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NaNoReMo 2007

As you may recall (lord knows I do), I spent last November attempting to plow through Moby Dick. It was supposed to be a clever spin on National Novel Writing Month, the idea being that it would be easier to read a book in 30 days than write one. Rarely have my prognostic powers proven to be more incorrect. Knocking out my 750,000-word fantasy novel about obese wizards would have been a cinch compared to getting through The Dick.

Or so I am forced to assume, as I didn't actually complete the book. Fortunately, I think my daily progress reports reduced my readership to approximately one (hi Mom!), so no one noticed when I scotched the project.

As with most fiascoes, I blame my failure largely on you. I had hoped that people would join in the endeavor, reading the book along with me and adding their own insights to my daily posts. Let's ignore, for the moment, the fact that I didn't get around to announcing my intention to spend November reading Moby Dick until 11:45 PM on Halloween, leaving you no time to secure a copy of the novel. In fact, let's just ignore that fact forever, shall we?

Anyway, I'm you're not going to make the same mistake again. This year I am announcing the reading material well in advance, so we can all do this together. (** Spoiler**: it won't be the second half of Moby Dick.)

In fact, I'll even give you a vote as to what we read. Here are the 10 novels I am considering. For each, indicate if you want to read it for NaNoReMo, would read it for NaNoReMo, or absolutely won't read it for NaNoReMo. (If you will not read any of these books, or just don't care to participate in NaNoReMo, just click here to see the results so far.)

** Voting has ended; click here for results **


I limited the choices to "American Novels," for no compelling reason (I figure the Bush administration pretty much naturalized 1984). I also tried to pick books that were a tad more accessible than Moby Dick (not hard, given that Fort Knox is more accessible than Moby Dick). Specifically, I tried to pick books that were less than 500 pages, and, if not necessarily "easy-to-read," at least not "grueling-to-read." And, before you ask: To Kill A Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby were omitted because I've read both in the last five years.

Now let me tell you my preferences, in an effort to influence your decision (he says, as if he's not just going to throw out all the votes at the last moment and decide that we're all going to read back-issues of Heavy Metal ...)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: My top pick my a healthy margin. I figure most folks of my generation haven't read it in 20 years, and most folks of subsequent generations were prevented by The Naughty Word Police from reading it at all.

The Adventures Of Augie March: Clearly I am in the mood for adventure. I don't know the first thing about this book, but, in doing my research for NaNoReMo 2007, I found it at the top of nearly every list of "Great American Novels." Intriguing. Violates the < 500 pages rule, though.

Catcher In The Rye: Read it in college, didn't think it lived up to the hype. Of course, as a dedicated counter-counter-culturalist, I would have come to that conclusion regardless of the quality of the book (see also: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). Would like to read it again as an adult (i.e., free of the obligation to come to a different opinion that everyone else for the sake of faux individualism).

Those are my front-runners, though I'd be happy to read any of these. Let me know your thoughts. We'll keep the poll open until the 8th--that will give those who want to play along at home plenty of time to get the selected book from the bookstore or library.

Posted on October 03, 2007 to NaNoReMo 2007





Comments

If I wasn't already involved in a book exchange and a number of other commitments that hog all of my reading time, I would definitely consider participating. However I will be interested to see how it goes for you and everyone else who participates.

Posted by: Audrey on October 3, 2007 2:51 PM

Augie March is the only one from your list I haven't already read, so I voted for it!

Posted by: Meg on October 3, 2007 2:54 PM

Augie March is the only one from your list I haven't already read, so I voted for it!

Posted by: Meg on October 3, 2007 2:55 PM

I think I will just read *Moby Dick* again.

Posted by: Gee on October 3, 2007 3:13 PM

I seem to be your exact average reader. All my wants are winning in the results, followed by all of my woulds, with my won'ts wilting at the bottom. There are a couple of books on there that I've been meaning to read for years.

Posted by: Rory on October 3, 2007 3:14 PM

Many of these books (if not all of them... I haven't checked), are also available online for free, since they have passed into the Public Domain.

Sadly, I'm a full time worker and full time student. No recreational reading for me for a while.

Posted by: Micah Rousey on October 3, 2007 3:19 PM

Honestly, I'd read any of them if given sufficient motivation. In my case, I marked "won't" the ones that I've read at some point and don't particuarly feel like re-reading. But I might join in if one of those gets picked anyway, if the commentary is interesting enough.

BTW, did you ever finish the Vlad Taltos series? I was enjoying your reviews of that series as well! (Unless I'm thinking of a totally different blog, that is...)

Posted by: Mazlynn on October 3, 2007 3:25 PM

I actually read Moby Dick last year and was disappointed when you stopped. I was always a couple of chapters behind you and was finding your commentary a nice indication of what to look for in the next chapter.

My favorite quote:

"We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal."
Posted by: Rob on October 3, 2007 3:30 PM

Come back to raft, Huck honey!

Posted by: Anonymous on October 3, 2007 3:33 PM

Ugh, no, not Catch-22. I read that for the first time last year and did not get what all the fuss was about.

