Banjo's 12/12--Around the World in 80 Books.
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I am not too structured, but love to read. My plan is to read books from 12 different countries. Originally I planned on 2-3 per country, but then I had this clever idea for a title for the challenge, so that brings me to 6 or 7 a month. This seems pretty high for me--I probably will have to fill in with some quick reads and YA fiction.
I haven't settled on the 12 countries yet. I thought I would start with Canada, because then i can read Oryx and Crake for the group read and have it count. Plus there is a lot of good Canadian literature that doesn't get promoted much in the US. I will have to do France, obviously, and Jules Verne. I have been wanting to re-read Les Miserables, so this will be a good excuse.
Other countiries high on the list are India, South Africa, England and the US, Mexico.
See you in January for the Oryx and Crake readalong.
1. Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake
2. Timothy Taylor, The Blue Light Project
3. Larry's Party by Carol Shields
4. the Golden Spruce by John Valliant (239 pages)
5. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood(431 pages)
6. Generation A by Douglas Coupland (297 pages)
7. Mercy among the children by David Adams Richards (371 pages)
1. Behind the beautiful forevers
2 The Beautiful and the Damned by Siddhartha Deb
3. THe White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
4, Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
5.The Space Between us by Thrity Umrigar
6.Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India by Joseph Lelyveld
7.Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
1. The Forged Coupon by Leo Tolstoy
2. A man Without a Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen
3. Selected Poems by Joseph Brodsky
4. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Solzhenitsyns.
5. The Line by Olga Grushin
6. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
1. The Book of Job 223 pages
2. King David: THe Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel by Jonathan Kirsch
3. Confessions of Noa Weber by Gail Hareven
4. The Same Sea by Amos Oz
5. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God
6. In the Name of Sorrow and Hope by Noa Ben Artz-Pelossof
7. Only Yesterday by S.Y. Agnon
1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
2. Destiny of the Republic
3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
4. The Spirit Catches You and You fall down by Anne Fadiman
5. If you lived here, I'd know your Name by Heather Lende
6. Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
7. The Quiet World by Douglas Brinkley
Death of a Salesman
The Clean House
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Morning Yet on Creation Day by Chinua Achebe
3 . Half a Yellow Sun bu Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
4. Destination Biafra by Buch Emecheta
5. Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka
6. the famished road by Ben Okri
7.Ake by Wole Soyinka
Maybe you could have a category for bodies of water - the means to get from one destination to another?
Good luck and happy reading!
I finished Around the World in 80 days yesterday. A quick read, with some dated parts that made me cringe, and some parts that were fun.
I was counting this in my French category, but am a little concerned that it was mostly about the British Empire, and not at all about France. However, I determined that it was a French take on the British, and am now working on Tale of Two Cities for a British view of the French. I read Tale of Two Cities} in high school, but my memories are mostly of the knitting and the guillotine (sp).
This made me chuckle. :)
I am quite struck by how Dickens focusses on the discrepency between the very rich and the rest of France. It feels very contemporary, like Defarge should make "I am the 99%" signs.
I picked up The Blue Light Project because I had previously read Taylor's Stanley Park liked it a lot. Taylor has a voice that's fresh, and seems very familiar to me. A little reminiscent of Douglas Coupland. I think that there is a Pacific Northwest sensibility that works for me, since I live in Oregon.
I wasn't totally crazy about the Blue Light Project, though. The character's were a little flat. And although, Eva was a strong woman lead; she is pretty much the only woman character in the book. Something I might not have noticed, if I hadn't recently read about the Bechdel test on another thread.
Good to know! :) I haven't yet gotten around to Tale of Two Cities, but it's obviously on Mt. TBR - looking forward to hearing how readable it is.
Haha, that just made me smile. Glad you enjoyed the book!
I found this book fascinating and thought provoking. It discusses logging practices in the Pacific Northwest by focusing on Grant Hadwin and the Golden Spruce; a mutant Sitka with great spiritual significance for the Haida people in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Grant struggled with schizophrenia, and with how he could integrate his connection with the old growth forests with his logging past.
This book give a lot of insight into the logging industry; the connection between culture and the environment and the connection between mental illness and spirituality. It’s been compared to Krakeur’s Into the Wild, but I found that Krakeur focuses mostly on the personal, Valliant more on the political and economic.
Canada has many amazing books. I look forward to following what you choose.
Finished 1984, which was better-written than I remembered, especially the first half. The second half dragged a bit, and I found the character of Julia wholly unbelievable. But definitely worth reading and still thought provoking.
I am also about halfway done with the Year of the Flood, which is not nearly as compelling for me as Oryx and Crake.
The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed….
In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up an surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population. In practice the needs of the population are always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the necessities of life, but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another.
I also read Generation A by Douglas Coupland. I like Coupland, and though this isn't my favorite of his, I did enjoy it--it made me laugh and think.
Now working on Mercy among the children by David Adams Richards and loving it. I think that this will be my favorite Canadian book this year.
This is a story of the Henderson family who live in rural poverty in New Brunswick. Sydney Henderson is a very intelligent and very moral man. But as the book begins, his destiny seems to be relentless suffering. His story is reminiscent of the Book of Job. His childhood was miserable, and in adulthood he becomes the scapegoat for the community.
