Monday, December 26, 2011

2012 Book Challenge: Reader’s Choice

Happy Boxing Day!

After my relative lack of success in focusing on this past year’s self-imposed book challenge (The Great Unread), I’ve decided to let you, the reader, select the books for this year’s attempt.

The following are books I've started and put down, feel I should read, or just want to read full stop:

Any Human Heart (William Boyd)
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Fingersmith (Sarah Waters)
Gaudy Night (Dorothy L. Sayers)
Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)
Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)
The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)
Middlemarch (George Eliot)
Les Misérables (Victor Hugo)
Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens)
Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
Regeneration (Pat Barker)
Sea of Poppies (Amitav Ghosh)
The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes)
The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
To The Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf)
Les Trois Mousquetaires (Alexandre Dumas)
War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga)
Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)
The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)

If you would recommend any of these, please choose your favorite and vote in the poll in the sidebar. Then, tell me why I should read your selection in the comments below.

I will read at least the three top vote-getters as well as the three books with the most compelling comments. Results to follow in the New Year.

This is my most desperate hour. Help me, readers, you're my only hope.


John Marcher said...

I voted for Lolita, though being able to cast only one vote dismayed me- War and Peace and To the Lighthouse are also books you ABSOLUTELY MUST READ. Why these three, and why Lolita above all others? They are masterpieces of the genre and of their time and place. Lolita must be read twice, at least- there is simply too much too absorb in an initial reading to catch all of it. The characterization, the sense of detail, the language, surpass any other 20th century novel I know of after Wharton. W & P? The best book ever in my humble opinion. Skip the war essays if you must, but Tolstoy's ability to render life through these characters is mind-blowing. The translation matters- read the Maudes, who knew Tolstoy, or the new kids on the block whose names escapes me (they started with AK some years ago)- DO NOT read Constance Barnette or any other translation, please!

To the Lighthouse? Modernism at its finest- if you're only going to read one Woolf novel this is the one.

rboston said...

A Prayer for Owen Meany,I really enjoyed and while has plenty to talk about is probably not as meaty as some of the others, Like all Irving books things get tied up pretty nice and neat at the end.

I would read Lolita, Middlemarch, or Oliver Twist with you and do weekly or so online book club if that would at all be a motivator to get through it.

I really miss book club.

Tamara Skaredoff said...

I <3 Virginia Woolf, and I'd like to hear what you think of To the Lighthouse.

sumik said...

I would pick To the Lighthouse - or what Tamara said.

Amy Garvey said...

The Thirteenth Tale has a slightly slow start, but once you're in, it's a fantastic old-fashioned "tale". There's something a little bit timeless about it -- nothing in the plot really relies on an era to be told. It's not the most important novel in the world, but I found it to be a great and really enjoyable page-turner.

Sylvie said...

Wow, although I knew Marcher would push Lolita, I had no idea Woolf would take such an early lead. "Mrs Dalloway" was perhaps the most loathed book I read in high school and completely put me off ever wanting to read her again. Serves me right for putting on there I guess!

Note: I want a mix of pageturners, classics, and modern classics so your favorite doesn't necessarily have to be an "important" book, just a good read. Keep the opinions coming!

rboston, once I get the list established I will get back to you.

Polter-Cow said...

My vote goes to Midnight's Children! I still think about that book a lot, how it's a slice of Indian history wrapped in beautiful language about Indian kids with superpowers. I actually vote against The Thirteenth Tale, which failed to grab me and made me question whether I actually liked reading.

I also support Owen Meany and Lolita and would also throw in Crime and Punishment, as it was a classic book that showed me that classic books can be entertaining, engrossing reads.

WAIT WAIT WAIT I DIDN'T SEE IT ON THE LIST: The Shadow of the Wind is so great. Don't you love Dickens? It's totally Dickensian!

Fran Wilde said...

Seconding Midnight's Children because it's an amazing story and, as PC said, that slice of Indian history is rarely seen on American bookshelves. But oh so many good books on this list! Oryx and Crake, To The Lighthouse, Gilead, The Thirteenth Tale...

Jesse said...

I got The Shadow of the Wind last year for Christmas, and didn't like it very much at all, although it was given on the strength of his prior book, which I am now about to read (having gotten it this year for Christmas!), so we'll see.

And also having recently read Lolita, I feel good having read it, but felt dirty while reading it, if that makes sense.

I liked The Thirteenth Tale a lot, but wouldn't necessarily argue that it is Good.

For Gaudy Night, I might recommend already being a Wimsey/Vane fan, so if you haven't read any others, maybe do that first? Unless you really have a Thing for Oxford.

So of the things I've read, I guess I vote Owen Meany.

S. said...

I voted Crime and Punishment, as it was the first serious book I read. It was years ago, but I remember it as a gripping read.

I have just started Middlemarch now. I'm not far enough into it to give any impressions. I also really like Never Let Me Go, Wolf Hall, though they are very different in style.

I was supposed to have read To The Lighthouse in university, but I really have no recollection of whether I finished it, skimmed it, or abandoned it in English Major despair.

ab said...

HA! I had the same high school experience with "mrs. Dalloway" and the closest that I have come to Woolf since, was watching the move "the hours".

I vote for "War and Peace".. as you know, I haven't read it yet....but it is on everyone's annual list and it keeps repeating because no one ever finishes it. You can do it! You can be the cliche killer and read a classic among classics.

Sylvie said...

Wow. Lots of love for the classics! Thank you everyone who has voted and/or commented so far. Apologies if you've had trouble doing so.

Katie Crouch said...

I voted for War and Peace with my 2nd choice being Crime and Punishment (if you do read C&P you should also read Chad's novel). I love Russian lit. I have a copy of War and Peace ripped in half for easy portability if you'd like to borrow it. You can skim the war sections (I did) and revel in the peace. Happy New Year!

Jennifer said...

Don't bother with Oryx and Crake... I know my future claims to Canadianism are in jeopardy for saying so, but not all Atwood is worthwhile.

I've got a borrowed copy of The Sense of an Ending sitting downstairs that I plan on reading this week--so I'd like it if you read it soon, too. I've started Crime and Punishment twice this Fall but haven't finished it. I don't have a good excuse, because it is compelling. I fully intend to pick it up again in 2012 and continue reading it!

As for the others I've read on the list, A Prayer for Owen Meany is a personal favorite. Others are fun, such as Oliver Twist and Thirteenth Tale, but my vote is for A Sense of an Ending or A Prayer for Owen Meany. (Really, only one vote? You're tough!)

Radio Schmaydio said...

Lolita! Read that next!

Nanita said...

A Prayer for Owen Meany isn't just fun to read - it's a book that can stay with you a lifetime because it's about how each of our differences is crucial.

It's funny, of I were ever to teach a class on diversity, I'd use this book as part of my syllabus even though the diversity is not ethnic, it's characteristic. Anyway, this, "Mockingbird," "Grapes of Wrath," and a Peter S Beagle book called "I See by my Outfit" are my four most treasured books ever.

Sylvie said...

@Nanita Did my changing the comments to full page solve your login problems? It's apparently a known issue with IE at least.

p.s. I'm reading The Grapes of Wrath right now for my "Go West, Young Man" book salon in mid-January.

Nanita said...

Sylvie, I am writing on my iPad which I think uses Safari? It's still a pain to log-in using openID but the google log-in works. You're worth the extra effort. (As is Owen Meany!)

la maratonista (AKA Jenni) said...

I'm voting for all the ones that I *also* didn't make it through this year: Never Let Me Go, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Shadow of the Wind, War and Peace and The Master and Margarita. Guess I should make "The Great Unread" my theme for 2012 too!