Home > books > reading plans for 2008 part II: what i’ve read, what i’m reading, and what i plan to read

reading plans for 2008 part II: what i’ve read, what i’m reading, and what i plan to read

yes, thats it. thats the pile as it stands. 12 books – that is such a relief! as little as that sounds, those 12 will take some reading, with most of them being in the 500 pages region. but still… 12 😀

the books i have read so far are:

1. erasure – percival everett
2. god emperor of dune – frank herbert
3. next – michael chrichton
4. life, the universe and everything – douglas adams
5. english passengers – matthew kneale
6. so long, and thanks for all the fish – douglas adams

currently i am reading:

the corrections by jonathan franzen


i’m enjoying this a lot. i really like franzen’s writing, his boundless creativity. the feeling that as you turn the page anything could happen. and can the man write?! wow. can he ever. just reading the sentences for themselves is pleasing.

the theatre of the absurd by martin esslin


this is part of my “continuing education” and i’m enjoying it a lot ’cause i really like absurd theatre. i’ve never seen or read any of arthur adamov, so i’ve enjoyed learning about him. i really enjoyed the bit about beckett, whom i love, and i found the part about ionesco fascinating. “the chairs” and “the bald prima donna” are two of my favourite plays and so it was very interesting to read about how they came about and what their initial receptions were like.

toorberg by etienne van heerden


this is an afrikaans book and is set in south africa. it deals with the visit of a magistrate to a place called toorberg (it sort of translates as “magic mountain”) after the death of a little buy called noag du pisani who fell town a watering hole. noag’s nickname was “druppeltjie” (droplet) and is a reference to his ability to detect water and this little detail is a good indication of the subtle element of the fantastical that permeates this novel.

“toorberg” is a novel with a very broad scope. on its most basic level it is about how the two main families of toorberg interact, the feuds, the affairs, the rivalries, the jealousies, the backstabbing and the secrets that lurk beneath the veneer of calmness. because, initially, no-one wants to say anything about the death of druppeltjie.

this secrecy of the town, the magistrate discovers, is something more significant than just a cover-up for one or two members of the community, but indicative of a deep guilt that runs through the entire community. this is not to say that they all killed druppeltjie, its more that they realise that his death is consequence of the state of things in their community, a state for which they are all responsible.

on another level its also about the creation of a community in an unforgivably dry climate, of how they survive and carve a niche for themselves, of how they stake their claim.

the main reason i read this is because it is quintin’s (my best friend and the father of my little nephew, liam) favourite book. i am on the verge of completing this and it has been very enjoyable. the in-depth exploration of culpability has been very interesting, especially from the perspective of a representative of the law, who realises that he cannot possibly lay the blame at any one person’s doorstep. on top of this interesting examination there is also the element of the mystical, the spiritual that permeates the novel, but never quite pushes into it real fantasy. it is story told with beautiful subtlety and great delicacy.

sweeny todd


this is the original novel behind the story. initially this was called “a string of pearls” and was billed as a romance. it was penny blood (similar to penny dreadfuls) published in the mid-1800s and was serialised over the period of a few months. sweeny was originally merely the villain of the piece, but his popularity was such that as the story developed he eventually came to take over and play a much bigger part.

the premise of the novel surrounds the separation of joanna and her love, mark ingestrie, who has left england to find his fortune which may enable him to marry johanna. from there, mark ingestrie goes missing and it is uncertain whether he is indeed still alive, but a symbol of his love and a promise of his return is sent to london in the shape of a string of pearls, which a friend of his is to deliver to johanna. only, the string of pearls never quite reaches johanna, as their carrier stops in for a shave at sweeny todd’s…

this has been quite fun so far and has gotten better as the story has developed and more macabre things have happened. there are moments when its quite slow, when they take a page simply to say that they will cross the street! but then there have been lots of deliciously macabre sequences which more than make up for it. you know, i’m sure the novel has gotten more gruesome as its gone on and i wouldn’t at all be surprised that it was in a response to its success and the public’s demand for more horror.

although i have never seen a modern adaptation of the story, i do have a sense of what happens, and it has been interesting to see how different this is. most of the differences natuarlly lie in the romantic storyline, but there are some nicely gruesome bits which don’t feature in the modern versions, most significantly a whole sequence regarding a lunatic asylum which is run by an unscrupelous keeper, who admits people who are perfectly sane, but who don’t stay that way for long…

selected short stories by guy de maupassant


i can’t believe its been 10 years since i read “boule de suif” and “two friends” and thought to myself, “i’d like to read some more de maupassant”, but i’m glad i’ve finally gotten down to it…

these are charming little stories. de maupassant has given us a taste of what people are really like behind closed doors and society’s niceties. gentle and caring, and never judgemental, a beautiful portrait of what people are really like.

