august reads!

okay, i read a lot in august, so i will keep these as brief as possible …!

thirty-two.  cover, peter mendelsund.

(we are all, in fact, not that which we hope to be, but rather that which we actually do.)

SIGH.  this book is soooo beautiful.  i mean, it’s a collection of covers mendelsund’s designed over the last nine years, and i was pretty much salivating as i made my way through this, poring over the pages carefully and reading everything thoughtfully.  it was a wonderful experience, and i’m glad to have this on my shelves.

thirty-three.  without you, there is no us, suki kim.

was this really conscionable?  awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved.  if they were to wake up and realize that the outside world was in fact not crumbling, that it was their country that was in danger of collapse, and that everything they had been taught about the great leader was bogus, would that make them happier?  how would they live from that point on?  awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world.  (70)

this book fucking broke my heart.

there’s actually a lot i want to say about this book, so i’m just going to leave this here and come back to it later.  i’m planning to reread it again soon, so i will come back to it.

(this is being published by random house on october 14, 2014, and i highly, highly recommend it.)

thirty-four.  the birth of korean cool, euny hong.

“i still don’t think korean food is fine dining,” he [hooni kim] said, which made me raise my eyebrows.  “the best food in france is cooked by the three-star michelin chefs.”  by contrast, “i think the best food in korea is cooked by the mothers and grandmothers.  there is a history of restaurants in certain countries.  korea doesn’t have that.  korean dining food history is jumak — home-cooking, casual street food, market food.”
“looking, hearing is one thing.  tasting, touching is another.  smelling and tasting is the heart and soul of what korea is.  as much as pop culture wants to globalize, food is the best way for koreans to share their soul and culture.”  (88-9)

i liked this book, and i didn’t.  it was informative in certain ways (i give hong massive props for explaining han), but it was also pretty shallow — i wanted hong to go deeper and provide more analysis (i suppose).  i did deeply appreciate her insight into how heavily the korean government is invested in its culture as an export product, though, and hong also did a great job at providing context and historical background throughout the book.  she also has this wonderful dry, sarcastic humor that made me laugh out loud from time-to-time, too.

in the end, though, i have to admit that i wasn’t convinced of hong’s argument for korean “cool.”  maybe i’ll come back to this, maybe i won’t — we’ll see.

(the above quote made me smile.  it reminds me of a brief post i wrote earlier this year about the korean way of eating, which i think is unique and wonderful and encompasses so much of korean culture.  i absolutely love the korean way of eating.)

thirty-five.  colorless tsukuru tazaki and his years of pilgrimage, haruki murakami.

and in that moment, he was finally able to accept it all.  in the deepest recesses of his soul, tsukuru tazaki understood.  one heart is not connected to another through harmony alone.  they are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds.  pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility.  there is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss.  that is what lies at the root of true harmony.  (322)

this is the most grounded, solid, earthly novel written by murakami, i thought as i read colorless tsukuru tazaki.  i kept waiting for the surreal elements to come heavily into play, but they didn’t, not in a very prominent way at least, and i have to admit — i loved how solid this novel felt.

at the same time, though, tsukuru tazaki is still a very murakami novel.  tsukuru himself is very much a murakami main character, and he’s stuck in that place of isolation and confusion that causes him to depart on a journey to seek answers and discovery, like most murakami main characters.  there’s something very bittersweet about tsukuru’s discovery, though, and the ending felt very open but appropriately so — i think that, if murakami had gone about trying to give us hard closure, it would have felt forced and rather self-gratifying.

i enjoyed this a lot, more than i thought i would to be honest, although i had no idea what to expect as i went into this.  i didn’t even read the excerpt that was published pre-publication or any blurbs about it, and i enjoyed going in totally blind.  i’ve read a few comments elsewhere about colorless tsukuru tazaki being a good introduction to murakami, and i would agree with that.

thirty-six.  mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, robin sloan.

kat gushes about google’s projects, all revealed to her now.  they are making a 3-D web browser.  they are making a car that drives itself.  they are making a sushi search engine — here she pokes a chopstick down at our dinner — to help people find fish that is sustainable and mercury-free.  they are building a time machine.  they are developing a form of renewable energy that runs on hubris.  (209)

this was SO much fun to read.  the narrator’s voice is truly unique, and i love how sloan drew in “real life” things like google and integrated them fully into his world.  it’s a fun, amusing adventure tale that integrates technology in a very natural way, and you meet interesting characters along the way — and i don’t know what else to say!  it was tons of fun, and i just had a really good time reading it, which doesn’t actually happen very often.  like, i enjoy reading (obviously), but reading mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore was pure fun.  there’s no other way for me to put it.

also, the cover glows in the dark, and the book is beautifully designed (great font), so everything about this book is pure win.

thirty-seven.  ajax penumbra 1969, robin sloan.

