I am going to start this post by sending you all to Any Other Woman's book swap. It is the best thing that ever happened to the blogosphere, I believe. Like bookcrossing, but then improved. It is open to anyone, anywhere and participating is as easy as leaving a comment. If you choose to participate, you will be assigned someone to whom you will have to send a book (the choice of which is totally free, and the book does not even have to be new, recirculating books is also encouraged), and you will receive a book right in your mailbox. Perfect deal no? Better than pen-pals I say. So head over there, leave a comment (the deadline is Thursday the 17th), and then come back. I will be waiting for you.
So... a new book. Do travel guides count? Because I can not seem to put down the newest addition to our travel book collection: The New York Times: 36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe. At the same time I am still busy with "Reading Lolita in Tehran", but there are quite a few books that I'd like to read, "Moranthology" by Caitlin Moran being one of them and "The World until yesterday", the latest book by Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist and author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and its sequel of sorts: "Collapse".
Anyhow, I thought this would be a good opportunity to make short reviews of the books I have read in the last 18 months or so? Some are biographies, some are easy picked-at-the-airport reads, some are the bestsellers that everyone has read, some are classics... you can tell I just like books, as long as the story is good enough for me to sink in it, I'll keep on reading (though I do have a penchant for fairy tales, fantasy and secret worlds, no wonder Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, Rayuela, Stardust and Harry Potter are all amongst my favorite)
Cemetery of Prague by Umberto Eco. I liked this one, I wrote my first impressions about it here. It is very scary how it portrays the human attitudes we use against "the other" (groups, nationalities... you name it) and it is sad to see how this is still happening every day.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. An easy read, I liked the story, specially the parts where the main character talks about the writing process (which made me think of Lauren). I loved the movie too, but I am a fan of Emma Stone, so what can I say? )
The invisible circus by Jennifer Egan. I was attracted to this story because a part of me always wanted to live the revolutions and student protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Maybe I am romanticizing, but I get the feeling that the youth back then really believed a change could happen, they were pure idealists. I feel our generation is very critical, can clearly pinpoint at the problems, but from there, finding the solutions to a better world is a hard, seeming surmountable task. We really don't know where to go, and that leads to a certain indifference, hopelessnes, disappointment. Anyhow this book tells the story of a girl on a trip through Europe tracing back the steps of her sister who died on mysterious circumstances while being involved in the protests and the counter-culture movement of 1969.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I really liked The Virgin Suicides(both the book and the film), so I had to read this one. It was entertaining, I was caught by the story from the beginning, and could relate to some of the characters. The description of depression and mental instability are poignant. I'd give it a 7.5 or an 8.
Storyteller, the life of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock. This one I really enjoyed, I like to get to know the author and the life and inspiration behind a man who could create such wonderful worlds as The chocolate factory and Matilda. It was very entertaining, and also very real. The part describing the stroke of his first wife ringed a bell because we lost Mark's grandma to a cerebrovascular event after 6 months of her being completely changed.
Les femmes qui lisent sont dangereuses by Laure Adler and Stefan Bollmann. This is mostly a book full of beautiful paintings, but it gives an explanation and historical context of each painting, starting in the Middle Ages and going all the way to contemporary art. It is more of a coffee table book, but I really really enjoy it and I had been wanting it for a very long time, so serendipitously finding it in Paris was very exciting.
La emoción de las cosas by Angeles Mastretta. This is her latest book, and the most biographical of all. I like to get to know the author behind the stories, in her books she portrays Mexican society and politics in such a vivid, real, natural way. This book is mostly a collection of separate anecdotes and you will end up feeling like you've been chatting with her over coffee and some butter cookies.
Leonora by Elena Poniatowska. This one is good. Real good. Elenita can write, and Leonora Carrington's life was fascinating. Get your hands on this one, you won't regret it.
Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas. I picked this one at the airport, it is just a novel but the back-cover description had me intrigued: " 'Bright Young Things wanted for Big Project.' They're in the prime of their lives but our bright young things are all burnt out. Six sparky twenty-somethings just out of university and working dead-end jobs, they are all bored to tears with their lives and looking for a way out. When a mysterious job is advertised in the newspaper, they all apply. What they least expect is to find themselves prisoners on a deserted island. There's food in the fridge and they have a bedroom each, but there's no telephone, no television, and no way to escape."
The particular sadness of lemon cake by Aimee bender. I love lemon cake, so this title caught my attention. I found the story quite disturbing, and it made me sad. If art consists of the artist making the reader feel something, this book certainly succeeded. I also like how it mixes magic with everyday events, much in the way Cortazar did.
For better, for worse the science of a good marriage. by Tara Parker Pope. This book was meh. Don't bother with it, it is not worth your time, your pennies or the trip to the library. If you want to read a discussion on this book go to A practical wedding. But really Science? This book is not about science. I guess I expected anthropology, or studies on the biological basis of human behaviour regarding the way we relate to each other (for that kind of thing I recommed Desmond Morris, though he can make you raise your eyebrows, he's controversial like that). Making a bunch of surveys and psychological tests that a middle schooler could come up with and then analysing the data collected in such a way is not science.
El albergue de las mujeres tristes by Marcela Serrano. This one is just an easy read, a soap opera kind of book. But the story takes place in Chile, where my best friend lives, and the main character is in love with a doctor (like my best friend) so I guess I just wanted ome gossip.
Les écureuils de Central Park sont tristes le lundi by Katherine Pancol . This one is what you would call chick-lit. It is easy to read, funny, keeps you entertained. Nothing transcendental.
Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea. This one is a favorite. I just really really liked it, it describes the lives of 4 (privileged) girls in Saudi Arabia and their everyday struggles and love stories in a very restricted society. But there is some hidden depth in it.
The turkish embassy letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. These are the letters describing Lady Mary's travels through Europe all the way to Turkey in 1716, giving an insight to life at that time: the freedom conferred on Muslim women by the veil, the value of experimental work by Turkish doctors on inoculation (which led to the development of the very first vaccines and further eradication of smallpox) , the beauty of Arab culture. She was basically an early travel blogger.
Optimum nutrition before, during and after pregnancy by Patrick Holford and Susanna Lawson. This one is very very good, even if you are not planning in gettting pregnant. It covers every aspect of a healthy nutrition and explains the why in very simple terms. It also helped me finally come to terms with my 32-year old metabolism and weight and stop obsessing with trying to (quite nonsensically) lower my BMI.
And you? What have you been reading? Any books that I should absolutely read?
*First image found here.
As it could not have been better timed, the postman just delivered a little box with my awaited Spanish-Dutch and Dutch-Spanish dictionaries. So there goes, a brand new (second-hand) book(s) for today's prompt. Also, I totally forgot to mention these books, as Marcela reminded me in the comments:
How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran. I wrote about it here.
Eat, pray, love + Comitted by Elizabeth Gilbert. I liked the first one, but was not crazy about it. Comitted though, I really enjoyed as I like to learn about history, culture and the origins of the things we do, and she does a profound analysis of the history of the institution of marriage among different countries and ages.