Top 100 Books Meme

This is a meme that is making the rounds on LiveJournal:

According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on their list.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

My list is somewhat skewed because I am not a fan of Russian literature. Nor am I a huge fan of Dickens, Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen. That knocks off a fair part of the list right there! There are classics like the Three Musketeers, Moby Dick and others that I have read portions of, but hadn’t finished the complete works. I didn’t want to change the meme to reflect those.

There are some books on the list that I question. Why is Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Aliceon the list but not his classic, On the Beach?  Some of the books are fairly recent “classics” like The Lovely Bones. And a  book like A Fine Balance is probably buoyed by being an Oprah Book Club selection.

Many of my favorites like Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon, simply aren’t on the list. A lot of them are also not available in Kindle editions.

What about you? How many of your favorites are on the list?

Broken – A review

Every so often, if you’re lucky, you come across a book that reminds you of everything you love about reading science fiction—and why you started reading it in the first place.  Broken is one of those books.

It has all these delicious elements: A dystopian world set in the future. A superhero who has lost her powers. A scared young man who can see the future.  The future of mankind at stake….

But don’t let the description fool you. This is not your typical stereotypical superhero story. This is an amazing book and an exceptionally fun read that I found almost impossible to put down. Susan Jane Bigelow is an extremely gifted writer who knows how to tell a story. She avoids the pitfalls of tedious world-building and long descriptive paragraphs that just drip with voice. Instead, she allows the reader to organically experience the world she has built for us through the story itself and the actions of the characters.

The characters themselves are interesting, fully fleshed out and beautifully written. They felt like real people, people you want to care about. Bigelow skillfully plays with stereotypes and expectations in a way that adds depth and dimension to the characters.

The story is cohesive and tightly written without feeling “plotted.”  Bigelow does a great job of keeping you guessing. I can usually tell right where a storyline is going, but this was suspenseful throughout. The author also has a delightful sense of humor that occasionally she allows to peek through.

While this one is definitely a fun read, the book also was thought provoking and deals with some serious themes: the concept of names and labels, identity, self, responsibility and courage.  It was difficult to let go of the characters and the events of the book, even after I finished reading.

In short: I laughed; I cried. I finished the book and wanted to immediately hit the go-to-beginning button on my Kindle and read it all over again.

I took a sneak peak at the author’s blog, where she hinted that there was a sequel in the works. It will definitely be on my to-be-read list.

I found it difficult to believe that this was Susan Jane Bigelow’s first novel. She is definitely a writer to watch in the future. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of her work.

Brokenwill be released on January 25, 2011. It is only avalable in a digital form.

Disclaimer: An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher, Candlemark & Gleam,  who had no idea that I would fall completely in love with the book! 🙂

The Patron Saint of Plagues – A review

As a long time fan of authors like Robin Cook and Michael Crichton, I LOVE medical thrillers. The more viruses, bacteria, plagues, and epidemics, the better, at least as far as I am concerned.  Just mention etiological agents and I get really interested.  So, I started reading The Patron Saint of Plagues with a lot of excitement and was more than prepared to like it.

Unfortunately, I was tremendously disappointed in this book.

First, I might argue that this book was mischaracterized by calling it science fiction – realistically it was more of a combination speculative fiction/mystery. It was set 50 years or so in the future. The author did a poor job of world-building here and I spent the first half of the book asking myself why it was set in that time.

The characters suffer from the same lack of development as the world-building does. The characters are unbelievable and barely fleshed out.  They are also constantly contradicting themselves for reasons which are never explained.

The protagonist, Dr. Henry David Stark is a perfect example. At various times in the book, he is referred to by three or four different names. Also for no apparent reason, he sometimes (and only sometimes) speaks a pidgin English that no one else in the book (including his family) speaks. This is never explained.

What the reader gets out of this are plastic, predictable characters doing predictable things leading to a predictable ending. The only surprises were the parts that didn’t make sense.

I found this book poorly edited – and by this I don’t mean spelling and grammar errors. Those things were fine. I mean the guidance an editor SHOULD give a writer. Little things like telling him when the story doesn’t make sense. Or when a scene should be cut. Or when the dialogue isn’t working. Or that the story isn’t flowing. Or that he has thrown information out there and never followed through with it.

The description for this book said that author Barth Anderson has won awards for his short fiction work. Since this was his first novel, he may not have been ready for long form writing. Although, honestly, the reviews for his second novel, The Magician and the Fool, were not much better.  I think one that of the reviewers for that novel summed it up best by saying, “Barth Anderson may be a skilled writer, but he is a terrible storyteller.”  Unfortunately, I have to agree.

This book is available in a Kindle edition.

The I Won a Book and So Can You Contest

If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you may remember a recent announcement that I was lucky enough to win a copy of Bill Shapiro’s Other People’s Rejection Letters.  This is a hilarious collection of real rejection letters that range from the personal to the professional and everywhere in between.  The book includes letters from Princeton, Playboy, The New York Times and more.

Well, the book just arrived and let me tell you, it is just beautiful!

People who know me are aware that, usually, I like to do most of my reading on my Kindle.  This book, however, is absolutely exquisite and I am so glad I didn’t miss it in print.  It is a beautiful hardcover with pages printed on lovely, thick stock.  And the printing?  Delightful!  There are gorgeously reproduced letterheads and on some of the pages, the crease lines from where the letters were folded are even evident. And, not only does it look good,  it’s funny, too!

Are you drooling yet?

How about if I told you that,  thanks to the kind folks at Crown Publishing, I have a copy to give away to some lucky reader of this blog? And all you have to do to enter is leave me a comment telling me you want to enter the contest. 

Here’s the rules: 
  • Enter a comment letting me know you that want to enter between now and Midnight Pacific time on June 3rd, 2010.
  • Sorry, but you must be a resident of the United States or Canada in order to participate.
  • I will use a random number generator to choose the winner.
  • The decisions of the judge (Me!) is final.
  • I will announce the winner on the afternoon of Friday, June 4, 2010.

It’s as simple as that! And in the meantime? I’m gonna go read my new book! 🙂

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – a book trailer

Just recently, thanks to Twitter, I discovered the concept of book trailers.  If you think about it, the idea of book trailers is pretty incongruous: using video trailers  that you watch to promote books that you read.  It’s like MTV for the literati.  But they are really ubiquitous anymore.   And like videos for music, sometimes, they turn out to be only marginally related to what the books they are promoting are about.  But a lot of them of really fun to watch and I am finding them somewhat addictive.

So, I thought I would share the trailer for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.  This was the first in the series of literary mash-ups that are popular right now.  And it is truly amazing how well Grahame-Smith nailed  Jane Austen’s style and voice in writing this book.  It was a fun read and this trailer really captures that essence.

Three Days to Dead: A Review

Three Days to Dead

It was one of those strange things:  I saw this ad for Kelly Meding’s Three Days to Dead and I swear my spidey-sense started tingling. I just knew that this book was going to be great and that she was going to be an author who was really going to go places.  Then I read the first chapter online and was really hooked.  Waiting the three months until the book actually came out was agonizing!

But, boy, was I right!  Three Days to Dead is one of those rare debut novels where the author’s tremendous talent shines through from the very beginning. In this novel, you find everything that a reader looks for in an urban fantasy.   Great characters?  Check.  Excellent story telling?  Check.  Superior world-building?  Check.  Non-stop action?  Check.

Triad Hunter Evangeline “Evy” Stone wakes up in someone else’s body.  She has no idea how she got there.  And she only has three days to find out before she dies.  Again.  So begins this riveting tale of conspiracy and betrayal where the balance of power depends on Evy’s ability to remember how she died and discover how she was resurrected. 

Personally, I love the storytelling device of one character in another person’s body. Combined with the Evangeline’s memory loss, it allows for interesting reading.  Things that might normally be viewed as insignificant  take on a sense of urgency and importance as we try to understand Evy’s character, the people around her  and the events that happened to her.  And author Kelly Meding does a fantastic job of making us care about both Evangeline and Chalice. 

The supporting cast of characters is first rate and includes every time of beastie you would want in an urban fantasy, including trolls, gremlins, fairies, vampires and goblins. Kelly’s writing style is a joy to read and if you like urban fantasy that is smart, funny, thrilling  and fast-paced, I highly recommend this novel. 

