Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Book No. 15

71. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)

Dates: 5/21/20 – 5/22/20 (2.5 hours)

Plot: Fantastic confectioner and inventor, Willy Wonka, invites 5 children – chosen by his famous Golden Ticket system – to tour his chocolate factory.

Experience Before Reading: As a child, Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors. I’ve read most of his books and took the stories with me well into adulthood.

Takeaway: Maybe it’s because I just finished Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that I felt the need to read another English children’s classic. I’m not sure. But I’m glad I did. It’s just as whimsical as I remember. Roald Dahl has a unique writing style in that he almost writes like a child, rambling on like only a child would:

And what a palace it was! It had one hundred rooms, and everything was made of either dark or light chocolate! The bricks were chocolate, and the cement holding them together was chocolate, and the windows were chocolate, and all the walls and ceilings were made of chocolate, so were the carpets and the pictures and the furniture and the beds; and when you turned on the taps in the bathroom, hot chocolate came pouring out.

Chapter 3

Additionally, Dahl shows and doesn’t tell. The story moves quickly. Willy Wonka himself picks up the pace by telling his guests that they need to hurry up. There’s never a moment to digest the craziness, it’s just a plethora of ideas.

These impossible ideas are thrown at you from every direction – on the tour they pass rooms with fantastical names that they just walk (or run) right on by. I absolutely loved the absurdity of some of these rooms. I won’t spoil them for you, read them for yourself with an absolute grin on your face.

The whole book is just fun. It makes sense why it has survived all these years: Dahl has the imagination of a child. As adults, our brains often strike down ideas that we believe to be impossible, but Roald Dahl embraces this and pushes his creativity to come up with such crazy notions. When paired with actual lessons and commentaries from why television rots children’s brains to how resisting temptation may lead to rewards, it becomes a book that children of every era can enjoy.

I’ll end this review with the best review of the book I saw. I think it sums up my experience well:

I responded to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because it respected the fact that children can be adults.

Tim Burton

Would I Recommend It?: To every child, whether they’re “grown-up” or not.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/31/20 (2 hours)

Experience Before Reading: I read this book as a child and remembered thinking it was a bit too weird for my tastes. Obviously I watched the movie(s) – let’s not talk about the Johnny Depp one. In addition to being vastly underwhelming, it is the source of an embarrassing moment when my brother mentioned he thought it was a dark film and I responded, “I agree, it was kind of hard to see a lot of it.” His subsequent laughter has haunted me to this day. I’ve never liked the movie and this may be part of it. I would like to say in my defense that I was 10, so cut me some slack.

Takeaway: People always give Grandpa Joe sh*t for being in bed and then when suddenly presented a golden ticket he’s fine to go out, but like he’s 96. My grandma can barely get out of her chair, but I’ve seen her walk nearly a mile to get to a “lucky” slot machine and she’s 88. Give Grandpa Joe a break! Also why is gum chewing so bad?

Important Note: While tasting the wallpaper, Willy Wonka says to try the snozzberries. In a later work, Roald Dahl uses snozzberry to refer to, well, Roald’s little Dahl. Thought this was important for all readers to know. Also, the fact that Roald Dahl wrote an erotic novel is ludicrous. I heard he was a big sult actually. (Not sult shaming, just sult surprised)

Would I Recommend It?: If you liked Alice in Wonderland, I would totally recommend this. It has the same sort of nonsensical fun that children always enjoy. I think I probably liked this better than I did as a child. I am definitely going to be watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory tonight!

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Book No. 14

This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!

78. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

Dates: 5/9/20 – 5/10/20 (3 hours)

Plot: Poor young little Alice wanders into a rabbit hole where she falls into Wonderland. She ends up exploring a crazy world filled with nonsense.

Experience Before Reading: I’ve seen the Disney movie once or twice and was fairly familiar with the plot.

Takeaway: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an absolute fever dream. I’ll admit that once I finished, I wasn’t really sure what the message was – was it to remain a kid forever? Or maybe to nourish your imagination? But then I realized that that was exactly the point: it’s whatever you want it to be.

