Posts Tagged ‘Books

19
Jan
13

Books I read in 2012

Another year is over, and once again I didn’t reach my goal of reading 24 books.  It’s just a goal, however, and you have to aim high, so I’m certainly not disappointed with how much I ended up reading. I count it as 12 books, even though technically there’s one book that’s a collection of three books/stories in one. Let’s start with that one, as it’s the first book I read in 2012:

  • Young Miles by Lois McMaster BujoldI read this book because it was recommended to me. I’m very picky when it comes to science fiction, but Miles Vorkosigan is a likeable character and the story is well-written. He’s essentially a royal cripple – a crippled young man lucky enough to have been born into royalty who tried to prove himself by going into the military. The first book was long but it was nice to learn more about this world and I’m curious to see what other adventures await the hero. The second story is quite short but essentially also has Miles try to prove himself.
  • Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
    An autobiographical account of Portia de Rossi’s battle with anorexia. It’s pretty much only about the eating disorder she fought with for such a long time, so for anyone hoping to find out more about, say, her relationships, this book won’t deliver. At least not much. I’d still recommend it simply because it is such an honest account of anorexia that explains the sheer impact it has on a person’s life. For someone who never really knew much about this, I found it quite eye-opening. That poor woman! Luckily she finally got her life back on track and now seems to live a very happy and healthy life.
  • Fang Girl by Helen Keeble
    I don’t usually read young adult fiction, but let’s just say this author came highly recommended. I was very pleasantly surprised! This book tells the story of a 15-year-old who wakes up in a coffin one day after having been bitten by a vampire. She then has to evade a vampire hunter and also deal with her parents, who are understandably worried. The book is very witty and pokes fun at a lot of vampire clichés and I therefore recommend it as a quick but very entertaining read.
  • Dear Fatty by Dawn French
    I didn’t know very much about Dawn French before I read this and was mostly interested because a lot of reviews said this book was very fun, plus I decided to read more autobiographies. It was an okay read and certainly had some parts that stood out,  about her time at school, her father’s suicide, also about how she met her future husband, which I thought was a very sweet story. Then I found out that shortly after the book came out, they got divorced, and it bothered me somewhat in finishing the book because in it she professes his eternal love for him and also talks about how they always get over their differences, etc. etc. I guess this book must be much more interesting if you’re a fan of Dawn French’s. She breaks the book up with silly letters she writes as different characters, which were a bit too silly for my taste, so all in all I wouldn’t really recommend the book.
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith
    An excellent book, possibly the best one I read in 2012. When comparing this with the books by Dawn French or Portia de Rossi, this one really stands out as exceptional. It’s written beautifully and the world you get a glimpse into – an artist’s New York back before everything was so commercial –  is fascinating. Getting a glimpse into the lives of artists by itself is already fascinating, and Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe apparently were/are artists through and through. All I knew about Patti Smith was that she sang “Because The Night”, but I had no idea about the person behind all of this. Wow. Recommend this book wholeheartedly.
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    This is undoubtedly the worst book I read all year, or to be more precise, the worst book I did NOT read. After about 50 or 60 pages I decided to stop wasting my life. I already wrote about this in my German blog , shortly before I did stop reading it. At any rate, the two main characters are very unlikeable, her style of writing is boring, all the characters talk exactly alike and in general you get the impression as though she self-inserted herself into this story as the female main character and wrote the other guy as her dream boyfriend. IT’S BORING! Bah.
  • The Burglar in the Rye by Lawrence Block
    You can’t go wrong with Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries. It’s good and entertaining and I quite like the idea of having a hero who’s a burglar. Nice characters, funny conversations, what’s not to like?
  • Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale
    I read this in my vacation on a hammock in the shade. A very good read! The interesting story of a con artist who pretends to be an airline pilot and forges cheques. I do recommend this book (I haven’t seen the movie), but the one thing that is slightly disappointing is reading later that not all of it is true and Frank Abagnale said the ghost writer was basically just writing a book loosely  based on his life.
  • Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson
    This book by Bill Bryson consists of short essays he wrote about life in the US in a British newspaper and I can very much recommend this book. I’ve been to the US a few times and I often found myself thinking: “This is SO TRUE!” He’s a funny writer and a keen observer and it’s a pleasure reading about the idiosyncrasies of life in the US.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    This used to be one of my favorite books and I used to go around recommending it to people. I probably first read it about 10 years ago and whoever I recommended it to last has decided to keep my copy, apparently. So I re-bought it last year to give to someone to read and then figured I should read it again myself in time for the movie to come out. And I did. And I still like it, although probably a little less than I did the first time around. Maybe it’s age. To this day haven’t seen the movie because I worry that it might be awful – or rather, because I couldn’t find it in English in a cinema near me. I do still recommend the book, though.
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin
    I found this book very cheaply at the cool English bookshop in Frankfurt near Hauptwache that, sadly, had to close down and is now a rental car place. Because Frankfurt really needed another one of those… At any rate, I had heard of it before so decided to pick it up and was very much drawn in once I started reading it.  With over 800 pages, it’s a huge book, but the story is quite varied and tells a few different stories along the timeline of a very massive catastrophe. There were two things I didn’t like: Number one, that there were a few things that seemed to be unscientific when everything else seemed to be very logically explained. Number two, that there were so many characters that I lost track at some point and after some big revelation, I just thought, “Wait, who was that again?” Still, a good book.
  • Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor
    I read this in German (Ich habe den Todesengel überlebt: Ein Mengele-Opfer erzählt) because my father asked me to read it. Wow, what a horrible story. As these books go, it is excellent, but it’s still horrible to read. I think everyone who goes around denying the holocaust should be forced to read this. It’s completely shocking to read about how cruel people can be, from those that decided to make a perfectly friendly family into a family of outcasts, to those that participated in mass killings, to Mengele, who – under the pretense of science – sadistically tortured and murdered random people. Everyone should read this, really.

