Category: Monthly Reading

Distracted by Other Books

Posted March 1, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 4 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in February 2018

My reading in February started off with the amazing The Unwomanly Face of War. It is a book I have not been able to get out of my mind. My wife often gets an intense hatred toward men and I think this is the first time I have come close to understanding how she fully feels. I understand how she would be angry, you just need to look at the news to see all the stupid or terrible actions been taken by men. However while reading The Unwomanly Face of War I got very angry toward men. Especially when one man told Svetlana Alexievich that war was ‘man business’ and she should write about men in war (because we do not have enough of those books). This was a fascinating collection of interviews of the woman and their involvement in war. It highlights the bravery of these women but what really shone through was just the way men reacted and their contradictory nature. The male ego is so fragile.

I have been a fan of Alexievich and but I will admit I am never impressed with these translators. I was reluctant to get The Unwomanly Face of War; luckily I did not let the translators stop me. Translating is such an art form and there are so many different thoughts on the topic; for me I prefer a translator to aim to retain the beauty of the text over complete accuracy. Other people have different opinions and I think it is important to find what works for you; especially if there are other options. One day I might have the opportunity to re-read The Unwomanly Face of War with a new translator, but until then, I take what I can get. With Svetlana Alexievich, I do not want to wait for a new translator. Speaking of which, I still need to get myself a copy of The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson. The Odyssey has been translated heaps of times, but I believe this is the first time it was translated by a woman. I am curious to see how this epic reads without the male gaze and I hear nothing but great things about this translation.

I finally read my first Émile Zola novel; A Love Story which is the eighth book in the Les Rougon-Macquart series. This might not have been the best place to start but what can I say, I love Oxford World Classics, and could not pass up the opportunity to work with them and read some Zola. This was a joy to read and there will be so much more Zola in my future; Thérèse Raquin sits on my shelves waiting. While I do love to receive books in the mail, I do not often review ARCs, simply because I have enough to read. My instinct is to reject any offers to review a book, unless it is a book I know I want to read. In the past I found it difficult to get the balance right, so now it is a rare occurrence. I hope to work with Oxford University Press more in the future but do not expect to see many reviews for upcoming releases. If you look at the books I talk about, it is rare to see a new release.

There are some exceptions, for example, if an author like Julian Barnes releases a new novel, or it is a book club book. This is why The Only Story and Mythos by Stephen Fry was on my reading list for this month. I love what I have read from Barnes and still more to go. As for Mythos, it felt more like Greek mythology for dummies. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just made me want to read those classics; especially Metamorphoses by Ovid (yes, I know he is a Roman and not Greek), or maybe I should read The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. I really need to read both books at some point but reading Mythos only served to remind me how much I need to read from the Greeks and Romans.

This month was the first book club meeting of 2018. It was me and fifteen woman. Sadly I am the only male that turns up to book club; there have been others in the past but they never last long. It did feel very crowded for a book club meeting and I feel like it was too many. Luckily, I suspect that a lot of the new people came as part of their New Year’s resolution, so it is unlikely they will return in March. I am at book club to step out of my comfort zone and I think the books picked do just that. I would not have picked up Mythos on my own; I have enough books on my shelves to read without picking up a retelling of Greek mythology.

There are so many books I need to read, I always feel like I am playing catch up. Luckily I do not need to go through my shelves and do a major cull…yet. While I was starting to get use to the idea of a major move, at this point, it does not look like it is going to happen. I have startied culling my shelves but nothing major yet. There must be twenty or thirty books leaving my shelves this month, but only a few were unread books.

One of the biggest advantages of quitting BookTube, is the fact that I do not have to try and pronounce a name like László Krasznahorkai. It still annoys me that I mispronounced Michel Houellebecq in a video. For an Australian that only speaks English, there are so many authors I read that I am yet to learn how to pronounce. I normally look up how to pronounce the name before filming a video, but still have gotten it wrong. I got to read two novellas by László Krasznahorkai which was in the one collection. Sjón claimed this is the perfect starting place for Krasznahorkai in the blurb on the front but that was only part of the reason I started with The Last Wolf & Herman. In fact I do not know why I picked up this book first, I did have Satantango on my wishlist first. It must have been as a result of some of the bloggers I admire, either Tony at Messenger’s Booker or Stu at Winstonsdad’s Blog.

It is hard to remember why I put a book on my wishlist, this is one of the main reasons I am writing these reading updates. The Fountain in the Forest by Tony White was added to my wishlist because of the high praises from Andy Miller on Backlisted (my favourite podcast). I still do not recall why I wanted to read A Girl in Exile, maybe because Ismail Kadare is Albanian. The novel reminded me of The Trial to begin with but it lost momentum quickly. The book left me with the feeling that male authors should not write about breasts. I will not go into my reasoning but let’s just say it feels too creepy.

On the other side, when Natsuo Kirino writes about rape in Out, it feels so brutal. At least when Kirio talks about breasts, it does not feel like she is breathing heavily in ecstasy. Out was such a compelling thriller, and she did not shy away from the brutal nature of the topic. I do enjoy a dark crime novel and the Japanese are able to deliver. I might need to seek out some recommendations but I think I will be reading more Natsuo Kirino in the future.

