Upon entering 2019, in an effort to better my person, reading more occurred to me as a worthy New Year’s resolution. It’s now September of 2019 and I can declare some success. 20 books on the year. Not all are run-based, either! (Well, so far 75% are of that genre.) Otherwise, I’m chipping away at 100 books I’m supposed to read before my expiration date. I’m relying on several websites offering such listings. They are from:
Also, this list of lists also includes it’s own list. Got that? (Link here.)
Of course, no one list fits best, and several overlap. In all, they are the source of my every selection. As I work through 100 books, I intend to rank them below based solely on personal enjoyment. However, no in-depth reviews a la the Runner’s Discourse home page (except for a brief opine, or perhaps, a quick “good with the bad”). So, correct, as of this brief, I’ve read 5 of these books. The task in front of me is long. Good! I intend to enjoy it. Cheers.
1. In Cold Blood
👍: True crime, masterfully composed. Unable to suggest a finer book. A worthy candidate for literary perfection.
👎: Capote occasionally approaches over analysis of a couple of thugs undeserving of such a degree of extrospection.
2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
👍: Is it the most eloquently written book? Unlikely, no. Still, consider the source of this work. A child. She clearly possessed a writing talent. The read also conveys her ability to charm. Is it the most important book? Ever? Perhaps, yes.
👎: Criticize Anne Frank’s torment? No, thank you.
3. The Hobbit
👍: Accurately described as a masterpiece of fantasy. Artfully the plot thickens, delivering an unforeseen conclusion, weaving in nearly every character from the entire journey. Enchanting.
👎: Having any familiarity with the related, early 21st century movies. While possibly providing context, could be considered a con (limiting the reader’s imagination).
4. Before the Coffee gets Cold
👍: A marvelous novel. Not too long. Not too short. In so many ways just right. Difficult to come away from this tale and not be jealous of the capacity, the depth, of author Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s imagination.
👎: Throughout, overly descriptive as it relates to people’s appearance. “On her feet were cord sandals.” Irrelevant. Also, did you know ghosts have to go to the bathroom exactly once a day? To that end, I cannot emphasis enough, just go with it.
5. The Road
👍: It’s a Mad Max-like world. A common man and his young son, navigating a disaster-stricken Earth. Frequent gripping content.
👎: The Road can be difficult to stomach. In a couple instances, horrific. And repetitive. Seemingly, more pages than not refer to… covered in ash, death everywhere, and it’s cold (ie, this is hell, ok, got it).
6. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
👍: Surprised it’s included above in a top 100 list? Same (thanks, Amazon). My 9 to 5 responsibilities rely on data analysis, and I’m a baseball fan. This book and I, a terrific match.
👎: Subject matter aside, it’s really very well written. So, unless you detest America’s past time and, yes, some concentration on it’s sabermetrics, I’ve difficulty envisioning readers not enjoying it. Movie’s a winner, too.
7. Lord of the Flies
👍: The book’s second half flows with great intensity. Most boy’s will be enthralled. Most men will fondly reminisce of boyhood adventures. A joy.
👎: The storyline’s totally void of anything female related. In a sense, it just doesn’t seem like much of a draw for half the human population.
8. A Wild Sheep Chase
👍: Author Haruki Murakami’s content flows like a silk sash in a gentle breeze. He engages the reader’s comprehension with ease. I pumped the brakes in my progression through the book. No hurry, enjoy it. A masterful story teller.
👎: Murakami can slightly stray into the bizarre. Sheep entering people’s bodies? What I’m saying is, fiction can be surreal, without being nonsensical. Go to edge, not over. Don’t stray TOO far into the Twilight Zone.
9. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
👍: A popular choice among the listings at the top of this page. Author Junot Díaz deserves praise. His diction’s unique (I wouldn’t refer to it as “Spanglish”, but it’s not NOT that, either). The novel has a very contemporary style. Mix pop culture, science fiction references, and the present day melting pot that is America. Fellow Gen X -ers rejoice! No shortage of laugh inducing passages, too.
👎: It can be brutal (rape, torture, murder, et al), and cruel (re, the behavior inflicted upon Oscar for much of his short life). Also, depending on your Spanish skills, some Spanish to English Googling may be needed.
10. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
👍: What can I say? I’m unabashedly a fan of Haruki Murakami’s written word. Upon cobbling together this list of ranked books, that carries a lot of weight.
👎: Otherwise, admittedly, I’m surprised this book made any of the 100-books-you’re-supposed-to-read websites (re, the Harvard list, see top of page). Albert Einstein was right. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” This book, is not that.
11. To Kill a Mockingbird
👍: Scout, Jem, and their dad, Atticus Finch. Author Harper Lee succeeds in building the personalities of the main characters, compelling the reader to increasingly appreciate them as the story unfolds.
👎: The novel’s set in 1930’s Alabama. Racial slurs abound. The incredibly unfortunate treatment endured by African-Americans is laid bare. Of course, that history should never be forgotten. Still, it’s painful, occasionally sucking the joy from an otherwise captivating read.
