Top Ten Tuesday—Fave Book Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday, formerly hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is favourite book quotes.

1. Just about anything from Monsieur l’Abbé T. in Thérèse Philosophe. This radical priest is on fire every time he opens his mouth! Lines like:

“Everyone agrees that God knows what will occur throughout eternity. But, they say, even before he knows what the results of our actions will be, he has foreseen that we will betray his grace and commit these same acts. Thus, with this foreknowledge, God, in creating us, knew in advance that we would be eternally damned and eternally miserable.”

2. Pistorius in Hermann Hesse’s Demian. “Don’t talk shit, man! One doesn’t hear of Abraxas by accident!”

3. “Pablo would be waiting for me, and Mozart too.” (Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf.)

4. “(I still have that suitcase, and even now when I chance to come upon it, I run my fingers around the hole torn in it. It is a wound which cannot heal as wounds heal on bodies or on hearts. Things have longer memories than people.)”—Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (may his memory be for a blessing), Volume II of The GULAG Archipelago.

5. “Rosy-fingered Eos, mentioned so often in Homer and called Aurora by the Romans, caressed, too, with those fingers the first early morning of the Archipelago.”—Ibid.

6. “To taste the sea all one needs is one gulp.”—Ibid.

7. “Mama, I make this vow to you:  I will teach my sons to love life, respect man, and hate only one thing—WAR.”—Isabella Leitner, Fragments of Isabella.

8. “….You can rarely decide for another that he or she should not do this or that. How can anyone forbid you to love when Christ said that there is nothing higher than love? And he made no exceptions, for love of any kind whatsoever.”—Aleksandr Isayevich, November 1916.

9. “The voice lost in a faraway village church had found me again and filled the whole room. I spoke loudly and incessantly like the peasants and then like the city folk, as fast as I could, enraptured by the sounds that were heavy with meaning, as wet snow is heavy with water, convincing myself again and again and again that speech was now mine and that it did not intend to escape through the door which opened onto the balcony.”—The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski.

10. Last but not least, my love Dante:

Midway life’s journey I was made aware
That I had strayed into a dark forest,
And the right path appeared not anywhere.
Ah, tongue cannot describe how it oppressed,
This wood, so harsh, dismal, and wild, that fear
At thought of it strikes now into my breast.
So bitter it is, death is scarce bitterer.
But, for the good it was my hap to find,
I speak of the other things that I saw there.
I cannot remember well in my mind
How I came thither, so was I immersed
In sleep, when the true way I left behind.


Top Ten Tuesday—Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish. A full list of instructions and future themes can be found here. This week’s theme is Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read.

1. A Farewell to Arms, by the massively overrated, overhyped Ernest Hemingway. So beyond dull and uninvolving. Ever since I reposted that old review from my Angelfire site, some of the most popular search terms turning up my blog have been along the lines of “Hemingway overrated,” “Hemingway boring,” and “I hate Ernest Hemingway.” Stick to short stories, “Papa”! Your beyond-Spartan writing style reads so much better in the short form.

2. Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith. I absolutely loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I finally read it, and thus expected the sequel in all but name to be just as awesome. It was more like watching paint dry. Even a deliberately slower-paced, character-based book needs to be hung on some kind of plot structure! I also raged against Annie’s controlling, God-complex, patronising OB. This guy gave me the creeps.

3. The book which shall not be named. Just thinking about this massively overrated book and all the squeeing hype makes me rage. I gag every time I see/hear yet ANOTHER person squeeing all over this gimmicky crap and declaring it as such a moving, tear-jerking book. Nope, more like watching paint dry as I waited for some type of story arc to take shape. Also, I wasn’t aware foreshadowing now involved outright giving away the ending and important developments. Pardon my language, but fuck that gimmicky narrator and his endless parade of smirking spoilers and bizarre language!

4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was practically unreadable, due to all the slave vernacular. Major writing tip: Do NOT phonetically render accents or vernacular! It’s extremely annoying, distracting, and borderline offensive.

5. Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. I’ve loved everything else I’ve read by him, since I discovered him at age eleven in fifth grade, but I had such a hard time slogging through this, one of his most famous novels. Only Part IV was lively and exciting, and then we went right back to a bunch of talking heads and only one recurring character.

6. Das Kapital, by Karl Marx. How can anyone read this all the way through? I have the exact same reaction to what I’ve read of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Who wants to read a long, boring economic treatise, no matter what kind of economic philosophy it espouses?