Regarding Huck Finn, my English teacher told the naughty word police to go to heck less than ten years ago. In fact, I even think she managed to require each student to pronounce the offending word aloud in class, either in reading passages or discussing them.

The class mostly didn't care. The teacher's own accidental spoonerism of "Huck Finn" was more entertaining anyway.

Posted by: Andrew on October 3, 2007 3:33 PM

I first read Huck Finn in Spanish. I'm pretty sure they didn't have a translation for the Naughty Word that had the same effect, so it wasn't until late high school that I realized why people were all up in arms about it.

Posted by: Kate on October 3, 2007 3:58 PM

Quietly pulling for the back issues of Heavy Metal...as long as it's the scantily clad cartoon ladies version and not the Industrial Machinery version or the guitar playing, long haired, make up wearing, spandex beclothed androgeny variety.

Posted by: Ryan on October 3, 2007 4:06 PM

Now that I think about it...if you could alternate in chapters between Lolita and The Invisible Man, you'd have the making of one hot voyeuristic story.

Posted by: Ryan on October 3, 2007 4:09 PM

For what it's worth, I followed your live-blogging of The Dick assiduously. I felt that you were reading it so I wouldn't have to, and I was actually rather devastated when you stopped it.

But life goes on.

Posted by: Karen on October 3, 2007 4:12 PM

The only book on the list I haven't read is "The Adventures Of Augie March" and I know nothing about it so it gets my vote.

Posted by: Karan on October 3, 2007 4:19 PM

1984 isn't an "American Novel" ya numpty.

Posted by: pollo on October 3, 2007 4:23 PM

BTW...The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is one of my all time favorite modern novels.

Posted by: Karan on October 3, 2007 4:23 PM

Just a warning: if you launch into 'The Adventures of Augie March' expecting any actual adventure, you're going to be sorely disappointed. It's an interesting read, but certainly not filled with edge-of-your-seat hijinks.

Posted by: mindlessmunkey on October 3, 2007 4:26 PM

1984 isn't an "American Novel" ya numpty.

Bush has effectively naturalized it.

Posted by: Matthew Baldwin on October 3, 2007 4:27 PM

Matthew,

I am a high school English teacher and a fan of the site. As I am currently teaching Huck Finn to juniors, I would be happy to help you through the novel in whatever way I can. Also, I can provide you with an essay topic at the end.

Posted by: KevinM on October 3, 2007 4:38 PM

I voted for Augie March, since I've never read it. Other suggestions: The Virginian, Sister Carrie, Manhattan Transfer, Washington Square. All good, classic American novels.

Posted by: Melanie on October 3, 2007 4:44 PM

I can't believe you gave up on The Dick. It's one of my favorite American novels. Seriously. I am saying this without sarcasm or irony and I read your Dick posts with each update.

I agree with you regarding the Catcher and the Rye. I was left underwhelmed and disappointed. I probably should have read it in my teen years instead of my late-20s.

Posted by: Dave on October 3, 2007 4:53 PM

I have read all the books on your list and "Augie March" is my least favorite by far. That being said, I wouldn't mind if you read it ... I'd like to know others' opinions.

Posted by: Katherine on October 3, 2007 5:13 PM

Anyone for The Kiterunner?

Posted by: Eliza on October 3, 2007 5:14 PM

I found Catcher in the Rye confusing when I read it in high school and funny when I read it in my 20s. Are we supposed to find it funny? It's all about teenaged angst and how stupid that is, right? In my teens, I was too close to that, but now I can laugh at stupid teenagers.

Posted by: srah on October 3, 2007 5:53 PM

I just re-read Catch-22 a few months ago, and two friends were supposed to be reading it with me. They never got past page 15 and I went through it in a week. Its not only one of the best books ever, but its also one of the best books ever. Would willingly jump right back on it. That one formed a major part of my world-view, which is rather scary in retrospect.
Several of the others I have not read, and now seems like a great time to get rolling.

Posted by: Jeremy on October 3, 2007 6:31 PM

But none of this year's novel have an entire chapter dedicated to describing breakfast in mind-numbing detail. How will we cope?

I finally broke down and bought myself a copy of Moby Dick (a $3 copy. I splurged). I've never been able to finish it before running out of library renewals. Now I can finish it, even if it takes me the next 20 years. And I'm betting it will.

Posted by: czeltic girl on October 3, 2007 6:50 PM

I'm sort of still working on reading Time Magazine's list of the best novels ever written and the sci-fi & fantasy book club's similar list (I'm an English teacher. We're required to be uncool this way). Augie March was one of the first I checked out, and I almost stopped. It was awful

Posted by: someguy on October 3, 2007 7:30 PM

Aah, no war stories! Catch-22, bah!

Besides, you'll get more blog traffic writing about Lolita.

Posted by: henitsirk on October 3, 2007 7:34 PM

I vote for 1984 on the grounds that I've already arranged to borrow it from a friend.

Incidentally, I rather enjoyed your Moby Dick updates last year. When I found it was required reading in my spring semester, I wasn't nearly as intimidated by the novel as I might otherwise have been, and actually got to enjoy it more because parts were already familiar.

