Monday, January 26, 2009

Transylvanian Concubine

Ten minutes ago I finally published my disturbingly long review of the YA novel Twilight, which I read a couple of weeks ago. It took me almost as long to write the review as to read the book, and honestly, I could have said more, but my fingers were exhausted.

I have recently become obsessed with making music videos (or video remixes, whichever is more PC), for no goddamn reason other than I like to edit and I have nothing else to edit right now, so why not take a movie that isn't mine and a song that isn't mine and put them together and see how long they stay up on YouTube before I get called out for copyright infringement.

I made the following video remix for several reasons:
  • The aforementioned too much free time.
  • I've had Twilight on the brain since seeing the film and reading the book and otherwise being assaulted by it everywhere on the Internet from Amazon to the Huffington Post.
  • I really love the song Transylvanian Concubine by Rasputina and, by god, those two go well together.
  • My Firefly music video hasn't been getting very many hits and I thought I'd capitalize on Twilight's popularity and try to draw more people to my other YouTube video.
And thus,

The Twilight Music Video - Transylvanian Concubine

was birthed.

Here are the Transylvanian Concubine lyrics, to heighten your viewing pleasure.

If you want to know how
To fly high then go now
To the place where all the concubines...

Meet and converse with them
Marvel at their pale skin
Wonder how they chew on their pointy....

Teeth and hair are beauty
They know it's their duty
To be Countess in their hearts and their....

Minds that have to whisper
See in them a sister
Look into their eyes and you'll become

Transylvanian Concubine
You know what flows here like wine
Stay here with us, it's just time

Transylvanian Concubine

Sorrow is their master
Cackling with laughter
Now he's having just one piece of....

Cakey is their make up
Catholics try to shake up
All the things that form their lives, but they're....

Dead, their sighs their song
They know what they do is wrong
Stay here with us, it's just time
Transylvanian Concubine

Candelabra's lighted
Satan has been sighted
Never has there been an evening like....

This is what they wanted
Always to feel hunted
You can never be to rich or too....

Thin. The blood had run out
Fangs ruin any cute pout
Morning has come now they've flown
What have you learned from what has been shown?

Twilight: The Mammoth Book Review

I apologize in advance for the size of this Twilight review, which can only be described as pre-historically mammoth. Stock up on food and water, and enjoy.

It took me a while to get through Twilight, the best-selling YA novel by Stephenie Meyer; a full two weeks, much longer than expected. Despite its 500 pages, the word count is a moderate 118,000, much shorter than any of the last four Harry Potters, which I happily devoured in 24 hour periods. I took breaks during Twilight to read three other YA books: two mysteries by Christopher Pike and the charming The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, before marathoning the last 200 pages to get it over with.

Prior to succumbing to the Twilight book-fever last fall, I heard a lot about the series, and much of the word-of-mouth wasn't promising. I saw the movie in November at the urging of a good friend (review is here), and while it was better than expected, I was still reluctant to suffer bad writing without at least getting to bitch about it. As I am currently between book clubs, bitching via blog is my only outlet.

It's fair to say that I approached the text with a certain bias from tons of pre-exposure. At the very least, having seen the faithfully adapted film meant I already knew the story and I had a good idea of where the story would end up by book four (creepy vampire birth). The questions I wanted to answer for myself were:
  • Is the writing better or worse than the abysmal Eragon?
  • Just how disturbing is the Bella-Edward relationship?
  • Are the characters really Mary Sues?
  • What lessons can be learned by YA writers looking to be the next big thing?
From page one, I was willing to like it, I just wasn't expecting to.

Quickie Summary
In Twilight, ordinary Bella Swan moves from sunny Phoenix, Arizona to gloomy Forks, Washington, where she meets Edward Cullen, an uber hot guy at her high school who happens to be a vampire. When Bella discovers Edward's secret, the two begin an angsty and obsessive courtship, interrupted only when new baddie vampires come to town with a thirst for humans, and Bella in particular.
The Style

I am happy to say that Twilight was not the worst book I've ever read. That honor still belongs to the painfully derivative Eragon by Christopher Paolini, a sixteen year old who got published by his parents and somehow became a best-selling sensation, despite his awful prose and blatant thievery of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and other high-fantasy classics. Only my desire to rip Eragon apart via book club review could keep me from literally ripping the book to shreds. Instead, I settled for throwing it across the room and screaming my disgust on several occasions.

Twilight, fortunately, did not elicit such a strong reaction. As a whole, the novel was mediocre, falling somewhere in a long line of disappointments including The Nanny Diaries, A Wizard, A Witch, and Two Girls From Jersey, and a dozen other books that I read and then forgot.

The greatest weakness of Twilight's prose was not so much the pedestrian style but the overwrought details. Three quarters of the book read like entries in Bella's private journal, describing outfits she wears, food she eats, and her entire school day from first period through gym - over and over and over. There is very little plot to be found other than Bella and Edward's constant mooning and repetitive "we should but we shouldn't" angst until around page 380 when the vampires finally play baseball and a "real" antagonist appears.

A good editor could have done a lot to tighten both the plot and the language. Meyer relies too heavily on adjectives and adverbs, and many of her melodramatic descriptors feel so out of place in a contemporary YA novel that I actually had to take regular breaks to roll my eyes before I could continue reading. Examples include Edward's alabaster skin, his scintillating arms, and his sculpted, incandescent chest. Meyer doesn't only introduce the novel's vampires as being extraordinarily attractive, but actually reminds the readers of their extreme hotness an average of once per page. Edward is a magnificent Adonis and all lesser immortals bow before him.

The thesaurus can be a great friend, but if the friendship is abusive, there can be dire consequences for all.

The Characters

I am probably one of the few Twilight critics that will admit to being intrigued by Meyer's twist on the vampire mythos. I have no problem with the fact that Meyer's "vegetarian" vampires are immune to sunlight, holy water, and garlic, and that they love baseball and sparkle in the daylight. Many critics have been particularly negative about the "sparkly" thing, finding the idea laughable, but I would argue that it works in Meyer's world. Because of their skin condition, vampires can't blend in during the day, hence only coming out at night and living in mostly sunless towns. Sparkling also furthers the Twilight dichotomy of beautiful = deadly.

Isabella Swan, Twilight's heroine, is supposed to be identifiable to every young woman who has ever felt like a fish out of water: insecure, lonely, and failing to connect with her peers. In other words, Bella = average high school girl. The problem is that Bella is such a generic stand-in for the author/reader that she fails to have a personality of her own. She does well in school, particularly biology, but this braininess is off-set by her total lack of coordination, and that's about all the reader knows. It's hard to identify any of Bella's interests, aside from Edward. Does she have dreams or ambitions? I read the book less than a week ago and honestly can't remember anything she actually likes to do, other than snogging vampires.

By the end of the book, Bella is so desperate to shuck the mortal coil and just-become-a-vampire-already, that it's suggested that she has absolutely nothing to live for aside from Edward, which is not the case with most teenage girls, even at their most depressed/obsessed.

Without non-vampire interests or a desire to live, Bella suffers from a lack of relatability, and this problem is compounded by the fact that she, as a character, fails to relate in general. Her estrangement from her parents is fully self-imposed. She isn't open and honest with her mother (whom she claims to be close with) and doesn't bother to get to know, or even talk with, her father, who seems to be a nice enough guy. Throughout the book everyone at Bella's new high school is open to liking her; they invite her on group trips, sit with her at lunch, and half the boys at school want to date her. When faced with this much acceptance, Bella's refusal to form genuine bonds with anyone human makes her come across as a self-centered and elitist bitch, rather than an identifiable outcast.

But are they really Mary Sues?

Wikipedia defines a "Mary Sue" as a fictional character, particularly characterized by overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors or readers.

Although I can't speak for the rest of the series, in Twilight, the vampires of the Cullen clan are pretty Mary Sue-ish. They are the ultimate predators: extremely strong, fast, attractive to their prey, and dangerous all-around. They have no real weaknesses, unless you count their vegetarian consciences, and even when baddie vampires come to town, the Cullen clan assures Bella that they are so many and so powerful that they aren't in any real danger. She is, but they aren't.

This god-like invincibility, while convenient, can cause some real story problems. As humans, we are so naturally flawed that "perfect" tends to be a real turn-off, which is why "Mary Sues" are criticized rather than lauded by readers. When characters lack vulnerabilities, the stakes can only be raised so high, and the story can only be so interesting. The only helpless protagonist in Twilight is Bella, and it's only her own idiocy that gets her into danger, away from her vampire protectors.

