#20. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Catharina)

This story follows an expedition to a plateau in the Amazonian Jungle. Professor Challenger, a gruff hard to get on with man, claims that he found living dinosaurs there. As the scientific community in London does not believe him he decides to mount another expedition and takes along his rival; Professor Summerlee.

They embark on the journey through the rain forest, but when they finally arrive at the plateau they are struggling to find their way up. In the end they end up stuck on the plateau whilst the people they employed to help carry their equipment have run off.

A fantastic tale now ensues, not only are dinosaurs found to be thriving on the plateau, but an ape like aggressive species is found to be living there. They run into trouble with these fairly early on and in the end a primitive Indian tribe comes to their aid.

In terms of story, this certainly gets your imagination going, if you like dinosaurs and adventure stories then it fits the bill. It suits both younger readers and adults that are looking for an easy read.

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#19. White Fang by Jack London (Catharina)

This is another book by Jack London written from the perspective of the animal. Rather than a domestic dog returning to the wild though, this book follows a wolf hybrid that is born in the wild. The wolf pup and his mother is after a while caught by Indians and brought into camp, where the puppy is named White Fang. White Fang is not liked by the other dogs and is constantly harassed and grows up being used to fighting constantly and always being on his guard.

White Fang is at one point brought into town when some pelts are due to be traded, and the traders get his owner to start drinking. This ends up with White Fang in the end being traded for alcohol and his new owner start using him in dogfights. He does very well until he fights a bulldog, as he about to be killed by the other dog he is rescued when a man called Weedon Scott breaks up the fight. It takes this man a long time and a lot of patience to win over the trust of White Fang.

This book has turned into several movies, and I do believe it deserves a read. Just like with Call of the Wild it is not going to take very long, the story line is easy enough to follow and it explores different types of relationships between man and dogs.

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#18. House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Catharina)

This book follows the Pyncheon family history and centeres around a seven gabled house. The land the house is built on is thought to originally have been acquired by an ancestor convicting the original owner of witchcraft. When this person was executed he proclaimed a curse on the Pyncheon family. The ancestral Pyncheon was then found dead in their chair during the house warming.

The house has become fairly run down, and currently the very poor Hepzibah Pyncheon lives in it. As her brother Clifford is about to return from prison after serving out a sentence for murder she decides to open a shop in one of the rooms of the house to help with their finances. It turns out that she is not very good at running a shop, she has been a bit of a recluse and even though she means well she appear to scare people. Her bad eyesight also makes her wear a permanent scowl. The only one that is not scared is a boy that lives down the street and appear to have a life mission to eat all of the dinosaur ginger breads.

Luckily for Hepzibah a young relative called Phoebe turns up. She is not only able to help run the shop, Clifford find great joy in her companionship, the lodger likes her and it turns out that even the ancient chickens do better under her tender care.

I really liked this book; there was a good mix of mystery, family tragedy and sunlight. The personalities involved all have their different angles, which are explained in sufficient detail, and the little side stories are nice diversions without going into too much depth.

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#37: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (Katarina)

When I turned 11, my father gave me a copy of Black Beauty (1877). Easy to say, it quickly became one of my favorite books. Black Beauty is written out of the perspective of the horse with the same name. The reader gets to follow his life from when he is a happy foal to the day he is “retired”. During his life, Black Beauty lives with different kind of people where some treat him well and others not. But throughout his life, the calm and kind ways of his first owner helps Black Beauty adapt to all kinds of situations.

Today, we might think of this book as one for children. However, it was written with the purpose to shed light on the horses’ situation in England (and the world). And it did. It was a bestseller from the start and reactions were so strong that the welfare for the horses improved significantly. Also, animal activists handed out the book to drivers and stables.

I’m not sure this is true, but a believe I heard a story once where a man who had mistreated his horses was sentenced to reading Black Beauty in jail. That in itself, if it’s true, shows how greatly one can effect the world with words. Sewell made a smart move when she told the story out of the perspective of the horse, because it makes the reader feel its pain with it.

