1000 Novels Series: Bleak House and Rebecca

Though I’ve read most of the usual suspects as far as literary classics are concerned, I wanted to broaden my reading to less known classic titles, including more modern novels as well.

I searched online for a good comprehensive book list to work from and found The Guardian’s list of 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read.

Two by two, I’ll review as many books as I can from this list, while I get through them. I’ve unbelievably only read 64 so far though there were several on the list that I *thought* I read a long time ago but wasn’t sure.

Here are the first two reviews – I absolutely loved both novels.

51OSlFe0I+L Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Available for free on Amazon Kindle!

I confess that the only novel I’d read by Charles Dickens before this one was A Tale Of Two Cities. Bleak House felt very different both in topic and in tone. My main reason for tackling Bleak House was that I really wanted to see the TV series (available on Amazon Prime), but not without first reading the original.

The story is based on the intertwining destinies of three orphans – Esther Summerson, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone – and their guardian John Jarndyce. The legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce serves as backdrop and heavily weighs on their futures, involving Ada and Richard directly as potential heirs. The mystery of Esther’s birth and the scandal that follows its revelation add considerable tension, while she’s also kept busy dealing with multiple suitors for her hand.

The result is a suspenseful saga of perdition for some and revelation for others – which, with its ‘bleak’ English weather would make a great rainy day read. Any fans of George Eliot or Thomas Hardy will find themselves right at home.

 

41ufEpPh-WL._SY346_Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Paperback

Rebecca tells the story of a young and naive 20-something woman who falls in love with and marries affluent widower Maxim De Wintour. What starts as an oddly matched love story builds into a thrilling mystery as the figure of Maxim’s former accidentally-drowned wife Rebecca hovers over the newlyweds’ relationship. As our heroine tries to settle into a routine in Maxim’s Cornwall estate of Manderley, the reader learns more about each of our characters – both dead and alive – and they morph like figures in a fun-house, until the final resolution of the mystery.

I didn’t research what to expect from Rebecca before diving into it, and I was definitely surprised at how dark the book ended up being in parts. It’s also full of lusciously beautiful descriptions of the gardens and ocean coves at Manderley though, which act as counterpoint to the tenseness of the atmosphere between the characters and the spookiness of the story. It made me want to read more from the author soon. Her other popular novels include My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn.

 

The next two books on the list I’m planning on tackling are Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood if you’d like to read along with me.

 

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30 Things To Do On Staycation

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On Friday I’m heading home to visit my family in Milan. For most people this wouldn’t count as staycation, but I actually grew up in Milan, so visiting my family there is like going home for me.

I don’t know about you but I almost like staycations better than actual vacations. Sometimes you really need to either do nothing, or catch up on all the little things you wish you had time for but never do.

During a typical two-week vacation in Milan, I wander around the city (in the sweltering August heat) in a way I rarely have the chance to do in LA. Of course, I also spend a hefty amount of time reading, catching up with family, and reconnecting with some habits I may have neglected.

 

If you’re taking some time off for a staycation this summer or fall, practice slow living and let yourself indulge in some of the suggestions below:

 

  1. Bake a treat for someone you love
  2. Have a gelato (or some frozen yogurt)
  3. Try a new restaurant (order in for extra lazy points)
  4. Do an extra long meditation (try Buddhify)
  5. Hit the mini golf course
  6. Go hiking
  7. Watch your favorite childhood cartoon
  8. Read your heart out (bonus points if outdoors, on a blanket in a park)
  9. Download some new podcasts (like The Paper Year)
  10. Journal every day
  11. Stroll slowly through your local Farmers market
  12. Buy yourself some flowers and take time arranging them
  13. Explore your neighborhood and try a new bakery or coffee place
  14. Volunteer (The LA Regional Food Bank is my favorite option)
  15. Visit a museum
  16. Have an extra long conversation with a family member you miss
  17. Get your bowling shoes on
  18. Find an outdoor movie to watch
  19. Try that yoga video you never got around to (I follow Yoga With Adriene)
  20. Give yourself a Mani-Pedi
  21. Drive out to an amusement park for the day
  22. Board game night (if there’s Rummikub or Apples To Apples I’m there)
  23. Go to an aquarium
  24. Clean out your wardrobe (ahhh, doesn’t that feel better?)
  25. Do a crossword or four
  26. Color like you’re five again (The Secret Garden coloring book)
  27. Walk through every aisle at Target
  28. Start a bullet journal
  29. Tackle a home project you’ve been avoiding (filing anyone?)
  30. Learn the constellations and look for shooting stars

 

And as a bonus, here are a few of the books I’m planning to read during my staycation (links below).

