It’s been quite a while since I posted my list of books to read before I’m 30, and I haven’t been particularly diligent about posting reviews for them, but I am still working my way through my list, in time for my thirtieth birthday. This post is a roundup of the books I’ve ticked off my list, along with a few thoughts about them. I was going to call it a classics reviews post, like one of the last times I did this, but not all of the books in this post are actually classics, so I went with an alternative title.
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
There was not enough singing in this book. Listening to the audiobook, I fully expected the narrator to break out into OomPahPah at any point. Never happened. Disappointing. Seriously, though, this is an excellent book. Thoroughly engrossing, and lots of depth that didn’t make it into the West End musical, but suffers from the same difficulty as other Dickens. You can really tell he was paid by the word. There is so much padding in this!
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
I thought I would hate this, for reasons that I think have something to do with my older sister having to study it in school, but actually I really liked this. Jane is a bit of a wimp sometimes, and she kind of just goes along with whatever someone tells her to do most of the time, but her love story with Mr Rochester was actually pretty sweet. Plus, every book I read that I associated with this genre – Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma – every time I read one of those, I spent much of the book wondering if this was the one with the wife in the attic. And Jane Eyre actually *is* the one with the wife in the attic! How exciting!
The Sign of the Four/The Hound of the Baskervilles/The Valley of Fear – Arthur Conan Doyle
The task I set myself says The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but what I actually took from this was that I needed to read all of the Sherlock Holmes canon. I had actually already read all of the short stories and one of the novels, so I had only three novels to read to complete this, but still, it was a task worth undertaking. My main takeaway from having read these novels is wow, was Conan Doyle racist. Like, really, really racist.
VoF: Three Stars, HotB: Four Stars, SotF: Four Stars
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
This was really fun, and I can see why it’s an enduring classic. Obviously it’s steeped in problematic narratives, racism, slavery acceptance, sexism, classism, but once you look past those, it’s quite a fun children’s adventure story. My god, though, there’s a lot of death in this. Pretty gruesome death, in fact. I’m not sure I’d want a child to read this. Probably a source of nightmares.
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
I have some doubts about how well an American man can write about the Japanese cultural experience of geisha, but putting that aside, this was quite an enjoyable dive into the life of Sayuri. I can definitely see why it spent two years on the NYT bestseller list after its release, and why it was made into a film (which I have yet to watch, but is on my to-do list). That said, though, it was very slow to start. I must have picked up and put down this book at least six times over the last two years, before finally committing to read it. It’s interesting, yes, but not exactly a compelling plot. I have mixed feelings about it.
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
You know, for all the fame that this book has, nobody ever talks about the last two voyages that Gulliver goes on. Everyone knows about Gulliver in Lilliput, and many people know about Gulliver in Brobdingnag, but I had never even heard of the names of Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan, much less the Land of the Houyhnhnms. No, okay, that’s a lie, I’ve heard of Japan.
In any case, there was much more to this than I expected, and it’s oozing with Swift’s satirical take on human nature, judgement, government, misogyny, prejudice, and factions. But it’s kind of lacking in, uh… character? So I didn’t love it.
Cover art montages for these posts are somewhat lacking in excitement, since most of them are public domain and just have librivox or iBooks covers. Nonetheless! I’m including it anyway. Because I want to.