Welcome to the BLoGN

BLoGN is the the Bluddy List of Great Novels - and any bluddy may give her (or his) opinion on the greatest novels we know...

More about the concept right here...

The Secret Life of Bees

I just read The Secret Life of Bees and found it a great read. I caught myself laughing out loud several times, though it's not just a funny story. In many ways it reminded me of "To Kill a Mockingbird", but it was a sweeter read than the old classic.

Sue Monk Kidd has a way with words - and you can actually hear the characters' voices - the dialogue is so good...

The Eyre Affair

Just a quick note to let you all know that I have now "discovered" Jasper Fforde and after reading the first book about the likeable heroine Thursday Next, The Eyre Affair I have prompte ordered the next book in the series. It's funny, intelligent, unlikely and exciting...

Killing Mr. Watson

Killing Mr. Watson by Peter Matthiessen

Suggested by Riannan. Here's what she said about it:

"It's about a community on the small islands west of south Florida in the late 1800's, early 1900's, and the character of a man who comes to live with them. I think it is a great book in the truest sense of the word."

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I've just finished the (so far) last book in this, hopefully never-ending, series of books about The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. (The others being Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, The Full Cupboard of Life and In the Company of Cheerful Ladies - as you may know! Apparently there's even a Blue Shoes and Happiness that I've yet to find & read.

Possibly, this is not Nobel prize literature. Possibly. But it's compelling reading - to me at least! - and I never knew earlier that I was so interested to know about life in Botswana...

Now, isn't that a feat too, worthy of note? Making me toss my old Earl Grey out the window and buy bush tea instead? Google-earthing through Botswana, the Kalahari etc. to refresh my school-girl learning about the area? I think it's definitely worth mentioning. And we haven't really decided how to define excellent writing yet either, have we..?

The New York Times writes:

"The Miss Marple of Botswana."

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith's widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to "help people with problems in their lives." Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency received two Booker Judges' Special Recommendations and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement.

Get hold of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency here.


Get hold of Underworld by Don DeLillo

"Through fragments and interlaced stories--including those of highway killers, artists, celebrities, conspiracists, gangsters, nuns, and sundry others--DeLillo creates a fragile web of connected experience, a communal Zeitgeist that encompasses the messy whole of five decades of American life, wonderfully distilled." (Amazon.com)

I think it's a very good shot at "the great american novel"...

Psalm at Journey's End

Get hold of Psalm at Journey's End by Erik Fosnes Hansen

"Among the many myths surrounding the 1912 sinking of the Titanic was the notion that the ship's band played on until the end. Norwegian novelist Erik Fosnes Hansen has seized upon that story as the hinge for this fascinating, if at times distressing, book about the musicians aboard the fatal voyage. The fictional band members, who hail from across Europe, find a certain kinship on the vessel besides that of a life spent chasing musical dreams. Their lives, each treated almost as novellas, reflect the tragedies the war will soon bring to Europe. The whole event is played out metaphorically in the tales of simple people involved in tragic events." (Amazon.com)

A very gripping story!

Pride and Prejudice

Get hold of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Does one really have to elaborate? This is so well written and engaging it holds up against "modern" literature in most aspects. The action is so subtle it's barely there, but you find yourself caught up in it none the less.

I love this book and - when the world around me seems unbearably cruel and vulgar - I hide from it with this precious gem...

Memoirs of a Geisha

Get hold of Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel by Arthur Golden

Suggested by Kate

Mr Vertigo

Get hold of Mr. Vertigo by Paul Auster

Another one of my absolute favourites!

Master and Margarita

Get hold of Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov

Editorial Review
(Amazon) Surely no stranger work exists in the annals of protest literature than The Master and Margarita. Written during the Soviet crackdown of the 1930s, when Mikhail Bulgakov's works were effectively banned, it wraps its anti-Stalinist message in a complex allegory of good and evil. Or would that be the other way around? (...) Given that the Master's novel and this one end the same way, are they in fact the same book? These are only a few of the many questions Bulgakov provokes, in a novel that reads like a set of infinitely nested Russian dolls: inside one narrative there is another, and then another, and yet another. His devil is not only entertaining, he is necessary: "What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?"

Unsurprisingly-in view of its frequent, scarcely disguised references to interrogation and terror--Bulgakov's masterwork was not published until 1967, almost three decades after his death. Yet one wonders if the world was really ready for this book in the late 1930s, if, indeed, we are ready for it now. Shocking, touching, and scathingly funny, it is a novel like no other. Woland may reattach heads or produce 10-ruble notes from the air, but Bulgakov proves the true magician here. The Master and Margarita is a different book each time it is opened.

