Essays

Book Report: July 2015

Book Report: July 2015

This is a ho-hum month. I did finish a couple of books but that feels like months ago. I guess that’s because of my fourth moderating stint at our book club. The online discussion is on full steam so I’m not really getting much reading done. Well, yes! I’ve moderated a book discussion for each year since we started these face-to-face discussions. I would have liked to sit out for a year but I get restless just trying to make the thought settle in my head.

Books Finished:

  • Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald – Mesmerizing. I keep putting off a review because the haunting feeling is too much (let’s not get started on the review backlog). 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson – They say that this is a science fiction must-read because of how it saw the Internet’s future. Really, now? Bleech! 1 out of 5 stars.
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene – Our book of the month. I’m going t read more of Greene’s books. 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick – A reread because of book club moderator duties that I raved about earlier. I still don’t know what happened though. I’m also going to listen to the audiobook version. 5 out of 5 stars.

Currently Reading:

  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – On page 281 of 595. Halfway there! Just when you think that Mitchell is doing the same old trick, your mind and feelings go wild and you don’t care that it’s the same old tricks. Also, I picked this up because I want a favorite author to be the 300th read of my life (that’s according to my diligent and scrupulous cataloguing of books on Goodreads).
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling – On page 79 of 870. I’m not feeling this. Yet. Can you blame me if I delayed reading this for 18-19 months? But there’s 800 pages more to look forward to so we’ll see.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – On page 56 of 323. Revisiting the first novel that I ever read. That was 17 years ago. I thank my English teacher and the owner of that copy I borrowed (he’s two years my senior). (Php 936.00, Fully Booked – Megamall, July 20)

Maybe:

  • Being Dead by Jim Crace
  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma
  • Rabbit Redux by John Updike
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • (I wish I could read another PKD novel but it’s so hard to find copies here. I want the following: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; The Man in the High Castle; A Scanner Darkly; and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. And I like the Mariner editions! However, I don’t think Electric Sheep is printed by Mariner Books. A bummer!)

New Books:

  • The Art of Fiction by John Gardner – I’m impressed by October Light and I want to see what he has to say about the process of writing. Also, I’m a sucker for books with such titles. (Php 20.00, a private library sale, July 18)
  • Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx – I’ve read this already but it’s so cheap! (Php 20.00, a private library sale, July 18)
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – Of course I have to buy this! I would have bought this on the 14th, it’s release date, but copies had to be reserved. I thought I could just walk in any of the local book stores and pluck a copy from the book towers. But no. So I had to wait for two days, which isn’t that bad because I’ll be reading this in September for the book club. (Php 897.75, Fully Booked – Megamall, July 16)
  • Maurice by E. M. Forster – Posthumously published. I think the author was quite reluctant about getting this novel out there. (Php 20.00, a private library sale, July 18)
  • The Penguin French Dictionary – It’s the nearest thing that I could grab because I’m embarrassed to pay only Php 60.00 to the library owner. It’s not that I didn’t find his books amusing. It’s just that 1. I already have copies of some of his books, 2. there’s a lot of nonfiction than I could care about, 3. the books are precariously stacked so hunting can cause death, and 4. I’m limiting my purchases to books that are only on my must-buy list, which is a lie because none of these are on my must-buy list. (Php 20.00, a private library sale, July 18)
Book Report: June 2015

Book Report: June 2015

It’s the middle of the year (tomorrow to be exact). It’s a good time to look back on what happened so far in 2015 and to reassess any reading goals, projects, and challenges that we have embarked upon. Below are some of mine:

  • My Goodreads Reading Challenge of 52 books tells me that I’m on track, which pleases me because I haven’t read a lot back in the first quarter and my efforts to catch up in the second quarter paid off.
  • The Year of Reading the NBCC is slow but I hope that it will pick up some pace this quarter.
  • My 2015 review backlog is piling up, but I will try to resolve that. That includes both reviews for my blog and The Short Story Station. I’m always writing reviews in my head during commutes but when I get home, I change clothes, lie down, and play some mobile games. Then read.

