Tag: Book of the Month

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Posted April 29, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki MurakamiTitle: Kafka on the Shore (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Vintage, 2002
Pages: 480
Genres: Magical Realism
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Kafka on the Shore tells the story of a fifteen year old book named Kafka who runs away from home to find his mother and sister. Although the alternate chapters tell the story of Nakata; a strange old man who has the ability to talk to cats. Like many of Haruki Murakami’s books, Kafka on the Shore blends pop culture with magical realism in order to explore the psyche of the characters involved.

It is often hard to try and give an overview of a Murakami book because they tend to come out weird and I do not want to give the impression that his novels are not worth attempting. For Kafka on the Shore, the magical realism allows the reader to explore the psychological mind of fifteen year old Kafka Tamune. Not only is Kakfa a young man discovering his sexuality, Sigmund Freud would probably suggest that he also has an Oedipus complex and has developed an unhealthy obsession with his mother and sister.

According to Freud, an Oedipus complex stems from the unconscious mind and normally caused by the repression of a mother (or father) figure. Freudian psychoanalysis theory suggests that this is a key psychological experience needed for normal sexual development. However if it is unsuccessful at resolving it may lead to neurosis, paedophilia, or homosexuality. Without going into the problematic thinking of Sigmund Freud, this does make for an interesting analysis of Kafka’s journey throughout the book, especially with his interactions between Sakura and Miss Saeki.

If we continue looking at this novel through the lens of psychoanalysis theory, we might even get some interesting insights into Nakata. I always thought the loss of mental faculties was due to the psychological trauma, he experienced as a young boy. He was one of sixteen schoolchildren picking mushrooms in a field trip towards the end of World War II, when they were all rendered unconscious from a mysterious light in the sky. However it has also been suggested that maybe Kafka and Nakata are two different parts of the same person.

Every time I read a Haruki Murakami, I am reminded of his brilliance (with the exception of 1Q84), and I want to explore more of his works. I am also reminded that I need to learn a whole lot more about psychoanalytical theories, and how much it would help with books like Kafka on the Shore. For me this was a bildungsroman book about sexual development and memories. However, I found myself more interested in the chapters centred on Kafka over those about Nakata but maybe that was because I understood them a little better.

Yet again Haruki Murakami has impressed me with Kafka on the Shore and I am eager to pick up more of his books. I know magical realism can be scary for some people but I love the way Murakami uses it to explore the mind. My only real criticism of this book is that it was a little bloated and could have been trimmed down a little and still achieve the same. This might be due to an aversion to big books that I really need to overcome and not a true reflection on Murakami. I highly recommend giving this author a go if you have never tried him but Kafka on the Shore is not a good starting point; may I suggest trying Norwegian Wood first.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Posted December 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic, Crime / 2 Comments

And Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieTitle: And Then They Were None (Goodreads)
Author: Agatha Christie
Published: St. Martin's Griffin, 1939
Pages: 264
Genres: Classic, Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Ten people have been invited to have a holiday on Soldier Island; when they arrived they thought they had nothing in common. Soon they find out all of them have become complacent with the death (or deaths) of other human beings. One by one they all die, but who is the one that is there to seek revenge on the others?

And Then There Were None was originally titled Ten Little (I would rather not say) after the British nursery rhyme. The US edition used this title (which is also the last line of the rhyme) as well as changing the song to Ten Little Indians. Once again the novel was revived and now the song title has been changed to Ten Little Soldiers. Apart from the offensive name of the book originally, this novel was wildly successful and introduced a very common crime trope into the world. Ten people trapped in a house on an island trying to work out who is killing them off one by one. I’m sure you can think of many films, shows and books that have paid homage to this theme.

This classic crime novel looks at the idea of administrating justice; who has the right to judge others, and what happens when the law fails. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers and tell you who the killer is but most people would have read this and probably remember who the perpetrator was. The killer believes the others are complacent and in most facts while they deny being guilty publically are living tormented lives. Not everyone, but it was interesting to see that kind of turmoil and I was a little upset to see that wasn’t explored in greater detail. Having said that, I think the torment played out more in the symbolism and motifs. I’m thinking about the dreams and hallucinations (the guilty consciences of the victims are explored here) or the storm; a symbol of violence that cuts them off from the world.

