Thursday, July 30, 2009

Japanese Literature Challenge 3

I am very excited that the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 is finally here. The challenge is very simple - read one book of Japanese origin between July 30, 2009 and January 30, 2010. For more information visit our host Dolce Bellezza and the review site.

I so enjoyed the challenge last year that I have been waiting with two selections sitting on my coffee table for the challenge to start. I will definitely be reading All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe and The Tatoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi. I also intend to read The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa and something else by Haruki Murakami. So far I have immensley enjoyed his Wind Up Bird Chronicles and Kafka on the Shore - perhaps After Dark, Hard Boiled Wonderland or A Wild Sheep Chase next. And then of course I have no doubt that I will find lots of other books reviewed by the other participants to add to my wish list.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Uncommon Reader

by Alan Bennett

This book was touted as a celebration of reading and irresistible to avid readers but I was disappointed. While it was cute and amusing and I appreciated the depiction of the Queen discovering the joys of reading and then refining her tastes as all readers do, the ending really spoiled it for me. ***Spoiler Alert*** I was annoyed that the Queen eventually abandons reading and decides that she must write instead.
Had she been asked if reading had enriched her life she would have had to say yes, undoubtedly, though adding with equal certainty that it had at the same time drained her of life of all purpose. Once she had been a self- assured single-minded woman knowing where her duty lay and intent on doing if for as long as she was able. Now all too often she was in two minds. Reading was not doing, that had always been the trouble. p. 100
[S]he did not want simply to be a reader. A reader was next door to being a spectator, whereas when she was writing she was doing, and doing was her duty. p. 102
As an avid reader I believe that there is value in reading and that reading is an end to itself, not simply a means to become a writer. If this were truly a celebration of reading then the Queen would not have given up reading in favor of writing. I was also annoyed that reading had such a pronounced detrimental influence on her performance as Queen. While I generally enjoy antidotes about the crazy things that people do who get a little too carried away by books or reading, the antidotes in this story did not strike me as humorous. Instead of identifying with the strong impulse to read that I believe all avid readers share, it merely made me sad that reading had turned into such a negative that she was unable to perform her duties, especially when she actually abdicated the throne to become a writer. I did enjoy the beginning of the book, especially the way that reading opened her eyes to to the world at large and made her more aware of the people around her. While I had high hopes for this little story, I was disappointed.

July/August Bookmarks Magazine

Here's what looked interesting in the July/August Bookmarks Magazine.

Angel's Game, S. Carolos Ruiz Zafon
Devil's Company, David Liss
Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson but read
Girl with the Dragon Tatoo first
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout (S)
Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
Moscow Rules, Daniel Silva but start with first in series
Shadow of the Scorpion, Neal Asher but start with first in Polity series
Black Hole War, Leonard Susskind (NF)
The Company, Robert Littell
Stone's Fall, Ian Pears
The Family Man, Elinor Lipman (S)
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells tower (S)
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
The World to Come, Dara Horn
How it Ended, Jay McInerney (S)
The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly
Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon
Manual of Detection, Jedediah Berry
Pride Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith
Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Brasyl, Ian McDonald (SF)
something by Paul J. McAuley (SF)
something by Alastair Reynolds (SF)