Essential Reading: January 2015
Choosing what books to read has become one of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the month. There’s something comforting in going through your library, checking out the blurbs of your books, and then finally choosing a number of books to read for the month. Maybe you’ll even pick a theme for the month like I did this January. But, before we get into that, here are the books I read last December:
- There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (4/5)
- Missing Person by Patric Modiano (4/5)
- The Lover by Marguerite Duras (4/5)
- Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (4/5)
- Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra (4/5)
My first Petrushevskaya turned out to be a creepy offering of short fiction that can keep one awake at night but still deliver a profound ending in such a way that both the horrific and the philosophical nuance of the story are the elements that will prevent a reader from sleeping. Missing Person, the novel from the most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is something I’d expect from a Nobel winner. Marguerite Duras’ The Lover is a beautiful and haunting read, something I did not expect from a book branded as an erotica by a bookish friend a few months ago. After reading his collection of short stories in comic form, Adrian Tomine continues to deliver with this full-length graphic novel. Finally, Alejandro Zambra, a Chilean novelist, continues my love for South American literature (not a bad book yet) with Bonsai, a complex study of a romantic relationship between lovers of literature and what happens when the relationship ends. Four stars for everyone and not a bad book was read for the last month of 2014.
Anyway, here are the books that I want to read for January 2015. The theme is crime fiction, a genre that I enjoy immensely (see: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union):
- Shantytown by Cesar Aira (translated by Chris Andrews) – My first Aira is a novella about Maxi, a young man who gets the attention of a corrupt police officer who will stop at nothing to break up a drug ring that has taken hold in one of the shanties in Buenos Aires. Knowing the reputation of Cesar Aira, I am certain that this isn’t going to be a straightforward crime novel but he has been getting rave reviews from some of my friends in Goodreads so I’m pretty stoked about this. Plus, in my experience, South Americans can do no wrong when it comes to literature.
- Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon (translated by David Bellos) – I’ve always wanted to read Simenon for quite some time now and I’ve been eyeing his works that are printed under Melville House (The Train and The President). However, what I really want to read are the exploits of his most famous creation, Inspector Maigret, and his adventures begin in this book where he searches for a man known as Pietr the Latvian.
- Running Through Beijing by Xu Zechen (translated by Eric Abrahamsen) – Featuring the city of Beijing, this novel explores the city’s criminal underworld as its protagonist, Dunhuang, tries to keep himself out of prison with only his wits to rely on. I saw this book from Bookriot’s In Translation feature and I was instantly intrigued.
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – Of course, you can’t really talk about crime fiction without mentioning Raymond Chandler, one of the foremost writers of the genre. The Big Sleep, aside from being hailed as Chandler’s masterpiece, is also the novel that introduced readers to Philip Marlowe, who is hailed to be as one of the greatest private detectives in fiction.
- The Case of The General’s Thumb by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird) – Melville House continues to draw me in with their books and, right now, I’m in love with their International Crime series featuring crime novels from all over the world. The Case of the General’s Thumb is one such book written by Andrey Kurkov, a novelist from Ukraine. This novel pits a police detective against a KGB agent in a race to solve the murder of a distinguished general.
Accidentally, it seems that four of the books that I want to read this month are translated from other languages into English which is great because one of my reading goals for this year is to read more works in translation. So it’s crime fiction for January and I hope it will be awesome.