What we’re reading…

I found a really cool book list on this site that’s been named “The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.”  Okay, I used to be “in to” the show “Gilmore Girls,” but even if I hadn’t, this list is great!  I think I’ll chip away at it when I have extra time on my hands (HA).

For reference:  I’ve bolded the ones that I’ve read within the past few years and also the ones that I read during my undergrad.  I figure that I probably got enough discussion about them and would rather concentrate on the ones that I haven’t read and considered before.  I will cross out the titles as I (re-)read them.  I’m putting asterisks next to my favorites – sometimes with notes!

1984 by George Orwell

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

*Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Archidamian War by Donald Kagan

The Art of Fiction by Henry James

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

*The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Babe by Dick King-Smith

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney

The Bhagava Gita

The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy

Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel

A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner

Candide by Voltaire

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer

Carrie by Stephen King

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman

Christine by Stephen King

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty

A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

Complete Novels by Dawn Powell

The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton

Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Cujo by Stephen King

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Deenie by Judy Blume

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx

The Divine Comedy by Dante

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

Don Quijote by Cervantes

Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn

Eloise by Kay Thompson

Emily the Strange by Roger Reger

Emma by Jane Austen

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Ethics by Spinoza

Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extravagance by Gary Krist

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore

The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan

Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien 

Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce

Fletch by Gregory McDonald

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger

Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers

Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg

Gidget by Fredrick Kohner

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford

The Gospel According to Judy Bloom

The Graduate by Charles Webb

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – probably my least favorite book, and the most over-rated novel of all time.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The Group by Mary McCarthy

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry

*Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare – this and Part I make up my favorite of Shakespeare’s Histories

*Henry V by William Shakespeare

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris

The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

How the Light Gets in by M. J. Hyland

*Howl by Allen Gingsburg

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

The Iliad by Homer

I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Inferno by Dante

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy

It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito

The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence

The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Love Story by Erich Segal

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

*The Manticore by Robertson Davies – another book in this trilogy, “Fifth Business,” is even better.

Marathon Man by William Goldman

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (TBR)

Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir

Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken

The Merry Wives of Windsro by William Shakespeare

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

*Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Miracle Worker by William Gibson

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin

Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor

A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman

Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret

A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh

My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken

My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest

Myra Waldo’s Travel and Motoring Guide to Europe, 1978 by Myra Waldo

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin

Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen

New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson

The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Night by Elie Wiesel

*Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan

Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell

Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Old School by Tobias Wolff

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan

Oracle Night by Paul Auster

*Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – pretty much all Atwood books are amazing. “Alias Grace” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” are my favorites.

Othello by Shakespeare

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan

Out of Africa by Isac Dineson

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche

The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Property by Valerie Martin

Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Quattrocento by James Mckean

A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall

Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

*The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman

The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien

R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton

Rita Hayworth by Stephen King

Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert

Roman Holiday by Edith Wharton

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

The Rough Guide to Europe, 2003 Edition

Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi

Sanctuary by William Faulkner

Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford

Say Goodbye to Daisy Miller by Henry James

The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd 

Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman

Selected Hotels of Europe

Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Several Biographies of Winston Churchill

Sexus by Henry Miller

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Shane by Jack Shaefer

The Shining by Stephen King

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton

Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Small Island by Andrea Levy

Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers

Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore

The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht

Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos

The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker

Songbook by Nick Hornby

The Sonnets by William Shakespeare

Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

A Streetcar Named Desiree by Tennessee Williams

Stuart Little by E. B. White

Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry

Time and Again by Jack Finney

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The Trial by Franz Kafka

The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Ulysses by James Joyce

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath (TBR)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (TBR)

Unless by Carol Shields

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker

What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles

What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

*The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion






For some of the reviews on this page, I’m going to make my response a little more personable and about me and the fam.  For others, I’m going to stick with a more professional standpoint for the sake of practice and perhaps publication!  If you want, feel free to let me know which type you find more useful!

The Tale of Desperaux.  By Kate DiCamillo.  Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering.  Grades 2–5 Candlewick Press, 2003.  271 pages.  Tr. $7.99, ISBN 978073625290; PLB $13.42, ISBN 9780763617226


