Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February - This Month in Reading

February got away from me more than it should have. I was hoping to read 10 books, but only managed 6. On the plus side, most were for challenges, so at least I'm keeping up with those reasonably well.

For March, I'd like to actually read at least 10 books, obviously concentrating on challenge books as I have been.

How was your February reading?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Three Theban Plays - Sophocles (Spoilers)

This is my first book read for the Classic Book A Month Challenge, and also the first time I have read Sophocles. One thing that surprised me was the intensity of the emotion I felt while I was reading. I read the books in a strange order, following how they were grouped in this edition:

I'm not sure why the plays were put in this order; logically Oedipus the King would be first, followed by Oedipus at Colonus and lastly Antigone - this would take the reader through the reveal in King, which places the next 2 plays in context. But having said that, reading it in this order still had an emotional impact, so not much was lost. 

The root situation that causes drama in all three plays is the relationship between Jocasta and Oedipus, which is revealed in Oedipus the King. The reader begins to understand that what happens to them both is the result of a prophecy taking a long, circuitous route to being filled. This is a narrative device that is used fairly frequently these days, but it still resonates and horrifies. I think it gets at the "I did everything right, how could my life have gone so wrong?" line of thought. Colonus is the fallout of King, and shows that despite everything, Oedipus was a powerful and strong person, and that he has developed from his suffering. Antigone builds on the strong female character we see in Colonus, showing that she is willing to defy authority to do what she feels is right. All in all I found this translation to be wonderful, and I really enjoyed reading the plays. Recommended. 

One other note: for some reason, I had thought the the Chorus didn't interact with the other characters, and that it functioned more as a narrator, supplying the audience with observations and etc., but not really a part of the on-stage action. I was pleasantly surprised that that was not the case. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Out - Natsuo Kirino

Wow, this book is intense. It's absolutely not for the faint of heart. With that said, I loved it. It's a gritty "noir" kind of mystery/suspense thriller that is impossible to put down once you've started it. It kind of reminded me of Breaking Bad, in that it's about an ordinary person who decides to get embroiled in a criminal act, and it chronicles the fallout of that act. The characters' motivations are both murky and clear; I liked how they all seemed like real people, and reacted in logical ways to the events in the book. This book would make an amazing movie.

All in all, highly recommended, but fair warning that there is a lot of violence and etc. if that bothers you.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

God Grew Tired of Us - John Bul Dau with Michael S. Sweeney

Stumbled on this book at the library when I was looking for something else, and it looked interesting so I checked it out. It's a harrowing and heartbreaking story, that is also inspirational. The author was born in the Sudan, and due to a civil war, was separated from his family and ended up being one of the "Lost Boys" - children, mainly boys, who lost their families and ended up in refugee camps. Against all odds, the author has survived hardship unimaginable to me. I live in a country where people think having to wait 3 extra minutes for their $6 cup of coffee is some kind of unendurable horror, and there are camps filled with young people who have literally nothing, who would give anything to have 1/1,000 th of the opportunities I have. This planet is truly a mystery to me.

The author went through a lengthy process to immigrate to the US as a student, and is now married with children here. I am so happy he was able to have the opportunity to escape life in refugee camps, get an education, and become an American. He worked hard to get here, and has worked hard ever since, studying difficult subjects in a foreign language, working many different jobs to pay rent, etc. He is truly an inspiration.

And I will definitely think of him the next time I see some spoiled person melting down in public over something trivial.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sula - Toni Morrison (Spoilers?)

This was a really lovely little book. You'd think by the title that it's mainly about Sula, but really it's more about the effect Sula has on both her best friend Nel and the town in which they both live, and in that way the book is more a portrait of the town of Medallion than anything else. This may sound bizarre, but something about this book reminded me of The Great Gatsby. Part of that is the beautiful writing and I think another part of it is that both books are (at least in part) about being separated from the "American Dream" and about how the past is always closer than you think. I definitely need to read more Toni Morrison. Recommended.

Since this book's cover is mostly green, I'm claiming it as my "green" book for the Color Coded Reading Challenge too.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Stiff - Mary Roach

The subtitle of this book, The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, pretty much says it all. The author's breezy, conversational tone takes the subject matter from disturbing to fascinating. It's a well researched book that is a quick read but provides a lot of information and food for thought. I will say that one probably shouldn't read this while eating, or if one has a weak stomach, but the information is provided in such a matter of fact and well written way that I don't think this would be an issue for most people. The same day I found this on the Library Sale shelves I also scored 2 other books by the same author, and I'm looking forward to getting to them sooner rather than later. Recommended.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears - Dinaw Mengestu

What a great book to kick off my February reading. Yet another lucky Library Sales shelves find, this book, originally published in 2007, seems very timely 10 years later. The story manages to pack a lot of elements - immigration and the immigrant experience; gentrification; racism; owning your own business; poverty; and the persistence of hope. The writing is beautiful and flowing, and the story unfolds in chapters that move through time. I found this book to be a deceptively quick read - it's a story that is at once timeless and immediate, with a narrator who is immensely sympathetic. Yes, there are heavy elements, but the author's skill is such that the reader is more conscious of the good than the bad, if that makes any sense. This book will live in my mind for a long time. Quick research shows the author has written two other books, so I will add them to my definitely-need-to-read-these-ASAP list. Highly recommended.