Classic Books that You (I) Should Read

One of the wonderful people I follow on Twitter is Madeleine Rex. She’s 15, has completed first drafts of two novels and is an accomplished book reviewer. Yeah, she makes me humble.

Anyway, she posted this on her website, Wordbird, and challenged others to take a stab at it. So here’s my go. She got this list from Bookish in a Box. I’ll use the same format that she did:

Books I’ve read once are in BOLD

I’ve never read any of these twice, so I’ll leave her formatting for that out.

Books I’ve started but not finished will be in ITALICS

Books I own will have a * next to them.

So here goes….

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien*
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling*
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible*
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell*
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman*
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare*
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien*
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll*
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis*
34. Emma -Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis*
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden*
40. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne*
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown*
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel*
52. Dune – Frank Herbert*
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon*
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold*
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker*
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce*
76. The Inferno – Dante*
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguri
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom*
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery*
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl*
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*

So I’ve read 16/100 (Ugh, not so good)

I started, but never finished 7/100

I own 25/100

Wow, I have some work to do 🙁

Thanks to Madeleine for passing along the list. I’ll throw out the same challenge she did; How many have you read?

LEGO? Japanese Toys? Cartoons? I Thought this was a Writing Blog…

There comes a time in a blogger’s life when s/he must ask that essential, universal, question; Why am I here?

No, not so much in the existential way, rather the concrete why bother to have a blog and if I do bother, what will it contain, kind of way.

So here I’ve been, asking the question. Perhaps Shakespeare would have said, “To blog or not to blog, that is the question.” And it’s been the question I’ve wrestled with lately.

When I started this blog, I was fresh from a high of starting to feel like a writer. I delved right into articles about the writing craft and my series on the Hero’s Journey. Thing is, I didn’t have a lot of fun.

Why was that?

Because it was work. Because it took time and energy away from the thing I really wanted to be writing, The Veil.

So, once my series on the Hero’s Journey was done, I pretty much left this place alone. I’ve posted maybe once a month the past two or three months. The simple fact was, I couldn’t think of what to write. I’ve been so focused on trying to get to the end of The Veil that spending time and energy here seemed like a waste.

Until the other day.

Yesterday, to be more precise.

Because I saw something so cool, so fun, I just wanted to post it on my blog. Which is when it occurred to me. All the things I love, all the anime, toys, bobbles and carry-overs from my childhood are the things that make me the writer I am. When I sit down to watch a movie, an anime or even play an RPG, it influences me. For that time, I am lost and inspired and my imagination is freed from the daily grind of putting food on the table and being a good father and husband. In those moments of complete geek-tastic euphoria, my mind finds pathways in my story that I never did just staring at the computer screen.

So that’s what this blog is going to be about; the things that excite me. You’ll see toys, anime, movies, books, all the things that I love, enjoy and get excited about.

I’m sorry if that’s not why you’re here or what you want to see.

But that’s where I am right now, and it’s what this blog needs to be.

I will write posts about the things I discover about writing.

I will write posts about what I’m doing during the writing, editing and, let’s hope, the efforts to get my work published.

I hope you’ll hang around. I hope you’ll bear with my childish indulgences. I hope as time goes on, I’ll write something that will make it worth your time.

Aim for the Top! GUNBUSTER!!!

And now for a little desk inspiration for you Mecha fanatics.

Revoltech is a series of figures made by Kaiyodo of Japan. What makes the figures stand out is their large amount of articulation, and usually a large assortment of accessories. The figure you see above is number 101.  You can see a full list of the available figures on Wikipedia.

What is this glorious figure? Why, it’s the powerful mecha, Gunbuster!

In 1988, Gainax created a six part OVA series entitle Aim for the Top! Gunbuster. One of the factoids that makes this important is that it marked the directorial debut of Hideaki Anno, who would go on to create a little series called Neon Genesis Evangelion (One of my faves. You’ll see me gush about it eventually).

What I love about this figure is all the details. You can recreate virtually every major moment of the OVA with the pose-ability and accessories this figure comes with. And it’s only $27! I might, might, have to give this to myself for Christmas.

Megatron?

So the excellent toy site Tomopop has some leaked images of toys from the new Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon.

I’m liking the cloak vibe on, what I’m guessing is, Megatron. Not sure how I feel about him being some sort of tanker truck. Long-time fans of Transformers would know that Megatron has been jets and tanks in various incarnations of the shows and comics, so those weren’t too much of a stretch… but a tanker truck? Hmmm. Still, I like the vibe of the robot mode.