Sydney accepts persecution without attempts at revenge, and without any apparent anger. He is very admirable, but his saint-like qualities are hard on his family, especially his oldest son, Lyle. The story is told by Lyle, whose relationship with his father is very ambivalent.
The book is full of marvelously twisted characters; people who do evil and yet are so heartbreakingly human that you can’t hate them, entirely. The book starts slowly, but the plot twists and bends so that I was on edge waiting to see what was going to happen next. The book is about social justice, but in this story justice has a frightening, biblical aspect.
Library Thing has really motivated me to read more. I ended up reading 9 books in January, finishing the Canada section of my 12 in 12 journey, plus adding two books from England. Now 80 books in 2012 seems do-able.
All of the books I read were good. Mercy Among the Children was a clear favorite, though. I am anxious to read more by David Adams Richards. Also, after reading Mercy Among the Children, I am wanting to read the Book of Job, and also Tolstoy's The Forged Coupon. So I have added Israel and Russia as destinations--any ideas for books from these countries are most welcome.
I am working on A Giant of the French Revolution, Danton on recommendation of Japaul22. I am enjoying it-- Danton was quite a character. I was curious to read more about the French Revolution, after Tale of Two Cities. Also planning to read The Forged Coupon and The Book of Job as mentioned above. Still working on Don Quixote, as well.
My next plan was to work on books from and about Japan. I have a stack from the library. I really want to read 1Q84 as I down-loaded the sample on my kindle, and was fascinated. But I am hoping to wait it out until I get the hold from the library--feeling too cheap to buy another new book this month.
David Grossman is a very popular Israeli author, but I haven't read any of his books to recommend them. Beaufort by Ron Leshem is well-known and was made into a movie. And then there's Exodus by Leon Uris which is about the founding of the state of Israel.
The four Makioka sisters live in Japan, just pre WWII. The sisters are trying to cling to an aristocratic way of life, while the world changes around them.
The two older sisters are married, the younger two still single. A great deal of the book revolves around attempts to find a husband for the third sister. Somehow, nothing ever goes right in the matchmaking for Yukiko. The youngest sister, of course, can't marry until her older sister does.
The book reminded me a good deal of Pride and Prejudice. Tanizaki's writing is light and tongue-in-cheek. The focus on relationships between sisters and the focus on social class are also reminiscent of Jane Austen.
I found the female characters universally unrealistic and annoying. Mildred's character made no sense to me, and Sally seemed to be an idealized female figure put in there at the last minute for a happy ending.
I suspect that this is in part because Maugham didn't/couldn't write about his real life as a gay man, and so the romantic issues had to be changed, making them less realistic.
One part of the book that I did find compelling was the death of the uncle.
Five books read. Two in Japanese category, One Russian, One English, and one Hungarian. My intent is to concentrate on one country at a time, but that didn't seem to happen last month. I am afraid that I am easily sidetracked.
I really liked both The Marioko Sisters and Norwegian Wood and plan more reading from both of those authors as I round out my Japan section.
For my favorite book of the month, it will have to be Night by Elie Wiesel. He really describes so well the heartbreak of feeling his humanity slipping away from him, as well as the loss of his belief in God.
I read The Book of Job, thinking it would help me understand Mercy Among the Children. It was also good to read along with Night.
I always thing of Job patiently accepting what God dishes out, but actually the book is really about Job railing against the senseless suffering. A more sophisticated version of religion than I expected from the 5 centurey BCE.
Although, really, theology would have been sophisticated back then, since they didn't have much in the way of science or psychology to help explain things.
Also read The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton in order to better understant the French Revolution and Tale of Two Ciities.} A pretty good book, and helped me with an overview. I still don't have as much background as I'd like and may try Schama's Citizens later.
The thing that was frsutrating for me about Lawday's book was that he did a lot of speculating about Danton's thoughts, feelings, etc. Apparently Danton left a very scanty written record. So it was a bit hard to know how accurate of a picture he drew of Danton.
Also, I have both Destiny of the Republic and Unbroken out of the library, and want to read them if I can complete them before they are due back.
Kokoro has a unusual structure. It is divided into two parts. In the first part the narrator describes his friendship with an older man who he calls “Sensei” or teacher. The narrator also chronicles his own father’s serious illness. The narrator has a distant relationship with his parents; who seem to represent a traditional, more rural Japan. Sensei is urbane, but feels empty. It seems bizarre that anyone would cultivate a teacher/student relationship with Sensei, who never does anything. The second half of the book is a letter from Sensei to the narrator. In the letter he gives the back-story and explains his passivity.
I read this book right after reading Norwegian Wood and was struck by many similar themes. On the back of the book, (translation by Meredith McKinney). Murakami is quoted as saying “Soseki is the representative modern Japanese novelist, a figure of truly national stature.”
Definitely a book that made me think. I would highly recommend it.
James Garfield was born in modest circumstance, lost his father at an early age and was raised by a strong mother. He was bright, articulate, well-educated and committed to civil rights.
The book is not a biography, though,but an exploration of the events that surrounded Garfields assasination. There were many memorable characters. ( I was especially interested in Alexander Graham Bell, and would like to read more about him later. ) The book describes the dismal state of American medicine, which ultimately killed Garfield.