Just like many other artistic mediums, it serves whatever purpose you need it to. Named a work of “literary nonsense” (apparently this is an actual genre!), it takes a while for the reader to realize that Wonderland has no real rules. I know this is something I often hate on – see my Time Machine review – but since here it was the whole point, I appreciated the wackiness in all its glory.

It also made my research quite fun. As humans we look for meaning when there appears to be none, from chaos theory to entropy we like even our disorder to have some semblance of order. I read theories about how the entire piece was riddled with mathematical references (Carroll himself was a mathematician), theories about how to solve the Mad Hatter’s riddle, and whether the book was actually about drugs.

I think sometimes it’s okay to accept that there really was no meaning. Just because this story doesn’t follow our normal conventions doesn’t make it any less valid – it was a fun journey to Wonderland while it lasted. Let the journey take you where you need it to go. And to those who can’t stand the madness: just remember we’re all mad here.

Would I Recommend It?: Yes. Be sure to have the pictures too!

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/9/20 (1 hour)

Plot: Alice follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole and into the peculiar world of Wonderland.

Experience Before Reading: I have never read this book before, but did know the plot of it, most likely from movies adaptations which I do not remember seeing, but am sure I did at one point.

Takeaway: This is a wonderful portrayal of a child’s imagination. I loved how Carroll wrote Alice to be uncouth in her meetings with the citizens of Wonderland, since children often say what they think without filter. In the end, this book tries to convey the importance of holding onto your childhood, and though I have never read it, left me with a feeling of nostalgia. 

Would I Recommend It?: I so wish that I would have read this book as a child, because I can tell it would have made lasting marks. As it is, I can’t wait for my brothers to have children, so I can read this with them and have some incredibly aptly themed tea parties (a favorite pastime of mine as a child).

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All’s Well That Ends Well – Book No. 13

This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!

43. All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare (1623)

Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)

Plot: A young woman is given the opportunity by the king to marry who she wants. She chooses the man she’s in love with and he gives her conditions for his love. Oh, also it’s a play.

Experience Before Reading: Nothing really. Besides the infamous prose of Shakespeare, I was unfamiliar with the plot.

Takeaway: Okay, Shakespeare is just not my thing. It’s also not Abbey’s thing. When creating our list, we went for one that neither of us knew anything about. I’m glad we did that because I really did enjoy the plot of the play.

All’s Well That Ends Well gets a lot of heat because the leading lady is allowed to choose her husband and she chooses a man that’s a bit unlovable. Initially, I really enjoyed watching the woman have a little power, something that especially wasn’t common in earlier Western literature. However, when you realize just how unlikable her man is, you wonder why she picks him.

This could be a byproduct of it being a play. it’s difficult to read a play without context because it feels like you’re only presented with part of the story. You miss the narration that you’d otherwise see in a theatre. The lack of these stimuli make it difficult to contextualize the story. Maybe in some of the productions her man has a little personality.

I don’t think context was the only thing that went over my head though. As always, I did research once I finished. I remember some things from high school from Shakespeare – a little iambic pentameter anyone? – but not a lot. Some things most definitely go over my head: I’m not really sure why Helena’s lines rhymed when she was talking to the King and I’m not really sure I understood all the jokes. Doing research didn’t make it much clearer either. And for that reason, I had to take some points off.

Criticism aside, I know that there are people who enjoy Shakespeare’s work and I completely understand why. The story is creative and as a comedy it’s quite funny (if you can decode the language). I really liked the story and it’s not one I’ve heard before. It’s crazy to think that this story hasn’t been done over and over again like the likes of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. But then again, this is why Abbey and I chose this: it’s not one of his more well-known plays.

Would I Recommend It?: Probably not unless you like other Shakespearean stories.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)

Plot: Helena, a poor maid, is in love with the Countess’s son. After a favor to the king she asks to marry the Countess’s son, but must bear him a child and wear his family ring before he relents to marrying her.

