I've found while being a student I've read less and less, and also that I have a bad habit of re-reading books and going with the same old authors. With that in mind, I've set myself two goals:
1) To have read by my next birthday (7th June 2011) 50 books at least. This is obviously most important; last year's been the final year of my degree and I think I've got through about ten to fifteen non-History related books. Which is somewhat depressing.
2) At least 25 and preferably more of those should be new books to me, hopefully by authors I haven't read before. I'll be using the usual metrics to judge what I'm going to read - award winners & nominees, book lists, recommendations from friends and family, and probably the odd recommendation here.
If I get above 50 (and I'm hoping I might at least push a little above it), I'm going to try to keep the ratio at at least half & half.
So here goes. Notwithstanding everything above, starting off with a classic I last read about 8 years ago.
Book 1 - Slaughterhouse 5
Author - Kurt Vonnegut
Genre - Science Fiction, War
Not much to say about this that hasn't been said elsewhere much better put. For my money one of the best anti-war novels ever written, and so successful because it's such a hard novel to pin down. The science fiction elements and the non-linear structure while initally confusing really get across the absurdity and futility of war in a similar way to Heller's Catch-22.
The character of Billy Pilgrim is so sympathetic, a complete innocent as adrift in the chaos of war as he is in time. Juxtaposed against the cynicism of Vonnegut's narrator, the novel manages the quite difficult trick of being utterly fatalistic without being depressing.
I know Vonnegut's prose isn't to everyone's taste, but I personally enjoy it. The structural chaos is saved from being distracting by the terseness of the description and the sparing use of the refrains to return to the novel's core ideas. It's still not an easy read, but certainly easier than some authors who use similar devices but don't value succinctness quite so much.