That’s what I’ve been reading in 2012, comments and suggestions are always more than welcome!

24
Jul
11

Books: Night Watch, The Clown, Lucky

It’s been a while since I’ve last written, and although I’ve been a bit distracted, I still managed to read three more books since my last entry. I finished A Confederacy Of Dunces, which was very good indeed.

After that I read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, which was also quite interesting, especially since it’s not the kind of book I’d usually read. It’s also set in WW2, which I also usually don’t care to read about. And yet, it had some interesting storylines and characters. So all in all, I’m glad I strayed a bit from what I’d usually read.

Next I read Ansichten eines Clowns (English title: The Clown) by Heinrich Böll, which I thought was very interesting, too. Amusingly enough, although it’s a German classic, it had been loaned and recommended to me by a British girl. When I went home to my parents one weekend and mentioned I was reading this book, they told me they owned two copies of it. But what matters is that I read it now and I liked it, and it was interesting to read about a melancholic clown with a drinking problem who lamented the loss of his girlfriend to another man.

And finally, I read Lucky by Alice Sebold, the author of The Lovely Bones which I read last year and was very impressed with. Lucky is the autobiographical story of how she was brutally raped at 18, how that terrible act of violence affected her, how it affected her relationships, her family, her life in general. I thought the book was quite insightful.

I’ve read nine books this year so far, which is bad considering I was aiming for 24 books and it’s already August, almost. Then again, a lot can happen in five months. Certainly a lot happened in the last five. :)

15
May
11

Books: Summertime Sound, No One Here Gets Out Alive and A Confederacy Of Dunces

What better way to update my blog again by rambling about some of the books I read lately?

I’ve read Homicide by David Simon for a long time back in March or so. It took me forever, as the book has almost 700 pages in rather small print, and while it’s interesting most of the time, it’s not exactly a quick read. I was curious about this book because I read that The Wire (the TV show) is partially based on it or was written by the same guy. He spent time inside the police force as a journalist, observing them work, and everything that happens in the book actually happened, which is rather mind-boggling, considering how crazy some of those cases were. At any rate, I do recommend this book, but be aware that due to the sheer size of it, it’s quite a commitment. ;)

No One Here Gets Out Alive

No One Here Gets Out Alive

Next, I read That Summertime Sound by Matthew Specktor, which was recommended by Sara Quin of Tegan & Sara fame. There’s actually an audio file of Sara reading from That Summertime Sound, so that made me curious. However, I was not really that intrigued by the book when I finally read it. I feel the story goes in circles and I don’t care about the characters. The protagonist (= the author?) just comes across as whiny. So that’s not a book I’d recommend.

