Do I Want To Read…?

I was actually planning today on simply doing a post saying that I was going to have a ‘blogging day off’ then just as I was settling down to sleep last night an idea loomed in my head and I thought ‘if I don’t do this ASAP then someone else will’ and so I thought I would introduce you to what will be a rather random little series simply entitled ‘Do I Want To Read…?’ With it I will highlight a book or couple of books (like today for example) every now and then that have caught my eye but I am on the fence about reading/asking for as a birthday present/getting from the library etc and so want your thoughts either if you have read them or have heard about them. So lets crack on.

The first book is ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ compiled by Peter Boxall. I love a good list of books and indeed I love books about books and so when I saw this at the library the other week I almost had to take it out. Two things stopped me. Firstly I had reached my limit and secondly it is massive and weighs a tonne. I do always ponder with these 1001 things before you die series of books ‘how did they choose that list?’ or ‘what gives that person the authority to decide?’ Do you know what I mean? I also fear I’d start to read the book only to worry that I might never read all 1001 and then panic and go into some kind of bookish despair or get very cross I don’t have lots of them in my TBR. Then again I do love reading about books and it might introduce me to some lovely rogue reads, you can see my quandary I am sure.

The second book currently hovering on my radar I am blaming on Novel Insights as she emailed me with the subject ‘Walpole’ and the message “kind of want to read the book and visit strawberry hill and go to the exhibition as he sounds weird and a bit crazy!” There was also this link here. Well with all of that it was only natural that ‘The Castle of Otranto’ by the slightly crazy and intriguing sounding Horace Walpole is now firmly in my book thoughts. I like the premise “A haunted castle and a ruined bloodline Manfred, wicked lord of Otranto Castle, is horrified when his son is crushed to death on his wedding day. But rather than witness the end of his line, as foretold in a curse, he resolves to send his own wife to a convent and marry the intended bride himself. However, Manfred’s lustful greed will be disturbed by the terrifying omens that now haunt his castle: bleeding statues, skeletal ghouls and a giant sword – as well as the arrival of the rightful prince of Otranto…” I also want to read more gothic books but then I saw this quote “a series of catastrophes, ghostly interventions, revelations of identity, and exciting contests. Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos” and I thought it sounds a bit, well, dare I say O.T.T and pretentious? So now am not sure?

Can you shed some light please dear readers? Have you read/heard about either of these? Is there a book that you are umming and ahhhing over at the moment that you need help to decide if you read or not?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Do I Want To Read?

52 responses to “Do I Want To Read…?

  1. Dot

    I have a copy of the Peter Boxall book which somebody bought me as a gift. I think it would be worth getting out of the library, I was a little despondent at first as I had read so few of the 1001 but then also excited to find out a little more about some brilliant books that I would perhaps have missed. I have to admit that I did find myself getting annoyed though as there were books missing that I believed deserved a place and others that I had thought were awful; it’s good to dip in and out of though. I have been meaning to read The Castle of Otranto as it sounds very intriguing and sinister!

    • Ooooh sounds like you are subtley hinting that I might want to read both of these. I think the pro with getting 1001 Books from the library (the book not literally 1001 books hahaha) is that it has to go back and you can ‘try it out’.

      Otranto thrills me and leaves me cold all at once, in the main though I think it thrills… ooooh am not sure!

  2. I remember looking at that Peter Boxall book in the bookstore and being drawn to it (pretty pictures, awesome commentary). In the end, I had to leave it behind because the price was too much for this college girl’s budget. I did, however, sit in that bookstore for hours, looking at the entries, and writing down what appealed to me. Because, really, I won’t go near a majority of those 1001 books. I do appreciate a guide to help me discover titles and authors.

    • Yes there is the price. And, though really I should be ashammed of saying this, it doesnt have this lovely cover anymore but a hideous cover that American Psycho once has which puts me off having a new one for my birthday. Sounds like its a book you can mull over for hours though so that could be good!

      • I think it would be a good book to own (pity on the cover change, though). I really did want to buy it, and I could see myself just reading about random books, looking for something to hunt down on a slow day. It could be more than a guide, that way. I mean, it’s sheer girth alone could keep me amused, haha.

      • I might ask for a second hand one for my birthday. I am going to see if its in the library when head there shortly if it is will have a trial period with it maybe?

  3. All I know is that he is credited with creating the gothic genre. nuffin more.

  4. 1001 Books has a lot of spoilers in it; I much prefer the Guardian 1000 list from last year, which can be accessed still from the Guardian online.