👍: Orwell’s writing ability had me quickly turning pages. His tone and clarity profound. His words easily conveyed. Must reading for anyone intrigued by political drama.
👎: The story describes an age of hopelessness. Life has little meaning for the people of Oceania. Orwell’s propensity for repeating the circumstances from which this sad state was borne, and continues to be mired in, can be tiring.
13. The Catcher in the Rye
👍: The good old days weren’t always good. We’ve all been the source of trouble (albeit, some more than others). The book espouses such considerations and can be relatable.
👎: Throughout, the main character, Holden Caulfield emits constant depression. The act grows old.
14. The Things They Carried
👍: A comparable literary version of the cinema’s Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. It’s a story line in the midst of a larger subject matter (ie, a soldier’s life in the Vietnam conflict). The telling of events can be just as startling as they are gruesome, or ugly.
👎: At times, the read can get pretty deep, in a philosophical sense. Personally, to ensure comprehension, that had me re-reading passages. Perhaps others would find themselves more adept at picking up author Tim O’Brien’s musings.
15. Animal Farm
👍: A short novel (to be fair, only so much can be said about wise, upright walking pigs). Also, an easy reading pleasure. Orwell’s ability to compel increases the page turning pace. Tremendous imagination.
👎: In hindsight, chasing “1984” w/ this read may have been a poor choice. The two books (same author) are too similar in tone, ideas, character development, etc.
16. Born To Run
👍: A running book included on one of the 100 lifetime book lists? Maybe there is a method to the madness… 🏃♂️ Link in book title delivers you to my extended review.
👎: Occasionally a bit long, tedious.
17. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven
👍: Five individuals have great impact on the direction of Eddie’s life; however, those same five people aren’t necessarily associated with any significance during his life’s journey. Simple and creative storytelling.
👎: Can evoke sadness.
👍: Junot Díaz churns out easy, fast reading. Entertaining. Here, he successfully expresses the experience of a Caribbean immigrating to the U.S., and the troubles therein (some self induced but not all). And before you know it, you’re past the last page, perusing the “Acknowledgments” and “About The Author”.
👎: Didn’t attain quite the same distinction, the splendor, of Díaz’s more recent fine read “…Oscar Wao” (reviewed on this page, too). Also, while there’s only brief passages dedicated to it, I could’ve done without the perverse, or just awkward, sexual-based writings.
19. Portnoy’s Complaint
👍: It’s intelligent. Humorous.
👎: Main character Alexander Portnoy’s a pervert. A freak. Every sexual fantasy you may have ever considered, Portnoy shouts his cravings for it from the hilltops. To that end, it becomes repetitive. To the extent that if you lose your page in the book, wherever you return to reading, you’re unlikely to have missed a beat.
20. On The Road
👍: The novel has good culture. There’s an education to be had here in the different mannerisms of our society, exposed by Sal Paradise’s travels down the east coast of the United States, into the South, across the Great Plains, and the West.
👎: Comprehending Jack Kerouac’s written word can be like putting your mouth to the proverbial fire hose. Occasional sentences that are as ceaseless as they are nonsensical. Oh yeah, and Dean Moriarty’s a dope.
21. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
👍: Credit author Douglas Adams for creating something remarkably unique. (As if his house being knocked down was going to be the most interesting part of Arthur Dent’s day..)
👎: Getting through the occasional, nonsensical talk can be especially arduous.
22. Cat’s Cradle
👍: Imaginative, maybe? Don’t give up on it as the book’s story development does improve in it’s later chapters. Best I got.
👎: Odd. Prepare to enrich your life learning about the fictitious religion “Bokononism”. Weird can be good. Like, Star Wars’ Yoda. Not so much for “Cat’s Cradle”.
23. Slaughter-House Five
👍: Main character Billy Pilgrim lives (mostly) in an alternative reality due to WWII induced post-traumatic stress disorder. Creatively, the reader’s taken along for quite the ride.
👎: Justifiably, some reviews declare the read to be entirely bizarre.
24. The Great Gatsby
👍: Oft-heralded as the most eloquently written novel. Ever. Remarkably sophisticated. It strikes me this was originally published in 1925.
👎: Personally, the dramatic ways of these wealthy people had little impact. Dull. A story from a very different time, when, perhaps, it’s contents were more shock provoking.
25. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
👍: An incomparable narrative. Frankly, that’s my least negative critique. A general description’s ruled out by this page’s quick-opine-by-design. Also, word count aside, I’m not at all certain my interpretation of the book would succeed. So, here’s the Wikipedia link.
👎: Throughout, I found it’s plot, or rather, plots (see wiki link above), requiring acute concentration of the intricacies of inconsequential passages. Still, I must dig deep! Surely there’s reason for this book’s acclaim! Whatever.
Sign outside Candia, NH USA’s Smyth Memorial Building (previously the town’s first library).