Then I read No One Here Gets Out Alive, which is Jim Morrison’s biography, Jim Morrison of course being the lead singer of The Doors. I really didn’t know much about him or The Doors when I started this book, but wow do I dislike him now. What a completely rude, irresponsible and narcissistic guy that was! Sure, he had a tough upbringing, but geez… I really don’t get why people worship him the way they do. Also, the authors of the book are both big fans of The Doors, and while they’re still rather critical of him, they do write about what an amazing poet Morrison was. I really don’t see it. He’s got nothing on Ani DiFranco.

Words and Music

Words and Music

Next I tried reading Words and Music – A History of Pop in the Shape of a City by Paul Morley, but after he rambled on and on about Kylie Minogue’s hair and endless lists of musicians I’ve never heard of and such for 40+ pages, I finally gave up. Maybe the book is simply too abstract for me, there are some people on amazon.com who apparently loved it, but I simply couldn’t get into it.

So I moved on to A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which has been recommended to me more than once, and I’m really enjoying it. The main character is such a rude and awful fellow (kind of like Jim Morrison, hehe) and yet it’s so engaging to read about all the crazy things he does. The book is set in New Orleans and it’s fun to read the various ways of speaking the characters have. I’m almost finished with it and I do recommend it. Sadly, the author committed suicide at age 31. His books have always been rejected while he was still alive.

Please go here for a list of books I read, and go here to see the cover images of the books I’ve read. You know you want to.

So, what are you reading?

19
Nov
09

BBC Book List Meme

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

The "biggest achievement" book 2009. 736 pages.

This year, my personal goal was to read 24 books. I’m happy to report that I have already exceeded this goal, and it’s only November. I’m indeed a little proud of myself. I have already read 27 books so far, probably 28 by this evening. You can, of course, see the books I’ve read here.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Possibly the best book I read this year.

The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut was the first book I started this year, back on January 7, 2009. Topics covered in this year’s books were schizophrenia (The Eden Express), Asperger’s (Look Me In The Eye), skateboarding (Board Free), a polar expedition (Der eisige Schlaf), music in general (Songbook), a haunted house (House of Leaves), war (Armageddon in Retrospect), the hotel business (Hotel), photography (At Work), Germans (Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans), Australia (Frühstück mit Kängurus), German guilt (Anleitung zum Unschuldigsein), and twelve of the books I read were biographical or autobiographical. I read a single crime novel, one (bad) sci-fi book and one children’s book.

Also, I’ve just come across the BBC Book List Meme (via The Lonely Librarian), and so here are my results. Enjoy.

—–snip—
BBC Book List

Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

Instructions:
1) Look at the list and make those you have read bold.
2) Star (*) the ones you LOVE.
3) Italicize those you plan on reading

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (I read two of those.)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee *
6 The Bible (Still working on that one :))
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (MacBeth, 12th Night)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger *
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker *
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

—–snip—–

16 out of 100. That’s not too good, but I guess above average. Then again, it’s a list from the BBC, so I suppose they’re not really required reading but only England’s best-loved novels. Which would explain why Bridget Jones is on there.

09
Sep
09

Books all around!

Part of my bookshelf when I went to college. Fascinating, I know. I did read "House of Leaves" by now!

Today I just want to let you know about a site that I have just now enjoyed looking at a great deal. It has the odd name http://bookshelfporn.tumblr.com and it is basically pictures of bookshelves or books in general. I like books a lot, and if I had enough, maybe I’d arrange them by color, too. But my favorite post is about the meaning of the SECOND SHELF in someone else’s book order, and it is right here:

http://bookshelfporn.tumblr.com/post/129359723

24
Jun
09

Book Roundup

I’ve read a lot of books lately and I have not been particularly diligent about reporting on them. It’s a shame. But better late than never.