    The Castle of Otranto was the first Gothic novel and predates the archetypal Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, pastiched by Austen in Northanger Abbey.

    I am deciding whether to read The Girls of Slender Means so soon after Memento Mori.

    • You see Claire I don’t like these spoilers, I dont even like spoilers on blogs hahaha.

      I have a really knackered horrid copy of Udolpho which I have always wanted to read but find completely uninspiring in its current state. I think it was a second hand gift… possibly from my Gran, hope she doesnt pop by and read this today haha.

      I like a break between authors but with Spark or Du Maurier I want to rush read them after have read one.

  5. I can shed no light but still have a comment. You’re shocked I’m sure. Lustful greed and bleeding statues would be all I would need to hear, frankly. You must read this one. You do have a penchant for gothic right? As far as the 1001 books, I have sat on the floor at Borders and flipped through this one, and I found myself getting depressed. Sort of like, I’ll never read all of these, so how can I call myself a proper bibliophile, so why not just give up. I’d stay away from it and read what give you joy.

  6. Books like the 1001 To Read are things I like flicking through, but wouldn’t much bother about reading thoroughly… so getting it from the library is probably a good idea.

  7. novelinsights

    I did see a couple of dodgy reviews for The Castle of Otranto but it hasn’t put me off. I have to read it just to find out, plus it is short so minimal investment of time if it’s bad! 🙂

  8. Great idea! I’m always on the fence about these books myself, and I generally end up passing them over out of sheer guilt at the size of my personal stack of unread books. Or the amount of review books flowing in. Or the amount of library books already checked out. You see where this is going.

    Great idea for a series! Looking forward to most of these.

  9. farmlanebooks

    1001 books isn’t really something you read, but refer to regularly. I don’t own a copy, but have flicked through other peoples on several occasions!

    I have a copy of The Castle of Otrano and almost read it last Halloween, but I have heard that it has dated badly and is only worth reading if you are interested in the development of the gothic novel. I might still read it at some point, but after my Dracula disappointment I’m in no rush.

    • Sorry I should have made that a bit clearer 1001 books is more for a coffee table book thana read, I just quite fancied it for me birthday, it wasnt at the library anyway.

      The Castle of Otranto intrigues me, I will either love it or loathe it think am gonna give it a go.

  10. gaskella

    I’ve got the Boxall, but the book guide I like the best is ‘The Rough Guide to Classic Novels’ by Simon Mason. Covering just over 200 great novels in some detail, and dinky in size, it is split into 12 genres and has a world-wide breadth to it, and pleasingly for each book in translation (of which there are many), a suggested translator is given. For each novel a suggestion for further reading is given, plus the best film/TV adaptations where appropriate.

    Some of the choices are not the obvious ones – for instance we don’t have a Maigret book for George Simenon, but instead the novel Dirty Snow about a teenage killer; Maigret does merit his own sidebar though. Some of the genres used are the normal ones, but often with a twist – so we have ‘Crime and punishment’; also ‘Rites of passage’, and ‘Making it’. My favourite was ‘A sense of place’.

  11. The Castle of Otranto is hard to read — the language is difficult and the story is pretty bad — but it’s also short and gives you “the first” Gothic novel. I was excited to read it and then disappointed when I did and then glad that I at least know it now. Just be warned that it’s not an easy one!

    And I haven’t read the 1001 book but I have the list here and will honestly admit that I will never read all 1001 because there are novels that just won’t be a good use of my limited lifetime reading time. Really it’s so massive that I’ve only heard of a third of the books and I’ve only read 83 of them so far. So yes, it will be overwhelming but just come to terms with the fact that you could never read all of the books and then it just becomes a reference. 🙂

    • I like the idea of reading ‘the first’ gothic novel and indeed the fact that it sounds like somewhat of a challenge and I do love a good challenging read now and again, well more often than not would be better.

      I would definitely use the 1001 books book as a reference I wouldnt sit and read it as I would another book.

  12. I have to say that The Castle of Otranto is an extremely silly book in my opinion. Yes it’s the first gothic novel and so interesting from a historical point of view but apart from that it really isn’t worth reading — and this is coming from someone who used to teach it, or try to — the students didn’t think much of it. Sorry! You might love it, I suppose, and it is short,

    • But silly in a good way or a bad way? I had never thought about teachers having to teach books that they didnt really care for. My mum teaches english and I must ask her if she loathes any of the books she teaches.

