Top Ten Books Recommended to Me

Another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, a meme in which I sporadically participate that is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week it’s the books which have been recommended to me the most. This was actually difficult, since it seems people usually ask for my suggestions rather provide their own, but here are a few that stood out, in no particular order:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Any novels by Ayn Rand

Some of these books are already on my to-read list, some I couldn’t care less about, and some are wasted recommendations because I’ll never read them. I’ll leave it to you to decipher which are which 🙂 But I’d love to hear your opinions on them!

Which books have been recommended to you the most? Are you simply procrastinating or are they never going to happen? Share the details!

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Book Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Oh goodness, it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve last blogged! This summer seems to be flying by, but I’m looking forward to the fun that’s in store this month.

As for meeting my reading goals, I’ve been trying to pick up the pace. Fortunately, that was easy with this past read since it was so enjoyable.

I’m always interested in reading outside my comfort zone and learning about different cultures, so thanks to a recommendation by one of my loyal followers, I’ve finished Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.

This 2003 bestseller is Nafisi’s memoir about her experiences as a literature professor secretly teaching a group of seven girls in revolutionary Iran. Every week for two years, she opened her own home so that passionate women could speak their minds and dress how they wished without facing the morality police.

In this regime, Western literature faces outright banning or heavy censorship for its allegedly immoral and decadent themes, so educating students about Nabokov or Fitzgerald is a huge risk–especially when your students are all young females without male supervision.

First, I should mention that the structure of this memoir is unique. Nafisi does not narrate her life chronologically, but rather separates her recollections in four sections titled, “Lolita,” “Gatsby,” “James,” and “Austen,” which are based on the authors or characters that best reflected that respective time in her life.

Some readers have complained that they were expecting a tale about an Islamic book club of sorts, but there’s so much more to this story. To ask merely for Iranian chick-lit is a waste of this author’s writing prowess.

Have you ever searched for one-star reviews of a book you loved, just because you were curious to know why others thought differently? Well, after reading quite a few diatribes, I couldn’t believe that anyone could declare Nafisi boring and pretentious. Gosh forbid a woman get an education and share her knowledge with the world!

While many may not appreciate Nafisi’s musings outside of her illicit class, she is certainly an academic at heart, and as a lover of literature myself, I appreciated how she related the political changes in Iran to the novels she critiqued.

Yes, I do believe that there’s a slight barrier of entry to enjoying this story. If you have never familiarized yourself with Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, or Pride and Prejudice, you might feel a bit disconnected, since these novels play dominant roles in Nafisi’s life.

However, I’ve only personally read Gatsby, and although I admit that that section was my favorite, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the other three parts. In fact, I applaud the author for discussing literature with such fervor, because she encouraged me to experience these masterpieces for myself!

Not only is Nafisi’s passion for the written word contagious, her own prose is equally poetic. She manages to reflect on some very painful memories and analyze various sociopolitical ideologies with finesse.

She’s also self-aware enough to not present either a condemnation of or support for the Iranian government. The issues present are much more complicated than American vs. Iranian, Christian vs. Muslim, or democratic vs. totalitarian. And as much as I can’t stomach such glaring gender inequality, I appreciate Nafisi to offer a nuanced perspective of her country’s culture and history.

Needless to say, you’re going to learn a lot if you read this book. And unless you’re among those ridiculous one-star reviewers, I’d fathom a guess that you like learning…and thus, would like this story.

As for me, now that I’ve stimulated my mind, it’s time to stimulate my other senses…next up? You guessed it! A sexy fun romance novel!

Masterpiece Monday: 5 Classics I Will Never Read

Last week I discussed the five classic novels that I really want to read, and I’m happy to say that I’m making a dent on that list. I finished Francesca Segal’s The Innocents, and now I’ve moved on to Kafka’s The Trial. I haven’t read enough to make an opinion yet, but keep a look out for my review of The Innocents this week.

Today I want us to be completely honest. We all love books–there’s no denying that–but let’s face it, we don’t love all books. There are stories so bad that we wouldn’t touch them with a fifty foot pole. Most of these stories are easy to mock, like 50 Shades of Grey, but what happens when the literary world has dubbed them as masterpieces? Do we still voice our hatred or bury it deep down to avoid offending the literati?

Well, I’m not afraid of speaking my mind, so without further delay, these are the five classics I will never read, unless bribed or under threat of torture:

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851): I have disliked Melville ever since I read his short stories “Bartleby the Scrivener” and “Benito Cereno.” His writing is so dull and dry that I cannot imagine being able to read an entire novel about a man hunting a whale. I’m sure under the surface there’s some wonderful symbolism, but the surface makes me want to fall asleep. How can this guy have been neighbors with Nathaniel Hawthorne? That’s like saying Kristen Stewart lives next to Meryl Streep. They may both be in the same profession, but they might as well be on different planets. Call me Ishmael? Call me never.

2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929): I’ve stated many times before that my least favorite writing style has to be stream of consciousness, of which Faulkner is king. If it wasn’t for Sparknotes, I would never have finished his Intruder in the Dust. It was such a frustrating reading experience that I swore off Faulkner forever. If I wanted to read insanely long, incoherent sentences which ramble about nothing of significance, I would work in politics.

3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925): I wish that I liked Woolf, because I think she lived a fascinating life. Nicole Kidman played her beautifully in the film adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. But I have never been so bored as when I read her novel To the Lighthouse. Almost nothing happens. The characters want to go to the lighthouse, but put it off for decades. By the time they go, some have died and it’s just not the same. I’m surprised that Woolf and Faulkner weren’t partners in a writing workshop, because Woolf’s stream of consciousness is just as bad.

4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843): This has to be the most overdone, cliché story of all time. Seriously, check out this Wikipedia page; it’s mind-boggling. I dislike most Christmas stories in general for being sappy lessons about morality and childhood innocence, but this one takes the cake. We get it: Scrooge is a humbug, and the three ghosts of his past, present, and future fill his heart with Christmas spirit. Excuse the Valley Girl reference, but gag me with a spoon. Dickens himself doesn’t suck, because I loved A Tale of Two Cities, but if A Christmas Carol was never adapted again, I think the world would be a better place.

5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955): Ok, if someone could write me an absolutely stellar review of this novel–like it changed your life forever–then I might consider reading this one, but only out of morbid curiosity. Let’s face it, Lolita is the most famous story about a pedophile ever written. I’m pretty squeamish, and I’m apprehensive about the emotional trauma that might occur from being stuck in the mind of a sick bastard. Nabokov is the only author on this list that I haven’t read personally, so I think it might be better to test out one of his other novels first.

Alright, I just unleashed a ton of controversial opinions, so feel free to share your own. Should we agree to disagree? Which books do you not want to waste time reading? Don’t be afraid to shout out your thoughts–trust me, it’s therapeutic!