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The Great Gatsby

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Year: 1926

It’s the funniest thing Old Sport…

This book is very short (140 pages). It is narrated by a third party observer, Carraway, who observes the events that happen between Gatsby, Tom and Daisy. Gatsby is a self-made millionaire who is deeply enamoured with Daisy.

This book is set in the 1920’s and shows the extravagance of that age. The parties that Gatsby throws reflect the fast pace industry and wealth of America at the time. There is also a cynical overtone to the book which culminates at Gatsby’s fate.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I recommend that you read it.

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Gulliver’s Travels

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Title: Gulliver’s Travels
Author: Jonathan Swift
Year: 1726

When bending mine eyes downwards as much as I could, I perceived it to be a human creature noy six inches high, with a bow and arrow in his hands, and a quiver at his back

This tale is also very well known to most people. An abridged version can usually be found being told to children throughout the world.

Most people know about Lilliput and Brobdingnag, but these are only half the novel. Gulliver also spends time in Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and the country of the Houyhnhnms.

I really enjoyed the parts of the book where Swift is clearly attacking society and its values. There is a particularity good chapter where he blasts lawyers and there profession. This novel is a light read, even the full version, but it is enjoyable and fun none the less.

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A Farewell to Arms

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Title: A Farewell to Arms
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Year: 1929

‘What do you think of the war really?’, I asked.
‘I think that it is stupid’

What is with Hemingway and his depressing endings?

The basic plot of the story is an American, Lieutenant Frederick Henry, fighting for the Italians against the Austrians in World War 1. It is a story of tragic fatalism where the entire novel foreshadows the events of its ultimate conclusion. The novel brings us through Fred’s pivotal events of his wartime experience. He becomes injured early on, finds love, recovers and eventually abandons the war altogether.

Overall I find Hemingway to be an enjoyable read. I find his prose clean and succinct. This book is probable his best.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Title: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Year: 1941

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a
Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor
of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans
death diminishes me, because I am in-
volved in Mankinde; And therefore
never send to know for
bell tolls; It
tolls for thee.

I really like this book. For the most part, it tells of the brutality of oppression and war. It also attacks the morality and actions of both sides of the war. I have a particular sympathy for the book, since I visited the Spanish Civil War exhibit at the Imperial War Museum. Hemingway was a journalist for the Americans, and spent some time in Spain during the war.

It tells of a soldier, Robert Jordan, who is fighting for the republic in the Spanish Civil War. It takes place over two days, and is filled with suspense, action, love, and politics.

Sometimes, Hemingway romanticizes the war and Jordan’s place in it. But most of the time the war and its perils are brutal and clear. I defiantly recommend anyone to read the book. Word of caution: it might be a little heavy for younger readers.

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Don Quixoté

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Title: Don Quixoté
Author: Miguel de cSaavdra
Year: 1605

If in case the gentlemen should want to know who the valiant hero is who put them to flight, your worship may tell them, that he is the famous Don Quixoté de la Mancha, otherwise surnamed the knight of the rueful countenance.’

What is there to say about this novel? From the painful first chapters, to the excellent ending it is a most unique read. The author continually makes mistakes in his tale, and sometimes is completely diverted from telling the real story.

This is the tale of a haphazard knight-errant and his loyal squire. The main issue with the knight is that he is completely mad when it comes to chivalry. In all other regards, he is perfectly sane and even wise. There is quite a bit of comedy surrounding his adventures, or more accurately his misadventures.

This novel is pretty long. It drags in some sections, and some of the areas that are supposed to be humorous are just pathetic. There are quite a few blaring mistakes in the novel that adds to the overall tone of the tale. It is also easy to see the progression of the author throughout the book, as he moves from an inexperienced to a professional tale-weaver. Overall, a good read but I did not find it as good as I was expecting.

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The Divine Comedy

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Title: The Divine Comedy
Author: Danté
Year: circa 1300 A.D.

Then Beatrice regarded me with eyes
So full of sparkling love and so divine,
That all my strength was overwhelmed and fled,
And I with downcast eyes was almost lost.

This book is not light reading. It is a long poem, where the poet, Danté, is guided through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise in order to save his soul. Since it is written in prose, it does not rhyme, but even when it is translated into modern English, the reading is sometimes heavy, requiring a few pass-throughs to absorb.

There are a lot of mythical and religious overtones to this poem. The imagery is very vivid, and Danté is an exceptional storyteller. There is no doubt about this being a classic!

I recommend this book if you enjoy such works as The Iliad or The Aeneid. It is also important to get a good version, so that you can understand everything that Danté is trying to convey. In the version that I read, there are a lot of endnotes explaining some of the more obscure references and imagery.

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The Count of Monté Cristo

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Title: The Count of Monté Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dümas
Year: 1844

Wait and hope.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters are deep and multi-faceted. At various times in the novel you feel pity, sorrow, envy, joy, dislike and other emotions towards Edmond Dantés (the main character.)

The book is pretty large (over 1000 pages), but it reads well and never drags. The final chapters of the book are exceptionally exciting as events and plans come into fruition. There are even a few unexpected twists that are vaguely foreshadowed at the beginning of the book.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a thrilling tale with action, suspense betrayal and revenge.

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The Catcher in the Rye

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Year: 1945

If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a little quirky, and I can see why this book is supposed to be well liked by schizophrenics. The narrator is a 16 year old boy who never seems be able to keep focused on one topic.

The book is pretty short, I finished it in 2 days. There is a dark humour in the writing that I particularity enjoyed.

A good book. Read it if you have a little amount of time, it’s over before you realize it.

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Catch-22

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Title: Catch-22
Author: Joseph Heller
Year: 1961

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.

This novel spends most of its time mocking war and its institutions. Even the title makes fun of the ridiculous bureaucracy of the military. Mixed in with the comedy is a dark tale of death and the realities of war which adds tremendous depth to the read.

The primary character in the story is Yossarian, a man who is afraid that he will be killed in the war. The book takes us through his plights, his adventures and his realisations regarding the war and his place in it.

Catch-22 is a great read. Some of the humour and paradoxes that Heller creates are brilliant, but they are tempered with occasional moments illustrating the horror of war.

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Atlas Shrugged

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Title: Atlas Shrugged
Author: Ayn Rand
Year: 1957

Who is John Galt?

Atlas Shrugged is one of my favourite books. Not only does it tell an excellent story, the philosophical premise behind it is intriguing and thought provoking.

The main character in the book is Dagny Taggart, who is an industrialist struggling to survive in an anti-industrial world. The story is used to explain and illuminate Ayn Rand’s intriguing philosophy of Objectivism.

I highly recommend that everyone read this book. In fact, in 1991 in a joint survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged ranked second (to the Bible) on a list of “books that made a difference” in peoples’ lives.

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