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162. Books Bought & Read, November 2017…

162. Books Bought & Read, November 2017…

There are a number of questions I often get asked: which is my favourite country? Where can I find those funny wireless earphone thingies? Are you still in bed? Please could you stop doing that? etc. But one of the most common is: How do you find time to read so many books? And whilst there are many answers, (my supernatural ability to simultaneously read and walk without falling foul of open manhole covers; my ability to brush my teeth without getting pastesplatter on my reading material, etc), the simple one is: I sometimes find myself reading very short books.

TED talks are, for me, the best example of this form, sharing short, punchy stories and ideas on paper with the same panache as in their short talks. This month I learned the benefits of living on Mars, the fact that birds are dinosaurs, and that the plight of refugees can be even more horrific than I realised. (The fourth one I read was the first of the series which really did nothing for me, but that’s not a bad hit rate considering how many of them I have gone through).

Before Ted, there was the School of Life series from Alain de Botton, and I found another useful and informative copy of their modern-day How To series on leadership which inspired me to either become a leader, or follow leaders, I haven’t quite decided which yet.

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Comics and graphic novels are another way to pad out my stats, but they are not gratuitous: I will read absolutely anything put out by the embarrassingly talented Oliver Jeffers, and always come away having learned something and/or feeling better about myself/the world/humanity.

I only learned recently that we are (essentially) neighbours in Brooklyn, and so it wasn’t too surprising to hear that he was appearing at The Strand to promote his latest masterpiece, ‘Here We Are.’

More surprising was showing up to the event to learn that he had brought some mates along to help, and that those mates included the creator of the Humans of New York project, the creator of the wonderful Brain Pickings website (“An Inventory Of The Meaningful Life‘), and, of course, Chelsea Clinton. And his infant son. And artisanal, book-covered cupcakes.

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Short stories remain one of my favourite ways to pass a few hours in bed before sleeping, and I can’t believe it had taken me so long to grab a copy of my hero’s latest compilation, ‘Men Without Women‘ by Haruki Murakami, (although halfway through several of the more prosaic than usual tales I often found I had read them before, in the New Yorker or another compilation. The pitfalls of the avid fan!).

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A new name in short stories (and surely one of the greatest in literature, if not the world generally) fell into my lap this month when I cracked the spine on the complete tales of Breece D’J Pancake, (his first and last names are (somehow) real; the unpronounceable middle name the result of a misprint of his middle initials). Sparse, descriptive, inconclusive, set in the midwest in fields and farms and bars and cars and often full of silence and thought, a shopping list of things which would normally turn me off a story, these were so powerful and heart-wrenching that they overcame all of those negatives to leave me depressed and in awe, sometimes all I ask for in literature.
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An underwhelming Dorothy Parker play, a bizarre Gabriel Garcia Marquez novella, a beautiful (and beautifully bound) Mark Haddon poetry compilation, a fascinating but pessimistic sequel to the excellent Sapiens, the excellent history of the Daily Show…my interests rambled from cover to cover in November, but came together in ‘The Undoing Project.’

In the interests of learning everything I can about this world we live in, I will read anything Michael Lewis writes, and when what he’s writing is the history of two of the modern age’s greatest thinkers, I’m sold. One of my favourite books ever (and most-read blog to date) Daniel Kahnemann’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow was the culmination of events described in Lewis’s work, and a fascinating read, if less specialised than previous works.

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Thanks to shot-sized books of facts, short stories, poetry and graphic novels, I managed to outread my purchases by the finest of margins, with 18 books bought and 19 read. Will this trend continue into the final month of the year? There’s only one way to find out…

Books Bought, November 2017

The Book: a cover-to-cover exploration of the most powerful object of our time (Keith Houston)

The Ladies Of The Corridor (Dorthy Parker & Arnaud D’Usseau)

The Talking Horse And The Sad Girl And The Village Under The Sea (Mark Haddon)

How To Be A Leader (Martin Bjergegaard & Cosmina Popa)

