March Reading

Considering that I’ve been and still am very busy at work and sometimes felt too tired to read, I did manage to read quite a bit in March. Here’s the list:

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I didn’t manage to read any of this in March – probably what made me feel that I’m in a slump. I was too tired to immerse myself into this complicated Japanese society. I’m falling behind, my reading buddy is at least 200 pages further along. I need to catch up, so we can continue discussing it. I haven’t read a single page in April yet, either…

Poetry:

  • Patrick Crotty (ed.), The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry.
    Finished! A very good anthology.
  • Emily Dickinson and Thomas H. Johnson (ed.), Final Harvest.
    Also finished – I love Emily Dickinson’s poems (even if I don’t always understand them). This was only a selection. One of these days I will get her entire collected poems.

Short Stories:

  • J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Green Tea and Other Weird Stories.
    Old-fashioned ghost and horror stories. Some of the stories were more like novellas. I enjoyed them, but I prefer the short stories by M. R. James, which are in the same vein and which I read last year. I’m never going to feel the same way about green tea again – apparently it can make you susceptible to harassment by supernatural creepy monkeys who are terrible for your life expectancy. 😉
  • Robert L. Mack, Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
    This Oxford Worlds Classic paperback has been on my shelves for years and I’ve only ever browsed in it a little. I’m reading it all through this time. Not really short stories, more like folk or fairy tales, but they are good. Sinbad the sailor sure wasn’t scrupulous about killing other people to further his own survival on his adventures!

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Non-Fiction:

  • Samuel Johnson and David Womersley (ed), Selected Writings.
    Essays and letters and other miscellaneous stuff. Very interesting. I got to the half-way mark in March, about 600 pages.
  • May Sarton, The Fur Person.
    Absolutely delightful story of a cat’s life, written from the point of view of the cat and with a few fabulous “cat song” poems in it. I stumbled across it, because I was looking for another poet to read after Emily Dickinson, and Sarton is a poet that I was considering (actually, I’m reading Adrienne Rich at the moment, but Sarton is an option for another day). Very short and quick read, but lovely.
  • Peter Martin, A Dog Called Perth: The Voyage of a Beagle.
    Another interesting story of a pet’s life. This time a dog. Also shortish and a quick read. The dog had a very eventful life, and I loved her, but her owner was a sometimes arrogant person who did quite a few idiotic things with poor Perth that I wouldn’t do with mine. It was pure luck that things turned out fine. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot.

Novels:

  • Laurie R. King, O Jerusalem.
    Installment 5 of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Another reread, and very enjoyable. Russell and Holmes doing undercover spy stuff in Palestine during WWI.
  • Sally Wright, Pursuit and Persuasion and Out of the Ruins.
    Books 3 and 4 in the Ben Reese crime series I stared in February. Anti-stress (for me) crime novel. Kind of dark academia in that the protagonist works as an archivist for a university. I’m still planning to write a more detailed review of the series. There’s only one more book to go.

Two pet stories and three crime novels. A fun reading month!

Keep safe, world.

February Reading

Considering that February was a short month and I wasn’t on vacation as I was in January, I managed to read quite a lot:

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I managed to read the first 100 pages that I should have read in January. It’s fascinating, but also very strange – a completely unfamiliar world for a European reader, like me, without much knowledge of Japanese culture and history.

Poetry:

  • Patrick Crotty (ed.), The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry.
    I’m almost done with this great selection. Pondering on what poetry to read next.
  • Emily Dickinson and Thomas H. Johnson (ed.), Final Harvest.
    I’m reading this one when I’m in Bavaria, as the Irish Poetry book is too huge and heavy to lug around. Dickinson is one of my favourite poets; I really need to get her collected works one of these days.

Short Stories:

Rudyard Kipling, The Man Who Would Be King: Selected Stories of Rudyard Kipling.
Most of these stories just blew me away, they were so good. I was skeptical when I started as I expected stuff about “the white-man’s burden” and other imperialist rubbish, but these stories are not only set in India (and those that are, aren’t about those ideas). There are some powerful stories with fantastic elements, some stories set during WWI, lots of stories set in England. Some of them are almost gothic. The more of them I read, the better they got. My prejudices where just that, prejudices. Kipling was given the Nobel Prize in Literature and I guess these stories illustrate why. I think I’ll write about a few of them in more detail in a later post. A strong recommendation!

Non-Fiction:
Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books.
A short book about the meaning of reading in the author’s life. Thought-provoking and interesting for fellow life-long readers.

Novels:

  • Laurie R. King, A Letter of Mary and The Moor.
    Installments 3 and 4 of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Rereads, both of them, very enjoyable. The Moor is set in Dartmoor and one of my favourites in the series (of the books that I’ve read so far).
  • Sally Wright, Publish and Perish and Pride and Predator.
    Around the middle of February, I had to spend a whole half-day doing a meaningless but necessary task for work and on the side I was listening to BookTube channels. I came across this series, which is a crime series set at a University (at least the first one) and I couldn’t resist, as I love mystery novels of that sort. There are 5 books in the series, and I plan to read them all. It was reward for my horrid workday – I shouldn’t have started another series. But no regrets!
  • Jane Harper, The Dry.
    This was a book club read. A crime set in a small town in the Australian outback, where flora, fauna and people suffer from a years’ long drought. It was full of suspense, but also just slightly predictable – even I got an inkling as to the motive, and I’m usually not very perspicacious when reading crime novels. The book contained two crimes, one set in the protagonist’s past and never solved, one set in the present of the novel. Not bad.
  • Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader.
    A lovely short novel about what happens when the Queen (Elisabeth II) turns into a serious reader. Cozy and funny and heartwarming.
  • Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose.
    A brilliant novel. A reread, as I last read it while still at University. I started in January, but read most of it in February. I really should read more by Stegner; I love his style in this novel.