Der eisige Schlaf (“Buried in Ice) is about the Franklin expedition. John Franklin and his people disappeared while trying to chart the Northwest Passage in the Arctic. The book is good and interesting, a little slow at times and quite gruesome at others, as they describe cannibalism, the exhumation of dead, frozen bodies and such. Interesting: When the Eskimos (/Inuit) first mentioned to explorers, that they saw some of these explorers eating or carrying human flesh, people back in England were outraged and claimed they made it up out of malice, saying their good people would never do such a thing. Which just goes to show you, denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Next I read Vuk, which is a book by a Hungarian author about a little fox. It has lovely descriptions of nature but doesn’t get too cheesy and is far from romanticized Disney tales. I’d recommend it, but since I have it in English from a Hungarian who bought it in her lovely country, I doubt you’d get your hands on it even if you wanted to.

I found Boardfree for maybe 5,- EUR at a local bookstore in a box by the door. I’m glad I picked it up. It’s the story of a guy who decided, on a whim, after only riding a skateboard for a few weeks, that he could try to skate from one end of Australia to the other, in the name of charity. While the book is not entirely captivating at all times, it is still fascinating and I certainly admire the man for all he achieved, escaping the daily grind (so to speak) and turning his life upside down. He writes about nice people he meets on the way, about the effects the constant exhaustion had on him, about his mood swings, about the dynamics in his support team, about the trouble with shoe sponsors and what he’d do differently next time. An inspirational book, certainly, and if you’re curious, there’s also a website, boardfree.co.uk, which is currently being refurbished. I love the picture of his shoe, though. It’s time.

I’d read pretty much anything Kurt Vonnegut had anything to do with, but Cat’s Cradle is definitely not my favorite book of his. I thought the plot idea was ingenious, but the characters were unlikeable and odd and somehow the way the story was written didn’t really appeal to me. I know this is a vague description, but suffice it to say that this just wasn’t for me. I much prefer Timequake, A Man Without A Country, Slaughterhouse Five or even Deadeye Dick.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby has been made into a movie I’ve never seen, starring Hugh Grant, and for some reason I was never particularly drawn to get the book, even though I loved Hornby’s High Fidelity and A Long Way Down. I also read How to be Good, which was alright, but I involuntarily traded it for a Bukowski book I’ve yet to fight my way through. Bukowski is twisted. Anyway, a friend of mine was selling About A Boy used and so I bought it and it was a quick and good read, although not really exceptional. It’s about a young boy with a messed up mom, and it’s about a middle-aged rich guy without direction in life. They become friends and everyone changes for the better. I see why this has been made a movie, actually.

I had read Barack Obama’s second book before, which I wrote about before, and so I was especially excited about the first one, since I now knew his policies and wanted to know more about him as a person. And he doesn’t disappoint. He writes about his childhood, his absent father, him trying to find his identity. He’s very honest, he talks about taking drugs (and none of that “I did not inhale” drivel either), about growing up with his grandparents, about visiting his relatives in Africa. It’s all in there. He’s a very talented writer and the way he writes is sometimes almost poetic, which is probably a good thing all in all, but sometimes felt a bit too cheesy or too much filled with pathos to me. Anyway, I still recommend the book, and I think it’s ridiculous that so many rumors are spread about him (by Fox News?) when really all his life and what he is about is discussed at great length in this book. The information is there, you just need to read it.

As a filler between to other books, I finally decided to read a Babylon 5 book that I must’ve bought about 15 years ago (which makes me sound old, doesn’t it? I’m not that old…). It’s really shallow entertainment and it wasn’t really very well-written by author S. M. Stirling (or not well-translated). I have another 15 year old Babylon 5 book, but I believe I’ll get rid of it and not bother reading it. I’m glad to find that I don’t have the same taste I had 15 years ago.

So, if you actually read this, I owe it to you to listen to what YOU have been reading lately. Comment! Please.

24
Mar
09

Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Dry. A Memoir.

Today I finished reading Dry by Augusten Burroughs, a truly excellent book by the author of Running with Scissors and Wolf at the Table. It’s a very quick but deep read that I hereby recommend to everybody.

This book is basically about Augusten’s alcoholism, how he was forced to take a leave from his well-paid job in advertising in order to go to rehab and how he thought, “Great, 30 days off work, I can get drunk every day!” Sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes terrifying and always amazingly honest.

If you’ve read Running with Scissors and didn’t like it, you still should give Dry or Wolf At The Table a chance. They’re much better and very different. It’s worth it.