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What Are You Reading Currently? [OFFICIAL THREAD]

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(salam)

Marbles, how are you getting access to all these books? Are you buying them? If so, from where? Is there anywhere I can get cheap books, instead of having to pay a lot for them? Also, if you have some sort of easier/cheaper access to them, maybe you can buy some for me and ship them over to Qum for me :P I shall pay.

 

Wassalam

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(salam)

Marbles, how are you getting access to all these books? Are you buying them? If so, from where? Is there anywhere I can get cheap books, instead of having to pay a lot for them? Also, if you have some sort of easier/cheaper access to them, maybe you can buy some for me and ship them over to Qum for me :P I shall pay.

 

Wassalam

 

Wasalam,

 

Approximately 90 percent of the books I have mentioned and reviewed in this thread are physical copies bought in Pakistan from various outlets, new or used. I get them mainly from two bookstores which have online presence. Readings in Lahore and Liberty Books in various cities. There is another site that brings buyers and selllers together in Karachi: Kitabain. It works out the cheapest. Then there are other non-online outlets I frequent. E.g. Variety bookstore in Lahore. Saeed Book Bank in Islamabad etc.

 

The book selection on these websites, despite having improved of late, remains rather narrow. So if you give the names I will be able to tell if you can get them elsewhere if you can't find them in the online catalogs of these stores. [Liberty Books website is not good. Often they have books in their stock which are not listed on the website]

 

Foreign-printed books are generally expensive for an average Pakistani but they are still cheaper in comparison to prices in Western bookshops, even on Amazon and Barnes & Noble etc. Take Karen Armstrong's latest book Fields of Blood. It's listed $20.81 on Amazon US. But I got it for Rs 760 which is less than $8. Brand new and perfectly legitimate. No pirated stuff.

 

I can get books for you and ship them no problem :D

Edited by Marbles

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Till a couple of years ago most of my readings consisted of history, politics, Islamic studies, colonial and post-colonialism studies, but this year world literature dominates, and it is likely to dominate 2015 reading list too. Quality fiction gives more scope and depth to one's understanding of life and challenges - and enriches - one's perceptions on humanity. For long I shunned fiction thinking it not important. But I was totally wrong.

How many and what sort of books have you read in 2014?

Fiction can be really good (though, there's a lot of nonsense out there) and it offers a lot of space for several things such as human psyche, defaults and personalities, relations, social structures and so on. I found that it's much easier and even more effective to pack sensitive issues into a fiction novel- such as political problems, social norms, morals and freedom- instead of presenting these in a non-fiction book. At least, a majority of people, mainly younger generations, will be more perceptive to problems which are not discussed or not breached at all in schools/public life, if they are confronted with them in a fiction-book (history, contemporary literature, even fantasy) in the form of (favorite/disliked) characters struggling with them. One can even weave them into the plot without putting too much emphasize on some of them and the reader will think about it, anyway. I'm planning to do something along the lines myself, with [a] subject(s) that I know most people around here wouldn't pick up if it were presented in a (for young people boring^^) non-fiction book.

Lol, sorry for that long (probably off-topic) comment :P

Anyway, I wanted to ask if anyone here has read "The kite runner" by Khaled Hosseini? A friend gifted me "When the mountains echoed" from the same author, which I still have to read- but I'm curious. "The kite runner" sounds very interesting and I've been thinking about buying it for a while but... I'm a very indecisive human being. Is it any good? I know that some people might like it and others not, opinions differ, after all, but I'd love to hear them, either way :)

Wa salam.

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A beautiful book on the tafsir of Sura Fatiha by Mulla Sadra ... it can be difficult to read at times, if you don't have any background in philosophy... I'd recommend listening to some intro. to philosophy lectures on iTunes University - and then read this book, if you have not read a book on philosophy. Or, if you read it on kindle, you can use the definitions to help look up some of the concepts ... It will be well worth it. 