Seven books read in February, while three did come from the library. I also purchased three new books, Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, Stalin by Oleg V. Khlevniuk and The Seven Madmen by Roberto Arlt. I have already started Frankenstein in Baghdad but not sure what else will be read in March, except The Seven Madmen and maybe that biography on Stalin. I hope everyone else had a great reading month.

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Distracted by Other Books

Posted February 1, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 6 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in January 2018

When midnight came around to usher in 2018 my first instinct (after celebrating with my wife) was to start reading. I had decided to go into the New Year with no reading goals and no long term plans except to enjoy my reading journey. I love the feeling you get at the beginning of the year where you are ready to achieve but I often find that feeling fades far too quickly. I wanted to see what it would be like to just read and have no reading goals, but here I am celebrating with friends and I just want to be reading.

I went into the year with two books on the go, The Devotion of Suspect X and Suburra. I know many people that will abandon the books and start fresh at the beginning of the year, but I am terrible at abandoning, especially if I am enjoying the books. The whole idea seems nice, in theory. Being distracted by other books is a constant struggle, especially at the beginning of the year.

I was given two books to read for book club over the Christmas break. We were unable to decide which to read and since we do not return till February, we had the time. One of the picks was Lincoln in the Bardo. I was excited for George Saunders’ first novel but since the release I think my interest in reading it died significantly. All the hype around the novel put me off reading it for a long time, but I was still curious. I enjoyed Tenth of December, so I wanted to dip into his writing further.

I ended up getting the audio book and had a wonderful time. The cast of a hundred narrators really worked for Lincoln in the Bardo. I did worry that it would end up being too much of a gimmick, Saunders managed to work with the unique style without going overboard. In the end, the conflict Lincoln had between grieving his son and knowingly sending sons, brothers and fathers to die in a civil war was what stood out. I will be interested to see where Saunders goes from here but I personally prefer his short stories; if I am only judging him based on Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December.

The other book club book was Extinctions, which won the Miles Franklin award. So we ended up reading the Man Booker prize and the Miles Franklin, which is an Australian literary award. I started going to book club in 2012 as a way to push myself. For someone that is so introverted I am often surprised that the steps I take to interact with other people. In the five years attending book club I have been the only male to frequently attend and I tend to hate everything the club loves. If only I could learn to articulate my words better, we could have much better discussions. Then again, I go to practise. If it was not for the book club I may have never read books like The Dinner, Tigers in Red Weather, The Yellow Birds or Sweetland.

It is interesting to see how much the world around me influences my reading, my book club has pushed me to read many books I might not think to pick up but it is hard to say if I would discover them another way. I tend to spend a lot of time on social media with bookish people, from Twitter to GoodReads, from YouTube to blogs. Reading does not have to be a solitary act anymore and I love how easy it is to find people to discuss books with. We may all get distracted by literary prizes and the next over-hyped books but it is the people constantly discussing books that influence me the most.

These are the people that inspired me to try BookTube, another way to push myself and practise articulating my thoughts on what I have been reading. However, I prefer to consider myself a writer or blogger and my major goal for the year is to get back into the habit. I use to review every book I read and while this no longer seems practical, I want to write more. Between my blog and The Literati, my goal is more content; not necessarily reviews, rather I would like to focus on the personal essay. When I was a teenager I thought about writing fiction and all attempts to try my hand in this medium have been laughable. Although I have been with a story idea lately and while I have done my best to actively ignore it, I am yet to get it out of my head. I hold literature to a high standard and there is no way that I would be able to achieve that myself. I have written the idea down and if it continues to plague me then maybe I will not have a choice. I am not ready to try my hand at fiction, I still need to improve my craft.

The idea was sparked by reading Hecate and Her Dogs, but not related to the story. Paul Morand wrote such a beautiful and disturbing novella but I have a hard time separating the man from the book. It is the type of prose that you want to write down and admire. He was modernist writer along with his friend Proust and is considered a cult favourite among the artistic avant-garde. Sadly he was also a vocal anti-Semite and a Nazi collaborator. A question that has been asked a lot lately with people speaking out against sexual assault; how can we love the art, when the artist is such an asshole? It has become difficult to pick a movie nowadays. I do not want to forgive Paul Morand for his inhumane thoughts, nor call him a product of his time but I struggle to find where to draw the line. Ideally I never want to support people with problematic views but if I did this, I would quickly run out of classics to read; although I would quickly get my TBR under control.

My wife went for a new job that would require making a significant move. This has led me to spend a lot of time looking at my shelves, I mean, more so than usual. If we make this move there would be a serious need to cull my bookshelves. While I have toyed with this idea before, I never liked the idea of culling anything I have not read. I may not be interested in reading all the books at the moment but this could change. A major cull would force my hand. I want my shelves to be reflection of the books I am interested in reading and the ones that define my reading life. Eventually I hope to have a very small TBR pile but currently most of the books I own are unread.