and what’s to come. these are some of the books that remain:

* heretics of dune & chapterhouse dune. these two i am really looking forward to. i really love frank herbert and have a special fondness for his dune universe. i’m especially looking forward to these two because i thought i knew the basic premise of the last three books, but by the end of the 3rd last one found i was mistaken. the premise i had envisaged, as interesting as i thought i would be – it is herbert after all – i did fear that it might get a little stale as the novels wore on. but discovering that i’d been mistaken means that the last two novels are going to be 100% totally new territory and that is very exciting! (and not a lttle bit ironic if you know the story 😉 )

* strong motion by jonathan franzen. it being franzen i am most definitely looking forward to this! i’ve read “the 27th city” which i quite enjoyed, although there were… well, “flaw” is too big a criticism, but lets just say things that didn’t sit very well with me. it was also a little bit cumbersome. but still very enjoyable. but “the corrections” shows none of those failings so far, and so i’m hoping that “strong motion” will be the same and equally as delightful as “the corrections”.

* the canterbury tales. i had to do chaucer in my third year, but never quite got around to going to enough of the lectures and so didn’t quite bother in the end. i did enjoy the few bits i read though and have always meant to read “the canterbury tales”. 3 years ago i taught “the millers tale” for an old english course and really enjoyed it and so decided to get myself a copy of the tales. it being not quite the thing that one dives into immediately, its waited on pile since then. but now with the pile coming down the time for reading it is coming nearer… and i must say i’m looking forward to reading it.

* part 1 of the song of fire & ice. this book i simply can’t wait to read because of jeff and chris. i’m also looking forward to a good old epic. bring it on!

* the sword of the lictor – part 3 in gene wolfe’s quadrilogy of “the book of the new sun”. i’ve really enjoyed the book of the new sun so far and really can’t wait to go back into gene wolff’s world! its really fresh and quite different from other fantasy that i’ve read.

along with these i also plan to read terry pratchett’s “making money” and were he to bring a new one out, whatever it is, even if it is the “discworld phonebook”, then i’ll buy it – because of all the stuff that’s been going on.

i’ll also be getting “hannibal rising” from charlotte. every six months charlotte and i give each other the best book we’ve read in those six months or the book that we’ve read that we think the other would enjoy the most.

and then of course there’ll be a number of graphic novels as well as whatever challenges carl comes up with, which i always look forward to with great anticipation..

i’m looking forward to 2008’s reading so much, not least of all because it’ll finally see the demise of my tbr monster! and then… oh then… the joy, the complete and utter, unadulterated, joy of walking into borders… spotting a book i like…

and…

…buying it!!!! 😀

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Categories: books
  1. March 2, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    I have always meant to read some Jonathan Franzen. He sounds wonderful! I look forward to your final reviews of his two books.

    And the original book behind Sweeney Todd! Ohh, I just have to get my hands on that. I’ll have to keep it in mind for RIP III.

    Looks like you’re reading quite a few very interesting books, and you have some more great ones lined up. I’ve always meant to read The Canterbury Tales too. One day I’ll really have to make myself do it.

    I’d buy a Discworld phonebook too. I’d even buy Discworld napkins. He has already finished his next book, actually. It’s called “Nation” and it’s non-Discworld. I’m looking forward to it, and to the Tiffany Aching book he’s working on now.

  2. March 2, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Geez, and I thought I was in awe before… I’m blown away by the sheer diversity of what you’re reading! I think we’re in store for some fine reviews coming up.

    I love, love, love what you and Charlotte do with the book swapping thing. What a truly fabulous idea! I’d suggest it with my husband, but he’d probably hand over some book on brain chemistry or speciation and evolution, and then my love of reading would be effectively killed forever. 🙂

  3. jean pierre
    March 2, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Debi, charlotte here (logged in as JP). I think its funny that your husband would give you such books. All I’m reading at the moment are law books so poor JP might be getting “introduction to Tort Law” on our next six month present!!

  4. March 3, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I love “The Corrections”. I read it when it first came out — and I was surprised that it was so very well written. And funny in some places.

