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The First 40: A Look Back

This project is 40% done, people. The next time I do a “look back” post like this, 101 Books will be halfway complete! What will I do?

Today’s post is simply a review of some highlights and lowlights from the first 40 novels. It’s a 101 Books Award Show, if you will, except that there are no awards to hand out and no drunken celebrities to present them.

Let us begin.

Total pages read: 14,418

Favorite book: The second book I read still tops the list: To Kill A Mockingbird (Complete rankings.)

Least favorite book: Oh, Mrs. Dalloway. Will any book ever be worse than you?

Favorite character: Yossarian (Catch 22).

Least favorite characters: Humbert Humbert (Lolita).

Favorite writer:  George Orwell (1984 and Animal Farm) over Philip Roth (American Pastoral)

Least favorite writer: William Gibson (Neuromancer) tops Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway).

Biggest pleasant surprise: I, Claudius over The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Most difficult book: The Sound and The Fury tops Infinite Jest

Most depressing book: Gosh, there are so many of these now, so I’ll rank my top 5 most depressing. 1) Never Let Me Go 2) Rabbit, Run 3) Dog Soldiers 4) American Pastoral 5) Revolutionary Road.

Most graphic/violent book: 1) Blood Meridian 2) A Clockwork Orange 3) Falconer

Most inspirational book: Inspiration has been hard to find on this list. That said, To Kill A Mockingbird is tops.

Funniest book: Catch 22. Nothing else is even close.

Longest read: Infinite Jest 

Shortest read: Animal Farm

Best opening line: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” (The Blind Assassin)

Most memorable line: Three favorites from the first 30:

  1. “Soon you’ll regret all that sun-tanning. Your face will look like a testicle.” – Iris Chase
    (Iris Chase, The Blind Assassin)
  2. “I do things like get in a taxi and say, ‘The library, and step on it.’” ( Hal Incandenza, Infinite Jest)
  3. “Hate is a lack of imagination.” (The Unnamed Priest, The Power And The Glory)

Favorite posts: Some posts that I’m fond of either because of the subject matter or the discussion that resulted from it.

The Beginning: First post. How it all got started.

Book #27: The Sound and The Fury: My slightly controversial review of the Faulkner classic. Freshly Pressed.

101 Books Guide To Carrying An Embarrassing Book In Public: Believe me, thanks to this project, I have a lot of experience.

Q&A With Lev Grossman: My interview with one of the two creators of the Time list.

Why Read Fiction? The journey of a former nonfiction snob. That’s me.

Looking Back on Infinite JestAll everything from my experience reading IJ.

Did Stanley Kubrick Misinterpret A Clockwork Orange? Yep.

The Art of Reading While Watching Football: It can be done.

Do You Like Depressing Stories? If you don’t, you should.

5 Disgusting Words That Make Me Cringe: This is nasty stuff.

Book #33: Lolita: Controversial book (and post).

5 Things I’ve Learned About Book Blogging: Free advice. You get what you pay for.

Reading Tips From A One-Year-Old. Stuff my son taught me about reading.

What do Harper Lee and Captain Underpants Have in Common? More than you think!

Want To Write A Classic Novel? Here’s How. Get depressed.

The Perks of Being An English Major. Hilarious comic strip.

7 Annoying Words That Should Die A Horrible Death. The worst of the worst.

Love Stories That Aren’t Really Love Stories. They simply aren’t.

The Graham Greene-Shirley Temple connection. This post went slightly viral after getting linked to from The New Yorker and The Book Slut.

It’s Not You. It’s Me. What does Seinfeld has in common with books?

Your Search Questions Answered: My meager attempt at humor.

That’s all for this time around.

Agree or disagree with any of these “awards?”

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Congrats on making it to the 40 mark and on keeping it lively and interesting for those of us following your blog!


    April 23, 2012
    • Thanks Teresa for commenting and always participating!


      April 23, 2012
  2. Congratulations and keep up the great reading and writing.


    April 23, 2012
  3. Congrats and keep up the work. It’s great to hear from you. I’ll keep following this site.Let more knowledge come. “Let there be light”.


    April 23, 2012
  4. Congratulations! Almost half way there and I’m really enjoying reading your blog as you continue with your reading challenge.


    April 23, 2012
  5. What is it with books since 1923? Why so easy to find depressing books? Where’s the joy? Is this just authors being astute in their social commentary? Or are we looking at the wrong things?


    April 23, 2012
    • I guess a lot of the great writers were depressed and these books are what they have to show for it.


      April 23, 2012
  6. Longest read…The Sound and the Fury…at least, it felt like an eternity crawled by at the speed of sloth as I read this one…
    Congratulations on getting to the 40% mark! I’ve enjoyed your blog immensely and look forward to the next 61 books.


    April 23, 2012
  7. Congrats Robert. If I were you…I’d read Ulysses ASAP. I Know the temptation, when I would hold that beauty in my hands, take a deep breath, and mourn my final bookmance with my goal, exhale, open the book and get write to it. Meaning, wow I salute you to finish in that manner. That’s what I thought of when you announced 40% done. God, technically that masterpiece is like a 50%-er if you’ve been thru boot camp (read it once). Hats off. I do admire your stones.


    April 23, 2012
  8. I certainly envy your prolific blogging skills! Congrats on how far you’ve come. Look forward to reading the rest


    April 23, 2012
  9. You are two books ahead of me. I intend to read Native Son and White Teeth next month, so I’ll celebrate my 40th next month. Congratulations! I mostly agree with your awards, except for Virginia Woolf. I read her To the Lighthouse, and I thought she was a magnificent writer. A bit hard to understand (due to that stream of consciousness thing), but I quite like her.


    April 23, 2012
  10. Bethy #

    Hey… Where’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”?


    April 25, 2012
    • It’s ranked #18! Check out the My Rankings or The List page.


      April 25, 2012
  11. Reblogged this on Inkings and Inklings and commented:
    One of the best book bloggers out there – and this is a summary of everything wonderful about him!


    April 30, 2012

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