Friday, August 31, 2012

Reading List Round-Up 2012: Books 46-55

Note:  These are actually the books I read throughout the month of July; I've just been slacking off on updating my log and reactions.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

This one started off impressively, looking almost like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel in its scope and sprawl, but for me it got boring very quickly.  The thing most reviews raved about with this book is the author's age (she's 25), and for that she certainly gets kudos from me, but she failed to keep me enthralled in the story.

Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire

This is a short, quick read-- I finished it in one 45-minute sitting.  It's a play, so brevity is to be expected, especially given the more minimalist style of this one, but the story is no less moving for it.  I watched the film adaptation (featuring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) last year, and so was familiar with the material, but reading Lindsay-Abaire's articulation of it there on the page helped me vividly re-visit a truly touching story and a frank exploration of grief in the bubble of modern life.

A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin

 I tried so, so hard to stop myself from reading this one, knowing it would be torturous for me to endure the next who-knows-how-many years until its successor goes to the presses.  A Dance with Dragons absolutely outshines its predecessor, A Feast for Crows (admittedly not a difficult feat), and leaves so many characters' fates in the balance that it's hard to resist storming over to GRRM's house and demanding to know what happens next.

Game of Thrones and Philosophy edited by William Irwin

Definitely an intriguing read and one that adds even more depth to the book series I've fallen in love with over the past few months, but in comparison with some of the other Philosophy and... books (of which I've read several) this one seems to play it a little safe, not delving into the text quite as deeply as I was expecting and sticking largely to analysis of the first novel, which I guess is fair given that they are trying to appeal to the television audience responsible for its recent surge in popularity.

Othello by William Shakespeare

For me the bar in Shakespearean tragedy is set with Hamlet, most likely because it's the one I've read to death (the bar for comedies is set with Much Ado, if you were wondering), and so I didn't really expect Othello to bowl me over, particularly when I'd already seen it performed and knew what was going to happen.  Othello is definitely an interesting read in terms of tying Shakespeare's works to our contemporary concerns, with its interracial relationship and exploration of jealousy especially, but it's hard to feel moved when the character lamenting his fate at the end has brought so much of that fate upon himself (er, like pretty much every other Shakespearean tragedy protagonist, I guess).  In any event, this one was underwhelming for me.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Another one of the greats that I somehow missed out on during high school, though ultimately I don't think I'd be terribly upset if I never got around to it.  I know, I know, it's compelling, and it addresses the American dream and whatnot, but for me it was just hard to get behind the characters.  I have a suspicion that this play gains a lot of ground in its performance, and thus I will try to hold off complete judgment until I've had an opportunity to watch it and see its words come to life.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Started off seeming just a bit too typical YA for my tastes, but the second half spirals into some just heartbreaking beauty.  This novel is honest and poignant without being too self-involved.  It takes a bit of suspension of disbelief as far as the idea that teenagers like the ones in this book actually exist, but once you've made peace with that it's a journey you won't want to see end.  As a bonus, this book also contains possibly my favorite (definitely in the top five, at least) passages illuminating where its title came from.

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, translation by Tom Stoppard

Semi-intriguing and so very, very Russian.  The characters are so self-pitying it sometimes becomes difficult to stay engaged, but there are some beautiful moments of writing amid the melancholy.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

 This is by far the most boring book ever written about two people having sex.  I love Ian McEwan, and I suppose there were parts of this book that were interesting, at least in terms of his distinctive style and talent with characterization, but on the whole On Chesil Beach is 100% underwhelming.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This is a painfully accurate portrait of what it is to be a young adult, and that's not even taking into account the eye-opening element of the racial persecution still faced by those in our country of Native-American heritage.  It's at times funny but mostly tragic in a way that even the narrator doesn't seem to understand.  Definitely a must-read. 

Best Book:  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Worst Book:  The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Fastest Read:  Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire
Slowest Read:  The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht