Monday, February 1, 2016

Classics Spin #11: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis


I'm down to the last few books on my Classics Club reading list, and I was pleased when the most recent Classics Spin chose my latest read: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, a satirical look at life for a hapless college lecturer who can't help getting his professional and personal life intertwined, with disastrous results.

Set in the early 1950s, the protagonist, Jim Dixon, is a lecturer of Medieval Studies at a nameless British university. He's desperately trying to hang on to his job, and a weekend at a his supervising professor's house throws him in company with the his boss's son Bertrand, a pretentious artist; and Bertrand's latest conquest, a charming bookseller named Christine. Dixon falls hard for Christine but a series of embarrassing mishaps pull Dixon deeper and deeper into a spiral he can't escape. 

I'd heard this one was one of the funniest books of all time, but it actually took me three tries to finally make it past the first chapter of this book. I think I had a hard time with this book the first two tries because Dixon himself is not a very likable characters -- he seems to be someone who's always just getting by without putting any effort it, something of a slacker. He's only teaching Medieval studies because no one else wanted it. 

Amis does really have a knack for making every situation, no matter how contrived and bizarre, seem real, starting with a hilarious incident in which Dixon is trying to cover up damages he's done to his guest room on the initial weekend. Things eventually go from bad to worse Dixon becomes embroiled in a series of love triangles which are unfortunately entwined with his professional life.

I really disliked Dixon's character at first and thought it was just a book about disaffected and annoying academic types, but about halfway through the book, I really started to root for Dixon. I don't want to give anything away, but something changes his life and makes him start to be a better person. There's an extended scene in the middle which turns the whole story into something great.

The first American edition of Lucky Jim

I ended up loving Lucky Jim. In a way, it's kind of the flip side of the academia one finds in Barbara Pym, and a very little bit like Wodehouse, though Dixon is much snarkier and has a mean streak you won't find in Jeeves and Wooster. It's a different sort of British comedy than I'm used to reading and I'm very glad I gave it another try.

I'm also counting this as my 20th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Read My Own Damn Books Challenge


Like many bloggers, I'm constantly reminded that I have far, far too many unread books on my shelves which are perpetually ignored in favor of my newest discovery (usually found on someone else's blog). Working at the library made temptation even worse -- but last year, I scraped by and just made my goal of reading at least 50% of my own books. Of 101 books read last year, 53 were from my own shelves.

This year, I'm off to a bad start. I finished only six books, and only one was from my own shelves! In my defense, two were audiobooks; one was for my book group; one was an inter-library loan; and one was part of the 12-novel Poldark series, and I have no intention of buying all of them!

And somehow, no matter what, the number of unread books on my shelves always hovers around 170. Part of it is because I just keep finding books that I never added to my Goodreads list; part is that people give me books; but mostly (hanging my head in shame) I'm just a girl who can't say no, and I keep buying more. However, I'm really going to try and stop buying books this year.  I only received three books for Christmas, and one was a cookbook and the other about historical fashion, so, not so much novels. I also need to stop putting more books on my hold list at the library.

According to my Goodreads list, I currently have 165 books on my owned-and-unread shelf. I'd really like to cut this down to 100 or less by the end of the year. To achieve this goal, I'm doing the following:
  • Challenging myself to stop buying books for at least three months -- new and used 
  • Checking out books from the library, with the following exceptions:
  1. Books for my book group;
  2. Books from my Classics Club list (there are only four which I don't already own) 
  3. Books for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and only if I don't own anything that fits the category;
  4. Books already on hold for me, which includes inter-library loans;
  5. Audiobooks, since most of my unread books aren't available on audio (I'm also hoping to most of my book group selections on audio if possible)
Does this sound too hard? Am I being too strict? And is anyone else struggling with the never-ending owned-and-unread mountain of books? I'll post an update at the end of February!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Challenge Link-Up Post: Re-Read a Classic From School


Please link your reviews for the Re-Read a Classic From School here.  This is only place for the Re-Read a Classic From School category.  It could be a book you read in high school or college, and it doesn't matter if it was a book you loved, or a book you hated -- but please tell us how it compared to the first time you read it!

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Howards End). "


Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic Short Stories


Please link your reviews for your Classic Short Stories here.  This is only for the Classic Short Stories category.  It should be ONE complete volume, at least eight stories. The stories can be written by a single author, or it can be an anthology of stories by different authors, but it should be one book, cover to cover. Children's stories are acceptable in this category only.

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton). "


Challenge Link-Up Post: Banned or Censored Classic


Please link your reviews for your Banned or Censored Classic. here.  This is only for the Banned or Censored Classic category. If possible, please mention in your review why this book was banned or censored -- I'm sure that readers will be interested to know why!

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Animal Farm). "


Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic With a Place Name in the Title


Please link your reviews for your Classic with a Place Name in the Title here.  This is only for the Classic with a Place Name in the Title category.  It can be a country, a city, a street, or a building, but it must include the proper name of a place. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (The Belly of Paris). "


Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic Detective Novel


Please link your reviews for your Classic Detective Novel here.  This is only for the Classic Detective Novel category.  This book must include a detective in the story, either amateur or professional. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Murder on the Orient Express)."

Challenge Link-Up Post: Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Dystopian Classic


Please link your reviews for your Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Dystopian Classic here.  This is only for the Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Dystopian Classic category.  Children's classics are acceptable in this category also.

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (The Hobbit)."



Challenge Link-Up Post: Adventure Classic


Please link your reviews for your Adventure Classic here.  This is only for the Adventure Classic category. This book could be either fiction or non-fiction, so true-life adventure stories also qualify. Children's stories are acceptable for this category. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Treasure Island)."




Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic By a Non-White Author


Please link your reviews for your Classic By a Non-White Author here.  This is only for the Classic By a Non-White Author category.  These should all be classics that were written by an author who is not white; i.e., African-American, Asian, Latino, etc. The can be in translation or written in English. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Their Eyes Were Watching God)."