The book takes place in an United States where public life was very different than it is today. Garfield had virtually no security, and was very assessible to the public. The book describes a public unity after his shooting and death that is hard to imagine happening today.
Still, Tanizaki is a good writer with a wonderful sense of humor.
I chose the Yoshimoto book because I wanted to read at least one book by a woman writer in each category. I really liked Yoshimoto's writing and plan to try more of her books in the future. Eat, Sleep, Sit was chosen because I wanted a non-fiction book written by a Japanese author--hard to find on the Kindle. It was about a year spent in a rigourous Zen temple. The topic seemed like it should be interesting, but for me the book really dragged.
I will write fuller reviews later.
Still working on 1Q84, which will be the last book in my Japanese category. I was really liking it, but had to leave it on home for vacation, and now am having trouble getting back into it.
The book depicts how Chihiro deflects from her own difficult past by focusing on someone else, seemingly more fragile than herself. I have run into many people like this, and sometimes even have a bit of Chihiro in me.
My main criticism of the book is that it is too short. I would especially like to have seen a deeper exploration of Nakajima’s past.
The trainee monks are berated, struck, and knocked down the stairs when they don’t follow the intricate rules correctly. They are also basically starved, and many become sick. The author describes in great detail the rules of the monastery. There is a whole chapter devoted to how to use the lavatory. I ended up getting bored, and skipping through many of these details.
The author states that “by allowing no latitude for personal feelings whatever, but forcing us to fit ourselves body and spirit into an unforgiving, constricting mold, the experience obliged us to give up all attachments. “ He sees this as mostly positive, but to me it seems very cult-like.
The thought provoking part of the book for me was the fact that the author clearly gained a lot from this experience. He describes that I have become capable of tears. Once I told someone “A man who can cry is a lucky man”. I never could, before. I used to think what a relief it must be to let yourself go and cry, but I just couldn’t. Now I can cry in great gulping sobs. “
Seven books read, so on target for my goal of 80 books in 2012.
4 for Japan: Eat, Sleep, Sit, the Lake, Naomi and Kokoro.
For the US; Destiny of the Republic
For France: A Giant of the French REvolution: Danton
and for Israel The Book of Job
Favorite books of the month: Kokoro and Destiny of the Republic.
Also am about 2/3 done with 1Q84 and making progress on Don Quixote.
I want to finish 1Q84, which will conclude the Japanese leg of my journey. There are lots of other intriguing books from Japan, but they will have to wait for next year.
I want to concentrate more on Don Quixote this month, as I am currently enjoying it.
I have Unbroken from the library again, on a one week kindle loan. So I will try to get it read. It was highly recommended by a friend. I am also thinking of reading Divergent, a book set in a post-apolyptic Chicago. THe book is currently keeping my 15 year old spell-bound, so I thought I would give it a try.
Then I am thinking of starting on either South Africa or India. I have Zoo City on my Kindle, and have read a number of intriguing reviews, so South Africa is leading.
I am also thinking of joining the group read for Things Fall Apart. I haven't read it since high school, and I think I have a copy, somewhere.
I may adjust my categories, and put all of Western Europe together, in order to give myself more opportunities to read non-western literature. I think I have to do so, in order to get to Australia and South America.
69-- Just finished Unbroken and it was an amazing story. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I will write a review later.
I also finished 1Q84. I have mixed feelings about the book. THere were parts I really liked, but I think that there were too many different story lines. For me, they never ended up coming together.
I have started Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. So far, very interesting and readable.
Along the way, I learned a lot about the war in the Pacific, and also about the resiliency of the human spirit. I highly recommend this book.
Still, there’s a lot to like about the book. The premise is fun, if a bit too reminiscent of The Golden Compass . In Zoo Land, people who have committed certain crimes are given an animal, a sort of familiar. The ‘animalled’ are socially ostracized, but also envied for special powers that their animals bring them.
I can see why Coetzee is an award-winning novelist. His writing is like butter; deceptively simple and rich. In Disgrace he covers themes of sexual politics and sexual violence, post-colonialism; race; the urban/rural divide; animal rights and father-daughter relations. And he does it in just over 200 pages, without seeming rushed.
The butter’s a little rancid (I mean that in a good way) and the book is difficult to read at times. The protagonist, David Lurie is a creepy English professor who has a sexual relationship with a student, and loses his job as a result. The book describes how Lurie deals with the sequelae of that event.
I was particularly struck by the way Coetzee shows similarities between how women and animals are viewed. Neither is accorded the power to control their own body. In the beginning of the book, Melanie, the student, is trying to resist Lurie. He tells her “a woman’s beauty does not belong to her alone. It is part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it.” Later, Lurie is irritated by the way an African farmer is treating sheep. He notes “Sheep do not own themselves, do not own their lives. They exist to be used, every last ounce of them…..”
I finished this book a few days ago, and have been thinking about it since. I am thinking of re-reading Zadie Smith On Beauty for a different take on some of the same themes.
Boo is a journalist from the US, married to an Indian man, and she spent two years, doing interviews with a translator and researching through the courts, etc. I did feel better about the accuracy of the book after reading the afterward.
The book is depressing, not so much because of the poverty, but because of the rampant corruption. In one chapter they describe how funds for women’s small-scale businesses are diverted. When the foreign donors come to check on the program, Asha, one of the books most interesting characters, gathers local women to her home to smile and look grateful.
