Thanks to my local library for all but one of the books I read this month. A combination of early Christmas shopping and well, London rent meant that I spent my book budget on other things. Regardless of my bank account, I genuinely really enjoy going to the library. I even go to it when my finances aren’t crying. I just browse the shelves for authors I know and love or (most of the time) for a cover or a title that catches my eye. This method rarely fails me, but one book this month was so bad I couldn’t get past the first chapter, despite it’s very colourful cover. The books I did finish were all fairly good, but nothing blew me away this month. (Maybe I was exhausted from NaNoWriMo!)
The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander
Hmmmm. Well, I finished it. Set in Buenos Aires A couple tries to find their son who has been ‘disappeared’, kidnapped by the military government. It’s a heartbreaking story, which stuck with me for a few days; I kept thinking about the couple and their son and wanting to know what happened in their lives after the book ended. I liked the writing style, the strong characters and the dark humour at odd moments in the story. For example, the main character accepts a nose job in lieu of a cash payment and it goes fairly badly wrong but the way it goes wrong and the problems it causes, not least in efforts to find their missing son, are oddly funny in what is otherwise a very, very sad story. I was hoping it would have more of a focus on Argentina, but I guess I should have read a travel book for that.
The Consul’s Files by Paul Theroux
This is a short story collection by one of my favourite authors. The short stories are written by a consul in a very small town in Malaysia, covering a broad range of subjects from each of the various ‘characters’ around the town and a broad range of human experience and emotion. There’s even a ghost story (coincidentally, my favourite story of the bunch). I read another one of his novels (The Family Arsenal) and was just as pleased then as with this book that he is just as good of a fiction writer as a travel writer. I would wholeheartedly recommend this one.
Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell
This one was recommended on Nomadic Matt’s blog, as an expert on travel and from what I can tell, one of the coolest people out there, I will happily take his recommendations! So, I bought this for the Scot and then borrowed it to read myself. (It was a tough month on my wallet, okay?) The author goes to polluted or otherwise kind of gross areas of countries, like Chernobyl and oil sands fields and talks about it from a tourist’s perspective. The writing felt a bit forced at times, other times I giggled out loud and frequently, I wanted to go sign a Green Peace petition.
Mr Foreigner by Matthew Kneale
A short and sweet novel chronicling the misadventures of an expat in Japan. It’s probably not the height of literary achievement, but I really liked it. It’s a good mystery story with lots of twists and turns and attempts to escape from his girlfriend’s family who are determined to get him to marry her by whatever means necessary. It’s quite dark and quite funny. I read it in a few journeys to work and it kept me entertained.
Hear the Wind Sing / Pinball by Haruki Murakami
These are the first two novels by who will become a much loved author (especially by yours truly). They’re worth a read, if you’ve read his other books, but wouldn’t be a good starting point into Murakami’s oeuvre. They’re great if you’ve read most of his other books, because you can see the first inklings of where his writing will go. The style is pure Murakami from the start, but the stories are still finding their feet. That said, if my first novel is half this good, then I’ll be one happy camper.
** As you can probably tell from the cover photo, I am still learning to use my new camera. It doesn’t seem to like to focus properly! It’s obviously not because I don’t quite know how to use it yet and took photos in very poor light. Update on the camera soon.