Posted by: Country Mouse on October 3, 2007 7:39 PM

No! No Scarlet Letter! Avoid at all costs! Unless you need to fall asleep in less than 5 pages. It's quite effective at that.

Posted by: margaret on October 3, 2007 8:03 PM

1984 is an American novel? You must be thinking of the 1984 Apple commercial where the chick throws the hammer into the big screen.

BTW, I read your blog, too.

Posted by: Matt's dad on October 3, 2007 8:58 PM

We're not getting a lot of alternate choices here, so I'll offer The Count of Monte Cristo and/or The Three Musketeers. Both excellent if you're looking for adventure.

Of course, they're not "American Novels", but then I'm not sure how 1984 or Lolita fit into that category either.

Posted by: Dug on October 3, 2007 8:58 PM

Wasn't the Scarlet Letter about some politician dude from Idaho going down on a cop in an airport bathroom?

Mark Foley wrote a good intro to "Lolita." Favorite quote: "Humbert Humbert is a persecuted man who has a justifiable love for underage poontang. Like me, he must have had decent Christian thoughts as he ramrodded Dolores Haze in the caboose. Jesus Christ is my Lord and personal Savior. Now, where can I gets me some 8-year old boy-ass?"

Posted by: Hester Prynne on October 3, 2007 9:21 PM

From your list, I vetoed:

Catch-22 - I have tried a half dozen times to get through this book and find it interminably boring.

Cather in the Rye - Read it, agreed with your conclusion, and had no predisposition to feel that way. Blech.

Grapes of Wrath - But I THINK YOU SHOULD PICK THIS ONE. It is easily in my top twenty reads ever. But I've read it recently enough that I would not make time for it personally. Still, I could comment intelligently in the comments, so I'd get a participation grade.

The Scarlet Letter - Also in my top twenty, but vetoed for the same reasons as GOW.

I would read:
1984 - Another that I've tried reading and couldn't get into, but I am determined to read this at some point in my adult life. I would try again.

Augie March - Never heard of it, but I'm game.

Huck Finn - Never read 'em. Seems like having a kid, these are stories that I should know.

Lolita - I'm in between would and won't on this one. Not terribly interested, but if I had loads of free time, I might play along.

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Can't believe I've never read this. Would, should, will.

My "Want To" pick goes to Invisible Man, which has been on my list for a while.

Others to consider, though you have a plenty good list to start with:
The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
East of Eden by John Steinbeck - I haven't read this one and want to, so I could join in the fun if you picked this.

Loved both of those. And then there are loads of foreign authors to recommend, but you've got a good thing going for now.

Posted by: Dawn on October 3, 2007 9:22 PM

I would recommend, but... Oh, it was painful when you gave up on the Dick. I just don't think I can ever see you the same way again...

Posted by: Squidocto on October 3, 2007 9:25 PM

Though written by a Russian living in Ithaca, NY, Lolita is as American a novel as can be imagined. I recommend the annotated version.

The best Nabokov, though, is Pale Fire.

Posted by: Mike Berry on October 3, 2007 9:25 PM

Well, I think that Lolita takes the cake as the best novel in the list. Also, surprisingly, it seems the most "American" to me for some reason, even though it was written by a Russian who also lived for some time in Germany. The sections on traveling throughout America by car still to me now seem to be the best writing that I've ever read about American car travel.

I'll throw out another consideration: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Very very good, seldom read.

Posted by: Paul on October 3, 2007 9:32 PM

Here are 3 short books, that changed my life, and I reread regularly.
Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino
Einstein's Dreams - Alan Lightman
Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

In the time it takes you to labour through one "classic" (dead white man) book, you could have happily polished off three or four more enjoyable and perhaps even superior books.

Please please consider these instead, and avoid the masochism! *Forcing* oneself to read a book is negative reinforcement of the pleasures of reading...

Posted by: nick on October 3, 2007 9:33 PM

Although, in addendum:
1984 (although I'd suggest "Down and Out in Paris and London" instead), Huckleberry Finn, and Catch-22 are great.

Posted by: nick on October 3, 2007 10:01 PM

I'm pushing for 1984. It's criminally short (when I was in school, I read it in an afternoon), but is more interesting than most of the other choices. Who doesn't like dystopian societies ruled by guys with Borat mustaches?

Posted by: Chesu on October 3, 2007 10:05 PM

Run screaming from "Catch-22"". Read any relevant Wikipedia entries then consider yourself informed. You thought "Moby Dick" was an impenetrable bog of verbiage? You ain't seen nothing 'till you try finishing "Catch-22". I still haven't finished that glob of $20 words and I started it like eight years ago. Do not read. Please, for the love of god, do not read it.

Posted by: HDC on October 3, 2007 10:08 PM

Catch-22! Ack. I hated that book in college.
I tried to read it again a few years ago and still hated it.

I think it is funny you called 1984 an American Novel.

