In my free time, when I am not moping or ranting, I read. I was thinking about doing an “I am reading” post-script to each post, but there’s a lot of catching up to do so I decided to do a list. Here goes:
To the North, Elizabeth Bowen: Beautifully written in the style of that age, half-way through this one struck me as a Sex and the City of the 30s. All the characters seemed a tad selfish. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how close independent young women of that age were to our millennial iteration.
Night of the Golden Butterfly, Tariq Ali: A picture of the Lahori literary and artistic intelligentsia, this book also has a Chinese connection that intrigued me. Surprisingly, I came out of a book set largely in contemporary Pakistan (though it moves to London, Paris and even Beijing) wanting to read The Dream of the Red Chamber. Towards the end, though, I began to get the feeling that he was simply recording anecdotes from his own life in desperation.
Red Ink, David Wessel: I was on a reading-about-financial-markets wheel for a bit and picked up this one, which looks at the US federal budget, at the fag end of the ride. I ended up turning it in without finishing it but I re-borrowed it and then finished it quickly. With so much discussion about the US budget deficit, it’s interesting to know what actually goes into it and how much of the rhetoric weighs up in actual fact. Wessel probably has his political leanings but I feel like I got a fair idea of the state of the US budget and I liked that it was so up to date.
The Year of the Shanghai Shark, Mo Zhi Hong: This was a great read, a coming-of-age novel set in Dalian and offering quite a good glimpse into aspects of contemporary China. I need more of this sort. For some reason, I read too little stuff based in this part of the world.
Arthur and George, Julian Barnes: Another great one, which had be reverting to the days when I was living, breathing, enveloped in a book to the exclusion of all else. Not a good thing when you’re a parent. It narratavises the real case of the arrest of vicar of Indian descent’s son which was taken up by Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series. I am ashamed to say I’ve never read nor had the desire to read Sherlock Holmes but this one makes me want to.
Three Junes, Julia Glass: This is one centres around three Scottish brothers but also takes in gay life in New York. The underlying tensions are quite vividly portrayed and there are some surprise twists. Hmm, I just realised that I wasn’t entirely sure why it was called three Junes but it’s because it tells the story through that month in different years.
The Curious Incident of the Dog at Midnight, Mark Haddon: I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while and it was worth it. An insight into the autistic spectrum mind that is funny and light and sympathetic.
Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg: The book’s content is explained in its subtitle ‘the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone’. I chose it because I see so many people around me living alone or facing the prospect and I wanted to understand what it actually entails. Also, a lot of discussions on IHM’s blog get around to the option of not getting married and it was surprising to realise that exactly the same problems are encountered by single people in the United States also (I expected the West to be beyond this but heteronormativity thrives on). I liked that the book didn’t crusade for single life but just laid out the terrain.
Where’d you go, Bernadette/Maria Semple: This is a lighter read about a genius woman hiding in suburbia but it still had some thoughtful portions. The shifts in perspective were cleverly done. I also liked the insight into the brilliance involved in great architecture.
The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta: This one has a weird premise – a day on which some people across the US simply disappeared and how the society, at the individual level, deals with what is attributed to a divine act. I was totally absorbed by it.
Hmmm, I’ve read a lot. Maybe I should do a Part II.