A big plus for me were the two short stories set in the Dreg City world that were posted on Suvudu’s website just before the release of the novel.  The Hoarders offered a great opportunity to get to know Evy “in her own skin,” as it were, before we meet her in Chalice’s body.  The second story, Pride Before Fall, really helped to establish the politics of the world Evy lives (and died) in. Reading these stories before I read Three Days to Dead was extremely helpful.  Kelly Meding has also written a missing scene from 3D2D that you can find here on her website

The sequel, As Lie the Dead,  is due out in the summer of 2010.  Three Days to Dead is also available in a Kindle edition.

You can learn more about Kelly Meding (and her cat) at her blog: http://chaostitan.blogspot.com/  and her website:  http://kellymeding.com/.  You can also follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

UndeadintheHead.com interviews zombie author David Moody

Okay zombie lovers, there is a great interview with David  Moody, author of the Autumn series of zombie books on UndeadintheHead.com.    The interview is full of interesting stuff, including tasty tidbits on the re-release of the Autumn series (unfortunately, it is currently out of print), The Autumnmovie as well as info on his book Hater, its sequel Dog Blood and more!

I have always thought that David Moody has never received enough credit for his contribution to the zombie genre.  Although I had been a fan of zombie movies since Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, Autumn was one of the first zombie books that I read.  The book was instrumental in convincing me that zombies weren’t just a subject for film.  

Interviewer Lyle Perez does a great job with the article.  And while you’re reading the Moody piece, check out the book reviews and other interviews on UndeadintheHead.  It’s good stuff!

Part 1: An Brief Overview of an E-book reader

March 7 to March 13 is Read an e-book week. For more information about the event, including notices of free and discounted e-books, visit http://ebookweek.com/

What is an e-book reader?  Also called an e-reader, it is a device specifically designed for reading electronic or digital books. These readers have screens made out of e-ink, or electronic paper.  These devices are not backlit like a computer, so it is possible to read in bright sunlight, but a light is required for reading in the dark.  Since the devices are not backlit, they have a long battery life, especially when compared to PDAs and cell phones.

Some of these devices are wireless such as the Kindle and the Nook, and can download content directly into the device.  These e-readers are tied to a particular store or website for wireless purchases. Others require a computer to download books from the Internet and use a USB cable to load content onto the e-book reader.

Each brand of e-reader also has its own proprietary format for encoding the books.  This means that books encoded for one reader are not be able to be read  on another brand of reader.  Some readers can read Adobe PDF files and there is some movement towards the standardizing formats. The EPUB format seems to be evolving as a standard, although it is not yet implemented across the board for e-readers.

Content for the devices varies from reader to reader.  Beside books and short stories, there are also blogs, magazines and newspapers available for subscription and purchase on e-readers.

So what are the benefits of an e-reader? Probably the number one reason that people say they buy an e-reader is for the convenience.  One e-reader can hold a large number of books, which makes it great for traveling. No huge stack of books to lug around.  No leaving a book at the hotel or the airport terminal.  Some of these devices can hold up to 1500 books.

The ability to be able to purchase books wirelessly from almost anywhere is a great feature, especially if you travel at lot.  A new book can be purchased and downloaded in a matter of minutes.  I have downloaded books while sitting in the doctors office or at the airport terminal.

The ability to change font sizes is a great bonus for those with vision problems.  The Kindle also has a text-to-speech features which allows the device to actually read a book aloud to you. This feature does not work for all books and must be enabled by publishers in order to function.

Some of these devices also have limited capabilities for other functions.  The Kindle, for example, also contains a rudimentary web browser and can play MP3 files.

Here’s a great video showing how the software for the Kindle works:

The number of e-book readers is really exploding right now, with new readers entering the market at a astonishing pace. Prices for the devices, however, still tend to be somewhat high.

Anyone have questions about owning an e-reader?

In Part 2: A look at content, formats and accessories

Read an E-book Week

Kindle E-book Reader
Kindle E-book Reader

March 7th through March 13th, 2010 is Read an E-book Week.  You can find out more about the week-long event at http://ebookweek.com/.  The site offers information on ways to read an e-book (very helpful if you don’t own a Kindle or other e-book reader) as well as news on many e-books that have deeply discounted in honor of the event.  There is also a Twitter account set up with news about e-book specials.