 

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Edited by skylight2

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Fiction can be really good (though, there's a lot of nonsense out there) and it offers a lot of space for several things such as human psyche, defaults and personalities, relations, social structures and so on. I found that it's much easier and even more effective to pack sensitive issues into a fiction novel- such as political problems, social norms, morals and freedom- instead of presenting these in a non-fiction book. At least, a majority of people, mainly younger generations, will be more perceptive to problems which are not discussed or not breached at all in schools/public life, if they are confronted with them in a fiction-book (history, contemporary literature, even fantasy) in the form of (favorite/disliked) characters struggling with them. One can even weave them into the plot without putting too much emphasize on some of them and the reader will think about it, anyway. I'm planning to do something along the lines myself, with [a] subject(s) that I know most people around here wouldn't pick up if it were presented in a (for young people boring^^) non-fiction book.

Lol, sorry for that long (probably off-topic) comment :P

Anyway, I wanted to ask if anyone here has read "The kite runner" by Khaled Hosseini? A friend gifted me "When the mountains echoed" from the same author, which I still have to read- but I'm curious. "The kite runner" sounds very interesting and I've been thinking about buying it for a while but... I'm a very indecisive human being. Is it any good? I know that some people might like it and others not, opinions differ, after all, but I'd love to hear them, either way :)

Wa salam.

 

True, there's a lot of nonsense in the name of fiction. Even 'critically acclaimed' books turn out to be of throwaway variety.. That's why one has to choose wisely. Life's short and we don't want to waste time on rubbish. As far as fiction goes I have learned to make my reading shortlists with care and deliberation. No 'reading everything I get my hands on' anymore for me.

 

The Kite Runner is okay, nothing spectacular. But I understand it got raving reviews. A Thousand Splendid Suns is better written. I think The Kite Runner was written to be filmed. For this reason the story is oversimplified and there is that gratuitous drama element in it too. The plot wears thin when the writer uses coincidences to move the story forward.

 

It's one of its kind in Afghan literary history so it got noticed. It's a sad and unhappy story, as all stories from Afghanistan are.

 

I haven't read his third and latest book when I saw lots of negative reviews. But maybe some time I will. I am not a big fan of Khaled Hosseini.

 

Good luck with your project :)

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2014 didn't feature a lot of reading for me. I devoted it almost entirely to practical stuff, to overcome a shortfall in skills of, well, the non-theoretical variety.

Of those I read, Who Killed Daniel Pearl? by Bernard-Henri Levi stood out, though not for the intended reasons. The tone put me off, as did the grandiose writing style. It was an exercise in self-righteousness and pomposity, a tale of a glorious and brave western journalist who lost his life (admittedly, in a gruesome act of terrorism) in investigating the exotic and backward land of Pakistan, written by an equally glorious and brave intellectual who risked his life by trailing the said journalist's path. More than anything, it simply turned out to be a lesson in shaping grand narratives.

 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid, turned out great. Well-written and original.

 

Currently reading an essay by Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism. It is pretty dense in writing and the tone is harsh, as it should be. 

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True, there's a lot of nonsense in the name of fiction. Even 'critically acclaimed' books turn out to be of throwaway variety.. That's why one has to choose wisely. Life's short and we don't want to waste time on rubbish. As far as fiction goes I have learned to make my reading shortlists with care and deliberation. No 'reading everything I get my hands on' anymore for me.

Just look at the 'Bestsellers' here in Germany, it's rather pathetic. Repetive stories, all revolving around that 'one true love - with a third party attached to annoy the masses'. So, yes, we should pick wisely- unless, of course, people are into teenie-dystopian-romances :P

 

The Kite Runner is okay, nothing spectacular. But I understand it got raving reviews. A Thousand Splendid Suns is better written. I think The Kite Runner was written to be filmed. For this reason the story is oversimplified and there is that gratuitous drama element in it too. The plot wears thin when the writer uses coincidences to move the story forward.

 

It's one of its kind in Afghan literary history so it got noticed. It's a sad and unhappy story, as all stories from Afghanistan are.

 

I haven't read his third and latest book when I saw lots of negative reviews. But maybe some time I will. I am not a big fan of Khaled Hosseini.

Thanks for the input :) Well, I guess, I'll read the book I have and decide, afterward. The negative reviews are what keeps me away from reading it, though it isn't necessary that I'll agree with the opinion of the large masses.

Hm, sad and unhappy? I don't mind sad stories, though I don't like them, if they are depressing throughout the whole book. It's a personal taste. There's so many tragedy around us in the real world, so I mostly prefer stories who do have a light (maybe even humorous) touch. But I'll see, eventually.

