Sunday 31 December 2017

I Am, I Am, I Am

I grabbed I Am, I Am, I Am off a bookstore shelf when I was in Melbourne in August. I'd never heard of it then. But I was drawn in by that gorgeous cover, and the subtitle: Seventeen Brushes with Death. I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie's first memoir after having seven novels published. I'd never heard of Maggie O'Farrell at that stage either, but I Am, I Am, I Am is so beautifully written that I'll certainly seek out her fiction when I can. 

I really love the way the book is designed and organised. Each of the seventeen brushes with death is a separate chapter, each a short story almost, named after the body part threatening her life and illustrated with gorgeous historic anatomic drawings. 

I don't often talk about my day job here (in fact I studiously avoid it), but I see life and death on a daily basis. It informs my outlook on the world, it is the lens through which I view the world, life and humanity, and must of necessity encase my reading of this book (well all of my reading actually, but particularly this type of book), and indeed was one of the reasons I was so drawn to it to start with. Seventeen brushes with death, seemed an almost improbable, unwieldy claim. Can anyone really be that unlucky? I tallied up mine- one definitely, maybe a few others. 
There is nothing unique or special in a near-death experience. They are not rare; everyone, I would venture, has had them, at one time or another, perhaps without even realising it. The brush of a van too close to your bicycle, the tired medic who realises that a dosage out to be checked one final time, the driver who has drunk too much and is reluctantly persuaded to relinquish the car keys, the train missed after sleeping through an alarm, the aeroplane not caught, the virus never inhaled, the assailant never encountered, the path not taken. We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall. 
Some of Maggie's near-death experiences were more near than others, and sometimes she doesn't realise when death may have been near. 
She asks if I'll write about having septicaemia and I say no. I don't remember it. I was too young. And also I don't think I was in danger of dying, was I?
The chapter about her miscarriage is astonishing. Gut wrenching. 
It will be hard, every time, not to listen to the internal accusations of incompetency. Your body has failed at this most natural of functions; you can't even keep a foetus alive; you are useless; you are deficient as a mother, before you even were a mother. 
Maggie wonder why when "losing a baby, a foetus, an embryo, a child, a life, even at a very early stage, is a shock like no other" we don't talk about it more as a society. 
Why don't we talk about it more? Because it's too visceral, too private, too interior. These are people, spirits, wraiths, who never breathed air, never saw light. So invisible, so evanescent are they that our language doesn't even have a word for them. 
Maggie to this day deals with the ongoing consequences of a severe childhood illness and it is fascinating and humbling to read her words about that. 
You yourself know that a near-death experience changes you for ever: you come back from the brink altered, wiser, sadder. 
I Am, I Am, I Am ( a quote from The Bell Jar) is about much more than near-death, it is also about Maggie's life. Her childhood, her travels, her education ("an unremarkable degree in English literature"), her loves, her marriage, her family and friends. It is beautifully written. 
Something is moving within me, deep in the coiled channels of my stomach, something with claws, with fangs, with evil intent. It is gaining strength, I can feel it, drawing it off me. It is as though I have swallowed a demon, a restive one that turns and fidgets, scraping its scales against my innards. I must fold into myself, breathe, grip my hands into fists until the spasm passes. 
Although if someone in reality described their pain to me in that way I wouldn't be sure if the pain was in their belly, or in their head. Maggie is a tea abstainer as I am, and we both worked cleaning hotel rooms when young, although I was never to describe it as poetically as she does in the first few pages, making me gasp with recognition. 
All morning, I sift and organise and ease the lives of others. I clear away human traces, erasing all evidence that they have eaten, slept, made love, argued, washed, worn clothes, read newspapers, shed hair and skin and bristle and blood and toenails. 
I loved learning that anaphylaxis was "discovered" and named by French researcher Charles Richet during experiments on dogs in 1901. He was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work. Sadly he was a man of his time and was also president of the French Eugenics Society. 

Saturday 30 December 2017

We Come Apart

I was vaguely aware of this book when it was released earlier in the year, although I can't quite remember where I heard about it or saw it specifically. It caught my interest because it is a verse novel, and I do honestly enjoy them, but also because it has two authors, which is rather unusual. I bought it when I was in Sydney in November and snapped it up at Basement Books on sale. 

Sarah and Brian talk about collaborating

I was aware of both authors before this book. I've read a few of Sarah Crossan's books before. One (see my review). The Weight of Water. Moonrise, definitely my favourite so far (see my review), which means that Sarah has released two amazing verse novels this year. Brian Conaghan wrote The Bombs That Brought Us Together which I've bought (twice), but not yet read. 