An exchange from page 374, perhaps confirming that the vamps are indeed a bit Mary Sueish:
"I am a little disappointed," I teased.
"Why?" (Edward) asked, puzzled.
"Well, it would be nice if I could find just one thing you didn't do better than everyone else on the planet."
My big unanswered Twilight-verse question is this, if the vampires are so goddamn invincible, why haven't they taken over the world? From what I can tell, the vampires have no vulnerabilities and no real enemies aside from their own kind and a (presumably small?) pack of werewolf natives located in the Pacific Northwest. It's difficult for vampires to turn humans, but not impossible, which is how they can increase their own numbers. So why are the inherently evil vampires forced into roaming the Earth as nomadic scavengers rather than running amok, ala the Buffyverse vampires in the disturbingly creepy third season episode The Wish? It's not like any of us could stop them.

Mary Bella Swan?

I haven't read all of the books so I can't conduct an official Mary Sue Litmus Test on Bella Swan's character, but according to other readers, Bella scores an off-the-charts 81 points with Edward Cullen surpassing even her impressive score with a hard-to-believe 98 points.

As previously summed up, Bella Swan's character, right down to the first-person narrative, is most definitely a stand in for the writer/reader. The uber hot vampire and every mortal and immortal character that crosses paths with Bella is positively smitten, and she doesn't have to work at it, she just has to exist. Bella has no real flaws aside from extreme clumsiness, but this trait, along with an uncanny ability to put herself in danger, is endearing and only makes her more attractive to the possesive males in her life.

Bella is wish-fulfillment incarnate, but I just didn't particularly care for her character at all.

Bella + Edward = XOXOXO?

I have read an absolute torrent of articles/blogs/rants on the Bella/Edward relationship as an unhealthy model for the impressionable young women (and their mothers) who are reading the Twilight series. This article by Sarah Seltzer at the Huffington Post sums up many of these concerns.

While there are a few worrisome character exchanges in Twilight, the bulk of the disturbing, abusive boyfriend/passive girlfriend interactions take place in the later books. In Twilight, Edward stalks Bella by watching her while she sleeps (ew!), and often treats her like a child, patriarchically commanding her while she meekly, and without question, obeys.

The bad vibes that I got mostly came from Meyer's descriptors that accompanied Bella-Edward dialogues and directly influence how we readers interpret the text. The excerpts below took place between pages 164 and 166. These exchanges are shortly after Edward saved Bella from a gang of would-be attackers, so tensions are high ... of course, abusive boyfriends always have excuses for their violence too.
"What's wrong?" My voice came out in a whisper.
"Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella." He was whispering, too, and as he stared out the window, his eyes narrowed into slits.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm taking you to dinner." He smiled slightly, but his eyes were hard. He stepped out of the car and slammed the door. I fumbled with my seat belt, and then hurried to get out of the car as well. He was waiting for me on the sidewalk.
He spoke before I could. "Go stop Jessica and Angela before I have to track them down, too.
I don't think I could restrain myself if I ran into your other friends again."
I shivered at the threat in his voice.
"That's fine - I'm not hungry." I shrugged.
"I think you should eat something." Edward's voice was low, but full of authority.
"Honestly, I'm not hungry," I insisted, looking up to scrutinize his face. His expression was unreadable.
"Humor me."
He walked to the door of the restaurant and held it open with an obstinate expression. Obviously, there would be no further discussion. I walked past him into the restaurant with a resigned sigh.
Of course, patriarchy aside, the real issue I have with the Bella/Edward relationship is that it just didn't do anything for me. I find absolutely nothing appealing about a man who is so gorgeous I can hardly stand to look at him, who commands and expects that I will obey, who constantly questions my choices and my ability to function on a daily basis, who has a temper he can barely control, and who reminds me frequently that he could kill me, easily and efficiently, if he ever lost complete control of himself.

Honestly, it's too much baggage.

I've been wooed by forbidden vampire romances before, and Bella and Edward don't have anything on Buffy and Angel. For starters, Buffy and Angel like each other for more than just superficial reasons. The Bella/Edward relationship is completely founded on Edward being super hot and Bella smelling good ... there's just nothing deeper there. Angel may (also) be super hot, super strong, and super immortal, but Buffy is his equal, not just his damsel in distress. Their relationship is a balanced partnership, with each of them able to bring something to the table - strength, skills, and intelligence. When Angel's humanity slips, Buffy is not helpless putty in his hands because she has the ability and willpower to fight back.

The passage below is from my review of the Twilight movie:
While I thought Kristen Stewart did a fine job as Bella, Robert Pattinson, as Edward, was a disappointment. Pattinson's performance was very one-note; he could make broody faces, but he did little else. I wasn't convinced of his affection for Bella. Obsession, sure, but there was no real romance in his performance or his character's actions.