 

Good luck with your project :)

Thanks :)

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Just look at the 'Bestsellers' here in Germany, it's rather pathetic. Repetive stories, all revolving around that 'one true love - with a third party attached to annoy the masses'. So, yes, we should pick wisely- unless, of course, people are into teenie-dystopian-romances :P

 

Exactly. Looking at the bestsellers lists in various papers and journals gives me proverbial shivers.

 

I think it relates to the gradual dumbing down that has taken place since the World War 2. It's perhaps more pronounced in the West but things, through globalisation of a generation, aren't so much different in the rest of the world. And then those lists are translated and exported all over the so that, despite claims of international diversity in the age of internet, people in Vietnam, Colombia and Pakistan are reading pretty much the same stuff as people in the US, South Africa and Germany.

 

Thanks for the input :) Well, I guess, I'll read the book I have and decide, afterward. The negative reviews are what keeps me away from reading it, though it isn't necessary that I'll agree with the opinion of the large masses.

Hm, sad and unhappy? I don't mind sad stories, though I don't like them, if they are depressing throughout the whole book. It's a personal taste. There's so many tragedy around us in the real world, so I mostly prefer stories who do have a light (maybe even humorous) touch. But I'll see, eventually.

 

Yes, read it for yourself. You may like it more than I did. The Kite runner is a sad story but has an optimistic punchline. So it's not so depressing throughout. A Thousand Splendid Suns, if you have read it, is much sadder and gloomier.

Edited by Marbles

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I just finished this: 

 

darth_plagueiscover.jpg

 

For those interested in politics, this is an excellent book on dirty politics, betrayal, planning, conspiracy and all the other juicy stuff of quest for power. 

 

For those that like star wars lore, this will soothe your fantasy hormones as well. 

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Uh... No, they shouldn't. Waste of time.

 

Ok.  In my opinion 1984 changes the reader's way of thinking and challenges their views on the world.  What book do you think "everyone" should read?  (Besides religious texts, of course.)

For those that like star wars lore, this will soothe your fantasy hormones as well. 

 

My son likes Star Wars books, but I don't think he's read this one.  He reads what is available at the public library.

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Hello Notme
 

 

Ok.  In my opinion 1984 changes the reader's way of thinking and challenges their views on the world.

 

 

True. 

 

A series of books that I have been re-reading are the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, starting with The Little House in the Big Woods.

 

When my sisters and I were little, my Dad would read a chapter every night before reading the Bible.

 

The books are important because they show American history and the hard work Americans long time ago did in order to survive, way before modern technology entered the scene. While there is sadly some racism in the books, it shows the struggle the USA had with racism, which sadly continues to this day.

 

Peace and God bless you

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A series of books that I have been re-reading are the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, starting with The Little House in the Big Woods.

 

When my sisters and I were little, my Dad would read a chapter every night before reading the Bible.

 

I read that series of books when I was little. 

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I read that series of books when I was little. 

 

I feel so spoiled now - not doing what the women back then did. They sure were busy wow and talented in doing so many things, like making their own butter and cheese and their own clothes and canning vegetables from their own gardening and collecting the eggs from their own hens and so on, wow!!!

 

It was a different way of life back then. I wonder if someday, those talents will be sought after by a desperate, spoiled rotten population?

 

God bless you and peace :)

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Literature I have read recently. I have been concentrating on some Nobel writers who have made a name, and some recent prizewinners. Apart from a couple of loose canons the experience have been amply rewarding.

 

I will add individual reviews as I write them, perhaps...

 

 

snow.jpg

 

Yasunari Kawabata - Snow Country (1935-37)

 

Translated from the Japanese by Edward Seidensticker

 

 

godot.jpg

 

Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot (1953)

 

 

disgrace.jpg

 

J.M. Coetzee - Disgrace (1999)

 

 

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Pablo Neruda - The Captain's Verses (1952)

 

 

care.jpg

 

Harold Pinter - The Caretaker (1960)

 

 

namesake.jpg

 

Jhumpa Lahiri - The Namesake (2003)

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41%2BMG3GgOwL.jpg

I don't normally read fiction but the wifey read this and couldn't put it down so I thought I had give it a try as well.  Definitely made the right decision! This book is an amazing read although I haven't finished reading it yet. Hopefully the author keeps at it and publishes more of his work.

