Y’all know I struggle with literary fiction, but one of my goals for 2020 is to read some more ~literary~ books. What do I mean by literary? I think the connotations of “literary” usually indicate well-written or experimental prose and a somewhat serious narrative dealing with serious, realistic topics. Or something to that effect. Not all the books on this list are hardcore literary; many, in fact, fall into that nebulous category of “upmarket” fiction – which is, as I understand it, literary fiction with a more commercial appeal. I think it’s a good mix! Continue reading “15 Literary Fiction Books to Read in 2020”
- The Wicked King by Holly Black (★★★★★)
- The Poison Master by Liz Williams (★★★★★)
- The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (★★★★★)
MONTHLY TOTAL: 3
YEARLY SO FAR: 87
A rather paltry number of books read this month, which is fine. For various reasons December was not a super productive month for me, but I’ll get into that below when I talk about some life updates. In any case, I managed to finish a series (the Folk of the Air), which felt very productive, as well as read an older fantasy novel. So, in all, though I didn’t read a lot, I’m happy with what I read. Continue reading “Monthly Wrap-Up: December 2019”
Did I somehow not do this for 2018? OH, I think I did it as a BookTube video during my short-lived attempt at BookTube. Anyway, it’s that time of the year, and I was just looking for a quick and easy tag to do, so here we go! Continue reading “The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2019”
Before book blogging, I used to do a lot more re-reading. I had some staples, books that I loved and that made me feel good, that I would read once a year, or once every couple of years, including Harry Potter and the Sweep series. Now, however, there are so many books out there that a part of me can’t help but feel re-reading is a waste of my time, which is obviously ridiculous, as I’m not, like, trying to win a reading contest or anything; reading is something I do for enjoyment. But still.
In any case, the other reason I used to re-read a lot is that I have a really, really, really shoddy memory. If the book is packed with worldbuilding, as a lot of fantasy books are, that makes it even more likely that I will forget 90% of what’s going on. Given that most fantasy books are series, this becomes a problem, and it’s why I struggle to finish series unless I read them one right after the other.
Case in point: the following is a list of books I need to re-read just to be able to continue with the series. The list after that is books I really want to re-read soonish purely for enjoyment and also because they’re short and I’m certain I would get through them quickly. And finally, the last list will be books that I want to re-read at some point, also for enjoyment, but there’s no rush.
I Very Much Need to Re-Read These
Do you notice that these are ALL fantasy? The Traitor Baru Cormorant‘s sequel just came out this month, and while I remember the gist of it, I need to read it again to fully experience the sequel. The City of Brass‘s sequel comes out in January and all I remember is that I hardcore shipped two of the characters, but I’ve forgotten everything about the complex politics. Truthwitch and Monstress both have sequels sitting on my shelf, but I’m debating waiting for the whole series to finish before delving back in because they’re both pretty dense, worldbuilding wise. I have the first three books in The Diviners series on my Kindle, but I feel like I should wait for the fourth and final one? Queen of Blood and Daughter of Smoke and Bone are both done, so there’s nothing holding me back except myself, I guess.
I Would Very Much Enjoy Re-Reading These
I have not read the sequel/companion to Simon yet, but I really just want to re-read the book purely for the joy of it. I read it in like a single night and I feel like I got through it too quickly. I wanna re-read it again knowing the big reveal. I read Saints and Misfits entirely on my phone, in ARC format, and even with that I adored it, so I want to re-read it as a book. The Beautiful Ones is one of my favorite books of all time, and I want to re-experience it’s gorgeous language more than anything else. When the Sea is Rising Red is an odd YA fantasy book that I remember adoring but don’t remember much else about. Dreams of Shreds and Tatters is a Lovecraftian horror type story and I feel like I would appreciate it and understand it way more now.
I Would Like to Re-Read These At Some Point
I do remember I liked Uprooted, but I also remember that it was hard work to get through. As was Six of Crows and its sequel, actually. I adored The Shadowed Sun, one of Jemisin’s lesser known books, as well as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, her debut, both of which I actually enjoy more than The Fifth Season, so I would like to read them again at some point. I read Kissing the Witch years ago and remember literally nothing about any of the stories in there. As for Pride and Prejudice, I read it in high school and remember that even then I enjoyed it, and my tastes have changed very much since then, especially regarding classics, so I really would like to read it again!
How do you guys feel about re-reading? Do you do a lot of it or are you too often seduced by brand new unread books like I am? What are the books you really want to re-read?
When I was younger, I really hated classics and had resolved never to read them, so convinced was I of my dislike for them. Now, after having read several classics, I can’t say that I’m head over heels in love with of any of them, but I do appreciate their literary merit, so I’ve been doing my best to expand my repertoire of classic novels (I owe it all to Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which prompted my read of War and Peace). In the past two years, besides War and Peace, I’ve read Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey, Jane Eyre, and Rebecca (the only one I genuinely enjoyed, with no reservations).
Over this past year, as I’ve been writing my Fulbright application, I’ve rediscovered my teenage love for all things Gothic. I was a very emo teen, obsessed with horror and the macabre. I’m very intrigued by the Gothic literary aesthetic and all the anxieties it conveys about gender, class, race, imperialism, and much more (plus there’s so much draaaamaaaaaa). To that end, I’ve resolved to read several of the more well-known Gothic novels that have contributed to the construction of the genre. I have also rediscovered my love of the Victorian era, so I’ll also be looking to read classic books set during that time period, even if they may not be Gothic per se.
