Thanks to my insomnia, I've been doing a ridiculous amount of reading lately. I wish I had thought to start a book list six months ago, but being a new year, I thought this was as good a time as any. I'll probably go back and figure out my last half of 2009 book list later. For now, I'll start fresh with 2010.
These are the books I have read thus far in 2010, beginning with the first of January:
The Belgariad and Malloreon series (2 5-volume series)
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Importance of Being Earnest
Gone with the Wind
I just finished Gone with the Wind last night - or more precisely at 4 o'clock this morning. Seeing as it's one of my favorite movies ever, I'm not sure why it took me this long to get around to reading the book. Still, I was glad to have something nice and long to read. And I loved the book just as much as I do the film. I'd been told that Scarlett married more times in the book, but she didn't. She simply had a child from each of her marriages in the book, whereas she only had Bonnie in the movie. I believe she came off as an even less sympathetic character in the book than she was in the film, which is an interesting literary risk, seeing as how most authors want their central character to be some sort of "hero" - or at least likeable.
I read Cujo not knowing any more of the story than "a rabid dog terrorizes a town." I had not seen the movie - it's one of the few Stephen King movies I haven't seen and was one of the few King books I hadn't read yet. I was glad the story wasn't spoiled for me, for I truly was surprised by some twists and turns in the end. I always like reading a book with no advance knowledge, or at least as little as possible. I don't even read the book jacket before reading the book, because I want the story to unfold as I go. I'm interested to see the film now, as I always like to see what the filmmakers manage to do to damage a King novel. I personally think that his enormous popularity has led to him being underrated as a truly good writer. As a voracious reader, I've had the opportunity to compare many writing styles, and King is tremendously skilled in his ability to draw characters of real humanity, write scenes so vivid that it's almost like watching a movie in your mind, and develop a plot that is never predictable.
The Belgariad and Malloreon series are old favorites of mine, despite the fact that I've never been much of a fan of the fantasy genre. With these books, author David Eddings undertook the mission to write a story that fully developed character as well as plot. As avid readers know, a story is generally character-based or plot-based, but the limitations of space and limited attention span of readers usually mean that it is one or the other - not both. Eddings succeeded brilliantly in his experiment, and I would love to see the books made into a mini-series that can stay true to Eddings' vision.
When I read The Picture of Dorian Gray, the only knowledge I'd had in advance was allusory references that have been made to the story in various TV shows. I liked the book very much, but I felt it could have gone much deeper and been much longer. However, upon discovering that it was originally printed as a serial in a magazine, its structure was more understandable. Still, as a novel, I would have liked more out of it. As a serial, it worked well.
Frankenstein was a big and very pleasant surprise for me. I, like many, had only been exposed to Hollywood's interpretation, and I was appalled to find what a bastardization of the story Hollywood's version was. I did find parts of the book to be excessively saccharine and sentimental, and I found other parts to be unrealistic, or at least illogical, particularly in the actions taken by Victor, as well as the development of the "monster." The structure of the book was also overdone and inorganic as it progressed into a story within a story within a story, delivered as first-person recounts that were wholly unnatural in their telling. Still, the story itself was much better than anything that's been put on film in its name.
Dracula I read before Frankenstein, and I found its first-person structure from the perspective of the various characters to come off as much more natural and realistic. In this story, Hollywood's latest effort held closer to the book, and was a much more successful effort to convey the story as originally intended in the writing. Naturally, it strayed a good deal from the original story, but nowhere near the degree that the Frankenstein films did.
I read The Road without the slightest inkling of what the story was about, on the mention of it by a friend. My understanding is that it has been hailed as a great piece of literature by critics, but in this case, I think it's been overrated. I found the story to be well-written, but it was so unrelievedly depressing - without a single happy moment or even happy thought - to the point that it wasn't even evocative. I'm an emotional reader, and I share the joys and sorrows of characters, but this book was such a one-note that I didn't feel anything at all. I also saw seeds of possibility that, without exception, went nowhere. Every possibility for some advancement of the plot ended up exactly where it started, with no growth or progression at all. The story was completely linear, and every opportunity to add interest to the plot or develop the characters not only fell short but were never even attempted.
When I got to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it was naturally a story I knew from the film, but I also knew that there were many differences in the original book, so I wanted to explore those. I found the book to be a good read, but a bit shallow. It was filled with deus ex machina to carry the story along, with many elements that seemed too conveniently placed or too formulaic to be interesting. However, I understand the story was written to be a children's story and a "modern-day" fairy tale, and as such, it is moderately successful. In this rare case, I prefer the film.
The Importance of Being Earnest is one of my favorites of film. It's silly and irreverent and completely unrealistic, but at least it never pretends to be otherwise. The play in its original form is just as it should be. No matter how much I repeat it, it never fails to make me smile.
Now, I wonder what I'll read next...