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Happy Fifth Birthday, Book Rhapsody!

My favorite book store in 2015: Book Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City, Singapore

Oh yes, I’ve been blogging, albeit casually, about books for five years. That’s more than half of my blogging life. I started blogging about my juvenile and callow opinions on life back in 2007. Then somewhere along the way, I decided to focus on books instead. And no regrets. That’s because I love books more than anything else, probably even more than my life. This does not mean though that my life sucks, but well, it does not have (yet) the staying power of a wonderful book. And there are so many wonderful books out there. And that’s why I want to give away a wonderful book of your choice worth USD 20.00 from Book Depository. Hopefully it will stay with you for a long time.

All you have to do is to recommend five books that I should read this year. Give me compelling reasons for those recommendations. Make me want to get and read those five books as soon as I read your comments, which will remain unpublished until the contest is over. And yes, since the giveaway is from Book Depository, everyone is welcome to join.

I will give you five days. But there can only be one winner. Game? Thanks!

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4 Comments

  1. Congrats on the five years! It’s crazy how fast it goes right?! I don’t have five books to recommend, but if you’ve never read At Swim, Two Boys you should. It’s Jamie O’Neill’s seminal work and it’s incredibly moving if you can get past the dialect.

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  2. Happy birthday! Here are my five suggestions. All are short, inventive and entertaining reads:

    SKYLARK by Dezső Kosztolányi (NYRB) This Hungarian novel from 1924 was a total surprise to me and really terrific read. Set in 1900 it tells the story of Mother, Father and their hopelessly homely daughter Skylark who live a quiet life in a small town. That is, until they send Skylark off to the country cousins for a week and the parents discover, briefly, a love life long repressed by their darling daughter. Funny, sad and tense this short book is wonderfully entertaining. I had never heard of it but when I reviewed it I discovered the book had many secret admirers.

    THE INHERITORS by William Golding
    Here Golding imagines the internal thoughts and reasoning of a Neanderthal man as an unusual group of similar but different people arrive. His accomplishment is impressive. Because you experience everything from a limited 3rd person perspective, you are right there with his protagonist. He is clever and intuitive but, as you might expect, he sees and exists in the world in a very different way and does not know what to make of these strange newcomers.

    SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD by Yuri Herrera
    This is one of the most incredibly inventive books I read all year. The story of a gutsy young woman who must cross the Mexican border into the US to reach her brother with a message from their mother. Along the way she has to make deals with shady characters and smugglers and risk being caught out on the US side. The author and the translator create a very inventive language and maintain a high energy that races along in very short chapters over little more than 100 pages. Absolutely unforgettable. If you don’t like this book, you don’t have a pulse!

    The first of two South African offerings is another book that has had a lot of attention this year.

    THE FOLLY by Ivan Vladislavić is actually a release of his first novel, originally published in 1993. Mr and Mrs Malgas, a typical suburban couple, lovers of routine and security, are surprised and unnerved when an eccentric newcomer, Nieuwenhuizen, arrives and sets up camp in the abandoned lot next door. He is planning to build a house. His outrageous behaviour, hopping and throwing himself around the lot to mark out the floor plan, terrifies the Mrs and captivates Mr who becomes his accomplice in the construction of an elaborate, albeit invisible, structure. Vladislavić is such an immensely gifted writer that you cannot help getting entirely wrapped up in this fools’ enterprise. Brilliant.

    Finally, my number one suggestion, one I highly recommend for you no matter what, is THE BEAUTIFUL SCREAMING OF PIGS by Damon Galgut. He is my favourite contemporary English language writer. A gay author from South Africa, Galgut rarely explores explicit gay themes, preferring to examine the unresolved or unrequited tensions between men. This novel originally came out in 1991 but he reworked it in the mid 2000’s and it is the closest to a coming out story he has written. Set in 1989, late Apartheid era, the main character is Patrick, a young man who never fit in with other boys. He lacked the rugged athletic charm of his brother and is very attached to his mother. This is still the time of conscription so after graduating he volunteers for his two year’s military service. Out in the jungle his alienation from other boys is more evident to him – until another young man arrives. Finally he has met someone he feels he can connect to. Without ever really labeling anything, the young men have an awkward encounter one night on patrol. Shortly after his friend is killed and Patrick has a breakdown. Eventually he is discharged.

