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2022 50 Book Challenge

Fueco

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4. The Runner’s Guide To The Meaning Of Life: What 35 Years Of Running has Taught Me About Winning, Losing, Happiness, Humility, and the Human Heart, by Amby Burfoot
 

Casaubon

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Eagerly joining the challenge this year although my great handicap is that our second daughter was born some eight weeks ago, so juggling work, diapers, and the ever increasing demands of our 2,5 year old will probably make it really difficult to squeeze in reading time (let alone forum posting). Probably not going to get near 50, but here goes. To offset the handicap, I have started with three romance novels my wife transferred to our Kindle to ease her post-partum period (especially the lack of sex!). No Brothers Karamazov for me at the moment (but seriously, great book, kudos to @FlyingMonkey ). Finished #1:

1. The Flatshare, by Beth O'Leary

The story follows two Londoners who find it mutually beneficial to enter into an agreement in which they share the same bed in an apartment, albeit at different times of the day. He works nights at a hospice, she has a 9-5 job, so they never get to see each other nor, most importantly, find themselves in bed at the same time (spoler alert: eventually they do!). Never having physically met, they communicate almost exclusively through messages they leave on post-it notes all over the place. The premise sounds preposterous, is a little less so when you read it. All in all decent writing with some sincerely funny moments and a few tensely erotic chapters.
7/10 steamy mirrors (patent pending)
 

FlyingMonkey

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Well, I am still reading Bros Karamazov, even though it is, frankly, one of the most boring novels I have ever read, and not a patch on Crime and Punishment, The Idiot or Notes from the Underground.

In the meantime, I have also read:

5. The Second Life of Inspector Canessa, by Roberto Perone.
This is a powerful crime novel set largely in Milan, featuring Annibale Canessa, a supposedly retired anti-terrorism policeman, who comes out of retirement to settle one last score, when his left-wing brother is shot in the street alongside a notorious Red Brigade hitman who had just come out of prison. It is contemporary in its setting (with flashbacks to the 70s and 80s and the revolutionary 'Years of Lead' in Italy), but the style is very much noir: there are tough, violent men, and tough, beautiful women, corrupt officials and mafiosi, fast cars and fake IDs. But somehow, none of it comes across as cliché, because the characters are so well-drawn and he writing so strong. Recommended.
 

PhilKenSebben

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5. The Second Life of Inspector Canessa, by Roberto Perone. but the style is very much noir: there are tough, violent men, and tough, beautiful women, and tough corrupt officials and tough mafiosi, and tough fast cars and tough fake IDs. But somehow, none of it comes across as cliché, because the characters are so well-drawn and he writing so strong. Recommended.
I live film noir movies, but I auve never been able to read noir. I think with the movies I am just prepared for the over acting and whatever else, but not so sure about the books. Always appreciate your reviews!
 

krudsma

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2. Clea, by Lawrence Durrell (finished)
Wrote about this earlier, but I ended up really enjoying this finale to the series. The question the series seems to ask is if you can ever truly know someone, or understand their reasons for why they do what they do. There's a great passage in this final book that to me is about the impossibility of attempting to depict a true version of events, in that the very act of relating a story through one's own lens colors and distorts what happened and why. Durrell's writing is very lyrical, and while the plot itself is absorbing (if confusing at times), the series is worth a read for the prose alone. I ordered the first book in his Avignon Quintet, which I'm looking forward to reading in the future at some point.

(Side note: apparently there's a pretty terrible movie version of this series from the 60s that I'm curious to check out - a recurring thought that I had reading this series was "I can't imagine someone ever trying to turn this into a movie." Apparently someone did, and failed.)

4. Moon Palace, by Paul Auster
Started reading this last night. I devoured Auster's New York Trilogy so I'm imagining I'll blow through this one pretty quickly as well. Thus far it reminds me a little bit of The Adventures of Augie March.
 

