This year one of my new years resolutions includes to read more. I studied literature at university and ever since that fateful day my love for books plummeted into extinction. But it’s ok because this year things will change. Above are a few books I bought a while ago from the beloved and well-known bookstore to lit groupies like me – Shakespeare & Company in Paris. The history of this booklover heaven is the best thing about it, frequented by writers such as Allen Ginsberg, William S Burroughs, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, (and more) the store has been around since 1919 when an american expat named Sylvia Beach opened it, before passing on the name to George Whitman who renamed his bookshop in 1964 in tribute to the original. Sylvia Beach even published James Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses’ in 1922, the book that was ultimately banned in Britain and the USA.
Intrigued? Here is a wonderful article from Vanity Fair last year which articulates the magical history beautifully.
So, here is a list of a few books I am aiming to read (and reread) this year.
The Woman In White – Wilkie Collins
So, I was completely unaware of this book until christmas eve arrived and I unwrapped it, Nora Ephron describes it as ‘the most wonderful book’- and the blurb states that the book ‘[pursues] questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.’ (Taken from the blurb of Penguin Classics edition 2003) Sounds good to me, so I’m starting the year off with this psychological thriller.
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
I read this book when I was thirteen years old, amazon kindly recommended it to me and it was only after ordering it I realised what kind of book I’d ordered. Of course, my mom was quick to tell me ‘it wasn’t very nice’ and that just made me want to read it even more, so for a week I was lulled into the pages of the controversial novel. However, my thirteen year old self was whisked into the protagonists world of romance, and I’m pretty sure I defended Humbert Humbert when confronted stating ‘it’s a love story’ although in my defence I was more in love with Nabokov’s prose. Now, with a different perspective, a more cynical one, I’d like to read it again and see it in a different light – the way that Nabokov intended.
The Ties That Bind – Vanessa Duries
This, perhaps as you can tell, is a book about the sexual world of S&M. It was written in 1993, and shortly after the author died tragically in a car accident at the age of 21. It is an autobiographical account of her life and her experience as ‘a slave’ and the challenges she faced as she grew fond of her master. Apparently Duries is a cult figure in the BDSM world and thus it seems to be a better choice over 50 Shades of Grey…
Sexual Personae – Camilla Paglia
This isn’t fiction. Paglia openly admits that this book was intended to be ‘sensational’ and she went on to say that “It was intended to please no one and to offend everyone. The entire process of the book was to discover the repressed elements of contemporary culture, whatever they are, and palpate them. One of the main premises was to demonstrate that pornography is everywhere in major art. Art history as written is completely sex free, repressive and puritanical. I want precision and historical knowledge, but at the same time, I try to zap it with pornographic intensity.” Not sure how I’ll find it and I’m sure I won’t read it all as it is essentially a collection of essays, but it has had many critical reception from feminist scholars, including Sandra Gilbert who complained that Paglia “loathes liberalism, egalitarianism, feminism, and Mother Nature.” So, adding it to my list in hope of enticing a dramatic reaction from said book.
So, are there any books you’re planning to read this new year? Or do you have any book recommendations?
Hope you’re having a great start to the new year!