Here We Are: notes for living on planet earth (Oliver Jeffers)

A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers)

Rescue: refugees and the political crisis of our time (David Miliband)

The Misfit’s Manifesto (Lidia Yuknavitch)

Coyote vs Acme (Ian Frazier)

Sweet (Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh)

How To Watch A Movie (David Thomson)

The Book Of Spice: from anise to zedoary (John O’Connell)

The Daily Show (The Book): an oral history (Chris Smith)

The Age Of Caesar: five roman lives (Plutarch)

How We’ll Live On Mars (Stephen L.Petranek)

Why Dinosaurs Matter (Kenneth Lacovara)

Men Without Women (Haruki Murakami)

Fables, Volume 5: the mean seasons (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)

 

Books Read, November 2017 (highly recommended titles in bold)

A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers)

Here We Are: notes for living on planet earth (Oliver Jeffers)

The Talking Horse And The Sad Girl And The Village Under The Sea (Mark Haddon)

How To Be A Leader (Martin Bjergegaard & Cosmina Popa)

Rescue: refugees and the political crisis of our time (David Miliband)

The Misfit’s Manifesto (Lidia Yuknavitch)

Coyote vs Acme (Ian Frazier)

Educating Peter: how anyone can become an (almost) instant wine expert (Lettie Teague)

Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow (Yuval Noah Harari)

Fables, Volume 5: the mean seasons (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)

How We’ll Live On Mars (Stephen L.Petranek)

Memorias De Mis Putas Tristes (Memories Of My Melancholy Whores)(Gabriel García Márquez)

Why Dinosaurs Matter (Kenneth Lacovara)

Men Without Women (Haruki Murakami)

The Daily Show (The Book): an oral history (Chris Smith)

The Undoing Project (Michael Lewis)

Stardust: illustrated edition (Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess)

The Ladies Of The Corridor (Dorthy Parker & Arnaud D’Usseau)

The Stories Of Breece D’J Pancake (Breece D’J Pancake)

 

 

 

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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

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Don’t forget to check out and order my first ever published book, available here!

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October’s reading, (and purchasing), was brought to you courtesy of a three-week holiday (vacation) to the city that only sleeps when it’s tired, or has a job interview early the next morning, or because the bars have all closed at 2am: New York.

A long flight and metro journeys between my base of Brooklyn and the island once known by the natives as Mana-hatta, (amazing what you can learn on a walking tour…), allowed me to get through seventeen wonderful, and not always short books: The Strand and various lovely, (and cheap), book sellers on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, allowed me to bring a further 26 home with me, (at least, the ones which weren’t left behind as presents).

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The Strand, the world’s largest bookshop…

One of them, Colson Whitehead’sThe Colossus Of New York‘ came to me in the opposite direction, a lovely and unexpected gift on my 17th 37th birthday, and the perfect jazz prose-poem for somebody wandering the streets of the city, for the first or fiftieth time. A new author for me to look out for, this slim and gorgeous time gets 9/10 on the Borges/Brown scale.

(I decided to abandon grading all of the books I read: my blog was almost impossible to even get to last month, so from this month I am just awarding the Borges mark of excellence to any book on the list which I highly recommend reading.)

Bill Bryson‘s story of a single topic (aviation) in a single year (1927) in American history is fascinating, thanks to not covering just one year or one topic but everything from Communism and Prohibition to baseball and murder cases, and I highly recommend it. Since I try to match my reading to my location, I also finally read Brooklyn-based Michael Chabon’s modern classic ‘The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay,’ a beautiful tale of World War II refugees, New York life, and comic books. Perfect.

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I was guilty of buying a book of which I already own two copies, but since my signed copies of Haruki Murakami’s latest offering is safe in The Cupboard in the UK, and the US version has a different, (and far more gorgeous) cover, I felt entirely justified. The book was everything I’ve come to expect from one of my favourite writers…although no more. Not underwhelming, just not as overwhelming as I’d hoped.