    When the story opens he is heading up to Namibia for the first free elections. His parents are divorced and his mother has been “finding herself”. Her latest obsession is to have a young black boyfriend. Throughout the course of this short trip Patrick begins to come to terms with the fact that he might have been in love, and notices his attraction to his mother’s boyfriend. But it is much more than that. He is becoming politically aware in a time of great upheaval. Suddenly he is assisting with elections in a country he was, one year earlier, engaged in warfare to defend for South Africa. Glagut is an elegant, spare writer. Not one word too many. But he creates images (like the sand dunes of the Namibian desert) that are simply unforgettable. I have read this book more than once and if you take none of my other suggestions do give this one a look. I think you will really like it.

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  3. Happy Fifth Birthday Book Rhapsody! I wish there will be lots more years of book blogging to come!

    We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider – Kreider writes with an x-ray vision-like perceptiveness that I felt a little bit unraveled. His essays speak about familiar human experiences and the way he analyzes these experiences are smart and funny and earnest and sympathetic. It’s like after reading this book I kind of want to be a better human being. Char. :)
    Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders – Because I know you loved Tenth of December and I chose this book for the very purpose that it will practically sell itself to you. Haha. Anyway, this collection still has everything I loved about Saunders’ writing in Tenth of December. It is unguarded and offhanded and very conversational. The protagonists in all the seven stories fit the downtrodden and the disadvantaged kind. Vulnerable characters that feel so real, I feel like my heart is being being skewered reading about their day to day lives of bleakness. He is a master at combining realism with surrealism. And the humor, let’s not forget to mention the wicked humor, and the biting satire, and the luminescent redemption (or epiphany) that cuts through the grim events like daggers of light piercing a dark room.
     We Live in Water by Jess Walter – This is a short sotry collection and I know you are a short story fiend and this will come in handy for The Short Story Station, so this book will also practically sell itself to you. Haha. Anyhu this collection features stories with sort of deadbeat characters. And the issues these characters are facing range from drug-use, alcoholism, fraud, thievery, abandonment, estrangement, to zombifying boutique meds. But what I noticed is that the stories are less about the suffering but more about the person enduring it. There is such tender pathos and smart wit seeping through the lines that despite the bleak and dismal tone, it is strangely satisfying.
    Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – Okay I kind of scoff at advice columns before. Tee hee. But what makes Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar Column different from the myriad of other advice columns out there is that there is always a piece of Sugar (Cheryl) in every response. Not only do I feel that she identifies with the people writing to her about their problems, but it feels like she is them. It’s not sympathy she gives but empathy, and good old solid advice, and sometimes the occasional spanking, on paper of course. It helps that she has excellent writing chops. Her sentences are engaging. She knows how to string words that generate maximum impact, and turns a little poetic at times too.
    A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – I don’t know your feelings regarding this. Tee hee! But look how you enjoyed Harry Potter! Although you mentioned that you are having a tough time with Book 5? No progress still? Anyway I meantioned Potter because I know both of em are hyped fantasy books. But A Game of Thrones is different in many ways, for one it’s saucier. Rawwrr! It’s like the soap opera of fantasy novels. My advice is don’t resist the bandwagon! Because the bandwagon is fun! (PS. Ask Monique, Aaron, Meliza, Mommy L, Maria, Alexa, Tina…basically half of TFG will prolly back me up on this. Haha.)

    I hope you don’t mind that I lifted some sentences from my reviews for these books?

    Again, Happy Fifth! Also I adore the bookish pictures you put up, they’re the best. :)

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