The Top Ten Books I Read in 2015

Before it starts to feel that it’s not the start of the new year anymore, I have to recognize my favorite books in 2015. It was a good year of reading for me, having read 51 books according to my Goodreads account. I was also happy to finish some classics and literary works that I’ve been putting off for some time. And now, without further ado, here are my top ten books read in 2015:

Top Ten:

top_ten_books_2015

  1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

    This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.

  2. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

    But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream. It includes everything that led up to it. Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment: the knife stab, the shell burst, the plummet of the car from a bridge.

  3. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

    If you’re in your life, chance. Viewed from the outside, like a book you’re reading, it’s fate all the way.

  4. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    Some things come with their own punishments.

  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    And I thought to myself, well, we’re making a step-it’s just a baby-step, but it’s a step.

  6. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

    But tonight, I have to confess (but only to myself, obviously) that maybe, given the right set of peculiar, freakish, probably unrepeatable circumstances, it’s not what you like but what you’re like that’s important.

  7. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

    I’m not a bad guy. If only I could stop hoping. If only I could say to my heart: Give up. Be alone forever. There’s always opera. There’s angel-food cake and neighborhood children caroling, and the look of autumn leaves on a wet roof. But no. My heart’s some kind of idiotic fishing bobber.

  8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

    Nervous means you want to play. Scared means you don’t want to play.

  9. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

    As long as you keep getting born, it’s all right to die sometimes.

  10. Drown by Junot Díaz

    I’ve tried to explain, all wise-like, that everything changes, but she thinks that sort of saying is only around so you can prove it wrong.

Honorable Mentions:

other_top_books_2015

  • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

    The world unmakes stuff faster than people can make it.

  • Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

    What was an experience becomes a dream and then a memory. I cannot see the edges between the three.

  • number9dream by David Mitchell

    You look for your meaning. You find it, and at that moment, your meaning changes, and you have to start all over again.

  • No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

    Forgive yourself for the decisions you have made, the ones you still call mistakes when you tuck them in at night.

  • Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

    And I never expected that you could have a broken heart and love with it too, so much that it doesn’t seem broken at all.

There goes my list. I’m planning to read less this year. But I’m looking forward to find new favorites.

Required Reading: October 2015

I skipped last month’s Required Reading post so I’m going to enumerate here the books I read in August and September:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – (5/5) I admire Atticus Finch and I love the innocence of the children. The Boo Radley storyline is interesting too.

2. No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay – (5/5) I love most of her poems. And although a few of them in this collection didn’t resonate on me that much, there’s no doubt that Sarah Kay’s poetry touches a lot of people especially when she performs.

3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – (4/5) I had a headache at first in deciphering the futuristic teenager language in this novel. A man’s goodness and freedom of choice are addressed here.

4. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel – (4/5) All my life, I viewed latitudes and longitudes with the same value. But this book taught me about the very significant longitude problem and how John Harrison solved it.

5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – (4/5) Holden Caulfield is really an icon of teenage angst. I ended up liking the book more that I thought I would. I guess it reminded me of some of my cynic thoughts when I was still young. Haha!

6. Lightning by Dean Koontz – (4/5) Interesting novel about time travel. I was often not convinced of stories about time travel due to their confusing complications, but this time it’s better because of more solid rules regarding paradox.

7. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – (4/5) So, this is only a draft before To Kill a Mockingbird. Still, I believe that those who like To Kill a Mockingbird should read this even if for no other reason than to read flashback stories of Jem, Scout and Atticus Finch that I really enjoyed.

8. It’s Raining Mens by Bebang Siy – (4/5) Funny but heartwarming collection of both fiction and autobiographical stories of the author.

9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – (3/5) I learned more about the tribal culture and tradition of Nigeria. Such as? That Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of yams. Hehe!

For the month of October, these are the books that I plan to read:

october_2015_rr

1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – I was encouraged to read stories about Sherlock because of the TV series and because this is included in the TFG Filipino ReaderCon 2013 Recommendations List.

