Holy crapples, I read a book! It’s been so long, right? I just checked and my last book review of a book from my “200 Books” list was in 2016.
But finally, thanks to having my first semester off since 2017, I had a chance to read a book!
(This was also a book I checked out from the U of C library back in like December last year and I still have it because the library’s been closed since March due to COVID, so…)
Have I read this before: Yes! I read this during my first year at UI, I think. I remember reading it on a band bus as we drove somewhere. Utah? Maybe.
Review: as a very brief summary of what this book is about, it is set in a period after there has been major nuclear war in the northern hemisphere of the world. Everyone in the north is dead (or slowly dying) and the book is from the perspective of several people living in Australia as they wait for the nuclear fallout to reach the southern hemisphere and kill them, too. It’s a very haunting book and does a really good job of showing how these people are still trying to live “normally” despite the fact that they all know they’re going to die very soon. I remember being very impacted by this book when I first read it; it’s stuck with me ever since and was just as good as I remember it being.
Favorite part: There are a few times where the characters talk about what’s eventually going to happen to them (death from radiation) but say that they can’t stop acting like things are “normal.”
“I went to Wilson’s today and bought a hundred daffodils,” she (Mary) said. … “I’m going to put them in that corner by the wall, where Peter took out the tree. It’s sheltered there. But I suppose if we’re all going to die that’s silly.”
(This is her friend, Moira) “Well, of course it’s sensible to put them in. You’ll see them anyway, and you’ll sort of feel you’ve done something.”
Mary looked at her gratefully. “Well, that’s what I think. I mean, I couldn’t bear to—to just stop doing things and do nothing. You might as well die now and get it over.”
Moira nodded. “If what they say is right, we’re none of us going to have time to do all that we planned to do. But we can keep on doing it as long as we can.”
And there’s a scene where they’re talking about going fishing but the season hasn’t opened yet, but even though they know they’ll be dead in a few weeks, they want to obey the law and not fish until the season has technically started.
It’s so very…human, I think.
So I’ve seen about seven of my Facebook friends post something along the lines of “what book should I read next?” as their little status update thingy. Even though maybe two people from Facebook check out this blog on a semi-regular basis, I’m posting here my top 10 favorite/most highly recommended books with little itty bitty one-sentence synopses. I know I’ve done this a couple times before, but the list keeps changing ever-so-slightly and hell, it’s always good to have book recommendations close at hand, right?
10. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
One-sentence synopsis: Vladimir and Estragon wait…and wait…and wait…
9. Watership Down by Richard Adams
One-sentence synopsis: a colony of rabbits set out in search of a new warren and face many perils on their journey.
8. On The Beach by Nevil Shute
One-sentence synopsis: In a post-WWIII world, we get a glimpse into the slow suffering of those living in Australia as they wait for the atmospheric winds to bring the nuclear fallout down from the north.
7. The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Clark
One-sentence synopsis: A group of justice-seeking townspeople (and two drifters) set out to find and punish three men presumed to be cattle rustlers and murderers.
6. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
One-sentence synopsis: Wealthy (and badass) Londoner Phileas Fogg wagers that he can travel around the world in 80 days.
5. Watchmen by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons
One-sentence synopsis: In this graphic novel, an ex-super hero is murdered, his fellow ex-super heroes speculate about his death, and we are privy to an intricate tale of their past and present lives in an alternate 1980s time.
4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
One-sentence synopsis: through a confessional outpouring, we learn of lit professor Humbert Humbert’s romantic obsession with 12-year-old Lolita.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
One-sentence synopsis: Nick Carraway becomes a neighbor to the wealthy, party-happy, mysterious Jay Gatsby and learns more about him and those he associates with through a series of social and private encounters.
2. Candide by Voltaire
One-sentence synopsis: A sheltered young man, influenced by his teacher, is convinced he lives in the best of all possible worlds (LEINBIZ REFERENCE ZOMG), even as he experiences all sorts of exciting disasters.
1. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
One-sentence synopsis: US Navy Ensign Willie Keith finds himself on a WWII US minesweeper ship that has happened to fall under the command of an insane captain.
