What Books Did I Read Before BookTube? [CC]


Hey, guys! Welcome Bookish Islander.
My name is Juan. I hope you’re all doing very well.
Today, I’m going to talk about some books I love but I haven’t had the chance to
talk about here on my channel yet. The reason for this is that all the books I
am going to talk about are books that I read before I joined Booktube. I guess I
might have mentioned one or two of them in passing before, but here’s your chance
to get to know my taste in books a little more. I don’t know if any of the
books I loved before joining Booktube will surprise you or not, but feel free
to let me know in the comment section down below, once you’ve watched the whole
video. The first book I want to talk about is Home by Marilyn Robinson. I am
just going to come right out and say it: Marilynne Robinson is the greatest
American novelist alive today. What is so remarkable is that Robinson has only
published four novels and each one of them is a masterpiece. Her first novel
was Housekeeping, which came out in 1980, and she only published her second novel,
Gilead, in 2004 with Gilead. She began a series centered on a reduced group of
characters. The second novel in the series was Home, published in 2008. And
the third one, Lila, came out in 2014. A fourth novel entitled Jack is due to
come out in 2020. Each of these novels focuses mostly on one of the characters,
so there is a certain amount of overlap between the events told in the different
books. In Gilead, we get an account on the life and regrets of John Ames who is a
Congregationalist minister in the town of Gilead, Iowa. The narrative, then, in the
second novel, Home, is concurrent with Gilead, but focuses on another family,
that of Reverend Robert Boughton. I have chosen to talk about Home specifically
and not the whole series because you can read Home independently. You don’t need
to read Gilead first or even at all to experience the joy of reading Home. If
anything, Home could be seen as a companion to Gilead. And, of course, I
would say you read all of them because they’re wonderful. But you don’t really
have to. Okay, so, going back to Home, Reverend Robert Boughton is an elderly
Presbyterian minister on death’s door and
friend to John Ames, the main character in the first novel. But Home is really
the story of his son, Jack, the black sheep of the family.
Jack’s story is told from the perspective of his sister, Glory, who has
recently moved back to Gilead to care for their father. Jack’s past comes to
light when he also returns to town. And readers of the first novel begin to see
Gilead as a different town. There are a lot of secrets in town and specifically
in the Boughton family. The interplay between the three members of the Boughton
family, who once again find themselves under the same roof, is delicious. If you
read Gilead and then Home, you’ll notice a stark contrast between the two novels.
While Gilead is hopeful if also a bit sad and essentially tells the story of
what most people would call a “good man”, Home is darker and a lot sadder.
Both novels have at their core male characters. But, in Home the perspective
is female because it’s the perspective of Glory. Glory has to deal with the
differences between Jack her brother and their father, the Reverend. But, although
the point of view is Glory’s, Home is told in the third-person
by an omniscient narrator. And that’s a contrast again with Gilead, which is told
in the first person. The next book I have is completely different. possibly, the
only true classic I’m going to talk about in this video. And I am referring
to The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. This is an
18th-century novel. I’ve read it a few times. The first time as an undergraduate,
I didn’t get much out of it. But, then, I had to revisit it as an MA student and
spent almost a year working on it. But don’t worry. I’m not going to get all
academic on you and give you a summary of my thesis or anything like that. I’m
just gonna tell you why I think Tristram Shandy is a great book. Although the
title suggests a biography of a character named Tristram Shandy, that’s
not exactly what you’re going to get. It is better if you know that going in
because it is all a joke by Laurence Sterne, and I am sure you would want to
be in on the joke. The novel doesn’t begin with Tristram’s
birth but with the moment of his conception. And I’ve never read any
other novel that begins with the main character’s parents busy at it! If you
want to find out about Tristam’s birth, you’re going to have to wait until you
get to volume three. So, you can guess from this that you’re not going to get
much about the life of Tristram Shandy. The novel wants readers to work with it,
get involved and interpret the plot The 18th-century English novel, in general, is
fantastic. If your idea of the English novel comes from reading Victorian
novels from the 19th century with a linear plot — you know, Middlemarch — then,
reading something like Tristram Shandy will blow your mind. Be prepared for
digressions and commentary interrupting the plot. What can I say? If
you want to read a classic that doesn’t resemble any other classic that you have
read before, then you need to pick up Tristram Shandy. For me, one of the best
things about this novel is how it ridicules solemnity and gravitas.
Tristram Shandy is also rich in literary references and particularly
echoes to Don Quixote are the ones that I enjoy more. But, let’s now talk about a
contemporary novel. A book that I read almost by chance and surprised me.
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Very few books have ever made
me laugh out loud, and Everything Is Illuminated is one of them. A source of
the humor here is the language used by the Ukrainian narrator, Alexander Perchov, Alex.
Alex is in love with all things American and he’s so proud of his English, you
know… And he clearly has taught himself English. Safran Foer created a vibrant version of English here, which could have easily gone wrong.
But I think it truly works in this novel. Without Alex’s strange version of
English, this novel wouldn’t be as compelling as it is. Alex works as a
translator for a travel agency specializing in arranging trips to
Poland and Ukraine for American Jews interested in exploring their origins.