Another reason I really want to read these books is that there are a ton of modern-day novels that are based on these classics. I know that I don’t have to read the original books to enjoy the modern stories, but I would like to have that background. In another post, probably in mid-September, I’ll talk about my autumn TBR, which will consist of more modern Gothic stories!
Anyway, of course I want to share all these books with y’all, but I also want to have a super organized reference list of what I want to read; sometimes Goodreads just doesn’t cut it!
The Short & Pressing Reads
Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley: Reading this right now! Often touted as the first sci-fi novel, it is also heavily associated with Gothic lit.
The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) by H.G. Wells: This is the only book on this list that’s a bit of an outlier. It’s not really Gothic fiction, rather more sci-fi and horror, but it was written in the late Victorian era, plus there’s two (!) books I want to read soon based on it, and it’s super short. Will probably read this next!
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson: This is one of the most well-known works of literature in the Western world, considering how often it’s referenced! I’ve known about it since I was a child. It is supposed to encompass the urban Gothic feel of Victorian London pretty well! Will probably read this soon!
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde: A book I want to read soon is based on this! But also, this seems to be a truly beloved classic and is hailed as one of the better, more readable Gothic novels. I really want to read this before October!
Carmilla (1872) by J. Sheridan LeFanu: Funny story. I was supposed to read this in a college class but I…didn’t. I need to remedy that. It’s a precursor to Dracula with lesbian undertones. Yes please!!!
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897): Do I even need to explain? This is like…a must for anyone who wants to know anything about Gothic lit. I’ve avoided it because I’m not a huge fan of epistolary novels (a running theme in Gothic lit, joy), but it’s high-time I read it!
The Vampyre (1819) by John Polidori: Remember the ghost story competition that prompted Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein? This was one of the other short stories that competition produced. This came before pretty much any famous vampire lit in England.
The Blood of the Vampire (1897) by Florence Marryat: This novel is less well-known than its counterparts; perhaps it was overshadowed by the publication of Dracula in the very same year. It tells the tale of Harriet, daughter of a voodoo priestess and a mad scientist, who seems to sicken everyone she comes into contact with. Could she have the blood of the vampire running through her veins?
The Major Leagues
The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole: Often thought of as the very first Gothic novel, it tells the tale of Manfred, who sets out to marry his dead son’s virginal bride to be. It’s supposed to be super weird and super creepy and it’s the novel equivalent of the FIRST!!1! comment.
The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Ann Radcliffe: Otranto and Udolpho go hand in hand; if Walpole “invented” the Gothic, Radcliffe both perfected it and popularized it. This gigantic book tells the tale of young orphan Emily, who is trapped in a strange castle with an unwanted suitor and various other terrors.
Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Maturin: Another massive book, it tells the tale of Melmoth, who has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for added life. Now he wanders the earth, desperate to find someone who will take over the covenant he made. Written by an Irish clergyman, Melmoth the Wanderer is a series of stories within stories that gradually reveal Melmoth’s life that supposedly ups the macabre and horror in the Gothic genre.
The Monk (1796) by Matthew Lewis: This trails Otranto and Udolpho as one of the major classics of Gothic lit. It’s filled with macabre and disturbing things like murder and incest, all about a monk who succumbs to temptation.
The Italian (1797) by Ann Radcliffe: The mother of a young Italian nobleman is dead-set against the woman he wants to marry, and so she enlists a demonic, scheming monk to put a stop to the engagement, and he is willing to resort to all manner of horrific deeds to accomplish the task. Sounds sensational! Takes place in Italy.
Zofloya or the Moor (1806) by Charlotte Dacre: A tale of the downfall of a woman whose vices apparently exceed that of The Monk! One of those vices is her attraction to her Moorish servant. Lust! Revenge! Murder! Racism! Adultery! Satan! Rage! All the classic hallmarks of the Gothic tale. Takes place in Venice.
The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Eliza Parsons: So this actually predates both Udolpho and The Monk, but is not nearly as well-known as either of them. It’s about a young girl trapped in her menacing uncle’s castle, which hides a terrible secret about his wife. Takes place in Germany.
Vathek (1786) by William Beckford: Probably chock-full of Orientalist nonsense, this book is about a Caliph who makes a terrible deal to sacrifice everything for power, culminating in a nasty fate. It’s weird, it’s obscure, it’s grotesque, it inspired Byron and Lovecraft. Takes place in…the Middle East?? Somewhere?
Frightening & Frightened Women
Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon: Possibly more Victorian than Gothic, this highly sensational novel features an alluring female villain who has a secret that threatens the very fabric of Victorian society!!! Melodramatic and probably underwhelming to modern readers? Most likely. Do I still want to read it? Definitely.
The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James: A very famous story about a governess who is haunted by some phantom specter who seems determined to steal the children, who don’t seem to be frightened of whatever it is. Very classic! I know literally nothing else about this book.
Uncle Silas (1864) by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Part Gothic tale, part psychological thriller, this book is about young orphaned Maud, whose devious uncle plots to kill her and steal her fortune. Supposedly very disturbing and atmospheric and well-known in Gothic circles.
The Woman in White (1869) by Wilkie Collins: Another well-known classic, one I always confuse with Turn of the Screw for some reason! I have literally no clue what this book is about except it involves a ghost woman dressed in white. Also it’s long, but I will persevere.
This post took SO LONG to construct, omg. Do come talk to me about these books! What are your favorite Gothic tales? Which Gothic books do you most want to read? Are there any modern adaptations of these classics that you love and adore? Isn’t the 19th century fun??