Experience Before Reading: None. I have read many Shakespeare plays when I was in high school, but it has been a long time since I have cracked one open.

Takeaway: This is certainly not one of Shakespeare’s best plays. When I was in school I read three of his tragedies and two of his comedies, and I find this play to be lacking. I think the main conflict setup was a stretch, and the change of heart of Bertram seems very sudden.  At least I got a great new insult out of it: “Your old virginity is a withered pear” is a new favorite line of mine.

Would I Recommend It?: Honestly if you are new to Shakespeare, don’t start here. This is one of his lesser know works, clearly for a reason. I don’t feel that his characters were as fully developed as his others (I loved the characters in Much Ado About Nothing and honestly would recommend that far over this play.) However, it should be said that since this is a play, much of the characterization I am missing would come out in the actors portrayals.

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Animal Farm – Book No. 12

This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!

58. Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

Dates: 5/9/20 (3.5 hours)

Plot: Animals rebel and take ownership of a farm. They adopt some methods of leadership similar to ones you may know.

Experience Before Reading: It’s funny because I told Abbey that all I knew about the book was that it was an extended metaphor for something and it definitely did not have talking animals. Whoops.

Takeaway: Since this book is an extended metaphor, I can’t fairly review it without talking about it. If you don’t want the book spoiled, stop right here and come back when you’ve read it!

This book is an allegory for the dangers of communism – particularly Joseph Stalin’s rise to power. This isn’t my first politically-charged book of the project, but it is the first one where the only takeaway is political. Typically I’m apprehensive to political commentary, but this one’s just so damn good.

There’s symbolism in almost everything: from the events that happen in the book to which animals do what. I suppose it’s no coincidence that the sheep follow blindly? Orwell adds an additional layer to the animals by making them inherently “unequal.” Some animals are better at reading, others at plowing the fields, and some don’t have any true skills. It’s definitely left me thinking what he meant by delineating between animals. I don’t want to ruin it, but I’d love to have a discussion about it down in the comments – for those of you that have read it, what do you think?

Anyway, I’m always a little uncomfortable with political commentary since it’s very polarizing. However, I didn’t mind it here. I think it’s because Orwell works hard to not explicitly express feelings towards any of the events in the story: he lets you decide how to feel. By using animals instead of people, he kind of – excuse the pun – leads the horse to the water by showing the absurdity of the situation.

After doing more research into the book, I’m shocked at how many of the characters represent real Soviet figures. The story line even correlates to specific events and ideas. This isn’t just an allegory, it verges on a retelling of history that switches out the names and places. That being said, if you do choose to read this book, please follow it up with research. It enriches the story and leaves you awestruck.

Lastly, I’d be mistaken not to mention the ending of this book. Without spoiling it, this is an ending that leaves you in silence. I was stunned by the power of the last few words. Any perfectionist can find instant satisfaction in knowing that every word is deliberately placed in furtherance of the theme. Honestly, I think that alone is a good enough reason to read this book.

As always, I’d love to hear thoughts and opinions on this book, especially since this review is so one-sided.

Would I Recommend It?: Yes. This is a must-read classic.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)

Plot: Mr. Jones’ animals come together in an uprising following the teaching of Animalism by Major the wise old pig. The novella details the inner working of a farm run by Animalism, and shows the successes and failures that come about.

Experience Before Reading: I read Animal Farm once before when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I remember the plot fairly well, but missed on some of the major takeaways. 

Takeaway: Basically this book is a critique on communism in The USSR under Joseph Stalin and its failings. I think one of the major areas of concern is about the importance of having fully realized political opinions. One of the major issues in the book is that some animals are not able to grasp the concepts being taught to them and “agree with whomever is talking at the moment.” Also, I’m glad I read The Art of War before this because you actually can see some of the tactics in the Battle of the Cowshed.

Would I Recommend It?: This is one of those books I think everyone should read. Regardless of your political beliefs this is an interesting commentary on political systems and the greed of man (or animal?).

