Tag Archives: 1001 Books

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeTitle: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Publication Date: 1886

Review Score: 9/10

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a dark, psychological thriller that tells the tale of the respectable, well to do Dr Jekyll and his somewhat baffling association with the contemptible Mr Hyde.

Within this novella we follow one Gabriel John Utterson, a Lawyer who investigates the strange occurrences between his old friend Dr Jekyll and the mysterious Mr Hyde. What follows is a hunt through the streets of London for a killer, a journey of self discovery for the Dr and the shocking revelation of Mr Hyde’s true identity.

I read this book directly after finishing Dracula and Frankenstein, as it only seemed appropriate to read the 3 most renowned classic horror stories together, and I must say I think this was my favourite of the lot.

As with Dracula and Frankenstein I was pretty sure of the ending before I began reading, thanks to years of dodgy film adaptations, but even so I found it no less exhilarating or shocking.

This is only a small book and it keeps you gripped all the way through, what’s more, although written over 100 years ago the ideas are still highly applicable to modern day, as the main theme is based around multiple personality disorder, and so it is still interesting and entertaining even by today’s standards.

The characters and scenes are truly dark and disturbing, thanks to the eloquence and style of Stevenson’s writing and the ideas are original, interesting and brilliant. Overall The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a wonderfully chilling book and the only downside is that it all seems to be over so quickly!

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A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift

Title: A Modest Proposal

Author: Jonathan Swift

Publication Date: 1729

Review Score: 8/10

A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay, written by Swift in 1729, in response to the high level of poverty in Ireland and far removed gluttonous lifestyle of the rich landlords. The full title of the essay is A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick and it is with regards to the children of the poor that Swift believes he has found a way to ease the suffering in Ireland.

Swift proposes that the poor in Ireland could sell their young as food for the rich, once they have stopped breast feeding and become a financial burden. This way the poor family would not need to feed and clothe the child, plus would receive a sum for selling them! Meanwhile the rich would have a new delicacy and the overpopulation problem would be solved!

Although the idea of this social commentary turns the stomach at points, with its detailed descriptions of the various ways in which the children could be slaughtered, prepared and cooked, it is incredibly clever in the way it pokes and provokes the unfair spread of wealth within Ireland during the 18th century.

Provocative and thought provoking, Swift partakes in reductio ad absurdum, taking the social situation to its most ridiculous lengths, but in doing so highlights the horrific situation that is taking place across the country.

Obviously Swift’s essay does not serve up a real, practical solution to the problem of poverty but that is not the point, the point is to get people to realise how ridiculous the situation is and try and change things!

Not really a novel and not really fiction but I am still very glad A Modest Proposal was on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die.


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Upcoming Reviews

Hello! Just for a change I thought some of you may like to know what reviews are coming over the next month, as there may be some you are interested in looking out for! Anyway here is what is what is on the reading list in September:

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift
We – Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Quiet American – Graham Greene
Crome Yellow – Aldous Huxley
The Enormous Room – E. E. Cummings

I’m looking forward to reading them all so I hope there is a review on there you are looking forward to! And if you have read any of them please let me know what you thought.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Title: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Author: Douglas Adams

Publication Date: 1979

Review Score: 8/10

It’s Thursday lunch time and Arthur Dent’s house has just been demolished, the world is about to follow and his best friend has just told him he is an alien. Before he knows it Arthur is hurtling through space, with no home to go back to and no way to get a decent cup of tea. However, things could be worse; at least they have The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a towel, the most useful item in the universe.

Along their journey the pair encounters the two headed, 3 armed president of the galaxy, a manically depressed robot and a host of other completely zany and bewildering characters and situations.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of the most original, funny and downright whacky books I have ever read. The implausible ideas that Adams comes up with can only really be compared to the mad ramblings in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but in space and with aliens.

It is quite a short book and very quick to read, barely taking a breath from one chapter to the next, and although it doesn’t always make a great deal of sense, the story is fantastic, the characters are all instantly likable and it really does have you laughing out loud.