            Born a disappointment to his mother and grown to become more of the same to all the mice at home in the castle, Despereaux sets his sights on a human world that isn’t aware it includes him… yet.  After falling in love with the Princess Pea, the royal offspring, Despereaux pushes the limits of his species and his slight stature to rescue the Pea from the clutches of vile revenge after it snatches her from her bed and hides her deep in the recesses of the castle.  “Being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread” quickly proves to be an understatement of the action in DiCamillo’s fantastic adventure.  This story is chalk-full of the purest kind of love, deadly battles of wits, and imagery that makes the reader shiver as Despereaux descends the steps into the dungeon and sigh with imagined memories of the salty taste in cook’s forbidden soup.  This novel will appeal greatly to those who enjoy Brian Jacques “Redwall” series, as it speaks of the heroic qualities that inspire children to dream through literature and then makes them miniature realities in the lives of its (sometimes furry) characters.  DiCamillo’s development of each character in her novel is exquisite, with the guiding (and very moral) tone of the narrator gently introducing even the most reprehensible characters in ways that ask the reader to empathize with them.  One cannot help but want justice for Miggery Sow, the dimwitted accomplice with cauliflower ears, who’s father sold her for “a handful of cigarettes, a red tablecloth, and a hen” (126).  The villain of the story, the rat Chiaroscuro, is made an unfortunate victim of his circumstance.  Expected to thrive in the evil darkness of the dungeon, Roscuro craves the light, and quickly discovers that rats are unwelcome in the bright places of the castle, thus birthing his twisted notion of seeking revenge on the young princess.  Although the novel contains scenes that might elicit fearful emotion from younger readers, especially as they are accompanied by Timothy Ering’s chilling illustrations in all their suggestions about the contrast between darkness and light, the endearing nature of Despereaux’s innocence, accompanied by the narrator’s soothing, explanatory approach, makes the plot one that will capture a child’s attention and then comfortably hold it.


The Dreamer

By Pam Munoz,  Illustrated by Peter Sis  Grades 3-8 Scholastic Press, New York:  2010. 372 pp.  978-0-439-26970-4  $10.28

Neftali Reyes is a dreamer in an place and time where dreamers are ridiculed and stripped of their whimsy early in life, often by their parents.  Readers watch the evolution of sensitive curiousity  in the inquisitive mind of this young boy who would grow to move the thoughts and emotions of the world as the Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Naruda.  As a small child, Neftali is struck by the inherent beauty of otherwise inconsequential objects.  His easily distracted focus and his slight physique make him a perpetual object of his father’s disdain.  With courage, conviction, and very little encouragement, Neftali takes his passion for beauty, his curiosity, and his skills in commanding the written word and shapes them into a talent that is  unlikely to be witnessed again in this world.  From Neftali’s attention to a growing collection of inspiring odds and ends to his quick-tempered, overbearing father, “The Dreamer” weaves together a collage of people and events that forever link readers to the imagination of young Naruda.  Munoz has not written a dry biography of a celebrity’s childhood, but rather has crafted a fictional memoir that may well carry more emotional truth than any true-to-life account.   Using language bursting with so much imagery that the reader practically salivates over the words, Munoz is brilliant in inspiring similar effects in her prose as grown-up Pablo Naruda does in his poetry.  Through the beautiful yet volatile lens of Chilean culture in the early 20th century, readers are able  to catch a glimpse of their own childhood fancies and to watch them grow into the driving force that they may have become.  The innocence and purity that abound in Munoz’s account of young Naruda will appeal to anyone looking to relive the most poignant moments of childhood, and to come through to the other side with a renewed sense of what it is to have hope and faith in the beauty of the world.

The Redwall Series, by Brian Jacques

I absolutely loved this series as a child!  To be honest, I have a vivid memory of walking into my elementary school’s library, marching to the fiction section, and stubbornly latching onto the thickest book that I could find.  The book was “Mattimeo,” the third book in the original trilogy, which begins with “Mossflower,” then goes to “Redwall,” and “finishes” with “Mattimeo.”  Each story is wonderfully epic yet totally accessible for school-age readers.  Honestly, I still get serious enjoyment out of reading them now, which I do outloud occasionally when I’m trying to wind Vivo down.  Each installment is its own, very complete and fulfilling plot, and each book is interwoven into the larger story of Redwall Abbey as a home to generations and generations of woodland creatures.  As befits the members of an abbey, Redwall’s residents are peaceful creatures, but Jacques’ stories show that, when pressed to protect their friends, his characters fights just as fiercely as the trained warriors that they are often up against.

“The Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry, and the Big, Hungry Bear,” by Don and Audrey Wood

Don and Audrey Wood are particular author/illustrator favorites of mine.  They have been the recipients of numerous book awards, not the least of which are appearances by multiple titles on the American Library Associatioon’s “Notable Children’s Books” list.  This book has always had a profound effect on me for its complete and immediate command of my attention… and Vivi’s.  The action of the book centers on the little mouse and his desperate mission to save his big, red strawberry from the big, hungry bear.  The narrrator guides the mouse by informing up of all the things that won’t help keep the bear from the coveted strawberry, while all the while the tension gets greater and greater as the reader senses the bear getting closer!  It wouldn’t be an exagerration to say that this book made me break out in a cold sweat in my youth.  Coupled with Don Wood’s beautiful, vibrant illustrations that humanize the strawberry almost as much as the mouse, this book is completely irrestistable as a re-read… and a re-read… and a re-read again.

“The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein

“Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak

“The Sign of the Seahorse,” by Graeme Base

“The Worst Band in the Universe,” by Graeme Base

2 thoughts on “What we’re reading…

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