To help celebrate, this week I will be posting some entries regarding e-books and e-readers.  The theme of the posts will be to explain the attraction of e-reading for those who haven’t experienced it. 

As anyone who spends any time around me knows, I am a passionate advocate for e-readers.  I take my Kindle everywhere with me, and I find that most people who see me with it have never seen one before.  Hopefully, my posts will educate and explain a bit about why people buy e-readers, their advantages and disadvantages and the wide range of material available for the readers.

Day by Day Armageddon: A Review

31I6DaHu2aL__SL160_J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon is a interesting book that tells the story of the zombie apocalypse from the point of view of a military officer who is struggling to survive it. The novel originally began as a series of blog entries by the author that gained quite an audience on the web.  The book was then self published and eventually picked up by Pocket Books.

The reactions to the book are certainly polarized; people either love it or hate it.   There are certain criticisms that seem to come up repeatedly regarding this book.  Among them are:

People compare it to World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks: I can’t tell you how many times I have read, “I read World War Z and liked it, so I thought I’d read this one….”  In this case, this is a recipe for disappointment.  I think that Max Brooks’ book is absolutely brilliant, and it is certainly at the top of my zombie reading list, but the book is really atypical for the genre.  Just because a person likes one doesn’t mean that they will necessarily like the other. DBDA should not be criticized for NOT being like World War Z.

People say it lacks character development: The criticism that there is no character development is also somewhat unwarranted. Because the main character’s nature is not really effusive (he’s a military man, remember?), much of what is written in the book is about events, rather than feelings. Often, the feelings about the events are not stated directly and generally do need to be  inferred.  Other times, the feelings are very direct and evocative, such as when the main character wonders if his parents have survived or if he could manage to get to their home to check on them.  Throughout the book, the characters do act in ways that are consistent with their nature.

I think that part of the difficulty in perceiving the development stems from both the lack of a baseline and the limitations of the journal format.  In the book, the narrator starts keeping the journal right as the zombie outbreak begins.  We have very little material written before the outbreak which means we have little information with which to judge any level of character growth. 

People say it has an extremely boring plot: I personally find criticism that the plot of this book is boring to be somewhat amusing.  Rather than having a frantic paced activity level, the author (very effectively, in my opinion) uses inactivity to good effect to create tension. By using prolonged waiting to get the reader to almost a fever pitch, it heightens the suspense. Because of that, there are parts in this book that are so suspenseful, they are scary.

The journal format itself is, as others have noted, both problematic and limited and may help foster the idea of a slow moving plot.  Most zombie movies and books are usually told in the present tense.  A journal would of necessity be written after the events in question have already happened. A certain immediacy is lost because of this. And since DBDA is predominantly a survival story,  the author is more concerned with telling a story about survival than he is with telling a story about zombies.  Typically in a zombie book, there are lots of scenes of people getting eaten by zombies, and like the films, much of the emphasis is on blood and gore.  In this book, the author seems to pay more attention to describing the MREs, guns and ammo than he does the zombies.

People say it is too full of typos and grammar errors:  There are definitely two schools of thought on this one.  Some people think that the grammar errors are deliberate; others think that they are examples of extremely poor writing/proofing/editing.  I myself am torn on this one.  The author’s website and Twitter entries are generally grammatically correct.  However, the book contains numerous instances of poor punctuation and spelling (such as “putting on the breaks” instead of “putting on the brakes”).  I have never in my life been so tempted to take a red pen to a book and would have loved to introduce the author to the proper use of the comma and the semicolon. And I read the book on a Kindle!

If these errors are deliberate, it would be extremely helpful for the author to note that in a forward to a future edition.

People say the ending is horrible: I have to agree that I do not like the ending to the book at all. Without spoiling the ending, all I can say is that it ends too abruptly and that it could have been handled in a much better way.

Despite the some of the issues with the book, this is an interesting and compelling read that is enjoyable.  If you are a true fan of the zombie genre,  this book is too important to miss. A sequel, Day By Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile,  is currently in the works and is due to be released in July of 2010.

You can learn more about the series at the author’s website,  http://jlbourne.com/.  You can also follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jlbourne.