40 Books Challenge

1. The Vicar of Wakefield, by Oliver Goldsmith.

At first, I hated this book. I’m not sure if I hated this book because I was being forced to read it in a short period of time as an assignment, or just because it was awful.

I’ve decided it was a bit of both. The vicar, at the opening of the novel, is completely unbearable. He thinks he’s humble, noble, and basically the epitome of virtue—but he honestly isn’t. It’s only towards the middle of the book, after all these terrible things happen to him (many caused by his own pride/stupidity) that he actually develops true humility, becoming a bearable character, and his life starts to look up. Overall, a dull read for the first half, but is quasi-redeemed by the second. Not great, but not completely awful either. Two stars—and a half. I’m feeling generous.

2. The Beautiful and Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

As always, I would be in love with Fitzgerald’s work for its prose alone, but I’m never reduced to that—he always delivers. The fullness of these characters, their relationships, and the way the ending feels like a knife in your heart… Incredible. There’s so much depth to it, I’m still taking it all in, I feel as though I need to recover. I’m still trying to get over how honestly terrifying it is.

This is probably my least favorite of the three Fitzgerald novels I’ve read, but it’s still beautiful and absolutely excellent. I was deeply struck by the way I could empathize with Gloria and Anthony even though I’m nothing like them. They’re unlikeable and they’re not approachable, but you care about them… It’s masterful writing.

Excuse the scattered review; four stars.

3. Heaven to Betsy & Betsy in Spite of Herself, by Maud Hart Lovelace.

My friend Sophie told me I needed to read this book because “it would do me good”. She was right. These books seem quintessential to growing up; I’m sad I wasn’t able to read them at the ages of the characters, but soon they’ll catch up to me and I’ll be able to relate to them more than their older siblings.

Sophie told me that Betsy becomes sort of your literary best friend… Old fashioned but not outdated, in a different world but somehow completely relatable and relevant to your life. It’s so true. I love Betsy. I absolutely love her.

Four stars.

4. Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII.
[Read for school]

Don’t usually review encyclicals because they’re not really “oh, I loved how the author did [x, y, z]”, but this is a really excellent encyclical, I do recommend it. Five stars.

5. Wonder, by R. J. Palacio.

6. Quadrageismo Anno, by Pope Pius XI.

7. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

8. The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.

9. Very Good, Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse.

10. The Mating Season, by P. G. Wodehouse.

11. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

12. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.

13. The Oresteia, by Aeschylus.

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