Posted by: creative-type dad on October 3, 2007 10:09 PM

I can't believe people hated Catch-22. I also can't believe I'm going to say this, but maybe you all just didn't get it? It's funny, it's moving, it's harrowing, it's emotionally devastating. It's awesome.

I've tried to read Moby Dick twice and just haven't been able to slog through.

Posted by: BettyWu on October 3, 2007 10:32 PM

Agree with most on Catch-22. Good, but overrated, and, well, it was just a little too dense for me.

And I can understand why people would vote against The Scarlet Letter... but don't let that fool you, it's really terrific. Kinda surprised me, actually, as I was expecting it to be everything margaret posted about above. Maybe she was influenced by that awful Demi Moore flick :)

Posted by: Dave on October 4, 2007 4:19 AM

Even though I didn't read along, I really dug your Moby Dick updates last year. Good stuff.

Yeah, ok, Catch-22 is going to be a little more dense, in the sense that it doesn't start feeding you Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans on page four, but it's good stuff. The best part for me was when I discovered that a co-worker had recently read it, and we took turns making comments in meetings about how completing a project would be a 'feather in our cap', or missing a deadline would be 'a black eye', to which our manager would nod, at which point we would both start snickering.

But, it looks like it may go the way of Huck Finn, which I have no problems with. And yes, you called it, I haven't read it in about 20 years.

Posted by: Jeremy on October 4, 2007 6:29 AM

Kind of surprised at the lack of love for Grapes of Wrath. I love Steinbeck, and this is probably my favorite of his books. But I've already read it, so my top choice is for Lolita. It's one I've meant to read, but always feel kind of dirty for even looking at in the bookstore.

Posted by: Jamie on October 4, 2007 6:42 AM

I followed it religiously last year: it was great fun watching other people get Dicked for a change. (I might have enjoyed the book if I were a closeted male homosexual, but as an "independent minded" female, there was nothing and no-one of interest to me in that novel.)

I probably won't be able to participate this year, but I have to put in a plug for Huck Finn. It's probably better described as "the American Novel(TM)" instead of "an American novel." The problem is that Huck Finn is often touted as an "adventure story" or a "juvi book" like Tom Sawyer: it isn't.

It's a look at American culture through the eyes of an uneducated outsider, as if it's the original "Stranger in a Strange Land" or "Man who fell to earth". If you ever wanted to understand what the culture of slavery was like and how people could treat others like property and what is up with the pretentious upperclass and WTF is wrong with the South anyway, read this book. This is probably what throws people: as a travelogue, it doesn't have what we've come to consider "a tight plot".

It's also got the whole "boy becoming a man" thing, if you're into that.

And Clemens is a genius in so many ways: You can find ten good sig lines in any of his works.

My favorite:
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Posted by: Dorothy on October 4, 2007 6:53 AM

Add me into the Catch-22 haters. Did you know that war is inexplicable and hellish? If not, Joseph Heller will be glad to tell you roughly once per page. God, suck it, Heller.

I never took AmLit in high school, so I am all about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1984 would be cheating, because I read it once every couple of years since it's one of my favorite books.

As far as other suggestions go, An Appointment in Samarra is a lesser-known "great" American book I liked a lot, and Dreiser's An American Tragedy is good stuff, too. Oh! And All the King's Men!

Posted by: bristlesage on October 4, 2007 6:53 AM

1984. UGH.

I was depressed for weeks after reading this incredibly dreary book. No amount of optimism can save you. This will drain any and all humor from your person as evidenced by the decided lack of humor in this post. For the sake of all your faithful readers don't read.

Posted by: Batman on October 4, 2007 7:00 AM

I vote for Good Omens! I got a copy from a friend of mine who made me swear to pass it on. I finally did and miss it terribly.
Good suggestion Nick!

Posted by: Elizabeth on October 4, 2007 7:26 AM

Well, since you asked for our thoughts, I'll give you mine.
1984-Read it. I have nothing new to say about it.
Augie March-Never heard of it. After a quick google search I've decided it would either be tremendously engaging or like watching paint dry.
Huck Finn-I think I read this, although not for school. But I was probably too young to get it.
Catch 22-Never read it, so I'm game.
Catcher in the Rye-Ugh. Read it and was bored to tears.
Grapes of Wrath-Love it. In fact, after reading in I have read more Steinbeck and love most of it. (Exception being The Pearl).
Invisible Man-Read it long ago. Hated it at the time, but that may have been my immaturity and not any fault it the book.
Lolita-Love it. Also started reading more Nabokov and am a fan.
Scarlet Letter-Read it in my HS English class. Briefly considered dressing myself and my daughter as Hester and Pearl for Halloween this year, but I don't have the time to hand embroider an A, let alone a baby dress.
Uncle Tom's Cabin-Always sort of meant to read it but, really? I don't think I ever will.
Of course, my opinion may be totally invalid based on the fact that I also loved Moby Dick. It did take me more than a month to read it, though.