FlyingMonkey

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In between trudging through Karamazov, I have been speeding through some very lightweight post-Sherlock Holmes stories of 'The Tearoom Detective' by Baroness Orczy (who is more famous for writing The Scarlet Pimpernel). Three volumes of these formulaic but fun stories of murder in Edwardian Britain, have now been published by Pushkin Vertigo, and I've read the first two:

6. The Old Man in the Corner, and 7. The Case of Miss Elliot

As is my usual practice, I will go straight on to the third volume, 8. Unravelled Knots, which is set some 20 years later.
 

Casaubon

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2 – The Hating Game

Started reading it before I found out they recently made a movie based on it. it’s about a girl and a guy working together, who are rivals in many ways. Not only are they rivals, but they’re also complete opposites in every sense except for the fact that they’re both hot. Especially him, he’s like, really really hot, like a blonde Clark Kent, or an Aryan superhero.

Anyway, around the half of the book we are supposed to feign surprise at the fact that she realizes that she has actually been in love with him from day one. By the time we finish the book, we come to the more surprising realization that he had been in love, as well. He just had a weird, passive-aggressive way of showing it to her that in the end we’re made to believe was supposed to be cute.

I hope I’m not spoiling the book to anyone but I’m kind of sure nobody here was going to read it.

Anyway, these books are making me realize that this is my new guilty pleasure. This one’s quite trashy as opposed to The Flatshare which was a bit more elevated. Onward to new beginnings!

@FlyingMonkey Sorry to hear that you are finding The Brothers Karamazov such a chore. For me it’s one of the most riveting novels of all time. I just couldn't drop it when I was reading it.
 

FlyingMonkey

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@FlyingMonkey Sorry to hear that you are finding The Brothers Karamazov such a chore. For me it’s one of the most riveting novels of all time. I just couldn't drop it when I was reading it.
So people keep telling me. I don't understand the adulation. And I've read plenty of Russian novels, and enjoyed every other novel by Dostoyevsky I've read. The only thing I've disliked more was Gogol's Dead Souls, and people told me that was amazing too. I guess it's the combination of two things to which I have no relationship at all: religious existentialism; and satire of nineteenth century Russian society.

PS: I also hate Paul Auster (mentioned above), who is almost universally agreed to be wonderful...
 

Casaubon

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A lot of the appeal that the book has for me stems from the way its characters are written. Dostoevsky is at his best when vehemently debating with the mores and ideas of society in his time. You can feel his passion when he defends the virtues of kindness and humility that are being trampled by the bourgeois society, his fear of secular dogmatism and revolutionary zealotry on the rise etc. Not just in the Brothers, it’s there in Demons and The Idiot as well. Of course, there’s also the fundamental human questions and existential anxiety as well.

As for Auster, I’m quite ambivalent toward his work, although I haven’t read that much. When it’s ostensibly about real people, I can sympathize with the trials and tribulations of his characters (like in The Leviathan or Sunset Park). Other works I find too distant, abstract, and somewhat experimental in a way I am not comfortable with.
 

Fueco

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5. Slow Food: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean and Fair, by Carlo Petrini

I read this book, and now I’m looking for local farms that sell wheat berries in bulk so I can make my own flour… Yes, there are a few.
 
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SixOhNine

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2. Termination Shock, by Neal Stephenson
As is the case with all Stephenson books, this was long, so I'm probably behind schedule now for the 50 books goal. Whatever; it was an enjoyable read. I've read 4-5 of his books now, and it often seems like they fall into a pattern of building for 700 pages towards a conclusion, then wrapping everything up in 20 pages, frequently not very dramatically. Don't get me wrong, I like them, but it's kind of an odd experience.

One of the primary settings for this one is Texas, both west and around Waco and Houston, and I'll give him credit- he's accurate with the details. Not a surprise, I guess, given his style and reputation for that type of thing, but nice to see, nonetheless.
 

Fueco

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6. How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question, by Michael Schur

A comedy (television) writer’s summation of moral philosophy through the centuries. Schur does a great job of summarizing the works of his favorite moral philosophers in a pithy manner. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years.
 