My suggestion (because this is one of the strangest but still captivating books I ever read.)


Get hold of Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

suggested by Scholiast, seconded by Claire

Tropic of Cancer

Get hold of Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

suggested by Morgan

To the Lighthouse

Get hold of To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

suggested by Morgan, seconded by Claire

To Kill a Mockingbird

Get hold of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

suggested by Morgan, seconded by Claire and Andre

The Sun Also Rises

Get hold of Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

suggested by Morgan

The Sound and the Fury

Get hold of The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

suggested by Morgan, seconded by Claire


Get hold of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

suggested by Morgan

Red Harvest

Get hold of Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

suggested by Morgan


Get hold of Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

suggested by Morgan

Rabbit, Run

Get hold of Rabbit, Run by John Updike

suggested by Morgan

Play It As It Lays

Get hold of Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

suggested by Morgan

A Passage to India

Get hold of A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

suggested by Morgan

Pale Fire Vladimir

Get hold of Pale Fire (Vintage International) by Vladimir Nabokov

suggested by Morgan

The Painted Bird

Get hold of The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski

suggested by Morgan

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Get hold of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

suggested by Morgan

On the Road

Get hold of On the Road by Jack Kerouac

suggested by Morgan

The half brother

Get hold of The Half Brother.

by Norwegian author Lars Saabye Christensen.

I think I'm not just being chauvinistic when I say that this book ought to be among our chosen ones! I'll admit to being slightly biased – I love this author... And even though they may not all reach World top 100, they're all worth reading, and this one stayed with me SO long after reading it I didn't remember the next book I read (or even which one it was!) even just after finishing it...

To read "all" about it, you can read
this, but below I'll paste a brief summary from Dublin City Council:

From the Book
It is Thursday 8th May, 1945, and Vera, our mother, is standing deep inside the drying loft in Church Road, unpegging the clothes that have become dry and soft up there in the course of the night. And she laughs quickly as she stretches up to the slack clothes lines which feel rough against her fingers and which can easily sting if she isn’t careful. It’s Vera, our mother, who stands thus, alone in the drying loft; she laughs and drops the wooden pegs down into the wide pocket of her apron, and carefully places item after item in the woven basket
beside her. She is warm and she is thinking of nothing; she’s just full to the brim with a great and curious joy, like nothing she has ever known before. Because she feels new now. There has been war for five years and in the summer she will be twenty; and it’s now, right now that her life is beginning…

About the book
The Half Brother is an epic novel, covering the lives of four generations of a far from ordinary family in their Oslo flat. At the heart of the drama we find Fred, the boxer, conceived after the rape of his mother in the drying loft, and his younger brother, Barnum. The two half-brothers lead very different and separate lives, until they are brought together again at their mother's deathbed…

About the Author
Lars Saabye Christensen is Norway’s leading contemporary writer. He is the author of ten novels as well as short stories and poetry. Christensen has won many prizes, including the Tarjei Vesaas Prize for First Fiction, the Critics Prize and the Bookseller's Prize. The Half Brother won The Nordic Prize for Literature 2002. His writing has been published throughout Europe, in the USA and in Pakistan. He lives in Oslo and Sortland (Vesteralen).

I'm in!

Erh, oh yes, literature. Stay sombre, calm and collected, Scholiast... (?)

I actually just really wanted to add an H book!

Harry Potter

Get hold of all the books about Harry Potter - by J.K. Rowling

Spotlight Review on Amazon:
Why you--as an adult--should read the Harry Potter Series
(Reviewer: Covington "Bookworm, Writer, Average-jane")
You remember those times as a kid when you picked up a book that was truly magical? Those were the days of "A Wrinkle in Time" and "The Chronicles of Narnia", where you could be swept away in an amazing world and desperatly desired to become part of that universe. The Harry Potter books are kind of like that. You, as an adult, should read them. Here's why:
1. They're fun. They're pretty easy reads that you can pick up and get lost in. They're a great escape from daily life and from "heavy" literature. They get better as the series progresses.
2. They have imagination. Has anyone else noticed that books written for adults are severely lacking in this department lately? These books are rich with imagry, have a well-designed plot, and more than their share of imagination.
3. They're mature. Moral lessons are thinly disguised at points, and the first chapter of each book is redundant, but these books are written in mature, adult-friendly prose. You don't feel like you're being preached to, or that you're being hit over the head with the "learn this" stick.
4. They're good. Yes, I've heard the rumors that Harry Potter is BAD because of its connections with "witchcraft"--in fact, my co-worker is one of those people in the "Harry Potter is turning our kids into evil satan-worshippers" camp. Truth be told, there is no religious agenda in these novels, but adults will be pleased that Harry Potter extoles the traditional "Christian" virtues and is truly GOOD. Once I convinced my co-worker to just read the books, she found them quite enjoyable.

