Tag: reading

Books I’ve Read in 2007

Inspired by this list, I’ve decided to keep a list of books I’ve read in 2007.  I’ll more than likely be doing less individual reviews and just updating this list as I finish books.  Anyway…enough of the rambling explanations, on to the list.

Last book finished:

30.  Atonement by Ian McEwan. (Finished 12 Dec 07)

 

See the Complete List below the cut (its starting to get long):

Continue reading

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NYT’s “Best American Fiction of the past 25 years”

The ones I’ve read are in Bold:

Beloved-Toni Morrison
Underworld-Don DeLillo
Blood Meridian-Cormac McCarthy
Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels-John Updike
– Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit at Rest
American Pastoral-Philip Roth
A Confederacy of Dunces-John Kennedy Toole
Housekeeping-Marilynne Robinson
Winter’s Tale-Mark Helprin
White Noise-Don DeLillo
The Counterlife-Philip Roth
Libra-Don DeLillo
Where I’m Calling From-Raymond Carver
The Things They Carried-Tim O’Brien
Mating-Norman Rush
Jesus’ Son-Denis Johnson
Operation Shylock-Philip Roth
Independence Day-Richard Ford
Sabbath’s Theater-Philip Roth
Border Trilogy-Cormac McCarthy
— All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain
The Human Stain-Philip Roth
The Known World-Edward P. Jones
The Plot Against America-Philip Roth

It seems I have some work to do on this list.  Though at least I did get the top 3. 

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Love in the Time of Cholera

It took me much longer than I expected to read this book.  I still enjoyed it a bunch, its an interesting take on unrequited love.  I think in the end, it was just my reading habits that changed over the course of the past month that made it take longer to finish the book.  I switched to working part-time at work, so I no longer had a lunch hour to read and I wasn’t reading as much on my commute as I had been.  As a result I really don’t have much to say about the book itself.  It became the thing I read right before bed or when I needed something to occupy my mind that wasn’t my life.  In these roles it succeeded.

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Literature

Overheard at a forum at Powell’s with Philip Gourevitch, Editor of the Paris Review:

“Every thing you’ve ever read is a gross reduction of reality” 

     -Philip Gourevitch
 

 

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off the grid

Early tomorrow morning (as in 5.15am) I am heading out to Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey for a weekend retreat.  I’m leaving the cell phone, the laptop and the bustle of the city behind.  What I’ll be taking with me, a couple books, my moleskine and an open mind and spirit.  It’ll be a weekend of silence and discernment.

The books I’ll have with me:

  • The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
  • Jesus the Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks

I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about the weekend when I get back on Sunday!

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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

It’s interesting reading Murakami’s short stories.  They are like individual dreams that you wake up with before you want to.  At least that’s how I often feel.  But then even his longer works tend to finish before I want them to.

This collection is interesting, because it has some of his earliest stories as well as his latest stories.  Most of the time it is easy to figure out which is which.  His later work is much more polished than the earlier work.

My favorite works in this collection are “Tony Takitani,” “Chance Traveler,” “The Kidney Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day” and “A Shinagawa Monkey.”

I’ve read through all of Murakami’s fiction that have been translated into English.  My favorite novels were Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore.

Now to figure out something new to read. 

 

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Dance Dance Dance

I finished the “sequel” to The Wild Sheep Chase last Thursday (yup, two Murakami novels in one week).  Dance Dance Dance takes place four and a half years after the conclusion of The Wild Sheep Chase.  There is definitely more “meat” to this novel than the earlier one.  It also helped fulfill that desire I had after the earlier novel for more story.

Reading Murakami is like reading a dream.  Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it feels like reality and sometimes its so bizarre that it surprises even the wildest imaginations.  Time often disappears leaving only shadows of memory.  

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A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel

This was a quick easy read.  Murakami’s first book published in English, it is not near as complex as his current stuff.  However, there is still much to be had from this novel.  The style of this book foreshadows where his style will go in his later works.

All and all, I don’t have much to say about the novel itself.  While I still enjoyed it a lot, it is probably my least favorite of his novels (and the only one I have left to read, is the “sequel” to this one).  This would make a great traveling book. 

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Snow

I really enjoy novels that deal with the conflict between east and west.  One of my favorite contemporary novelists is Salman Rushdie, whose novels all deal with this conflict in one way or another.  Up to this point, the majority of my experience with this conflict has been from India/Pakistan/Afghanistan and the West. So when my boss let me borrow this book I was definitely intrigued.

The book is set in Northeast Turkey in essentially a border town.  This town has been part of Armenia, Russia and Turkey.  What for me was one of the most interesting things about this novel is the conflict with secular Turkey and those wanting a religious Turkey.  It was another layer to the East/West concept that isn’t touched to the same level of detail as Rushdie’s novels.

The novel is narrated by the eponymous novelist friend of the poet Ka.  Orhan (the narrator) is visiting both Kars and Frankfurt trying to make sense of Ka’s murder in Germany and find a lost collection of poetry written while Ka was in Kars.  In the early parts of the novel however, the narrator is only identified as a friend of Ka’s.  The story is told from Ka’s point of view with the narrator occasionally foreshadowing events before Ka would know them.  It isn’t until the later chapters of the book that the narrator really steps out as his own character in the book.

I really enjoyed this book.  While none of the poems actually are actually in the book, the inspiration for Ka’s poems is evident.  Pamuk’s description of Kars and the effect of the snow is beautiful (despite describing poverty and depression often).  I also think that looking at Turkey and its culture and society is a good place for westerners to begin to understand the conflict between Islam and the west.

On another note, Orhan Pamuk is often mentioned as a leading candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in the near future.  British oddsmakers Ladbrokes has Pamuk as its favorite for the prize this year.  It was also speculated that he was under serious consideration for the Prize in 2005 (eventually awarded to British playwright Harold Pinter).

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The Seven Storey Mountain (pt 2)

For my review of Part 1 of The Seven Storey Mountain click here.

Parts 2 & 3 of The Seven Storey Mountain were much more enjoyable for me.  And as a result, I got a lot more out of these sections of the book.  I think in the end I had the expectation of the later Merton who was much more open to non-Catholics.  The harshness of the young Merton (and Father Louis) was a little unsettling for me.

The things that stuck most for me in this section were nuggets of wisdom about discernment and vocation.  Merton’s journey from conversion to the monastery was fascinating for me as well.  My reading of this book has been timely for me.  This was of course a purposeful reading on my part.  With the hiatus of my path to seminary it has been a time to rediscover aspects of my faith.  My faith hasn’t been something I’ve questioned, however I have let it coast somewhat recently.  Its time for me to get my hands a little dirty with my spiritual life again.

I’m going to take a weekend retreat at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey next month.  I’m really looking forward to this time to really focus on my faith life.  There are also a few sections of The Seven Storey Mountain that I plan to meditate over the next month or so.  I’ll probably post on a few of those later on this blog.

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