The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

While this book came with mixed reviews from the millions of people who have read it, I personally enjoyed this timeless novel.

“I am always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 230 pages.
Read from December 13, 2016 to December 21, 2016.

If you know anything about my reading habits, it is that I like to read classics. I often feel like a neglectful reader and English major if there is a classic novel that I have not yet read so I try to work my way through as many as I can. While this book came with mixed reviews from the millions of people who have read it, I personally enjoyed this timeless novel.

Holden Caulfield is a teen on the brink of adulthood during 1949 in New York. Holden’s family is upper-middle class and as the eldest there is as a lot expected of him. Yet he fails to stay in the prestigious schools his parents keep enrolling him in. While Holden does well when he puts in the effort at school, he cannot seem to fake the persona needed to socialize and be successful in school. He is tired of the ‘phony’ people and these perceived necessary social constructs that he can neither understand and barely tolerate. His younger sister is the only person he feels he can be honest with as she is young enough to not be hindered by social constructs.  After getting kicked out of yet another school, Holden decides to put off tell his folks for a while and shacks up in a cheap hotel for a few days. Excessive drinking, wandering, flirting and sex ensue as Holden waivers between childhood and adulthood over the phony aspects of people and society.

I believe a lot of people don’t understand how this book can be timeless, or perhaps don’t understand the big deal that this book became, and that is because in this day in age we all pretty much do what we want. In the 1950s, children were raised to do what they were told and to do what was expected of them. They were literally expected to be seen and not heard and were restricted in expressing their individuality. This struggle that Holden goes through spoke to a whole generation of frustrated people. Salinger’s work was the first to be this honest and the types of feelings he depicted lead to the revolutions that you see in the 1960s and 70s where free spirit and individuality started to take presence.

I  believe this book is still timeless. Though we have that freedom of expression, Holden’s feelings of misplacement and being unsure with what to do in the next part of his life is practically universal for every youth.  Even the constant questioning of the world around him is consistent with youth all over. While Holden’s story reflects a different era, his feelings cross generations.

I would recommend this novel for any classic novel who has not yet read it and for those looking for a pragmatic read.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“On what slender threads do life and fortune hang.”

I like big books and I cannot lie and this big book is an action-packed classic.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 1276 pages.
Read from July 19 to September 02, 2016.

Everyone has one. A big book that has been recommended to you a million times that is just sitting around collecting dust. You believe that those recommending the book are sincere, but every time you look at it you find yourself overwhelmed with its barbaric size. Well I am here to say, that it is time to bite the bullet and give that big book some love. It is worth it. My big book was this one, The Count of Monte Cristo, and after countless glances at it from across my living room, to getting tired of not being able to check it off as read when it comes up on reading lists, I gave it go. Sadly, my hard copy of this book is in Canada so I had to settle for the ebook, which, given its size was probably for the best.

Edmund is a young and ambitious man. He has been promoted to Captain of a ship and is going to marry his love, Mercedes. However, as ambition goes, there are always those that are jealous. On the night of his wedding, Edmund is arrested for a crime he did not commit and thrown in jail without a trial. Behind a gaunt prison wall, Edmund spends his youth. He befriends a man Faria in the cell beside him who teaches Edmund everything he knows. The two of them plan to escape together. However, when things do not go as planned, Faria insists that he go on alone and that he go and find the massive stash of treasure that he has hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo. After escaping and finding that these riches are real, Edmund changes his identity to discover and plot revenge on those that had wronged him so cruelly.

Did you know that this story is based on true events? Dumas took the idea from the a book complied by French police-archivist Jacques Peuchet. Peuchet tells the story of a shoemaker, Pierre Picaud, living in Nimes in 1807 who was engaged to marry a rich woman and his three jealous friends accuse him of being spy for England. Picaud was placed under house arrest and had to be a servant for a very rich man. When this said rich man died, he left all of his money to the Picaud, whom he had come to love as a son.  Picaud then spent the next few years plotting revenge against his accusers. One of his old friends had even married Picaud’s ex-fianceé.

This first half of this book is a solid 5-stars. I couldn’t put it down. However the last half wavered for me. I had to re-read some sections to follow some of the many new characters that were introduced and I found some of the content a bit dry compared to the action that I was reading before hand. However, the ending was worth it. When it all comes together, it is clear why this books is a long standing classic.

This is a timeless read. So I encourage you, if this is one of the big books that you have not tackled yet, I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

An important classic, but it doesn’t mean I have to like.

I think Herman Melville would have married a freaking whale if that had been possible. Obsessed a bit? Well this book is about obsession so it suits. An important classic, but it doesn’t mean I have to like.

2/5 stars.
ebook, 684 pages.
Read from June 10 to July 10, 2016.

Alright, this post is late. I’ll admit it. I haven’t quite been able to get back into the swing of things since coming back from a trip home and starting work again. Not much of an excuse but it is what it is.

Man, where to start with this book. I had such high hopes for it and the first couple of chapters I was really excited. However, Melville kept diverting off the main story line and obsessively talked about the intricacies of whales. I wanted to care, but I just couldn’t.

Ishmael is a sailor who fancies a shot a whaling and adventure. He travels over to the Massachusetts and stays in a whaler’s inn in hopes of getting in with a crew. However the inn is short on space and so he must share a bed with a veteran whaler and native named Queequeg. While initially repulsed by the native’s pagan ways and body tattoos, the two men strike up an uncanny friendship. They both aboard the Pequod with the mysterious captain Ahab. Ahab is missing a leg, to which the men and his crew quickly learn was caused by a sperm whale with a white hump. Ahab is obsessed with the whale and is set on revenge. On this journey, men are saved from near death experiences, while some go mad, but the adventure all comes to its climax with the hunt of the infamous white whale.

The best part about this book was the relationship that Ishmael and Queequeg had. The first few chapters about their meeting had me laughing out loud and I thought that I was going to be in for a great read. Sadly, that majority of the book is full of long and distracting chapters about minute details about whales and whale hunting and I felt like I barely got to know these two main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I know why Melville did this, it was because the public knew practically nothing about whales/whale hunting at this time so all of the information he included with his story would have been absolutely riveting for its readers at the time of its first publication. This book also captures a short piece of history of when much of our fuel came from whale blubber. That is why this book is important. But just because it’s important doesn’t mean I have to like it.

All I wanted to read about was what the characters were doing. Every time a chapter about whale trivia came up I felt my eyes glaze over and I quickly forgot where I was in the book and what was going. However, an important theme in this book is obsession so it suits that Melville is just as mad about whales as Ahab. The ending was pretty epic, I will admit that but I’m not sure it was worth the few hundred pages I had to read to get to it.

Overall I felt I would have had more enjoyment reading an abridged version of this book (and I never say that). The writing is good and the plot promises much, but its hard to get past the long essays in between. I would still recommend this book to anyone who loves classics and especially for those who love whales are interested in the history of whale hunting.