2. Monstress by Lysley Tenorio – Our bookclub’s book for this month.

3. Drown by Junot Díaz – One of the book choices for our bookclub this month. And I voted for this.

4. Death with Interruptions by José Saramago – A gift I receive almost two years ago.  I think I’ll enjoy this book with death as both a phenomenon and an anthropomorphized character.

What about you, what are you going to read this month? Anyway, I hope we’ll all have fun reading!

Book Thoughts: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

the old man and the sea

“Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?”

The Old Man and the Sea  is Ernest Hemingway’s last published work of fiction in his lifetime. It is basically just about what the title says, about an old man and the sea but let’s not forget to include the fish. I think the main theme of the book is the old man’s exceptional resilience and perseverance. He wanted to prove to people and especially to himself that he’s still the fisherman that he used to be. That old age will not hinder him in his goal. The minimalist prose and narrative style fits the simplicity of the story.

(Spoilers ahead!)

At the start, we are introduced to the old man and the boy who was helping him. Due to bad luck, for not catching any fish for 84 days, the boy was prevented by his parents to stay with the old man. He was alone after that, but I as a reader stayed with him and witnessed his struggles. And I sympathized with him. I rooted for him to go on even though it feels hopeless. But after a long time of difficulty, this reader lost hope. There came a point that even I wanted him to give up. I pitied him. I didn’t want to read about what he’s going through anymore. But the old man didn’t stop. In my head I was saying, “You won’t catch a fish. And you’re old! Can’t you just go home and rest?” And then, yay! How happy I had been when he finally caught the fish. And then how affected I was, even felt like crying, when little by little, the sharks ate the fish. But in the end, his main goal was accomplished. He proved to himself and to others that he can still catch a fish, and a very big fish it was. He had his evidence and he got the respect that he deserves. And I was happy that the boy came back.

(3.5/5 stars)

Five Potential YA Franchises that Failed

Let me add Lois Lowry’s The Giver to this list.


Originally posted on What About Movies?

The Maze Runner (2014), a film adapted from James Dashner’s young adult post apocalyptic sci-fi series, made a killing at the box office last year, earning a whopping $102 million in the US ($238 million internationally) with just a $38 million production budget. Yesterday, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, the second installment, graced big screens all over the nation, and its potential for success is great. This came to me as a surprise considering that it’s one of the young adult series with a relatively smaller following than say Divergent or The Hunger Games. Of course there are an infinite number of reasons for the success and failure of a young adult film adaptation. A solid fan base from the books help, but they are not entirely a guarantee. And as much as we have The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter, all YA series adaptations that have become massive money makers, we get those few who never really become the full-blown film franchise they were expected to be.

Read about what’s included in the list: Five Potential YA Franchises that Failed – What About Movies?

Required Reading: August 2015

Look at my star-studded list of books that I read last July:

1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – (5/5) Barnes made me contemplate about memory and remorse and I’m not even as old as the protagonist.  Also, the ending is not the point.

2. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card – (5/5) As I was introduced with new characters here, I learned to love them as much as I loved Ender. And I’m on their side with regards to issues on whether to share information about human society to the piggies or not.

3. Paper Towns by John Green – (4/5) So those are paper towns? Cool! A big theme for a YA book. Reminds me of the movie adaptation of Into the Wild.

4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – (5/5) I only read this because of Book Riot’s task to read a book by someone from an indigenous culture and I was glad that I chose this. (Actually, I just copied my friend’s choice for this category. Hehe!) An important book about the life on the Spokane Indian reservation. Funny and hopeful despite the harsh realities and difficulties within the “rez”.

5. Ubik by Philip K. Dick – (5/5) This is our book club’s book this August. I initially decided to follow the reading plan but after about half of the book, I wasn’t able to stop and read the rest in one sitting. If Philip K. Dick’s other novels are as enjoyable as this, I need to read more.

6. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud – (4/5) Told in alternating perspectives of Nathaniel, the ambitious boy magician and Bartimaeus, the hilarious djinni. I hope their relationship will improve in the sequels.

