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nobooksnolife lives to read in 2010

Club Read 2010

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Edited: Feb 28, 2010, 7:36am Top

I loved Club Read 2009 and look forward to a great 2010.
Happy reading, Everyone!

I'm a compulsive autodidact and my reading plans are too ambitious to fulfill, but I hope to make progress in some of my favorite areas this year:
--Expatriate literature of Japan, China, Turkey, and other places
--Literature in translation from just about anywhere on the planet
--Nonfiction that sweeps me away like good literature
--Good literature that sweeps me away like real life
--Nonfiction and literature bridging Japan and China of the 1930s-1950s
--Readings on Language Learning/teaching and Linguistics
--New books from first-time authors

The only specific promise I'll make at the start of 2010 is to read the selections of my monthly book club (some of which I've already read):
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Oh!: A mystery of 'mono no aware'
The Blue Notebook: A Novel
The House at Sugar Beach
Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel

Finished in February:
Small Kingdoms by Anastasia Hobbet
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
Before the Throne by Naguib Mahfouz

Jan 1, 2010, 3:24pm Top

--Nonfiction that sweeps me away like good literature
--Good literature that sweeps me away like real life

Love that!

I have 3 of those 5 you list above (looking forward to getting to Oh!), so I took a look at your library and found lots of favorites there. Starred your thread :)

Jan 1, 2010, 8:22pm Top

Starred, and looking forward to your reviews!

Jan 2, 2010, 3:45am Top

Thanks, kidzdoc! I look forward to your reading/comments for 2010!

Jan 2, 2010, 3:46am Top

Read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Jan 13th for book club.
Post review for Small Kingdoms for LTERs.
Finish One Amazing Thing and post review for Hyperion Books. (This one is starting out well, very interesting, plot-driven "post 9/11" theme, a short book. I haven't read anyone's reviews yet).

I'm about half-way through Your Inner Fish...very good!

Jan 2, 2010, 9:00am Top

I'm looking forward to following your reading this year, nobooksnolife!

Jan 8, 2010, 10:44am Top

Thank you, Murr--I'm really enjoying the "Salon," too. Greatly appreciate your efforts all over LT!

Jan 8, 2010, 10:47am Top

Sampling The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English by Mark Abley, but I should be reading The Guernsey Literary, etc. I also started one of the Read Real Japanese:Short Stories by Contemporary Writers books...

I have very little self-discipline.

Jan 8, 2010, 12:46pm Top

8, nobooksnolife -
Read Real Japanese fiction, eh? I didn't realize I had inspired you that much! But good for you. Please let me know how it goes. :)

Feb 7, 2010, 7:04am Top

lilisin---yes, thanks to your comments on Read Real Japanese I have a new and challenging way to study.

Feb 7, 2010, 7:25am Top

As I was reading Small Kingdoms I remembered the first time I ever heard of a place called Kuwait. Back in the 1960s, my mother's cousin, who was more like an aunt to me, chose to retire in Las Vegas after a lifetime of working for Getty Oil Company, mostly in Kuwait. Her husband was an engineer (I think) and she had been a secretary. I think they'd lived in a mobile home park in Kuwait, which somehow made sense to my child-logic, that they would find retirement in a similar trailer park in the 120 degree heat of my hometown to be a comfortable fit. Well, ruby used to love telling stories about life in Kuwait and travels in the Middle East. Back in those days, it seems, the foreigners were quite contained and sequestered in their own community and the Bedouin were still quite nomadic, and Kuwaitis were quiet and conservative...I never heard her mention "guest workers" or foreign maids or drivers. I think things were simpler then and today's Kuwait would look much different.

(By the way, I don't really know where this is going; I'm just indulging myself and am not going to edit this for public consumption).

Ruby gave me several presents from that part of the world (a camel saddle, brass trays with Arabic writing on them, ivory-inlaid folding tables "the kind convenient to the nomadic life"...cowrie shells "still used for money" --at that time--and other souvenirs) which were treasures in my boring world.

....Anyway, this is a long way to explain why I was drawn to the book Small Kingdoms. The following is my very brief review (if you want a good plot/character summary, check the other LTrs' reviews with the book's listing):

In this novel, author Anastasia Hobbet takes us into the well-observed lives of some expatriates and natives of the tiny rarefied Arab State of Kuwait. Through deftly created characters, we explore some of the tensions that ensue when people from vastly different cultures live and work together in a delicate balance, against the tension of war in the Persian Gulf. Everyone, it seems, from the wealthy Muslim families, to the earnest American doctor to the trailing wife of a U.S. businessman, to the displaced Bedouin idealist, and on through a roll call of nationalities that live and work in Kuwait, exists in an uneasy togetherness in the rigid society of one of the richest 'kingdoms' in the world.

