Subway reading update

Despite all the challenges of my new job, one major perk is all the forced downtime while commuting on the subway.  As I’ve mentioned before, the subway is so crowded during rush hour that reading is really the only viable way to avoid awkwardly staring into a stranger’s face (which, by the way, is just inches away from your own face) for 45 minutes straight.  Thus, I’ve been reading pretty consistently for about an hour and a half, five days a week, for the past 5 months.  Other than all my fellow Bostonians egregiously invading my personal space, it’s been great!

I’ve been meaning to start a list of books that I’ve read, just for myself, to track my progress and look back fondly on my favorites.  Here’s what I’ve read since I started my new job, with a little commentary thrown in for good measure:

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

This is one of two sewing-related novels that I started with.  This was a light, cute, fun, and somewhat sad story about a how a small town deals with a big-city dressmaker who was cast out many years earlier.

The Pink Suit – Nicole Mary Kelby

This novel follows the story of an Irish immigrant who sews the famous pink Chanel suit for Jackie Kennedy.  I found the book to be rather sad considering that nothing seems to work out for the well-intentioned Kate.

Now we get into classic novels… hands down my favorite type of book to read.  🙂

East of Eden – John Steinbeck

This was my second time reading this book about three generations of men tragically acting out the biblical story of Cain and Abel, and pondering what it means to have a choice between right and wrong, good and evil.  It also features one of my all-time favorite characters in literature, Cathy Trask, who is just so deliciously bad.

The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

This book is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a rambling, sometimes confusing, and often ridiculous story of a man of “pure good” unknowingly wreaking havoc on unsuspecting, well-to-do Russian families.  It also involves an illustrious romance in which two tortured souls are united… at least temporarily.

Resurrection – Leo Tolstoy

This was in interesting read.  As one of Tolstoy’s last works, it’s filled with his extreme (and arguably bordering on insane) religious beliefs.  It follows the story of repentance of a man who permanently altered the course of a young woman’s life, and of her staunch refusal to let him achieve it.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Say what you will about Rand’s highly controversial objectivist philosophy.  Love it or hate it.  Either way, this is a story of epic proportions with lots of twists, turns, and unforgettable scenes.  In my opinion, this is literature at its greatest.  Just skip over the 50-page philosophical rant toward the end.  (Rand’s other major work, The Fountainhead, is very similar and just as fantastic.)

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Another favorite.  This book is great, great, great.  I was furiously turning the pages the entire time.  It follows the story of three guilty minds: one who chooses to be evil, one who has no choice in the matter, and one (the protagonist) who can’t really decide what the heck he wants.  With explosive scenes, mounting suspense, and hilarious Russian characters, this truly engrossing book has something for everyone.  If you read one book on this list, read this one.

Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky

This short novel contains the haphazard musings of a truly unhappy, spiteful, and downright unpleasant little man.  He purports that men willingly act to spite themselves, against all reason, and tells the tale of one eventful night that sent him “underground” for 20 years, ruminating on what a horrible person he is.

Not bad for a few months!  If you couldn’t tell, I love 19th century Russian novels.  Perhaps THE definitive 19th century Russian novel is next on my list… 🙂

What have you been reading lately?

11 thoughts on “Subway reading update

  1. I absolutely love reading! Unfortunately I have no time to read anymore except from during my commute. That’s why when there’s a traffic jam (almost every morning Monday to Thursday) and my fellow commuters seethe in despair, I secretly do a fist pump because I get to read one more chapter… I got a Murakami book for Christmas that I am quite looking forward to reading. Next one on my neverending list.

    I think my all-time favourite author is Gabriel García Márquez. ‘One hundred years of solitude’ is the masterpiece everyone knows about, but if you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend ‘Leaf Storm’, a gripping short novel with one the most intriguing characters I have yet encountered in literature.

    • Thanks for the recommendations! It seems like the only upside of busy commutes is the reading time. 🙂 So do you read while driving in traffic, or are you on public transportation?

      • I commute by bus. The ride takes only 15 minutes in the evening, but the mornings are absolutely atrocious and it takes me at least 1 hour to get to town…

  2. Excellent list! I’ve read all the Dostoyevsky novels you listed, and like you, I would always recommend Crime and Punishment because it’s just good reading! Notes from Underground is also a favorite read for its madness. An American novel that kind of draws on Notes is Ellison’s Invisible Man–one of my all time favorite American novels. I used to be hugely interested in Russian Lit and history, but it’s been so long since I’ve studied it! So is War and Peace next? I always found Tolstoy so cumbersome and unenjoyable!

      • That’s the only book of his I was able to finish and enjoy! I always found Doestoyevsky so much more engaging and entertaining. After reading his works, Tolstoy was just a chore!

        • Very interesting discussion, ladies! Yes, War and Peace is next for me – just picked up my (very heavy) copy at the bookstore this morning. I’ve read much more Dostoevsky than Tolstoy so don’t have a good idea of which I prefer, although so far I’ve enjoyed everything. I got halfway through Anna Karenina before fizzling out many years ago and want to read it again now that I have the time. I remember loving it! I’ll report back once I get into War and Peace…

  3. I’m reading The Pink Suit now, and have been looking forward to things turning around for our young seamstress….apparently not. The oh-so-evil Cathy Trask was one of my favorite bad ladies, too!

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