Lit Lists #1 – 10 Monkey Books

I’m engaged in reading The Fellowship of the Ring for the LOTR readalong at the moment which is going rather slowly – not because I’m not enjoying the book – I am hugely, but I’m so tired I keep falling asleep after reading just a few pages. So, I thought I’d start a new series of posts indulging my love of making lists to help fill in the gaps between book reviews – and this is how it works…

  • Pick a keyword and then find a number, 5 or 10 say, of books that link to it in any way –  e.g. they are either about or feature that word, or have it or a variant in their titles;
  • List and introduce the books.
  • That’s all there is to it apart from having fun.  If you want to have a go, feel free!

The key word I chose for my first Lit List is ‘Monkey’ – Don’t ask why it leapt into my mind, but it proved a fun choice. So here are my 10 Monkey books …

  1. Monkey by Wu Ch’eng-En. I don’t own this book, but I had to start with one of the great Chinese classics written in the 1500s. I never watched the TV series from the 1980s either, but millions love the adventures of Prince Tripitaka and his cohorts on their quest to retrieve sacred scriptures from India.
  2. The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. This book was read by our book group before I joined it and they’re still going on about it – it was one of the group’s least enjoyed choices apparently. I recently bought a copy so I could find out why they hate it so, and was told I shouldn’t have bothered as everyone left their copies behind at Jenny’s house and she could have given me half a dozen. What’s it about? Well – it’s set in the American West and is a polemical novel about destruction of the environment and a gang that goes round sticking the wrench in trying to save it. One reviewer on Amazon, Brian Buckley, says ‘If Hunter S Thompson was an environmentalist, he’d be a paid-up member of The Monkey Wrench Gang.’ I think that tells you all you need to know about whether you’d like it or not? 
  3. The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd. Kidd is a graphic designer, and this novel tells the story of a first year art student who learns how to ‘see’. I originally picked it up because the page edges which have the appearance of being doodled on attracted me. It sounds funny and quirky so I must get around to reading it soon.
  4. Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers by Simon Louvish.  An authoritative and scholarly biography of the brothers who carved their own vaudeville comedy niche in Hollywood’s golden age.
  5. Great Apes by Will Self – and before you ask, I haven’t read this one either! I want to read Self’s books, but every time I pick one up, I decide it won’t be fun having to have the dictionary beside me every time. Does anyone else have this problem with Will Self?
  6. Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston. I did a book swap to get this quirky novel set in 1960s San Francisco with its Asian-American hippy hero Wittman Ag Sing. It still languishes in the TBR piles too.
  7. Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Now this is one I have read, many, many times in the past when my daughter was little. It’s a charming rhyming story of a little lost monkey who’s looking for his Mum. Donaldson and illustrator Scheffler are more famous for The Gruffalo, but this one of theirs is absolutely loveable for little ones – ideal for a read and cuddle.
  8. Monkey Grip (Penguin Modern Classics) by Helen Garner. I read my first Helen Garner last year – The Spare Room was an unflinching look at a friendship put to the test. When searching for ‘monkey’ books, the new Penguin Modern Classics edition cover of this one stands out a mile – coming out in March and I shall be adding it to my wishlist.
  9. The Hartlepool Monkey by Sean Longley. A serious but hilarious novel that dissects 18th century thinking which has a monkey dressed as Napoleon on the cover. Intriguing – non? I put this on my wishlist immediately I found it.
  10. Jennie by Douglas Preston. I did read this years ago, and it’s a real tearjerker. A doctor raises an orphaned chimp alongside his own children – it explores what it means to be human. Rather Good.

So that’s it – 10 books nominally about monkeys. Next time I’ll try harder to find more that I’ve read!  Do let me know what you think …


13 thoughts on “Lit Lists #1 – 10 Monkey Books

  1. More power to you with LOTR I just cant do it. I know a great short story called The Monkeys Paw which used to scare me to death as a kid. I have Great Apes and really want the Garner.

    I am also oddly enough going to try and read The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter this weekend, its a crime novel written in poetry.

    • ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ is if I remember rightly a short story by W W Jacobs. It’s been broadcast as a play many times in the past and has a horrific end.

  2. I knew there’d be many more monkey books out there!

    I like the idea of the crime novel written in poetry. A couple of years ago I read a werewolf novel in poetry called ‘Sharp teeth’ and it was a different experience.

  3. The only ‘monkey’ book I’ve got is “Gorillas in the Mist” by Dian Fossey – well near enough to monkeys, anyway.

    I’ve been sorting some of my to-be-read books into lists too – I love lists.

    • Lists are brilliant – and really do help you remember things I find. My blog grew out of lists of books read via Librarything as a halfway house. You’re allowed gorillas BTW.

  4. I love this idea! I’m big with the making of lists – I want to try this in another month! I feel good about March.

    (I’m having the same problem with LOTR – it’s lovely but I get sleepy.)

    • Jenny, I’m now thinking of what list to make next.

      I’ve now got just 1 chapter to go on LOTR – the end is nigh.

  5. Sean French (half of the Nicci Gerrard thriller writing duo) wrote a book which I read long ago called ‘The Imaginary Monkey’.

    As I don’t remember a thing about what actually happened in the book, I suspect the story was less good than the title.

  6. I love most of Will Self’s books. I have Great Apes, but still haven’t read it yet. I would recommend The Quantity Theory of Insanity to start off with. Short stories; you definitely don’t need a dictionary.

    Just searched my LibraryThing catalogue for “monkey”. I have: “Sock Monkey” by Tony Millionaire and a book of crosswords called Monkey Puzzles. Sock Monkey is recommended.

    • Thanks Sandpiper – I have the Self you mention – I might just give it a go.

      I’ve looked Sock Monkey up – sounds intriguing – a combination of toddler characters in a comic for moreorless grown-ups!

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