When it is discovered that a teenaged Indian housemaid is being brutally abused by her employer, several characters are forced to come to terms with their consciences and risk themselves and their social positions to rescue her. Issues of human trafficking, human rights, freedom, hypocrisy, and tolerance, are masterfully interwoven in the actions of ordinary people.

Thankfully, the author's experience living in Kuwait for five years and studying the language and culture of the region bring authenticity to the story and much insight into the delicate and difficult issues represented here. The story starts fairly slowly as all the characters are established but the patient reader is rewarded as the story builds to a powerful denouement.

Feb 7, 2010, 7:41am Top

Today I needed a mood-changer book, so I started the first story in Annie Proulx's Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories and got a little mental vacation. I'm very fond of Proulx's writing and can always count on being pulled immediately into a story and a setting---usually the barren, windswept western US---which takes me away from the crowded Asian urban pressure of Tokyo.

I love Tokyo, but sometimes I miss the wide horizons of the western United States and the lonely ruggedness embodied in that region. Ever since I read The Shipping News many years ago, I've never been disappointed by AP's writing, and to the detriment of several new authors, I use her prose as a 'gold standard'.

Feb 8, 2010, 4:02pm Top

I like novels about the clash of cultures when expats invade a country. Thanks for your review of Small Kingdom. It's going on my list.

Feb 8, 2010, 7:23pm Top

Yes, thanks. A super review. I understand exactly how you feel about crowded Asian cities, Julia. Sigh.

oh and BTW, Xing Nien Kuai Le!!!!!!!

Feb 28, 2010, 7:32am Top

Finished Before the Throne for Lt Early Reviewers. (Though I may come back to improve on my comments, here they are:)

Emblazoned with a an image of a large scale of justice, this is an elegantly bound, beautiful book which spans 5000 years of history in a mere 144 pages (followed by a cogent and essential Translator's Afterward). Given the compact format, I was intrigued as to what the author might be implying--that so much history could be so tidily packaged. My own guess is that Mahfouz could simultaneously emphasize the great sweep of Egypt's history while distilling its political power down to the essence by confining his writing to the conceit of the Final Judgment.

My thoughts went back to my grade school obsession with ancient Egypt: The Book of the Dead, the weighing of the heart of the Deceased against the feather of Truth and Justice, the lives of the Pharaohs, Tutankhamen, Ramses, Akhenaten, and on and on…
Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006), a literary voice of Egypt, perhaps as iconic as a pharaoh himself, punctuated his prolific career with Before the Throne: Dialogs with Egypt's Great from Menes to Anwar Sadat. First published in Arabic (Amam al-'arsh) in 1983, Raymond Stock's translation (2009) brings it to us in English. In sixty-three very brief chapters, Mahfouz brings many of Egypt's leaders to justice in the Osiris Court as an allegory for presenting his own historical judgments.

"…by the breadth of its historical vision and the painstaking attempt to literally narrate Egypt's continuous cultural, political, and religious identity throughout the long life of the country, Before the Throne justifies Rasheed El-Enany's praise of Mahfouz as the "conscience of his nation." And, one could add, he sought to be her memory as well." (from the Afterward).

Many years ago I gave up hope of ever being able to visit Egypt, but childhood interests brought me back to discover something about the country through the writings (translated) of Naguib Mahfouz, which are mostly novels of modern Egypt. Before the Throne is a vehicle for the author to express his pride in the uniqueness of Egypt and his patriotism in summarizing the strengths and successes of his country, and is therefore an interesting addition to any collection of literature in English translation from this part of the world.

Feb 28, 2010, 2:43pm Top

Are you following the latest research on Tutankhamen--the DNA research regarding his parentage and grandparentage, the genetic diseases he may have suffered, the fact that he may have been a much more active and influential ruler than previously thought? Fascinating stuff.

May 28, 2010, 9:52am Top

@16 (sorry I haven't looked back here to acknowledge your comment) Yes, indeed the DNA research is fascinating!

Recently, I haven't been very active on LT, except for treating myself to reading the posts by all the fantastic folks I follow... I've been reading, but don't have as much time to write comments as I used to, due to work. Real-life problems have been hitting us hard, but at the end of a lot of tiring days it boosts my spirits to read what so many of you have written on your various threads.

If anyone stops by to read this, please know that I'm enjoying your magnificent comments (esp. you, Murr, and all the cohorts!)

When I can focus my thoughts better, I'll get back to posting.

May 30, 2010, 2:54am Top

One of my Japanese students of English conversation is a fan of musicals and western opera. Her favorite opera is Puccini's "Tosca" so I've spent some time reading the commentary and listening to the recording in Tosca: Black Dog Library and now I'm cruising YouTube to find select video/audio performances. This has become an enjoyable interlude...and now I will have good fodder for the coming week's conversation class with this student. She is a lovely lady in her 70s.