5. They're better than their movies. Of course, most books are better than the movies, but these are really much funnier in print than on the big screen. If you feel great about the movies, you'll love the books. If you are indifferent to the movies--read the books. If you didn't like the movies, try the books.
6. It's okay to read what's popular. Sometimes public acclaim is misplaced, but with this series, there's truly a reason why they're so popular. I am a self-admitted literature snob--only Eastern European Existentialism for me thanks--but it's okay to read what you love, try new things, and love what you read. If you are ashamed of being an adult with a "kids" book, just slip a "War and Peace" jacket over the cover or something. Better yet, don't be ashamed, because these aren't strictly "kids" books.
7. Your kids are reading them. You want to know what your kids are being exposed to right? You'd like to gain insight into your pre-teen's mind? There's nothing better than having multiple members of a family reading a book together, or having read the same book concurrently. It strengthens the parent-child bond, and it gives you something to talk about at the dinner table besides the ever-hated question "how was school today".
8. If anything, read them because I refuse to believe that the magic of childhood never dissappears from an adult's life--even if it's hidden below the toils of everyday life. That spirit should be nurtured, the imagination should always remain fertile, and we all need a little magic in our lives.

Suggested by Kate

Handmaidens Tale

Get hold of Handmaidens Tale - by Margaret Atwood

Editorial Review
(Amazon.) From Library Journal
In a startling departure from her previous novels (Lady Oracle, Surfacing), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries. BOMC featured alternate. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.

Suggested by Kate

Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Get hold of Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - by Dave Eggers

Editorial Review
(Amazon) Dave Eggers is a terrifically talented writer; don't hold his cleverness against him. What to make of a book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Based on a True Story? For starters, there's a good bit of staggering genius before you even get to the true story, including a preface, a list of "Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book," and a 20-page acknowledgements section complete with special mail-in offer, flow chart of the book's themes, and a lovely pen-and-ink drawing of a stapler (helpfully labeled "Here is a drawing of a stapler:" (...) more on Amazon.

Suggested by Kate

This is in the shadowlands, Kate because it seem to be a memoir. You think about it and let me know if it stays or not - I have yet to get hold of it and read it...

Kristin Lavransdatter

Get your copy of Kristin Lavransdatter - By Sigrid Undset

Editorial Review
(From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister) A landmark among historical novels, Kristin Lavransdatter is part of the body of work that won Sigrid Undset the Nobel Prize for 1928. This trilogy of more than one thousand pages follows its title character through her life in fourteenth-century Scandinavia. It is a novel full of big and dramatic happenings: romantic intrigues, political schemes, and spiritual debates. It is also a novel about one woman's life. Sigrid Undset makes us understand Kristin's love for her sons and husband, the feeling of milk in her breasts, and the hard work of living in the fourteenth century. As does any good historical novel, Kristin Lavransdatter immerses us in its time through rich details concerning dress and manners as well as social and historical events. The multitude of character names is confusing at first, but if you stick with it, Sigrid Undset will give you a first-hand experience of another world.

I had to include this "local" classic - it's a fantastic story

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Get hold of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - By Douglas Adams

Needs no review...

I suggested this and even if you should all say it's silly I will never remove it from the BLoGN!


Get hold of Immortality - by Milan Kundera

Editorial Review
(Amazon: From Publishers Weekly) Death and immortality are the interlocking themes of the author's first novel since his 1984 bestseller, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Kundera, himself a prominent character in the circular narrative, here contrasts the troubled, comic relationships among Goethe; his wife, Christiane; and Goethe's much younger friend Bettina von Arnim to the modern-day triangle of three imaginary Parisians: Paul; his wife, Agnes; and Agnes's sister Laura. In response to her father's death, Agnes confronts her own life and discovers that while her marriage has been happy, she has never known passion; Laura, a divorcee, has never experienced the love that goes beyond sex. The object of both sisters' affections is Paul and it becomes clear that their struggle over him will result in a victor and a loser. Kundera offers brilliant meditations on late-20th-century life, but the novel, combining essays, narrative and biographical material, lacks the dramatic tension of his earlier works. Nevertheless his astute observations on topics ranging from the media to Ernest Hemingway in themselves render this work interesting and significant.