It’s clear that there is no way that aid money will help the situation. I think it would take grassroots political action, and it’s hard to see that happening. The slum residents are focused on their own survival, rather than on any kind of political change. Global poverty is a difficult, but important topic. I appreciate that Boo makes this information very accessible to the reader
I had read Things Fall Apart in high school, and liked it, but it turns out I had completely forgotten the plot. So it was a new read for me, and a good one. I am going to post my thought in the Group Reads thread.
seven books completed:
One Japanese, to wrap up that segment of my journey. (Though I have a couple of other books in this category that I may not be able to resist!)
Two US books,
Two South African
One Indian and
Favorites for the month: Unbroken and Disgrace. Though I keep thinking about Behind the Beautiful Forevers, so maybe it should be on the list as well.
I revised my categories a little, to lump Europe together (except for England and Russia) so that I can get to South America and Australia.
Finished 2 more books in my South African category--Desmond Tutu's God has a Dream and Gordimer's The Burger's Daughter. I will have to review these later.
Gordimer's writing style is not easy for me to ready. The narrative voice constantly shifts. I think this is because we see Rosa through the eyes of different people, and never really through her own eyes. This makes a statement about the perils of a life lived as a public figure. Also Gordimer doesn't use quotation marks for conversation. This makes it feel as if the whole story takes place in someone's head. Again, interesting, but not as readable as I would like.
There is lots of talk about God--which is not really my thing. Of course---duh--I should have figured that out beforehand, since the title of the book is GOD has a dream and it's written by ARCHBISHOP Desmond Tutu. It's a selection of interconnected sermons, pretty easy to read, and would be a good choice for someone who wanted to read about radical Christianity. Tutu has a very clever, and deceptively simple way of interpreting the bible.
For example, (and this is the part of the book that sticks with me), he describes how man was created in God's image, with the ability to choose between good and evil. He goes on to explain that "It is this fact that we were created to be free that is the reason that all oppression must ultimately fail. Our freedom does not come from any human being--our freedom comes from God. "
Also finished Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, a very inspiring book. I especially liked the prison sections of the book, and loved how he took the experience of a 27 year imprisonment, and made it work for him instead of for his oppressors.
I've also finished the first volume of Don Quixote. I think I will count DQ as 2 books, since it is 2 volumes, after all.
Fadiman has great sympathy both for the Hmong family, and for the Western doctors, all of whom are trying to do their best for this little girl, but coming from different world views. It's a tragic story with no villians and no path to a good outcome.
This is the story of a marriage, and it's satisfactions and frustrations, along with the story of a love affair full of highs and lows. Also, it's a story of aging and sexuality.
The writing is lush and beautiful. I read the Edith Grossman translation, which is excellent. Here is a sample.
"She could not avoid a profound feeling of rancor toward her husband for having left her alone in the middle of the ocean. Everything of his made her cry; his pajamas under the pillow, his slippers that had always looked to her like an invalid's, the memory of his image in the back of the mirror as he undressed while she combed her hair before bed, the odor of his skin, which was to linger on hers for a long time after his death. She would stop in the middle of whatever she was doing and slap herself on the forehead because she suddenly remembered something she had forgotten to tell him."
Completed 7 books (counting the first volume of Don Quixote as one book.) 3 from South Africa, One US, One England, One Columbia and One from Europe. So I am pleased with my progress.
I am more interested in non-fiction lately. My favorite book of the month was The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
I want to finish my South African section, and am reading Coetzee's Boyhood and The Country of my Skull, a non-fiction book about the truth and reconciliation committee in South Africa.
I will be going on an Alaskan cruise at the end of June, so would like to do some reading on Alaska. Planned reads are The Quiet World and If you lived here I'd know your name I am super excited--my first cruise and first visit to Alaska.
I am planning to go the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at the end of July. I am thinking it will help to read some of the plays ahead of time; and would like to start in June.
And also--I would like to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's biography.
Memoirs about childhood have a tendency to be overly precocious and self involved. Coetzee doesn’t completely dodge this tendency; but is saved by the beauty of his writing and the insightfulness of his observations. Coetzee shows himself as a child within a troubled family situation and a troubled country.
His family is quite dysfunctional, and Coetzee shows the dynamics from a child’s perspective. As a parent, it’s a good reminder about how children pick up on their parent’s inconsistencies and hypocrisies. His descriptions of racism in South Africa from the perspective of a white child are interesting. He is uncomfortable with racism, but doesn’t know how to deal with his discomfort.
In one event, he is eating pastries with friends in a sweets shop. Some colored children come by and are looking in the window. This spoils his appetite, and makes him angry and unhappy. He could shoo the children away—as a white he has that power---but even if he does so, his appetite will still be spoiled.
This is a series of essays about life in small town Alaska. Of course, there are many stories of neighbors banding together to help each other out; spaghetti feeds, canning salmon, etc. It could be way too cutesy—but it isn’t. Lende is honest, and self-reflective. I was going to rate this 3 or 3 ½ stars, based on the writing, but in the end, I enjoyed reading the book so much I am moving it up to 4 stars.