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The Art of War – Book No. 11

This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!

22. The Art of War by Sun Tzu (5th Century BC) (Our version was the one translated by Lionel Giles)

Dates: 5/9/20 (1.25 hour)

Basic Plot: Military strategist Sun Tzu writes about how to win wars.

Experience Before Reading: Not much other than it’s about military strategy.

Takeaway: I found that I enjoyed this book (treatise?) quite a bit. Since reading The Prince by Machiavelli, I came into The Art of War with a little idea of what it would entail. Many of the themes are consistent and they speak of similar ideas. Seeing as The Prince came about one thousand years later, I wonder how much of Machiavelli’s strategies were directly and indirectly influenced by Sun Tzu.

I will be completely honest and say that I enjoyed The Art of War much more. I think it has to do with the styles of the works. The Art of War is much more direct and reads like proverbs and rules whereas The Prince is more prose driven.

However, I do think it’s important to separate the two from one another because they are their own ideas. Some of the ideas and classifications Sun Tzu presents are pretty thought provoking. As I was reading, I made note of one particular passage and turns out it resonated similarly with Abbey. I’ll let her tell you about it.

I will say that I firmly believe you have to read this more than once to absorb it all. Military strategists have been studying this work for centuries and I understand it takes meticulous attention to detail to acquire all of this information.

Would I Recommend It?: Yes, especially if you play strategy games. Go ahead, go and win Risk. Thanks, Sun Tzu.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/9/20 (1 hour)

Plot: Just a list of war tactics.

Experience Before Reading: I had heard of this but it never peaked my interest.

Takeaway: Meh. This book doesn’t have any plot whatsoever and is literally just a list of war tactics. If I had to choose one thing I enjoyed it was just the discussion of how the faults of generals are recklessness, cowardice, a hasty temper, delicacy of honor, and over solicitude for your men. I think this is true not just of generals, but of all people. Even in a work setting these are all things to avoid.

Would I Recommend It?: I know a few people that would enjoy this. If you are interested in military thinking, this is definitely for you. Overall, just not my cup of tea.

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The Time Machine – Book No. 10

This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!

64. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)

Dates: 5/9/20 (4 hours)

Basic Plot: A Victorian scientist discovers a way to travel through time and heads to the year 802,701. He tells his story to his friends.

Experience Before Reading: I knew that this was the book that brought time travel to pop culture. I can’t remember if I had to read it for school. I don’t think so since the story wasn’t overwhelmingly familiar.

Takeaway: This book is a mash-up of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and an episode of The Twilight Zone. Told by a Victorian narrator, the story includes theories on the human condition which were very enjoyable to me. And like The Twilight Zone, the conceptions of the future were a bit absurd.

I’m a little biased because I don’t particularly care for futuristic novels. I typically don’t respond well to any notions of the future because they often age poorly. If there’s even a single element of a futuristic world that’s implausible I instantly get pulled out of the story. Especially when the introduction to the book is so realistic, to dive into a not-so-realistic future isn’t really my cup of tea.

That being said, I can see why people would like this book. It’s fun and has a whole bunch of radical ideas. In terms of pacing though, it seems like some elements of the story were an afterthought and others were so meticulously thought through. I do wonder if pacing were different how I may have responded to the book.

The concept of time travel is a fun one and a lot of our ideas of time travel originate from this book. The machine itself kind of gave me TARDIS vibes – though I never really watched Doctor Who so I’d be curious to hear other people’s opinion who know more than I do!

Would I Recommend It?: All in all, it was fun. If you’re a sci-fi fan or like a bit of adventure, give it a shot. It’s short enough that it’s bearable even for the non-fans.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/9/20 (2 hours)

Plot: Our narrator writes down the story of a time traveler’s escapades into the future. There he encounters the evolutions of humans.

Experience Before Reading: I had literally never heard of this book before.

Takeaway: I loved the writing in this, and the story was incredible. I felt the set up in the beginning was believable enough, and the epilogues lasting picture of the two flowers leftover from the time travelers experiences are very poignant and show that while cultures can have huge barriers, generosity and kindness are a language of themself.