I use to buy books frequently however my book buying habits have been through a considerable change. Currently my reading has been focused on the books I have received for my birthday or Christmas, like The Housekeeper and the Professor. However my time gazing at my shelves has reminded me of all the books I would love to revisit. I reread The Elegance of the Hedgehog as a result. It is hard to find the right balance between reading the unread and all the books I wish to dip back into; with a smaller TBR, this might be easier to manage. I am constantly being distracted by all the books I have and wish to read.

I keep checking the price on Matt McIntosh’s novel, theMystery.doc but it is still sitting at $45 Australian dollars. Part of me worries that this post-modern novel will never be published in paperback but do I have the patience to tackle a 1600 page book at the moment? Another book for my wishlist. I suspect that while reading Jacob’s Room is Full of Books I will find more books to add to my wishlist. It did inspire me to start writing monthly wrap ups again. I am actually trying to use her style of mixing my personal and reading life into one. However I plan to try and highlight my bookish thought process as well. I enjoyed the book but I preferred her other, Howard’s End is on the Landing. I am inspired to write this because of the book and I hope that it is just leading me back to writing more frequently. Also with a monthly post like this, the need to review everything I read will be eliminated. Let me know if you like this style.

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Monthly Review – November 2015

Posted November 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

Numero ZeroI had plans to devote the entire month of November reading non-fiction (for Non-Fiction November) and participating in NaNoWriMo, however things did not work out to plan. I started November in a hospital in Nouméa and sadly my mother-in-law passed away. This was completely unexpected and while I did spend a lot of time with my wife’s family, I still manage to complete some reading and some of my goals for NaNoWriMo. My writing goals included catching up on my blogging, which I have done and looking forward to writing non-review posts soon. As for my reading, I did end up with seven books completed for the month.

The first book I finished was The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, which I was reading in preparation for NaNoWriMo. I had some plans to write my writing journey and while I never really got as much of that down on paper as I would like, I think this book gave me plenty of ideas. I have been enjoying writing lately and I hope to continue working on this little project and see where it takes me. I have never read Mary Karr’s memoirs (The Liars’ Club, Lit or Cherry) but this book has convinced me to check one (or all) of them out in the future.

While I was sitting in the hospital I was reading Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill on my phone. I am not a fan of ebooks but this was more about convenience. I really loved this book, which is pretty much Hill sharing anecdotes about the books on her shelves. I love the concept of exploring the memories associated with books, however it is a little sad my memory of this with be closely linked to the passing of my mother-in-law.

Following on I picked up Caitlin Doughty’s book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which I had planned to read before everything happened. I was worried I would not be able to handle the book. I did have to put aside Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Antonina W. Bouis). However this book brought me comfort and I really learnt a lot about the death industry. Maybe not for everyone while mourning the loss of a family member but knowing what goes on was comforting.

I started reading The Possessed by Elif Batuman which has the subtitle ‘Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them’ which sounds right up my alley but it was so boring and her literary criticism felt off. This killed my non-fiction kick (I did eventually finish The Prossessed but not after a few works of fiction), so I picked up Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin which is the first book in the Inspector Rebus series. I was inspired to read some crime fiction while writing my review of the last Dexter Morgan book. I feel I need to find a new crime series and I heard the Inspector Rebus series is good. Still too early to tell if this is the next series for me but I will try the next book to find out.

I planned to read Numero Zero at the beginning of December but I could not wait any longer. I really enjoy Umberto Eco’s books (this one translated by Richard Dixon) so I expected so much from this novel. While this was shorter and a little different, I really enjoyed this novel. Numero Zero felt more satirical that his other books, spending a lot of time criticising the media, especially newspapers and gossip magazines. This might be a good starting point for people who have never read Umberto Eco before; it is short and thrilling. It does have some real problem areas but for a novel less than 200 pages, they are easily overlooked.

My last book was Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56 by Anne Applebaum, which talks about the Soviet influences on Eastern Europe after World War II. This is jammed packed with information but I am fascinated about the history. I know a bit out Soviet history but not as much of what was happening in Eastern Germany, Poland or Hungry and this book covered this in great detail. Applebaum is an American, so I was a little worried that it might turn into a ‘pro-American, anti-Soviet’ book but I think she covered the topic rather well. Granted what the Soviet’s did was pretty horrible but I do not like when a book takes a propaganda approach to history.

I am not sure what to expect from December, although I am hosting a readalong of The Brothers Karamazov. I have some books on my selves I would love to read but I want to see what happens. Most people know I hate having a TBR. I did set some reading plans for November to meet the reading challenges for Non-Fiction November, but my TBR changed. I have a big book to read in The Brothers Karamazov and I think I want to pick up another but will see how things go. What do you plan to read for December, and how was your reading month in November?

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A Late Monthly Review – October 2015

Posted November 10, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

My Brilliant FriendThis is a late monthly wrap up but it is probably better late than never. I have had a busy few weeks and have not had much time to film videos or write posts. October was a pretty great reading month; I was actually surprised that I got through so many books. As many people know, I have recently discovered the joys of reading slowly and I expected to see a drastic drop in the amount of books that I consumed. In the end I still managed to complete eight books, which I still consider pretty impressive.

