The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Four stars, read in January 2018. For most of the book I was going to give it five stars, but it seems to divide itself into two sections (before her suicide attempt and after), and I felt much more strongly about the first section. I loved it, I related closely to upsetting amounts of it, I…

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Four stars, read from October to November 2017. I decided to read this book right now because of some TV show we were watching recently, and I’m hoping that by the end of this post I’ll be able to remember what it was. A character must have made a reference to the opening lines of…

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Two stars, read in September 2017. Will possibly downgrade to one star after I think more about it. This was not an enjoyable experience and upon finishing, I felt like I should apologize to myself for forcing me through the whole thing. One thousand pages of farming, 19th-century Russian politics, and petty, jealous, self-absorbed characters…

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

Five stars, read in June 2017. First lesson learned from listening to James Baldwin on audio: I cannot listen to James Baldwin on audio. Jesse Martin’s narration is excellent (I knew I recognized his voice but had to look him up to learn that what I know him from is Rent), but James Baldwin is…

Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy

Three stars, read in May 2017. Oh, Thomas Hardy. Of his books that I’ve read, this is the one with the most blatant commentary on the oppression and arbitrary cruelty of societal conventions. It’s also probably my least favorite, though I’m not sure why; for some reason Jude and Sue never clicked with me as…

Why We Can’t Wait, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Five stars, read in January 2017. If you want a perfect example of why this book is (STILL) necessary, consider this: It’s a book about the same time period, the same issues, as To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee—the book nearly every person in the United States had to read in school. While I…

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Four stars, read in January 2017. [There are going to be spoilers in here, because I think the statute of limitations runs out at 150 years.] I consider the fourth star as belonging to the audio production, which is absolutely outstanding. Anna Bentinck is the narrator, and I was continually impressed by how well she…

If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin

Five stars, read in October 2016. This was incredible. I’d read excerpts and quotes that were enough for me to tell James Baldwin was a writer I needed to know, but this is the first of his books I’ve read. I was taken aback almost every few pages by yet another piece of gorgeous text,…

Howl

. . . who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup . . . Allen Ginsberg I did not care much for his poetry, I have to be honest. But this is just such a perfect string of words.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Three stars, mostly because that’s an easy compromise when in fact I don’t know what rating to give. Read from March to August of 2013. I think the only other book I’ve ever spent so long reading (without abandoning it) was The Red Badge of Courage, required reading my freshman year in high school. This took me nearly five months…

Silas Marner, by George Eliot

Three stars, read in December 2015. I remember starting this book in seventh grade, though I didn’t get far. (It was around the same time I attempted the unabridged Les Miserables, so maybe I was just overwhelmed by my own ambition.) It took me almost twenty years to pick it up again, but I’m so glad to…

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

Two stars, read in March 2015. I almost don’t want to try and sort out exactly how I feel about this book, because I don’t want to give it that degree of attention now that I’ve finished. If the book is hard for me to process, the reviews of it are maybe even worse. Yes,…

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Three and a half stars, first read in fall 2001, read again June 2013. It seems like most people have strong reactions to this book—they either love it or hate it. (I actually didn’t know anyone hated it until I reread it last year, but apparently they do. I suppose this makes sense, for the…

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

Four stars, read for Banned Books Week in 2011. No one is kidding when they say this is a dark book. You wouldn’t think a novel about a school chocolate sale could be that interesting, much less controversial—but then, The Chocolate War isn’t really about a chocolate sale. It’s about all the darkest aspects of…

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan

Four stars, read August to October 2012. I can’t tell you how good it feels to finally be able to say that I’ve read this book. I still think of 10 Things I Hate About You whenever I hear the title, and it makes me feel like I’m in on something now that I’ve read it….

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

Read September/October 2014. I have no idea. I almost want that to be the only thing I say about this book, because really, I just . . . don’t even know. It’s so dirty—I don’t mean the constant references to sex, though of course there are plenty of those, in the sense that I am…

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Three and a half stars, read (finally!) in November 2010. This book has been on my shelf since before I can remember. I’ve seen a few of the movie adaptations and I started reading it once or twice, but I never got past Jane’s years at Lowood. So when I created the “books I own but haven’t read…

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Four stars, read in fall 2011. I haven’t finished this yet, but being close to the end of The Two Towers—and already knowing the story from the movies—I feel like I can safely review at this point. For once in my life, I’m really glad to have seen the movies before I read this book….

Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

Four stars, read in February 2011. As it turns out, I like Kurt Vonnegut. Breakfast of Champions is about Kilgore Trout, an obscure (and made-up) science fiction writer who appears in a lot of Vonnegut’s books, and an insane man named Dwayne Hoover. Kilgore Trout has written a book in the form of a letter from…

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

Two stars, read in October 2010. I really struggled to read this book. It needed to be about 100 pages shorter, for one thing. It took me a long time to get started, and the whole experience was kind of a slog through the mud. It’s an interesting book, and I really identify with the characters…

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Four stars, read in 2012 for Banned Books Week. I liked this even better than The Lord of the Rings (which I haven’t technically finished, but I’ve read The Fellowship of the Ring and most of The Two Towers). With a few exceptions, The Hobbit went faster and had more compressed action—which isn’t necessarily a thing that makes me…