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After returning to Lisbon to continue life and work, I flew through a couple of comic books picked up at New York’s ComicCon, which were nowhere near as much fun as their animated originals, and got back to my latest love, Portuguese literature and especially a fascinating offering from Next Great Portuguese Thing, Gonçalo M.Tavares. If you can find him in translation, I recommend his experimental style highly.

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New York Comic Con…

If you like that sort of thing.

Which I do.

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Books Bought, October 2014

Burmese Days,’ George Orwell

Pastoralia,’ George Saunders

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america,’ ed. Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey

The Fiddler In The Subway,’ Gene Weingarten

Manual Of Painting And Calligaphy,’ José Saramago

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

The Graveyard Book,’ Neil Gaiman

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Strong Opinions,’ Vladimir Nabakov

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

On The Map: why the world looks the way it does,’ Simon Garfield

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,’ David Foster Wallace

Northern Lights,’ Philip Pullman

Anansi Boys,’ Neil Gaiman

Freedom Evolves,’ Daniel.C.Dennett

From Hell,’ Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

O Massacre Dos Judeus: lisboa, 19 de abril de 1506,’ Susana Mateus & Paulo Mendes Pinto

Antic Hay,’ Aldous Huxley

Chrome Yellow,’ Aldous Huxley

Mortal Coils,’ Aldous Huxley

Ballet,’ Arnold Haskell

Biografia De Lisboa,’ Magda Pinheiro

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Books Read, October 2014

One Summer: America, 1927: ,’ Bill Bryson borges

The Rachel Papers,’ Martin Amis

The Amazing Adventures Of  Kavalier And Clay,’ Michael Chabon borges

Salvador,’ Joan Didion

But Beautiful,’ Geoff Dyer

The Song Of Achilles,’ Madeline Miller

The Testament Of Mary,’ Colm Tóibín

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

The Colossus Of New York: a city in thirteen parts,’ Colson Whitehead borges

One More Thing: stories and other stories,’ B.J.Novak

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,’ Karen Joy Fowler

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares borges

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

borges = recommended book

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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125. Books Bought & Read, August 2014…

125. Books Bought & Read, August 2014…

Books Bought, August 2014

The Art Of Travel,’ Alain de Botton

The Circle,’ Dave Eggersad_34488596_86a46fa8b11ca415_web

Zeitoun,’ Dave Eggers

One Summer: america 1927,’ Bill Bryson

‘Let’s Make Some Great Fingerprint Art ,’ Marion Deuchars

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets,’ J.K.Rowling

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire,’ J.K.Rowling

The Portable Dorothy Parker,’ Dorothy Parker

Everything And More: a compact history of infinity,’ David Foster Wallaceurl

Scoop,’ Evelyn Waugh

The Doors Of Perception/Heaven And Hell,’ Aldous Huxley

Lost And Found,’ Oliver Jeffers

Love, Nina: despatches from family life,’ Nina Stibbes

The Book Of Leviathan,’ Peter Blevgad

Where The Sidewalk Ends,’ Shel Silverstein

Sous Le Soleil Jaguar,’ (‘Under The Jaguar Sky’), Italo Calvino

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgramage,’ Haruki Murakami x2

But Beautiful,’ Jeff Dyer

The Song Of Achilles,’ Madeline Miller

My Many Colored Days,’ Dr.Seuss118345

The Rachel Papers,’ Martin Amis

60 Stories,’ Donald Barthelme

Brazil,’ Michael Palin

The Testament Of Mary,’ Colm Tóíbin

The Dog,’ Joseph O’Neill

Girl With Curious Hair,’ David Foster WallaceBoth_Flesh_and_Not_Front_Cover

Both Flesh And Not‘ David Foster Wallace

One More Time,’ B.J.Novak

Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry,’ B.S.Johnson

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden,’ Jonas Jonasson

The Signal And The Noise’ the art and science of prediction,’ Nate Silver

songreader_mockup_loresInterventions: a life in war and peace,’ Kofi Annan

Eating The Dinosaur,’ Chuck Klosterman

Drown,’ Junot Díaz

Song Reader,’ Beck

Alphabetical,’ Michael Rosen

 

