Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#January Joy 15: Read a new book.

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.
Post edit

 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.


  1. Ahhh jaja es que mucho que decir. Primero me encanta la idea de enviar libros, ahora lo veo. Luego:

    ¿Stardust? Tengo mucha curiosidad, pero no me he atrevido.

    El cementerio de Praga me lo llevé a Mx y se quedó allá y yo a la mitad, me dan ansias ja.

    The Help, la película me gustó, tengo que leerlo pronto.

    Les femmes qui lisent sont dangereuses, no lo había visto más que por aquí y se ve interesante.

    Leonora, o lo leo, o lo leo el siguiente mes no hay de otra.

    Tengo pendiente, muy pendiente, que hasta pena me da no haber leído aún a Marcela Serrano. (¿Qué recomiendas para empezar?)

    Por último, tu línea roja, por favor a veces no me lo creo cuando hablas al respecto.

    En fin demasiado que decir, por cierto, hace dos noches ya acostados empecé a decir "había una canción que decía algo así como -nieva, nieva ...-" Y al día siguiente despierto y veo el título de una de tus fotos de la nieve y... me dio risa media hora.

    1. Stardust es genial, sobretodo si te gusta la fantasía, es una historia muy bonita. Y la película también está muy buena (Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes y Robert de Niro actuan )

      Mmmm, el cementerio de Praga tendrá que esperar, viste que Marcos lo citó en la explicación de su comunicado gráfico?

      En cuanto a The Help, la peli también me encantó, pero el libro es aun mejor como suele suceder.

      Y "Las mujeres que leen son peligrosas", ya sólo por el título lo tenía que tener.

      Leonora te va a encantar y te vas a quedar con ganas de más, con ganas de ir a ver sus esculturas en Reforma y el mural que pintó en Jilitla, y el castillo surreal de su mecenas, y, y ...y de escribir un manual de la desobediencia como ella.

      A Marcela Serrano, la puedes esperar en tu buzón. El albergue de las mujeres tristes es el único libro que he leído de ella, así es que no te puedo recomendar ningún otro título.

      Y sí... lo de la línea roja lo sé, shame on me, pero prueba superada! Y creo que es importante hablar de estos temas para parar los complejos y la manera en que reaccionamos ante los tóxicos mensajes de los medios.

      Que chistoso lo de la canción... estamos conectadas :)

  2. Oooh I love reading, I have signed up for the book swap and I used to love bookcrossing. Its always fun getting a book you might not have picked up for yourself. I am reading a Zadie Smith one at the moment but it's not grabbing me, the best one i have read recently is Shantaram which was recommended on AOW, so I have high hopes for the swap! xox

    1. Bookcrossing was the best. Though the whole printing a tag part of the process was kind of annoying. Do you recommend any books by Zadie Smith? I have long been wanting to read "On Beauty" but I haven't got around to.

      The swap is the best huh.

      And I'll see what Shantaram is all about...

    2. It's On Beauty that I am reading, I have to say it hasn't grabbed me, neither did White Teeth. I would offer to post it to you when I am done but I borrowed it from my step mum so better not!!

    3. Oh... I was afraid it might be a hard read, that I would not get into it. I read an article just this week by Zadie, I am not sure I *fully* understand her, but here it is

  3. En 2012 no lei mucho literatura, bah, nada, fue un año muy dificil y no podia concentrarme en leer, la cabeza me daba vueltas, así que para relajarme opte por el craft. Si tomo los ultimos 18 meses, sin embargo, la lista es mucho mas amplia porque en 2011 estaba estudiando :) Los libros que lei en 2012 son libros de cocina, The Martha Rules, de Martha Stewart (muy bueno para entrepreneurs), libros de yoga, Krishnamurti y libros de speech development, early intervention y terapia ocupacional. En 2011 lei muchisimo de derechos humanos, filosofia, refugiados, por la maestria, muchisimo. Tambien lei how to be a woman, eat pray love (que me encantó), committed (de la misma autora), bitter lemons of Cyprus de Lawrence Durrel, los tontos de True Blood que son divertidos para relajarse, y no me acuerdo qué mas.
    Claro a eso hay que agregarle la literatura infantil que leo con mis hijos, cuenta? jajaja

    Como Zarawitta, a veces no puedo creer lo de tu linea roja de peso...

    1. Me olvidaba, en 2012 tambien lei mucho de fotografía! Si quieres te paso los títulos. Besos!

    2. Me anoto el de Martha Rules en la lista interminable de libros quie quiero. Se me olvidó incluir en esta lista How to be a Woman, Eat Pray Love (que me gusto, pero no me fascinó) y Committed (que este sí me encantó, será que el análisis histórico-social y de culturas me atrae?).
      El de Bitter lemons of Cyorus suera bien. La literatura infantil cuenta, claro que sí. Muchos de los mejores libros fueron escritos para niños.
      Y sí, yo sé que obsesionarse con el peso no es bueno, lo he sabido siempre... pero también es una trampa en la que es fácil caer (por muy inmune que nos creamos), y por eso creo que hay que hablar del tema.

