Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The 306 Greatest Books #178 - The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. The book can be found on the Observer Book List.

The version of The Thirty-Nine Steps that I had purchased was marketed as one of the best mysteries of all time, so I was excited because I love a good mystery. The book was also incredibly short, barely passing 120 pages in the hardcover version I had, making all the more appealing to me. However, the story immediately set me off, being rather antisemitic in several of comments throughout the first chapter. The first chapter was also very difficult to follow with characters written as if they were talking with an accent making it difficult to read and understand. I have trouble enough listening to people's accents and understanding them, I don't need to read them and also not understand them. Although, after the first chapter, the story kicked into high gear and was fairly straightforward to follow along with. Accents were limited and the story was clear cut. I do feel like I missed a chunk of the purpose that was mixed into the first chapter and by the time I got to the end I felt like I missed some parts along the way. The book is set shortly before the outbreak to World War I with a person in an apartment building being murdered, while the guy who's room he escapes to is essentially framed for that murder. Police are involved trying to track him down as well as a shadowy organization. Overall, it was alright and at times very unbelievable. I wouldn't equate it as a "great" mystery by any stretch of the imagination, but it was short and fun and fairly easy to read although I still don't know if I missed parts or they were being purposely obtuse. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The 306 Greatest Books #177 - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The book can be found on the BBC and My Book Lists.

The Alchemist was actually something of surprise to me. I was expecting a dry historical tale, or something of the sort. However, what I was given was completely unexpected. This is essentially a folklore tale, told as if sitting around a campfire, about a kid who has been given a glimpse of a possible treasure in his future through his dreams and is told to pursue his dreams no matter what. What unfolds is a sheltered youth from Spain who experiences new cultures and new experiences as he transverses across the Sahara in pursuit of his dreams. Although the story does get a bit preachy in parts, it maintains a good balance of preachy to open-mindedness about what is out there and how all religions are different aspects of similar things. The story also emphasizes the reader to follow their dreams, despite hardships that may get in their way, and whatever obstacles may befall them. The path will be easy at the start, but as you get closer and closer to your dreams the path gets more and more difficult, with many opportunities to turn from the path, but if you keep going eventually your dreams can come true. It's a fairly uplifting and heartwarming tale and one that has a surprising bit of humor in it despite the negatives that befall the main character. Even as he gets disheartened at times he always finds himself in pursuit of his dream/ And there lies an analogy to the reader that as times get difficult, it just means you are getting closer to your dreams. This is a story that I can't help but recommend because not only is it short (a favorite feature of mine), it's fun and I could barely put it down. 

Friday, March 31, 2023

The 306 Greatest Books #176 - Medea by Euripides

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Medea by Euripides. The book can be found on the Norwegian Book List.

Medea is an ancient Greek play from 431 BCE and a very quick read. I read it in about 2 hours, and I took my time. The story is about a woman, Medea, who's husband leaves her and gets married to another woman, the princess of Corinth. And because of her "attitude" she is forced into exile from Corinth by the King of Corinth, the princess' father. And that's about it. The play mainly involves how she handles this rejection by not only her husband, but by nearly everyone around her. I would say it is a morality tale but there is no justice served by the end of the story. Nearly everyone is dead and no punishments are dished out. It is an interesting look at an ancient take on the "lover spurned" story and the vengeance that results.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The 306 Greatest Books #175 - The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. The book can be found on the Observer, BBC, and My Book List.

The Count of Monte Cristo actually ended up being one of the longer books that I have read at 1,200 pages, which doesn't seem that long compared to some books, but this was a densely typed up book for those 1,200 pages. And although it was very long, and took me three continuous months to read, I actually greatly enjoyed it. The story follows Edward Dant├Ęs, who gets accused of a crime and locked away for many years. While in solitary confinement he befriends an abbe who is also locked up and helps him to not only escape but how to unearth a vast treasure. Upon his escape he plans meticulously at retribution against those that have wronged him. And while the story could potentially get tedious, it never actually does. It remains fresh and enjoyable throughout. The beginning part of the story takes place during the exile and eventual return of Napoleon, a period of time in French history that I am not as well acquainted with, and I found this little insight from the French point of view fascinating and how these events helped shape what the story became. My favorite parts were towards the beginning, while he is in prison, but even the latter half that turns into a Jane Austin novel, are also remarkably fun and enjoyable. My biggest problem was just keeping everyone straight and who did what to who and how they all are related to Edward, or the Count of Monte Cristo, as he eventually became known. Overall, this was an excellently paced novel and very well written, and I am putting it on my personal greatest books list as a recommend. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

The 306 Greatest Books #174 - Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. The book can be found on the Observer Book List.

Jim Dixon is a first year college professor who seems to be on the verge of losing his job and keeps blundering at any attempts to make things better. On the surface this would seem like an ideal book for me as a former college professor who did also only teach for one year (through no fault of my own though, as I was only hired as a one year temporary fill-in). The book is surprisingly funny and often subtle about it's humor. The characters are all extremely well written and you very quickly get the sense of what each character is and how you should feel about them. And even though the book is slightly male-orientated and misogynistic, it's actually far better than many contemporary works that are hailed far more than this book is. So, overall, I enjoyed reading this. I do however have a problem with it being considered one of the "100 Greatest Books of all time". It's not. I mean it is a good book, and an enjoyable read, but I would classify it as "fine". There is nothing overly special about the book and nothing to write home about. I would recommend it as a quick, humorous, look at the life of a first-year college professor, but other than that it's really just a burner book, read it and move on.