Spring Reading 2014

Spring in 2014 went from 20 March – 20 June. In that 12 weeks, I read and/or listened to 16 books. A productive season. My favorite books of the Spring were my re-reading of Death Comes to the Archbishop, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and Chronicles of my life : an American in the heart of Japan. The nice thing about all of these is that there is more where they came from. I’ll certainly be reading (and re-reading) more Willa Cather, I plan to outline Erving Goffman’s book and possibly read some of his others, and Donald Keene has a pile of surveys, translations, and commentary on Japanese Literature. Isn’t that the wonderful thing about books, knowledge, humanity, that there’s more and more and more?

Narrow Road to the Deep North by Basho
The Penguin edition came with an informative if not overly laudatory introduction and several other sketches. Unfortunately, too many unfamiliar people and places made Basho’s journey a bit of a slog.

Chronicles of my life : an American in the heart of Japan by Donald Keene
A wholly charming, though not extremely personal, autobiography of America’s foremost scholar of Japanese literature. Both text and delightful illustrations are highly recommended.

Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Re-reading Willa Cather’s epic regional classic of two priests forging a diocese in New Mexico’s huge territory was just as inspiring the second time around. Her lyrical descriptions of the desert are beautiful. It’s hard to go wrong with Cather.

Dune (au) by Frank Herbert
Though not without faults, Dune certainly deserves its place in the pantheon of science fiction. The Audio Renaissance full-cast audiobook I listened to likewise deserves a place in the pantheon of marvelous audiobooks.

The Silent Language by Edward T. Hall
Hall’s first book is a good introduction to his vast work on defining culture; here he isolates specific elements of societies through linguistic methods, as well as through analysis of space and time. I’m looking forward to reading his other books before looking back on this one.

Empire State: A Love Story by Jason Shiga
A cute graphic novella about a crush that leads sheltered young Jimmy (an Oakland Library employee, btw) on a risky cross-country adventure. It wasn’t extremely complex or insightful, but at the end I felt like I’d finished a good story full of feelings expertly expressed.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman
The idea of examining behavior through the lens of dramaturgy seems to have originated in Goffman’s classic text. His breakdown of group dynamics and roles in, for example, the service professions should be studied by anyone involved in a customer service enterprise. The International Sociological Association called it one of its “Books of the Century

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray
I wouldn’t let the silly conceit or simplistic writing style fool you. This book is full of useful communication strategies. Now, if only there was a direct path from knowledge to action.

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure graphic novel? What an idea. A noble try packed with some mind-expanding concepts that kept me engaged for exactly one 20-25 minute sitting.

Soviet Science Fiction by assorted authors, translated by Violet L. Dutt
Entertaining stories. Not particularly Soviet, not all science fiction. A worthwhile find in a random box at Kilgore Books in Denver.

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
Imagine a group of Iranian women of various ages drinking tea and telling anecdotes, mostly about men, and you have Embroideries. Highly recommended for Satrapi fans as well as enthusiasts of The Vagina Monologues, Steel Magnolias, and other works where women dish it out.

Russian Literature: A Short Introduction by Catriona Kelly
More a series of thematic essays than a short introduction, Dr. Kelly’s book gave plenty of insight about ideas in Russian criticism and elements of the literature while focusing little on the things one would expect, like big names and their works.

Starship Troopers (au) by Robert Heinlein
It had its moments, but I can’t say that Starship Troopers was nearly as good this time around as the first time I read it. Too much Ra-Ra-Ra, too little plot.

Bartleby the Scrivener & Other Stories: The Lightning-rod Man, The Bell-Tower (au) by Herbert Melville
Hearing William Roberts read this marvelous audiobook helps show me why Bartleby is an enduring character in American Literature. The other stories were fine, but of purely of their time. It is obvious by all three that Melville has a delightful gift for language.

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel
Fast-paced graphic novel mystery story set on a steamboat. Full of intrigue and big themes. Recommended for teens (but not younger…Because there are naked breasts. There, I said it!).

Gandhi: My Life is My Message by Jason Quinn
Straightforward in every way. A little bit inspiring, but mostly mediocre, covering the high points of Gandhi’s life — could be used as a school text.

Summer has already started and I’ve jumped into my reading as a fish does when it is released back into the water. I have a bunch of graphic novels from the publisher First Second planned, as well as a history of Japan, some science fiction, and a book on the history of synagogues in America. I’m also making my way through the first volume of R.H. Blyth’s encyclopedic history of haiku.

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  1. Pingback: Winter Reading 2014 | Life in Oleg | Life in Oleg

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