Thanks in large part to Stewart's appropriately understated performance (up until the end when she really started to get whiny), the romance scenes were tolerable. Edward stared, Bella sighed wistfully, and that was that. I didn't buy that the two were destined for each other and I didn't buy that their "love" was anything more than a trumped-up, melodramatic high school infatuation, just one fantastical step away from disturbing, abusive, and controlling.

When Buffy and Angel learn the hard way that their relationship is toxic (and doomed), as much as it breaks their hearts, they stay away from each other. Bella and Edward, self-absorbed and living-in-the-now, just don't have the maturity and self-respect to make that choice. And thus, their love story will always fall short.
What lessons can be learned?

As a wannabe YA fantasy writer, I have come out of this reading with a handful of lessons that can be applied to future writings, bulletpointed for convenience.
  • Watch your descriptive word usage. If your first-person narrator is an average, contemporary character, try to avoid adjectives that normally appear in cheesy romance novels and SAT word lists ... from 50 years ago.
  • It's okay if your protagonist is an outcast, but if she's also a Mary Sue and a bitch, chances are your readers won't like her very much.
  • Personalities, interests, and character flaws are good. As are romances with a foundation that goes deeper than the physical.
  • Teenage girls will eat up forbidden romances, no matter how cheesy. There's a reason why everybody's heard of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and not necessarily Timon of Athens.
  • By the time your book is finished, the vampire genre will be old news, thanks to the current overload of Twilight, The Southern Vampire Mysteries/True Blood, and the dozens of other series leaching off the Twilight phenomenon. Be the next big thing.
Wrapping It Up

I'll end this review with a confession. Even though Twilight wasn't really my thing, it's hard not to think/blog/write/make music videos about it due to its very vibrant and obsessive presence in popular culture. Twilight is everywhere, partially filling the void left by Harry Potter, and also breaking into a new generation of non-readers who are, at least, reading. Ultimately, I'd love to find a community of my contemporaries with whom I can discuss my real literature and film passions, but in the meantime, I'll settle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rilo Kiley = Awesomeness x 2

In September of last year I wrote an entry celebrating the indie rock band Rilo Kiley, with a top-ten list of some of my favorite songs (Rilo Kiley = Awesomeness). The list and albums are below.
1. With Arms Outstretched, The Execution of All Things
2. Spectacular Views, The Execution of All Things
3. Portions for Foxes, More Adventurous
4. The Good That Won't Come Out, The Execution of All Things
5. I Never, More Adventurous
6. The Frug, The Initial Friend
7. It's a Hit, More Adventurous
8. A Better Son/Daughter, The Execution of All Things
9. A Man/Me/Then Jim, More Adventurous
10. More Adventurous, More Adventurous
I saw Rilo Kiley in concert for the first time last year at Terminal 5 in NYC where I took the really crappy picture to the left. My digital camera at the time, the Olympus D-595, really sucked at taking photos in low-lighting without the flash, and it was actually the extreme disappointment of failing to capture my favorite band live that prompted an investment in the sublime Nikon D80 Digital SLR. Beautiful, isn't it? Now I just have to wait for their next NYC concert so I can take some real photographs.

It's been more than six months since I was blown away their Terminal 5 performance, and since then, my obsession has grown. Their quirky lyrics and mellow musical stylings are perfect for my daily subway commutes and for looping on my iPhone during a long work week of data entry and graphic design.

I now own all of their CDs (with the exception of The Initial Friend, which is hard to come by), and my top-ten changes daily as their songs speak to me differently depending on my mood and state of mind. Which is why I must amend my original list by tacking on 15 more top songs, finally giving Take Offs and Landings the recognition it deserves.

*I was really tempted to put Accidntel Deth on this list, but it's a little too depressing for a top 25. An honorable mention goes to Bulletproof which, at 2 minutes, was just too short.*

Rilo Kiley - Another Top Ten and Then Five More:

1. Wires and Waves, Take Offs and Landings
And sometimes, planes, they smash up in the sky
And sometimes, lonely hearts, they just get lonelier
And lonelier, and lonelier, and lonelier
2. My Slumbering Heart, The Execution of All Things
And I've become just like a terrible mess
Searching the lines in my face for
Something more beautiful than is there
The crowds keep me coming back
3. Breakin' Up, Under the Blacklight
Betrayal is a thorny crown
You wear it well
Just like a king
Revenge is the saddest thing
Honey, I'm afraid to say
You deserve everything
4. Plane Crash in C, Take Offs and Landings
How do you do it and make it seem effortless?
When it's all the stupid things, so overwhelming to me
Like paying my bills, or showing up for work early
Or laughing at your jokes
5. Absence of God, More Adventurous
And Rob says you love, love, love, and then you die
I've watched him while sleeping and seen him crying with closed eyes
And you're not happy but you're funny and I'm tripping over my joy
But I just keep on getting up again
6. Pictures of Success, Take Offs and Landings
I'm a modern girl, but I fold in half so easily
When I put myself in the picture of success
I could learn world trade or try to map the ocean
7. Paint's Peeling, The Execution of All Things
And oh, I'm not going back
To the assholes that made me a perfect display
Of random acts of hopelessness
8. The Execution of All Things, The Execution of All Things
And if you’re well off,
Well then I’m happy some for you
But I’d rather not celebrate my defeat and humiliation
Here with you
9. Capturing Moods, The Execution of All Things
And I don’t mind waiting if it takes a long, long time
I don’t mind braving the coldest winter of our time
I don’t mind racing through our goodbyes
10. Silver Lining, Under the Blacklight
And I was your silver lining, as the story goes
I was your sliver lining, but now I'm gold
11. August, Take Offs and Landings
Someday we'll meet beyond the stars
And it'll be away from here
Someday we'll meet beyond the time and the bars
And it'll be away from here
12. Always, Take Offs and Landings
I should've known with a boy like you
Your middle name is Always
I'd always love you
13. Science Vs. Romance, Take Offs and Landings
I used to think
If I could realize I'd die
Then I would be a lot nicer
Used to believe
In a lot more
14. Three Hopeful Thoughts, Execution of All Things
And the hero that you'd hoped you'd be
Never seemed to show up
And if I can keep on talking
There won't be time to give up
15. Go Ahead, Take Offs and Landings
If you want to find yourself by traveling out west
Or if you want to find somebody else that's better
Go ahead

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hamlet, Table for One

Last night I attended a rather unconventional performance of the most famous Shakespearean play to not involve star-crossed lovers. You know, it's the one where the Danish Prince Hamlet discovers that his uncle Claudius killed Hamlet's father (the king - now a ghost) so that he could shack up with Hamlet's mother (the queen - now a skank), and Hamlet meticulously exacts his revenge, and everybody dies?

This would be Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's finest comedies. It's an eminently provocative tale of murder, betrayal, revenge, and madness, with an abundance of wordy soliloquies featuring such catchy Shakespearean-cum-classic phrases as Neither a borrower nor a lender be | Frailty, thy name is woman | and To be, or not to be, that is the question.

What was unusual about last night's performance is that it featured only one man - Canadian actor Raoul Bhaneja. And no, the other actors didn't call in sick. Taking "Shakespearean monologue" to the extreme, Bhaneja performed the title role as well as the entire supporting cast, from the Ghost of King Hamlet to the lowly Gravedigger. This was Hamlet abridged, but only moderately so, as the performance was still 100 minutes of tongue-twisting, early seventeenth-century courtly language, filled with metaphors, puns, and innuendo.

Hamlet, performed as a solo, is clearly a feat from the very base reaction of holy crap, he memorized that whole f$%king thing?!! But there is much to say for the skill of the actor as well. During the performance, Bhaneja flowed seamlessly from character to character; proud and upright as the corrupt monarch Claudius, darkly vengeful as Hamlet, and meekly hunched as the love-sick Ophelia who slips into madness after being spurned by her lover. I had some difficulty discerning between a few of the roles at times, particularly when there were more than two characters in a scene together, but for the most part, the characterizations were very accomplished.

Bhaneja's most enjoyable performances were Hamlet, Ophelia, the tawdry Rosencrants and Gildenstern (their roles were far too brief!), and best of all, Ophelia's father, Polonius. I read Hamlet in high school and saw a traditionalky staged performance a couple of years ago, but last night was the first time I saw real humor in Polonius as a shifty and sniveling little stage mom, stopping at nothing to force his reluctant daughter, Ophelia, into the limelight and Hamlet's arms.

Thanks to this novel experience of having a familiar story stripped down to nothing but the text and a nuanced performance by a skilled actor, I left the theater with a deeper understanding of the tragedy, having caught on to - and laughed with - more of Shakespeare's wit than ever before - Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.

