So in almost three years of reading, I only made it through 14 of the books on the list of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, which isn't a good indicator for me getting through them all before I, you know, die. The 14 I read as part of the 101 in 1001 brought my total to a paltry 55 books, or exactly 5%, so...yikes, I'm an imbecile. That said, I really enjoyed (most of) the choices I made...and am happy to provide some tongue-in-cheek recommendations for those of you who want to be highbrow and well-read before your own eventual demise!
1. The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy: This was so Wharton-esque, but set in England. Really enjoyed the multi-generation tale of family feuding, divorce and drama. Recommend if: you’rea fan of Wharton, Jane Austen, or Downton Abbey.
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote: Legit so many basic bitches I went to college with had the Audrey Hepburn poster on their walls, but I had never read the book. It’s much darker than I feel like I thought it was, and I somehow never realized Holly Golightly was a call girl…Recommend if: you’re a basic bitch with a thing for pearls and breakfast pastries (or if you liked the movie!).
3. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald: I’ve always been a huge fan of Fitzgerald, and this one didn’t disappoint. The social commentary and general depiction of louche money and failing relationships kept me riveted til the end. Recommend if: you’re a fan of “Gatsby.”
4. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton: Like I said, I enjoy Wharton…The House of Mirth might be my new favorite of hers. New York class commentary, social climbing, and…more significantly…social falling, all at the turn of the century. Recommend if: you’re a fan of Gossip Girl, “The Age of Innocence,” or Daisy Goodwin.
5. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway: I generally prefer Fitzgerald to his contemporary Hemingway, and this particular Hemingway left me lukewarm. I’d push a reader toward A Farewell to Arms, personally. Recommend if: you like the ocean/deep sea fishing, are a masochist, or like Hemingway in general.
6. Les Liaisons Dangereuses: I read this in French, and while it was an excellent challenge for my language abilities, I think I missed out on just how sexy and scandalous the novel is. It inspired the movie “Cruel Intentions,” and is WAY full of sex for old-school France. Recommend if: you think Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Philippe are still #goals or have a thing for Marie Antoinette and kinky rococo sex.
7. Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe: Probably one of my favorite books I read in 2016, it chronicles New York in the boom of the 1980s in all its over-the-top corrupt glory. I couldn’t put it down, and had a crazy visceral reaction to Wolfe’s writing in general. Recommend if: you loved “Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Big Short.”
8. The End of the Affair, Graham Greene: Another favorite of 2016, set in WWII England. Greene’s Catholic background and subtextual commentary on religion drew me in, but the vivid imagery and multifaceted characters in the throes and aftermath of a torrid affair kept me riveted. Recommend if: you liked “Atonement.”
9. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene: I picked this up as soon as I finished “The End of the Affair.” Similarly beautiful writing, this time set in Mexico in the 1930s during the Mexican suppression of the Catholic Church. Recommend if: you have already read “The End of the Affair,” which I preferred. Seriously, start Greene with “The End of the Affair.”
10. Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates: This has been on my list for years - I found snippets online and could never get my hands on a copy. Finally stumbled across an ancient one at Half Price Books and brought it to Miami with me. Couldn't put it down - the artfully-imagined inner life of Marilyn Monroe was gorgeously written. Recommend if: you think diamonds are a girl's best friend, duh.
11. The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford: I found this on a list of "Books to Read if You Can't Stop Missing Downton Abbey," which is pretty much me to a T. The Mitfords were notorious in the first half of the 20th century (and inspired the Black sisters in Harry Potter!). This story of the prettiest "Radlett" sister, Linda, and her romantic struggles was a tonic to my sad lacking-Downton life. Recommend if: you still think the sun rises and sets on Lady Mary Crawley.
12. Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford: More of the Radlett clan, this time centered around a very wealthy and beautiful family friend, Polly, and her scandalous affairs de coeur. Recommend if: you STILL can't get enough Downton after "The Pursuit of Love" (this IS a sequel, after all!).
13. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath: Everyone knows Plath's background, and this semi-autobiographical roman re: a brilliant schizophrenic's descent into depression, madness and ultimate suicide is even more gripping with that knowledge. Recommend if: you're somewhere sunny and feeling good about life, because you need that to not be brought WAY down by this one.
14. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood: DARK and dystopian tale about a future in which women have zero rights and are solely used as sex objects or reproductive vessels. I read this in December, and have to say the view of the world it depicts is pretty damn freaky. Recommend if: you're feeling a little paranoid about Planned Parenthood or your birth control.