We Come Apart is set in North London. Jess Clarke lives with her mother and stepfather, there are troubles at home and Jess has just been caught shoplifting and is ordered to attend a reparation scheme for 3 months of community service. At community service she meets Nicu Gabor, a Romanian boy who has recently come to London with his parents who has also been caught shoplifting. It's rather a grim life for both of them. 

I bet they don't live on grey estates
and eat Mars Bars for breakfast. 

The story is told in alternating chapters of Jess and Nicu's voices. It's really well integrated, really well done. Although I'm not sure about Nicu's voice. Naturally, Nicu doesn't have perfect English, and his chapters are written in stilted and incorrect language, which feels authentic but which made the reading voice in my head sound like Borat (yes I know, he's from Kazakhstan). 

Many peoples with much miserable in their heart,
many peoples with little monies,
all walking
up down
down up
smoking in huddle group,
chatting in small circle.
Everyone watching everyone do same things. 
Peoples with no place to go for laughing and be
Same as my old village.
The atmospheres, buildings and peoples 
in London North
is like giant rainbow. 
not beautiful colours
with golden treasure at end.
Is the rainbow with
white to grey to brown to black. 

But that is a minor quibble perhaps - even though it does make up half the book. Nico has a kind heart. The story swept me along and I read it in a few short days, even reading some before succumbing to the somewhat inevitable nap post Christmas lunch. 

We Come Apart has lots of great themes. Domestic Violence. Bullying. Hopelessness. Racism. Friendship. Love. Family obligation, and the differences of family expectations in different cultures. 

I can't put on a brave face and pretend that 
at the end of this 
things will be different.

Maybe for him they will be.

But for me 
they won't. 

Nothing's ever going to change. 

Of course Nicu does change things for Jess, but not in the way she, or I, expected. We Come Apart is Highly Recommended. 

Monday 25 December 2017

Sour Tales for Sweethearts

I'm currently in a sprint to the finish to make my Goodreads goal for the year. I don't think I finished it last year. This year I really want to complete it. Sour Tales for Sweethearts is my 96th read for the year, so I have four to go to hit my target of 100. Desperate times call for desperate measures. So when my friend brought this pamphlet sized morsel along to bookgroup I knew I needed to read it. 

And I knew I was in for something different when I read the first line of The Hand. 

A young man asked a father for his daughter's hand, and received it in a box. 
Okay then. 

I've never read any Patricia Highsmith before. Of course I'm aware of some of her stories, but only through movie adaptations. I saw The Talented Mr Ripley whenever it came out, and never since, and I saw Carol at the movies recently- but that's it. I'd heard that she was a clever, good writer so I wasn't really prepared for my disappointment with this book. 

Sour Tales for Sweethearts is four short stories (most are really, really short), extracted from Little Tales of Misogyny, a collection published in 1977. 

The Hand

The Invalid, or, The Bed-Ridden
The Fully-Licensed Whore, or, The Wife
The Female Novelist

All are tales full of bizarre, nasty people doing bizarre, nasty things. And I didn't like any of them. I certainly didn't find any of the stories funny as the cover blurb suggested. Yes I can see what she is doing taking a literal view of asking for a daughter's hand in marriage, women who want to get married for spurious reasons and then do in their spouse. 

Now she could become a professional, with protection of the law, approval of society, blessing of the clergy, and financial support of her husband. 

But I can't understand how she ever sat down to write these stories. What was her inspiration? Well maybe The Hand. What if I take an expression literally? I didn't like the narrative style of The Hand, it seemed to have words missing, I got confused and I had to reread some of it to work out what she meant. 

Sadly I think it will be quite a while before I have another go at Patricia Highsmith, this was not a good taste test for me.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Our Souls At Night

I don't often take the opportunity to read a book in a day, or even have the possibility of reading a book in a day, but I'm so glad that I did with Our Souls At Night recently. It's an easy, quick and rather beautiful read.

I first heard about this book last year on The Bookclub (which sadly aired it's last ever episode last night), and they all loved it. "A beautiful plea for tolerance." I'd read another Kent Haruf book (Plainsong) quite some years ago, and remember enjoying it but not much more so I was keen to get to Our Souls at Night because I really liked the premise. 

