CheshireOcelot's Bibliophilia Journal
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Hello all - I just found out about this challenge the other day, and since I've been looking for some extra motivation to read more, this looks like as good an excuse as any. I don't think I've ever read close to this many books in a single year, so excuse me if I end up packing a lot of short novellas into December...
Anyway, I majored in Literature in college (graduated a few years ago), but I tend to just read anything and everything that grabs my attention - lots of non-fiction, novels, poetry, graphic novels, whatever. Late last year I decided to try focusing a bit by going through several novels by just one author, starting with Mishima Yukio. That went fairly well, so once I finish off a few books I got for Christmas I'll probably do that again. Maybe with Shakespeare, but we'll see. I'll probably also be writing about this challenge on my blog (linked in my profile).
I'm currently reading, and close to finishing, Iron Kingdom, by Christopher Clark, and listening to an audiobook of Kafka on the Shore, by Murakami Haruki and narrated by Sean Barrett and Oliver le Sueur.
EDIT: for the sake of convenience, I'm thinking I'll copy the list of everything I've read so far here in the first post.
1 - Iron Kingdom, by Christopher Clark
2 - Spice & Wolf (GN) vol. 9, by Koume Keito
3 - Spice & Wolf (GN) vol. 10, by Koume Keito
4 - The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, by A.J.P. Taylor
5 - A Bride's Story, volume 6, by Mori Kaoru
6 - In Praise of Shadows, by Tanizaki Junichiro
7 - Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 4, by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu
8 - Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 5, by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu
9 - How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler
10 - Kafka on the Shore, by Murakami Haruki
11 - The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815, by Charles W. Ingrao
12 - A Critique of Democracy: A Guide for Neoreactionaries, by Michael Anissimov
13 - The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
14 - Watamote vol. 5, by Tanigawa Nico
15 - Watamote vol. 6, by Tanigawa Nico
16 - The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman
17 - Le Misanthrope, by Molière
Ooh, I *love* Kafka on the Shore! I hope you're enjoying it, too.
And welcome to the group, Richard!
Thanks to both of you for the welcome, and I am enjoying Kafka on the Shore so far at about the 1/5 mark.
I just finished Iron Kingdom, which I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in German history. So, at least I won't get shut out for the 2015 challenge!
Will probably knock out a couple graphic novels next, then move to some more history with The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, by A.J.P. Taylor.
So, I did finish a couple graphic novels last week - volumes 9 and 10 of Koume Keito's adaptation of Spice & Wolf. The series isn't bad, but the same basic story is done better in both Hasekura's original novels and the anime adaptation, so I'd only recommend this version for people who really love those other works.
Anyway, I also finished The Habsburg Monarchy today. Very interesting material, but Taylor's extremely harsh on almost everyone he writes about. To take the most extreme example, he says of Franz Joseph's son Rudolph, "Fortunately for himself and for others, Rudolph committed suicide." I don't mind a historian stating his opinion, but let's tone it down a bit! Every other criticism is, of course, significantly milder than that, but some people might find that persistent negativity grating.
I should probably look up another book on the Habsburgs, but covering a period prior to 1809 - most of Taylor's book is, in a way, depressing, because it covers the dynasty's decline and fall. I'd like to know more about how it came to power in the first place.
That gets me up to four books; next up is probably another graphic novel, and then In Praise of Shadows, by Tanizaki Junichiro.
Rolling right along - I finished Mori Kaoru's A Bride's Story, Volume 6, which had actually been sitting on my shelf for several weeks. It's very good - the art is gorgeously detailed, and I also appreciate the unique setting of central Asia in the 19th Century. Unfortunately, I haven't found it compelling for a few volumes, I think because it tends to skip around from one subject to another, rather than focusing on the two characters who were introduced as the protagonists in the first volume.