Books Read, August 2014

Mack The Life,’ Lee Mack

The Still Point,’ Amy Sackville

The Penelopiad: the myth of penelope and odysseus,’ Margaret Atwood

Dream Angus: the celtic god of dreams,’ Alexander McCall Smith

Judy Bloom And Lena Dunham In Conversation: two cultural icons discuss writing, feminism, censorship, sex, and a sixth-grade literary hoax’

East, West,’ Salman Rushdie

What Are You Looking At? 150 years of modern art in the blink of an eye,’ Will Gompertz

Two Girls: One On Each Knee (7): the puzzling past of the cryptic crossword,’ Alan Connor

Love, Nina: despatches from family life,’ Nina Stibbes

The Portable Dorothy Parker,’ Dorothy Parker

 

OK, so August was ridiculous, even by my standards.

Thirty-seven bought, and a mere ten of those read, (and in only two of them were books I’d bought this month: the other eight were drawn from the deepest darkness of The Cupboard where several forests’ worth of books await my eyeballs).

In my defence, (as if, by now, I need a defence for buying books: addiction requires no explanation), eleven of the books bought were gifts for two special people I am visiting in New York in September; the two Harry Potters were bought before I attended an Apple Store event featuring Daniel Radcliffe and thought there may be a chance of getting his scribble in one, (nope); and the two Murakamis were obligatory, given that I had spent 16 hours waiting to meet him at a signing event, reported here.

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The rest were a muddle of back catalogues from favourite authors, (three giant David Foster Wallaces were added to my collection), modern classics I had never read, (Italo Calvino, Scoop,’ Dorothy Parker, etc), and everything from comedy short stories to autobiographies from Novel Prize Winning former UN Secretary Generals.

The usual.

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As for the ten books I managed to put in the past tense this month, there were some absolute crackers.

I finally got round to reading Dorothy Parker for the first time, and what a start: 600 pages of her after picking up the gorgeous Penguin edition featuring high quality, ‘hand-cut’ feel folio pages, and a great cartoon cover.

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Two books from Canongate’s ‘Myths’ series from two fantastic authors, Alexander McCall Smith and Margaret Atwood allowed me to delve into both Celtic and Greek folk tales and rekindle a love of legend which has never quite left me, from the days I used to rent little but books of Norse and Roman gods from the library.

BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz entertained me with a simple, logical and chronological history of modern art, from its ‘father’ Matisse to the modern stuff you look at and say: “That’s not art. It’s rubbish. Literally.” I now know a little more why I like what I like, and dislike the stuff I don’t like a little less for at least knowing what it is trying to do. There could have been more images, but if anyone is looking to understand the modern art world, it’s a great read.

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Will Gompertz

I enjoyed a change of pace with Amy Sackville‘s tale of a couple living in both modern England and the Victorian past, with the protagonist researching the (eventually unsuccessful) attempt of her great-grand uncle to reach the North Pole. The writing, simultaneously covering just a single day and at the same time an entire century, is impressive, and I had a shiver of déja vu (again) when the plot was taken up by reality this week with the discovery of a missing Victorian vessel which had been attempting to chart the Canadian Arctic waters.

Spooky.

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One of the books bought as a gift, (to either a great aunt or a fake aunt depending on which one got to me first), turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, and ‘Two Girls: One On Each Knee (7): the puzzling past of the cryptic crossword’ will soon feature in its own blog entry, for anyone that wants to know more about that most English of past-times, the cryptic crossword.

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A comedy autobiography which had me laughing out loud almost as much as the man Lee Mack himself does; an excellent short story collection by one of my favourites, Salman Rushdie; and a pamphlet-sized conversation sent to me by my beloved Believer Magazine rounded out the month’s intake.

And given that I’m writing this in the middle of September and I know how many books I have already read this month, I can tell you a secret in advance: the reading shows no signs of abating…

 

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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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