I was intrigued by this description of a way of life so different than mine. I love the outdoors—but at heart I am a city girl. Haines is a town of 2400 in a remote location in the inner passage. Drop-dead gorgeous-- and with lots of perils. One of the most harrowing parts of the book is a description of a 5-6 hour drive to Whitehorse, through a snowstorm, with Lende’s son who had acute appendicitis. (They made it in the nick of time.)
From reading this book, life in Haines is super-dangerous. Maybe it’s because Lende is an obituary writer, but there is death after death, many of them deaths of young people engaged in outdoor pursuits. Yet Lende still allowed her own daughters to work in a fishing boat, because she wanted them to be a part of the place. I admire Lende for this, but I don’t understand it.
Another strong part of the book is her description of living in a small town, where everyone is like family, and you have to get along, despite strong differences of opinion. This is so different than my life—I live in an especially liberal part of Portland, Oregon, so seldom encounter any non-tree-huggers. In one chapter, Lende describes trying, unsuccessfully, to put together an anti-homophobia workshop after a bullying incident at the local high school. Lende was frustrated, but I was heartened by her brave attempts to engage her conservative neighbors in this fight.
Yuknavitch is a good, stream of consciousness-style writer. She lives outside of Portland, Oregon, which is, I think, why I decided to read the book. This is a book about the aftermath of her childhood abuse. She takes an interesting tactic--does not describe the abuse, but lots of detail about what came afterwords--lots of sex, drugs, and alcohol.
"You have to forgive women like me. We don't know any other way to do life than to throw our bodies at it."
The book was kind of too much about sex and alcohol for my tastes, but it is very well written. There is an interesting chapter about Ken Kesey.
I just finished The Country of my Skull: Guilt, Sorrow and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa by Antjie Krog. This completes my South African category.
Krog is a poet and journalist and this book is about her coverage of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. It's a difficult book. The topic is difficult--one horrible human rights violation after another, and horrors on both side. Also, I would need more knowledge of South African history to truly understand this book.
However, I am glad that I did read the book, as the topic interests me. I also found the book gave me a better background for understanding the events in other South African books I read this year, especially Disgrace.
Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe
The Fisherman's Invocation by Gabriel Okara
Labyrinths, with Path of Thunder by Christopher Okigbo
A Dance of the Forest by Wole Soyinka
On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe
I still have a bit of research to do.
This is the second book in Brinkley’s planned Wilderness Cycle. The first was Wilderness Warrior, which centered on Theodore Roosevelt’s role in the conservation movement in the US. I loved that book, and now drive my family crazy by giving mini-lectures about TR whenever we approach a National Park or Wilderness area.
The Quiet World continues the story of the US’s conservation history. It has dozens of fascinating side characters, but lacks a major focal character, such as Roosevelt, and isn’t as good a book as Wilderness Warrior. Still, I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in environmentalism,
One of Brinkley’s weaknesses as a writer is a tendency to go off on tangents. He knows a lot of fascinating facts, and can’t resist sharing them. I didn’t mind, because I was usually intrigued myself, but I’m not clear that readers of this book really needed a history of William O. Douglas’s personal life or the section on Allen Ginsberg. We are also regaled by stories of dozens of camping trips, only some of which took place in Alaska. We hear about TR’s camping at the Grand Canyon, even though TR never set foot in Alaska.
The strength of the book is it description of how many people worked hard to preserve wilderness in Alaska. I enjoyed reading about these characters: Roosevelt, Muir, Gifford Pinchot, Aldo Leopold, Robert Marshal, Mardy and Olaus Murie,William O. Douglas, etc. Mardy Murie is a new heroine for me.
The reading, combined with my Alaskan vacation, made me feel more committed to preserving the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. I support Obama, but I do wish we had a president who was more committed to the outdoors---someone like Theodore Roosevelt, who loved to camp.
Kirsch sets up to provide a counter-point to the idea we have of David as an innocent shepherd lad, up against Goliath with a slingshot. The real David was a bloody tribal leader. Or was he? It also turns out that there is no real evidence, outside of the bible, that David existed at all. None of the other contemporary writings in the region mention him.
This book is good for a layperson who wants to know more about how the bible was written and overwritten. The different books in the bible give different accounts of David and his life. There are, I think, three different accounts of how David met Saul. Kirsch’s book gives a pretty simplified version of biblical scholarship, but for me, that’s perfect because I don’t have the patience for a lot more.
I ended up deciding that there was a real David, and that Leonard Cohen is the one who got him right in his song, Hallelujah. Not so much because of the secret chord that pleased the lord, though that seems to be true, but because it ends with a “cold and broken hallelujah.”
6 books read--three are from the US, to finish that part of my challenge. I have about a dozen US books I am anxious to read--but I will try to hold out! Also finished my South African category and one more toward Israel.
It looks like it's all non-fiction. I get tired of reading fiction, and may have overdone the fiction earlier in the year. Hopefully not, because I have fiction and drama planned for July and August.
I have also been making progress on Don Quixote. Currently am enjoying that read.
This is a so-so book. It describes her childhood in Sydney, and her attempts to reach outside of what she perceived as a provincial childhood through a series of pen-pals. In the later part of the book, she visits with the pen-pals as grown men and women.
An interesting premise, but I didn't feel that Brooks went deep enough to be truly insightful. A book with a smaller scope and greater depth (for example about her conversion to Judaism, and how that related to her childhood in Sydney) would have been more interesting.