7. The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse. This was the only book by my next-fave writer I ever found boring and a chore to get through, instead of a joy and delight which sped right by. It’s like he bit off more than he could chew, both in the much longer than usual length and the writing style. I also hated the rather in media res ending, almost like he finally belatedly realised what a monster he’d created and decided to just slay it then and there. The poems and “Three Lives” stories after the main text are FAR more interesting and easier to get through. Some writers are better-suited to short novels than long sagas, and Hesse was one of them.

8. November 1916, by Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, of blessèd memory. I’m glad my favouritest writer lived long enough to finish his massive Red Wheel saga, four historical novels about the course of Russian history in 1914, 1916, and 1917, but damn, if these books aren’t difficult to slog through. I’m down with large ensemble casts, since I use them myself, but there are way too many characters for even me to keep track of. The book is also interrupted by six long research papers, like showing off the massive research he did for these books. Only the last two research papers, the Duma transcripts, are halfway interesting and relate to the actual novel narrative.

However, it was more than worth it to get to the ending, one of the most beautiful, unforgettable endings I’ve ever read: “….You can rarely decide for another that he or she should not do this or that. How can anyone forbid you to love when Christ said that there is nothing higher than love? And he made no exceptions, for love of any kind whatsoever.”

9. Just about anything by the late fraud Beatrice Sparks. I would only recommend her poorly-written crap as a quintessential example of how NOT to write YA, or a book in journal format!

10. Coming Home: A Woman’s Story Of Conversion To Judaism, by Linda Shires. Like watching paint dry. Most boring, off-topic conversion memoir I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few.

Top Ten Tuesday—Intro to Russian Lit and Historical Fiction

If you’re observing Tisha B’Av, may you have an easy and meaningful fast!

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish. A full list of instructions and future themes can be found here. This week’s theme is Top Ten Books I’d Give To Readers Who Have Never Read X (examples: New Adult novels, historical fiction, a certain author, books about a certain topic, etc). My two great literary loves are Russian literature and historical fiction, so I’m doing a half and half list.

Russian Lit:

1. We, by Yevgeniy Ivanovich ZamyatinNot only is this a criminally underrated dystopia (a real dystopia, as in utopian society gone creepily wrong), but it’s also the most un-Russian Russian novel I can think of. It’s extremely short, able to be read in a day, and barely has any hints it’s set in Russia. There’s a bust of Pushkin in the Ancient House and a babushka-like old woman. Other than that, this book could really be set anywhere. I did a paper for my Modern Russian Lit class my junior year of university, comparing and contrasting We and Brave New World.

2. Just about any collection of stories by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. My first Chekhov story was “The Ninny,” in my seventh grade English class, but I didn’t read him again till January 1996, when I was sixteen. I totally wolfed down the story collection I found on my parents’ shelves, and have wolfed down every single story collection of his I’ve read ever since. He was a master of the short form, though a few stories, like “The Duel,” are novella-length.

3. A Sportsman’s Sketches, by Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev. This fine short story collection gained him wide recognition and acclaim, and is a great example of his talent at the short form. His stories and novels, like Chekhov’s, often have depressing ends, but he wouldn’t be the same writer if he’d written mostly happy endings. Turgenev had such a sensitive, poetic soul.

4. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Afanasiyevich Bulgakov. This story is so fun, witty, satirical, and irreverent. It’s not for the easily-offended, but the political and religious commentary are part of the overall story, not just put in to be shocking or offensive. Avoid the Michael Glenny translation like the plague. He was a horrible translator.

5. The First Circle, by Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, of blessèd memory. This was my introduction to my favouritest writer, since the more popular One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich wasn’t at the library. I wolfed it down, and have continued to wolf down everything he’s ever written. It’s amazing to think about how he kept this book, and many other novels, stories, and plays, memorised in his head for so many years in the camps, before he was finally at relative liberty to write them down.


Historical fiction:

6. Maisie Mosco’s 5-book family saga, starting with Almonds and Raisins. I found these books in my original shul’s library at age 19-20, and wolfed them down (though it really pissed me off how Sarah interfered in her children’s love lives!). The best are the first three, Almonds and Raisins, Scattered Seed, and Children’s Children. I didn’t read the fourth book, Out of the Ashes, but I thought the final book, New Beginnings, wasn’t quite as compelling or epic. It starts in 1905 and focuses on the Russian Sandberg family and the Austrian Moritz family, immigrants in Manchester, England.