The killer has set out to commit the perfect crime and it looks good on paper but I never really bought into it. While reading this novel I had a feeling that the cosy crime approach is playing against the story. If you think about the mess made from the violent murders, wouldn’t help the police work out what happened in the end? I’m sure they wouldn’t rely on the handwritten accounts, the evidence would be inconsistent. Making this far from a perfect crime (sorry this is hard to explain without spoilers).

This was my first Agatha Christie novel and while I enjoyed it there is one thing that frustrated me. I hate crime novels that hold back important pieces of evidence and expect the reader to work out what happened. I always feel like the author is trying to be smug but really it is just poorly executed writing. It wasn’t so bad in this novel but I get the feeling it is a common occurrence in all her novels and I can’t stand that. You have to make a great protagonist to make up for the withholding of information. It works better as a first person narrative; the unreliable narrator is more likely to forget to tell you important clues.

I will read some more Christie, I hope I’m mistaken about the withholding of clues. And Then There Were None had no real protagonist but maybe a Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple or Tommy and Tuppence mystery hide this a little better. I suspect Murder on the Orient Express will be my next Agatha Christie read but who knows. I prefer my detectives a little more Hard-Boiled so it might be awhile between Christie novels.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Posted February 27, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Young Adult / 0 Comments

The Fault in our Stars by John GreenTitle: The Fault in our Stars (Goodreads)
Author: John Green
Published: Dutton Books, 2012
Pages: 313
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster has been dealing with Stage 4 Thyroid cancer since she was 13 years old. Having recently decided to join a support group for children living with cancer she meets Augustus Waters (with osteosarcoma), and the infatuation was instantaneous. Their relationship grows and a common obsession with Peter van Houten’s An Imperial Affliction finds them in Amsterdam trying to track down this obscure author.

There really isn’t much I can say about this book that I haven’t said before. I really like John Green’s books; he writes some great characters and Hazel and Augustus are not exception. This isn’t a typical cancer book, but it is a typical Green book (not that there is anything wrong with that). I do feel like Green have some reoccurring themes in all his books but this one tries hard to break the mould. Obviously since it’s still a John Green book it never will break out, he knows what he likes; his style works really well, so there is nothing too wrong with keeping to it.

This book tends to shift a little into the unrealistic, but I’m sure there are intelligent and witty sixteen year olds that act and talk like these two; I’ve just never met them. I love how Green does a pretty typical YA love story but then finds interesting metaphors and ideas to throw in the mix. Hazel Grace and the reader are left examining life; sickness and health, life and death, what defines them and even the legacy they will leave behind.

The whole concept of ‘death being at your door the entire time’ makes for a very interesting YA novel. I’m pleased to say this is a fine example of what John Green does. I’ve read most of John Green’s novels now and I’m a huge fan of his works; I’m a little sad to think there is only one more novel of his left to read. I would love to know who else can offer intelligent and mostly realistic Young Adult novels for me to read.


On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Posted December 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic / 0 Comments

On The Road by Jack KerouacTitle: On The Road (Goodreads)
Author: Jack Kerouac
Published: Penguin, 1957
Pages: 307
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

On the Road is a semi autobiographical novel about Jack Kerouac’s travels through America. Set in 1947 the novel documents the travels of Sal Paradise with his friend Dean on a quest of self-knowledge and life experiences. This novel is often considered as the definitive ideal of the Beat generation and living life postwar. The Beat movement is a cultural movement which rejected a normal life for a bohemian lifestyle; this movement inspired jazz, poetry and literature.  The non-conformity and spontaneous creativity as well as experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities and interest in Eastern religions lead to the hippy movement in the 1960’s even though there are many differences.

On the Road is a novel of friendship, not just between Sal and Dean but the people that come and go from your life. Hitchhiking through America gives an opportunity to see this quickly; Sal meets new people all the time and just like that they are gone from his life; their impact on Sal may very but it really is a good way to show the effects people have without having to scratch a story over a few years. Then there is the friendship between Sal and Dean, it’s clear to me that Sal is idolising his friend and his need to be just like him is really not helping him to grow. Sal does grow through the book but it never feels like Dean has, this really changes the dynamic of their friendship as the book goes on.

