I have a new goal, which for me is actually quite a challenge.  It’s something close to things already on my list, but this one has a definite end date and is actually manageable.

Thirty Books Everyone Should Read Before They’re Thirty

So, in the order of the list, here are the books.  The books I have read are in dark green type.

  1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  2. 1984 by George Orwell
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  7. The Rights of Man by Tom Paine
  8. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  10. The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
  11. The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton
  12. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  13. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  14. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  15. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein
  16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  17. Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
  18. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  20. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  21. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  22. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  23. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  24. The Republic by Plato
  25. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  26. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  27. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  28. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  30. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulakov
  31. BONUS: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
  32. BONUS: Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner

So, as anyone can see, I have a bit to go on this list.  Some of these I haven’t ever heard of (Wisdom in the Desert, The Master and the Margarita), while others I’ve avoided because of their style (anything by Charles Dickens or Charles Darwin or Ernest Hemingway, more by Steinbeck; I feel reading A Separate Peace four times in high school and Great Expectations three times has put me off of that almost lumbering and depressing storytelling).  I also, as you may have guessed, don’t especially like older American literature.  I’m a fan of the more modern “literary fiction,” which is on the rung above romance novels and Twilight, but doesn’t have the prestige of the “greats” like Dickens.  Others on this list I’ve avoided because of the story, like Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies.  While I love the film of CO, my mental theatre is quite imaginary, and somehow I find the words and suggestion more influential and uncomfortable than the screen imagery.

I have a lot on this list to do, and after I finish my Isabel Allende/Spanish kick, I may read these.  This will be a challenge, but reading is supposed to inform and sometimes entertain.  Hey, I got through my high school readings just fine, and this time, I have medieval texts to balance it out…

Also on the topic of books, I turn my attention to the declining sale of hard, feel-them-in-your-hands books.  Beloved Barnes and Noble has put itself up for sale and Kindles are being snatched up as fast as Amazon can produce them.  I stumbled upon this post by another WordPress blogger with an amazing quote from a Wall Street Journal writer.  The blogger does not, I repeat DOES NOT lament the change from physical books to electronic, and maintains that readership of literature will still be big in this digital age.  From what I was able to read from the WSJ article (I couldn’t read the entire thing, as I have not paid for a subscription, alas!), the author (like me) feels a loss and sadness about the replacement of books.

Brightly flashing screens have not only replaced letters and face-to-face contact, but have begun to replace the one material thing I value above all others: books.  I cannot believe that this is just the next step to a civilized and technology-filled society and that “it’s proven to be one of the best things that can happen to something we love.”  Can you imagine as a child snuggling up to your mom or dad to read a story from a Kindle or Nook?  Would you want to teach your kid to read on a screen?  If you went on a trip or got lost on an island, what would you read once the power went out?  As a student at university or of life, how will you remember passages from books that have touched your soul when you only have a screen?

Another challenge for me is to find a way to help people to respect the written word and the various forms in which it comes.  While I appreciate any medium that helps people to read and to expand their minds, I cannot help but think of the books that could have been picked up and appreciated in their dust jacketed glory.


In the spirit of the wonderful new film, Toy Story 3, my roommate and I had a long discussion over dinner one night about toys we played with and toys the current generation has.  I remember having a large, blue, plastic Fisher Price easel, which helped to train me as the best artist in my first and second grade classes.  (Sadly, the artistic ability and perfectionism ruined any future career plans in that field.)  I had actual wooden blocks, Legos which were not from special $200 sets that boxed one into building one particular thing, Barbies, My Little Ponies, a plethora of stuffed animals, an American Girl doll with furniture made by my grandfather, honest-to-God real Golden Books, and King’s Quest games which required my dad to type instructions instead of pointlessly pointing and clicking.  Ryan also had many of the toys listed above, including a few race cars and action figures.  These toys fueled our imaginations, and enabled us to spend hours and hours by ourselves, creating new worlds and fantastic relationships among our toys.  Who says a teddy bear and a Barbie can’t date?  What do you mean that a Lego house can’t live inside the plastic refrigerator?  Why can’t Kirsten be the shepherdess of the ponies?

Kirsten, my American Girl Doll

High Flier, my favorite My Little Pony of all time

Now, the world seems to be filled with cheap imitations of the toys I remember.  I’m hard-pressed to find a quality kickball or set of blocks in this day and age; believe me, I’ve tried.  Everything seems to either run on batteries, talk, or need a television.  What happened to quality counting for something?  Despite the feminists’ understandable rage against Barbie, and I’m including myself in that group most of the time, Barbie is an excellent role model.  Her multitude of career paths foster creative thinking and problem solving, as well as show young girls that women can be astronauts, military personnel, and doctors.  Sure, there are the usual cheerleaders, teachers, and fashion models, but there’s a good balance of “independent” and “strong” female careers and supposed Barbie personas which blend in with the “soft” and “feminine” options.  I am going towards a career as a teacher, myself, which fits right into that stereotypical female career range, but for a time during my childhood, I could imagine myself as a politician, a firefighter, and a CEO through my Barbies.  Not to mention, they had fabulous clothes and furniture.  My allowance usually went into acquiring new clothes and pieces for the house I’d create under my mom’s desk.  I even set up a “shop” in one of Barbie’s cases, creating the hangers out of pipecleaners and tags out of small, cut pieces of tape.  (Of course, I stopped playing with Barbies by 1996, so I don’t think any of the scandalous costumes had surfaced yet.  And Bratz?  Don’t get me started…)

Australian Barbie, my first "nice" doll in my copious collection and an example of the kinds of Barbies I chose and played with as a child

I’ve made the decision to limit my future children’s exposure to commercial Dora video games and dumbed-down versions of the toys I once had.  Nothing I buy or create for my child will be a cut-and-paste scenario; the fun in being a child and in playtime is that anything is possible.  I wouldn’t have been the person I am today without such a wonderful, creative childhood, and I am determined to forbid any toys from boxing in my children.

Bridal Beauty My Little Pony, my second favorite MLP, often cast as High Flier's mommy

Long live playtime, and thanks to all the dedicated toymakers out there who understand the importance of a well-crafted and simple toy.

Or play with a toy...