Would I Recommend It?: This was a great book and a very quick read. I think if you are looking for a book that will make you think, you’d probably like this one.

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A Clockwork Orange – Book No. 9

18. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

Dates: 4/20/20 – 4/23/20 (3 days)

Basic Plot: In a futuristic society where young gang members are active at night, the narrator, Alex, finds himself indulging in “ultraviolence” which leads to potential reform.

Experience Before Reading: I was technically assigned this book alongside One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in high school. I didn’t really read either and just read enough Sparknotes to get by. I think my knowledge on the plot was blended with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, because there were moments I thought were in the other book and moments I expected to turn out differently. Regardless, the one thing I remembered was a feeling of staunch hate for the book.

Takeaway: I didn’t like it. However, I’m not going to completely bash this book because I can see why others would enjoy it. There are certainly good elements to this story. Anthony Burgess is a talented storywriter and I do feel there is a clear theme that could strike people. (Slight spoiler warning) The message that it is our ability to choose that makes us human is very interesting and I do feel it was unpacked in a way that was different from other philosophy books.

A Clockwork Orange is set in a futuristic society where gangs run rampant at night. Many of these gang members use heavy slang known as nadsat talk. I think this is where the book leaves a bad taste in my mouth (or in nadsat: leaves a baddiwad taste in my rot). The slang is so thick it’s often difficult to tell exactly what’s happening. While I recognize that it’s used to hide the graphic scenes and portray his youth – since not all characters use the slang – it was too much for me. For instance, take this scene where he describes a beautiful woman he sees:

O my brothers, to viddy. That is to say, she had real horrorshow groodies all of which you could like viddy, she having on platties which came down down down off her pletchoes. And her nogas were like Bog in His Heaven, and she walked like to make you groan in your keeshkas, and yet her litso was a sweet smiling young like innocent litso.


While context clues can give you a sense that he likes what he sees, even after reading the entire book, I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying. Personally, this slang created a massive barrier to relating to the narrator, Alex. I couldn’t find much to his personality besides the fact that he likes “ultra-violence” and classical music. Because his personality was centered around, well, bad, I found him forgettable as a character. Maybe there was more, however, I couldn’t decipher it from the nadsat madness.

The slang itself is massively creative and I do want to applaud that. Much of it is Russian-based but other elements are rhyming slang or other linguistic techniques. Basically, each word really does have a reason that it exists which I very much like. I appreciate the effort that went in to creating a cohesive universe.

Lastly, I do want to call attention to the book’s title. I don’t want to spoil the meaning for someone that intends to read the book, but the title is full of symbolism. It was very creative and well-crafted, so again, props where props are due.

Would I Recommend It?: Unfortunately, I think this is a skippable classic. While you may find it entertaining, I think the message of the book is not strong enough in relation to the amount of work you have to put in to decode it.

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Murder on the Orient Express – Book No. 8

55. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)

Dates: 4/18/20 – 4/19/20 (2 days)

Basic Plot: There’s a murder on the orient express. Obviously.

Experience Before Reading: In high school I worked at a bookstore. For some reason, I equated Agatha Christie with Toni Morrison, since books by those two came in so often. I apparently took that observation and conflated it quite a bit into adulthood. But I assure you that those two women wrote very different books.

Takeaway: Allow me to first clarify that this review is entirely spoiler-free. I do think this is something everyone should read and I’d hate to be the one to ruin the fun.

I’ve been in a bit of a train phase lately. This began, no doubt, with Atlas Shrugged. But I also watched a few travel videos on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, played Ticket to Ride for the first time, and recently played a Nancy Drew game with Abbey about a disappearance on a train. (The Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon – I cannot recommend these games enough if you want to solve some really difficult mysteries and puzzles. Abbey and I are suckers for the Nancy Drew games!)

Anyway, my toddler-like obsession with trains is mostly irrelevant – besides the fact that it got me to pick up this book.