    3. No, yo lo que no entiendo es qué te ves de sobre peso porque yo te veo flaquísima!

    4. No, no, me explico mal. Nunca he tenido un problema con como me "veo", en ese sentido my "body image" está bien, siempre lo ha estado. Mi obsesión era con el Número en la báscula, especialmente si empiezo el odioso hábito de compararme. Y sé que es ridículo porque al ser alta... obvio peso más.

    5. Pero con quien te comparabas? con modelos?

    6. No, con mi hermana, que al tener en ese entonces 18 años obvio aun no había envarnecido. O con amigas, 10 cm. menos altas.
      Y conmigo misma, conmigo a los 17, que si que pesaba unos 8 kg. menos de los que peso ahora.

    7. Que bueno que hayas dejado de hacerlo. El peso es relativo, depende de tantas cosas (masa muscular, altura, grosor de los huesos), lo que importa es la salud, y en ultima instancia como te queda la ropa, no lo que dice la balanza. Si haces gimnasia, por ejemplo, vas a notar que te veras mas flaca a pesar de pesar mas, porque lo que pesará será la masa muscular. A mi las caminatas y ahora el correr me cambiaron el cuerpo y aunque la balanza muestra más de lo que pesaba en la secundaria, me veo más flaca que en ese entonces. Tambien hay que tener cuidado al hacernos mas grandes con perder mucho peso porque uno adopta ese aspecto demacrado. En todo caso,felicitaciones por haberlo superado! No es facil, lo sé.

  4. Funnily enough I stopped reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake about half way through because I didn't like the way it made me feel, really sad and hollow. I don't think I've ever done that with a book before, but as I wasn't enjoying the act of reading it at all (and was in all honesty dreading reading it on the train) I gave it up! Glad to hear it had an impression on you too and well done for finishing it!

    1. Hi Claire,
      Yeah that book was hard, some parts were good though, and I was curious about the end. I had to re-read the end several times to understand what happened. But yeah the provokes emotions, and not pleasant ones at that.

  5. Bunny just happens to be about halfway through Collapse, and I've been wanting to make my way through it once he's done. Everyone I know whose read it says it's very thought provoking.

    Currently, I'm making my way through Christopher Moore's Sacre Blue which shows a very interesting growth of his writing style and signature humour. I've got another book (can't remember the title) lined up next, after which I'm planning on picking up a copy of James Holt's Why Does the World Exist. Then again, I'm a bit of a metaphysics nut so I would choose something that combines science, religion and philosophy as a must on my reading list.

    As for "must read" recommendations, if you're a fantasy fan I have to say Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. It's reminiscient of the scope of Tolkien (he worked with the Tolkien family) and is one of the most well crafted fantasy stories I have ever read. If you like a little bit of dark humour in your reading (or for a lighter break) try Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job. He's amusing in the most terribly awesome way.

    1. I really like Jared Diamond, he explains things very very well.

      I will keep a note on th ebooks you mention. For science, religion and philosophy, maybe you will like The shack? I did not really read it yet but it is on my to-read pile.

      I will keep an eye on the Fionavar trilogy, I am curious about The Magicians as well, after your reviews.

    2. I'll keep an eye out for The Shack. :) Thanks for the tip.

      I'm actually really excited for the third book in the story to (eventually) come out as far as The Magicians goes. I wasn't sure about the books at first but they have definitely grown on me. If you read them you'll have to let me know what you think!

  6. Tengo ganas de leer Leonora y el Cementerio de Praga! Ahora estoy leyendo The Casual Vacancy de JK Rowling y me está gustando. La verdad me cuesta leer en inglés, es que me tardo más y me pongo impaciente buscando palabras en el diccionario pero este libro lo tenemos en el kindle y lo del diccionario incluido me ahorra mucho tiempo; tengo que acostumbrarme a leer y a escribir en inglés pronto. El próximo libro en mi lista es In a Sunburned Country de Bill Bryson, son las anécdotas de un viaje por Australia del autor y se ve entretenido.

    1. Leonora me encantó, el Cementerio de Praga también es bueno, pero es verdad que es difícil leer a Umberto Eco. Que bueno que me dices que te gusta The Casual Vacancy, yo lo he tenido en la mira pero no estaba segura si era bueno o no. Y In a Sunburned Country suena bien.
      La verdad es que leer en inglés me ayudó mucho a mejorar, aunque cuando empecé los libros que leía eran super aniñados, estilo las series de "Sweet Valley Twins", "Camp Sunnyside" o "Spooksville", pero también yo era toda una puberta así es que...


I love your comments, let's talk .

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...