This is not a traditional Sci-Fi novel but it is one of the best I have read, injecting a whimsical playfulness into the story that is so often avoided in Sci-Fi. In fact I think what is most enjoyable about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the fact that it takes Sci-Fi and just has some fun with it, rather than being completely logical, precise and serious.

It’s easy to read, a lot of fun and, in my opinion, well deserving of its place on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die.

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The Devil’s Pool – George Sand

Title: The Devil’s Pool

Author: George Sand

Publication Date: 1846

Review Score: 7/10

Published in 1846, The Devil’s Pool is set in rural France and tells the story of a peasant farmer named Germain, who has lost his wife and has been left with 3 small children who need a mother. Although Germain is still heartbroken from the loss of his wife, his farther in law convinces him of the need to find a new mother for his children.

Germain sets out to meet a woman in a neighbouring village who is also a widow and has no children of her own. The match would appear perfect but Germain soon realises that although he should want this woman his heart belongs to another.

The Devil’s Pool is a little known novel but is rather charming. Having been written over 150 years ago the style and pace is not what you would get from a more modern novel but the story of unrequited love transcends time and is as relevant today as it was when first written.

The characters are instantly likeable and the poetic way in which George Sand describes the scenes really makes them come to life. What’s more, the insights into the way of life in rural France during this time is highly interesting and almost act as a preservation of an age and traditions that were soon after forgotten.

It is not an exciting or exhilarating novel but it is very enjoyable, easy to read and deserving of its place in literary history.

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Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Title: Brave New World

Author: Aldous Huxley

Publication Date: 1932

Review Score: 5/10

The year is 2540 and the world is not as we know it, the controllers have come up with the perfect society, through a combination of reproductive technology and neo-Pavlovian sleep learning. There are no families, no parents, no individuality, people are bread in laboratories and through sleep recordings taught to live harmoniously within society.

Bernard Marx has had all of the conditioning and knows how he should live, but still finds himself craving solitude and loneliness and not wanting to participate in this perfect society. With these questions swimming round his mind he decides to travel to one of the few remaining savage reserves, where the old ways of life are still practiced, but will this trip solve any of his problems?

For those of you who follow this blog more regularly, you probably know that the Sci-Fi novels tend to be among my most favourite, and so when starting out with Brave New World I was very excited! Now, the first part of the novel definitely lived up to my expectations, as the futuristic world that Aldous Huxley has created is a stark realisation of what could be possible in the future, with the perfect society seeming creepy and void of all real human emotion.

However, as soon as the main characters come into the frame and go to the savage reservation I found myself enjoying the book less and less. Firstly, it seems illogical that in a society so far advanced and aimed at getting rid of the family idea would for no apparent reason keep one small reservation where it is still practiced.

Further still, in a world where everyone is conditioned to be embarrassed and ashamed of the old family ideas it seems even more illogical that they would let people go to these reservations and interact with these savages, potentially undoing years of neo-Pavlovian conditioning.

Obviously, all of this is needed as it forms the main crux of the story, but I find it difficult to enjoy a book when something as big as this is just blown over with no real explanation or reasoning, especially in a world or perfect order and control.

The futuristic world that Aldous Huxley has created is incredibly interesting and a work of genius, but the series of events he places within it are, for me, not worthy of it. It is definitely deserving of its place in the history of Sci-Fi literature but as a story I didn’t think it lived up to its billing.

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Robinson Crusoe – Daniel DeFoe

Title: Robinson Crusoe

Author: Daniel DeFoe

Publication Date: 1719

Review Score: 8/10

Robinson Crusoe is a young English man with a thirst for adventure and so against his parent’s wishes sets sail on a voyage around the world. However, it seems that the winds of fait are not on his side as his first trip ends in shipwreck, his second ends in capture by pirates and his final voyage leaves him stranded on a desert island.

