2018 Reading List

have compiled a list of books that I will be reading in 2018. They are not in the order I’ll read them but I have tried to include a mix of genres. I have included the Classics series that I have not finished, Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy and Non-fiction in the list.

The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

I found this Sherlock Holmes novel as the shop had a discount and it cost 10 pence. Published in 1902, it is the third of the Crime Novels Doyle wrote featuring Detective Sherlock Holmes. I have not read a Sherlock Holmes book yet; the characterisation of Holmes and Watson should be interesting.

I know why the Caged Bird sings by Maya Angelou

This is the first volume of Maya Angelou’s biography and it was recommended to me on Goodreads based on the books I have in my reading list. This is about her early childhood in the American South in the 1930’s and discusses the discrimination she faced, her family life and discovering her talents.

The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands

In 2004 Mary Seacole was voted the Greatest Black Briton. A Jamaican born nurse, she became known for her work with the wounded in the Crimean Wars. Unlike Florence Nightingale who worked safely away from the battle scene, she went further to the frontlines to provide assistance, risking her own life. This is near the top of the reading list.

Dust Tracks on A Road by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston is a well-known novelist from the Harlem Renaissance as well as a journalist and critic. This autobiography was published in 1942 and has compliments from other writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

A non-fiction book about the factors involved in success. It examines the influence of talent, wealth, persistence and fortunateness in becoming successful. He discusses perceived intelligence and the decision making involved in success.

Sing Unburied Sing by Jasmine Ward

This was the winner of the National Book Award 2017 and is the third novel by author Jasmyn Ward. When reviewing it, Ron Charles, who was writing for the Washington Post compared the novel to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This was recommended by Ameriie, a singer and author, on her Goodreads account and her YouTube channel. The book is about a family that move into a new neighbourhood and issues they face with their background after they attempt the adoption process and the custody battle that ensues.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

A historical fiction book set in Germany during World War Two. A young girl Liesel learns to read, steals books and gives them to a Jewish refugee hiding in the basement of the home where she lives.

The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson

This book was a Christmas present and is the eighth novel by British author Dorothy Koomson. It was shortlisted for the British Book Awards In 2012.

Chasing the Stars 

A fantasy book by Malorie Blackman, it was published in 2016 and involves twins heading back to earth on a spaceship, after a virus has wiped out their family and the crew on board.

The Hobbit by J.R Tolkien

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

One hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

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The Hound of the Baskervilles Review

This is the third crime novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and it was published in 1902. It features the famous Detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr Watson. They are contacted by Dr James Mortimer to investigate the mysterious death of a wealthy man from Devon in West England. A fairly small book, the story unravels quickly and there are many clues to what caused the incident. There is a mysterious ‘Hound’ that lives on the Moor near Baskerville hall and the Detectives are determined to find out what has happened.

Dr Watson narrates the entire book and he does quite a bit of investigative work for Sherlock Holmes, while he works in the background. Watson meets with the suspects and looks after Henry Baskerville, who they believe is in danger. At the end they collate their evidence and use it to solve the mystery. It was a surprise how involved Watson actually was, whereas the films represent him in a vague sidekick role.

“Watson you were born to be a man of action. Your instinct is always to do something energetic” – Sherlock Holmes

It was interesting that the characters first had a supernatural explanation but Sherlock Holmes figures out the logical explanation to the crime. Then at the end he works backwards to explain where the clues were in the story leading to who committed the crime. It would have been difficult to guess the answer before it was revealed because it was miraculously uncovered by Holmes. This really expresses how good his detective work is, because he didn’t meet most of the suspects in case the perpetrator felt threatened.

Characterisation was well done and there was enough detail to understand Holmes’ personality. He was less witty than his portrayal in the Sherlock Holmes films where it appears that humour was added. There were also references to communication devices such as the Telegraph, which Holmes used to communicate with another character, Cartwright. The Telegraph was created in 1837 which led to the invention of Morse code named after Samuel Morse. This would have been used in the nineteenth century to assist long-distance communication.


The Telegraph and Samuel Morse

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-history-of-the-electric-telegraph-and-telegraphy-1992542

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Biography

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/conan_sir_arthur_doyle.shtml

Sherlock Holmes Character

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sherlock-Holmes

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne from Salem, Massachusetts, a US State in New England. This was a puritan era when moral purity was encouraged in every aspect of life, public life and personal life. The main character Hester Prynne is forced to wear the embroidered Scarlet letter ‘A’ on her clothing after being found guilty of adultery which was a crime.