The first novel I read in the month of October was The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto (translated by Michael Emmerich) and I simply adored this one. This is the first Banana Yoshimoto book I have ever read but it will not be the last. The best way to describe the experience of reading The Lake is like floating. As you read you feel like you are just floating on a lake and it is beautiful and relaxing. However you quickly realise you have floated into unsafe waters and it is dangerous. The psychological elements within this novel are really well done, I feel like I am an instant fan.

After The Lake, I moved onto Candide by Voltaire, which was translated from the French by Theo Cuffe. This was a buddy read with a fellow booktuber; I enjoyed the book and found it hilarious but sadly Lisa from Shut Your Typeface did not. It is a parody of the adventure narrator, while also satirising the philosophy of optimism. I got a lot of joy from the satirical nature and I found connections with this novel and the overly optimistic people found in Christianity. I could go into more depth on my thoughts, but I shall save that for my review.

I finally finished A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, which took me about a month to read. This novel recently won the Man Booker Prize and rightly so; it was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.  Then I finally got to My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein), which is the first book in the Neapolitan series. I enjoyed this so much that I had to move onto The Story of a New Name (book two) immediately. I would love to read the next two books in the series but I do not own them yet and thought I will hold off; maybe next year.

Halloween was sneaking up, so I thought I should pick up some creepy reads to finish off the month. Firstly I picked up Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches, which was very creepy and oddly brilliant. I have wanted to read some Tosches for a while and I think the man can write. I also read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, both perfect choices for Halloween.

Moving onto November, I plan to devote the entire month reading non-fiction. There is a reading event called Non-Fiction November, which is challenging people to read more non-fiction. There are four different categories; History, Science/Nature, Culture/Society and Biography/Memoir. I have picked my four books, but I thought it was a good opportunity to devote the whole month reading non-fiction. I have finished a few books already and I have been enjoying the experience completely. I hope everyone has a good reading month and let me know what you are planning to read in the comments below.

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Monthly Review – September 2015

Posted September 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Valley of the DollsI went into the month of September with an overly ambitious ‘to-be-read’ pile. If you saw my first blog post of the month “September’s Reading List of Doom” you would know there were fifteen books on the TBR pile. I normally object to having a TBR list, I much prefer to read on a whim and just pick up what I feel like reading. However I had so many books that I needed to read; it was a combination of books from the library and planned book-club/buddy-reads. In the month of August I did manage to complete sixteen books, granted there was a weeklong readathon and six were consumed during that time. I had a feeling I would fail this TBR but I was determined to at least get on top of my pile and tick off the majority of these books.

September is my favourite month of the year, not just because it is my birthday (today) and my wedding anniversary back on the 9th, but also I tend to spend a lot of time reflecting on my blog and this year, also my BookTube channel. I really enjoyed contemplating the past and the future for my passions and while I get anxious and I want to achieve so much, I still find it useful to reflect. It helps me to refocus and evaluate my priorities. Currently I have around twenty reviews to write, edit and post on the site; I have been doing some mini-reviews but I still plan to write something for everything I read. I like the idea of having a record of my entire reading life (or at least since starting this blog). I want to do so much more with this site but first I need to get on top of the backlog.

In reflecting I have also been thinking about the frequency of library visits. I love the library and recently I have been using this fantastic resource a little too much; it got to a point where 90% the books I read in a month came from the library. I have been trying to find a decent balance, I want to continue to using the library but I need to read books on my shelves as well. In September, I was able to hit a nice balance, 40% of all books came from the library, leaving the other 60% from my own library (40% physical copies, 20% from Audible). I am very happy with this balance and I hope to be able to continue this ratio. Out of the six books I borrowed from the library, I finished five and currently in the middle of the sixth.

Book Source (September)

Another issue I reflected on was the speed I read books; I have a love/hate relationship with reading goals and I need to work out a solution. From the readathon last month and the overly ambitious TBR this month, I have been thinking about the concept of quality over quantity. I want to be able to read bigger books, not worry about the amount of books I read and take extra time. Readathons are fun and you know I hate TBRs, however they tend to push me to read faster or pick shorter books. I do not want to spend my time calculating how many shorter books I can read while reading something much bigger. Also with the case of The Valley of the Dolls (will talk about this novel later), I want to be able to take my time and not worry about schedules or numbers.

One action that was recommended to me a few times to help manage my priorities and to understand where to focus my energy was starting a journal. I love the idea of journaling, and I want to get into the habit, but I am failing to do so. I hope to get into the habit, I also think a more detailed wrap up (and maybe more journal type posts) will help me develop some journalist type skills. I have started with dot-point journaling but I just need to remind myself to write down my thoughts every day. I have discovered my thoughts must be very boring that do not share my interests; I spend a lot of time thinking about literature, blogging and vlogging.