I really picked it up alright. I have spent the last 15 hours doing nothing but reading this book and sleeping. I’m serious – the only thing I did during this entire experience was write my post for Arabian Nights. I knew I had to stop to write it or my thoughts on it would be washed away by this mystery.

It was written in an almost formulaic way: the exposition, the crime, the character’s testimonies and alibis, pondering the evidence, following up on their theory, and the reveal. I actually really liked this structure because it allowed you to play along.

To be entire honest, I did figure out who the murderer was. However, I do not think predictability should be a deterrent to read it. First, I didn’t solve it until the back half of the evidence analysis. Second, I don’t think it’s an obvious solution. Third, it’s more fun to hear the howdunnit than the whodunnit which comes right at the end.

Rave-review aside, I do have a little bit of criticism. There were absurd moments and connections of evidence the reader cannot do with what was given to them. Regardless of the nonsense, it comes together to click in a solution that could be reality.* (Or at least, reality-adjacent.)

I realize not everyone is a fan of mystery books like myself. But there is something different about this one. It was a pioneer in the genre and it is a fantastic adventure, both of which lead to my high rating.

And I’ve gotten lucky just like I did with Call of the Wild and a movie remake has just been made. Hello, quarantine movie night!

Would I Recommend It?: Absolutely. Because of its brevity and general amusement, I think there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/15/20 – 5/31/20 (16 days)

Plot: A man is murdered in the first class carriage of the Orient Express. Poirot, a famous investigator, must solve the case while living among the only suspects – the other first class passengers.

Experience Before Reading: I saw the movie when it came out, but couldn’t remember the ending. I was constantly remembering plot points while I was reading, which was quite an odd experience.

Takeaway: This is a quintessential murder mystery, a genre I hold very dear to my heart. I often find myself reaching for mystery novel whenever I am in the mood for a book, as I usually find them a quick and enjoyable read. This did not disappoint. 

Would I Recommend It?: If you are even a small fan of mystery books, I would definitely recommend reading this. Agatha Christie is a God among mystery writers, and for a good reason. The final reveal, in the last few pages, is a wonderful culmination to this novel.

Who got it right? Have you read Murder on the Orient Express? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments below.

Read our next review: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Click here to see our full list of 100 classic books

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The Arabian Nights – Book No. 7

7. The Arabian Nights (c. 1706-1721 in English) (My version was the one translated by Andrew Lang)

Dates: 3/21/20 – 4/18/20 (28 days)

Basic Plot: A compilation of folk tales with Arabic, Persian, Indian, Greek, Jewish, or Turkish roots.

Experience Before Reading: Just Disney’s Aladdin. Turns out it’s not so accurate.

Takeaway: I’ve got to be honest here: I really thought I was going to enjoy this one much more than I did.

I’m not really sure why I didn’t much care for it either. I’ve come up with some reasons that could contribute to this feeling, but I’m not sure which one is most influential:

  • I was coming down off of Atlas Shrugged, with which I’m still very much mentally pre-occupied.
  • A lack of cultural context: I was constantly googling to learn more. While I very much liked learning about other cultures, I think since I was still learning, I was unable to put these stories in a wider cultural context.
  • The plots of stories that often didn’t finish. Many stories fade from one to the next with a character finding themselves in trouble and offering that if they tell a tale more wild than their own, their lives will be spared. Sometimes it came back and finished the story, but there were a few times where the original story was lost in the Russian-nesting dolls of these tales.

I think the best way to describe my experience with this book was I wouldn’t often want to pick it up on my own volition, but when I did I was entertained and could read for a few hours.

The stories themselves are framed around one major story of King Shahryar and his wife Scheherazade. Shahryar had been scorned by his first wife and after he would marry a woman and kill her the next morning. When he married Scheherazade, she told nighttime stories for 1,001 nights until she ran out; however, by that time the King had fallen in love with her and spared her life. This is why some versions are titled One Thousand and One Nights. In my version, however, the initial story was told, but the book failed to address the ending to that story.

