Posts Tagged ‘1001 books’



August 1, 2009


I’m currently making my way through 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, but slowly, as there are many books that did not make the list that I am also interested in reading. So I’m alternating between one book on the list, then one book off, though I’m not being crazily strict about it.

I first downloaded a spreadsheet with the list last August, and at the time I had already read about 60 books on the list. In the year since, I have read 25 more. And I just finished book 86, Regeneration by Pat Barker.

I was actually dreading this book because based on its title, I had assumed it was science fiction. I guess I just pictured cells regenerating after being injected with some sort of radioactive material to make them indestructable. Or something.

I don’t hate all science fiction, but it’s pretty hit or miss. And if it involves radioactive material, it’s probably a miss. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a WWI story. Not a story in the heat of the battle, however, but one that takes place in a hospital where those suffering from what they were calling neurasthenia, and but is now known as combat stress reaction (not to be confused, apparently, with the longer lasting PTSD), were sent. It was little understood back then. Not that it is well understood now.

The story is loosely framed around the real life encounter between Siegfried Sassoon, patient, and William Rivers, psychiatrist. The back of the book makes it sound like Sassoon is the center of the action, but really, Rivers is.

On Thursday, I was about 2/3 of the way through the novel. I continued it on the train into London, where we were planning on visiting the Imperial War Museum.

Quick story from Wednesday afternoon. While working my weekly volunteer shift at RISC, I had mentioned to the manager, Nathan, that I was reading this book and that I was planning on hitting up the museum. He commented on how much I seem to like war. And without missing a beat, little Emilie, the young French university student who interned with RISC for the summer, piped up. “She’s American. Of course she likes war.”


Moving on. Thursday. Imperial War Museum. We showed up about an hour after they opened and immediately separated. My fault. I needed to use the bathroom, and I am the only girl in the family. So we made plans to text each other in an hour and discuss where we were in our wanderings at that time.

So after that initial pit stop, I chose to visit the WWI exhibit first, perhaps because it was the closest to the entrance, perhaps because of the book I was reading.



I was so excited that I completely broke the “no pictures” rule. Though I will defend myself by pointing out that I did not use a flash. And I do feel some remorse over it. Which pretty much makes me clean.

Until you realize that I broke it twice more. Once to take the picture that opened this post. I actually saw that sign before the Sassoon exhibit, and I really wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t because I wasn’t SUPPOSED to. But then once I broke the rule for Sassoon, I figured I could break it for the sign as well.

Aaaaand then again, when I reached the Wilfred Owen exhibit. For Owen also made an appearance in my book, and there’s a scene in which Sassoon assists him in editing a poem, “Anthem for Doomed Youth.”

And lookie here. What do you see?


The actual first draft of “Anthem for Doomed Youth”! Complete with a note in the bottom lefthand corner, acknowledging the revision done by Sassoon himself.

Now, I knew that most of the characters, including Sassoon, were real. But it was still exciting to see them recognized in the exhibit at the Imperial War Museum. I really wanted to pull my book out of my bag and show it to whomever was around. But of course no one was around because I had made sure of that before sneaking my phone out of that same bag to snap those pics.

But I knew they were in my book, and now you know they were in my book, and I actually have finished the book now, and am about to start a young adult novel about a 17 year old girl who wants to kill herself before heading off to college, but still, it was exciting while it lasted.

Not the war, I mean. Just…the timing of my thinking about it all.

Because yes, I am American, but no, I do not like war.