November 17, 2014

Recent Reads

158. Barefoot Gen, Volume One: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima
From the book blurb: Barefoot Gen is the powerful, tragic, autobiographical story of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, seen through the eyes of the artist as a young boy growing up in Japan. 

This is book one of a ten part series, and I am delighted that Project Gen has made English translations available. 

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of manga style comics, so have steered away from that whole section of graphic novels. Reading this book has changed my mind, and I plan to browse the manga shelves looking for other gems. 

I first heard about this book while taking the Comic Books and Graphic Novels Coursera class, during an interview with a high school teacher. This is a book targeted for young adults, but would resonate with adult readers as well. I did not love the graphics (manga style as mentioned above), and knew very little of what life was like for the average family in Japan during World War 2. 

The first volume in this series starts in April 1945, and covers the last months of the war. It is the story of one family - the joys, sadness, loss, tragedies, and heartbreak of life in wartime. 

Loved it, and would highly recommend it.  Rating: 5 stars.

159. Draw!
This is a wordless picture book targeted for the 4-8 year old crowd, and while the art is wonderful, there is not enough of a story here. A little boy is stuck in his room with art supplies and a book on African animals. I love how his creative imagination took him on a safari, but there just wasn't enough to think about. My fave part was how he packed his backpack - art supplies, an umbrella, and half a dozen sandwiches. Kinda how I pack my bag too. Granted, this might be perfect for 4 year olds, and that I am not. Rating: 2 stars.

160. The Metamorphosis
One of the things I really like about The Fiction of Relationship Coursera class, is that it moves items on my TBR pile up to the top, and I am delighted to have finally read this famous story. 

Everyone has heard of the key part of this story - a man wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect. What I did not realize is that Kafka is a funny, bizarre, and insightful writer. This short story is a wonderful meditation on one's duty to ones's family, and the universal feelings of inadequacy, guilt, isolation, and alienation we all feel from time to time. Having read a bit of Kafka's biography, it seems to me that this story is autobiographical in nature. Simply wonderful. Rating: 4 stars.

161. The Snow Queen
This is my book club selection this month, and I listened to the audiobook narrated by Claire Danes. 

Here's the thing about Michael Cunningham, I want to like his work more that I actually do. This is the fourth book of his I've tried - really liked the first one (The Hours), but bailed on the second (Specimen Days), and cannot recall how I felt about the third (Land's End). Decided to shake off the Did Not Finish phobia, and was excited to sink my teeth into this one. And you know what? If this had not been for book club, it would have ended up on the DNF pile as well. Darn it.

This novel revolves around two brothers, and the people in their inner circle of partners, lovers, and friends. The brothers are close, and have no secrets from each other. Until they do. What was this story really about? Maybe the search for meaning via drugs and/or religion? I honestly do not know. There is some beautiful writing, and insight into human nature (hence the 2 and not 1 star rating), but ultimately I simply did not care about any of these people, their lives, or their issues. Rating: 2 stars.

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