This is also a book on the ideals of the beatniks; they are young and wanting to experience life, learn from their experiences. But underneath it all Sal feels unhappy. Either alone, in a relationship or just having casual hook-ups, Sal is never content. The only time I ever feel like Sal is enjoying himself is when he is having intellectual conversations, but he never really works out how to channel that passion to make his life mean something, I did think he would find contentment in writing but he never really does. The characters feel they should learn from life instead of books and this leads more to sex, substance abuse and even madness seem to be the end results of their experiences rather than knowledge.

While some might think this is a rather boring novel, I tend to think there is so much in the book worth exploring. I like the style and feel of this book, it reminds me of dirty realism and the quest for knowledge and satisfaction in life really hit home for me. My past experiences are nothing like those of Sal or Kerouac’s but there is something so real and raw about this book that I enjoyed. Overall it was interesting to read the book as a manifesto to the beat generation.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Posted September 28, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic / 0 Comments

As I Lay Dying by William FaulknerTitle: As I Lay Dying (Goodreads)
Author: William Faulkner
Published: Vintage, 1930
Pages: 267
Genres: Classic
My Copy: eBook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

As I Lay Dying is a classic American novel that was written by William Faulkner. This book follows the journey of fifteen different characters as they set out to fulfil the wishes of the recently deceased Addie Bundren who is to be buried in Jefferson.  Faulkner shifts between the fifteen narrators throughout book, one of them is even the deceased, who is expressing her thoughts from the coffin. As the book continues you can see the characters develop with each narrator’s perceptions and opinions.

This book is best known for its stream of consciousness writing technique which can be one of the biggest struggles with this book. It’s a dense read and if you don’t pay enough attention and try to delve deep into this book you will struggle to enjoy it. I made the mistake of starting reading book out as like a novel and it took me a while to pull myself up and approach this novel in the right mindset. But eventually I did start enjoying this book for what it is; and that is as a piece of literature that helped pioneer the stream of consciousness narrative and the interior monologue.

Faulkner was never an easy author to read but I hear this is his most accessible novel so I’m worried about reading anything else of his. I did enjoy exploring his literary style and just seeing the techniques he used for this novel but this really isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun read. There are some interesting characters in As I Lay Dying and some very ironic and dark elements to the story. As for the plot and scenery I did find it lacking but that really wasn’t what Faulkner was trying to achieve.

William Faulkner has famously said that he wrote the novel in six weeks and that he did not change a word of it. This in itself is a pretty impressive statement but if you look at the techniques and the novel as an overall piece of high literature, this statement is more impressive that I originally thought; it makes me feel like a failure. As I Lay Dying is not going to be for everyone, it is a dense novel but for lovers of literature it is interesting to dive into something that has been analysed deeply. I’m not going to go into this side of the book because I doubt I could really do it justice.  The style of this book is interesting, the prose is worth a deeper look and overall this book is just fascinating.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Posted August 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovTitle: The Master and Margarita (Goodreads)
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Translator: Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear
Published: Vintage, 1967
Pages: 384
Genres: Classic, Magical Realism
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’m going to be honest; I have no idea how to review a book like The Master and Margarita. I was looking forward to reading another Russian classic but I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for a book like this. The whole book is based around a visit by the Devil to two passionately atheistic Russians. While this is an overly simplified synopsis it really is basis of the entire book; if I really want to write a fully detailed overview of this book it would include a black cat, an assassin, a naked witch, Jesus and Pontius Pilate in one very bizarre novel. I read this book about a week ago but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, there is a lot going on within the book to really be able to give this a review that would give it justice.

To simplify this book I’m going to break down the book into three different elements; the Professor’s talk with the Berlioz and Bezdomny, the section involving the Master and his lover Margarita and lastly the novel about Pontius Pilate. At first glance all these sections may seems like they don’t link together, but when the Professor or the devil challenges the two’s concepts of atheism the conversation leads to the book about Pilate which happens to be a novel written by the Master and the book comes together in a weird, philosophical novel with shades of slapstick comedy.