Now, don’t those sound good? Pick one, dear blog-follower, and read!
Hello ladies and gentlemen. There’s this note that’s been going around on Facebook where people list the top 10 books that have influenced them the most, or will stay with them the most. I decided that instead of posting this on Facebook (which I’m beginning to hate more and more), I’m putting it here.
The books I chose I chose because of their impact on me—be that from their emotional impact, their intellectual impact, the story itself, or the style of the writing. I explain in each case. It was hard to choose books that influenced me rather than choosing my favorite books, but I think I did this as unbiased as possible. Plus, the two overlap quite a bit.
Ranked from most influential to…well, 10th most influential, I guess. Haha.
1. Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
This might be first because it’s the one I’ve read most recently, but it’s also first because it’s freaking awesome. The story’s intense, it’s very intellectual, and the art is superb. Read it!
2. The Monadology – Gottfried Leibniz
No, I’m not just putting this on here because Leibniz is a smoldering sex pot. Despite the “out-there” factor that is so high with the Monadology, the general idea of determinism that he expresses throughout it (and a lot of his other stuff) actually kind of lines up with how I see things.
3. Candide – Voltaire
I FREAKING ADORE Voltaire. This book is very funny if you know what it’s making fun of (hint: pretty much everything). And even though Voltaire makes fun of Leibniz, I still love this book.
4. The Caine Mutiny – Herman Wouk
YAY! This is my favorite book of all time, but it’s also on here because the story is AMAZING. Wouk is very good at building tension (just wait until you get to the actual mutiny; good luck putting the book down). It’s also freaking hilarious in parts.
5. The Chosen – Chaim Potok
I can’t remember when it was I read this, actually—I only remember the plot and the characters that have stuck with me since. This was one of two books that left me crying at the end. Very emotionally impactful. It’s about two Jewish boys, one of which does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps, if you want to know the very summarized plot.
6. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Beautiful, beautiful writing style. I love Fitzgerald’s way of creating a story, and I love Gatsby.
7. On the Beach – Nevil Shute
The premise of this book is very intriguing: it examines a post nuclear war world from Australia’s point of view as the country sits and waits for all of the fallout from the northern hemisphere to drift through the atmosphere down to them. That’s really all you need to know.
8. Crime and Punishment – Feodor Dostoyevsky
Hooray for deeply psychological books!
9. An American Tragedy – Theodore Dreiser
This is a long book and seems kind of boring at the beginning, but once the “tragedy” happens, it really picks up. You get into Clyde’s head and feel his desperation.
10. Age of Reason – Jean Paul Sartre
I read this awhile ago and for some reason I still really like it. Probably because it’s existential.
Okaaaay…another weird dream. Possibly (probably) influenced by my reading of Shute’s On The Beach a couple of weeks ago. This thing is friggin’ epic, man. Here’s the basics of it:
My mom, grandma or dad (I couldn’t tell which—they seemed to alternate), and I are in our house in the attic. The floors and ceiling are all a dark wood. The attic is quite big, and kind of a dome shape. We are all kind of clustered to the left of the one window. After a few minutes, it is revealed that we are surviving a nuclear attack. Sometime later, I go downstairs and get some canned food. I keep wondering how long the fallout and radiation will last, but I think that it will be over in a year or so. I think that we have enough food to last that long.
We are back up in the attic, looking out the windows. A family was outside in their yard and mom said, “those people shouldn’t be outside. It’s still dangerous.” I looked around and noticed that everyone was out—all these children and all these families were out in their yards. I pointed this out to my mom. “They think it’s safe just because it’s sunny out,” she said. “But it’s bad. It’s coming.” Just then, a cloud of big flakes of black ash kind of swept in from the horizon and began dropping on the people outside.
We went out driving for some reason or another and noticed that more people were out on the streets and in their yards. Suddenly, the ash began gathering again. My mom rolled down her window and told this guy who was standing outside, looking bewildered, to get in our car. I said, “don’t open the door, the ash will get in and we’ll die!” So we began driving up the hill to our house, with the guy following the truck. He said “slow down”, so I told my mom to slow down so that he could catch up. We got to the top of the hill and he opened the door to get in. I kept yelling “don’t open the door, we’ll all die!” There was some type of mishap with my mom and the guy and their doors, but eventually they got back in the truck.