I suggested this one, it's one of my personal absolute favourites

The God of Small Things

Get your copy of The God of Small Things - by Arundhati Roy

Editorial Reviews
(Amazon) In her first novel, award-winning Indian screenwriter Arundhati Roy conjures a whoosh of wordplay that rises from the pages like a brilliant jazz improvisation. The God of Small Things is nominally the story of young twins Rahel and Estha and the rest of their family, but the book feels like a million stories spinning out indefinitely; it is the product of a genius child-mind that takes everything in and transforms it in an alchemy of poetry. The God of Small Things is at once exotic and familiar to the Western reader, written in an English that's completely new and invigorated by the Asian Indian influences of culture and language.

I suggested this one, because it is one of my absolute favourites!

What do you think of this book?

The Great Gatsby

Get your copy of The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Editorial Review
(Amazon) In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

This was on the list, and it stays

Cannery Row

Get hold of Cannery Row - by John Steinbeck

Suggested by Claire

What do you think?

American Gods

Get hold of American Gods - by Neil Gaiman

Editorial Review
(Amazon.com's Best of 2001) American Gods is Neil Gaiman's best and most ambitious novel yet, a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit. Gaiman tackles everything from the onslaught of the information age to the meaning of death, but he doesn't sacrifice the razor-sharp plotting and narrative style he's been delivering since his Sandman days.

Shadow gets out of prison early when his wife is killed in a car crash. At a loss, he takes up with a mysterious character called Wednesday, who is much more than he appears. In fact, Wednesday is an old god, once known as Odin the All-father, who is roaming America rounding up his forgotten fellows in preparation for an epic battle against the upstart deities of the Internet, credit cards, television, and all that is wired. Shadow agrees to help Wednesday, and they whirl through a psycho-spiritual storm that becomes all too real in its manifestations. For instance, Shadow's dead wife Laura keeps showing up, and not just as a ghost--the difficulty of their continuing relationship is by turns grim and darkly funny, just like the rest of the book.

Armed only with some coin tricks and a sense of purpose, Shadow travels through, around, and underneath the visible surface of things, digging up all the powerful myths Americans brought with them in their journeys to this land as well as the ones that were already here. Shadow's road story is the heart of the novel, and it's here that Gaiman offers up the details that make this such a cinematic book--the distinctly American foods and diversions, the bizarre roadside attractions, the decrepit gods reduced to shell games and prostitution. "This is a bad land for Gods," says Shadow.
More than a tourist in America, but not a native, Neil Gaiman offers an outside-in and inside-out perspective on the soul and spirituality of the country--our obsessions with money and power, our jumbled religious heritage and its societal outcomes, and the millennial decisions we face about what's real and what's not.

Suggested by Kate and seconded by Miss Bliss

What do you think?

Darkness At Noon

Get your copy of Darkness At Noon - by Arthur Koestler

Editorial Review
(Amazon) This splendid novel is set in the tumultuous Soviet Union of the 1930s during the treason trials. Rubashov, the protagonist and a hero of the revolution, is arrested and jailed for things he has not done, though there is much about the current Soviet state that veered from his ideals as a revolutionary. His investigators, Ivanov and Gletkin, seek a public confession and interrogate him using a number of methods. Through the ordeal, Rubashov reaches an epiphany or two while his interrogators suffer the cruel fate of the Soviet machine. Darkness at Noon succeeds as political/historical novel, but even more so as a refreshing tale of the human spirit.

Suggested by Miss Bliss

What do you think?

Good Omens

Get hold of Good Omens - by Tery Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Editorial Reviews
(Amazon) Pratchett (of Discworld fame) and Gaiman (of Sandman fame) may seem an unlikely combination, but the topic (Armageddon) of this fast-paced novel is old hat to both. Pratchett's wackiness collaborates with Gaiman's morbid humor; the result is a humanist delight to be savored and reread again and again. You see, there was a bit of a mixup when the Antichrist was born, due in part to the machinations of Crowley, who did not so much fall as saunter downwards, and in part to the mysterious ways as manifested in the form of a part-time rare book dealer, an angel named Aziraphale. Like top agents everywhere, they've long had more in common with each other than the sides they represent, or the conflict they are nominally engaged in. The only person who knows how it will all end is Agnes Nutter, a witch whose prophecies all come true, if one can only manage to decipher them. The minor characters along the way (Famine makes an appearance as diet crazes, no-calorie food and anorexia epidemics) are as much fun as the story as a whole, which adds up to one of those rare books which is enormous fun to read the first time, and the second time, and the third time...

Suggested by Scholiast, and I say yeay!

What do you think of this book?