Graphic Novel:

Marguerite Abouet, Aya: Life in Yop City.

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I wasn’t meaning to read a graphic novel, but this turned out to be the February selection of the Goodreads “Read Around the World” group. It is about the life of a group of teenage girls a suburb of the city of Abijan in the 1970. Abijan is the largest city of the Ivory Coast (the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire). Some of their experiences are incredibly like teenage experiences in Europe and America. I say “incredible”, because we stupidly always seem to see the African experience as somehow different, usually negatively different. This is, of course, a stupid view and this graphic novel helps to break it up. These universal teenage concerns about school, family, relationships, careers take place in the specific cultural space of Yop City (the suburb) at a certain point in time (the 1970s) and so the details of their lives are different to, say, my teenage experience. I found these cultural specifics engaging and enjoyable. I now feel the need to read the sequel of this graphic novel, as the first part ends rather abruptly, leaving stories unfinished.

In sum it was a good reading month. As for reading from my TBR, I had had Angle of Repose on Kindle since December 2018, so I guess that counts. On the other hand, all the other novels (except for the Laurie R. King ones) and the non-fiction book were new, so I’m not making much inroads on my collection of unread books.

As in January, I’m planning to write more detailed reports on some of the books I read (hopefully in the next few days).

Keep safe, world.

January Reading

As I was on vacation for the first two weeks of January, I had lots of time for reading. Here’s what I read:

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji
I didn’t manage to read the 100 pages for January, but I read the “Introduction” (which was very helpful for understanding the text itself) and the first chapter. I’ll catch up in February. I already think I’m going to enjoy it.

Poetry:

  • Janet E. Gardner (ed.), Literature: A Portable Anthology. 4th Edition
    I finished reading the poetry section of this anthology. An excellent diverse selection that I liked a lot.
  • Patrick Crotty (ed.), The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry
    I started this anthology last year and am continuing it for my daily poetry reading. It’s great and I’m now starting the last quarter of the book.

Short Stories:

  • Jay Rubin (ed.), The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories
  • Gardner Dozois (ed.), The Year’s Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection and The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Second Annual Collection
    I finished the first two anthologies in January (started on them last year). As I had a lot of time, I also read the whole second one of Dozois’ annual collections in January. As usual with anthologies, I liked some stories and hated others (this is true for both the sci-fi anthologies and the Japanese short stories). One of the best short stories in the Second Annual Collection was Octavia E. Butler’s “Bloodchild”. I have read all of Butler’s work and love it – her sci-fi always focusses on character development which is not the case with a lot of sci-fi and it also explores knotty ethical questions.

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Non-Fiction:

Patrick Conty, The Genesis and Geometry of the Labyrinth: Architecture, Hidden Language, Myths, and Rituals
This book has been sitting on my shelves unread since 2007. It’s a fascinating and weird exploration of how labyrinth, mazes, and knots can be interpreted to explain reality and even complex theories like quantum mechanics and string theory. It was a bit beyond me in places, I must admit. It is a keeper, though, and I am sure to revisit it (maybe I will understand it better on re-reading). It has lots of graphics and photos of paintings and other artwork, so a very nice edition. I picked it up while on a business trip in Palo Alto.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
This was the selection of the “Booknaturalists” on Intragram. I quite liked it, but it was a kind of memoir that explored what the various fauna and flora meant to the author. I expected more details about the natural world and was therefore a bit disappointed.

Novels:

  • Chantal Spitz, Island of Shattered Dreams
    The January selection of the Goodreads “Read Around the World” group. It’s set in French Polynesia.
  • Susanna Clarke, Piranesi
    One of the books I wanted to read last year in December. It features a kind of maze that inspired me to read the book about labyrinths by Conty.
  • Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine
    The first of Erdrich’s books that I want to read this year.
  • Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and A Monstrous Regiment of Women
    These are the first two books of King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. I love the series but have some unread titles on my shelves that I want to get to. And there are lots of new installments that I don’t own yet. I want to catch up on the series. These two were re-reads.
  • J.K. Rowling (alias Robert Galbraith), The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm
    I’d read The Cuckoo’s Calling in 2013 and quite liked it but never continued the series. I enjoyed The Silkworm, too and want to continue on with the series.

I had a very prolific reading month and I enjoyed all of the books I read. I even managed to read a book that’s been on my TBR for years. I’m planning to write more detailed reports on most of the books I read, so I’m keeping the list short without greater details.

November Reading

It doesn’t really make much sense to do my normal post about my monthly reading for November, as I only read one book, but I’ll do it anyway for completeness sake. I’m looking forward to tallying up my yearly reading at the end of December. I won’t have met all my goals, I don’t think, but I didn’t do too badly.

Ongoing projects:

  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
    Done, already in October. This year’s read along with one of my best friends brought to a triumphant conclusion. It was a great read, and I hope to get around to writing a report on in. Next year we are going to read The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese classic
  • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
    This one I’ve given up on (for now), but it was only a tentative goal.

Poetry:

Patrick Crotty (ed.), The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry
I did read my daily poem (or more) each morning in bed in November. Actually, I started this collection in October and forgot to mention it. It’s very good. I’m already almost halfway through and am really loving it.

Short stories:

Complete fail. No short stories were read in November.

Non-fiction:

For non-fiction November I read Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West and it completely derailed the rest of my reading. But no regrets. It was a stimulating read!

Graphic novel:

Total fail. I’m still not feeling like reading graphic novels. I bet I’ll have missed this goal.

Novels:

None. I started reading Oliver Twist, but didn’t continue once I started BL&GF. I started it again in December and have now finished it, but it was a fail for November. No Toni Morrison either.

I didn’t meet my goals in November, but as the one book I read had 1232 pages, I’m quite happy.