I tend to write short reviews because I don’t want to spoil novels and want to write easy, accessible reviews; so if I write anything more about the plot I would have to write  a lot, too much for a short review so I’m going to stop talking about the book and start talking about my opinions of it. While reading this novel I was completely absorbed in the writing, but this meant I continued reading without stopping to really think about the book. In the end my head was swimming with so many thoughts of this book I wasn’t sure how I felt. Now that I’ve sorted my thoughts all I really can say it’s one of those books you just have to read to fully understand the effect of it.

While it took me a while to fully sort my thoughts of this book, I really did enjoy it. It’s one of those books like Slaughterhouse-Five where you can’t really rate or review it until you have had a good long think about all the concepts this book is trying to get across. I highly recommend experiencing this novel; it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. The wacky nature of this book will keep you reading but the philosophical ideas will help you enjoy this novel. I don’t think any review will ever do justice to this classic; especially not mine so my only advice and the only thing you really need to know about this book is ‘Just read it.’

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Posted July 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Life of Pi by Yann MartelTitle: Life of Pi (Goodreads)
Author: Yann Martel
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2001
Pages: 356
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

This month’s book club book was Life of Pi by Yann Martel and it seems to be one of those books that is hyped up so much that you don’t know whether to believe it or just groan at the thought of reading it. The book tells the story of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian boy growing up and exploring spirituality at a very young age. Pi finds himself in a shipwreck which leads him to be stranded on a boat with a Bengal tiger.

The book starts off with Pi’s early years; with his dad working at a zoo, Pi discovers a lot to do with zoology and animal psychology. This aspect of the book would really appeal to animal lovers and people interested in the animal behaviour in general. Then we see Pi exploring religion and deciding he was Hindu, Christian and Islamic, which really bugged me. I really never understood why he would embrace all religions apart from the fact that he “just wants to love god.” This took up the first half of the book and I personally wanted to get past this and really get into the core part of this book; the part involving the boat and the tiger.

When the shipwreck finally came, I was expecting the book to pick up but it decided to focus more on philosophy and while I’m interested in this aspect of the book, I felt the Life of Pi had already tried to do too much already and adding this to the book was the last straw for me. There were plenty of aspects in the book that were interesting but as a whole it tried to do so much and I never felt like it achieved anything.

This book reminds me so much of The Alchemist in the sense it was very basic and it tries to talk about religion and philosophy but turns out to be incredibly overrated. I know a lot of people like both books (Life of Pi and The Alchemist) but I never connected with either, I was expecting a lot more from this but I was left waiting. It’s interesting to see books like this that seem to be either well-loved or well hated but not much in the middle. Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002 and a string of other awards but for me, I felt the literary aspects were minimal, the religious and philosophical parts overdone and the book in its entirety, over hyped. I know many people love this book and if you do decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted May 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic, Crime / 0 Comments

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan DoyleTitle: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Goodreads)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Series: Sherlock Holmes #3
Published: Penguin, 1892
Pages: 307
Genres: Classic, Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: Amazon (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

It’s often really hard to review classic literature; simply because it’s already stood the test of time and that makes it difficult to be critical of the book. I’m not really a fan of reading a collection of short stories, especially over a few days; but I really did enjoy reading through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’m not sure why I haven’t read more of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels; this is my second with the first being A Study in Scarlet. I think I need to pick up my act and read more of his books; ideally all of the Sherlock Holmes novels.

Sherlock really is a great character, with some interesting quirks. I think at one point I thought he was taking cocaine to get over the monotony of not having a case to work on and then later in the book he was taking it because he was bored with a case. He really has an eye for detail and often it is really impressive the way he solves a case with the details that he discovers. Dr Watson; while you don’t get too much information about him, having him narrate the stories gives these books the extra boost it needs. The unreliable narrator is the perfect way to hide aspects of each case, without having the reader think the author is withholding on purpose.

There is not much I can say against this book apart from the fact it’s a collection of short stories. I feel like each story only gives you a quick glimpse into the brilliance of Sherlock and then the case is solved. I do like the way that this book does flow together without making the reader needing to reset the mind in preparation for the next story. This may be simply the fact that each story is in the same style and the characters are the same, but when it comes to reading a collection of short stories, this is often what I prefer. I probably should have read The Sign of Four in preparation for this month’s book club read but it will be the next Sherlock Holmes novel I get to.