What follows is years of hardship and turmoil as Crusoe has to provide food for himself, build shelter and avoid capture by the islands native cannibalistic tribe. Not knowing what island he is on and no sign of any other passing ships God only knows if he will ever be saved.

Published in 1719 Robinson Crusoe is the oldest book on the 1001 list that I have read so far, and because of this I expected it to be quite hard going, but with the continuous adventure and fast pace of the story it is actually fairly easy.

However, what I found most enjoyable about Robinson Crusoe was not the adventure and excitement but more the sheer industrious nature of Crusoe in this horrendous predicament. Over the course of many years on this island Crusoe is able to not just build a shelter and harvest fruits but is also able to capture animals and farm them, grow barley and rice and even make pottery.

I think what makes this so entertaining is that Crusoe survives for years on his own and build a life for himself in this hardship whereas I would probably die as soon as my iPhone did.

It is one of the original adventure tales and a book that has inspired hundreds more and is well worth of its place on the list of 1001 books to read before you die.

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Castle Rackrent – Maria Edgeworth

Title: Castle Rackrent

Author: Maria Edgeworth

Publication Date: 1800

Review Score: 7/10

Although not a well known novel, Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent is often regarded as the first regional novel in English, the first historical novel, the first Anglo-Irish novel and even the first saga novel.

First published in 1800, Castle Rackrent tells the story of 4 generations of the Rackrent family and their Irish estate, from the wild living Sir Patrick to the debt-ridden Sir Murtagh to the duelling, gambling Sir Kit and finally to Sir Condy, who continues his ancestral foolhardy approach to money and who finally runs the estate into the ground.

The whole story is told by the family’s long serving and incredibly loyal servant, Old Thady, who speaks with a rather unusual vernacular, which once the reader is used to adds a certain charm to the novel.

The tale of the 4 Rackrents and their demise is entertaining but what I found most enjoyable about this novel was the insight into the way of life in Ireland in the late 1700s. Edgeworth had firsthand experience of Anglo-Irish relations and uses this knowledge beautifully to give a great level of depth of detail regarding life in Ireland at this time.

I have read many historic novels based in England, Russia and even India but this was the first historic Irish novel I have read and it was very interesting.

Overall the story wasn’t one that had me on the edge of my seat but given its place in the historic landscape of Irish and world literature I think Castle Rackrent is definitely deserving of its place on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list.

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Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Jules Verne

Title: Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Author: Jules Verne

Publication Date: 1864

Review Score: 8/10

The year is 1863 and a learned German professor by the name of Von Hardwigg has just gotten his hands on an ancient Icelandic manuscript by the famous Snorri Sturluson, but for the life of him he cannot decipher it.

After days of intellectual torment struggling with the mysterious writings, the professor’s nephew and protégé cracks the code and discovers the secret of the great Snorri Sturluson. At first he cannot bring himself to tell his uncle of the meaning of the note but eventually he has to relinquish and the professor discovers that Snorri Sturluson has written of his journey to the centre of the earth through volcanic tubes.

And now, knowing of this great voyage completed by Sturluson the professor is determined to follow his footsteps and reach the centre of the earth. Although against the journey, believing it to be impossible, the professors nephew is soon dragged along on this crazy adventure in which the 2 men, plus a trusty Icelandic guide by the name of Hans, delve deep into the earth’s crust through a maze of volcanic tunnels and encounter an underground forest, gigantic sea monsters and teeter on the brink of starvation.

After thoroughly enjoying Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days I was extremely eager to read Journey to the Centre of the Earth and I am glad to say it lived up to my expectations! Verne’s writing style is effortless to read, his characters are thoroughly intriguing and his ideas are beyond comprehension. Although written nearly 150 years ago Journey to the centre of the Earth is still highly energised, exciting and relevant for a modern audience.

I wouldn’t say that Journey to the Centre of the Earth is as good as Around the World in 80 Days, but it is still a great book and well deserved of its place on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list.

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