I wonder how my translated version differs from other versions. The translations have a rich history. In fact, three of the most popular stories from The Arabian Nights were added by a Frenchman, Antoine Galland, and it’s unclear whether these were actually Eastern stories. These include “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp,” “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor,” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” The last was not even in my translated version.

To anyone not familiar with The Arabian Nights do note that these stories are not specifically Middle Eastern. The scope of these stories extends far beyond to cultures such as Indian and Chinese. For instance, Aladdin was originally Chinese. To an average reader such as myself, the only way I could differentiate between cultures was from context clues in political rankings or locations themselves. That being said, some of these cultures may have co-existed in the same areas so it’s difficult to distinguish say a Jewish story from a Greek story from a Persian story.

I’d like to make clear that though my experience was not as fantastic as I may have hoped, several of these stories were incredibly interesting to me. I found a few to put on my list of favorite folk tales. I particularly liked “The Story of the Greek King and the Physician Douban,” “The Adventures of Prince Camaralzaman and the Princess Badoura,” and “The Story of Two Sisters Who Were Jealous of Their Younger Sister.” Actually, looking at the table of contents now, I really did enjoy the majority of the stories. I just didn’t crave them like how you expect a good book to be.

I want to revisit this after I read other folk tales on this list. I want to see if my opinion has been shaped by a familiarity of themes and plots.

Would I Recommend It?: To someone that craves adventure, yes.

Click here to see my full list of 100 classic books

Atlas Shrugged – Book No. 6

51. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

Image result for atlas shrugged

Dates: 2/11/20 – 3/20/20 (38 days)

Basic Plot: Some of the biggest industrialists in America disappear leaving their companies to fail.

Experience Before Reading: This is one of the only books on the list I knew nothing about. I had heard the name of the book before, but knew nothing of its plot. I knew Ayn Rand had some crazy philosophical thoughts, but I didn’t know what they were. My boyfriend claims it’s his favorite book and I know a few others who consistently praise it.

Takeaway: You want my honest opinion? Read it just like I did: with no context. Stop reading this post here and come back once you’re done. I won’t put heavy spoilers below, but still, it’s extremely impactful if you don’t know anything.

The 1,000 page book was most definitely a roller coaster. It took me a month to get through the first 30 pages, a week for the next 900, and another 10 days to get through the last 100. It starts so slowly, rapidly speeds up, and while the ending was certainly just as fast-paced there was one part of the book that was absolute torture to read through.

Okay, here comes the one spoiler: There’s a 56 page philosophical speech. It’s entirely abstract, no mention of other characters, not even any mention of the character giving the speech – just speech.

It. Was. Painful.

Remember the part when I said Ayn Rand had some crazy ideas? Here they were. Right there. For. Fifty. Six. Pages. Don’t get me wrong, they were interesting, but it was certainly beating a dead horse.

Pacing aside, the story line of this book was incredibly creative. Being that it’s over 60 years old, it aged actually pretty well – with the one exception being the descriptions of radical technology. What even was that laboratory lock??? Not very accurate, but I digress.

Regardless of your political or philosophical beliefs, these characters are so complex and beautifully written it’s very easy to attach to them. My boyfriend even pointed out one night while I had my nose buried in it that he said that he felt like I was hanging out with his friends without him. I’d particularly like to point out Dagny Taggert, she’s extremely human and quite frankly, badass.

Another character, Francisco d’Anconia, reminded me so much of men I had fallen in love with. From my current boyfriend to my first crush, he had so many qualities of them all that I often found myself subconsciously reading his lines in the voices of these men.

Whether you agree with Rand or not on her take on a better world, some of her words can leave you thinking. Because of that, I did pay attention for lines that stood out to me. This is an excerpt from that speech and is actually a part of the same sentence that was much, much longer than what I transcribed here:

… Your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human – that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind’s full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay …

… Your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live …


All in all, this book jumped quickly up to one of my favorite books of all-time.

Would I Recommend It?: Who is John Galt?

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