7. Out of This Furnace, by Thomas Bell. Shameless plug for just about the only historical novel (or novel period) about Slovaks. I’m a quarter Slovak, my real surname is Slovak, being part Slovak is a big part of who I am. (FYI: Czechs and Slovaks are not one and the same, just as Russians and Ukrainians or Chinese and Japanese aren’t one and the same!) It emotionally gutted me to read about how my not so distant ancestors were treated when they came to the U.S. I am so grateful my great-grandparents’ generation got out of that furnace and enabled a better life for future generations.

8. Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse. This is really more of a literary novel than a historical, but it’s still set in Medieval Germany. It might be a good introduction for people feeling overwhelmed by traditional historicals with their hundreds of pages, myriads of storylines, and huge ensemble casts. Art also plays a big part in this book.

9. The Ausländer, by Paul Dowswell. I’ve totally raved about this book numerous times before. This is YA historical done right, with the history more than just a minor backdrop to a teen’s story. Mr. Dowswell did an awesome job at researching his setting, and even though it’s under 300 pages, it doesn’t feel short, rushed, or insubstantial at all. There are also not too many WWII books about ordinary Germans.

10. The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, by Franz Werfel. It’s based on a real-life incident about a group of brave Armenians who fought back against the Turkish genocide committed against their people in 1915. Many people aren’t familiar with the Armenian Genocide, let alone historicals set in this part of the world or featuring Armenians. (If anyone reading this denies the Armenian Genocide, you can go screw yourself. This is established historical fact, not “Armenian allegations” or Turk-bashing.)

Top Ten Tuesday—Most-Owned Authors

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish. A full list of instructions and future themes can be found here. This week’s theme is Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From. I’m going to do my list as a photo montage, since I love photography.


As much as I love the late Mr. Uris’s historicals. I have to be honest and admit he wasn’t the world’s greatest writer. He was an awesome storyteller and did amazing historical research, but subtlety wasn’t exactly his strong suit. I see him as an average to slightly above average writer who had a very good editor. Even in spite of his editor, though, he still needed to step away from the exclamation point key and make his heroes more realistic instead of so good-looking, very tall, and larger than life.


Hermann Hesse is my next-fave writer. I’ve read all his novels and some other prose, though I don’t own all of his books yet. Missing from my shelf are Knulp and The Journey to the East, and his collections of stories and essays.


Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, of blessèd memory, has been my favouritest writer since I was barely sixteen. I positively devour his books, and am still waiting for widely-available English translations of his final novels, March 1917 and April 1917, the last two volumes in his massive Red Wheel saga. (Shameless self-promotion: I won the new, unexpurgated translation of The First Circle for writing the winning short story for a contest by the blog YA Stands.)


I found these in the free bin at one of my local libraries, and thought they’d be great potential resources for researching the Marine chapters of my WIP.




There are a couple of authors represented several times on this section of the shelf, and if you’re wondering, yes, I have a lot more Shoah memoirs and novels on other shelves. With all due respect to Ruth Minsky Sender, however, I just didn’t find her memoirs as compelling or interesting as most of the other Shoah memoirs I’ve read.


Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is my third-fave writer, and Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev is my fourth-fave writer. The old green book is a 1944 printing of Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber, with the text printed on two columns on thin pages. I assume it was because of wartime paper shortages.


I love Bertolt Brecht. I even did my big literature paper in my twelfth grade English AP class on him. This shelf also contains one of the biggest steals I ever got, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s awesome Confessions, which I got for only fifty cents at a library book sale. Someone there joked I should have to pay more since it’s such an intellectual book.



I’m currently reading The Winds of War, after having my reading of it interrupted very prematurely in the wake of my car accident eleven years ago. I got it for a buck at Mystery Train Records in Amherst, Massachusetts. This is the kind of historical I’m used to reading, and which I base my own writing on—ensemble casts, third-person omniscient, more about the journey through dramatic historical events instead of fast-paced and plot-centric, hundreds upon hundreds of pages. May the 99-year-old Mr. Wouk live and be well!

I’ve also got some repeat authors in storage by my parents’ house, like Ann M. Martin and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Top Ten Tuesday—Ten Books About Friendship

My Write Path post is here.

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish. A full list of instructions and future themes can be found here. This week’s theme is Ten Books About Friendship. My list features a number of Hermann Hesse books, since he so frequently featured friendships.