“the measure of a bookstore is not its receipts, but its friends,” he says, “and here, we are rich indeed.”  penumbra sees corvina clench his jaw just slightly; he gets the sense that mo’s clerk wishes they had some receipts, too.  (22)

read this immediately upon finishing mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore and thought it to be a lovely companion piece.  (:

thirty-eight.  us v. apple, judge denise cote.

ok, yes, i know this isn’t actually a book, but it’s 160 fucking pages, and i read the whole damn thing, so this counts — IT COUNTS.

objectively, this is a well-written brief (and i never think attorneys are good writers).  it’s cohesively laid out, and judge cote does a great job at presenting the facts in the appropriate slant (as we are taught in legal writing).  she even lays out the legal standard step-by-step, and it’s all very clearly written, so i give her credit for that.  and it was more fun than i thought it would be because judge cote definitely has a flair for the melodramatic, which i found hilarious.  she should write legal thrillers.  and publish them with amazon.

that said, i’m not really going to write much else about this, other than it read very much like a forgone conclusion.

thirty-nine.  men explain things to me, rebecca solnit.

we have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern.  violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.  (“the longest war,” 21)

read this on the plane back to new york, felt myself sick to my stomach because this is the current state of the world, where there is so much violence against woman that is written off and diminished and, via indifference or silence or willful ignorance, condoned.  this book of essays isn’t all about violence against women, but it is about women.  and it’s a great, necessary collection — slim but bursting with truth, both horrifying and hopeful.  recommended.

forty.  never let me go, kazuo ishiguro.

“how could i have tried?” ruth’s voice was hardly audible.  “it’s just something i once dreamt about.  that’s all.”  (226)

this is one of those reads where i just want to note that i’ve read never let me go again but refrain from commentary.

(also the covers for the buried giant are out, and … sigh.  i’m not keen on either the US or the UK covers.  though that in no way diminishes my excitement for it.) 

forty-one.  jane eyre, charlotte brontë.

“i don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than i, or because you have seen more of the world than i have — your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”  (230)

read this mostly on my iPhone because, over the last few months, jane eyre has been my go-to omg-when-is-the-bloody-G-train-coming book.  i enjoyed the slow-burn read, though, and i’ve read jane eyre enough times that i could step away from it for days (or even weeks) and pick it up without having to re-situate myself.

jane eyre is that book from my childhood that made me fall in love with literature, so i will always hold it close to my heart.

forty-two.  rebecca, daphne du maurier.

it seemed incredible to me now that i had never understood.  i wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.  this was what i had done.  i had built up false pictures in my mind and sat before them.  i had never had the courage to demand the truth.  (263)

i finished jane eyre on my flight to nyc and decided that i had to read rebecca again because, you know, one gothic novel about a young girl and an older man naturally makes you want to read another gothic novel about a young girl and an older man.

du maurier does such an exquisite job of getting inside the narrator’s head.  i laughed out loud at quite a few parts over how her imagination runs away with her, as she gets lost in these fantasies and imagined scenarios, and they’re funny because they’re so dramatic and so symptomatic of the young, lonely, isolated mind.  i love the world du maurier creates, too, the enchantment that is manderley with its specter of rebecca hanging over everything — it’s so rich and lush and almost otherworldly, set apart on its corner on the coast.

it was interesting rereading this because i knew what would happen.  i knew the truth about rebecca, and i knew to anticipate certain scenes, so it colored the reading experience in a different way, which i found enjoyable.  that’s one of the fun things about rereading books, isn’t it — going back to it and seeing how you’ve changed and, consequently, how the book has changed, too, because the best books are those that reflect us back to us after all, aren’t they?

currently reading acceptance — taking my time with it because it’s the last book in the southern reach trilogy.  it is SO GOOD, though, and i’m loving it and looking forward to reading the whole trilogy again to see what i’ve missed.  also reading sweetness #9 and your face in mine and just picked up a tale for the time being, green girl, and a short history of women.

and mcewan’s new novel comes out on tuesday.

ah, there’s so much to read!!