Saturday, July 12, 2008

52 Books in 2008 #1-10

Book #10
Bad Luck and Trouble - Lee Child
On the back cover The Daily Mirror states that Jack Reacher is "one of the world`s most enduring and popular fiction characters", which is great and everything except that I`ve never heard of him and he`s appeared in twelve books now. Of course, maybe this says something about me, rather than the Daily Mirror, Jack Reacher or Lee Child. The book did kept me occupied though, but it was kinda like watching a low-budget action movie.

On a more positive note, Jack Reacher did teach me the difference between twilight and dusk on page 445. Twilight being the soft light after sunset and dusk being the darker stage of twilight or partial darkness, and that a generic word for both is gloaming. This is what makes reading books so FREAKING awesome! Doesn`t make much difference to me though. I only ever used gloaming in conversation anyway.

Book #9
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Haruki Murakami
I decided it would be a cool idea to read this at the same time as my girlfriend. She reading the original Japanese version, and myself the English translation. She had never read anything by Murakami before, and I didn`t really hold much hope of her liking it, but I wanted to see her reaction to the WEIRD CRAP the author comes up with. Unfortunately I have much more time to read than she does, so I got finished quickly and she`s still going. Her reaction so far is much as I expected, seems to be liking it though.

The chapters alternate between two (pretty FREAKING weird) narratives, and I admit I found the first two chapters tough-going, until I got used to it. Not that I really understood what was going on though - chapter 25, when the professor explains everything to the narrator, went totally over my head. Despite that, cool book. Seriously.

Book #8
A Painted House - John Grisham
Interesting to read a John Grisham novel that wasn`t about law, so I was quick to grab it from the library. That, and the fact that the English section in the Asahikawa City Library is mainly limited to John Grisham and Stephen King novels (well not quite, but almost). I can`t say that the subject matter grabbed me initially, being about the struggles of a family of cotton farmers as told by a seven year old narrator, but I did read it in four days. I guess it kept me interested then!

Although I don`t know much about baseball, this was certainly the funniest line in the whole book. I think...“As Baptists we believed God was in control of everything. I was certain there was a reason the Cardinals lost the pennant, but I couldn`t understand why God was behind it. Why would God allow two teams from New York to play in the World Series? It completely baffled me" (p. 331).

Book #7
The World is My Home - James A. Michener
I have never heard of this guy before and was put off initially by the cover photo of the writer as an old man looking very, I don`t know, colonial(?), as well as the boldness of the title. Seeing how long it took for me to break into Japanese life, which only began to happen after I had learnt a decent amount of the language and the culture, I find it hard to believe the author feels at home in every country of the world. As Michener does not appear to have a command of any other language than English, can he really claim all of mankind to be his brothers when he can`t even speak their language? I was also thrown a little how he organized his book in sections, rather than in chronological order. I was expecting to read about his childhood and how he hitch-hiked across the country first up, but had to wait one hundred and fifteen pages to get to it. Some sections were good, but some were also really really dull. I even thought about quitting halfway through, but was quite proud to finish it in the end. Proud to finish an autobiography of someone I`d never even heard of. Go figure.

Book #6
3001 : The Final Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke
I hate Science Fiction novels. The films I don`t have such a problem with, but the books I almost never read. However this turned out to be surprisingly readable, or maybe just easy-to-read, or maybe just light reading. Am I being condescending? Oh well, this book never really had much of a chance. Points of irritation were that Frank Poole was constantly teaching the people of 3001 idioms of his time (published in 1996), which all seems a bit dated now. Also that the book just seemed to finish a little too abruptly. It was moving along nicely, I was continuing to turn the pages, a problem emerges that needs to be fixed (which serves as the climax of the book), and it gets fixed very very VERY easily. Oh well, wasn`t expecting to enjoy this anyway…

Book #5
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
This is the second time I have read this book actually, and my feelings on it did not change much. I thought it was great. Definitely interesting to read about Afghanistan from an Afghan-American`s perspective, as well as just being a good story. But there were two things that irritated me both times I read it. Firstly, the surprise twist at the end. The author does qualify this earlier on in an unrelated incident…

“Walking back to the truck, neither one of us commented about what most non-Afghans would have seen as an improbable coincidence, that a beggar on the street would happen to know my mother. Because we both knew that in Afghanistan, and particularly in Kabul, such absurdity was commonplace” (p. 231).

…but it just seemed too over the top for me. Just didn`t need to happen that way. The backstory (well, very brief backstory) to Raymond Andrew`s rudeness at the American Embassy in Islamabad seemed unnecessary as well. At the same time I read this book in two days, while reading a sizeable chunk of another book at the same time, so it didn`t put me off too much. And it was the second time I had read it.

Book #4
The Complete Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby

Book #3
A Small Place - Jamaica Kincaid

Book #2
Cameroon with Egbert - Dervla Murphy

Book #1
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
This is the third time I read this in the space of a year. Hey, I had just got back to Japan from my annual California trip in January, and having hit Vegas this time, I had to pull it out again. Awesome. (Both the book and the trip...)

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