And these are the books that I want to read this month:

August Required Reading

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – A classic dystopian novel. Let’s see how it differs with today’s dystopian books.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Our book club will discuss Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, in September so I need to read this book first.

3. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel – My microhistory book for The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

There goes my list. Okay, back to dodging aliens!

Junior’s List of Musicians Who Had Played the Most Joyous Music

(from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Arnold Spirit Jr. had a realization:

“I used to think the world was broken down by tribes. By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know this isn’t true. The world is only broken into two tribes:
The people who are assholes and the people who are not.”

After this, he felt like dancing and singing. His classmates who protested and defended him gave him hope. And then, he made lists of things that made him feel joy and this is one of them:

(He just listed the artists; I chose the songs.)

List of the Musicians Who Had Played the Most Joyous Music

1. Patsy Cline, his mother’s favorite

2. Hank Williams, his father’s favorite

3. Jimi Hendrix, his grandmother’s favorite

4. Guns N’ Roses, his big sister’s favorite

5. White Stripes, his favorite

Perhaps we should start making our own lists too. 🙂

Goal Completed: Literary Hippies (A Beginner’s Guide)

Another category that I completed from the TFG Filipino ReaderCon 2013 Recommendations List.

literary_hippies
photo from Goodreads – The Filipino Group

1. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – (5/5) . Read in August 2014. Each of the 6 stories has an exciting plot and can exist on their own. But despite the differences in settings and genre, each is connected to the other. The unconventional structure and the theme of recurrence and connectedness amazed me.

2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – (3/5) . Read in September 2013. Awful subject but not explicit. Intriguing and interesting narrative. One of my first literary books and I think deserves a reread.

3. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – (3.5/5) . Read in June 2015. A short book about “The Old Man and The Sea”. And the fish. Minimalist prose and plot structure matching the simplicity of the story. The resilience and determination of the main character is exceptional.

4. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – (5/5) . Read in January 2014. An intersex narrator telling his story that started from his parents and grandparents. Heart-felt narration of pain and confusion. An impressive family saga.

5. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – (4/5) . Read in November 2013. Never failed to keep me thinking while reading and more so after each part. Unusual but admirable creation of characters. An intellectual mystery.

With the Infinite Feels category, I suppose these could be two of my favorite genres, as I was more interested and completed them first. But as the title said, with literary books, I still consider myself a beginner.

Required Reading: July 2015

These are the books that I read last month (and some that spilled over this month):

1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd –  (3.5/5) An enjoyable and easy to read coming-of-age story that also tackles issues on discrimination towards black people. Feminism and information about bees also caught my attention.

2. number9dream by David Mitchell – (5/5) Again, I was greatly entertained by David Mitchell. Beautiful writing and I love his different narrative styles in each chapter.

3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – (3/5) Maybe this  genre, crime noir, is not my cup of tea. Or maybe because I really don’t like Brigid? Haha! Still, this novel is worth reading and I think it’s amusing to have met Sam Spade.

4. The Quiet American by Graham Greene – (4/5) Our book club’s book for July. I enjoyed reading the history, the politics, America’s role in the French war in Vietnam plus the rivalry between the narrator and “The Quiet American”. I hope I could catch up with our book club’s online discussion. 🙂

5. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini – (4/5) A young adult book that will make the reader be more aware of suicide and depression. Funny and entertaining yet it teaches essential points regarding mental issues. I feel sad about the death of the author though.

And for the remaining days of July, these are the books that I intend to read:

1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – A winner of the Man Booker Prize for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge voted by you thru this poll.

2. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card – I have to read about Ender Wiggin again. This is recommended by two of my dearest friends. 😀

3. Paper Towns by John Green – Because the movie will be released this month!

I’ve been busy lately so this post is kinda late, again. Hehe! But at least, I can still set aside time for reading. 🙂

Book Thoughts: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

TGOST

“Even later, on the thirteen nights that followed this one, instinctively they stuck to the Small Things. The Big Things ever lurked inside. They knew that there was nowhere for them to go. They had nothing. No future. So they stuck to the small things.”

