Posts Categorized: 40 books before 40

First Lines: Ibid, A Life

The reason I put Mark Dunn’s Ibid: A Life on my list of 40 books to read before my 40th birthday, was its novelty value. As explained in the introduction, the author wrote an biography of Jonathan Blashette (a circus performer born with three legs who goes on to make a fortune in the deodorant… Read more »

First Lines: Het verdriet van België

Hugo Claus’s semi-autobiographical Het verdriet van België (The Sorrow of Belgium) is Belgium’s Big and Important Book about World War II. It covers a lot of themes — growing up, family, Flemish small-town life, collaboration — as seen through the eyes of an impressionable child. I found it a bit of a slog. Mostly, I… Read more »

First Lines: Moby Dick

It seemed like a good idea at the time. But with hindsight being 20/20, I would never, in my life, ever, absolutely no way, make the same mistake again. Greater readers and more knowledgeable people than I am will surely disagree, but to me, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, or, The Whale is a slog, a… Read more »

First Lines: Don Quixote

It’s official: I give up. I’ve waded through the first part of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but after a few chapters of the second part I gave up. I just can’t do this any more. It’s too tedious. You have that hidalgo Don Quixote, who has gone so raving mad from reading too many… Read more »