13 July 2014

Book list beef

Maybe because it's summer but I've been seeing a lot of book lists. 30 books to read before you are 30. The 100 books you must read before you die. Beach reads. Books to read before the movies come out. 14 books to read if you loved "fill in the blank". Etc, etc.

I don't mind lists and clearly I've been looking whether I fit the profile or not. Perhaps I'm nosy and wonder what books would have made me different in my 20s, right? Those lists often seem to full of grandiose ideas, accusations of intolerance, and books I've never heard of. Something must be odd about me.

I was on one of those lists of 100 something or others. It was not just classics but a mix and I felt very smug to discover that I had just started one of the books on the list. I also really love it when one of my favorite books is on a list as well.

The other thing I seem to run into is that books I tried and really disliked are on the list too. What do I do with that? It always makes me feel somewhat defective. If I were a REAL reader, I would love all those 100 marvelous important essential reads, right?

So the book in question that I saw this particular day was Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is a historical saga of the 12th century. Those who have read my blog may recall that even though I end up liking historical books once I get into it, they are not my immediate go to.

We had a friend who really liked Pillars of the Earth (pre-online lists) and I had picked it up used and left it on the shelf. This spring I had a massive amount of travel and read quite a few books on my reader and thought a paper book was in order as I would be in house for a while.

I usually read a novel in a week if I'm not super busy or a couple weeks if I'm writing as well as going to my day job. Historicals, nonfiction, and something that I'm not enjoying will take me much longer. I'm just not driven to see what happens next like I am in my beloved murder and suspense books. It took me forever to get thru Unbroken, that poor man was stranded forever and I just couldn't seem to help him get anywhere better as I read.

Well, Pillars is a HUGE book -- 983 pages. That was one issue. Then the theme from medieval times wasn't luring me back to the page daily. Then every time I picked it up someone else got brutalized and it was just too depressing. (I know, my significant other asks, and murder isn't? I can't explain how that works in my head.)

Now don't get me wrong. It is an epic book and it is well written indeed. I did finally cross the finish line after an embarrassing amount of time. The bad guy that I really wanted to get it big time just got fat and old. I did miss some of the characters when it was over especially as I had passed a long period of time with them in my slow reading. Just not my cup of tea.

Clearly somewhere I am in the minority because I've seen this on more than one book list. So I'm fascinated what brings a book to those great heights? Is it the epicness - the length? Long lasting sales? TV series? Clearly not because the lists also have a few obscure books that are brilliant but not in the limelight.

Amazon says re their top 100, "We had a few goals when we started out: We wanted the list to cover all stages of a life (which is why you'll find children's books in here), and we didn't want the list to feel like homework. Of course, no such list can be comprehensive – our lives, we hope, are long and varied – but we talked and argued and sifted and argued some more and came up with a list, our list, of favorites." Top 100

I was fascinated about the clamor surrounding Gatsby as the film came out. Even when I was younger and read it, I didn't get people's robust enthusiasm for it. He's not a character I enjoyed spending time with and I was relieved it was over.

Then there are books on the list in genres you just know you don't enjoy reading. What do you do with that? Sometimes I have read them -- but I often find that it's a struggle as it's not my taste and in the end I didn't like it. As I get more into the middle of life, I think I may run out of time to read all the amazing books out there and I'm not going to beat myself up about reading things I can see I won't enjoy.

It's cheating but sometimes when something becomes a huge phenomenon, a la Hunger Games or Harry Potter, I'll watch one of the films to get the idea of the story. I KNOW it's not the same before you shout that out, but it gives me the idea of the storyline and the characters that people are all abuzz about and I can follow conversations about it.

This has got me toying with the idea of what my top books list would be like or perhaps my to-read list would look like. I don't buy too much hot off the presses for financial reasons so I'm not the girl to do the "Best Books of 201X."

Lists I find helpful are if you liked this...you'll like this other one. Maybe I'll start polling people on some of my favorites and make lists for my own exploration based on the good ol' word of mouth (all be it virtual!)

What book is YOUR must read recommendation?

Top ones that come to mind: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (Classic); Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier (Classic and Suspense); Where are the Children? Mary Higgins Clark (Suspense); A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle (Travelogue).

Know any like these?