Books Bought, February 2013
‘A Man Without A Country,’ Kurt Vonnegut
‘Payback,’ Margaret Atwood
‘Intelligent Thought: science versus the intelligent design movement,’ ed. John Brockman
‘Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw: travels in search of canada,’ Will Ferguson
‘The Man Who Loved China: the fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the middle kingdom,’ Simon Winchester
Books Read, February 2013
‘The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Slim,’ Jonathan Coe
‘The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better,’ Richard.G.Wilkinson & Kate Pickett
‘Coin Locker Babies,’ Ryu Murakami
‘Speak, Memory,’ Vladimir Nabakov
‘Stuff White People Like: the definitive guide to the unique taste of millions,’ Christian Lander
When I first moved into my 24th century futuristic, tatami-free apartment in rural Japan in 2002, I was presented with a box of goodies which my predecessor on the JET program had left behind for me, including a single book: three years later, that brick of a book was still in the same cardboard box, at the back of my wardrobe, unopened and undusted.
Six months on a lake in rural Guatemala seemed like a good opportunity to right that unread wrong, now that I knew what the book was about: a week-long trip to Mexico City, (aka D.F. or ‘Distrito Federal,’ as I came to learn after I met someone who lived there shortly before my trip and for twenty minutes thought she lived in a Mexican village called ‘Deyefe’), gave me the perfect book to take with me, its 1,000+ pages pretty much guaranteed to last me the trip.
All of this is by way of telling you that a) I spent a wonderful week in Mehico, (a few days in the south, in beautiful, cobbled San Cristóbal, and a fantastic, manic five days in the capital itself), and b) I only got through five books this month because, since I left Guatemala on February 11th, to this very day, (a week shy of a month later), I have been working my way through this for-the-moment mystery book, hopefully to be finished within the next 48hours, and a review sure to appear within a month or so.
The good news was that, after the paucity of choices available at ‘book shops’ in Guatemala, on my final day in San Cristóbal before returning, (by 11 hour mini-bus ride…), to San Pedro, I stumbled upon a fantastic second-hand bookery, run by a very sweet American lady who told me she essentially fell into the job whilst trying to find a way to stay in the town, and who had possibly half of my favourite all time books and authors on her shelves, as well as a few I hadn’t yet read but which were on my list, and were therefore swiftly, (well, slowly, actually, after research of exchange rates, haggling, and a very generous discount for the last of my dollar$), added to my over-laden bag:
-the only Vonnegut I’ve never read;
-the wonderful Margaret Atwood on the wonderfully apt topic of the history of personal and national debt;
-a journey through Canadia, (look, it’s only logical: Australians are from Australia, so…), written by a writer whose book on his journey through Japan is still on my shelf here, awaiting spine-cracking. This seemed especially apposite, given that the ex-pat community of San Pedro seems to be consist of approximately 93% Alaskans and Canadians. (Makes sense – it’s cold over there!);
-one of those accessible-history tales of discovery in China, from an author most of whose books I have read and enjoyed on various countries and topics;
-and a compilation of science writing from some of my scientific favourites, brought together by the über-busy John Brockman, creator of the mind-expanding website The Edge and editor of possibly my favourite series of non-fiction books, an annual collection of essays from hundreds of the world’s leading thinkers in answer to a single, provocative question which Brockman thinks up every year.
As far as books read went, the Coe was fun as ever; the non-fiction on the benefits of equal societies a little repetitive, and at times not 100% convincing; I discovered a new author to explore, and one who shares a name with one of my all-time favourites; the Nabakov autobiography I found sadly lacking from a writer I consider in my Top Five favourite writers, (and since this is the third time already this blog I have mentioned ‘Favourite Authors,’ I have decided that in an upcoming blog I will make an attempt at listing a Top 10 of favourite authors, and possibly books too…though that may well end up being a Top 20…); and my arrival in Mehico City was greeted with the excellent toilet-reading of ‘Stuff White People Like,’ which should more accurately have been titled ‘Stuff White Hipsters Like, Not Like White Rednecks Or Nothing‘ but which had me chuckling out loud, somewhat self-consciously at times, name-checking pretty much a list of things I was doing that week, (yoga, brunch, even the book which began this entry), as well as staples in my life from Dave Eggers to David Sedaris.
As a final thought, this was a month which saw the most (and, indeed, the longest), subtitles in books both bought and read: do authors not trust us to read the blurb to find out what their books are about? Apparently not…