Getting to the books I have read this month; I have competed eleven in total. The first book, surprisingly made the Man Booker shortlist. This was Satin Island by Tom McCarthy, and I found myself really enjoying this novel. I knew nothing about corporate anthropology; I did not know how it would work in an office environment. I really enjoyed learning the corporate anthropology but I never thought it would make the Man Booker shortlist. I thought it was too experimental, post-modern in its approach. The novel had no real plot, or character development but still made for an excellent reading experience. Full credit to Tom McCarthy for writing this.

I am a part of a book club that meets monthly at my favourite independent bookstore, this month we had to read The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. This is a German novel, which was translated into English by Simon Pare and it tells the story of a bookseller who runs a book barge that is often referred to as a literary apothecary rather than a bookshop. I will not say too much about this novel, but let’s just say my notes for this book included words ‘overly-sweet’, ‘clichéd’, and more words along the same effect.

I had the pleasure of buddy-reading Bonjour Tristesse and A Certain Smile by Françoise Sagan with the amazing Stephanie from the BookTube channel Time to Read!. If you have not had the pleasure of watching videos from BookTube, then I will recommend starting with someone like Steph. Françoise Sagan has got a little bit of hype recently, thanks to Waterstones’ Rediscovered Classics series. The tag line for this series of books is ‘the best books you’ve never read’ and I can honestly say that I never heard of Françoise Sagan till very recently. Françoise Sagan is a French novelist from the 1950s, and the book I read featured a new translation by Heather Lloyd. Originally when Bonjour Tristesse was translated into English, it was censored but the new translation aligns more with the original text. I recommend reading Bonjour Tristesse if you have never considered it; it reminds me of The Sorrows of Young Werther when it comes to angst.

When I was a new reader, I read The Handmaid’s Tale but Margret Atwood and while I enjoyed it, I struggled to see why it was held in such great regard. This month I re-read this modern classic and now I can see it. There is one line that really stuck with me that really summed up what the novel is about; “There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore, not officially. There are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that’s the law.” I am sure many people know about The Handmaid’s Tale, and I was just a little late to the party when it comes to understanding its appeal. The joys of re-reading have become clearer to me and now that I consider myself well-read (to some extent) I plan to re-visit many other classics, maybe even Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

My next book was a Chuck Palahniuk novel, and I probably do not even need to mention the title, because I feel like that is interchangeable. I read Fight Club a few years ago and this other novel follows a very similar format. I expected misogyny, attempts to shock the reader and some kind of psychological twist. Seriously, are all of Chuck Palahniuk’s novels the same? I do not think I need to read any more.

While half way through The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin I found out it won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. I was reading this novel because I suspected it might be similar to Russian Sci-Fi, where it would explore the social-political of Communist China. Translated by Ken Liu, The Three-Body Problem did explore life in China in a far different way. There were a lot of references to science, philology and the China’s Cultural Revolution. It reminded me of the old science fiction novels from the 1960s and with the translator notes left by Ken Liu everything just worked for this one.

I really enjoy listening to non-fiction with Audible, I think the structure just works for the medium. Listening to Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain was a great experience. As a very introverted introvert, I was fascinated with the history of how introverts are treated and surprised how much of it is still relevant today. The world is very focused on extroversion and I just enjoyed spending a little time learning about the introverts. Pop-psychology books have become a favourite of mine in recent time, after listening to The Lucifer Effect recently and I plan to read (or listen) to so many more.

Before I picked up The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth, I attempted to predict the themes and motifs within the novel. The problem with that is how accurate I was in my predictions and ruined my enjoyment of this light read. The good news is I am probably improving in critically analysing a book and I am able to spot themes and techniques with ease. I know I have a lot more to learn but I have to wonder the price I will pay. It is possible that this was just an average novel and I will still enjoy dissecting better books. I will have to try this again and see how I go with a book that I am more likely to enjoy.

I have already mentioned Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann earlier on. I enjoyed this novel so much, I wanted to slow down and take my time. There is something interesting about the way Susann talks about feminist issues that really stuck with me. From the three women in the book, I think Jennifer was my favourite, she was such a strong character, but I will not spoil it for the people that have not read Valley of the Dolls. There is something about a cult classic that I love, maybe it is just the counter-culture element that interests me so much.

The final book I read was Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which is a letter he wrote to his teenage son trying to explain the world. Beautifully written and awfully confronting, this is a book that Toni Morrison calls “required reading”. I have to agree with her, the state of the world, especially when it comes to racism, is awful and a little more understanding and compassion could only do good. I really love the way Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, it makes me want to read everything he has written.

I managed to read eleven books this month; it was not the fifteen that I had planned but still impressive. I will not set myself a TBR again for October, but it is Spooktober and I will probably read some darker fiction; maybe not horror but we shall see. Currently I am still working through A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, Candide by Voltaire (translated by Theo Cuffe) and How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, so I will probably finish those three books in October. There are a few books I would like to read but I have learnt not to plan my reading so much; I am just glad it did not end in a slump. How was your reading month?

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Monthly Review – August 2015

Posted August 31, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Motherless BrooklynAs most people know, last month I was feeling very stressed about work and I found it was really affecting my reading. I am pleased to say that this month my reading was better than average and this is thanks to the BookTubeAThon. If you are not aware, I am a BookTuber as well as a blogger and I have been creating videos most of the year in an effort to improve myself. I found it has built confidence and really helped my ability to articulate all my bookish thoughts. I hope it might help with all thoughts, but only time will tell. BookTubeAThon is a week long readathon where people in the BookTube community come together to read and complete challenges.