  13. Wow, this is funny because I’m actually pretty familiar with both of these! I’m in a book group that chooses all of our books from 1001 Books. It IS huge and heavy, and frankly, it’s hard to understand how they chose all the books of how certain books made it and others didn’t. But their summaries of books are pretty nice! And I do think that most of the selections are worth reading.

    Otranto. It’s one of my more memorable reads from college. Some of the commenters seem kind of down on it, but I must admit that I adore it. Just don’t go into it thinking that it’ll be great lit. It’s not. It’s campy and OTT but that’s really what makes it enjoyable to me. It’s short and fun, and really helpful if you’re going to go on and read other gothics.

    • Oh what an interesting idea to choose the books you read from the 1001 books. I guess its a good way of getting through them and varying your reading habits, do you find you sometimes think ‘what was that book doing in there?’

      I love the idea of Otranto being campy! Book is sold on me now.

  14. JoV

    I love book lists!! I agree with you on how do they choose the booklist? in what authority do they make their choices?

    If you think you can’t read 1001 books before you die, what about trying this:

    501 must read book


    Maybe half the size is something you can handle? (to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever make that 1001 list in my lifetime too!)

    • Brilliant link, I can work though that though its not quite the same as having the book though does it? When you see the book in the flesh you cant help but think ‘oh to have that on my coffee table would be divine’ hahaha.

  15. I’m not familiar with any of the two, though I do have the 1001 list sitting in my computer in an excel spreadsheet. Sometimes I refer to it for ideas of what to take out of the library next. I think borrowing the book might be a better idea, though. At least for me, it’s not something I’d want to own. But it would be a good idea to actually get to flip through it. I’m thinking I’ll put a hold on it now.

  16. Susan in TX

    Sounds like plenty of people have already given the advice I would on the 1001 Book – get it from the library. But I do have to say that you had me laughing out loud with the way you expressed the potential for manic behavior it could provoke — the panic over the list-making etc. 🙂 I feel that way after I’ve read one too many good blog reviews. Simon T. seems to always have a recommendation that I’ve never heard of that sounds great, but then I remind myself of the looming TBR tower that is in my bedroom and check my pulse rate. 😉 Otranto might be nice if it is indeed short – I made it through Udolpho myself before Christmas and enjoyed it simply because I new Jane Austen had read it. 🙂 Happy reading whatever you decide, Simon!

    • It could indeed make me go very very manic and that could be the downfall of the book, along with if I saw a book I couldnt stand in there, that would put me off the whole 1001 hahaha.

      I do want to read Udolpho, am thinking would be lovely on my sunny week away in May.

  17. Love Gothic lit and think you must too, but I always recommend Ann Radcliffe before Walpole. But… Otranto is great fun as only a story hinging on a birthmark can be. You won’t want to put it down.

    • Radcliffe is an author who I definitely want to get into and finally read. I think my Gran bought me my copy and said that I simply must read it. I might then want to try Northanger Abbey which would finally get me to read an Austen book.

  18. I am of absolutely no use to whatsoever, dear Simon, having heard of neither. But, I do commend your splendid idea for the post!

  19. I do own the Boxall (with a different cover) and I love it with the following caveats:
    1. I would never read it cover to cover.
    2. I would never hold myself to reading all 1001.
    3. Like any list it is subjective and thus, not every book deserves to be on the list.

    Having said that I love the book because it has some really great pictures of authors and books as well as good bio information and synopses of books.

    Once you own the book for a while you realize that you have a read a few more from the list without even realizing it.

  20. Sophie

    Hey Simon

    Someone in my book group actually compiled all of the 1001 titles into an Excel spreadsheet. I can send it to you if you want to geek out like I did and tick off all the ones you’ve read already.

  21. I read The Castle of Otranto quite a while ago and found it disappointingly boring. I don’t know; maybe I’ll be more into it in 20 years time, but not now.

    Speaking of books about books, I recommend the recent 50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everyone Must Read edited by Richard Canning and published by Alyson. I have an essay in it about Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood.

  22. My sister read The Castle of Otranto and thought it was delightful, but we are big fans of Gothic novels and do not mind plots that get a little bit silly.

    • I like a plot thats sometimes a bit extreme etc, hence my love of sensation fiction so maybe gothic is the way to go for me next. I like a good ghostly tale and imagine them in the middle.

  23. If you’re just interested in the booklist, without the pretty pictures etc., you can find it here. I’ve been trying to read as many books as possible from the list, and have actually been wowed as to how many of them I’ve absolutely loved!

  24. Pingback: These Could Cheer Anyone Up « Savidge Reads

  25. Pingback: Do I Want To Read…? « Savidge Reads

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