    The book-swapping with your Charlotte is cool. It’s almost as fun as your Horror Nights. 🙂

    TO CHARLOTTE: Uh hmm — Charlotte, did you enjoy “Hannibal Rising”? I love “Red Dragon” and “Silence of the Lamb”, but “Hannibal” was such a disappointment that I wouldn’t even touch “Hannibal Rising”. Really?

    On an slightly unrelated note: “Silence of the Lamb” remains one of my favourite movie of all times.

    You really need to get around to reading George R.R. Martin! It’s EPIC!

  5. jean pierre
    March 3, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Hi there. Charlotte logged in as jp again. (too much of a hassle to log in and out). I did enjoy hannibal rising but there were gaps and problems. I think it was just nice to read something about his childhood. Although, I do think they skipped over a lot – more detail was definitely needed. I liked the film but that was more for Gaspard Ulliel (playing the young hannibal) than the story itself. It started a little Gaspard obsession. Poor JP!

  6. March 4, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I had no idea that Sweeney Todd was based on a story. Look at me, I’ve been educated today! 🙂

    The Once Upon a Time II Challenge starts in a few weeks, JP. Should be alot of fun!

  7. jean pierre
    March 4, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    NYMETH:

    if you’re a fan of sweeny todd, then you definitely should check it out!!

    i didn’t want to read up about what pterry was up to regarding his new book. in an odd way i felt that was a way for me to not put pressure on him – even though he’s not exactly going to notice little old me not logging onto l-space web or whatever…

    i knew about “nation” and have been hoping that he would get around to finishing it, so i’m really excited about that!

    have you read “making money”? i’ll probably get that soon…

    DEBI:

    aw, you make me blush with all these compliments!!!

    sadly, my reviewing exploits aren’t as good as my other praise-garnering exploits… i don’t review all of the books that i read. i try to, but i just don’t always seem to get around to it…!

    i’m glad you like charlotte and my 6 month book present 🙂 i love it too. its a nice way for us to connect and share. although, as she said, at the moment she’s exclusively focused on law. she literally hasn’t finished a single non-law book since september!

    DARK ORPHEUS:

    i’m glad you liked “the corrections” too – i’m really enjoying it! i did actually start it when it first came out, but i was reading a copy that a friend had lent to me and then we fell out and… well… a long story (not much different from the stories that we’ve been sharing on your blog lately…).

    the book-swapping is very cool! i love it! 😀

    and i can’t wait to read george r.r.r..r.r martin!

    CARL:

    yeah, i didn’t know either! i literally found out when i got it for christmas.

    ooh! once upon a time… can. not. wait.

  8. March 6, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Great reading! I’ve been dying to read Sweeney Todd ever since I saw the film version. I knew that they had to have changed a lot and left out major story parts, so I’d really like to read it. I may do like Nymeth and read it for RIP III. And I can’t wait to see what you think of Game of Thrones! It’s great…at least I thought so 😉

  9. March 8, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Oh…sounds like you have some good reading going on. Personally, I’m one of those people that fell in the category of actually hating The Corrections. I really hated it. And yet, I kept on reading till the end. Kind of like a train wreck you know. It’s horrible, but you can’t take your eyes off of it. I just felt he was so over the top arrogant, and it seeped through into his writing.

    BUT I’m glad you are enjoying it!!

  10. jean pierre
    March 10, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    CHRIST:

    i just finished it and it really is interesting for that. i’ve never actually seen the stage version and haven’t seen the film yet. we kept making dates to go and then charlotte had to pull out.

    still looking forward to “game of thrones” and the anticipation is building even more than usual, since this time, with my pile going down, its like an inexorable countdown… 😀

    STEPHANIE:

    i do see where you’re coming from with that. i find myself wondering sometimes about it and wondering whether it bothers me or not.

    i can’t quite decide, for definite, whether he’s pretentious or not… or whether he’s arrogant.

    arrogance i guess i can handle, though. or can i?

    i don’t know. what i’m trying to say is that i definitely see what you’re saying and i’ve noticed it too. it doesn’t bother me, though… i don’t know whether thats because i don’t think he’s arrogant or pretentious, or becuase i don’t mind that he is, or that i don’t mind whether he is or isn’t? 🙂

    in general, though, pretentiousness does put me off. and arrogance sometimes too, but somewhat less. so i can definitely understand your feeling.

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