I’m already participating in two challenges this year, but when I saw Cathy746books‘ sign up for Reading Ireland Month 2016, I couldn’t resist joining in. The goal is to explore/celebrate Irish culture (books, movies, music, food, etc.) and blog about it. Since this is a book blog, I’ve pulled a selection of Irish authors to the top of my queue. If you’d like to join in too, click over to Cathy’s blog where she has thoughtfully provided a list of 100 books that would be excellent for March (or any month, really).
Here’s the list I’m hoping to read:
(blurbs from Goodreads or Amazon (see links))
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Shipwrecked and cast adrift, Lemuel Gulliver wakes to find himself on Lilliput, an island inhabited by little people, whose height makes their quarrels over fashion and fame seem ridiculous. His subsequent encounters – with the crude giants of Brobdingnag, the philosophical Houyhnhnms and the brutish Yahoos – give Gulliver new, bitter insights into human behaviour. Swift’s savage satire view mankind in a distorted hall of mirrors as a diminished, magnified and finally bestial species, presenting us with an uncompromising reflection of ourselves. (Goodreads)
I read lengthy excerpts of Gulliver’s Travels for an English class a decade ago. Though I made a note to read the rest of the book, I never got around to it. It’ll be more fun now though; it’s not homework!
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centers on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigor while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world. For over a century, this mesmerizing tale of horror and suspense has enjoyed wide popularity. It ranks as one of Wilde’s most important creations and among the classic achievements of its kind. (Amazon)
Another “always meant to read” book though I may have read a “kids” version a long, long time ago. I have vague memories of a large print version with small words and frequent illustrations. The last illustration was surprisingly graphic and gave me nightmares for months. Between that, and this book’s prominence in pop culture, I can’t pretend I don’t know the ending, but I look forward to a well-crafted story.
Nocturnes by John Connolly
In his first collection of short fiction, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly offers a selection of dark, daring, and utterly haunting tales. Here are lost lovers and missing children, predatory demons, and vengeful ghosts. In “The New Daughter,” a father comes to suspect that a burial mound on his land hides something very ancient, and very much alive; in “The Underbury Witches,” a pair of London detectives find themselves battling a particularly female evil in a town culled of its menfolk. And finally, private detective Charlie Parker returns in the long novella “The Reflecting Eye,” in which the photograph of an unknown girl turns up in the mailbox of an abandoned house once occupied by an infamous killer. This discovery forces Parker to confront the possibility that the house is not as empty as it appears, and that something has been waiting in the darkness for its chance to kill again. (Amazon)
I mentioned here that Connolly is on my list of authors to pay more attention to on account of how much I enjoyed The Book of Lost Things. Looking through Amazon, many of his books feature recurring characters and I’m not up for a new series right now, even if they feature standalone plots. So I went for Nocturnes (which is followed by Night Music). One of the factors in my decision was how closely the cover of this book mirrors the cover of The Book of Lost Things. Yes, this is superficial. I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but book decisions have to be made somehow and I really loved The Book of Lost Things. (Please don’t judge me.)
The Heather Blazing by Colm Tóibín
Eamon Redmond is a judge in Ireland’s high court, a completely legal creature who is just beginning to discover how painfully unconnected he is from other human beings. With effortless fluency, Colm Tóibín reconstructs the history of Eamon’s relationships—with his father, his first “girl,” his wife, and the children who barely know him—and he writes about Eamon’s affection for the Irish coast with such painterly skill that the land itself becomes a character. (Amazon)
Colm Tóibín’s name has been coming up on my WordPress reader and Amazon recommendation pages more frequently these days and this challenge is a great kick to pick up one of his books.
The Book of Evidence by John Banville
Freddie Montgomery is a highly cultured man, a husband and father living the life of a dissolute exile on a Mediterranean island. When a debt comes due and his wife and child are held as collateral, he returns to Ireland to secure funds. That pursuit leads to murder. And here is his attempt to present evidence, not of his innocence, but of his life, of the events that lead to the murder he committed because he could. Like a hero out of Nabokov or Camus, Montgomery is a chillingly articulate, self-aware, and amoral being, whose humanity is painfully on display. (Amazon)
I’ve read and enjoyed a few books by Benjamin Black (John Banville’s pen name). Careful Googling led me to The Book of Evidence as a good starting place for his works as Banville. Feel free to let me know if Google has led me astray on this point…
From Way, Way, Way Down the TBR
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people. (Amazon)
Pretty much everyone says this book is good. It sounds like a book I would find interesting and enjoy. And yet, every time I pick it up, I don’t open it. It moves around the apartment more than my other books because it’s my go-to when I don’t know what to read next. My brain scans my bookshelf, says, “Oh right, that’s supposed to be good,” and somehow, between the bed/couch and the fridge for a drink/snack, some other book ends up in my hand. This happened as recently as two weeks ago. It was sitting by my bed and I downloaded Breakfast at Tiffany’s to my Kindle. That’s right. It was two feet away and bumped by a book I didn’t even own. Wow. It’s about time.
Already Read and Loved… but Unreviewed
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day! (Goodreads)
I read this a couple weeks ago, but it looks like my review will be posted in March. What a happy coincidence of timing!