Monday, 3 May 2010

1001 Books to Read Before You Die + If on a winter's night a traveller


Last night I finished another 1001 book from the list, this leaves me having read 210 books from the list of what has now become over 1300 books (they update,add in and take away books every two years). Do I plan to read them all? No.
So why use the list I hear you ask. I love the list for one reason, and that is recommendations. I know there are books on there I will never pick up, like Ian Fleming's Casino Royale; books which even if I did pick up I'd never be able to complete like James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and lots of books I've started, given up and never plan to go back to. But the list acts as a reminder of all those books I've always meant to read, of those authors I've read, loved and meant to go and discover more of, and also introduces books and authors I would never have discovered before.
In the last year I've read the fantastic Movern Callar by Alan Warner, Amok by Stefan Zweig, Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry all of which I had never heard of and would probably never have came into contact with if it hadn't been for the list. And I've read books off the TBR pile which had been sat there through numerous years and house moves.
Do you use the 1001 Books to read before you die list? Why?

Last night I finished my 11th book this year from the list, If on a winter's night a traveller, I seem to be accuring strange books from the list at the moment (Movern Callar was my last and Blood and Guts in High School is coming up).
As with Movern Callar I have no real idea how to review this book, to try and make it comprehensible I'm going to do it as a question and answer review.

What is the general plot line of this book?
'The Reader' goes into a shop and buys a book called 'If on a winter's night a traveler', when he returns home he settles in to read the first and after loving the first chapter he discovers the book has been misprinted and it simply repeats the first chapter over and over.
On returning the book to the shop, he meets 'The Other Reader' who had had the same problem. They then procure numerous books and manuscripts each one promising to be a different book.
What is the style of the book?
The book is written in alernate chapters, every odd chapter is about 'The Reader' and 'The Other Reader' quest to find a complete book to settle down with. These chapter are written in second person. At the beginning this seemed to describe how I would analyse a book, relax to read etc as it should but as the story moved on 'The Reader' became a definite character.
The even chapters are all the first chapters that the Readers are given along the way, these are in different styles and genres. This part of the book is apparently the inspiration for David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
What did you like/love about the book?
The first chapter I absolutely fell in love with, writter in second person he describes the process of going to buy a book:
"In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricades of Books You Haven't Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn't Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To That Category Of Books Read Before Being Written."

and also the process of sitting down and finding a comfortable place to start a new book. I would say that every avid reader, even if they don't plan to read the whole book (and it cerainly isn't to everyone's taste) should read this first chapter.
What did you dislike/hate about the book?
I certainly didn't hate anything about the book, but I found that after a while the different openings of books started to annoy me. I wanted to discover more about The Reader and The Other Reader, rather than the beginnning of another strange story - especially the ones that I'd have liked to know what happened next!
Would you recommend this to a friend?
I can't think of many of my real life friends who would like this disjointed style, but for readers who enjoy postmodern fiction, who are happy to not follow a trail of a story, and can appreciate a book for its style this is for them.

2 comments:

Arukiyomi - the spreadsheet guy said...

do I use the list.. heck yes! Why? My spreadsheet depends on it! ... no seriously, before the list came along I only read non-fiction. Choosing non-fiction was easy: if I liked a topic, I read about it. But when it came to choosing fiction, which is sorted in book shops by author's last name, I was totally overwhelmed. How on earth could I tell what I'd like?

But when the list came along, I realised that chances were, I'd enjoy most of the books or at least come to appreciate what makes a novel important. That was three years ago and I haven't looked back. Now I'm so much more aware of what's on the fiction shelves. It's totally changed how I read.

BTW, I'm actually reading Casino Royale right now... keep an eye on my blog for my review to find out if you would actually enjoy it!

Rebecca :) said...

I understand what you mean about using the book as a list of recommendations. Just like you're not going to find a blogger who will recommend a book you will like every single time, neither will a list be perfect- because it is made by someone other than yourself. I won't read every book from it either, but like you said, it serves as a reminder of books I would like to try out.