Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
Yet another book that I've been wanting to read for a while. An interesting look inside the brain of someone compelled to act in a way that he himself knows is not sanctioned by society. A step-father obsessed with his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Beautiful language. The first half is enjoyable, the second half goes downhill quite a bit.
Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America by Richard Zoglin, 2008
I read mostly fiction, but this book is a great reminder why I should read more non-fiction. While the subtitle, How Stand-up Changed America, might be overreaching a bit, it is an excellent chronicle of how comedy and careers in comedy changed in the 70s and beyond.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin, 1899
This Victorian novella with modern themes is often considered to be one of the earlier feminist novels. The Awakening ended the author's popular literary career and destroyed her reputation in her lifetime, but has met with favorable critical reviews subsequent to her death. Protagonist Edna Pontellier is unsatisfied with her unavoidable roles as wife and mother, but meets with disapproval when she tries to venture too far away. Old Mademoiselle Reisz asks Edna if her wings are strong enough because "[t]he bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth."
Despite the surprising support of many of her friends and acquaintances, and even the tolerance of her husband (through one would ideally wish for more than mere tolerance from a spouse), Edna falters in the path of nonconformity that she has chosen for herself, leading to her ultimate demise. The themes are ahead of Chopin's time, more in keeping with feminist literature of the 1960's and beyond, such as Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, Silvia Plath's The Bell Jar or Marilyn French's The Women's Room, although Chopin's writing style is more 19th-century.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson, 2010 (published postumously)
The final book of the Millenium Trilogy. I wasn't too impressed with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; it was good but I didn't think it was good enough to deserve all the fuss. The Girls Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest have exceeded my expectations.
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1864
The second half was better than the first half, but all in all I generally prefer novels to have a bit more story and I prefer philosophy in an essay format.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 1943
This autobiographical novel presents the coming of age story of teen Francie Nolan, who lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn with her family in the early 1900's, leading up to World War I, with a focus on her struggles with school, her family's poverty, her first jobs and her first loves.
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