The Grapes of Wrath

Get hold of The Grapes of Wrath - By John Steinbeck

Editorial Reviews
(Amazon) When The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, America, still recovering from the Great Depression, came face to face with itself in a startling, lyrical way. John Steinbeck gathered the country's recent shames and devastations--the Hoovervilles, the desperate, dirty children, the dissolution of kin, the oppressive labor conditions--in the Joad family. Then he set them down on a westward-running road, local dialect and all, for the world to acknowledge. For this marvel of observation and perception, he won the Pulitzer in 1940.

The prize must have come, at least in part, because alongside the poverty and dispossession, Steinbeck chronicled the Joads' refusal, even inability, to let go of their faltering but unmistakable hold on human dignity. Witnessing their degeneration from Oklahoma farmers to a diminished band of migrant workers is nothing short of crushing. The Joads lose family members to death and cowardice as they go, and are challenged by everything from weather to the authorities to the California locals themselves. As Tom Joad puts it: "They're a-workin' away at our spirits. They're a tryin' to make us cringe an' crawl like a whipped bitch. They tryin' to break us. Why, Jesus Christ, Ma, they comes a time when the on'y way a fella can keep his decency is by takin' a sock at a cop. They're workin' on our decency."

The point, though, is that decency remains intact, if somewhat battle-scarred, and this, as much as the depression and the plight of the "Okies," is a part of American history. When the California of their dreams proves to be less than edenic, Ma tells Tom: "You got to have patience. Why, Tom--us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." It's almost as if she's talking about the very novel she inhabits, for Steinbeck's characters, more than most literary creations, do go on. They continue, now as much as ever, to illuminate and humanize an era for generations of readers who, thankfully, have no experiential point of reference for understanding the depression. The book's final, haunting image of Rose of Sharon--Rosasharn, as they call her--the eldest Joad daughter, forcing the milk intended for her stillborn baby onto a starving stranger, is a lesson on the grandest scale. "'You got to,'" she says, simply. And so do we all.

This was on the original list. I think it should stay, what do you think?

East of Eden

Get hold of East of Eden - by John Steinbeck

Customer Review
(Amazon)Reviewer: Sharon Whittaker
By far, the best of Steinbeck's books, EAST OF EDEN will knock your socks off. Not only an intense emotional family saga, but a foray into biblical translations and a time capsule of northern California, this epic tale will keep you riveted from beginning to end, the same way McCrae's Tour of Southern Homes does (fiction) or the way the unique and ever-popular Secret Life of Bees does. Great stuff all of these.

Suggested by Miss Bliss
"UM...gotta say I don't think Grapes of Wrath should be on the list (I know there is probably not a Lit Teacher on the planet that will agree with me on that) BUT East of Eden by Steinbeck MUST be added to this list!! Regardless of the societal impact of G of W, East of Eden is just a better book!"

So what do you think about this book?

The Diary of Anne Frank

Get hold of The Diary of Anne Frank - by Anne Frank

Editorial Review
(Amazon) Anne Frank's diaries have always been among the most moving and eloquent documents of the Holocaust. This new edition restores diary entries omitted from the original edition, revealing a new depth to Anne's dreams, irritations, hardships, and passions. Anne emerges as more real, more human, and more vital than ever. If you've never read this remarkable autobiography, do so. If you have read it, you owe it to yourself to read it again.

Suggested by Kate

So what do you think about this book?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Get hold of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - by Hunter S. Thompson

Editorial Review
(Amazon) Heralded as the "best book on the dope decade" by the New York Times Book Review, Hunter S. Thompson's documented drug orgy through Las Vegas would no doubt leave Nancy Reagan blushing and D.A.R.E. founders rethinking their motto. Under the pseudonym of Raoul Duke, Thompson travels with his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, in a souped-up convertible dubbed the "Great Red Shark." In its trunk, they stow "two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers.... A quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls," which they manage to consume during their short tour.

On assignment from a sports magazine to cover "the fabulous Mint 400"--a free-for-all biker's race in the heart of the Nevada desert--the drug-a-delic duo stumbles through Vegas in hallucinatory hopes of finding the American dream (two truck-stop waitresses tell them it's nearby, but can't remember if it's on the right or the left). They of course never get the story, but they do commit the only sins in Vegas: "burning the locals, abusing the tourists, terrifying the help." For Thompson to remember and pen his experiences with such clarity and wit is nothing short of a miracle; an impressive feat no matter how one feels about the subject matter. A first-rate sensibility twinger, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pop-culture classic, an icon of an era past, and a nugget of pure comedic genius.

