbury Tales (1300s) 
by Geoffrey Chaucer (English, 1340s-1400)
Newest overall book (in English by world female) – 55. The God of Small Things 
(1997) by Arundhati Roy (Indian, 1961- )
Newest in translation - 27. Like Water for Chocolate (1992) 
by Laura Esquivel (Mexican, 1950- )
Newest by a white author - 60. The Secret History (1992) 
by Donna Tartt (American, 1963- )
Newest by a man -100.  Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1991) 
by Haruki Murakami (Japanese, 1949- )
There are 3 authors that have 3 books on the list:
Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russian, 1821-1881) – ranked 10, 18, and 68
William Faulkner (American, 1897-1962) – ranked 63, 77, and 82
Virginia Woolf (English, 1882-1941) – ranked 3, 6, and 42
Dostoevsky and Woolf both had a 4th book removed from the list in order to allow for the recognition of other authors.
There are 8 authors who have 2 books on the list:
Joseph Conrad (Polish-British, 1857-1924)
Charles Dickens (English, 1812-1870)
Homer (Greek, BC)
James Joyce (Irish, 1882-1941)
Franz Kafka (Czechoslovak, 1883-1924)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombian, 1927-2014)
Toni Morrison (American, 1931-2019)
Leo Tolstoy (Russian, 1828-1910)
These 11 authors make up 25% of the entire list!
Of the 100 books, 39 are by women – 39%
Of the top 30 books, 15 are by women – 50%
Of the top 15 books, 9 are by women – 60%
Of the top 10 books, 7 are by women – 70%
Of the top 5 books, 4 are by women – 80%

36 books in translation


World Authors (24)
(NOT White North American or European)
White Authors (62)
(North American or European)
Basic Locations:Basic Locations:
North American – 7British / English – 20
South American – 5North American – 16
Asian – 4French – 7
African – 3Irish – 6
South Asian / Middle Eastern – 3Russian – 4
Australian – 2Greek – 2
Other European - 7
Detailed Locations:Detailed Locations:
American (USA) – 7American (USA) – 15
Argentine – 1British / English – 16
Australian / South African-Australian - 2British- Dominican / Indian /
             Polish / Zimbabwean – 4
Chilean – 1British-American-Indian - 1
Chinese – 1Canadian – 1
Colombian – 1Czechoslovak - 1
Indian / Middle Eastern / South Asian - 2French / French-Algerian – 7
Japanese – 3German - 1
Kenyan - 1Greek - 2
Mexican - 1Irish / Anglo-Irish / Irish-British – 6
Nigerian – 1Italian – 1
Peruvian-Spanish - 1Roman - 1
Senegalese – 1Russian / Russian-American – 4
Sudanese - 1Scottish - 1
Spanish – 1

Detailed Dates:
~725-24 BC (~700 years) – 4 books1910-1919 (10 years) – 4 books
~750-1472 AD (~720 years) – 4 books1920-1929 (10 years) – 8 books
~1600-1605 (~5 years) – 2 books1930-1939 (10 years) – 9 books
1726-1759 (~35 years) – 2 books1940-1949 (10 years) – 7 books
1800-1824 (25 years) – 3 books1950-1959 (10 years) – 7 books
1825-1849 (25 years) – 5 books1960-1969 (10 years) – 11 books
1850-1874 (25 years) – 10 books1970-1979 (10 years) – 5 books
1875-1899 (25 years) – 4 books1980-1989 (10 years) – 8 books
1900-1909 (10 years) – 3 books1990-1999 (10 years) – 4 books