Friday, January 9, 2009

January Playlist

10 Random Songs from my January Playlist

My Hero Foo Fighters
I Me You Jim Noir
Summerbreeze Emiliana Torrini
Ballad for Dead Friends Dashboard Prophets
The World is Not Enough Garbage
Choke The Cardigans
Wandering Star Portishead
So Much for the Afterglow Everclear
Capturing Moods Rilo Kiley
Swallowed in the Sea Coldplay

Sunday, January 4, 2009

With Arms Outstretched (to Joss)

While on vacation from the perils of adulthood (rent, taxes, and reality), I like to keep myself busy, hoping that the more I accomplish, the longer my vacation will feel. It's possible that this is faulty logic, but it's the only logic I know.

If I were to do real work (n: employment, as in some form of industry, esp. as a means of earning one's livelihood), then the week would no longer classify as a winter vacation (n: a period of suspension of work). Thus, the "work" that I do is enjoyable; something that provides mirth or amusement (also known as "fun").

As established in previous posts, I love Joss Whedon's tragically short-lived series Firefly. It's a fabulous 14 episodes set sometime after "Earth that was" has been abandoned for other solar systems, following a rag-tag crew of mercenary thieves and the spaceship they call home. The cast is probably Whedon's most compelling ensemble of motley characters, all of whom come together in their need for and devotion to the ship Serenity.

As established in previous posts, I love the indie rock band Rilo Kiley. My favorite Rilo Kiley song is the playful campfire-esq, With Arms Outstretched, where Jenny Lewis sings It's sixteen miles to the promised land / And I promise you I'm doing the best I can, and is joined in classic sing-a-long fashion by several male voices before concluding And if you want me, you better speak up, I wont wait / So you better move fast . . .

I can't help but think of Firefly when I listen to the song. It's a combination of the guitar strums, the yearning lyrics, and the harmonious comraderie of the voices, that feels so very in tune with Whedon's space western.

And thus, while on vacation, I made my first Youtube-a-licious music video: Firefly - With Arms Outstretched.

I'm still trying to master uploading to Youtube without losing major quality. I tried compressing a number of different ways with the mpg4/h.264 combination, but am not really pleased with the results. Any other suggestions on how to get a cleaner upload?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Booklist

*Drumroll, please*

Announcing Valderi Valdera's 2009 booklist (Barnes and Noble, here I come)! And yes, half of these are carry-overs from Booklist Aught 8. I read just over 40 books last year, but I cheated a bit and six of them were re-reads of books not on the list. Will have to try a little harder to make it up to the big 6-0!

First up this year is Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. And yes, you can expect I'll be writing another blog entry shortly as a follow up to my film review. I'm about 30 pages in and it's not nearly as painful as Christopher Paolini's Eragon, so there is hope yet.

2009 Booklist

  1. 13 Clocks, James Thurber
  2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
  3. Blindness, Jose Saramago
  4. Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
  5. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  6. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne
  7. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  8. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming
  9. The City of Ember, Jeanne Duprau
  10. Close Range, Annie Proulx
  11. Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella
  12. Downtown Owl, Chuck Klosterman
  13. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen
  14. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
  15. Emma, Jane Austen
  16. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
  17. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom
  18. Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  19. Ghost Girl, Tonya Hurley
  20. The Giver, Lois Lowery
  21. A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray
  22. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  23. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J K Rowling
  24. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
  25. I Am America (And So Can You!), Stephen Colbert
  26. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
  27. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
  28. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
  29. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
  30. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  31. Madeline is Sleeping, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
  32. Minority Report and Other Stories, Philip K Dick
  33. Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire
  34. My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
  35. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  36. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollen
  37. On Writing, Stephen King
  38. Paradise Lost, John Milton
  39. Pastoralia, George Saunders
  40. Possession, A. S. Byatt
  41. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  42. Rebel Angels, Libba Bray
  43. Rebel Without a Crew, Robert Rodriguez
  44. Remember Me, Christopher Pike
  45. Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker
  46. Shop Girl, Steve Martin
  47. The Tales of Beadle the Bard, JK Rowling
  48. The Tale of Despereaux, Kate Dicamillo
  49. Tangled Webs, Anne Bishop
  50. The Third Witch, Rebecca Reisert
  51. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
  52. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffeneger
  53. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
  54. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi
  55. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
  56. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffery Eugenides
  57. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  58. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  59. Watership Down, Richard Adams
  60. Wicked: The Grimmerie, David Cote