The novel is written in a third person narrative, which the exception of the introduction where Nathaniel Hawthorne speaks directly to the reader, talking about his experience working at the Salem Custom House. The introduction describes the people that he worked with impolitely “I characterize them generally as a set of wearisome old souls, who had gathered nothing from worth preservation from their varied experience of life” (p.g 13) and their work ethic “mighty was their fuss about little matters, and marvellous sometimes, the obtuseness that allowed greater ones to slip through their fingers.” (p.g 12) One particular man he commented “My conclusion was that he had no soul, no heart, no mind; nothing.” (p.g 14) In the preface to the second edition it explains that these comments and the introduction to The Scarlet Letter caused an “unprecedented excitement” in the community that the author was talking about. “It could hardly have been more violent, indeed, had he burned down the Custom house, and quenched its last smoking ember in the blood of a certain venerable personage, against whom he is supposed to cherish a particular malevolence” and the author responds to criticism saying it was written with no ill feeling and it was true so he decided to republish the introduction without changing it, shows slight hostility towards the Custom house.

“BUT WHO CAN SEE AN INCH INTO FUTURITY BEYOND HIS NOSE?”

A native American character is described as Indian (a historical inaccuracy) and his clothing is described as “savage” compared to the clothing the puritans wear, which is described as “civilised” an antonym showing puritan dress in a positive way, while showing Native outfits as opposite to this, a negative trait. Also, the devil, or a demon the characters believe to exist, in the book is called “the black man,” that is the description for him. There are other negative associations with the word black throughout “vileness and blackness” and “black trouble of the soul” describing an illness.

Hester Prynne is cast out of the community so the other puritans do not speak to her in public and the puritan children attempt to throw stones at her and her daughter Pearl. “She was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere”. The only people who speak to her are the ministers and the governor, who attempt to take her daughter out of her care and have her raised by someone else. Hester argues that she should have custody of the child so they relent “God gave me the child! cried she. He gave her in requital of all things else which ye have taken from me.” The governor’s sister, who is later executed accused of being a witch, also talks to her to encourage her to join witchcraft but Hester refuses.

The word ‘ignomany’ and variations such as ‘ignominious’ appears throughout the book, approximately 20 times in the 200 page book. It means public shame or disgrace and also public contempt. Hester Prynne faces this until her death and her lover is eventually revealed in a plot twist. There is not much dialogue at the beginning of the book, as the main character does not have any interaction with other characters, because she is publicly treated with contempt and the people treat Pearl the same way because of her illegitimacy. Hester and her lover are eventually buried together in a grave marked “On a field, Sable, the letter A, Gules” meaning “On a field, black, the letter A, red”

Links

The Salem House & Nathaniel Hawthorne

https://www.nps.gov/sama/learn/historyculture/hawthorne.htm

Meaning behind the word ‘ignomany’

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ignominy

Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nathaniel-Hawthorne

Background of the Salem Witch Trials

http://www.history.com/topics/salem-witch-trials

My Twitter thread while reading ‘The Scarlet Letter’

https://twitter.com/xlaurenhw/status/909435733554974720

August Book Haul

We’re now in August and I was recently walking along the high street when I approached a small book shop. I went inside and picked up a few more books that were on sale. This is going to be a small break from my 2017 reading list that I will link below. I will finish Dracula and then begin reading the new books I have bought because they are not as long.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This is described on the blurb as an “unconventional ghost story” it was written by an American author, who later acquired British citizenship. He Is a key figure of 19th century literary realism. The book was published in 1898 and is a horror and gothic fiction. It is open to different interpretations.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This has been on my reading list for a while as I have heard about it for several years and I have seen the film released in 2009 that is based on the book. This is the first book I will have ever read by Oscar Wilde and I am looking forward to reading one of his most popular works. Published in 1890, The picture of Dorian Gray caused outrage in the Victorian era for its portrayal of London life.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I have heard of Harper Lee’s classic novel numerous times and it explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South in the 1930’s. It concerns the prejudice, violence and hypocrisy of a town in Southern America.

The Hobbit by J.R.Tolkien

This is a modern classic and is also the prelude to The Lord of the Rings, the popular fantasy novels. In the blurb it is described as ‘One of the best-loved children’s books of modern times’ and I think it will be similar to Narnia which I really enjoyed. Published in 1937, it is still very popular. I also noticed that there are lots of adaptions for stage, screen, radio and video games.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is a modern fantasy novel written in 2011 that was long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012. It is a fantasy novel set in Victorian London and is about a fictional circus that only appears at night, and disappears in the daytime. It is slow-moving, but once the story gets underway it could be an interesting read.

 

Links

Ban on reading To Kill a Mockingbird in schools in Virginia

‘To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn banned from Virginia schools for racism’

The reading list for 2017

2017 reading list

Dorian Gray film review

Dorian Gray (2009) film review