Edited by learical

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Literature I have read recently. I have been concentrating on some Nobel writers who have made a name, and some recent prizewinners. Apart from a couple of loose canons the experience have been amply rewarding.

 

I will add individual reviews as I write them, perhaps...

 

 

snow.jpg

 

Yasunari Kawabata - Snow Country (1935-37)

 

Translated from the Japanese by Edward Seidensticker

 

A metaphor of rotting and unappreciated beauty. Deep in the frozen reaches of the Snow Country a geisha waits out her days for a man who would give her the life of love and dignity that she believes she deserves.

Geishas in the Japanese society enjoyed similar social prestige as the Courtesans of the Indian Muslim culture. They were the connoisseurs of culture and art; they exerted political influence through their patrons; they decided the fates of people who desired their services; they made and broke marriages – they were a soft power centre in the Japanese society.

But in the backwater of the Snow Country only a perception of this power remains. The Geishas there live under crushing poverty and hopeless surrender, maintaining a façade of self-importance but in reality are no more than prostitutes offering affordable services to travelling men.

This novel is a sad depiction of that cruel existence, told through the story of a Snow Country Geisha, Komako, who meets a rich idler from Tokyo, Shimamura, who comes to the town to enjoy the hot springs it’s famous for. Shimamura knows immediately when he sees Komako that she is unlike other Geishas of the town. They develop a relationship but it never goes anywhere. The rich city idler is as though unable to reciprocate the love of Komako who, despite something special in her, is only a hot spring Geisha in his eyes. He tries to involve himself emotionally but can’t stop himself from looking down upon her.

The novel reads like a dream with disjointed and abruptly changing scenes fusing into one another. The writer's stylistic method is to juxtapose two opposing and contrasting characteristics as in old Haiku: light against dark, sound against silence, being a sex selling Geisha who has a clean and fresh countenance, the whistle of the teapot against the continuous sound of the silence.... and there are beautiful evocations of the stark nature of the Snow Country and the frugality of its people, their lifestyle, travails and their aspirations.

I liked the way the story builds up into a high emotion in so imperceptible a way, without any loud noise-making plot twists. I enjoyed the novel a lot.

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How many and what sort of books have you read in 2014?

 

I have been trying for a long time to keep a record of the books I've read. Haven't actually managed to accomplish that  :)

 

As for the sorts of books I've read last year.. let's see. I've been writing this book on and off for a while, and most of what I read either shares themes or style or genre with 'my book'. I've read And the Mountains Echoed - not bad, I echo Marbles' opinion in that Hosseini has not really managed to get my admiration, except in A Thousand Splendid Suns which was, for some reason, written in a much snappier, blunt (about sensitive things, thus actually sharp) style than his other books. I also read Laurie Halse Anderson's The Impossible Knife of Memory - I found it to be a little repetitive and not quite up to the standard Wintergirls and Speak set. (Yes, guilty of reading Wintergirls again.) I digressed a little off my path and read Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls - time travel/grizzly serial murderer and 'the girl that got away', who the detective has a crush on. Ehh. Too cliche for my taste, won't be making that mistake again.

 

I also read a lot of Jennifer Brown. I started with Hate List, if course, then went on to Bitter End, Perfect Escape, Thousand Words, and Torn Away. Not a series. Verdict: the author is worth the acclaim. Donna Cooner's Skinny gave Wintergirls a run for its money. In case you're wondering, they're both based around eating disorders. I also finally read Dave Cullen's Columbine. An emotional non-fiction read. I admire his writing style in what I believe to be the writing style that non-fiction centered around a real life event should be written in - with the least amount of exaggeration. I also read books in the same genre about domestic abuse - Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It and The Lost Boy. I'll admit, I cried. Also by his brother, A Brother's Journey - Surviving a Childhood of Abuse by Richard Pelzer.