And that is how Alex meets a tourist who is none other than Jonathan
Safran Foer himself. I love this book for its complex narrative. But mostly
because it makes me laugh. And, I don’t know about you, but I could do with some
laughs these days. Another novel that makes me laugh out loud is Pnin by Vladimir
Nabokov. This novel was the one that launched Nabokov’s career in America.
And I love a campus novel. This one is one of the best campus
novels I’ve ever read. If you want to watch an excellent review of Pnin, you
should check out a video by The Book Chemist, which I link to in the
description box. I am a big fan of Lolita, but some people have told me that they
wouldn’t read it because of its subject matter. And while I don’t agree with that
approach to books I do respect it. But, I’d say to people who feel like that,
don’t worry about Lolita, pick up Pin. You won’t regret it. I would love to read
Pnin again very soon. And another book I love to read again soon is Orlando by
Virginia Woolf. Orlando may be the most accessible book by Woolf. It is a satire
and an adventure novel whose main character is a poet who lives for
hundreds of years, but changes sexes in every new life. The novel begins during
the reign of Elizabeth I, when the main character is born male, and it
then goes on until the very day the novel was published which was October 11,
1928. One of the most fun aspects of this novel is the cameos of important
literary figures in English literature, such as the 18th-century poet Alexander
Pope. Orlando, as you can imagine ,has been of interest to feminist scholars and
also in the field of Gender Studies. But, it is also a fun novel to read so don’t
be put off by that. And talking about a fun novel to read, the next book I want
to talk to you my surprise you. I have read Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
twice and I think I could read it many more times and never get tired of it.
Less Than Zero is the first novel by the author of American Psycho. It originally
came out in 1985 although, of course, Iread it much later. Bret Easton Ellis was
only 21 and still a college student
when the novel was published. Less Than Zero follows a young college student called
Clay who is back in LA for winter break. Less Than Zero is a relatively short
novel that details a lifestyle that couldn’t be further from mine. Constant
partying, drug abuse, violence, sexual promiscuity are all part of the everyday
life of Clay and his LA friends. Clay becomes gradually disgusted by what he
sees going on around him. He’s a nihilistic character, someone who doesn’t
seem to care about anything or anybody. To me, the best thing about this novel is
how well it’s aged. I mean, I read it decades after the 1980s, and I couldn’t
put it down. No doubt… no doubt, some readers my fine Less Than Zero shocking. Yet,
other readers would find it unputdownable. I definitely belong to the
second category. The last book I have is the excellent Possession by the English
writer AS Byatt. I first read Possession in college, and talking about this novel
takes me back to my college days. I loved studying English at university and
discovering amazing books constantly. Possession won the Booker Prize in 1990
and, because one of my ongoing reading projects is reading all the books… all
the novels that have won the Booker Prize, I’m excited to get to it soon.
What is Possession? The shortest way to describe this novel is as a postmodern
novel that deals with meta fiction. But, I’m not sure that would mean a lot to
you. So, let me try something less postmodern and more conventional. You
have two modern-day academics researching the romantic love between to
19th-century poets. Perhaps, the greatest achievement of this novel is that AS
Byatt was able to create two fictional poets, Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel
LaMotte. And she even composed poems on their behalf.
Possession has two settings: one in the late-1980s and the other one in
Victorian England. AS Byatt is able to write in different styles because, apart
from the main narrative and the poems that I’ve already
mentioned, the novel also includes letters, diary entries, and things like that. Possession is a complex novel, but it can also be read as a straightforward
love story between the two academics, Roland Michell and Dr. Maude Bailey, it
can also be read like a detective novel where the two academics work on solving
an enigma from the past. This novel is so exhuberant that it engulfs the reader. What
can I say? I love it! So, what do you think? I’d love to know if you have read any of
these books and, if so, what you think about them. Please, let me know in the
comment section down below as usual. Please like and subscribe, if you haven’t
already. Thank you very much for watching. I hope to see you again very soon.
Bye for now.

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6 thoughts on “What Books Did I Read Before BookTube? [CC]”

  1. Amelia Reads says:

    That was interesting. Our taste in books is even more similar, than I already knew it is. I have only read Orlando and Less Than Zero, but apart from Tristram Shandy I have read works by all of the authors you've mentioned. 🙌🏻

  2. O Tom says:

    Possession sounds so INTENSE! buying it rn

  3. As The Pages Burn says:

    I’m thinking about giving Everything Is Illuminated a second chance I recently dnf’d it and I don’t what my mind was thinking but I feel the same way you do about that book though 🙂 also I was wondering would that count as a literary fiction book ?

  4. The CodeX Cantina says:

    Lies. There was nothing before Booktube

  5. Matthew Trickett says:

    I've not read a single one of these! Which is shocking for me. But I’m also happy that I have a couple more very interesting books to add to my TBR. I was familiar with the titles of Everything is Illuminated and Orlando before, but never actually heard what they're about, and now I’m very interested.

  6. Dancing Lawn says:

    So many books on here I want to read! I have heard nothing but great things about Marilynne Robinson and Possession sounds right up my alley. Ughhh so many books, so little time! Thanks for sharing these Juan 🙂

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