Posted by: ailikate on October 4, 2007 7:29 AM

Here's hoping Lolita makes a fourth quarter comeback in the poll. I have nothing against Catch-22 - it's a classic not because it was written by a dead white man (as has been suggested above) but because it is insightful, honest and engagingly funny despite the tragic themes discussed in the text. But >Catch hasn't got anything on Lolita; that book is verging on the longest piece of sheer poetry I've ever read - get past the repulsiveness of Humbert Humbert's warped sickness and just revel in the beautiful rhythms of Nabokov's effortless prose. This book really should win if only because Nabokov achieved this level of fluency and beauty in his second language - just try and imagine how difficult it would be to write a classic in another language. Nabokov's work captures perfectly not only the linguistic, but also the cultural, idioms of the New World. This is more "American" a novel than Tom Clancy will ever write.

And now you have my 2 cents, which given the current exchange rate between the currencies of our countries, is worth approximatley 2 cents.

e

Posted by: junior on October 4, 2007 7:37 AM

Dude, finish the Dick. It is worth the slog, and then you can join the ranks of the smug who look down upon the losers who wussed out.

I'm voting for Huck, Heller, and Lolita.

Posted by: john i on October 4, 2007 8:08 AM

Are you honestly saying you haven't read these books already? Did you not attend a public high school? Pick something that's a challenge. I say "House of Leaves" by Danielewski!

Posted by: Mark on October 4, 2007 8:09 AM

I say read the Salinger. It's a funny, funny book.

Posted by: Slips on October 4, 2007 8:19 AM

Please please PLEASE don't pick Invisible Man! I hated that book in high school. Hell, EVERYONE I knew hated that book in high school, to the point where we told our teacher that we were going to go on a mission to steal all of the copies from the library and have a ritualistic CAMPFIRE to burn all of the books. Ah, those were the good ol' days.

Posted by: Julia on October 4, 2007 8:48 AM

To anyone who (like me) couldn't stand "Catcher in the Rye", I heartily recommend "King Dork" by Frank Portman.

Actually I'd recommend it to anyone who loved "Catcher", too. Funniest thing I've read in a long time.

Posted by: Joe on October 4, 2007 9:20 AM

Oh, man, I read along with you last year for Moby Dick,and I was really hoping we'd just pick that one up again. Who cares it if takes 3 years??? I loved your updates.


I've already read half of these, so I'll just wait around to see whether the one that gets picked is one I can stand to read again. If it's Catch-22, you are ON YOUR OWN. That book stunk.

Posted by: Megan on October 4, 2007 9:39 AM

I'm on the side of "nerds who liked the Moby Dick updates," if only because I did my year end project in English on it, and, er, read your synopsis as opposed to the chapters. Then, I had to actually read the last half.

Posted by: Kate on October 4, 2007 10:17 AM

Interesting that the current top two (Catch-22 and 1984) are the books that seem to have the most immediate and obvious relevance / resonance.

(Which is not to say that we aren't also mired in religious fascism, poverty, racism and teen angst - but those things tend to take a backseat to the threat of having your head removed.)

Posted by: MattO on October 4, 2007 10:29 AM

If you couldn't manage Moby Dick, There is no way you're going to make it through Catch-22. Although I look forward to seeing you try!

Posted by: Andrew Mudd on October 4, 2007 10:56 AM

Lolita is horrible. No one wants to be trapped in the lucid mind of a sick old man, let alone his car. Make it stop!

I have great memories of our family taking turns reading "The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer" out loud in the car on our way to/from the caves in St. Louis for a family vacation -- one of the more functional moments in my family -- but I don't think I ever actually read Huck Finn, so I vote for that one.

All the choices seem very masculine to me for some reason. I've read 1984, and Lolita, and Scarlet Letter but none of the others. TKM is one of my favorite of all time books. I also loved "The Secret Life of Bees" but I think that's too feminine and hopeful for this crew. (Certainly wouldn't pass any reality checks...) So I'm afraid I don't have much else to suggest -- most of my reading these days is either technology related (I'm an editor) or parenting-related (I'm a mother). Good luck, I hope I can tag along for this ride.

Posted by: Imanitsud on October 4, 2007 11:01 AM

Now come on ... 'Catch-22' is an amazing book and very funny. It's just been copied so much that it seems a little obvious now, but it wasn't when it appeared. And it is a fast read ... nothing like The Dick.

'Huckleberry Finn' is a good choice. Many people haven't read it, just seen watered down movie versions. Twain wrote it after reading Homer's Odyssey, so it's like you get two classics for one! (Right?)

I found it very difficult to get past the Cringe Factor of Lolita, although the writing was wonderful.

Posted by: Mark on October 4, 2007 11:14 AM

I loved your 'Dick' posts. Although I was rather glad to see that you had dropped it. I kept thinking of all of the FUN things you could do with all that spare time.

I voted. Would on just about everything except Grapes of Wrath.

Will you give assignments or questions to ponder, or ... something else?

Posted by: Alyce on October 4, 2007 11:31 AM

I loved your 'Dick' posts. Although I was rather glad to see that you had dropped it. I kept thinking of all of the FUN things you could do with all that spare time.

I voted. Would on just about everything except Grapes of Wrath.

Will you give assignments or questions to ponder, or ... something else?