Books Finished:

  • Drown by Junot Díaz – Because I went to the beach and I thought the title was so apt. 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson –  I can’t wait for the next book of this quartet. 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare – I was inspired by Marion Cotillard and of course, by Michael Fassbender. 4 out of 5 stars.
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – Our book of the month for June. 3 out of 5 stars.
  • The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields – The Year of Reading the NBCC (19/40). 4 out of 5 stars.
  • The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst – My LGBT read for the Pride Month. 3 out of 5 stars.

Currently Reading:

  • Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald – On page 55 of 415. I’m reading this with some of my favorite book bloggers.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson – On page 187 of 271. When will I finish this?

Maybe:

  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • Rabbit Redux by John Updike
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

New Books:

  • The Bonds of Interest by Jacinto Benavente – Something for my Noble Nobel Project. (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, June 18)
  • Finnegans Wake by James Joyce – This would be one of those books that will be displayed on my shelf for a long time. I intend to read The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Ulysses, in that order, before attempting this. (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, June 18)
  • The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek – Another book for one of my reading projects, this time for The Novel 100/125. (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, June 18)
  • The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams – One of those NBA winners that I am pretty sure I won’t find copies of but prove me wrong, obviously. (Php 115.00, Book Sale – SM Mega Mall, June 17)
  • The Novel Cure by Elaine Berthoud and Susan Elderkin – I’ve been sporadically reading the authors’ column at The Independent until I was goaded by recent reviews to finally get its book form. (Php 625.50, The Book Depository, June 17)
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene – I can now stand ebook copies if I really need to read a book, such as an elusive book of the month, such as this. But I cannot stand ebook copies with too many typographical errors. I fear that such carelessness would destroy my reading experience, and I’ve been looking forward to reading Greene for so long. And so I turned to eBay, which I haven’t thought about for so long. (Php 500.00, eBay, June 17)

I’ve thought of doing a vlog for my best books of 2015 so far but I’m too self-conscious when recording myself. When I’m able to let go of that self-consciousness, my facial expressions get way out of control that they become distracting, both for me and possibly the viewers. So I’ll just list them down here, in the order when they were read. I’ll try the vlog thing next time (also, I want to get haircut before doing any kind of video recording).

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
  • Inverted World by Christopher Priest
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  • Monstress by Lysley Tenorio
  • Drown by Junot Díaz
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson

And if you’ve noticed, I reverted my theme to the previous one. I’m so restless! I have to keep in line with my goals instead of constantly playing around with themes. If I do two reviews per week (every weekend), perhaps I could keep my 2015 review backlog from reaching an insurmountable level (see 2013 and 2014). That’s certain, but what’s uncertain is if I could stick with it.

And to force me to keep up, I came up with a condition, that I will not allow myself to start a book unless I review at least one book. Gasp! That would threaten my other goal of reading 52 books, but if I’m able to stick with this condition, it will help keep two goals going on. What do you think? Please don’t tell me that I’m obsessing over this (because that’s given) or that I’m putting too much pressure on myself or that I should just sit back and relax.

You see, blogs don’t and cannot flourish if one just sits around and relaxes. And I want to keep this blog alive. It’s the most worthwhile thing that I keep, even better than my journals. Cheesy, I know, but I like how blogging makes me forget about the world. I like the monthly routine of these reports, the ranting and raving to the vast stream of the Internet about the books that I read, the projects that I take on and abandon only to pick up again at a later point, the comments (I really appreciate them), and the state of getting lost, or rooted, depending on one’s perspective, in a small patch of virtual land that you have dominion over.

Book Report: April 2015

Book Report: April 2015

This is a great month for all things bookish. I’ve finished five books, reviewed five books, still reading four books, bought more than a dozen books, and hosted a bookish giveaway. Also, I’ve started using Goodreads again. I mean, I’m not just using it partially, like searching for reviews or joining our book club’s online activities. I’ve added all my books and shelves again. Not the reviews though; I’ve just resolved to put the links. Leafmarks is just too slow, which is unacceptable in this day and age.

Anyway, I’ll stop babbling now so that we can all enjoy the local holiday.