 

 

The Amazing Journey Of American Women From 1960  To The Present by Gail Collins

The Quiet Room: A Journey Out Of The Torment Of Madness by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennet

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

Margaret Thatcher: The Authobiography by Margaret Thatcher

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalnithi

I Forgot To Remember by Su Meck and Daniel De Visé

 

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Let The Games Begin! Books About The Olympics

Since the Olympics are starting this Friday (go Italy!), I thought I’d review two great books I’ve recently read on the topic.

The first deals with the fallout from preparations in Brazil for the past 2014 World Cup and this year’s Olympics.

51fzedw2LCLBrazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy

by Dave Zirin  

If you want to just enjoy the Olympics as a spectacle of global athleticism, don’t read this book. It cuts straight through to the destructive potential of world tournaments like the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic, following their devastating effects on Brazil’s already corrupt government and residents of urban slums in Rio. Scandals in this year’s Olympics continue to this day, with warnings of insufficient security and unfinished facilities, so this is very much a developing story.

Amazon Kindle        Amazon Paperback

 

 

The second book tells the story of a team of American rowers who famously ended up winning gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

by Daniel James Brown

Aside from being a great underdog story – following nine regular American Joe’s as they beat Adolf Hitler’s rowing team – The Boys In The Boat has a quiet power to it that I was mesmerized by. Before the roaring success of the final Olympics chapters, the story winds quietly around main character Joe Rantz as he tries to make ends meet, rebuild a family for himself after his has dissolved, and still show up for morning after ice-cold morning of rowing practice.

Amazon Kindle        Amazon Paperback

 

I enjoyed both books tremendously and am looking forward to taking some time to do a little additional Olympics reading this weekend. Some of my potential picks are below:

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Dancing With The Devil In The City Of God: Rio De Janeiro On The Brink

By Juliana Barbassa

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Paperback

 

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The Games: A Global History Of The Olympics

by David Goldblatt

Amazon Kindle       Amazon Hardcover

 

 

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Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics

by Jeremy Schaap

Amazon Kindle  (only $2.29)      Amazon Paperback

 

 

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Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith

by Gabrielle Douglas and Michelle Burford

Amazon Kindle        Amazon Paperback

 

 

 

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Six Unbelievable Books About Scientology

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I have a confession to make – I’m addicted to reading about cults, especially Scientology. There’s something riveting in the stories coming out of the ‘religion’ by people who  have escaped its clutches.

Here are six of the most popular titles on the topic – 3 of which I’ve read and loved, and 3 of which are on my short term reading list.                                                                                                           

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Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape

by Jenna Miscavige Hill

This is my favorite Scientology memoir so far. Jenna’s experience as niece of Scientology’s current leader – David Miscavige – is one of a kind. Raised in the church and becoming a member of the Sea Org at a young age, Jenna faced incredible abuse when she decided to challenge the church’s precepts. If you only ever read one book about Scientology, make it Jenna’s memoir.

Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback

 

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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief 

by Lawrence Wright

A great overview on the origins and current practices of the church of Scientology, this book was my introduction to the religion/cult. It was also the basis for a critically acclaimed HBO documentary by the same title that is available for streaming on HBO Now. If you’re looking for a broad and complete intro to Scientology, this is the perfect place to start.

Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback

 

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Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me 

by Ron Miscavige and Dan Koon

I’m planning on tackling Ron Miscavige’s book during my trip home to Milan this August. Learning about Scientology has convinced me that David Miscavige is an equal parts mysterious and frightening figure, and I can’t wait to learn about his father’s take on his son’s meteoric ascent as new head of the church.

Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback

 
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Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

by Leah Remini

I just finished Leah Remini’s memoir – it was a quick read. Leah had a ‘normal’ experience being brought up in Scientology, until her rising fame as a sitcom star placed her in the same ranks as other Scientology celebrity members. I found her take on Tom Cruise’s status in the church and her account of Tom’s wedding with Katie Holmes particularly scandalous.

Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback

 

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Blown For Good: Behind The Iron Curtain Of Scientology

by Marc Headley

Blown For Good is next on my Scientology reading list, after Ruthless. I’m expecting it to be just as absorbing as Jenna Miscavige’s memoir, as Marc Headley was also a Sea Org member and therefore subject to some of the most unbelievably abusive aspects of Scientology. His escape from a church compound on his motorcycle and the ensuing chase have the makings of a great action movie.

Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback

 

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Inside Scientology: The Story Of America’s Most Secret Religion

by Janet Reitman

It’s been a few years since I read Going Clear, and I’m interested in tackling this other overview of Scientology by Janet Reitman for a refresher on the church’s origins and also potentially new information about its practices. With over 200 5-star reviews on Amazon, I’m expecting to be impressed.

Amazon Kindle     Amazon Paperback

 

 

 

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