Posted by: Alyce on October 4, 2007 11:31 AM

wait - which Invisible Man are we talking about here? Years ago a girlfriend and I decided to read this book at the same time and discuss. At our first "book club meeting" I was discussing the HG Wells sci-fi classic. She was discussing the Ralph Ellison book about the social and intellectual issues facing the post-civil-war American Black identity (thanks Wikipedia!).
As you can well imagine it didn't go so well.
Me: How great would it be to be invisible?
Her: What? Are you serious?
Me: Yeah! All see-through and what-not?
Her: Umm, he isn't really invisible.
Me: Sure he is! How else could sneak around and knock over stuff and spy on people without them knowing. I wish I could do that. Umm, not to you, of course.
Her: You're an idiot.

Yeah, our first book club meeting was our last book club meeting. Let's avoid that situation here, shall we?

Posted by: Pete on October 4, 2007 1:40 PM

wait - which Invisible Man are we talking about here? Years ago a girlfriend and I decided to read this book at the same time and discuss. At our first "book club meeting" I was discussing the HG Wells sci-fi classic. She was discussing the Ralph Ellison book about the social and intellectual issues facing the post-civil-war American Black identity (thanks Wikipedia!).
As you can well imagine it didn't go so well.
Me: How great would it be to be invisible?
Her: What? Are you serious?
Me: Yeah! All see-through and what-not?
Her: Umm, he isn't really invisible.
Me: Sure he is! How else could sneak around and knock over stuff and spy on people without them knowing. I wish I could do that. Umm, not to you, of course.
Her: You're an idiot.

Yeah, our first book club meeting was our last book club meeting. Let's avoid that situation here, shall we?

Posted by: Pete on October 4, 2007 1:41 PM

Are you actively *trying* to pick a book you'll hate?

If you're looking for that Great American Novel experience, why not "On the Road"? Why not "Their Eyes Were Watching God"? Why not "Absalom, Absalom" or "Sanctuary"? Why not "A Confederacy of Dunces"?

I've read -- or tried to read -- everything except Augie March on your list, and the only ones I would enthusiastically revisit are "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Catch-22."

Posted by: Carny Asada on October 4, 2007 2:27 PM

Catcher in the Rye is the quickest read, and it's been a long time...

1984 has that long expository section in the middle that is damn dull. (I think Orwell was copying Melville's exposition on the wonders of whaling.)

Catch-22 is a great book. You have to appreciate that it was groundbreaking for its time. Its observations that 'war is hell' may seem trite now, but that's because so much of what was said has been absorbed into our culture.

I think Huck Finn would be great because I was probably in 7th grade or thereabouts when I read it... and that was a loooonnnnggg time ago.

Scarlett Letter... bah. Hester Prynne had it coming.

Of the remaining, which I am embarrassed to say I've never read, I would maybe vote for Lolita, only because I've heard so much raving about Nabokov's prose stylings.

A second to the person who suggested 'On The Road', which I've never read... or better yet, 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'...!

cheers

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on October 4, 2007 3:41 PM

I've read 4 of those, and have no inclination to read the others. American novels don't get me excited at all. But it'll be fun watching you fail again :-).

Posted by: Friendless on October 4, 2007 6:35 PM

It's not that I object to so many of the choices, just that I'd need an increase in my anti-depressant dosage for most of them. I'd still read whatever you choose because now that I'm an English teacher I'm desperate for a reason to read something written by a real writer. A real writer does not think that "tooked" is a word. Forgive me for being bitter. I'm spending all my time reading rough drafts of college application essays. They are _rough_.

I would love to read Huck Finn as an adult. I know I missed so much the last time I read it.

Posted by: Kate on October 4, 2007 7:13 PM

I only voted "want" for Catch-22, mostly because a) it's one of the half I haven't already read, b) I already have a copy and b') it's already on my to-read stack. But I'd do just about any of the others. The exception is Catcher, which I've read three times trying to get what the big damn deal is about. And maybe not Grapes, because Steinbeck doesn't turn me on.

Posted by: Rick on October 4, 2007 7:32 PM

Oh, and seconding the comment on King Dork. (Which I just saw.)

Posted by: Rick on October 4, 2007 7:34 PM

Wow! I've read all of these except "Scarlet Letter". I'd like to say that of all the candidates, "Catch 22" would be the most fun read. It has serious themes but treats them in a very funny, yet moving, and always readable way. 1984 is readable, too, but more depressing.

I only caught up to Augie March a month or two ago. It's pretty readable, too, especially if you skim it and don't let yourself get bogged down in Bellow's exuberant wordiness. I was put off Saul Bellow, having "done" Herzog in high school (30 yrs ago!) and not getting it, so I was surprised to find that getting through Augie March was not a chore.

Catcher in the Rye is a book that polarizes readers; you either love it or you can't stand it.

If you go for Uncle Tom's Cabin, this would be worth a listen.