I wonder if they can get this third movie right. The first movie was a straight ahead action flick with a simple, yet effective, origin story. It seemed with the second film that the writers lost their way. Not only did it have crude and sexual humour that seemed out of place in a Transformers movie, it also had a plot that seemed too ambitious. While creating a character supposedly as important as the Fallen (I mean, the father of the Decepticons?!) they actually made the Decepticons seem weak. I mean, Optimus owned the Fallen in a matter of three minutes! Hardly an epic battle.

I’m liking the new teaser trailer for Dark of the Moon that’s circulating around the web. Maybe they learned from the last movie and are looking to deliver the goods this time. Us old Transformers fans can only hope!

Transforming VF 25 Done in LEGO!

Now this is just awesome because it combines two of my childhood loves; LEGO and transforming robots! Specifically, this is a Valkyrie VF 25 from the anime Macross Frontier.

You North American Peeps mights be more familiar with Macross under the name Robotech. Macross Frontier is the latest series in the Macross franchise out of Japan. I have the files waiting to be watched, but seeing as how it comes after Macross 7 (which I have also yet to watch) I don’t know when I’ll be getting around to it. Eventually, I’m sure.

Head on over to Tomopop to see some more pics!

Back to my inspiration – Comic Books

When I was eight, my parents had no problem supporting my $10 a month comic habit. This consisted mostly of Transformers, GI Joe and Batman.

Entering into my working teen years, I had nothing important to do with my money, so my $10 a month habit expanded to $60+ a month.

Then adulthood struck; car payments, mortgage payments, food, clothing, kids, little room for a comic habit. So my comic collecting, and therefor reading, days ended.

I’ve recently been able to resume a small portion of comic reading. It’s funny, but I didn’t think for a moment that it would make me as happy as it has.

What has surprised me most, is how it’s helping me see my writing. If you view each issue as a chapter, some comics have plot lines that go for hundreds, maybe thousands, of pages. Each issue has to extend the plot and leave the reader hooked to come back next month.

The reality is, comics have become the modern serial. In the past, comics were seen as the domain of children and their stories were seen as having little consequence. That has changed as audiences have aged and demanded stories that still provide the visual flair of comics but deliver a story worthy of an adult reader.

A particular comic I’ve started to read is The Walking Dead. AMC has recently started a TV series based on it. The Walking Dead is about a group of people trying to survive in a world over-run with zombies. While the setup sounds cliche, the execution of the book is anything but. Sure, there is action, but much of it has little to do with the zombies themselves. In fact, the zombies are just a minor obstacle to the greater threat, which is other survivors. There’s tense character development, conflict in relationships, interesting back stories. Essentially, everything a great novel has. And each issue has a development arc that leaves you waiting anxiously for  the next issue. It’s fabulous.

As much as reading novels has always been inspiring to me, I had forgotten how much comics had engaged me as a child and powered my imagination. Getting back to comics makes me feel like some of the batteries are getting recharged.

When Good Guys Become Evil, Then Good, Then Evil, Then… Wha?

I’m in my mid-thirties. When I grew up, there was only one Star Wars trilogy. We followed Luke Skywalker and company as they sought to rid the galaxy of the evil empire. Our heroes remained heroes until the last rolling credits. Only one villain, the fearsome Darth Vader, found redemption. By this point, we all knew Darth was really Luke’s father and that at some point he had been a hero. So having him find redemption gave a sweet bookend to a beloved trilogy of movies.

Twenty-two years later, George Lucas decided to let us all see what happened to poor Anakin.

For those of us old enough to have been around the first time, it was a chance to see what the fall of Anakin Skywalker was all about, and to see the fabled Clone Wars. We knew and understood what we were watching.

For those younger, new, fans, they watched the movies from episode one to six, and understood the story as that of Anakin and his children.

Now my six year old son is a fan of the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Anakin, clone troopers and Chancellor Palpatine, he sees them as the “good guys”. Trying to explain to him that these soldiers who fight and die so valiantly next to the jedi will, upon a single command, turn around and murder all of them, is tough. Every time the topic comes up, I can see injury in his eyes to think that the heroic Anakin will become a monster.

I wonder if George Lucas thought about that. I wonder if he considered even for a moment how he would injure young fans by creating a series like Clone Wars. I wonder if he thought what kind of position he would put parents into by having love be the thing that drove Anakin to the dark side.

When I was a kid, Star Wars was a sci-fi fairytale. The good guys stayed good. I’m not against the anti-hero. I’m not against a hero who falls and then finds redemption. But introducing series after series that features villains, then the villains before they were villains, who then become villains, who are then heroes again, is confusing for adults, let alone six year old kids.

So why am I rambling? Because stories should have a logical order. There is a danger in prequels. There is a danger in prequels, then doing prequels to the ending of the prequels. An audience can be alienated, especially if the differing stories are aimed at different demographics.