Tag Archives: Robert Penn Warren

2016 Reading Challenge – The Moving Ones

Last year, I had a post designated for the the most “mind blowing reads” of 2015. I was planning on doing that again this year. However, what stands out most from this year isn’t the non-fiction that made me think, but the books (fiction and non-fiction) that made me feel. Each of these books left a lasting impression on my mind. All the 5 star reads I will share over the next few days arguably have a claim on this list (they did make 5 stars), but these were the ones that came immediately to mind. Without further ado, I present you:

Emotionally Moving and Character Shaping 5 Star Reads from 2016:

A Separate Peace by John Knowles 

This American classic is a dark, coming of age story set during early WW2. It is the story of Gene, a brooding introvert, and his friend, Phineas, the outgoing and favorite boy at school. This book is full of emotions: hatred, love, friendship, and jealousy. It was poignant, melancholy, and left me slightly breathless by the end. I’m glad I didn’t read this one in school because I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did on my own. Also, while they are often compared, I immensely preferred this one to Catcher in the Rye.

Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society by Dorothy L. Sayers

A 75 page booklet consisting of two essays: “Are Women Human?” and “The Human-Not-Quite-Human.” Sayers did not write or speak much about feminism but in this work she lays out her opinion about the role of women in society. Sayers’s main point is that men and women have more in common than not and that each should do what they were designed to do. If a woman enjoys and is good at business, she should be a businesswoman because that is what she was made to do. However, if a woman desires to be a traditional housewife, she should do that because that is what she was meant to do. The same standards apply to men and women equally. While these are hardly groundbreaking concepts, Sayers’s brevity and snark offer an exceptional and thought provoking look at what it means to be human in today’s society. 

All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

661 pages, but worth every word. At first glance,this Depression-era novel is the story of Willie Stark, an initially idealistic politician who amasses power and uses ruthless methods to get what he wants. However, this is equally the story of the men and women around Willie, especially his right hand man and the narrator of the book, Jack Burden. I’ve already written about how much I love Jack; the truth is, I enjoyed all the characters in this book. They are multilayered and even characters with only one or two scenes have color and depth. Rarely, though, do characters only have one scene. They always seem to come around as the story weaves a tighter and tighter plot towards the final, emotional conclusion. The writing style is beautiful and poetic and the plot is thought provoking and full of character change. Definitely my favorite book from 2016. 

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton 

Chesterton is utterly brilliant and reading him is like thinking on a different level. This is a book on theology and orthodoxy and Christianity; it is a convulsion of ideas and pictures about stories, worldview, and the role of joy in the Christian’s life. I didn’t always agree with Chesterton but I was challenged to think more deeply about why. He writes in a clear fashion that makes abstract concepts understandable, yet deals with subjects so profound I could read this book ten times and still gain something new. Here is one popular quote to illustrate – “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

All Quiet on the Western Front by  Erich Maria Remarque

They were Germany’s Iron Youth, but as WW1 drags on 19-year-old Paul Bäumer and his friends become more and more disillusioned and embittered by war. What will become of men trained only to kill? I found this book so beautiful. Difficult. Thought provoking. Introspective. Painful but real. The narrative isn’t “exciting” necessarily and the whole story seems to drift from moment to moment, but in doing so it reflects the characters and their outlook. Their lives have been stopped and now drift with the war. I love the mercy and realism, the camaraderie and sorrow. The war created one good thing – their friendship – and then destroyed it with all the senseless death. So poignant. My second favorite read from this year.


Reading Metrics 2016

I was hoping to eek out one or two more books before the end of the year but a quick glance at my schedule tells me this is unlikely. It has been a good year; I read more books than last year. My final total: 168 new books in 2016. (Only 3 re-reads, though. 😦 ) It was a total of 41,409 pages (less than average but the book quality was overall better.) 

My average rating was 3.5 stars and a great chunk of the books came from my to-read list (hurray!) For several weeks, I actually had that list under 950. (Then the Summit Oxford 2017 Reading List was published. Sigh.) However, it is still under 1,000 which I consider quite the accomplishment. 

Last year I met the gang at the Algonquin Round Table…this year I discovered the literary circle of the Detection Club and in particular became enamored with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton. (I’ve always loved these authors but I didn’t know much about their personal lives.) 

My favorite book this year: All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. 

The most disappointing book: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. 

My favorite author from this year: Anne Brontë.

The most unexpectedly-good book: Written in Red by Anne Bishop. (Disclaimer: dark book, not for everyone. I found the sequel inappropriate and did not finish) 

The best series I read this year: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan (at any rate, it was the only series I started and decided to finished) 

The best guilty-pleasure book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. 

The longest book: Winter by Marissa Meyer. (832 pages)

Shortest book: The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. (48 pages)

Best Fairy Tale: Valiant by Sarah McGuire 

 

 


New BFF: Jack Burden from All The King’s Men

Today I finished listening to All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren on audio book and I LOVED it. In fact, I knew even before I reached the end that it was going to go on my Favorites shelf. It was just that good. The writing is poetic, the characters are memorable, and book is chock full of interesting themes and contrasting ideas. Most of all, though, I love  Jack Burden.

This is the story of Willie Stark, an idealistic politician who slowly become becomes the very thing he fought against to get elected as he strives to amass power and make a difference. However, this is even more the story of his right hand man and the narrator of this book, Jack Burden. Jack comes across as a devil-may-care cynic, but deep inside he is an idealist. He is thoughtful, emotional, and struggles to find purpose for his actions. His character change in this book is remarkable and multilayered. He is truly an intriguing, relatable character. There wasn’t a single part where I genuinely got angry at him or didn’t understand where he was coming from. The author may take him dramatically in one direction…but never too far. He is never irredeemable. He is too self-aware for that. 

Anyway, Jack Burden has officially become one of my favorite literary characters and my new BFF. I really liked this book and there are many reasons, but I will wait to expound more on them in my end of the year 5 star book review post. For now, I’ll just say that this is one of my new favorites, but I hesitate to recommend it because there is language and some graphic scenes. Tread with care. If you do decide to take the plunge, enjoy this multilayered book with its stories within stories. It may be long but it is worth it.