FlyingMonkey

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I've been catching up on a few popular Japanese novels (in translation obv). I should just say that there is a common genre in Japan, which is the tragic romance. The novels (or manga, or films) in this genre are intensely melodramatic and really ramp up the feels in a way that is highly manipulative or the reader or viewer. Many are connected to growing up and particularly to High School, with a plot that is often something like Boy meets Girl, Boy and Girl discover they are Meant for Each Other, But... wait! Girl's family suddenly leaves town, Boy later disovers Girl had Terminal Cancer and did not want Boy to experience her demise, Boy reflects on this years later in flashback now he is married to Acceptable Woman (but not The Girl) and what the experience taught him. A variation would be Boy later meeting Girl's sister and marrying her instead. In any outcome, it's all drenched in 'natsukashi' (nostalgia) for hometown / growing up etc. The quality of the specific works in this genre vary from the highly literary (Murakami Haruki's Norwegian Wood being the most well known example in the west) to populist trash, but most are very much middlebrow, well-written but accessible, with quirky characters and sometimes a serious 'issue' at its heart. Both the novels I've just read have some connection to this genre...

9. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshizaku Kawaguchi

This is a solidly middlebrow tragic romance novel, with a twist, and the twist is time-travel. Basically, in a weird little café in a back-alley in Tokyo, there's a single chair that, if you sit in it an buy a coffee, you can travel in time, but you can only go to a specific time you can envisage in your mind, you must stay in the seat, and you can only stay until the coffee gets cold. There are other rules but basically that's it. The novel is constructed around a series of what is really a series of linked short stories (if you've seen the structurally and thematically very similar Japanese movie / TV series, Midnight Diner, you'll know how this works), each of which focuses on a different person or people connected with the café - the owner, workers, regulars etc. - all of which come together in a neat ending, based around the resolution of a particular tragedy. The characters are well-drawn, the set-up is ingenious, and I liked the fact that the actual reason for the abilitiy to time travel was left completely unexplained. This is not science-fiction. But it also lacks something, and I guess that something is depth. There are several sequels, and I find it almost impossible not to read sequels whatever I thought of the original, but they aren't on my priority list.

10. Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

This short novel was huge in Japan, and was already made into a lovely film by Kawase Naomi, which starred Kiki Kirin, who was probably the greatest actress of her generation, and who unfortunately died quite recently. This means that the book is now always going to be compared up to the film, even if it was the original. However I found this story of the relationship between indebted ex-con with a drinking problem trying to make it as a dorayaki (sweet bean pancake) baker, the old woman with deformed hands who begs to help in his little shop, and the midddle school girl from am impoverished background who hangs out at the shop and wonders if she has a future at all, to be really well-written and emotionally rather more subtle and moving than the overly sentimental movie (depsite Kiki Kirin's performance). The core of the book is the (not surprising) revelation that Tokue, the old woman, suffered from Hansen's Disease for most of her life and was locked away (as all 'lepers' were in Japan until 1996), even after she was cured, and public prejudice remains as the trio discover. The book, and the movie, have both done a lot to raise awareness of the terrible mistreatment of Hansen's Disease sufferers in Japan, but it's not just worthy, this is a really worthwhile work.
 
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PhilKenSebben

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I've been catching up on a few popular Japanese novels (in translation obv).
Actually, as it is you writing this, no it isn't obvious that you read them in translation. Infact, I would have been just as surprised to learn you read Japanese as I am unsurprised you don't :)


I have been catching up on cheesy star trek novels from my youth. God it feels good to revisit after all these years!
 

FlyingMonkey

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Actually, as it is you writing this, no it isn't obvious that you read them in translation. Infact, I would have been just as surprised to learn you read Japanese as I am unsurprised you don't :)
My Japanese is pretty good for everyday use and I can read with a dictionary, but that's no fun for fiction! :cool:
 

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