Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Young Visiters

By Daisy Ashford

A nine-year old wrote it! Yes, it's true. The publishers decided to leave all the misspellings in place, and not correct the punctuation (or lack thereof). I thought it was a shame they did that. It made it harder for me to read it without any commas. I liked the story and thought it was both obvious and unbelievable that a nine year old wrote it. Obvious because of the childish look at the life of adults; unbelievable, because of the amazingly sober insight she had into the social lives and aspirations of adults.

Finished: Dec 20

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mr. Vertigo

By Paul Auster

That's right - I had to read another one of his books.
I don't remember when was the last time a book made me cry, but this one got the tear welling in my eyes three times. What a beautiful story!
Walter Rawley
Master Yehudi
Mother Sioux
Mrs Witherspoon
Uncle Slim

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Brooklyn Follies

By Paul Auster

(I actually finished it on Saturday).
Ahh... This book reminded me why I liked Paul Auster so much. I find that I still do.
Good stories and great writing. What more could you ask for?
This one was told by a retired life insurance agent who goes to live in Brooklyn and finds his nephew whom he hasn't seen in a while. The nephew, in turn, hasn't seen his sister in a long time, and all of a sudden his niece shows up. But there's more to the story than just the lives of members this particular family. There's an Harry and his adventures in white collar crime, and Marina who's married to a SOB husband, and the perfect beautiful mom and her mother, and a New England widower and his daughter. Yes, a lot is going on, but everything is laid out beautifully and so it's very easy to follow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Story of a boy who accidentally brings a Bengal tiger onto his lifeboat. Kind of an amazing survival story - 227 (or so) days at see. In the end he tell an alternative story to the Japanese investigators who don't believe his animal story. Both are hard to believe but I'd much rather believe the animal story. Probably because I don't want to hear more stories about how brutal humans can be.

God and Harvey Grosbeck

by Gilbert Millstein

Took me ages to finish this book. But I did read "Life of Pi" in between (during my trip to NC and PR). Serves me right for judging a book by it's cover. A really nice cover. The book was nice too, but I think it was hard for me because it used a very rich vocabulary and there were a lot of words that were unfamiliar to me. Someone less lazy than I would have used this opportunity to expand their vocabulary...

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Missing (Hane'edert Menahal Zin) [Hebrew]

I found this book in the Hayden Library! They have lots (well, more than I expected) of Hebrew books. It would be handy to keep in touch with the Israeli literature.
It's about a girl who not only wants to die, she also wants to be present at her own funeral. So she stages her own death and then watches the whole country's reaction to it, including her grief-stricken mother, who had already lost 2 sons from previous marriages.

Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons

By Kurt Vonnegut

This book took me much longer than I expected. Although I did finish it more than 2 week ago. It wasn't as interesting as I expected, but then again, it is a collection of essays, not a story.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

by Victor Hugo

My intention was to take a book that will be hard for me to read, and therefore easy for me to put aside when I need to do other things. I was partly successful with this book. I knew it would be hard to read it. I tried before, in Hebrew. Couldn't get past the first 20 pages! It was an old version, in old Hebrew, I guess. This one, too, was hard to read: small font on yellow pages, a 1960-something edition... Some chapters are just ridiculously long and tiresome descriptions of places. And there were a lot of words that weren't familiar (old English, or something). Still, it was an interesting book, and, at times, I couldn't put it aside. **sigh**

No wonder I was surprised by the way the book ended: all the adaptations I saw were completely disloyal! Shame on them!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Doctor Fischer of Geneva OR the Bomb Party

Graham Greene

I already read this book twice before, but it was in Hebrew. Besides, I didn't remember quite how it ended. I wanted to see if I would still like it, and what its like in its original language. I wasn't disappointed. Just like the other times it was captivating, and so I finished it fairly quickly.
Now, so I won't be so consumed by reading, I just started a book that will be much easier for me to lay down and go and do something else...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns [Hebrew]

By Khaled Hosseini

An interesting story about two women in Afghanistan as their lives change and merge with the historical changes that occur their from the '70s to just a couple of years ago.
I found myself wanting to come home early from work to finish the book. It was tense at times, and had scenes that I absolutely would not want to see in a movie. Books are so much better in this regard - I can take a lot more when I don't have to see it (and can use my imagination to make it less horrible, I guess).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

World Cup Wishes (Mish'ala Achat Yamina) - Hebrew

by Eshkol Nevo

A really interesting story about friendship between four guys and how it changes over time from one world cup soccer championship to another, as told by one of the friends. Set in Israel during the second Intifada but also looks back to the first one.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Jewish Dog (Hakelev Hayehudi) - Hebrew

by Asher Kravitz

There was a time when I wanted to write a book from the point of view of a dog. "A dog's life" I thought I'd call it. But then Paul Auster (Timboktu) and Asher Kravitz beat me up to it. The difference between their books and mine, however, would be that theirs are mostly sad. I wanted mine to be funny.
This book tells the story of the Jewish haulocost and world war II through the eyes of a dog who grew up in a Jewish family, and despite many fate turnovers, he always felt like a jew. Even when he had to bit up jews as the pet of the son of a Nazi officer. Even when he was stationed in Treblinka in the service of the Nazis.
It was mostly sad, but interesting.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver

What a masterpiece! Reminded me of "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth, in that it told the story of a nation through the story of a family, with a lot of parallels. It also boggles my mind to see more evidence to the horrible behavior of US government all throughout the last few decades, all because of some fear of communism. A behavior that cost many lives and left most of the developing countries under-developed. It's really infuriating.
Anyway, when I got the book (from the same store I got B. Kingsolver's other book, because of the cat) I thought it would be like her two other books I read (the second, without my knowing, turned out to be a sequel of the first) which I really liked. It was different but I wasn't disappointed at all! Seemed to be more complex, but just as easily read and fascinating as the others.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Who Killed Palomino Molero

by Mario Vargas Llosa

A short story told mostly from the point of view of Lituma, a simple Guardia Civil man, a cholo, about his and his boss's attempts to solve a horrible crime - the torture and murder of a young handsome and talented singer, Palomino Molero. The story is set in 1950s and it's interesting to see the tensions between the "whites" and the "cholos". Lots of racism going on... And the power of rumors.

Yours, Sandro (Shelcha, Sandro) - Hebrew

by Zvi Yanai

An interesting compilation of letter the author writes to his long lost brother, that for an unknown reason was left in a foster home. Through letters that Zvi (Sandro) writes to his brother Romulo, citing letters to their mother, we learn what happened to that particular family during the years 1930-1944 in Italy and Hungary, and then a little bit about their years in Israel. Hebrew.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

!HUGO! The Hugo Chavez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution

By Bart Jones

What a fascinating book about such an amazing person!
Having watched a movie about Hugo Chavez a few years ago (The Revolution will not be Televized) followed by a discussion with history professor who seemed very favorable of the man, but then only hearing bad things about him, in the mainstream media and even from South American friends, I felt confused - what should I believe? Bart Jones help me get to a conclusion. But also he made me think of all the lies governments and media tell us. In the case of Chavez - incredible lies and propaganda that seems absolutely ridiculous when confronted with the facts, nonetheless, if it is not (and it usually isn't) it can be very easily considered as the truth by most people.
And that's really scary. What else are they lying to us about?
This book has opened my eyes to all the horrible things US governments were involved in over decades in Latin America. I heard some anecdotes here and there, but never knew to what extent it was striving (and still is) to get rid of leftist leaders. I think it's good to know these things. Better than to be blind.
How can anyone still listen to Bush's lies and not get enraged? I wonder...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Other People's Trades - Primo Levi

Primo Levi is one of my favorite authors, but this collection of essays was not up to my expectations. From the few sentences of the first essay I read while still at the bookstore, it seemed to me that this book would be similar to The Mirror Maker. It was, in a way. But while in The Mirror Maker each and every essay was eye-opening, amusing and interesting, a lot of the stories in Other People's Trades were not as interesting or revealing. But every prolific author has some books that are better than others. I still think that Primo Levi has an amazing way of portraying life, nature, and human nature and he always amazes me with the wide knowledge he has in so many aspects of science.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

by Mario Vargas Llosa

A nice book with an interesting interweaving of plot: half of the book is an autobiography, and every other chapter is a description of a radio serial by the scriptwriter, Pedro Camacho. Poor Pedro is a workaholic, and writing is his life. He writes episodes for 10 different serials a day - no wonder he ends up mixing them up and confusing the enthusiastic and fascinated audience. It becomes really annoying at time, I must say, to read a story about someone who starts out as a football (soccer) player, and ends up as a bullfighter. The autobiography part is my favorite - the hardships of a couple in love - the author and his aunt Julia. She's not really his aunt - only the sister of his uncle's wife - but she is 14 years older than he is, and a divorcee, which is important to his Catholic family. Since he's a minor (18 year olds still need to get permission from their parents to get married in Peru of that time), they have to overcome so many obstacles, it's really exhausting just to think about it.
I read another book of his years ago, and it didn't leave any impression on me. This is definitely not the case with this book.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pigs in Heaven - Barbara Kingsolver

It took me a while to realize that this is a sequel to the only other Kingsolver book I read - The Bean Trees. I liked this one a lot. Seems like nothing about it is flat... I also like the way she thinks - things can work out somehow, even if sometimes it feels like nothing good can come out of a situation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

1984 - George Orwell

Well, this is the second time I read this book. I was a mere teenager when I read it first, and I didn't remember how intense it was! Maybe now that I'm older I'm more easily affected by things like that.
But more than the fact that it's a scary book, I find it also scary that even though it was written more than half a century ago, some of the ideas expressed in it are still not common knowledge nowadays.
For example: torture. The Party doesn't use torture to get information - they know it's useless for that. They use it to dehumanize people. To make them stop being humans.
Another example: desperate means. When Winston and Julia are asked whether they'd do anything if it worked against the party - they both said yes. Would they kill innocent people? Yes. Would they throw acid in a face of a child? Yes. Yet their answers are not automatic - made just to please the questioner, because they do say NO when asked whether they'd be willing to separate and never see each other again. Millions of people have read this book, and yet it doesn't seem like many of them remember this part when they talk about suicide bombers.