This event happened in the first week of August from the 3rd to the 9th. I was unsure if I should take part in the readathon but decided I need to push myself a little bit and created my TBR video in preparation for the week. While one of the challenges was to complete seven book for the week (which I failed) I think it did a world of good. I also managed to finish six books in the week. The first book I read was Mislaid by Nell Zink which I found problematic, I did talk a bit about my issues in my BookTubeAThon Vlog video, so I will not go into too much details here and you can wait for my review (I am very behind so might take a while) for that. The next book I read was Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, which was translated by Esther Allen. Now this was for a challenge were a read a book without letting go of it (which is a stupid challenge) but obviously I needed something quick. I am not sure who recommended this novella so I cannot thank them but this was an amazing read. It explored some interesting ideas of translations, and the relationship between the translator and everyone else. This was written in Spanish, translated into English and it talked about a Spanish translator, which gave it a very meta feel.

After that, I read Where I’m Reading From by Tim Parks and this book is different than I expected, I thought it was a memoir about reading but it turned out to be a collection of essays. I also finished another non-fiction book on audiobook; The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo which just reminds me I want to read so many more books on psychology. This book sparked a blog post recently too. I then read In Watermelon Sugar, the first of three books I read as part of a Richard Brautigan read-along for the month, and after that was an espionage novel called Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon and these were all the book I managed to read for BookTubeAThon. The last book would have been Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem but I got so sucked into this novel, I wanted to take my time and savour all it; it ended up being my favourite for the month.

This readathon was a lot of fun; I read a decent amount of books, even if I did not complete all the challenges. It really got be back into reading, and I managed to keep a decent amount of momentum for the rest of August.  The next book I did complete was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, which was for a buddy read. I do not know if I am any good at buddy reading but it is fun to have someone to talk to about a particular book; it also makes it a more social activity. For my in-real-life book club we had to read The Green Road by Anne Enright and that was recently long listed for the Man Booker Prize. I really enjoyed the way Enright took fragments of each person’s life and combined it into this domestic drama; some people in the book club had a bit of a problem with that style of writing but for me it just worked.

I have already mentioned In Watermelon Sugar but I also read a collection of poetry call The Pill Verse the Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan. I like his poetry style; they are short poems that often pack a big punch. I then read Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan to finish off my Brautigan read-along, I plan to read more of his books in the future but this was a great introduction to this author.

I then went onto a bit of a non-fiction kick when I read Bonk by Mary Roach, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day, Postmodernism: A Short Introduction by Christopher Butler and My Reading Life by Bob Carr. All very different books but I am starting to love non-fiction books and I think books like Bonk and Postmodernism: A Short Introduction are good ways to do that. Mary Roach is a wonderful writer and I think I have found an example of the writer I would like to become in her book. I will have to practice more and read everything Mary Roach has written but it is nice to have a goal. Also Felicia Day’s memoir talked a lot about goals and failures so Never Weird was really helpful in that aspect.

The last novel I read this month was the final book in Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, Dexter is Dead; I have been reading these books all my reading life and it is a little sad that the series is ended. Lindsay’s writing style is not that strong but he helped me get into reading. At one point I did want to write like him, I love the inner struggle of Dexter and the moral questions that are explored but the series was a bit of a hit or miss. However there is a real sense of nostalgia going back to those books for me, and this is one of the few series that I have actually completed.

That was my reading for the month of August; I am very pleased with my progress. You might have also known I have fully migrated over to Knowledge Lost and am now blogging about more than books. I hope to catch up on my reviews (I think I have 30 to write) but I might do some mini reviews. My goal is to explore more than just literature on my blog and on my YouTube channel. It is weird to think I have become addicted to YouTube but I think it has been great for me. Next month I plan to read Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, Satin Island by Tom McCarthy, Choke by Chuck Palahniuk and reread The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. There are so many other books I want to read but lets see how I go. Let me know what your August was like in the comments below.

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Monthly Review – July 2015

Posted July 31, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

July Highlight
July Highlight

It feels like a bit of a cliché to yet again say how fast this month has gone, but it is once again a true statement. This is not entirely true, work days feel like they drag on and on, with so many stressful situations; I can see just how big of an impact it is making to my reading life. I much rather sit and watch television (or YouTube videos) after a difficult day of work than try and do any reading. Having said that, I still managed to read nine books in the month of July which seems to be my average for the year.

The first novel I read was One Night in Winter which was in part a campus novel, exploring a romantic poet (Alexander Pushkin) set in Moscow just after World War II. The author, Simon Sebag Montefiore normally writes non-fiction and has written a few biographies about Joseph Stalin. I found this to be an enjoyable novel with some flaws but what I appreciated were the endnotes. Montefiore goes through all the historical inaccuracies and explains why he made these changes for this novel.