He came into our house with us and came up to the attic. For some reason, the internet still worked, and I remember thinking that that was strange. I was looking up the weather or something, then I went over to my mom, who was kind of sick and cold. I tried covering her up with a blanket, but I was having trouble. After awhile, we started out driving again.
We kept driving places, and I noticed that we only had half a tank of gas. I said, “what about gas?” My mom replied that there was a station not too far down the road. I thought, “Will there even be gas? How will we pay, or will we pay?”
As we were driving, my mom was saying, “the danger is low now. All the debris is over the water.” Just as she said that, a big waterspout full of the ash debris grew and we were all watching it. I remembered I had my camera, so I started taking pictures. I was thinking at first that it felt kind of wrong to be taking pictures of this, but then I got mad at myself because I probably should have been taking pictures since the beginning to document the whole thing.
Then we were in this building, going up some stairs. Suddenly, I was sitting on this wooden floor in this big room, talking to a guy at a barber’s chair to my right and an Indian woman a ways in front of us. She kept saying things like “we’ll be back to normal in a year or so” and I kept saying, “what about food? We can’t grow things in soil that’s been contaminated with heavy metals.” The barber, whose name is Paul, says I’m very knowledgeable about these things, and I get in his chair to get a haircut. The only problem is, I have to do a lot of it myself. Then we started talking about the cruise ship, which apparently we were on, and the Indian woman giving her opinion about it. As she was saying that she didn’t really understand or like it but that she didn’t mind it, we kind of started to quake a little on the water. Paul says that it was a good ship, and that people had the decency to wear coats outside nowadays.
It reverts back to a scene that looks like it was from the game Quake—I had just entered a room through a door that immediately shut behind me. Everything in the room was the color of the terrain in a Quake game—the kind of muddy brown rock color. The room consisted of a wide ledge, which I was walking on, a couple rock-like structures, and a large square pillar in the middle. A door to my right, opposite to where I was standing, was closed. I must have been on the second floor of the building, because I could look down and see that there was another floor below me with a door on the same wall that the door on my floor was. There are these weird looking zombies and guns suspended in mid-air. I did very well destroying the zombies and monsters with minimal health damage, but before I had a chance to go into a different room, each door opened and a person, each with a gun, came out of each door. I tried shooting at them but nothing happened.
One of the men said something to the effect of “if you can catch me, you get the prize”. He showed me this hole and I jumped into it…I seemed to have to hold my breath, even though there seemed to be no water or liquid. I took a couple wrong turns, but wound up in the right place.
I met this black-haired man, who, before I got there, seemed to be wishing to stash stuff away. The black-haired man had just handed an Indian woman this bag of green stuff, and he was saying “please pretend this is such-and-such”. Me and this other guy go out on the porch to meet him. We both start rubbing his hair, saying, “He has such a powerful head.” It feels like his hair, as I’m rubbing it, is falling off. I go, “You can feel the power in his whole head.” I know what he’s thinking, kind of, and know that he is kind of disgusted with us. He says, though, “at least one of you is a woman.”
So how many people honestly remember these little details in their dreams? I wonder if this dream means anything…?
Also, I like my title.
You know what’s a friggin’ good book? On The Beach by Nevil Shute. Read it. Then you’ll think twice before participating in nuclear war. It’s basically about the southern hemisphere’s views on the nuclear war that basically wiped out the entire northern hemisphere. This is one of the few books I strongly recommend–it’s almost scarier than “Outbreak”. Have you seen that movie? Dang–I hate monkeys even more now.
By the way, I do greatly apologize for my late blogging (what am I, a month or so behind? Dork.)–I do write all this crap down, it’s just the process of logging in and copying and pasting and inserting all the punctuation (because, for some reason, it all disappears when I paste these things from Microsoft Word into the blogging area) that makes me…”hesitant”, I guess, is the right word.