However, it is interesting to see how, as a child, she viewed being Australian as second-rate and provinical and how that view kept her from seeing the richness of the country around her.
Brooks is a decent writer, and I think I will try one of her fiction books and see if I like it better.
I am going to count my plays in my reading, if they fit into countries I have open.
So far I have read Oedipus Rex and Macbeth. Both are great plays. I love tragedy.
However, I watched a performance on DVD (1973 with Anthony Hopkins and Claire Bloom) and Bloom did manage to make the character believable. Plus, the subject matter was groundbreaking at the time.
This book is sometimes dated, and I found Achebe's voice pompous at times. This might be his reaction to having to continually defend the value of African-based writing to a western audience. However, I noticed the same thing earlier this year when I read Things Fall Apart. At the time, I attributed this to Achebe using a story-telling technique derived from an oral tradition. However, now I wonder if it was just his personality.
The book was probably good for background on African literature. The last essay "Chi in Igbo Cosmology' was very interesting.
I was struck by the following passage when Achebe talks about recovering oral traditions. "There is of course the 'scientific' way as well--the tape-recorded interview with old people. Unfortunately it is often more impressive than useful. The old people who have the information we seek will not often bare their hearts to any passer-by. They will give answers, and true answers to. But there is truth and there is truth."
This book is set in the 60's and is about a seven-year old boy, son of underground SDS radicals, who is basically kidnapped from is Park Avenue grandmother and taken to an Australian commune.
In my opinion, Peter Carey is an uneven writer, and this book is not one of my favorites. He did do a good job with the descriptions of Australia, commune living and with the character of the boy.
The plot, however, seemed unlikely, and the other major character was simply unbelievable. (I will forgo details in order to avoid spoilers.)
I am posting on the group read, so will just say here that the book is well-worth reading but it's emotionally hard.
I am going to read Romeo and Juliet next, in preparation for the Shakespeare festival next weekend. Oddly, I am not sure I have ever read or seen this play, so it should be fun.
This is a beautifully written novel with an interesting and unique narrative voice. Noa Weber, reviews her life in the light of a continuing obsession with Alek, who she first met at age 17. She focuses on the contrast between her success and strength as a professional woman and her vulnerability with Alek. She sees herself turning into a marshmallow whenever he is around, and hides that side of herself from friends and family.
This book raises interesting questions about the role of women in the modern world, especially in Israel. At times I found Noa’s continued obsession with an unrequited love difficult to believe in. On the other hand, I thought that her relationship with her adult daughter was very well portrayed.
And I read Fences for my class also. Again, the US category is full, so it doesn't count, but a good play. I haven't been that thrilled by the August Wilson plays I have seen in the past, but really liked this one.
I have Noa Weber on Mt. TBR, but I've not read anything else by Hareven before - nothing else has been translated to English it seems - so I'm getting intrigued about the writing style. Dalya Bilu is such a fantastic translator, though - I'm not surprised to hear it won the Best Translated Book Award!
As You Like It
Romeo and Juliet
His Illegal Self
A Doll’s House
Morning Yet On Creation day
Half a Yellow Sun
The Confessions of Noa Weber
And two extra books, from the US
Death of a Salesman
My best reading month yet! 12 books, 10 of which count toward my challenge. Lots of plays for my drama class, these are faster to read, but I’ve also done a fair amount of background reading and class discussion. I have completed the England leg of my challenge, and Europe will be completed when I finish the second half of Don Quixote.
My favorites for the month are Macbeth (Witches, murder and a moving Birnham wood, what’s not to love?) and Half a Yellow Sun.
I would like to make progress on Don Quixote--I am hoping to finish this in September.
Otherwise, my plan is to work on three countries: Nigeria, India and Israel. I would like to complete the sections on Nigeria and India in August. Currently reading Destination Biafra by Buchi Emecheta and plan to try some books by Wole Soyinka.
FOr India, I have 3 books half read; Sea of Poppies, The Beautiful and the Damned and Great Soul.
After that is done, I want to work on Israel. I have Only Yesterday on tap--it has been highly recommended.
Unfortunately, the writing in Destination Biafra is pretty clunky. I am not sure if JOM was better, or if I am more discerning now.
This was interesting to read after having read Half a Yellow Sun. I wanted to know more about the Biafran War. Emecheta spends more time explaining how the British attempts to manipulate their former colony contributed to the bloodbath that was Biafra.
I finished the last play for the class --The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl. Again, a US play, so it won't count in my categories, but I am keeping track. This is a play about humor, and I suspect it would work better viewed than read.
Last night I went to a concert at the zoo with Ladyship Black Mambazo and Johnny Clegg. That was interesting after my South African reading! Great concert.
This is one of the few hot weekends we get in Portland--over 100, which is just too hot for me.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is zany and dark and I really liked it.
I also liked The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India by Siddhartha Deb. I had read Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and wanted to also get a view of modern India that was more comprehensive, and that came from a writer native to India.
Boo’s book was more compelling read, but covered only a very small slice of India. Deb covers the diversity of life in India by providing five essays that cover different aspects of Indian life. He also, I think, provides a more two-dimensional portrait of his characters.
Also finished Great Soul. Very interesting -- I will put my thoughts together in a couple of days.