Suggested by Kate

So what do you think about this book?

The Count of Monte Cristo

Get hold of The Count of Monte Cristo - by Alexander Dumas

Spotlight Review
(Amazon) Reviewer:PurpleKat (Alameda, CA United States)
Warning: Do NOT pick this book up and start it if you have something that you need to do in the next day or three. You won't be able to put the book down, or if you do, you'll move zombielike through your everyday tasks while your mind stays with the adventures of Edmund Dantes.

The Count of Monte Cristo is a delicious book, full of intrigue, great fight scenes, love, passion, and witty social satire. Dumas has a wonderful grasp of human nature and a talent for rendering all the follies of man in delightful, snappy prose. I immediately recognized people that I know (yes, even myself) in his vivid characters, which made the book all the more engaging to me.

Some people might be put off by the size of the book -- it's a pretty hefty volume -- an tempted to buy the abridged version. Don't! I've heard from people who've read both versions that the abridged version is a pathetic, washed out shadow of the full novel. At any rate, as thick and impossibly long as The Count of Monte Cristo may seem when you open it for the first time, you'll feel as though it's far too short by the time you get to the last page.

Suggested by Kate

So what do you think about this book?

A Christmas Carol

Get hold of Christmas Carol - by Charles Dickens

Editorial Review
(Amazon) Scrooge was a miser. His money was his life. Then, one Christmas Eve, Scrooge received a trio of visitors who showed him not only the true meaning of Christmas, but the true meaning of his life as well...

Probably one of the most beloved Christmas stories in history, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has it all: heroes, villains, ghosts, time travel, long-lost love, and a happy ending. With worldwide appeal, this story continues to captivate generation after generation.

Since it was originally published in 1843, A Christmas Carol has become an irreplaceable part of our culture. Stephen Krensky's careful abridgment of Dickens' words is complemented by new artwork by one of today's best-loved illustrators, Dean Morrissey, the author of Ship of Dreams and The Christmas Ship. This is an edition of A Christmas Carol that will certainly become a classic in its own right.

Suggested by Kate
"Yes, it is tired. But can you imagine life without that story? "

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Cry, the Beloved Country

Get hold of Cry, the Beloved Country - by Alan Paton

Editorial Review
(Amazon) Cry, the Beloved Country stands as a singularly important novel in twentieth-century South African literature. A work of searing beauty, Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set against the background of South Africa and a people driven by racial injustice. Unforgettable for character and incident, it is a novel of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.

Suggested by Kate

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Cat's Cradle

Get hold of Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Editorial Review:
(Amazon) Cat's Cradle, one of Vonnegut's most entertaining novels, is filled with scientists and G-men and even ordinary folks caught up in the game. These assorted characters chase each other around in search of the world's most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature. At one time, this novel could probably be found on the bookshelf of every college kid in America; it's still a fabulous read and a great place to start if you're young enough to have missed the first Vonnegut craze.

Suggested by Andre seconded by Riannan

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The Catcher in the Rye

Get hold of The Catcher in the Rye - by J.D. Salinger

Editorial Review:
(Amazon) Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

This was on the original list, and I think it should stay

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Catch 22

Get hold of Catch 22 - by Joseph Heller

Editorial Review:
(Amazon) There was a time when reading Joseph Heller's classic satire on the murderous insanity of war was nothing less than a rite of passage. Echoes of Yossarian, the wise-ass bombardier who was too smart to die but not smart enough to find a way out of his predicament, could be heard throughout the counterculture. As a result, it's impossible not to consider Catch-22 to be something of a period piece. But 40 years on, the novel's undiminished strength is its looking-glass logic. Again and again, Heller's characters demonstrate that what is commonly held to be good, is bad; what is sensible, is nonsense.

Yossarian says, "You're talking about winning the war, and I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive." "Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which do you think is more important?" "To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead." "I can't think of another attitude that could be depended upon to give greater comfort to the enemy." "The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on." Mirabile dictu, the book holds up post-Reagan, post-Gulf War. It's a good thing, too. As long as there's a military, that engine of lethal authority, Catch-22 will shine as a handbook for smart-alecky pacifists. It's an utterly serious and sad, but damn funny book.

T'was on the original list, Riannan says it stays!

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Brave New World

Get hold of Brave New World - by Aldous Huxley

Editorial review:
(Amazon) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a classic science fiction work that continues to be a significant warning to our society today. Tony Britton, the reader, does an excellent job of portraying clinical detachment as the true nature of the human incubators is revealed. The tone lightens during the vacation to the wilderness and the contrast is even more striking. Each character is given a separate personality by Britton's voices. As the story moves from clinical detachment to the human interest of Bernard, the nonconformist, and John, the "Savage," listeners are drawn more deeply into the plot. Finally, the reasoned tones of the Controller explain away all of John's arguments against the civilization, leading to John's death as he cannot reconcile his beliefs to theirs.

