Filed under: Books
Long plane rides, and a stunted work schedule allowed for some more good reading this month. I am back to the grind in Korea for anyone who is confused.
In reverse order:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley
I first heard about this book from an NPR story on Mysteries You Might Have Missed Along the Way. I really enjoyed reading the uppity eleven-year-old protagonist as she tries to clear her father’s name of a murder over a rare stamp.
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
Casey Han is an first generation Korean-American. Although fully a New York City girl, her parents are Korean immigrants that eventually kick her out of the house for not following their wishes. As her parents struggle with their unfulfilled desires, Casey develops an addiction to shopping, men, and marveling at the differences between Korean and white cultures in the Big Apple. Although it took me a while to get into this book, I ended up really enjoying it. I felt like I knew Casey as a real person, she could be any of the women I see everyday here in Seoul, addicted to shopping, status, and the pursuit of a good (or at least rich) man. Although this may sound like a premise of a chi-lit book, it was far from it. More of a sweeping look at culture, relationships, and money.
The Fifth Book of Peace by Maxine Hong Kingston
I really wanted to like this book, but it really just wasn’t that good. It was divided into five different sections, some fiction, some non-fiction. The first section was fantastic. A recount of Kingston’s return from helping her dying father to find her house, and her latest manuscript, in flames. She tries to recreate the manuscript, but the story falls exceptionally flat. I agree with, and really wanted to rally for this book’s anti-war stance, but it’s not the kind of book you could pass around to friends hoping to win converts.
by Dorothy Allison
I think for someone who isn’t already a Dorothy Allison convert, this might be a tough read. I’ve read both of her major works of fiction, and I thought I had read all of her non-fiction until this came up as last months pick for the Seoul Women’s Bookclub. I really enjoyed it, but I think it is meant more for a women’s studies class on sexuality than it is for light weekend reading. I read it on the plane back to the states and had to put it down when I got paranoid that the men sitting on either side of me might be looking over my shoulder at the chapter regarding the proper use of dildos.
When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
This was an amazing book recommended by my friend Susan at Naked Without Books. It outlines Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII from a young brother and sister’s perspective. The title of the book refers to the fact that all Koreans were forced to change their names to Japanese names and learn Japanese language exclusively in the schools. Part of the book talks about secretly learning to read Hangul at home after hours, and an elderly neighbor who refused to learn Japanese after the words for 1-5, so they had to rush her outside for the daily line-ups to make sure she was a low enough number that she could speak. I’d say this is my top recommendation for the month.
Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America By Barbara Ehrenreich
I’ve been a fan of a couple of Ehrenreich’s books in the past, but this one was not at all convincing. Her interview with John Stewart was way more entertaining than the book. The beginning chapters where she chronicles her battle with breast cancer and the relentless barrage of “positive thinkers” in the cancer community was relevant and interesting. After that she goes into a history of positive thinking in America and the book looses a lot of momentum when she takes it from the personal to the research angle. It was a good read overall, but not nearly as convincing as the work she’s done on poverty and job inequity in America.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
Buried Deep (Retrieval Artist Novels, No. 4) by Kristine Rusch
I started the month with my occasional delve into the sci-fi realm. This was a fantastic read. Everything good sci-fi should be: lyrical, anthropological, and convincing. I didn’t even realize that it was the fourth in a series until I had finished it, but really it made no difference.
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