In a small town in Colorado seventy year old widow Addie Moore approaches her neighbour Louis Waters for companionship at night. 
I mean we're both alone. We've been by ourselves for too long. For years. I'm lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk. 
Addie and Louis have known each other at a distance for years, they knew each others deceased spouses and the major events of their lives in the way that people in a small town know each other. But now they are able to share their real stories, their history, their tragedies, their grief, their marriages.
We had that long time of joined life, even if it wasn't good for either of us. That was our history. 
Our Souls At Night is gentle and funny. It has a sparse and simple text without punctuation. 
So, life hasn't turned out right for either of us, not the way we expected, he said. 
I was a bit disappointed with the ending, I wanted better for the characters. Actually I was quite upset by it, Addie and Louis had really got under my skin, I liked them both. It felt like a Life of Pi Throw It Across the Room Moment, but it didn't spoil the whole after taste of the book like it did for Life of Pi. 

I've recently started listening my way through the marvellous Chat 10 Looks 3 podcast and Annabel has somewhat ruined this book for me with pointing out (rather correctly) how the title sounds when spoken by Australians. It's not good. 

Monday 18 December 2017

Cat Person

Earlier this month a short story went viral. Yes. A short story went viral. I'm not sure that that has happened before. Cat videos certainly have, but Cat Person? Could it be the most talked about short story ever? The Guardian thinks so, although mentions Brokeback Mountain and The Lottery (see my review) as possible exceptions. 

Cat Person was published in The New Yorker and was soon taking the social media world by storm. Why? I'm still not exactly sure, but I thought I should check it out. 

Cat Person tells the story of a meeting between 20 year old uni student Margot and Robert, a somewhat older man who is a customer at the arthouse movie theatre where she works. Margot flirts with him over a box of Red Vines. Except Robert didn't notice that it was flirting, and neither did I to be honest. 
“That’s an . . . unusual choice,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually sold a box of Red Vines before.”
That's flirting these days? What follows is a rather improbable attraction between Margot and Robert, although each of them works things for their own advantage at times. Margot forges on with the relationship even though she has reservations. Neither of them is particularly likeable, although we feel more for Margot. 
He was tall, which she liked, and she could see the edge of a tattoo peeking out from beneath the rolled-up sleeve of his shirt. But he was on the heavy side, his beard was a little too long, and his shoulders slumped forward slightly, as though he were protecting something.
I felt author Kristen Roupenian's presence too much, and could feel her manipulating both the situation and my feelings. At one stage Margot realises she may have put herself into physical danger. Margot and Robert "joke" about it. 
“It’s O.K.—you can murder me if you want,” she said, and he laughed and patted her knee.
Really? Would anyone actually say that? Out loud?

I was rather surprised that it became so sexually explicit, but then I haven't really read much fiction in the New Yorker before, I'm not sure what they usually run- I certainly wouldn't have bet it was this. Perhaps this is just short fiction in a post 50 Shades world? And no, I haven't read that either. 

In all, I just didn't really like Cat Person. Yes it has some interesting perspectives on modern relationships I guess, but I just didn't think it was that well written. I felt manipulated throughout, and it all seemed so improbable, even though I'm well aware that the improbable is really the norm. I do see however that when Margot has some misgivings at her situation but then ploughs on ahead with a particular course of action anyway and why many women relate to that. 

Kristen Roupenian is a PhD student at Harvard and has certainly made a splash with her first short story. She apparently has a short story collection in the works, and I imagine that will be published as soon as possible next year to ride the wave of publicity stemming from Cat Person becoming a hashtag. (Update Dec 20: Oh yeah- she's set- a bidding war for a short story collection! Surely another first?)

There's been a lot of talk and controversy about Cat Person. It seems women identify with Margot and her actions, and it has struck a #MeToo chord. It also has people behaving badly, relationship by texting, fat shaming and many other modern concerns.



The Guardian

Vox (which gives some other short story suggestions)
There's even been interest in the Cat Person photo. It's actually a real couple recreating Robert's bad kiss. I wonder what the couple think of that?

Sunday 17 December 2017

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k

I generally refrain from swearing on the blog in print, but today we're not giving a fuck about that. You'll see why. 

I would never have picked up this book left to my own volition. I had passed it off as a parody of Marie Kondo's megaseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (see my review) without looking at it, and I felt that I didn't really need that in my life. But of course I have read Marie Kondo's book, and have been using some of her method to kick off my own decluttering, which has taken on a life of it's own really.

As part of my decluttering I've been watching quite a few Youtube channels about this (and it's a whole new world out there people). One of the channels that I've been watching is How To Get Your Shit Together, and one of the videos I've watched was her review of this book. I'm not quite sure why I clicked on that video, but I did. And then I saw Laura say, in her lovely Irish accent:
This book, this book, is basically everything I stand for. It is like the missing life manual that everyone should get at birth. 
Very soon after I was watching Sarah Knight's TEDx Talk, and then rather predictably soon after I was buying the book.