How I Came Up with the List

How I Came Up with My List
(And my confession of blatant bias)
Here's my 100 Must-Read Books: An Inclusive List
STEP 1. Choose the lists to compile my own list off of.
I know most ‘best of’ lists tend to be biased towards books written in English by white men. In order to try to balance it out a bit, I decided I would base my list off of 5 lists of 100 in 3 areas.
General (biased towards white men writing books in English):
*500 book suggestions
-100 Best Novels – Modern Library
-100 Must-Read Classic Books - Penguin
-The Greatest Books of All Time – thegreatestbooks.org 
(I only counted the first 100 as of Jan 2022.)
-The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time – The Guardian
-100 Life-Changing Books – National Book Award
World (lists of World Literature, non-white authors, and books in translation):
*500 book suggestions
-Top 100 Works in World Literature – Norwegian Book Clubs
-The 100 Best Books of World Literature – ABC.es
-Top 100 World Literature Title – Perfection Learning
-The 100 Best Novels in Translation – Boyd Tonkin
-100 Must-Read Classics by People of Color – Book Riot
Female (lists of books by female authors):
*502 book suggestions in 6 lists – Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, I had a hard time finding lists of 100 for female authors.
-The 107 Female Authors Everyone Should Have on Their Bookshelf - Stylist
-102 of the Greatest Books by Female Authors – List Challenges
-100 Must-Read Classics by Women - Book Riot
-The Best Female Authors of All Time (100) - AbeBooks
-Must-Read Books by Women (53) - Penguin
-40 of the Best Books for Women Written by Female Authors – rd.com
STEP 2. Compile a list of all the books and tabulate an initial order.
I went through all the links above and typed the books into a spreadsheet. Each book got 1 line and I kept a tally of how many of the links listed it. Out of the 898 books from the 16 lists, 130 of them were mentioned in 3-10 of lists.
To come up with the order, I first looked at which books were mentioned by the most links. Within those that had the same amount, I marked a 1-3 rank based on how many of the 3 ‘types’ of links it had (General, World, and Female). Then, within those that were the same, I went off the averaged rank from links. That’s how I came up with my initial list – but there were still edits to be made.
STEP 3. I took books off the list for various reasons.
This is where my own bias started to take part. As this is my own list that I’m not being paid to make nor am I doing this as a school assignment, I am taking the liberty to remove books that I don’t think should be on the list. Unless otherwise noted, the book was simply removed from the list and the next book took its place. Click the links to read my reviews.
1. Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte (English, 1818-1848) – The ONLY book mentioned on 10 links – all other books were 9 or fewer.
Jane Eyre (#5 on the list) by Charlotte Bronte is one of my all-time favorite novels and I decided to read all the Bronte sister novels. Out of the 7 books, most were average and Wuthering Heights was… HORRIBLE (in my humble opinion). I’ve heard people either love or hate the book and I definitely fall solidly into the ‘hate’ camp. Now, to be honest, if it wasn’t for my nostalgic bias towards Jane Eyre, I’d probably have to admit that Anne Bronte’s The Tenant ofWildfell Hall is actually the better of the two. I’m appalled that only 1 link mentioned the book. I decided to add Tenant to the bottom of my list in place of Wuthering Heights.
28. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain (American, 1835-1910)
I couldn’t even finish the book – that’s how bad Huckleberry Finn is/was to me. I respect Twain as an author and wanted to include another of his books in place of this one. The next one on the extended list was The Prince and the Pauper, which I added to the end of my list of 100 – even though it was only mentioned by 1 link.
36. The Bible
I do not feel comfortable including scriptural texts in this kind of list.
40. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J.D. Salinger (American, 1919-2010)
I did not like this book.
72. White Teeth (2000) by Zadie Smith (English, 1975- )
For a book to be on a ‘best of all-time’ list, it has to be around for a while. I decided to have my list be from the 20th century and earlier – which this book just barely missed.
95. The Possessed (1872) by Fodor Dostoevsky (Russian, 1821-1881)
He had 4 books on the list; I decided I wanted to give another author a chance instead.
97. A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf (English, 1882-1941)
She had 4 books on the list; I decided I wanted to give another author a chance instead.
STEP 4. Check the diversity of the list.
I wanted to have at least 25 books in translation, 25 books written by females, and 25 books in the ‘World’ category. I met the mark in both translation and females… but was still short (by 11!) in my World category. I also realized I didn’t have any Australian authors on my list. I expanded the meaning of this category to include any author who does NOT live in North America or Europe – except if they are a person of color.
I found several more links in order to add tallies to my existing book list. Then I retabulated my list to make sure 11 additional ‘World’ books were put onto my list.
Additional links:
-100 Best African Books of All Time – Short Form
-Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century – ASC Library
-10 Essential African Novels – Publishers Weekly
-100 Must-Read Books by Asian Authors – Book Riot
-35 of the Best Books by Asian Authors – Woman’s Day
-25 Books That Will Transport You Through Asia – Lonely Planet
-100 Must-Read Australian Books – Book Riot
-Top 50 Australian Books – List Challenges
-100 Must-Read Latin America Books – Book Riot
-Top 20 Latin American Books to Read Before You Die – Latin Times
-10 of the Best Latin American Novels – The Guardian
STEP 5. Double check the diversity of my list.
At this check, I now had at least 25 books in translation, 25 books by females, and 25 books by world authors. I decided to check how many books originally written in English by white men were on my list… and there were fewer than 25. So, I decided to finagle the list once again, playing with the books numbered 80-120 and… I finally had my official list of 100!
100 books total by 86 authors
39 books by female authors
36 books in translation (not originally written in English)
26 books by world authors
25 books written in English by white men

5 books in translation by female world authors:
23. The Tale of Genji (1012) by Murasaki Shikibu (Japanese, ~973-1031)
27. Like Water for Chocolate (1992) by Laura Esquivel (Mexican, 1950- )
51. The House of the Spirits (1982) by Isabel Allende (Chilean, 1942- )
66. So Long a Letter (1979) by Mariama Ba (Senegalese, 1929-1981)
98. Half a Lifelong Romance (1948) by Eileen Chang (Chinese-American, 1920-1995)
Check out: More fun statistics!