After that I read Nest by Inga Simpson which is a contemporary novel about missing children, and I had a few problems with this one. If I focused on the nature writing, then I would call this book beautifully descriptive and stunning but my issue was with the mystery in the plot. All the descriptive writing about nature felt like a way to avoid discussing what was happening with the children. So I ended up thinking this book was just far too evasive and I ended up being frustrated by this.

Emmanuel Carrère’s memoir on Eduard Limonov was my next book and I felt like this one read so much like a novel. Translated from the French by John Lambert, Limonov is an amazing book about the leader of the National Bolshevik Party in the 2000s. The media often portrayed Limonov as a terrorist but reading through this biography reminded me just how the media is influenced by the political leaders in charge of running the country (in this case Vladimir Putin).

Next came a novel everyone is talking about, and that is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book, and I really appreciate that from a novel like this. There is so many parts in the novel where you just want to throw the book at the wall. I then went onto re-read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and this time around it was not an enjoyable read. I wanted to explore the character development of Louis, Lestat, and Claudia but since this novel is only 300+ pages and covers over 400 years this was impossible.

Then I went on to finally read In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami (translated by Ralph McCarthy) which has been on my TBR for a very long time. This was a short psychological horror that dealt a lot with culture clash and the idea of trying to solve loneliness with sex. I read another short novella called By Night In Chile by Roberto Bolaño (translated by Chris Andrews) and this is the story of Jesuit priest Father Urrutia who believe he is going to die. In the course of the night this priest reflects on his lives in a feverish daze. It starts off as a tender book but then you start questioning this narrator as it becomes clear that not everything he is saying is actually true.

I went on to read yet another novel in translation, The Story of My Purity by Francesco Pacifico (translated by Stephen Twilley) which tells the story of Piero Rosini who is determined to be a modern saint. Things do not go to plan, as he tries to live a pure life; I enjoyed the way this book explores theology and invoked a lot of questions about religion and how people often have a misconception on what the Catholic Church teaches on the topic of sex. Finally I decided to pick a mindless mystery novel, so I thought World Gone By by Dennis Lehane was the right choice. This did not require much effort to read and with my job stress I thought that was what I needed. However I think I may have outgrown modern crime novels and all the tropes found in the bestsellers.

As far as my reading goes, July was a pretty great month. In fact July was a good month, except when it came to working. At the moment I am currently reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Mislaid by Nell Zink, The Green Road by Anne Enright and The Lucifer Effect by Philip G. Zimbardo so I have plenty to read going into August. I also plan to read some Richard Brautigan in the month of August, I have an omnibus that feature Trout Fishing in America, The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster and In Watermelon Sugar in it, so I will try to read all three books. Let me know how July was for you and what you plan to read in August.

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Monthly Review – June 2015

Posted June 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 5 Comments

Double IndemnityAs I look back at the first half of 2015, I tend to wonder where all the time went but I also think about the 55 books I have read so far this year. As most people know, I have decided to do some more re-reading and focus on translated fiction; in particular Russian literature, where I am determined to specialise and become somewhat of an expert. Sure, it is a big task but there is something about the challenge that excites me. It has revitalised a joy for literature that I feel was missing. This does not mean I am going to stop reading and reviewing other things, I just have a goal in mind.

However, this has not translated too well to my blogging at the moment. Ever since taking a few weeks off to go to New Zealand, I have struggled to get back into reading and reviewing. I did get sick for a few weeks and I was feeling stressed with work but I plan to get back into the swing of things. I did think maybe BookTubing was causing me to neglect my blogging but I do not think that this is the case, but only time will tell. I am still determined to have my blog document my reading journey and BookTube is just allowing me to explore different options and hopefully get better.

I have read a very small amount in June, nothing too bad; I managed to finish six books this month. The first was a very interesting book called Sweetland by Michael Crummey, which explored the concept of isolation and heritage. The story started off a little shaky and I found myself being more interested in the secondary characters but then it really kicked into high gear. This novel was picked for my real life book club and I am not sure if I would have read it otherwise, but I am glad I did. One thing I love about book club is having books picked for me to read and discuss; I have discovered so many gems because of it.

I also read The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, which is the first novel by Gary Shteyngart. I love Shyteyngart and have wanted to read everything he has written. I would have disliked this book if I did not know anything about Gary Shyteyngart or have read his memoir Little Failure. There are a lot of autobiographical elements, which I may have missed if I had not been interested in this writer. I also read a novel, which might well be my favourite for 2015, Girl at War by Sara Novic. This is the perfect book for me, it reminds me of my love for All That is Solid Melts into Air last year and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena the year before. There is something about these books that I love, I think it is my interest in the eastern bloc and the people’s struggle that I am drawn to.

Next I read How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, a literary memoir where the author went back to all her old favourites and looked at the women within the books. This was part literary criticism but I had issues with the author’s opinions towards the theories and really effected my enjoyment of the memoir. I then picked up Dog’s Heart by Mikhail Bulgakov, which was translated by Antonina W. Bouis, to continue my interest in Russian literature and Bulgakov as well. This novella is also known as Heart of a Dog but this depends on the translation. Finally I read Double Indemnity for the Literary Exploration book club, which was a re-read for me and I posted a review for this book yesterday.