The abridgement is very well done, and the overall message of the novel is clearly presented. The advanced vocabulary and complex themes lend themselves to class discussion and further research. There is sure to be demand for this classic in schools and public libraries.

This was my suggestion

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Atlas Shrugged

Get hold of Atlas Shrugged - by Ayn Rand

Editorial review:
(Amazon) With this acclaimed work and its immortal query, "Who is John Galt?", Ayn Rand found the perfect artistic form to express her vision of existence. Atlas Shrugged made Rand not only one of the most popular novelists of the century, but one of its most influential thinkers.

Atlas Shrugged is the astounding story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world--and did. Tremendous in scope, breathtaking in its suspense, Atlas Shrugged stretches the boundaries further than any book you have ever read. It is a mystery, not about the murder of a man's body, but about the murder--and rebirth--of man's spirit.

* Atlas Shrugged is the "second most influential book for Americans today" after the Bible, according to a joint survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club

Suggested by Kate

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An Instance of the Fingerpost

Get hold of An Instance of the Fingerpost - by Iain Pears

Editorial Review
(Amazon) An Instance of the Fingerpost is that rarest of all possible literary beasts--a mystery powered as much by ideas as by suspects, autopsies, and smoking guns. Hefty, intricately plotted, and intellectually ambitious, Fingerpost has drawn the inevitable comparisons to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and, for once, the comparison is apt. The year is 1663, and the setting is Oxford, England, during the height of Restoration political intrigue. When Dr. Robert Grove is found dead in his Oxford room, hands clenched and face frozen in a rictus of pain, all the signs point to poison.

Rashomon-like, the narrative circles around Grove's murder as four different characters give their version of events: Marco da Cola, a visiting Italian physician--or so he would like the reader to believe; Jack Prestcott, the son of a traitor who fled the country to avoid execution; Dr. John Wallis, a mathematician and cryptographer with a predilection for conspiracy theories; and Anthony Wood, a mild-mannered Oxford antiquarian whose tale proves to be the book's "instance of the fingerpost." (The quote comes from the philosopher Bacon, who, while asserting that all evidence is ultimately fallible, allows for "one instance of a fingerpost that points in one direction only, and allows of no other possibility.")

Like The Name of the Rose, this is one whodunit in which the principal mystery is the nature of truth itself. Along the way, Pears displays a keen eye for period details as diverse as the early days of medicine, the convoluted politics of the English Civil War, and the newfangled fashion for wigs. Yet Pears never loses sight of his characters, who manage to be both utterly authentic denizens of the 17th century and utterly authentic human beings. As a mystery, An Instance of the Fingerpost is entertainment of the most intelligent sort; as a novel of ideas, it proves equally satisfying.

Suggested by me and seconded by Riannan

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Animal Farm

Get hold of Animal Farm - by George Orwell

Editorial review:
(Amazon) Since its publication in 1946, George Orwell's fable of a workers' revolution gone wrong has rivaled Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea as the Shortest Serious Novel It's OK to Write a Book Report About. (The latter is three pages longer and less fun to read.)

Fueled by Orwell's intense disillusionment with Soviet Communism, Animal Farm is a nearly perfect piece of writing, both an engaging story and an allegory that actually works. When the downtrodden beasts of Manor Farm oust their drunken human master and take over management of the land, all are awash in collectivist zeal. Everyone willingly works overtime, productivity soars, and for one brief, glorious season, every belly is full. The animals' Seven Commandment credo is painted in big white letters on the barn. All animals are equal. No animal shall drink alcohol, wear clothes, sleep in a bed, or kill a fellow four-footed creature. Those that go upon four legs or wings are friends and the two-legged are, by definition, the enemy.

Too soon, however, the pigs, who have styled themselves leaders by virtue of their intelligence, succumb to the temptations of privilege and power. "We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of the farm depend on us. Day and night, we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples."

While this swinish brotherhood sells out the revolution, cynically editing the Seven Commandments to excuse their violence and greed, the common animals are once again left hungry and exhausted, no better off than in the days when humans ran the farm. Satire Animal Farm may be, but it's a stony reader who remains unmoved when the stalwart workhorse, Boxer, having given his all to his comrades, is sold to the glue factory to buy booze for the pigs. Orwell's view of Communism is bleak indeed, but given the history of the Russian people since 1917, his pessimism has an air of prophecy.

