Every reader loves a book challenge. Here’s one that’s bound to keep me busy for a while. Penguin Australia’s ‘Books You Must Read Before You Die’. I will exclude the ones that I have already read and then work my way through the rest.

I have decided that I need to cut down on my spending on books too, so as much as possible I will borrow these books from libraries and buy them from library book sales. These sales are a great way of getting good books for next to nothing and helping your local library.


Vonnegut- Cat’s Cradle

The children of the man who created a scientific invention that could destroy the world are the subject of ‘John’ the journalist’s interest in this dystopian novel which I found under Science Fiction at my local library. I’m not sure that it qualifies as Sci-Fi, given that someone has already invented something as dangerous as ‘ice nine’; the atom bomb.
The children, a dwarf, a giantess and an infantile man are damaged by their life with their father and later reveal the secrets of his death and the fact that they have each a fragment of ice nine which can, and will, destroy the earth. Our journalist finds them on an island in South America where Frank is high up in government due to the possession of this fragment. All of the characters are deeply flawed, in fact weird, yet the reader can believe in these stunted 20th century monsters. This novel is a rumination on the ‘progress’ made by science, and in this it is not new. What is new is Vonnegut’s way of viewing the world. He is not afraid to tackle the larger issues of his time and this makes him required reading. He also does it with flair and characterstic light touch.

Confderacy of Dunces

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

The genius in this case is the hilariously pompous and delusional Ignatius J Reilly. He is a grossly fat, incredibly self-centred and self indulgent lazy 30 year old, who still lives with his mother. Ignatius sees the modern world as the antithesis of all he holds dear being an adherent of Boethian ideals. The sheer hypocrisy of this character is astounding and yet the reader really is drawn into following Ignatius’ lumbering progress through finding dead end jobs, which he sabotages, to winding up pushing a hot dog cart around New Orleans in his attempt to do as little as possible. However, as little as possible ends up creating as big a possible mess as could be imagined. We are drawn into the mind of a lunatic who believes that he is the only sane person around, and yet all we can do is laugh uproariously.

His slovenly and pathetic mother eventually sees a future for herself away from her son’s cruel treatment and eventually succeeds in driving him away from his self imposed cloister of a bedroom. When he takes off with the wonderfully named Myrna Minkoff we cannot but wonder what a sequel would have made of his adventures in New York.

This book is not one to read in a quiet place, you will end up bursting out into laughter. It is incredibly clever and highly recommended reading.