Posted by: Margaret on October 4, 2007 7:55 PM

I read "Catcher in the Rye," "Catch-22," and "The Scarlet Letter" all in one summer when I was 14 or 15. I loved, loved, loved Catch-22. HATED the Letter. I forced myself to finish it, and it took [wasted!] one entire month of summer, reading it carefully and digesting. Catcher in the Rye I didn't love, didn't hate.

"1984" I've attempted twice; can't get into it. Loved "Animal Farm," but something around pg. 40 of 1984 just makes me give up.

I want to reread Catch-22 and Catcher because reading the above makes me think my 14 year old brain didn't understand something. Maybe 1984. I won't touch the others, but it sounds like plenty of others will.

Posted by: C on October 4, 2007 11:33 PM

I read Huck Finn about 5 years ago, for a college class, so I don't really want to read that again. Any of the others would be ok, but I am THRILLED to see it probably won't be The Scarlet Letter. I couldn't get through it in High School and I doubt I could now.

Posted by: Candy on October 5, 2007 6:25 AM

Two comments:

1. In my opinion, Moby Dick is not Melville's best effort. His best is Bartleby the Scrivener. Bartleby is more profound and a lot shorter than "Dick."

2. I thought Catch-22 was the funniest book I ever read, but I can understand why a lot of the posters here didn't like it at all or didn't get the humor. I read Catch-22 after four years of active duty in the Navy, two of those years in Vietnam. It is not so much about war as it is about absurdist military culture. One must serve in the military first to appreciate Heller.

Posted by: daveb99 on October 5, 2007 6:49 AM

OK... gave it some more thought, and if you really want to have your dendrites massaged I would suggest "Gravity's Rainbow" by Pynchon. I don't know how I got through it, and I had no idea what it was about after finishing, but the guy writes a mean run-on sentence. (Some stretching a page or more.) I think the paperback was about 800 pages.

Runner up: "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. 1000 pages about tennis camp and AA meetings. Splendid.

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on October 5, 2007 8:44 AM

These are good books and all ... but I'm a high school English teacher and am therefore sick of them, except for Augie March and Lolita.

Posted by: Wayne on October 5, 2007 9:33 AM

These are good books and all ... but I'm a high school English teacher and am therefore sick of them, except for Augie March and Lolita.

Posted by: Wayne on October 5, 2007 9:33 AM

I've read these all, and they're quite good...but sort of tired. I read Catcher in the Rye and 1984 and Catch-22 before the teen angsty phase though, so I probably missed something. I've always liked Lolita though.
Super-Cannes should be on here. J.G. Ballard. It's super entertaining.

Posted by: leslie on October 5, 2007 10:37 AM

Just read Huck Finn... you definitely should do choose Huck Finn. Unfortunately, I just finished it myself, so you'll have to go it without me. Or, choose invisible man.

Posted by: sam garst on October 5, 2007 10:39 AM

Catch-22 is one of my favorite books of all time. I think his humor fits right in with yours. I may have read it six or seven times. I do hope you have read "Confederacy of Dunces"

Posted by: Andrew on October 5, 2007 1:19 PM

Can we just be done with goddamn "Catcher in teh Rye" now? I was sick of that book before I was out of the target demographic (thin, bitter, bookish teens), and have found some much more worthy possibilities on your list.

Posted by: Will on October 5, 2007 1:23 PM

There's nothing you can get from a book that you can't get faster and easier from teevee. Why don't you just host a virtual movie night and have everyone compare notes? Books are elitist! (And even if I did participate, I'd use Cliff's Notes. Again.)

Posted by: JP on October 5, 2007 5:42 PM

Other books to check out:

Atlas Shrugged -- Ayn Rand at her most dogmatic and shrill. For 1000+ pages.

120 Days of Sodom -- Full of sex, perversion, and murder. Like spending a day with Larry Craig and Mark Foley.

Finnegans Wake -- Probably best read while drunk.

Posted by: Capitalist Pig on October 5, 2007 8:39 PM

I'm not bursting out of my skin to (re)read any of these. The ones I'd be most likely to actually pick up and read for this would be '1984,' because it's the only one I have on my bookshelf, and 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' because it's one of two I haven't read. The Augie one I'd consider reading, but since it doesn't look like it's going to win I won't worry about it.

Posted by: Ginger on October 6, 2007 7:28 AM

Wow, I really don't get the hate for Catch-22. I read that one a while ago, and I thought it was pretty good. I don't remember it being dense either. But then, I'm in the minority for liking Catcher in the Rye too, so I suppose my taste is just weird. I voted for Lolita because, well, err...I haven't read it? Good enough reason, I guess.

1984 is really depressing though. Brave New World is similiar, with the added bonus of not wanting to find a tall bridge when you put the book down. 120 Day in Sodom? No. Just no.

Posted by: Robogoat on October 6, 2007 9:21 PM

Put "Gravity's Rainbow" on the list and I'm there.

Posted by: Sheldon Bartleby on October 7, 2007 2:20 AM

Grapes of Wrath is a horrible book. I made it to page 8. Took me 9 weeks to get that far. It's dreadfully boring. At least the early part. Like, give me some actually characters and plot instead of endless descriptions of the setting. Yeah, I know it gets to characters and plot eventually. But it's dreadfully impossible, for me, to stay interested in the book long enough to get there.

