Month: June 2011

My Literary Wall of Shame

Posted June 15, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Listology / 17 Comments

As most of you know, I’ve turned into a big reader; in 2009 I set myself a goal of reading 12 books and managed to read 14 books. In 2010, I thought I would try to read 24 books for the year, in which I completed 88; so this year my goal is 100 books. Seems like a big goal but I’ve become very addicted to reading and keep finding other books I want to read now. However I still have a pile of shame; a group of authors and books that I really should read but haven’t read yet. So for something different, I thought I’d talk about what I haven’t read.

Top 5 Unread Authors

 

5. Agatha Christie

The more I read, the more I discover my love of Crime and Mystery novels. I’ve been focusing mainly on the pulps as these books have been my favourites. I really should take some time to read some books from the master of mystery.

4. Charlotte Bronte

I’ve read a book by both Emily and Anne Bronte, but never Charlotte. I don’t know why; I think I focussed on the less known sisters as I heard they were darker stories but I will eventually have to read some Charlotte Bronte.

3. Jane Austen

Most people are expected to read one Jane Austen book in their lives and I need to read Pride and Prejudice soon. I haven’t been overly excited about reading Austen, though I’ve enjoyed the Gothic and Romantic books that came before her, I’ve never really dove into Victorian literature.

2. Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens has been put off for the same reason as Jane Austen. Victorian literature hasn’t excited me enough yet to want to read. I do try to read all the greats in English Literature but I’ve got a lot to read.

1. Shakespeare

I didn’t even read any Shakespeare while I was a school. The only book related subject at school I remember doing was Romeo & Juliet but even then we didn’t read the whole play, just some excerpts and then watched the movie. What was wrong with my high school?

Top 5 Unread Classics

 

5. War and Peace

I’ve been meaning to read this mammoth of a book; I read and enjoyed Anna Karenina and look forward to reading some more Tolstoy. I really think the size is the main thing that is holding me back.

4. Lord of the Flies

While I’ve read that this book is very disturbing, this only makes me want to read this more. I picked this book to put on this list, simply because it is one of the books people read in High School, so are surprised to know I haven’t read it.

3. Cloud Street

I had to pick some classic Australian literature to add to the list and I think Tim Winton is one Australian author I would like to read. I live in Australia and haven’t read much of its literature, but it’s on my to-read list.

2. Moby Dick

Not the number one book but this white whale does need to be read soon. If we look at the great novels of the 20th Century I think Moby Dick would be one of the books sitting on the top of the list.

1. Crime and Punishment

With my love of what little Russian literature I’ve read, Crime and Punishment has been a must read for me for a very long time. My wife hates Russian literature but I adore it and can’t wait to start this book (when I finish all the other books waiting to be read).

If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them and if you are on Goodreads, I hope we are friends. I know there is heaps of books that need to be read, but this was just a glimpse in the major books that I need to read and a good excuse to try something different on this blog. What is on your reading wall of shame?


What is Wrong with Dark YA Novels?

Posted June 9, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Literature / 0 Comments

As most of you have heard, a few days ago The Wall Street Journal released an article about Young Adult (YA) fiction been excessively dark and parents being concerned about the effects of this on their children. While I’ve not read much YA, I do feel the need to defend it as I am a fan of dark imagery. For starters, this is nothing new; parents have been concerned about their children and what they do for a very long time (possibly forever) and teens will always feel an attraction to doing something their parents don’t approve of; whether it’s to rebel or just  curiosity. Apart from that, controversial YA books are nothing new; The Catcher in the Rye is the first book that comes to mind, being the one most censored book in the world and always getting complaints from parents when their children have to read it. In the 1970’s, there was Go Ask Alice which to this day has been slammed for been too controversial for teens to read.

In the world today teenagers are exposed to a lot of questions and getting very little answers. While they may not all be abused, a lot of them have to deal with being harassed, neglected or even the feeling of being misunderstood. Sometimes a parent or a teacher can help but sometimes they are just too embarrassed to ask, so they are drawn to these books because they are looking for answers.

Some are just reading these books for information, they may not have questions that need answering. They are just curious; either about things they’ve experienced (loneliness, heart break, pain) or about things they haven’t experienced yet (sex, drugs, suicide).

So from what I can gather; Teenagers read dark YA fiction for three main reasons;

1. They are dealing with similar issues as the characters in the book.

2. Even if they don’t have a similar life as the characters, they share similar feelings.

3. They read books for the same reasons that adults read books: for fun; to explore another world.

While these books may seem dark, I’ve noticed the hashtag #YASaves going around twitter, where people talk about how reading these books may have helped them and even saved their lives. The main reason for this (from what I can gather) is that these books are showing them why certain behaviours are dangerous. Literature connects us and these YA novels just act as a bridge between the darkness of our thoughts and reality. It can save us by showing the dangers of the thoughts we may be having and the effect they would have on yourself and others around you.

This whole discussion about dark novels, feels close to the discussions of censorship (to me). We have to remember while these young adults read books like this, it doesn’t mean they are going to turn into something bad, it is more likely to do them good than harm. (At least they are reading.) I feel the need to read more young adult fiction (not the ones about fairies) and see just how dark they are, but I have a huge to-read list and may not get to a YA book for awhile. However I know many adults that do read these books and none have ever mentioned them being harmful. I would love to know what others think of the Wall Street Journal article and YA novels in general. What do you like/dislike about them and what is your favourite?

 


Is there Pre-Tolkien Fantasy?

Posted June 3, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Literature / 0 Comments

Last night at Trivia, I was having a conversation about The Lord of the Rings and its effect on literature and fantasy. I asked the question ‘What fantasy was there before Tolkien?’ A question that I thought I would get some interesting answers but it was a question that they didn’t know how to answer. Was there fantasy before Tolkien? While J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would be the ones responsible for making fantasy popular; the genre isn’t really that new. While the concept of a fantasy genre may seem new, a lot of it draws from Epic Poems such as The Odyssey & Beowulf, but also from Fairy Tales, Fables and Myths. I’m not a huge fan of fantasy as a genre, so I might be missing some information, but from what I can find the first Fantasy novel was by George MacDonald but writers like Lord Dunsany have been writing short stories beforehand. For more about pre-Tolkien fantasy, check out this list from Goodreads.

Another thing I’ve noticed about fantasy, while this is often a new world with commonly known races; Tolkien’s Elves, Hobbits, Orcs, etc have been used time and time again. I know there are probably people that differ from Tolkien’s world but it seems to be a template that is being used far too often. While I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings books, I’ve seen the movie and can see similarities between Tolkien and other books, movies and games in the fantasy genre.

We owe a lot to J.R.R. Tolkien for everything he has done for speculative fiction; I would like to know, can books step out of his shadows and reinvent the races or the genre successfully? Also I would love to know more about the fantasy genre and all its subgenres. What would fantasy novel would you recommend to people?