 

Then I read relatively lighter but still meaningful YA fiction - award winning Eleanor and Park, followed by Attachments, Landline and Fangirl all by Rainbow Rowell. The critics were right about E & P being something else entirely; and about the rest not being in the same league. Reminiscent of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I also read. Finally got around to the rest of John Green - An Abundance of Katherines (not up to his standards), Paper Towns (I'd give it a solid 4 out of 5) and Looking for Alaska, which I really liked for the same reason I think I like any book - it felt real. I read JP's House Rules again for some research for a short story, along with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon. Rightful acclaim for the latter. Tried reading magical realism with Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners and Alice Munro's collection The Progress of Love, but only got halfway. Will make it to 2015's reading list.

 

Next was Patricia McCormick's Cut, which I liked enough to get her Purple Heart. Pretty good too, although nothing extraordinary. Started The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling. Not sure if I'll get to the end. Finished off with Andrew Vachss' Aftershock. I don't really recall what I thought of it, so either it was too long ago or it just didn't resonate; probably the latter.

 

That was recreational reading  :D For school I read a whole lot of textbooks, and literary critiques in journals and papers. Also, the semester reading list included Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four, Stevenson's South Sea Tales (collection), Brian Friel's play Dancing at Lughnasa (short and touching)James Joyce's collection Dubliners (which you will only liked after you've hated it) and The Dutchess of Malfi. I particularly liked Doyle because I'm partial to almost all authors that contributed to the Golden Age of detective Fiction including E A Poe, Agatha Christie and E T A Hoffman.

 

I've read a lot of religion related books as well, but I read that very differently from secular reading in that I rarely read them cover to cover. I'll have to compile that list another time, but off the top of my head there's been Urdu books on the topics of Akhlaq, family life, being a better human, studying and learning etc.

 

Just started The Crisis of Muslim History: Religion & Politics in Early Islam by Prof. Mahmoud M. Ayoub

 

51Ts1v3EjeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

I'm interested to know about the relation of these history books you read, with the authors who write it. I'm no expert of history and its recording, but I've seen history books to be full of bias and differences in perspective. Do you take care in choosing authors, in that they be impartial? Have you noticed any patterns of bias that one can look out for while selecting history books? 

Edited by l'Optimiste

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I have been trying for a long time to keep a record of the books I've read. Haven't actually managed to accomplish that  :)

 

Easy. I have recently discovered that Goodreads is good at keeping records as long as you're punctual to update it. And you can't lose it like you lose a physical diary or an e-file.

 

Finally got around to the rest of John Green - An Abundance of Katherines (not up to his standards), Paper Towns (I'd give it a solid 4 out of 5) and Looking for Alaska, which I really liked for the same reason I think I like any book - it felt real.

 

Is that the same author who wrote Fault in Our Stars or something like that? I get one thousand and one recommendations to read it but I am not sure. How did you find it?

 

I don't know 90% of the writers on your list. Goes to show how little I know of books.

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I did come across Goodreads' record keeper, but it seems to me that there is little difference between physically writing down and typing, because forgetfulness gets in the way of both! Also I have an unusual method of reading - I'm rarely reading less than seven books at a time, and there can be gap years between chapters - recording that would be a nightmare. In short, its my own erratic reading habits that are to blame for this one :)

Yes, John Green is author of The Fault in our Stars. I believe its acclaim stems from the lack of what I've termed Maturity Fiction. It's the same time old story of young adults with cancer - two of whom are in love. One of the unique things about it is that its about two young mature adults who just so happen to have cancer and are actually 'dealing' with it, as opposed to the denial/depression, or, on the other end of that spectrum, superhuman acceptance that is so often depicted with this plot. Interestingly though, I still favor Looking for Alaska over that. Originality of plot - and the characteristic of it being well mapped out - is what won me over. I'd recommend you start with Looking for Alaska, and the good thing about it is that if you don't like the first chapter, you probably won't like the rest of the book, or his other works either. That's the kind of respect for your time you can't help but admire, and in my opinion, reward with reading the first chapter!

I actually went with a very narrow genre in my list, namely YA fiction. Unless you were specifically targeting it for some reason, you probably wouldn't come across these, so that probably explains it.

Edited by l'Optimiste

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sula.jpg

 

Toni Morrison - Sula (1973)

 

It is time for change; slowly but inexorably the spirit of the age finds a new voice. The white lords and black slaves – practical slaves if not technical slaves – begin to alter their established, longstanding social positions. From this sense of foreboding out comes Sula.