I picked it up late one night when I was between books. I'd just finished Moonrise that day (see my review), and had a bit of a book hangover. I thought I'd just read the Introduction. Well that didn't work. I was sucked in from the start.

In 2015 Sarah Knight quit her job in publishing, and she herself Kondo'd her apartment and realised that "life is significantly better when you can see all of your socks". She stopped doing things that annoyed her and developed her two stage Not Sorry Method.
1. Decide what you don't give a fuck about
2. Don't give a fuck about those things. 
Simple? Yes. It actually is, and you probably don't really need a 200 page book to expand on that, and it can get a bit repetitive. But I like Sarah's way with words and so I'm willing to forgive her 40-60 pages. 

Sarah points out that "Most people give away their fucks without much thought. Feelings of guilt, obligation, or anxiety cause them to behave in a manner that, while least objectionable to other people, is often detrimental to their own levels of annoy vs joy."
Mental decluttering is even better than physical decluttering because it doesn't stop at the bounds of a ceiling or wall. 
Giving a fuck about anything uses up our Time, Energy and/or Money, and obviously we all have only so much of those to give, which is where the concept of a Fuck Budget comes in. And I'm totally on board with the concept of a Fuck Budget. In fact I'm old enough that I have already incorporated a Fuck Budget in quite a few aspects of my life without really realising it. 
Instead of feeling guilty, obligated, and anxious, wouldn't you rather feel empowered, benevolent, and carefree?

Sarah provides us with a handy flow chart to help decide whether you should give a fuck about a particular activity or request:

Yes, the path to enlightenment is paved with reclaimed hours, newfound verve, and cold hard cash. 

Sarah Knight has another two books out now- Get Your Sh*t Together, and You Do You. And yes that's another two books slapped on the TBR.

As an aside, I'd never heard the term Irish Goodbye before, but I know exactly what it is. And is it just me or has ghosting sprung up everywhere in the past few days?

Friday 15 December 2017

Les Misérables A French Language Primer

I'm rather excited about participating in the Les Miserables Chapter-a-Day Readathon next year. So much so that I might have had a little Les Mis splurge recently. The first of these books arrived today.  

I must have been in quite the frenzy because I didn't actually remember ordering this book. It appears I did though. And because I was still 10 books away from my Goodreads goal for the year I read it as soon as it arrived. Which admittedly was not all that hard really as it is a board book aimed at (bilingual) babies. And now I'm a mere 9 books away from my target! With 17 days to go. 

Les Misérables A French Language Primer is not a super condensed version of the story, but a kind of bilingual Les Mis themed first dictionary. It is a BabyLit board book. 

Each double page is a matching, inverted colour spread with a word in English and French and an accompanying short phrase.

Most of the pages are predictable- words that are thematic to the Lis Mis story:  L'Homme, Le Prêtre, La Fille. I was surprised by the inclusion of Le Rat though, and wonder if rats appear much more in the book than I am expecting. I suppose they will feature in the sewers when that part of the story happens. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for them in my reading next year. 

Thursday 14 December 2017

My Life in Books (2017 Edition)

Picture Source

I don't often do two posts on a day, but I saw this meme at Brona's Books this afternoon and I knew that I had to do this today too. It's a hot day, and I'm hiding out inside under the fan, perfect conditions for meme generation. 

Brona was inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader

The rules? Pretty simple: answer the questions with books you read this year!

In high school I was: Scrappy Little Nobody (Anna Kendrick)
People might be surprised (by): Good Me, Bad Me (Ali Land)

I will never beThe Worst Witch (Jill Murphy)

My fantasy job isMy (Part-Time) Paris Life (Lisa Anselmo)

At the end of a long day I needGood Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Elena Favili, Francesca Cavallo)

I hate it when: Five Give Up The Booze (Enid Blyton)

Wish I hadA Paris All Your Own (Eleanor Brown)

My family reunions areThe Case Against Fragrance (Kate Grenville)

At a party you’d find meWasted (Elspeth Muir)

I’ve never been toThe Beach at Night (Elena Ferrante)

A happy day includes
Millions (Frank Cottrell Boyce)

Motto I live byCan't We Talk About Something More 
Pleasant? (Roz Chast)

On my bucket list isA Paris Year (Janice MacLeod)

In my next life, I want to haveNew Life, No Instructions (Gail Caldwell)

Refugee Asylum Seeker Book List

I really enjoyed this list of stories for children about refugees and asylum seekers from Book Trust.