Books Finished:

Currently Reading:

  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – On page 233 of 359. TFG’s book of the month this May. (Php 615.60, Fully Booked – The Fort, April 19)
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson – On page 16 of 261. On hold. I haven’t touched it since March.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson – On page 27 of 271. I’m putting this on my list of science fiction books for my book club discussion in August because two of my official selections have not arrived yet (and I only have three weeks left to scramble).
  • October Light by John Gardner – On page 154 of 498. Funny book!

Maybe:

  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma – This year’s winner of The Folio Prize, so I must have it and read it soon. (USD 12.72, The Book Depository, April 22)

New Books:

  • Plains Song by Wright Morris (Php 115.00, Book Sale – SM Megamall, April 6)
  • The Dream of the Red Chamber/The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin – I got Volumes I, III, IV, and V. Please help me find Volume II. (Php 200 each, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace (Php 350.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell – Seriously, why did they sell this for an amount cheaper than the shipping fee? (Php 25.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Hunters by James Salter – I’ll be damned if I don’t like Salter. This is my fourth and I don’t even have an idea how the man writes. (Php 175.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Php 175.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • Proud Beggars by Albert Cossery (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, April 7)
  • The Blue Fox by Sjón – Sjón is Icelandic and he is Björk’s friend. It might do me a lot of good to check out his works. (Php 180.00, Bookulaw, April 19)
  • From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón (Php 160.00, Bookulaw, April 19)
Book Report: February 2015

Book Report: February 2015

It’s already the last third of the first quarter of the year. Yeahyeahyeah, I always act amazed when I say that it’s already the beginning of this or that month, that time flies by so fast, but that’s mostly because I feel that I’m always lagging. There’s so much to read! New books bought, books agreed to be read along bookish friends, book club selections, bookish lists and breakthroughs, dares and recommendations, etc. Considering all these, time not only flies by. It zooms, just like that.

For February, I finished my ugh, fifth book. At this pace, I will only finish 30 books by December. That’s 20 books short of my target. I shouldn’t concern myself too much with the numbers. Quality over quantity, huh? However, I really can’t say that the books I’ve read are of that high quality. Quality is relative, I know, so let’s just say I haven’t had a 5-star read yet.

Books Finished:

  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos – 1 out of 5 stars. Our book club’s book of the month.
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike – 3 out of 5 stars. I am still going to push through with the Rabbit series because I know that the last two of this quarter are what the critics are raving about.

Currently Reading:

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain – On page 172 of 307. The first book that made me write marginalia. I’ve been averse to this habit until Tim Parks convinced me to use a weapon while reading. I’ve always worshipped the book as a physical object. I still do. I still can’t bear to dog-ear the pages or crack the spine. I don’t think I will go into that. Yes, I always say that I will not do this or that but I really do know that for sure (because folding and cracking are destructive as opposed to writing, which I think helps in understanding the ideas in the book). Anyway, I’m hoping that this would be my first 5-star of the year. Actually, it looks like it’s going there.
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – On page 118 of 321. It’s our book of the month. I have no idea what this is about. My edition has no blurb, and you might already know that I’m the kind of person who reads everything in the book before reading the actual start of the book. The experience is like finding your way out of a labyrinth of segmented writing filled with juxtaposed metaphors and weird, sometimes icky, imagery.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot – On page 78 of 826. What better time of the year than March should one read this? I’m reading this along with my friends H and Y. We are on a weekend break, according to the reading plan that we devised, but I am aching to read more of it tonight.

Maybe – With Middlemarch consuming my reading life in March, I don’t think there’s time to squeeze in some maybe books. But let’s make room for miracles.

  • Inverted World by Christopher Priest
  • October Light by John Gardner

New Books – This is the Singapore edition of this post’s segment. I wish I could say that I bought something from every book store that I visited there (I went to three last February 5), but I did all my shopping at Books Kinokuniya – Orchard Road. This is because 1.) the books at Books Actually are rather expensive (I let go of the Heinrich Böll and François Mauriac books with a heavy heart) and 2.) the staff at Littered with Books were so busy chatting with each other that I could have walked out of the store with a cart of books in tow without raising an alarm. Besides these, Books Kinokuniya has the lowest price range among the three. The selections fit my taste: the right amount of literariness but not too obscure.

