Back in December, I posted a list of all the books I had read in first semester and my thoughts on them, so I thought why not continue the process? So here are the books I’ve read second semester and although interesting at times, I definitely prefer those from last term…
1. The Garden Party & Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield – At first I wasn’t sure if I liked these stories; there are a lot of characters and it’s hard to really get into their mindsets when they’re so briefly touched upon. However, there were particular moments that really resonated with me, either because they had interesting concepts or they were surprisingly relatable. There is one part about an insect and it reminded me so much of the film ‘Shutter Island’ where they talk about an insect in the brain – a concept I really love. Another part also talked about being on a stage and acting in everyday life, reminding me of the film ‘My Dinner with Andre’. Moments like these made the collection enjoyable for me, but I have to say without them I don’t think I would have been as interested.
2. Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo – This book was a big let down for me, to be honest. I liked the premise and it started off as really interesting. There were moments where I really liked the language and the way it was written. However, it was ridiculously confusing. It switched between characters and perspectives and past and present so much that I really had no idea what was going on. And the ending didn’t even resolve the whole point of the book.
3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – Before I started uni I really wanted to read this book, but wow did I underestimate how frustrating it would be. First of all, it’s ridiculously long. Secondly, I feel like I know way too much about whales because it won’t stop going on about them. And finally, although it’s 500 odd pages, barely anything actually happens. It could have been a lot shorter than it actually was because most of it went over my head and if I had to retell the plot right now I probably couldn’t, despite having spent the last 5 weeks reading it. However, when it comes to analysing it, it can actually be pretty interesting. So I’ll give it that. And it also inspired this post which got me thinking pretty deeply about whether pain has a body so props to Melville for that.
4. On Experience by Michel de Montaigne – I really enjoyed reading this one because it was very philosophical in thought and whilst you’ve got to be focused to read it, once you are you can get a lot out of it. Having studied Philosophy and Ethics at A level, it was nice to return to the familiar names of Aristotle and Plato and it reminded me of how much I actually miss studying it. It’s interesting how ‘On Experience’ is actually an essay but it reads the same as a novel. It seemed more contemplative than critical, as he’s using extracts to further his own thoughts rather than analysing extracts to create thoughts (I guess that’s the dream, right?). I also liked the lecture’s focus on the Commonplace Book which I hadn’t heard of before, but it’s where you write down extracts from books you’ve read. It sounds like a really cool way to give yourself future inspiration and perhaps something I’ll try out someday!
5. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith – If I’m being totally honest, this is probably the most boring book I’ve read so far on this course. I just never had that moment where I felt connected to the characters or the writing style at all, not even a tiny bit. It’s also meant to be comedic and yet it seemed so serious whilst I was reading it that it didn’t really make much sense. There’s not much else I can say really other than, if you do read this, don’t expect much.
6. Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass – This is a book from the perspective of a slave in the 19th century and I don’t think you can actually not enjoy this book, simply because even if you don’t like the writing style, it’s still interesting because it’s completely true. Slavery is something that most of us can’t really understand and so I really liked delving into a text that gave me insight into an area which I was short of information on. I would say that I expected it to be more emotional in the way that he spoke – and it was at parts very saddening to read – but for some reason I wanted a bit more. However, I’m sure he wrote it mostly just to share his story. I thought it was overall a good read.
7. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner – This was honestly such a funny book even though I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. It starts off with the lovely innocent story of a woman in her forties who hasn’t married and lives with her family, before she decides to move away and start anew. Then, she enters a compact with the devil – completely out of nowhere – and turns into a witch. So yeah, it got dark pretty quickly. I’m not sure if I like it or I’m just really intrigued.
8. The Black Atlantic by Paul Gilroy – Rather than a fictional novel, this one is actually a critical book on black studies. There are some parts that are really interesting (once you’ve spent hours trying to figure out what’s it’s actually trying to say) but my god is it the hardest book I’ve ever had to read. The way Gilroy writes is so over the top and unnecessary. Why use all these complicated words and write sentences as long as an entire paragraph? How does that help me understand your point?
There were a few other books I read too (Madame Bovary, Pere Goriot, Henry IV) but to be honest I didn’t really have much to say about them and I left it so long to write up my response that I actually forgot what they were about (so clearly they didn’t make that much of an impact).
Have you read any of these books? What did you think?