I am starting to get back into the swing of things and I hope to get back to reading and blogging as well. I am currently reading a heavy book that happens to be over 700 pages as well and that is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, I am enjoying the novel but it is taking some time to work through it. Also I am reading One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore, I am loving this novel and I do not want it to end, so I think I have been taking my time with the book. That was my reading month; it was not my best but it also was not that bad. How was your reading month?

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Monthly Review – May 2015

Posted May 31, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 1 Comment

Wolf TotemMay has been a big month for me. I have been preparing for a trip to New Zealand and I also took time off before hand to get some reading done. In fact, I have scheduled this post in advance, so it will be posted on the right day. This does mean I will not be talking about my entire month of reading but just the highlights upon writing this. If you do want to see a full monthly wrap up, you will just have to subscribe to my YouTube channel and wait for it to be posted. I think I went into May with eleven reviews I still needed to write, and then add all the books I have read so far and I am so far behind. I get on a roll with my reading and it is much more fun reading than writing reviews. About a year ago I wrote my book blogging manifesto, which I have been reflecting on. So much has changed but my goals are still the same. I just need to remind myself to get back into writing more frequently.

Looking at the Literary Exploration book club, we tackled translated fiction this month (a favourite of mine) and we read Wolf Totem, a Chinese novel by Jiang Rong and translated by Howard Goldblatt. I am glad we finally got to books in translation and I hope it encouraged many people to read more novels from other countries. As a reminder next month we are moving onto hard-boiled/noir theme and reading Double Indemnity by James M. Cain and I am looking forward to re-reading this classic.

This month has been a wonderful month for reading but I am still very behind in blogging. Highlights of the month have included Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard, Aquarium by David Vann, The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith and a re-read of Anna Karenina for my Russian lit project. However, I am packing some great books to take away with me, including more Russian classics, so I think by the time this post goes up, I would have had a wonderful month. I am sad that I was not able to do a longer wrap up post talking about my entire reading month but a much need vacation was a better option. I will be back to a normal wrap up next month; but I would love to know what everyone else read this month.

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Monthly Review – April 2015

Posted April 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

kafka on the shoreApril has been a wonderful month for me; I celebrated my third blogiversary this month (not very publically). However the big news is the announcement of my Russian lit project, I am actually very excited to dive into this world and see what I discover. I have been feeling unmotivated with my blogging lately and I have fallen behind in my reviewing (currently ten reviews I need to write). I am struggling to find the motivation and the inspiration to blog but this Russian lit project has got me so excited. Even if I do not know how if it will work in terms of blogging or BookTube, my excitement is all directed towards what I will read and learn.

As far as reading goes, I was in a weird place where while I read an average amount of books, I still feel like I did not read much. I started the month off finishing The Whispering City by Sara Moliner, a Spanish crime novel translated by Mara Faye Lethem, that I had high hopes for but never really lived up to me expectation. However, I did follow that book up with another historical fiction novel, The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis which was my first attempt for this author and not sure if it was the best place to start. It had a very interesting premise but exploring Jewish heritage and culture during World War II has been done to death.

The next novel I read, I can actually review as part of my Russian lit project and that is the Ukrainian novel Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird). This novel explores a struggling writer named Viktor who was given a king penguin to look after when the Kiev Zoo ran out of money and could not afford to feed the animals. Viktor gets a job writing obituaries and the book has the wonderful contrast between life and death. This is a dark comedy and I love the way Kurkov handled the balance between the satire and the message. Next was What You See in the Dark by Manuel Muñoz, which tries to imitate the style of Alfred Hitchcock but I do not think worked. Hitchcock has a very visual style, playing with shadows and atmosphere and while this novel is able to replicate this to some extent, it does not work that well on paper. I followed that book with Haruki Murakami’s book Kafka on the Shore (translated by Philip Gabriel) which I love and have already posted a review for.

I attempted my first Ali Smith novel with There But For The, which is a witty and satirical book that I am still trying to get my head around. I love the style Smith writes in and I know I am going to read a whole lot more of her books. I then read Helen MacDonald’s memoir on grief H is for Hawk. I made the mistake of trying to annotate this; I had never tried to write in the margins of any book and while I loved the experience it was not the right choice. I found myself questioning MacDonald’s emotions and quickly decided I will try annotating again but with a work of fiction. I then moved onto Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgård (translated by Don Bartlett) which is the third book in the autobiographical novel series My Struggle. Finally, the last book was a novel that reminded me that I was not that intelligent and that is 10:04 by Ben Lerner. This was an extremely sophisticated and intelligent novel, I am still struggling to wrap my head around it completely and I am beginning to fear I never will comprehend it fully.

In retrospect I had a pretty great reading month, even if I felt like I did not read enough. Going into May, I have Anna Karenina, The Firebird, Get Shorty and Manuscripts Don’t Burn all on the go. So I know I am going to have a good month, I also have some vacation time and I cannot wait. How was April for you, did you read anything amazing? Let me know in the comments below.

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