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Friday, November 20, 2015

To read... or not to read?

It's no secret that I love books. My mom loves books. My dad loves books. My brother and my sisters love books. Our living room in our many houses growing up was always easily identifiable as the one mom and dad set up all the bookshelves in. So it's no surprise that my parents have a family subscription to Audible, and that they have an extensive library. And lucky for me, I get to use it!

But my Audible obsession hit an unfortunate peak recently. 

I got to the point that if I were doing anything that didn't involve reading or listening, I felt I needed those headphones in. Showers annoyed me. Having to reply to a friend's text annoyed me. Even my husband's conversation would annoy me! So I've been on a little break for the past week, and instead of having gone through an audio book and a half in that time, I'm not even halfway done with a paper book. Actually having to hold the book and not being able to multitask makes the going so slow!! But also I'm really not liking the story at all, which doesn't make for motivated reading. However, its lack of inspiration inspired me to write a bit about a few of the myriad books I've sunk my teeth into lately, and let you know that you should read them... or stay far away.

Gone with the Wind 
by Margaret Mitchell

Not gonna lie, I hesitated to begin this one. The audio book being 50 hours long is turnoff enough, but add to that a memory of thoroughly disliking the movie when I saw it ages ago, and it took some convincing to start this one up. But over the summer both my mom and little sis Maria were very insistent that I give it a try, so I took their word for it. Three hours in I was bored and uninspired, but Bia reassured me it would pick up, so I kept plugging away. Soon enough I was hooked. Who knew a book with not one character I actually, truly liked could invoke so much interest and emotion?? I honestly didn't want the 50 hours to come to an end, and that's saying a lot. Definitely a classic worth picking up if you've never read it. And let's be honest, you probably haven't.

Crime and Punishment 
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Having parents who are ardent admirers of great literature (and a father who now routinely teaches a Russian literature class to my younger siblings and friends), I grew up hearing the titles and authors of the Russian Greats tossed around in conversation frequently. The images invoked by this particular title always conjured up grandiose scenery peopled by royalty and aristocrats, so by the time I got to the second sentence I was already experiencing something of a let down. However, the story was gripping, despite being slightly tediously preachy at times, and it is one that will stick with me. It's definitely worth picking up, if for nothing else than an interesting introduction to Russian lit. In the past year I've been delving more into Russian literatureAnna Karenina and Dostoyevsky's The Idiot last winter, recently Turgenev's Fathers and Sons and now Dostoyevsky again— and have discovered that in its essence lies not in its stories but in its particular approach to storytelling as well as its timeless characters. Its charm is still rather mysterious to me, but I certainly have enjoyed what tastes I've had thus far. My dad is pushing for War and Peace next... we'll see when I can work up the courage to tackle that!

The Martian
by Andy Weir

Living in Morocco, I rarely hear the buzz surrounding new books or movies. This can be poignantly illustrated by my toting around The Help by Kathryn Stockett a few years ago while on a meandering trip home through Chicago, and upon being asked by a friend what I thought of it so far, was very confused why he knew so much about the story. It had simply appeared in one of the "I'm leaving the country, here are all my books" dumps by friends not long before, and I had picked it up randomly. (Yes, I did love it.) This book and its recent movie, however, did not escape my attention, thanks to my big brother explaining the premise to me over breakfast in Chicago this summer, saying he thought Othman might like it. Well he hasn't read it/listened to it yet, but I did. In all of five days. The science was just science-y enough, the character was realistic but stopped just short of being annoying, and the story and background were just plausible enough. All that put together made for a thoroughly satisfying and gripping read. It's light reading, but good light reading, and I even learned a thing or two about botany! Now to watch the movie...

The Yacoubian Building 
by Alaa Al Aswany

Don't be fooled by the "International Number One Bestseller" scrolling atop the cover this book doesn't have much of anything going for it. The story takes place in modern-day Cairo and follows the exploits of the residents of a large apartment building in the old downtown. It's a premise with potential, but the writing is uninspired, the themes are repetitive, and the characters who don't invoke sympathy are far too many to keep track of. This is the book-book I'm reading currently, and it's one that made its way to my bookshelf at some point but I rather wish hadn't. Perhaps many of my qualms stem from the author's seeming confusion the common maxim Show, Don't Tell, which he got backwards. While the book is meant to be a social and political commentary, I just call it boring.


There are many more I could talk about... I could expound on the graceless aging of Herzog by Saul Bellow, Turgenev's equally tender and melodramatic Fathers and Sons, Oliver Sack's interesting but endlessly repetitive Awakenings, the non-fiction Storm of War by Andrew Roberts which was a long but superb recount of WWII, and many more. But the reliving of each story as I write up my feelings about them has been exhausting, so I think I'll leave it at that for now.

1 comment:

  1. Yay Gone with the Wind! You're making me want to read it again! I'm almost done with Crime & Punishment, I just have the Epilogue to go. I'm really liking it!