This was on the original list, and I think it should stay

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Angela's Ashes

Get hold of Angela's Ashes - by Frank McCourt

Editorial Review:
(Amazon) "Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood," writes Frank McCourt in Angela's Ashes. "Worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." Welcome, then, to the pinnacle of the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. Born in Brooklyn in 1930 to recent Irish immigrants Malachy and Angela McCourt, Frank grew up in Limerick after his parents returned to Ireland because of poor prospects in America. It turns out that prospects weren't so great back in the old country either--not with Malachy for a father. A chronically unemployed and nearly unemployable alcoholic, he appears to be the model on which many of our more insulting cliches about drunken Irish manhood are based. Mix in abject poverty and frequent death and illness and you have all the makings of a truly difficult early life. Fortunately, in McCourt's able hands it also has all the makings for a compelling memoir.

Suggested by me, seconded by Kate

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Alice in Wonderland

Get hold of Alice in Wonderland - by Lewis Carroll

Suggested by Kate

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Get hold of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - by Michael Chabon

Editorial Reviews
(Amazon) Like the comic books that animate and inspire it, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is both larger than life and of it too. Complete with golems and magic and miraculous escapes and evil nemeses and even hand-to-hand Antarctic battle, it pursues the most important questions of love and war, dreams and art, across pages brimming with longing and hope. Samuel Klayman--self-described little man, city boy, and Jew--first meets Josef Kavalier when his mother shoves him aside in his own bed, telling him to make room for their cousin, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Prague. It's the beginning, however unlikely, of a beautiful friendship. In short order, Sam's talent for pulp plotting meets Joe's faultless, academy-trained line, and a comic-book superhero is born. A sort of lantern-jawed equalizer clad in dark blue long underwear, the Escapist "roams the globe, performing amazing feats and coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny's chains!" Before they know it, Kavalier and Clay (as Sam Klayman has come to be known) find themselves at the epicenter of comics' golden age.

But Joe Kavalier is driven by motives far more complex than your average hack. In fact, his first act as a comic-book artist is to deal Hitler a very literal blow. (The cover of the first issue shows the Escapist delivering "an immortal haymaker" onto the Führer's realistically bloody jaw.) In subsequent years, the Escapist and his superhero allies take on the evil Iron Chain and their leader Attila Haxoff--their battles drawn with an intensity that grows more disturbing as Joe's efforts to rescue his family fail. He's fighting their war with brush and ink, Joe thinks, and the idea sustains him long enough to meet the beautiful Rosa Saks, a surrealist artist and surprisingly retrograde muse. But when even that fiction fails him, Joe performs an escape of his own, leaving Rosa and Sammy to pick up the pieces in some increasingly wrong-headed ways.

More amazing adventures follow--but reader, why spoil the fun? Suffice to say, Michael Chabon writes novels like the Escapist busts locks. Previous books such as
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys have prose of equal shimmer and wit, and yet here he seems to have finally found a canvas big enough for his gifts. The whole enterprise seems animated by love: for his alternately deluded, damaged, and painfully sincere characters; for the quirks and curious innocence of tough-talking wartime New York; and, above all, for comics themselves, "the inspirations and lucubrations of five hundred aging boys dreaming as hard as they could." Far from negating such pleasures, the Holocaust's presence in the novel only makes them more pressing. Art, if not capable of actually fighting evil, can at least offer a gesture of defiance and hope--a way out, in other words, of a world gone completely mad. Comic-book critics, Joe notices, dwell on "the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life." Indeed.

Suggested by Kate

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Get hold of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Suggested by both Kate and Andre

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*Welcome to The BLoGN!*

As I started to comment on Times' list over what they felt were the 100 best novels of all time I came to ask my bluddies if this was indeed a good list. And as I suspected it's both (in our poinion) erroneous and lacking.

Books that have been suggested by us + the few books on the actual list the we agree upon, will in time be our humble (or not) Literary Canon: The Bluddy* List of Great Novels (BLoGN!).

It is tempting to include plays/drama, short stories and poetry, but that'll have to be saved for the extended version of the BLoGN - all in due time!

So all I ask is that you suggest novels of greatness that we must include in our very own Bluddy List of Great Novels.

The list - as it comes along (in alphabethical order) - is featured on the right side of this blog.

We want this to be a compelling list, so dazzle us with your knowlege of the literary heritage of the western world, and add a book or two...

*= unfamiliar with the term 'bluddy'? It is a union of the words blog and buddy, so there you have it!