As I went through my groaning bookshelves the other day I noticed a number of titles gathered over the years that I’ve never really managed to get round to reading. These TBR remnants of 2010 have since become another bullet point on my list of new year’s resolutions. I hope to clear them all come 2012.
In the pile is (bottom to top):
Sun Tzu – The Art of Warfare (trans: Roger T. Ames)
Ancient Chinese manual on martial law written circa. 400 BC. This is a rather special deluxe version I treated myself to which contains the first translation and also other parts of the text that have been discovered over the years. I don’t read enough non-fiction, but having read Thomas Cleary’s ‘Code of the Samurai’ has whetted my appetite for more Far-Eastern Military books.
White Oleander – Janet Fitch
This is my current read (already a favourite) which is a mother-daughter tale told through the eyes of Astrid (the daughter), who suddenly finds herself in foster care after her mother poisons her lover and is sentenced to life imprisonment. I don’t like overly feminist texts, but this one has a deliciously dangerous edge to it that takes, well, the ‘edge’ off all that fanaticism.
Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
Heard loads about this one, bought it, went home, peeked at the first page … haven’t touched it since. This is my waterloo. I prefer Ulysses over this. Plus, the Guardian said it was “a novel of such ambition and intensity that most modern fiction looks timid and shallow in comparison.” The Guardian never lies, and I quake in my boots at the thought of an epic that surpasses all epics.
The Rules of Attraction – Brett Easton Ellis
And now for something different… no one does 80’s yuppie culture/ college/ prep school angst like Ellis. This was one of those impulse buys that had the guy at the counter saying, ‘But you look like such a nice girl. Why this book?’ I just smiled sweetly and said, ‘I’ve read worse’. I hope this is a little less explicit than his other works and I am banking on it being a ‘hilarious take on the death of romance’.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – DH Lawrence
I got part way through this extraordinary story of one woman’s marriage to a rich paraplegic and her gradual love-affair with the groundsman. It’s a very poignant statement of the sexually unfulfilled 1920’s upper classes and treats the subject of adultery with a ‘no frills’ modernity that had the Guardian saying it was ‘a bomb, not a book’ of its times.
Exit A – Anthony Swofford
This one was a total impulse buy. I just liked the picture on the cover. But its premise is promising (a young American who grows up on a US Airbase in Japan who begins to be lured into the seedy, neon-drenched underbelly of Tokyo) and it’s author even more so (Swofford is famous for is memoir ‘Jarhead’, which was also made into a film by the same name.) Reading about seedy, underbelly Japan is one of my guilty pleasures!
When I Was Puerto Rican – Esmeralda Santiago
I have a thing for the Caribbean these days. Especially Puerto Rico and Cuba. It’s carried on over from last year when I read the ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ and ‘The Rum Diary’. Santiago’s autobiography recounts her early years on the island and bewildering culture shock and adjustment to New York City. I like reading about people who have lived in many places and how they define themselves and their rightful ‘home’.
253 – Geoff Ryman
I distinctly remember the early hours of 2009. It was spent reading ‘Air’, Ryman’s amazing mash-up of East-meets-West-cyber-culture-on-the-Steppes. What an amazing experience that was. Ryman is an original. He can write a story using the most unlikeliest of materials. In 253, he delves into the minds of several passengers on an underground London tube as they hurtle towards their destination.
The English Patient – Michael Ondjaate
Can’t live without literary fiction, and I think I’m well overdue reading this one. Everybody has probably seen the movie, but loads have been said about the starkness of Ondjaate’s writing. I just hope it’s not a bleak and flavourless as Cormac McCarthy, which brings me on to…
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
… yeah. I think this is one of those one’s that you should read only to say you’ve read it. ‘The Sunset Limited’ was a disappointment and having got through about 1/5 of The Road, I think this will probably be the same. It’s more depressing than the Mordor scenes in Lord of The Rings!
Ya-Ya’s In Bloom – Rebecca Wells
I’ve had this for a year. Even tried reading it about 5 times, but kept being overshadowed by other more interesting books. There’s something about the dear old South that makes me feel at home. Ideally I’d like to read the first novel before this one, but we’ll see how it goes.
But as if that wasn’t enough, I went on a bit of a book binge yesterday. A trip to the library is dangerous for me. I avoid going (except of course when I have cleared my reading list and need more books) because it means I’m bound to pick up more stuff. As the Rushdie comes to an end, I hope to put my reading into a higher gear, and I always find short reads the best way to do this (and they contribute to my 50 Book A Year Challenge).
Library Loot List:
‘The Angel’s Game’ – Zafon
Been dying to read this one. Zafon weaves spells, not stories. He is among the rare authors today who implements dark, gothic Borgian elements in his writing.
‘Lost World’ – Melo
A fairly new book by Brazilian author Melo. It follows an ex-contract killer on a mission to exact revenge from those who betrayed him.
‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ – Hope
An old English Classic and adventure novel published in 1894 that takes place in the kingdom of Ruritania. It’s described as a ‘Prince and the Pauper’ swashbuckler.
‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Solzhenitsyn
Political oppression in Stalin-era Soviet Union? Check. Gulags in Siberia? Check. Hunger, depression, brooding galore? All check. Trust me, it’s gonna be a good one!
‘Octopussy and The Living Daylights’ – Fleming
Two James Bond classics in one. How did Fleming fit it all into a little over 100 pages? Did he write it in short-hand or something? My first anorexic book of the year…
I haven’t read anything by these authors yet (bar Zafon) and hope to get acquainted with them pretty soon. I was pretty surprised to see how short the Ian Fleming stories were considering they were made into films. I also want to get more Russian literature, and something tells me Solzhenitsyn is a step in the right direction. Let’s see how many of these I can get through till the end of the month!