Right now I am reading The Famished Road and listening to an audio version of the Satanic Verses. I tried to read it, but found it hard going. The audio version is working better for me.
In 1906, Mohandas Gandhi looked like this:
In 1931,he was Mahatma Gandhi and this is how he looked:
Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India by Joseph Lelyveld tells the story of this transformation. It’s fascinating.
Finished Don Quixote!!!
The Beautiful and the Damned
Sea of Poppies
The Space Between Us
The Famished Road
The Same Sea
Also, another US play that doesn't count to the total: Clean House
So 10 books read, which is great for me. I have been feeling immersed in India, which is interesting.
Favorite Books of the Mondth are The Same Sea and Great Soul
Any recommendations for Australian books?
Its a memoir of Soyinka's first 11 years.
This isn't one of my favorite books, but did add another dimension to my Nigerian reading. Soyinka's parents were Christian, fairly affuent. His father was headmaster in a school. Soyinka was born in 1934, so this is colonial Nigeria during WWII.
His parents were strict--lots of corporal punishment, which Soyinka views as wrong-headed. His parents were also loving and interesting.
Soyinka was a lively boy, always questioning adults. One of my favorite scenes was when young Wole, age 3 1/2, decided it was time to go to school, and managed it by showing up in the classroom and taking a seat at a desk, with a collection of books taken from his father's study.
I liked these stories, but wish I could have read them more slowly. I had to return the book to the library, so decided to power through it. The stories have an interesting, unusual flavor--something like a kumquat, where it's good, but I wouldn't want too many at once.
This is the story of Isaac Kumer, a simple man from Galicia, who emigrated to Jaffa and then Israel. His intent was farming, but it was too hard to get work, and he ended up as a house-painter.
He is a simple man, maybe even sort of a schlub, who stumbles into things (Zionism, House-painting, marriage), rather than leading a self-directed life. In the last part of the book, it takes a surreal turn, with the character of the dog, Balak. Isaac, without thinking, painted the Hebrew words for “Crazy Dog” onto the stray’s back. Isaac’s action has large unintended consequences.
This is a book that made me wish I could read Hebrew. The language is interesting; lots of echoes of biblical language, a story told in many, sometimes contradictory layers. I read in Wikopedia that “Agnon's writing often used words and phrases that differed from what would become established Modern Hebrew. His distinct language is based on traditional Jewish sources, such as the Torah and the Prophets, Midrashic literature, the Mishnah, and other Rabbinic literature.” It’s interesting to think that Agnon did not write in his first language (which would have been Yiddish and wrote in a language that was still developing.
This is a good book—insightful at times, funny at times as well. It gives a perspective on how history, culture and religion create layers of meaning in the life of impressionable young man.
I read this at the same time as I was reading The Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie. I was interested in the contrasts and similarities between the two books. Both deal with religion, mental illness, father-son relationships. Both have a surreal element. There are also tons of differences, but one that I thought was interesting was the depiction of sexuality and male-female relations. In Only Yesterday, Isaac had not even talked to a woman, other than his sisters, before moving to Israel, and he is very fumbling in his romantic attempts. Rushdie’s book does not have gratuitous sex, but there are lots of interesting couplings and a frankness about sexual desire. I am not sure if this is because of its modernity, or if there is a cultural difference. I am inclined to attribute this, at least in part, to cultural differences.
I had wanted to read the Satanic Verses for some time, but couldn’t get into the book. I finally did an audiotape—which worked wonderfully. Overall, I really liked the book. I think that my lack of knowledge of Islam kept me from appreciating parts of it; but I loved the stories of Gibreel and Saladin. Rushdie’s use of language is wonderful. Here is one example:
"An iceberg is water striving to be land; a mountain, especially a Himalaya, especially Everest, is land’s attempt to metamorphose into sky; it is grounded flight, the earth mutated—nearly—into air , and become, in the true sense, exalted."
So I have completed my Israel and Indian sections. I am now trying to read Australian books. It's a bit dicey so far--I decided to read Patrick White's The Tree of Man and I am finding it tough going.
She researched and found out more about the past and did oral histories with her grandmother, great-uncle and mother.
The writing is pedestrian, but the story is interesting and I enjoyed the book.
The Tree of Man by Patrick White, is a good book, but not my cup of tea. I found the writing difficult and the characters hard to engage with. The end did pick up, but still, I doubt I will try anything else by White.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks was next. I had sort of the opposite problem, feeling that I didn't really have to work my brain to read this book. It's about the Sarajevo Haggadah, a fascinating story in reality. Brooks gives an imagined account of how the Haggadah came to be -- it's sort of Jewish history-lite.
Breath by Tim Winton, I loved. It's about risk-taking and surfing. Beautifully written and very sad. It's a short book that makes you think. I ended up feeling shaken, like I'd been punched in the gut.
Eight books read--finished my categories for India, Israel and Nigeria. Also read four books in the Australian category.
I am pleased with myself for finishing The Satanic Verses, which has been on the 'ought to read' list for a long time. I ended up really liking it. Favorite book of the month is probably Tim Winton's Breath.
I've one book left in the Australian category , then it's on to Russia. I'd like to complete the Russian category in October--but there are lots of big books, so that may be difficult.