I hope generations to come will enjoy this novel and see it as a reminder of the importance to treat both humans and animal with kidness and respect.

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#36: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (Katarina)

Death in Venice (1912) focuses on a man, Gustav, who travels to Venice, Italy. He is a well-known author, but struggles with writer’s block, which is the reason behind his trip. While in Venice, Gustav notices a young Polish boy, who is staying at the same hotel as him. The boy, Tadzio, is supposedly very beautiful and the older man is mesmerized by him. There is no actual interaction between the two, except a few glances. When rumors begin to spread that Venice is suffering an outbreak of cholera, Gustav finds himself unable to leave until he knows that Tadzio has been taken to safety. However, he later on has to pay the prize for this noble and yet unknown gesture with his own life.

The book, which I happened to read a month or so before I actually went back to Venice for a visit, is interesting in the sense that it deals with human affection in a very innocent way. Gustav might be heavily affected by the young boy’s beauty, but he knows not to act on those emotions. But of course, the subject in itself of a man chasing after a young boy was discussed at the time of publication. Interesting to note in the matter is also that Tadzio was based off a real person who Mann and his wife saw while in Venice on vacation. The relationship between boy and man can surely be analyzed further.

To be honest, what stuck with me the most was the fact that they tried to hide that the plague was raging through Venice. And during my own trip back, I had that very fresh in mind, which led to a standing joke between me and my friends.

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#35: East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Katarina)

By now, it’s been made very clear that I love the works of John Steinbeck. East of Eden (1952) is no exception. The book tells the tale of two families, the Hamiltons and the Trasks, who both come to live in the Salinas Valley, California. The Hamilton’s are said to be based on the real family of Samuel Hamilton, Steinbeck’s grandfather. The writer himself also appears briefly in the story, which makes it feel even more like the truth ( at least to some extent). Samuel Hamilton struggles to make a living on an infertile piece of land and he is known to be an inventor with a good heart. Adam Trask on the other hand, grew up in a military home on the east coast and came to the Valley a rich man. He is head over heals in love with his beautiful wife Cathy, but she is full of secrets and runs away from him after giving birth to twin sons.

The book offers an intricate weave of colorful characters and some fo them you would love to have as your best friends, while others appear to be the devil’s offspring. The book is also closely related to the Bible and the story from Genesis about Cain and Abel. Salinas Valley also plays a vital part in the book and is so well described by Steinbeck that it feels like I have visited the place in person.

In the short, the book is beautifully written and I truly recommend it. If Steinbeck is still a writer for you to discover, I envy you, and if he is already someone you love, I understand you fully. If you on the other hand don’t like his books, well, that is fine too, but maybe you should give him another try?

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#34: The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (Katarina)

The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) is one of few books I wish I hadn’t read. Not because it was bad, it was sometimes quite interesting and especially in the beginning, but because of how it ended. I think it is (SPOILER ALERT) cheap to end a book with “it was all just a dream”. The insanity in some parts of the book should have clued me in on this ending, but I hoped the outcome would be quite different.

So what is the book about? A man called Syme is recruited to an anti-anarchist group within Scotland Yard to take down a group led by a man known as Sunday. Syme takes on the role as Thursday as he infiltrates the group. One by one, the other members of the group (except for Sunday) turns out to also be part of the same group as Syme. They have all been recruited by the same mysterious man who interviewed them in a pitch black room, so neither one of them knows what he looks like. To me, at least, it was evident that this man had to be Sunday. Why else be so secretive? The hunt for Sunday takes the police officers on a wild journey through Europe that, as I said earlier, becomes more and more insane. And then ends with it all being a dream.

I’m certain there is some greatness in this book and that there is a lot to discuss, but to me, it is all over-shadowed by the fact that it ends with the awakening from a dream. Maybe it was something new back in the day, but now it feels like an easy way out, just like killing the main character is. If it doesn’t add to theĀ  greater good of the story, it can easily be seen as a way for the author to get out of the corner they have painted themselves into.

But maybe I take back what I said first. I don’t regret reading the book, because it had its charm. However, I wish it had ended differently.

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