Sunday, January 06, 2008

2007 Reading List (in roughly the order I read them)

Last year, inspired by Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping or the Dirt (neither of which, I confess, I have read), I began keeping track of the books I read. Rather than throw all 40+ books at you at once, I'm going to toss them out in easily digestible groups of five.

1. number9dream- David Mitchell
Mitchell (who, by the way, was born the same month as me) is shaping up to be one of my favorite authors. He crafts intricate tales spanning ages and continents. Not unlike the work of Armenian-Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, Mitchell constructs his novels around a narrative or thematic device.
Unfortunately, this is my least-favorite of the three Mitchell novels I have now read. On one level, it’s the story of a young man from the country who comes to Tokyo in search of the father he never knew. It’s also the story of his life, told through remembrances and flashbacks. It took this thick-headed reader a little while to catch on to the fact that much of the “story” is actually his internal fantasy life. And then there are excerpts from the diaries of his great uncle's World War II naval heroics and bizarre short stories that our protagonist reads… ambitious, yes, but in the end it doesn’t really add up to a gripping novel. See #8 (next post) for Mitchell’s debut, which is a much better read.

2. Homage to Catalonia- George Orwell
This is Orwell’s account of the time he spent fighting the Fascists in 1930s Spain. He accounts the situation as he experiences it, and contrasts this with the popular depiction of the conflict in the European press. Beyond a lucid exposition of the political situation, the day-to-day drudgery of early 20th century warfare is well detailed. Orwell is a talented writer and a socialist in the true meaning of the word.

3. Hagoromo- Banana Yoshimoto (red denotes books I read in Japanese)
Typical Banana, Hagoromo is the story of a young woman’s reawakening following the dissolution of a long-term relationship. Chance encounters lead to new connections, and childhood mysteries are revealed. While I enjoyed reading it, after finishing I was left feeling sort of, “Eh, so what?”

4. (A Very Short Introduction to) Indian Thought
Excellent. This slim volume, part of a series published by Oxford University Press, gives a lucid account of the major schools of Classical Indian philosophy. It is both a great read and intellectually stimulating. I particularly appreciated getting a sense of how Buddhism (both early and later Mahayana developments) fit into the overall scheme of things. Recommended for anyone curious about the Indian worldview.

5. House of Leaves- Mark Z. Danielewski
A monster of a book, and absolutely brilliant. It’s unlikely I would have completed it had I been otherwise employed. Multi-layered, the narrative switches between a manuscript about a bizarre documentary film and the man who finds and becomes obsessed with it. As the puzzle of the manuscript (which contains copious foot and end notes and is heavily annotated) deepens and the tale of the ill-fated film becomes darker, the narrator’s own life spins further and further out of control.


Blogger jain said...

Glad to see you are finding your calling. Since I don't read much any more, (still on The Kite Runner--how disturbing--both the fact and the book), I'll just try to keep up with your blog and be happy with that.

6:50 AM  

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