It's the humanitarian issue of our time really and I think deserves it's own list that can continue to be expanded as I've done with Brona's War Book List. I've added a few already, and will add more over time -as I remember them, and new books as they come up. 

A Dangerous Crossing - Jane Mitchell

A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord - Barroux, Sarah Ardizzone (translator)

A Story Like The Wind - Gill Lewis, Jo Weaver (illustrator)

Azzi in Between - Sarah Garland

Boy Overboard - Morris Gleitzman

Girl Underground - Morris Gleitzman

Give Me Shelter - Tony Bradman (editor)

Home and Away - John Marsden, Matt Ottley (illustrator)

Hope in a Ballet Shoe - Michaela & Elaine De Prince

Illegal - Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin

In The Sea There are Crocodiles - Fabio Geda, Howard Curtis (translator)
Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai (see my review)
Jackdaw Summer - David Almond

My Name is Not Refugee - Kate Milner

My Two Blankets - Irena Kobald, Freya Blackwood (illustrator) (see my review)

Now is the Time for Running - Michael Williams

Oranges in No Man's Land - Elizabeth Laird

Refuge - Anne Booth, Sam Usher (illustrator)

Refuge - Jackie French
Refugee - Alan Gratz
Refugee Boy - Benjamin Zephaniah
Refugees - David Miller

Shadow - Michael Morpurgo

Soraya The Story Teller - Rosanne Hawke
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey - Margaret Ruurs, Nizar Ali Badr (artist)
Suri's Wall - Lucy Estela, Matt Ottley (illustrator) 

The Arrival - Shaun Tan (see my review)

The Bone Sparrow - Zana Fraillon
The Island - Armin Greder
The Journey - Francesca Sanna
The Lines We Cross - Randa Abdel-Fattah
The Little Refugee - Anh Do, Suzanne Do, Bruce Whatley (illustrator) (see my review)
The Milk of Birds - Sylvia Whitman
The Other Side of Truth - Beverley Naidoo

The Red Pencil - Andrea Davis Pinkney

The Silence Seeker - Ben Morley, Carl Pearce (illustrator)
The Silver Sword - Ian Serraillier
The Treasure Box - Margaret Wild, Freya Blackwood (illustrator) (see my review)

Welcome to Nowhere - Elizabeth Laird

When Michael Met Mina - Randa Abdel-Fattah

Ziba Came on a Boat - Liz Lofthouse, Robert Ingpen (illustrator)

Thursday 7 December 2017

Goodreads 100 Books to Read Before You Die

A fabulous list from the Goodreads folks. I would actually like to read most of these books before I die. There are some serious admissions in my reading. Rather large holes that I will hope to fill some time. 

There's a few exceptions of course. I can't imagine that I'll ever try to read Ulysses in this lifetime. I might give an audio version a go at some stage, as I can listen to things that I'd never be able to read. I'm currently a third of the way through the Moby Dick Big Read which is way further than I thought I would ever manage to do. 

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

1984 - George Orwell

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Catch- 22 - Joseph Heller

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Lord of the Flies - William Golding (see my review)

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

Ulysses - James Joyce

100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

Dracula - Bram Stoker

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

On The Road - Jack Kerouac

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (see my review)

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

Atonement - Ian McEwan

Middlemarch - George Eliot

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (see my review)

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

The DaVinci Code - Dan Brown

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Moby Dick - Herman Melville (I did it! My review of the first half)

Persuasion - Jane Austen

Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

The Secret History - Donna Tart

Life of Pi - Yann Martel

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (currently reading)

I'm going to read Les Mis in 2018!

The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffeneger

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (see my review)

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

The Color Purple - Alice Walker

Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

Emma - Jane Austen

Dune - Frank Herbert

Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone - J.K. Rowling

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

Watership Down - Richard Adams (see my review)

The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (see my review)

Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

A Town Like Alice - Nevile Shute

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (see my review)

The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis (2.5/7)

A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

Winnie-the-Pooh - A.A. Milne

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome (see my review)

A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

The Call of the Wild - Jack London (see my review)

Beloved - Toni Morrison

Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut

A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

Hamlet - William Shakespeare

Bleak House - Charles Dickens

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

Inferno - Dante

Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

I'm rather toying with the notion of this one,
a new annotated version

45/100 (I've included books that I gave a good crack, but may not have finished for whatever reason in pink)