The God of Small Things is the first and only novel of Indian writer Arundhati Roy. This novel is a story about the childhood experiences of the twins Rahel and Estha whose lives are destroyed by the “Love Laws” that lay down “who should be loved, and how. And how much.” I’ve been planning to read this for a long time since this is a favorite of my friend whose opinion and taste in books I respect. Then it became our book club’s book last March so I finally had a chance to read it. And love it.

The structure of the plot is complex and very unconventional. It started with the coming home of Rahel then shifted to their childhood when their cousin died. The setting then kept on shifting back and forth, shifting of past and present, stories interlacing and blending. I’ll admit, this narrative is not easy to follow. Sometimes it’s confusing. In the beginning, we know bad things will happen but we don’t know how and why they happened. Within the shifting, there were flashbacks of memories with signs. I think there is beauty in this mystery that held my attention, kept me looking for signs until everything was revealed near the end. Understanding dawns on us as we read.  I think the non-linear storytelling improves the reader’s understanding as knowledge of the future provides more meaning to what happened in the past. After sometime, I enjoyed the jumping of the story-line at random points in the characters’ lives and figured out the story from there.

There are a lot of characters in this novel but I felt that I know them all well. The narrative is told in a way that we learn about each of the members of their family. And also of Velutha and his father, who are workers in their factory and even of Kochu Maria, a family servant. Even though we mostly see the novel from Rahel’s perspective, we get a decent view of each character’s motives and back-stories.

The connection of the twins is also interesting. How when they were children, they’re close and understand each other, as if they’re just one person.  I like how the story was told in the children’s point of view in the past with their innocence and imagination. How they created their own language, linking words, reading them backwards, and using odd capitalization. These words acquired deeper meaning. It’s as if the twins are telling us that they’re important so we should remember them. How they both endured the sufferings in their childhood. And how they were separated until they were reunited again in the present. The guilt they must have felt but with the realization that “You’re not the Sinners. You’re the Sinned Against.”

There’s a lot of symbolism used in this story. The pickles, Papachi’s moth, The History House, Rahel’s watch, Small Things, Big Things, etc. I will not try to analyze them here but they are good hints to the story line. Through this novel, I also became more aware, or let’s say, I was reminded again of the injustice and hypocrisy in our society. Communism and Marxism, the caste system, different sexual freedom of men and women, and colonialism. This is a drama about love, pain, lies, misunderstanding, discrimination and family reputation. All these things echoed through the years; what happened during childhood have haunted the twins through time.

I read this more than three months ago but while writing this, it still evokes a lot of feelings. Tortured Velutha, Sophie Mol’s death, the effect to the twins and what they did in the end. This novel is heartbreaking, tragic and cruel. But with the unique narrative and those jumping timelines, I applaud the author’s choice of the ending. Affirmation of true love, setting aside other people’s judgments. Sticking to the “Small Things”. Waiting for each “Tomorrow.” Brilliant!

(5/5 stars)

Required Reading: June 2015

For last month’s reading:

1. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – (4/5) I love the stories in this collection about the lives of Indians and Indian Americans who are caught between their inherited culture and their new home. My favorite is A Temporary Matter. I also like Interpreter if Maladies, Sexy and The Third and Final Continent.

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – (5/5) I finally finished this tome of English magic. I enjoyed the alternative history around the Napoleonic wars and the footnotes  too.

3. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – (3.5) The minimalist prose is charming. I think this style is analogous to the simplicity of the story.

While for this month:

June_2015_RR

1. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – This is our book club’s book of the month under the crime fiction genre. I’m currently listening to an audiobook because June is Audiobook Month!

2. number9dream by David Mitchell – I will be reading this with my David Mitchell buddies. This is our 3rd Mitchell novel.

3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – Louize‘s Worst Book last year that I have to read for the I Dare You to Read 2015 challenge hosted by our book club.

These are my books for this month. I hope you’ll have fun with yours!