My April was filled with reading, but a lot of it was not anticipated. In recent months, I started to take action on a lifelong dream, and in setting that into motion, I also realized that there were loose ends from the past I wanted to tie up. In this case, I had an almost-finished MA degree that I started in 2012 but hadn’t completed the final thesis project. I wondered if maybe I could quickly wrap this up, so I wrote to the program administrator to see if there were any way to rejoin the course. In less than 14 hours, I was re-enrolled in the program and on my way to finishing the degree. So… yes, I have had a lot of reading to do, but almost all of it has been connected to my newly (re)claimed identity as a student. Now I have become one of those students I always hated when I was young: the dreaded “adult learner”. Anyway, this course is all research methodology in the lead-up to researching and writing the thesis. Therefore, not much material I would list here.
However… I did still find the time to keep up some of my reading for pleasure activities, albeit not as aggressively. Still, at the close of April, I had completed 150 books in total for 2018 (so far) with modest progress made toward my ultimate goal of reading 26 in non-English languages. (In April I did manage some Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic and French.)
Reading recommendations for April:
*North in the World: Selected Poems – Rolf Jacobsen
Norwegian, dual language. I had to order the actual book! I loved receiving it. Sadly the poem I bought it for (to get the Norwegian original) wasn’t even in this volume but that is a good excuse to get another.
*Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner
I would say that this is highly recommended and great, perhaps if it were the first Stegner I had ever read. And in truth, I do recommend this. Stegner’s natural, realistic way of writing is rare and engrossing. But his Angle of Repose was one of my favorites of all I read in 2017, so it’s hard for me to say that this book is its equal even though it’s still beautiful.
“Leave a mark on the world. Instead, the world has left marks on us. We got older. Life chastened us so that now we lie waiting to die, or walk on canes, or sit on porches where once the young juices flowed strongly, and feel old and inept and confused. In certain moods I might bleat that we were all trapped, though of course we are no more trapped than most people. And all of us, I suppose, could at least be grateful that our lives have not turned out harmful or destructive. We might even look enviable to the less lucky.”
*Several books by Danish poet, Henrik Nordbrandt: 100 digte, Omgivelser, and Selected Poems (in English)
It required a long, maze-like effort to find original (Danish) language e-books that I could both buy (many sites only allowed customers in Denmark) and buy affordably. Then I finally succeeded and loved these.
*Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
I didn’t have high expectations for this book – and in fact didn’t really know what it was about. I would not say it’s a great work of literature, but it was undeniably readable and hard to put down. Following several generations of Koreans in Japan during the 20th century, it’s quite fascinating.
*Poésie africaine – Six poètes d’Afrique francophone: anthologie – Alain Mabanckou (ed.)
A number of poets from Africa – some really great stuff. But then, I’m partial, you know, to poetry.
Good – really good – but not great
*Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks
“For the hour in which I am able to lose myself in someone else’s thoughts is the greatest relief I can find from the burden of my own memories.”
*Poèmes et rêvasseries – Fiston Mwanza Mujila
French-language poetry from a Congolese writer I have appreciated for his prose work in the past.
*The Door – Magda Szabó
An unexpected and complex Hungarian book about an unusual and strangely demanding servant/housekeeper who comes to dominate the life of the story’s narrator.
“In my student days, I detested Schopenhauer. Only later did I come to acknowledge the force of his idea that every relationship involving personal feeling laid one open to attack, and the more people I allowed to become close to me, the greater the number of ways in which I was vulnerable.”
Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof
*I Am a Strange Loop – Douglas R. Hofstadter
“So, to the extent that we can be chameleons and can import the “spices” of other people’s life histories (the spices that imbue their self-loops with unique individuality), we are capable of seeing the world through their eyes. Their psychic point of view is transportable and modular — not trapped inside just one perishable piece of hardware. If this is true, then Carol survives because her point of view survives — or rather, she survives to the extent that her point of view survives — in my brain and those of others. This is why it is so good to keep records, to write down memories, to have photos and videotapes, and to do so with maximal clarity — because thanks to having such records, you can “possess”, or “be possessed by”, other people’s brains. That’s why Frédéric Chopin, the actual person, survives so much in our world, even today.”
*Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice – bell hooks
A reading for the study program but certainly important above and beyond academic reach.
*The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling and the Making of the Cultural Mind – Antonio R. Damasio
Just as I rejoin the student world, much of what I am looking at/reading has a component of this: construct of culture. I had just finished reading this when I re-enrolled and thus would like to take a look at this comparatively against some of the uni readings.
“The idea, in essence, is that cultural activity began and remains deeply embedded in feeling. The favorable and unfavorable interplay of feeling and reason must be acknowledged if we are to understand the conflicts and contradictions of the human condition.”
Biggest disappointment (or hated/disliked)
*American Taliban – Pearl Abraham
I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t like it either. It isn’t anything I looked forward to or anything about which I had any expectations, and am not sure why I read it. I just found it sort of boring.
Images by SD 2018