Monday, June 30, 2014

Books Read: November-December 2013

I am certainly behind on these! November was a really productive month, in terms of reading. December, not so much. (This was when my mental state started to deteriorate.)

November 3rd: A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin. The first in the immensely popular series, I finally read it for book club. Enjoyable and a real page turner, even if it's not exactly deep or meaningful literature. Overall I think I prefer the TV show (which is great). Grade: B+.
November 4th: The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng. Tan is probably Malaysia's most famous author (though the impressiveness of that distinction is not clear). This book, about an equivocal romance between a Malaysian POW camp survivor and a Japanese gardener, was interesting more for the setting than the characters: but the setting was great. Grade: B+.
November 7th: Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. About a really old man who falls in love for the first time with the virginal teenage prostitute he hires (who sleeps throughout all their sessions: he watches and fondles her). Extremely creepy, with a narrator who displays a complete incomprehension of intimacy: though maybe that's the point? It made me feel unclean, though the writing is excellent. Grade: C.
November 7th: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain. As the subtitle suggests, this is actually a paean to introverts and all their various superiorities, rather than an objective exploration of the personality trait. Still full of interesting information. Grade: B+.
November 8th: Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender, Louise Bates Ames. One of the series of oldie-but-goodie child development books. I like the way the authors are very frank about the disadvantages/defects of each age. Grade: B.
November 9th: Black Sheep, Georgette Heyer. She is one of the most famous historical novelists out there, a genre I enjoy, so I keep trying to like her. This is supposed to be one of her best: still hated it. Reads like a bad romance novel. Grade: D.
November 17th: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook--What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing, Bruce D. Perry. really enjoyed this one, and have referenced it so many times in conversation with B that he is now sick of it. Want to know what NOT to do with your small child? Read this, especially the chapter on the serial killer. Grade: A.
November 20th: The Good, the Bad and the PSLE: Trials of an Almost Kiasu Mother, Monica Lim. Memoir by a Singaporean about the crazy school system here, which is intensely competitive and all-immersive in a way that's hard for an American to imagine (Not good at academics for whatever reason? Then your childhood is going to be sheer unadulterated misery!). The strangest thing to me was her blase acceptance of the (to me) completely bizarre, like that she was going to take days off work to help her teenager do test prep. Illuminating if rather uninspired. Grade: B.
November 26th: The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick. Novel about a man with a head injury and a quirky family, who's obsessed with getting back together with his ex-wife (a total impossibility, as we learn). Funny and easy to read. Sort of slight though (and annoyingly vague on the medical end: what exactly is wrong with him?). Grade: B-.

December 15th: The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading, Francis Spufford. His premise is that his childhood, and subsequent life, was shaped by the books he's read. Ho hum, this has been written about before numerous times, by far more interesting authors. Pretty forgettable. Grade: C-.
December 20th: The Concubine's Children, Denise Chong. Excellent book about the author's immigrant Chinese grandparents and parents. Very illuminating about Chinese history and the immigrant experience. If you have any interest in the Chinese diaspora, this is a must-read. Grade: A.

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