1. Demian, by Hermann Hesse. This was the book that introduced me to Hesse at age fourteen, in the Summer of ’94. I think this was the first real adult novel I read, not counting some adult books I couldn’t finish or skipped the boring parts in. This book features two great friendships, between narrator Emil Sinclair and title character Max Demian, and Sinclair and the mystic musician Pistorius. Later on, there’s the friendship Sinclair has with Demian’s mother, Frau Eva.

2. Peter Camenzind, by Hermann Hesse. Published in 1904, this was Hesse’s first novel. It certainly reads like a first novel, though it’s very sweet in its simplicity. Of all the friendships in this book, the one that sticks out most to me is between narrator Peter and the dear older cripple Boppi. Peter is initially repulsed by Boppi’s appearance and disability, but they eventually become best friends. There’s a very touching scene when they suddenly realise they’ve switched to Du (familiar “you”) from Sie (formal).

3. Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse. Published in 1930, this is arguably his greatest novel. It’s set in Medieval Germany, and begins with the story of the friendship between two rather opposite guys. Narcissus is an intelligent, spiritual monk, and Goldmund is his sensitive, worldly, artistic pupil who eventually leaves the Mariabronn monastery to wander about Germany. Later on, Goldmund returns to Mariabronn after many adventures.

4. The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse. It was boring as hell to slog through (bar the poems and “Three Lives” stories at the end), but I did like the friendships portrayed. That was perhaps its one saving grace. I wish Hesse had spent more time showing us the friendship Joseph Knecht shares with the old Music Master, Father Jacobus, and Plinio Designori. Although I didn’t have much sympathy for Plinio when he bitched Knecht out about how he still nursed a grudge on account of their growing apart. This was bothering him for 20 years? A lot of friends grow less close over time, and it’s not deliberate or meant as a personal slight! Move on!

5. The Key Is Lost, by Ida Vos. I’ve raved about this book several times before. It’s perhaps my favourite of the late Ida Vos’s books, and arguably her best work. I just love the gentle puppeteer Amici Enfante, an old family friend of protagonist Eva and her younger sister Lisa. After being hidden in a number of places, the girls are finally smuggled to his house in an ambulance, and spend the rest of the War with him. He’s so fatherly and sweet, and insists they call him Mr. Ami, since ami is French for “friend.” During the brutal Hongerwinter of 1944-45, when the Dutch people were freezing and starving, he even goes without food so the girls can eat, until a neighbour finds out what’s going on and makes him eat again.

6. The First Circle, by Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. This was my introduction to my favouritest writer, at barely sixteen years old. It’s such an amazing, intense experience, with so many friendships between the zeki (prisoners) at the sharashka (research facility in the GULAG system).

7. Thérèse Philosophe, probably by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens. I was introduced to this awesome book through the generous excerpt and discussion in Robert Darnton’s The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. Mr. Darnton classifies it as philosophical pornography, erotica with a heavy Enlightenment message in between all the solo and partnered sexual activities. Thérèse has great friendships with surrogate mother figures Madame C. and Madame Bois-Laurier. The radical priest Monsieur l’Abbé T. is also a great friend to both Thérèse and Madame C.

8. The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. It’s a bit slow-moving by modern standards, with a lot of historical background delivered via long monologues, but it’s still a classic story of a friendship between two boys from seemingly different worlds. Reuven is Modern Orthodox, and wants to be a rabbi, while Danny is Hassidic and wants to be a psychologist instead of inheriting the dynasty from his father. All that matters is that they have a deep soul connection, which endures even during a very difficult separation.

9. Judy Delton’s Kitty series. It’s a shame only the prequel is still in print. This is such a charming, cute, fun, sweet MG series about a Catholic girl growing up in St. Paul in the 1940s. Kitty falls between her very opposite best friends, super-religious Margaret Mary and rebellious Eileen. Margaret Mary wears a scapular and goes to daily Mass, while Eileen plays Confession at home (making up plenty of sins!) and refuses to take an oath to only see movies approved by the Catholic Legion of Decency. In the last book, Kitty in High School, Kitty learns the value of tried and true friendships. Margaret Mary and Eileen are there for her when her new friend Mimi turns out to be not so perfect.

10. Anna Is Still Here, by Ida Vos. This book is set after the War, and features a touching friendship between the 13-year-old protagonist and an older German woman, Frau Neumann. Anna’s parents aren’t yet able to talk about how they survived and where they were, and Frau Neumann is desperately searching for her young daughter Fannie. Together, they’re able to bond by talking about the past and their hopes for the future.