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Fruitful January

At the beginning of January I set the goal to read 100 books this year. As someone who is determined to accomplish what he sets his heart on, I am doing pretty awesome for the first month—with 11 books read. To keep my progress in check, I’ll post a monthly summary of the books read. As I’m writing this post, I’m also reflecting on what I have remembered and what impression the books have made on me. It’s good exercise for the brain and a testimony of the strength of these books.

11 books, 3434 pages, 110 pages a day

For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway
Glad I have read the book, which has some great thoughtful writing on how war destroyed lives and changes the way we think about human interaction, but it’s not my favorite book.

The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon
The book is ingenious in being a social satire filled with black humor. It’s a puzzle, an intrigue, and a downward spiral to absurdity. Yet it’s so hit home about our need to invent conspiracy theories to fill the vacuum of uncertainty.

Union Atlantic Adam Haslett
Is there a book more relevant to our time than this one? Dispute over land that has been donated for preservation, fraudulent activities involved a conglomerate financial institution.

Shopgirl Steve Martin
What a pleasant surprise. I never knew Steve Martin is a writer, let alone a capable one. This is a jewel of a novella that speaks to the heart of what we desire in relationships.

Latecomers Anita Brookner
Brookner always has a keen eye on people. This book is a character study of two friends who were both German transplant in England, grew up together, and have gone into business together. A bit dry but still worth the read.

Put out More Flags Evelyn Waugh
So typically Waugh: he has developed a wickedly hilarious and yet spot-on assault (if you’re familiar with British history) on traditional values. The main character is so bad you want to punch him in the face.

This is Where I Leave You Jonathan Tropper
This is wickedly and riotously funny, barely leaving me room to breathe. Beneath all the humor is emotion so raw despite being repressed for so long. Whether these siblings like it or not, the blood relation binds them all through thick and thin.

All the Little Live Things Wallace Stegner
My strongest book of the month. The vividness of the language—embracing regret, fear, death, and love—is what gives the book its nauseously poignant edge. A deep reflection of what it means to be alive, and to be fully in terms with one’s lifetime.

The God of Luck Ruthanne Lum McCunn
The weakest book of the month. It is a very simple story but with complex historical elements. It reveals the little-known coolie trade to Peru. The main hero endures back-breaking labor in a foreign land with the sadness and determination of a wife and family back home.

Stoner John Williams
Another favorite of the month, and a great introduction to John Williams. A beautifully written and contemplative novel about a man who has triumphed over the inimical world by being indifferent to disappointments and joy, and by focusing on the work for which he has a passion. He is defined by his formidable determination.

My first book of February is by yet another new author, L.J. Davis; A Meaningful Life is about a man’s determination to restore to its past glory a rooming mansion in Brooklyn that he sinks his last penny on. Halfway through the book, Davis’s lyrical style and hilarious observations tell me that this book is way under-appreciated. It’s a NYRB title.

14 Responses

  1. Isn’t it funny how you can be incredibly satisfied with your own month’s reading, but, then, when you see a particular book on someone else’s monthly re-cap, you’re thinking “Oh, but it would have been an even more perfect month if I’d made some time for Anita Brookner”! Heh.

    (And I’ve never enjoyed Hemingway’s writing as much as I kind of, sort of, maybe, wished that i did.)

    Good luck with your 100-book goal: you’re definitely off to a great start. You can have a couple “lighter” months now, if necessary.

    • Ha! It always happens to me and in the world of readers, the grass is sometimes greener next door! That is why I appreciate book bloggers so much. They are the sources of inexhaustible reading ideas. In February, in keeping with the sentiment of upcoming Oscar, I find myself in the taste for movie tie-in books. I just got a copy of The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

  2. So many to add to my list. Your best books will be the ones that I will try to read with my oldest son….as soon as he’s off his 12 hour rotations we should be starting stoner.

    • Let me know how All the Little Live Things goes with you and your son. I enoyed it so much, especially the part about the dying neighbor who totally changed the way of the narrator’s thinking.

  3. Glad to hear you’re enjoying “A Meaningful Life.” I agree it’s certainly an under appreciated novel.

    • It’s a great find and I’m so glad I had given it a chance. I just bought it cold turkey while browsing at the indie. L.J. Davis is underappreciated. He is indebted to Jonathan Lethem who was on the editorial board of NYRB and suggested to re-release the book.

  4. same goals here, and also 11 books read, though you beat me by 10 pages for the daily average! and I still need to review 3 of my 11 titles. but here is my recap anyway: http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/02/02/january-wrap-up/

    • I have been trying to read at least 100 pages everyday regardless of what I’m reading. Sometimes I read 60 pages f one book and start another and put in 40. It turns out that I end up reading more at the end of the month.

  5. Good luck with your reading challenge. I also challenged myself to read 100 books this year. I only managed 6 in January so I know I am already behind!

    • Thank you. I will be heading to Hong Kong later on this month and I’m not sure how the trip home will factor into my readings. It could swing either way. 🙂

  6. A productive month indeed! I hope to read 70 books this year. It’s the first that I’ve resolved to read a set number of books. Good luck and enjoy your reading.

    • Thank you Kinna! I have worked myself up to a routine of 100 pages everyday. Also joining a book club helps boost my reading as well since this group reads 2 books a month.

  7. All The Little Live Things is the one that catches my eye. I read a book by Stegner awhile back — Angle of Repose — and I was so impressed.

    • I keep hearing Angle of Repose is one of his best works and I’m saving it for later. Last year I read Crossing to Safety, a story with quiet majesty and contemplation about the lifelong friendship of two academic couples. It’s my best read from 2011.

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