Book Reports
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Book Report: November 2015

Book Report: November 2015

The last month of 2015 is here! Already, I’m making blogging plans and resolutions for 2016. What plans? Uhm, nothing solid. Heh. What resolutions? The usual. Ugh. Post book reviews as soon as I finish reading books (this is a book blog after all). And you know what? Each year, I fail again and again at it. Not a breaking news item, but I just want to put it out there anyway. No shame in it. It’s a common thing among casual book bloggers, I believe.

For me to be able to stick with this single resolution, maybe I should give up following review structures and forget about the pointers that professional critics give on writing good book reviews. Not totally, but I’ll stick more to my voice and let it take its own course. Let the book rhapsodies flow naturally! I’ll also keep them short and simple. Shorter and simpler, yes. The Internet breeds volatile attention spans, so yeah, it is good idea to adapt. Let the NYRB columnists do the expansive 5k-word reviews (of which I’m hardly capable of).

But short and simple reviews are actually difficult if one also wants to produce substantial ones. And of course I want those. I read somewhere that I should get rid of backgrounds or summaries; Goodreads and Wikipedia are readily available resources for those. I’ll just go straight ahead to my thoughts and feelings, unprocessed or not.

Finally, I should stop trying so hard. If my opinions are callow, uninformed, or plain yucky, then so be it. I’m not among the sharpest readers out there, and so I should be accept that with grace and humility. It seems very defeatist of me to say that, but I know in my heart that I always strive to be a better reader (it doesn’t necessarily result to being a better reviewer though). Should I care how all of this would pan out? Perhaps, but only to a certain degree. I feel that I owe it to you, dear readers, to write to the best of my ability. I don’t want to waste your Internet time; there are a hundred other things that you’d rather read than uninteresting blog posts. But you know what they say about life and change and time…

Okay, I should be writing about the books that I read last month and not about this. And fortunately, I have something to report on. I find that quite astonishing because I was busy last month planning my solo Thailand trip. I never get to have any reading done when I’m traveling so I feel a sense of achievement when I managed to finish three books before I flew out of the country.

Books Finished:

  • The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – This is our book of the month for January. And yes, I’ll be the discussion leader for it. It would be a challenging role for me because the book has many biblical references and I cannot be relied on when it comes to such matters. But there is something in the book that drew me closer to it. It’s the humanity present in it, the simple desires that we have in our hearts, and our sometimes surprising (in)capacity for compassion. 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman – I read this based on the recommendations of friends and bloggers, and oh my gosh, this went straight to the finalists of my best book of the year. It hits a very close to home since it’s about the short-lived romance between a young man and their summer guest. It’s so elegiac and bittersweet. I think it may be quite saturated for the non-LGBT readers, but anyone who’s capable of loving must feel some tenderness toward the book after finishing it. 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson – I’ve been itching to read this after listening to Michael Silverblatt’s discussion of the author’s recent book (I Refuse) in one of the episodes of his podcast, Bookworm. It’s rather patchy, much like the structure of what we remember from our childhood, and I like how there seems to be nothing going on in both the past and the present stories. The writing is a joy to read even if one is disinterested in logging and rivers and cabins. And horses. 4 out of 5 stars.

Currently Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling – On page 264 of 870. I promised to finish this by December because I have to return it to the owner. It has been with me for two years! And it looks like it’s going to stay with me for a few weeks more. Or months. Unless I devote my time to it during my two-week Christmas vacation. Which I don’t think I can because I have to finish my challenge book for the year, Keri Hulme’s The Bone People. Aaargh. I love this problem.

Maybe – I’ll be retiring this part of the monthly report because well, the books that I probably want to read change from day to day. This renders the list with no sense, so I might as well get rid of it. Besides, I have only rarely read the books that I put on this list.

New Books – I got these books from my Bangkok/Chiang Mai trip last week. Well yes, books are my souvenirs.

