Thursday, February 21, 2013

2012 Books Read - Daily Lit Edition

I adore Daily Lit.  I currently have them emailing me 4 books at a time, in tiny little increments.  I prefer to read a chapter at a time whenever possible, so I like to let them build up a little in my inbox.  I keep each book in its own separate file and with one segment each of four books coming in every day, I can usually find a complete book saved away in a file to start reading.  Otherwise, I just go to the end of the daily piece of the story and request the next section be delivered on the spot.  I usually read these when its really slow at work, or between jobs or phone calls.  Some books are better suited to the way I read them than others, but I make it work for me.  If you haven't signed up for Daily Lit yet, by all means, check them out.

Now, on to the Daily Lit books I read in 2012:

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

I have this book on my book shelves and I even have it in a big book of Science Fiction Classics on my nook, but I read it through Daily Lit. Our protagonist has a weekly dinner with scientific and journalistic types.  He tells them that he's developed a way to travel through time and invites them back the next week to hear his story.  And, what a story he has to tell.

Wells was pretty sure that we were going to wreck the place and he gives one version about how it could happen.  This involves two versions of beings on the planet, one group, lives above ground and in constant fear of the ones who live below.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Isabel Archer is found in her crumbling library by her wealthy aunt and taken to England to stay with relatives. There, she is adored to the point of distraction by every man who meets her, including the neighborhood lord, her dying uncle and dying cousin.  She finds her way to Italy where she is wrangled into a marriage with a jerk and then is forced to sleep in the bed she was coerced to make.

I was heartbroken by Isabel's situation.  I loved the idea she had for herself and her life.  I was looking forward to seeing how she made it work.  Instead, she went a way I could relate to more, unfortunately.  I had high hopes for Isabel.  Just because she didn't live my dream, didn't mean her story wasn't a fun ride.

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
While I wasn't a huge fan of the the original Wizard of Oz story, I thought I'd see what makes these such enduring classics.  This time out Dorothy is going to Australia for a vacation with Uncle Henry. The ship they are sailing on hits a terrible storm and Dorothy is swept away on a big crate with a yellow chicken, Bellina.

Dorothy and Bellina, along with a wind up man they meet, Tik-Tok go on a mission to rescue the royal family of Ev and return them to the throne, where their people really need them.  They get assistance from Glinda, Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Very Hungry Tiger as they battle an evil wizard who has imprisoned the family.  I think I preferred this to the Wizard of Oz. But, I could be biased about the first book because it clashed so much with the cherished classic that I grew up on.

She by H. Rider Haggard
Horace Holly is visited by his dying friend and given a trunk and the job of raising his friend's son, Leo.  When Leo turns 25, they are to open the trunk and undertake finding where he comes from.  In the trunk is a pottery shard which leads Holly, Leo and the young man he hired to help raise him on a journey to Africa where they are captured and led to the original She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Leo is the reincarnation of her lover, and she wants him to be hers forever. Leo has other ideas. He met a girl who nursed him back to health after being injured in the ordeal he and his adopted father have been through.  She is not someone you want to anger.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
This was a reread. Actually, I've read this book a few times, the first time was in high school, and I don't think I was sufficiently mature enough to really get it.  This time out, I had a new appreciation for Hester Prynne and how she dealt with the hand that was dealt her.    Hester is a good woman and she nobly and quietly deals with her situation, all while protecting the cowardly minister, the number two in their tango.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
D'Artagnan, a poor youth leaves his dead end village to make his way in the world.  He goes with a letter of recommendation to Monsieur Treville, head of the musketeers, a yellow horse and a sword.  En route he is insulted and assaulted by a man who he spends much of the rest of the book tracking down to teach a lesson.

D'Artagnan finds his way to M. Treville, who is less than interested in helping him, without the letter.  D'Artagnan then manages to insult each of the three musketeers, individually and gets challenged to duels with them all that afternoon.  Instead, the four wind up fighting the Cardinal's men, and in winning the battle they become friends and colleagues.

The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia by Samuel Johnson
Rasselas lives a sheltered life in his hidden valley of Abyssinia, but he wonders what it's like on the outside.  He, his sister, and their servants tunnel their way out into the world and go in search of the meaning of life and to find their path.

Silas Marner by George Eliot
Poor Silas Marner, he's got some kind of weird condition that makes him go all catatonic.  Because of that, some dirt bag sets him up as a thief and then marries his girl and Silas is run out of town.  Then he tries to make a new life for himself in a new town.  There, he becomes the town loner, but his skills as a weaver make him a good living.

One day Silas discovers that the fortune he hid in his house has been stolen and he reaches out to the community for help.  As Silas takes baby steps into the world, his robber, the loser son of the major landowner in the town, disappears.  Then he finds a recently dead woman and her baby.  The woman was headed to confront her husband, the landowner's not so losery son, who was hiding his wife and trying to woo a nice girl.

You have to feel for Silas.  He loses the treasure he earned with his weaving, but it was replaced with a real treasure, his beloved Eppie and the life he lives with her.  By the time everyone realizes that Silas is richer than he ever was with a bag full of gold hidden in his cottage, he runs the risk of losing everything that truly matters.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha is one Indian boys journey of discovery.  He comes from a good family and decides to eschew whatever the future has in store for him in the way of comfort and security to become a wandering beggar monk, with his best friend following his lead. When he finally meets the buddha the monks are following, he decides that he disagrees with his mission and starts anew.

Next he takes a river trip and meets Kamala, the most beautiful woman he's ever seen. She teaches him how to become the wealthy man he'd need to be to win her over. So, he becomes the antithesis of his last calling, but uses those teachings to make him a success in business.  This, too, he realizes does not make him happy and he returns to the river thinking of ending it all.  There he meets his old friend who is still a monk.  Instead of using the river as a means for his destruction, it becomes the focus of his life.

He lives with and learns from a ferry man on the river, eventually discovering that he and Kamala have a son, when he runs into the two of them after she has been lethally bitten by a snake.  Siddhartha raises the boy, who, like his father, eventually leaves to find his own way in the world.

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. It is not remotely subtle.  Christian leaves his town, which he believes is very sinful, and his family, and goes in search of eternal life.    I don't even know where to begin describing his journey.  It's not hard to figure out who or what is good or bad, because the names are so overtly suggestive.  Actually, they aren't suggestive at all, just overt.

The story is posited as a dream and in it Christian, with the help of directly quoted biblical passages goes on a series of adventures and meets various people who will either help or hinder him in his quest.

With this book I mostly wonder how this would fare if it were written today.  Who would publish it? Who would read it?  How would it be received?  It's a sermon, dressed up like a story, told as a dream.  It makes me wonder where Bunyan would fit in the grand scheme of things if he were alive today.

Next time we'll talk memoirs and nonfiction.

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