 

The black community confined to the hills up there in a small Ohio town is made, through centuries of social conditioning, to treat themselves as different and separate from the white people. What an incredible fact of human psychology that, even if that community doesn’t lose its self-respect and self-reliance, it accepts the role to which its oppressor designates it.

 

They are scandalised when Sula, one of their own, launches herself on a new path that’s opening up, leaves the town, gets educated like white people and ‘sleeps with white men’. There is nothing more sacrilegious, nothing more insulting and demeaning than a proud black girl willingly and happily letting white men mount her. And then returning to the town to do the same with black men, to ‘steal’ them from their women.

 

Sula, therefore, becomes a pariah in her own community, reviled and hated. She is actually a witch, the ominous signs spread about testify to it. People see those signs in retrospect, from her birth to childhood, from her growing up as a daughter of a woman abandoned by her husband, from the way she looked at them when she was a child, the way she walked and sat, ate and gestured. Sula, they reach on a terrifying conclusion, is not a young black girl but a witch.

 

Sula’s character may be seen as symbolic of the changing values that had held together isolated, nebulous, inward-looking black communities across the United States before the whites took pity on them. Values constructed so carefully over centuries when challenged elicit a response that’s always out of proportion. Sula is a couldn't-care-less woman whose threatening individuality alienates her from her community. For this she is taken to task. But then why does she send her rather well doing grandmother to an old people’s home that exists for impecunious destitutes there is no one around to care for? Why does she and her best childhood friend Nel, who as though one soul in two bodies, never needing to communicate with each other in words, undergo a painful split when Sula betrays her so unthinkably? Why did Sula’s ten years with white folks change her?

 

These are the question you’ll have to answer for yourself: in connection with the change that has come or independent of it, something to do with Sula’s troubled early years, living as she did with her mother who had taken to whoring as the most natural vocation a woman might take when her husband walked out on her – thus fracturing relations with neighbours of the street and the town. In that, Sula and her mother aren’t much different. So what made Sula, Sula? Something has definitely changed but what? It is everywhere, when Sula lies on her deathbed, the dark matter of the unknown can be sensed and touched.

 

I gave it three stars for the unforgivable lacunae in the construction of the novel. It’s a rather short one – 170 or so pages – but there is no trace of Sula for the first 50 pages. If I am reading a novel that relies so heavily on one central character, why should I have to be introduced in so much detail to minor characters that disappear in the subsequent pages. There are quite a few unused “Chekhov’s guns” in this novel.

Edited by Marbles

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Astrobiology: A Brief Introduction.  

 

It's some pretty fun stuff to think about, but a lot of chemistry and a bit of physics in what I've read so far.  I won't pretend to understand all of it, but it's readable anyway.  

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mie.jpg

 

John Steinbeck - Of Mice and Men (1937)

 

Told almost entirely in dialogue-driven vernacular, it is a haunting depiction of the labouring class of Salinas Valley (California). Through the story of two friends who travel to another town to find petty work, Steinbeck has so imperceptibly painted a grim picture of their travails, hardships and dreams. They are hardworking but wasteful but have aspirations for their future. When one of them, due to his mental weakness, does something terrible at the new workplace, their plans to save up and have a patch of land of their own fall into jeopardy.

The novella could really have been a novel. I’d have liked it to explore the previous lives of the lead characters a tad more to put their current lives in perspective. I was apprehensive, in the beginning, for the good deal of dialogue written in slang or vernacular. But it turned out really well. Come to think of it, it is the dialogue in real life tilt which brings out in full force the essence of the labour class characters. All in all a good, enjoyable read, if not for its literary writing than for its simulated slang.

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41Z2IOtMMZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

Fascinating account of the development of the sugar trade in the West Indies (that's as far as I have got so far). The account is fairly detailed, at the level of the experiences of individual plantation owners and slaves. But the book also documents how the concentration of so much wealth in the hands of the planters had a massive impact on entire countries.

 

For example, Britain chose to take Canada (which only produced fur at the time) rather than Guadaloupe (whose sugar would compete with existing planters output) purely on account of planters' interests.

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