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – There’s a generous 20% discount, which I suppose applies to all the new releases. Me and my bookish/writerly friends got copies for each of ourselves. (THB 286.40, Kinokuniya – Siam Paragon, November 22)
  • Remainder by Tom McCarthy – The author is a two-time Booker Prize finalist. But before I knew of that, I’ve already read about McCarthy, particularly this novel, in the Tournament of Books. It went to the finals against The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. However, it lost, 4 to 12, but it still means something to get a quarter of the votes when one is against Oscar Wao.  (THB 460.00, Kinokuniya – Siam Paragon, November 22)
  • Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish – Another Michael Silverblatt recommendation. I chose this over David Mitchell’s Slade House because I was pretty sure that there would be copies back home, although not the UK edition that the book store carries. (THB 537.00, Kinokuniya – Siam Paragon, November 22)
  • C by Tom McCarthy – Since I bought my first Tom McCarthy a few days back, why not get another one? Now I want to get Satin Island! (THB 50.00, Gecko Books, November 25)
  • The Berlin Novels by Christopher Isherwood – The store owner, probably English, told me a story about Auden’s 1979 interview on BBC. He said Auden talked about his friendship with Isherwood, and now I forget the point that the store owner was trying to make. Was it the informal language that Auden used on national TV? I don’t know, and I was too distracted with my amusement of his energetic storytelling. (THB 240.00, Backstreet Books, November 25)
  • The Egg and Other Stories by Sherwood Anderson – Of course! Something from the author of my favorite Winesburg, Ohio. (THB 260.00, The Lost Book Shop, November 25)
  • Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness – This completes the six Laxness books published by Vintage International. FYI, Backstreet Books and The Lost Book Shop are owned by the same person. (THB 280.00 The Lost Book Shop, November 25)
  • Enon by Paul Harding – One more for the road! Tinkers is one of my best reads last year and this looks like it’s related to it. (THB 350.00, Kinokuniya – EmQuartier, November 27)
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14 Comments

  1. Monique says

    I’ve resolved to write kahit 500-word write-ups na lang that mainly talk about how I felt about the book. Hindi rin naman talaga ako marunong magsulat nung formulaic reviews, haha.

    Oh, you let go of the Slade House UK edition! So pretty.

    Like

  2. Is there a bug going around? I am also letting go of my monthly required readings (I already have, actually). On the reviews, I’d love to read yours still, even if they’re only 300 words . :) Nangangarap din ako na ma review lahat ng books na nabasa ko. XD

    P.S. I so envy you and your solo trip, and to Thailand pa!

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  3. You read Call Me By Your name, eh? That is a hot one alright. I have a straight female friend who loved it and she told me today that it is going to be a movie directed by James Ivory. Suspect the book will still be better.
    I loved Out Stealing Horses, I am a huge fan of Petterson’s work. Tight and spare unlike another male Norwegian writer I could name.
    I am curious about the Atticus Lish book, I have heard some good things and I am also interested in Tom McCarthy. I know he can be a bit polarizing but I’m beginning to think I might be on the positive side.
    A Little Life you can have. Hearing it called the “great gay novel”, complete with relentless, graphic and brutal abuse of the central character, I have to think is that really necessary? A highly respected writer, critic and translator (of Cavafy’s poetry in particular) who also happens to be gay himself questioned the need for the excessive cruelty in the NY Review of Books, and raised the defensive ire of the editor. You may have read about it on the Guardian. Good luck with that one!

    And good luck with your resolve to change your reviewing approach. I have just started writing for an online journal and my first review which will be out soon is a 2500 word critique! The worst writer’s block I ever had – two days just to find a first sentence which ended up being something like “title of book” by so-and-so, blah,blah, blah. But it was a good experience to work with an editor and the first review landed me a spot on the masthead. No money of course, just glory among literary geeks and something for the old bio besides “bookish blogger”!

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    • Wow, I would still watch the film adaptation of Call Me by Your Name just to see how it will be interpreted by James Ivory. I’m not really fond of him though, but let’s see. Regarding Atticus Lish, I just found out today that his novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (he’s the son of Raymond Carver’s editor, Gordon Lish). But regardless of that, my interest was piqued when Michael Silverblatt discussed it on his podcast. I should have a Goodreads shelf named discussed-on-bookworm or recommended-by-silverblatt.

      I’ve read snatches of reviews of A Little Life almost everywhere (also on podcasts). These serve as trigger warnings so I don’t think I will be shocked by the brutality it tackles. Of course I have to find out for myself if the book is indeed as devastating as readers claim it to be. I’m pretty excited to start it tonight. One of my friends who also bought a copy at the same bookstore on the same day is already deep into it and his updates are whetting my appetite.

      May I know the link to the online journal that you are writing for? Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nailed it: “I’ll stick more to my voice and let it take its own course. Let the book rhapsodies flow naturally!”

    I found that in focusing on my thoughts about the book and less about a “review” even thinking of them more as responses than reviews actually helped me a lot! It allowed me the freedom to truly express my love and enjoyment of writing, characters and books as a whole and those that are REALLY good tend to have much better written and well thought out reviews because I want to do them justice. I also had to condition myself to do my responses after reading a book by limiting how many (if any) books I could read until I wrote my next response.

    I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about The Berlin Stories, I read it almost six years ago when I first moved to Boston, but it’s been popping up again recently on a few shelves and blogs.

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    • I love A Single Man so I’m really looking forward to The Berlin Stories.

      Re: limiting books, perhaps I should also follow suit. When the reading itch starts, I can’t help myself from reading one book after the other but forgetting about the blog in the process.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I totally get the reading. It only took about two months of not letting myself read until I posted until I finally just posted (or at least wrote and scheduled) within a day of reading so I could move on with a clear conscience.

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