  • A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard – Joining the bandwagon! (SGD 19.94)
  • Iceland’s Bell by Halldór Laxness – Of course I have to have this. (SGD 25.13)
  • Missing Person by Patrick Modiano – Supposedly the new Nobel laureate’s best work. (SGD 26.95)
  • The Notebook by José Saramago – Of course I have to have this, too. (SGD22.63)

Some of the books that I let go are Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness, The Lives of Others by José Saramago, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, Redeployment by Phil Klay, and How to be Both by Ali Smith (I was following the budget plan that I made). I would have bought When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson and Where I’m Reading From by Tim Parks, but they are not available.

Book Report: January 2015

Book Report: January 2015

It’s February. Already? Since we’ve just finished the first month of the year, let’s take a quick look at my progress of the reading and blogging goals that I set for this year:

  • Finish 50 books – I’m on to a slow start. I should be on my fifth book now if I want to meet this goal without rushing at the last quarter of the year, but I’ve been distracted by films. This distraction would not go away unless I finish all those Oscar nominees. But I’m not that behind. I’m halfway through my fourth book.
  • Read NBCC winners – I’m going to start this next month. One of my Goodreads groups will be discussing so I might as well join. I’ve originally intended to read my unread NBCC winners chronologically, but since I like discussing books with others, I’m ditching that rule.
  • Use Goodreads – I’ve started rating books on Goodreads again. One goal achieved.
  • Review ASAP – Blame it on the awards circuit. But hey, I wrote a review a few weeks back. I’ll consider this as another slow start.
  • Read and review more short stories –  I read the selections for The Short Story Station but I failed to review them on time. However, I managed to sneak in a review of a short story that I listened to via The New Yorker Fiction podcast. Uh, slow start?

I’ll check on this again in April. That’s a few more months away. Let’s get back to the present, shall we?

Books Finished:

  • Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams by Alexander McCall Smith – 3 out of 5 stars. I’ve wanted to read this for so long because hey, I have a Celtic god namesake!
  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – 4 out of 5 stars. Click link for my review.
  • Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool – 3 out of 5 stars. Our book club’s book of the month.

Currently Reading:

  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike – On page 160 of 284. Quite slow for a quartet that begins with running away but I don’t really mind. The descriptions can test your patience but they are quite wonderful.

Maybe:

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
  • Inverted World by Christopher Priest
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  • October Light by John Gardner

New Books:

Argh. I knew it. I’m glad that I didn’t decide to lessen my book buying because I would have pulled my hair now for not following my resolutions. Anyway, I need subcategories for this month’s haul.

  • The Nobel laureates
    • Auto-da-fé by Elias Canetti – (Php 449.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
    • The Family of Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela – (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul – (Php 189.00, Chapter IX Books, January 30)
    • The Plague Column by Jaroslav Seifert – (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • Small Memories by José Saramago – A second copy (a different edition, actually) wouldn’t hurt. Thank you! (from H, January 20)
  • The NYRB Classics
    • Inverted World by Christopher Priest – (Php 797.50, Solidaridad Book Shop, January 24)
    • Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang – (Php 200.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • The Pilgrim Hawk by Glenway Wescott – (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • The Way of the World by Nicolas Bouvier – (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
  • James Salter Mania – I haven’t read this guy yet but my intuition tells me that I might like him. In fact, I’m so liking the title and cover of theTPB edition of All That Is. Heh.
    • All That Is – (Php 319.00, Fully Booked – BGC, January 15)
    • Solo Faces – (Php 225.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
    • A Sport and a Pastime – (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, January 12)
  • The Mass Market Paperbacks
    • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – (Php 379.00, Fully Booked – BGC, January 15)
    • A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov – (Php 149.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
    • Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac – (Php 99.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
    • Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm – (Php 79.00, Chapter IX Books, January 13)
  • A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers – A pretty book. I’m not really into HBs but I can’t resist this one. I forced a friend to buy it for me. Thank you! (from Kim, January 16)