Posted by: Ellen on October 7, 2007 4:37 AM

The ones I said I would not read (about 2/3 of the choices)were because I have already read them. Catch-22 is a book I got through about 50 pages of, and stopped reading, because it was so good, I did not ever want to finish it. I'll read it if you do.

Gravity's Rainbow, for the above poster, was too oblique for me. Not a fan of the tier-structure storytelling. Would forget what was happening by the time the author got back to a story, 50 pages later and 2 weeks later for me by the time I got there.

Posted by: Vitriola on October 7, 2007 4:33 PM

I thought your commentary on Moby Dick last year was hilarious and regretted that you stopped reading it.

Posted by: Braha on October 8, 2007 7:54 AM

NO HUCK FINN. PLEASE. I'd rather read Moby Dick than Huck Finn, if that tells you anything.

Posted by: Manders on October 8, 2007 2:12 PM

As one who often suffers 'Lenny moments' - wanting to squeeze the life out of something cute - I'm thinking 'Of Mice and Men' rather than GoW...

Posted by: A Duck on October 9, 2007 12:19 PM

To Mark:

I've read House of Leaves. I think. I still bounce between thinking it's drivel and thinking it's brilliant. Can't get through the companion Whalestoe Letters though. Anyway, I can't risk losing somewhat regular Yeti posting to HOL, because some fan of the site suggested it. I am afraid if Yeti tries that book, we will lose him to the puzzle world inside that novel - he'll just measure his house all day long. So, without even knowing you, I am going to have to ask you to run along and not bring it up again.

kthxbye.

Posted by: Zoom on October 9, 2007 5:09 PM

Here's the thing: I want the book that YOU would be the most funny about. Your Moby Dick posts were the highlight of my day in November. Gawd, so funny.

The Scarlet Letter is clearly that book.

Augie March. I read this in college and it bored me to tears. And I liked Saul Bellow. Why was this book so boring? I don't know. But actually, you might be pretty funny on this one come to think of it.

Sorry, but I have my priorities.

Posted by: ozma on October 9, 2007 6:16 PM

Here's the thing: I want the book that YOU would be the most funny about. Your Moby Dick posts were the highlight of my day in November. Gawd, so funny.

The Scarlet Letter is clearly that book.

Augie March. I read this in college and it bored me to tears. And I liked Saul Bellow. Why was this book so boring? I don't know. But actually, you might be pretty funny on this one come to think of it.

Sorry, but I have my priorities.

Posted by: ozma on October 9, 2007 6:16 PM

Here's the thing: I want the book that YOU would be the most funny about. Your Moby Dick posts were the highlight of my day in November. Gawd, so funny.

The Scarlet Letter is clearly that book.

Augie March. I read this in college and it bored me to tears. And I liked Saul Bellow. Why was this book so boring? I don't know. But actually, you might be pretty funny on this one come to think of it.

Sorry, but I have my priorities.

Posted by: ozma on October 9, 2007 6:38 PM

Here's the thing: I want the book that YOU would be the most funny about. Your Moby Dick posts were the highlight of my day in November. Gawd, so funny.

The Scarlet Letter is clearly that book.

Augie March. I read this in college and it bored me to tears. And I liked Saul Bellow. Why was this book so boring? I don't know. But actually, you might be pretty funny on this one come to think of it.

Sorry, but I have my priorities.

Posted by: ozma on October 9, 2007 6:38 PM

I hung on your every word during The Dick month. I've actually considered writing you an email asking what happened... on three different occasions. But I decided not to bring up your shortcomings.

Posted by: Jessie Birks on October 9, 2007 7:24 PM

I've re-read Huck Finn (well, actually, listened to) twice in the last seven years.

Listened: my daughter has dyslexia (although well-remediated) -- the rule of thumb is, dialect in print = listen to it.

I was moved, both times, by the language and by Clemens' willingness to look closely and critically at the mores of his times.

Posted by: Liz D on October 9, 2007 9:14 PM

Man, and I just read half those books this summer (the half worth reading, that is) in an effort to make up for all those AP classes in high school- which had us reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Henrik Ibsen instead of the Great American Novels.

That being said, I vote for the metal magazines.

Posted by: missy on October 10, 2007 8:30 AM

How about "Goodnight, Moon" ?

Posted by: jack ruttan on October 11, 2007 1:09 PM

Geez, if you think Bush as naturalized 1984 then you should really give it a re-read. I mean sure, American money watches you, just like in the book, but it only wants to sell you something.

You could read one of the books it knocks off, like Zamyatin's "We." It's a fast read.

Besides, Orwell was one of them socialist libertarians-- no way he'd get into the US these days.

Posted by: LAN3 on October 11, 2007 3:34 PM

Ok, so you've already picked your book. I know. I'm slow. But for future consideration: American Gods. So Gaiman isn't American... but the book is all about America and it's fantastic.

Posted by: Lisa on October 19, 2007 12:04 PM