I like the Black Dog Library--informative with lots of photos. The writing is not outstanding but certainly adequate for a dilettante like me.

May 30, 2010, 6:19am Top

oh you must get or listen to the Callas/Di Stefano recording. It's definitive.

Here is Callas singing 'Vissi D'arte' from Act 2:


"I lived for art, I lived for love...."


May 30, 2010, 9:00am Top

19: Thank you, Murr. I am in tears.

Oct 24, 2010, 10:56am Top

Wow--it's been a long time since I posted here and I've missed it. Time really flies when you're hustling English teaching gigs.
Just finished reading Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. I haven't read much about North Korea and this was very informative and compelling--strong stuff--but quite objective and balanced...yet vivid and heartbreaking. Reminiscent of the worst of the Mao era in China, carried to sickening extremes. Really hope to see the regime collapse in my lifetime.

Nov 13, 2010, 9:33pm Top

In an earlier life-phase (i.e. about 3 years ago) I enjoyed a life of total self-indulgence in the form of reading during all waking hours.

However, the baton has passed to me to try to put groceries on the table and pay the mortgage, so I have thrown myself into the English teaching world. Too old and too poor to consider entering an appropriate degree program, I now spend all my time reading on the subjects of ESL, TESOL, etc. --all the alphabet acronyms--and linguistics, teaching methods, grammar review books, and so-on....

But my greatest new-found pleasure is reading the blogs of English teachers in Japan (and elsewhere)...

and now there is "English Teachers":
This is hilarious.

(Dearest Murr, if you read this, do take a look at the link and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from others, too).

Nov 15, 2010, 2:37am Top

oh we have missed you! I loved the English teachers series, reminds me of my days at the British Council. LOL

What TESOL stuff are you reading? Three recommendations which I think might be useful for you:

The Lexical Approach
Implementing the Lexical Approach
The English Verb

Let me know if you need more.


Nov 17, 2010, 5:59pm Top

Thank you, Murr! I wanted to ask you for recommendations, and here you've beaten me to it. Browsing through the books on "teaching", I found so many that most were either too superficial/irrelevant (for my situation) or too academic/theoretical for me to grasp quickly. There are also a lot of gimmicky methods to teach young children which sometimes contain useful hints but very often are too scattered and don't provide enough of a structure on which to build language understanding. In Japan (perhaps as a repercussion against the drudgery of English teaching in the past) English is supposed to be "fun time" for kids (which it can be!) but the result is a scattering of games without much practical understanding.

Oh dear. This is too much to go into here, and I haven't even had my coffee this morning.

Today I have a high-level adult solitary student for 90 min. Then an hour each for a low-level adult, a high school boy, 4 kindergartners/preschoolers, and a 1st grader prepping for relocation to the US.

This week, I'm trying to read an LT early reading copy of Taroko Gorge whenever I get time. The first few pages nearly stopped me, but now I'm getting pulled into the story.

Nov 18, 2010, 12:25pm Top

I'll be very interested to see what you think about Taroko Gorge.

Nov 18, 2010, 7:29pm Top

people go missing in Tarako Gorge all the time. It' s a national pastime in Taiwan. Another national past time is looking for them.

Julie, out of those three book I recommended above, implementing the lexical approach has the most practical ideas.

Do you know Grammar Practice Activities by Penny Ur?
Grammar Games by Mario Rinvolucri? both full of games and activities suitable for all ages.

Good luck with your teaching! don't hesitate to pm me if you need more.


Nov 22, 2010, 9:24pm Top

Thanks very much, Murr. Today is "Labor Thanksgiving" holiday in Japan, so I'm going to allow myself to browse the bookstores. I looked up your recommendations and they seem to be very useful.

RidgewayGirl: Sorry to say that I'm really not enjoying Taroko Gorge, but I'm re-reading a little (maybe I tried to go through it too fast) and will post comments soon.

I would like to know what you think of it. All the reviews on LT are more positive than I expected.

Dec 1, 2010, 3:30am Top

My only class canceled at the last minute today so I celebrated by giving the dogs a walk and reading something *totally* different from my usual recent fare: A Burlesque Autobiography by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), courtesy of Project Gutenberg. I love PG...

Now, thanks to kind Murr's suggestions for readings on teaching English (#23, 26), I used a day of wages to order the books and am enjoying digging into them.

Couldn't resist starting Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War by James Bradley. Negative reviews of it seem to emanate from the political right, which is a good sign that it's a worthwhile read. So far, very intriguing.

Also started Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, an advance reader copy starting out very well.

I'm still considering how to write comments for Taroko Gorge and Chef by Jaspreet Singh.

Group: Club Read 2010

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