In Praise of Shadows is a short essay on Japanese aesthetics; well, more of a "rumination," perhaps. Tanizaki Junichiro meanders from one topic to another, each loosely defending traditional aesthetics which rely on shadows and darkness. He doesn't really present a formal argument, but takes the reader down a wandering path from one experience to another. It may be one of those "either you get it or you don't" sort of things. In any case, reading it is a great pleasure, and well worth reading for anyone interested in architecture, aesthetics, or Japanese culture generally, and with less than fifty pages there's not much reason not to pick it up.
Two more graphic novels down, this time Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 4 and vol. 5, by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu. My only previous experience with the Gundam franchise is from the movie trilogy version of the first Gundam, and Char's Counterattack. Despite not being a big fan, though, I'm really enjoying Yasuhiko's adaptation of the story. The extra length helps, and the art style is very appealing, and the colour pages have a soft look to them. Yasuhiko is especially good at his use of colour, using it at the most dramatic parts of each chapter to really get the most out of it. It's great stuff and, fortunately, doesn't require any previous knowledge of Gundam to enjoy.
I've finished How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren, which I read on a recommendation. Unfortunately, it wasn't as helpful as I hoped it might be, though I would recommend it highly to a student in high school or early in college. Some of the advice, like inspectional reading, I already do to at least some extent. The reminder doesn't hurt, of course, but I didn't need to read about these rules of reading at such length. The final portion, on syntopical reading, was the most interesting, but seems best suited for a research project. I occasionally approximate it by reading several books on the same subject at once, but not as formally as they present the idea, and I find it difficult to imagine making this my normal method of reading.
I listened to the last part of my audiobook of Kafka on the Shore yesterday. I'm not huge fan of audiobooks generally, just because I like to mark up my books, though the acting did make it more vivid and entertaining. This was the first book I've read (or listened to, I guess) by Murakami, and overall I wasn't that impressed with it. It wasn't bad, but I recall a lot of excitement about him when his last novel came out, and from this book I'm not really sure why.
More history, this time The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815, by Charles W. Ingrao. It's a good complement to A.J.P. Taylor's book from earlier this month, about the Habsburgs' next century after this. Ingrao is much more positive, though; admitedly, Ingrao's book covers the empire at its height whereas Taylor covers its decline and fall, but even for figures and events Ingrao doesn't approve of he often finds something positive, while Taylor was relentless in his criticisms. Ingrao is also very balanced in covering each part of this era, and give roughly equal space to foreign policy and domestic issues. It's relatively short (247 pages), but a very helpful overview.
Going from monarchical history to implementation, so to speak, with A Critique of Democracy: A Guide for Neoreactionaries, by Michael Anissimov. It's a short e-book, and just as advertised summarises some of the basic arguments against democratic government, disussing problems like cognitive biases, time preference, and the “tragedy of the commons," as well as things like the evolution of leadership and hierarchy in early civilisations. It's an interesting book, and a solid introduction to the topic.
I've just finished an audiobook of The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. It was narrated by Simon Vance, who did a good job overall, though some of the accents he used for the upper-class British characters sounded a little too stereotypical and cartoony; the major characters sounded fine. As for the story itself, I'm sure most people here are familiar with it, so I'll just say that it was engrossing when Wilde wasn't more concerned with letting the audience know how clever he is with is overly-long dialogues.
I'm done with The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman. It is well-written and deserves its high reputation, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Apparently I don't enjoy military history as much as I did when I was in high school.
I've also read two volumes (five and six) of Tanigawa Nico's graphic novel Watamote. I love the comic, but it was a bit of a slog just because I'm reading the Japanese edition, which means having to look up multiple words on most pages. The very informal grammar also makes it more difficult for me to parse.
I've just finished Le Misanthrope, by Molière. Honestly, I didn't enjoy reading it much, partly because I don't like reading plays generally and partly because I read a French edition, so it took some effort to get the sense of what I'm reading.
Next up is some more non-fiction, this time Diplomacy, by Henry Kissinger.
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