The book tells about the fleets of convicts sent to Australia from England under utterly horrid conditions. Many died on the way. The English used this method to empty prisons, which were full to bursting with people whose main crimes was being poor. The enclosure laws had created a society in which many poor people had no choice but to turn to petty crime in order to survive.
I am enjoying telling people about this book. I think that there is a parallel between the deportation of the poor to Australia and the US in the 1700's and the high numbers of young African American men in prison today.
I just finished The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen. This was an interesting book, and well written. There are lots of reminders of how fragile democracy can be.
This is an anti-Putin book. One of it's strengths is that Gessen was born in Russia and has lived in the US as well; so she is bi-cultural and bi-lingual. So you do get an authentic insight into Russian culture, but written so that it's understandable for someone from the US.
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch is a well written portrayal of live in a soviet labor camp. I was really struck by the way the protagonists focus narrowed, to be only on survival, and food.
Selected Poetry: Joseph Brodsky I read in an attempt to read more poetry and more nobel prize winners. Somewhat of a painful effort--this kind of poetry is not really for me. Some of the poems I liked, but many seemed too academic for me. Maybe it suffered in the translation?
The Line by Olga Grushin was a slice of life in Soviet Russia; focussing on the power of art (in this case music) to transform everyday life. I found some of the charaters unbelievable, but overall a good book.
I am glad there is someone else who has trouble with Tolstoy. I feel that I should like him, but if Anna Karenina doesn't pick up, I will give W & P a miss. I did read it in high school, and all I remember is that the names were confusing.
Finished my Australian challenge with A Commonwealth of Thieves.
Four Russian books finished:
The Man WIthout a Face
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch
And Selected Poems by Joseph Brodsky
I liked them all, except the poetry. The Man Without a Face was my favorite for the month.
That's five for the month.
I anticipate completing the challenge this month I have two Russian books to complete--I am still really enjoying The Master and the Margarita. Anna Karenina is picking up for me. Right now Stepan Arkadyvitch (sp?) is having a party, and I find him a very entertaining character.
Then Colombia, my last country, is a short stop--I will only need to complete more two books in order to complete the 80 books for my goal. Then I am looking forward to some direction-less reading.
Your link to The Man without a face in post #173 isn't to the correct book.
And, just for fun, here's a picture of my two dudes. Banjo is on the left, Francis on the right. They are very sweet together.
They are on a diet, but I am not sure it's working, other than to make them naughtier!
And I've also added Noa Weber to my wishlist.
We get a lot of pleasure and amusement from our pets. I was proud of taking that photo, and proud of figuring out how to post it to LT. Maybe next week I will try for a picture of the dog.
The book is a combination of magical realism and political satire. There are several nesting story lines: Satan comes to Moscow, and we see the mayhem that ensues; Pontius Pilate struggles with his role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; and, aided by Satan and his retinue, Margarita leaves her boring, but unobjectionable, husband to join the Master, with whom she is passionately in love.
The different storylines work together really well. I wish I knew more about Soviet Russia and Goethe’s Faust. Many of the satirical references went right over my head, despite the footnotes. I chose to let go of the things that I didn’t understand, and just go along for the ride. Reading Anna Karenina at the same time worked well for me; there are references to Anna Karenina in the novel, and the character of Margarita has many echoes to the character of Anna.
I loved this book. It works both as a political commentary and as a work of art. It’s carefully and beautifully written. I really felt the benefit of many re-writes. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about trying this book, to go ahead and give it a try.
And, in the interest of equal treatment, here is Chica.
Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend. I am now officially liking Anna Karenina. It only took me about half the book to get into it. Currently it's reminding me that the liberalization of marriage laws and acceptance of divorce really is a good thing.
Very happy to see you are now in a good place with Anna Karenina, even if it took half of the book to get there! ;-)
I also read a very short, sweet love story from Columbia: A Tale of the Dispossessed by Laura Restrepo. She starts with a Steinbeck quote that really defines the book. "Strange things happen to people who are fleeing from terror (....); some are cruel, and others are so beautiful that faith is renewed." The library copy I have is in both English and Spanish, which would be nice if my Spanish were a little bit better. Definitely will look for more by this writer.
Now working on Living to tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez . This will be my last book for the challenge!
That is excellent! Looking forward to seeing your thoughts on the GGM book. One of these days I will venture into GGM's works.
I am reading, on the side, Crazed by Ha Jin, for the Reading Globally group. Loving it.
I want to write a review of this and a challenge summary--but it will have to wait for the weekend. Looking forward to a month of random reading, and setting up my 2013 challenge,
I am going to list the reading that I do for the rest of the year--so I will have all my 2012 reading in one place. Finished:
Change by Mo Yan -- really enjoyed
The Crazed by Ha Jin -- awesome book
Waiting by Ha Jin, also a really good book
The Blue Bear by Lynn Schooler--an Alaskan memoir--interesting.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller which I read to help my daughter with her English assignment. I don' t this I was much help, but the play is good. Would love to see it performed.
Garden of the Evening Mists--Great book--hard topic.
The Best American Essays 2011 Mostly pretty interesting essays--enjoyed the book.
The Perks of being a Wallflower--I borrowed and read this from my daughter--it's good, though I am not really into YA and all the drug and alcohol abuse was hard on me.