Essential Reading: February 2016
I didn’t expect January to turn out to be that rewarding in terms of reading because I was in a slump when the year started. It’s a good thing that two of the books that I read, Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things and Dorothy B. Hughes’ The Expendable man, were perfect in terms of their narrative that I was at ease while reading them. Not to mention Valeria Luiselli’s excellent essay collection, Sidewalks, and the two works of George Saunders, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip that lead to an amazing month of literature. Here’s a rundown of the books that I read for January:
- The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (5/5)
- The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders (4/5)
- The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders (4/5)
- The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes (5/5)
- Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (5/5)
Faber’s most recent work reminded me of the period last year when I read books (Shusaku Endo’s Silence, Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, and Graham Greene’s The Quiet American) with themes of faith and religion in quick succession. It reminded me of the magnificent work that can be produced if only writers like Faber explored faith in a nuanced and pointed way. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, although an accomplished piece of work on its own, is proof that Saunders works best when he creates a story with flesh-and-blood characters with real scenarios and emotions instead of the abstraction and allegory that Saunders dived into when he wrote TBaFRoP. The same could be said about Saunders and children’s literature in that his sensibility is dulled and loses some of its life when translated into children’s literature as is the case with The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip. Dorothy B. Hughes and his noir masterpiece The Expendable Man is a revelation and I can confidently say to be the best crime novel that I have ever read. Valeria Luiselli lives up to her title as one of the most recent 5 Under 35 writers awarded by the National Book Foundation with this collection of essays that embody an intellectual and poetic mind.
Aside from the five books I’ve read last month, I’ve also added to the TBR by acquiring these beauties:
- Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – A friend has recommended this book with fervor warning me that this would be a painful book to read. I welcomed the recommendation and I consider the presence of pain to be high praise.
- The Revenant by Michael Punke – Because the movie captured my imagination and made me seek the source material.
- The Court and The World by Associate Justice Stephen Bryer – I’ve always had a fascination with the the highest court of the United States government and this book offers a glimpse into one part of that machinery: the relation of international law with domestic jurisprudence.
- The Observatory by Julio Cortazar – Cortazar is turning out to be another of those authors whom I haven’t read yet am extremely fascinated by which results in my ownership of several of his books.
Now, for the books I plan on reading this February:
- The Professor and The Siren by Giuseppe Tomas di Lampedusa – I decided to make a significant dent into my NYRB Classics collection by reading three of them this month. First up is this collection of shorter pieces from Lampedusa that was written during the final years of his life.
- On The Abolition of All Political Parties by Simone Weil – Election season is now in full swing both here in the United States and in my home country of the Philippines which makes this slim volume by Weil to be relevant reading material especially for the fact that it presents the argument that political parties should be abolished, an argument that can certainly be made for the deeply flawed Philippine political party system.
- Miami and The Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer – Another relevant read, this time in conjunction with American politics since the book is Mailer’s nonfictional novel about the events of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968.
- Zone of Interest by Martin Amis – I have read Martin Amis’ first novel about the Holocaust, Time’s Arrow. It is a work of fiction that has stayed with me, haunted me, ever since finishing a year ago. That continuous haunting has compelled me to read Amis’ 2nd and maybe less experimental foray into perhaps the greatest sin man has ever committed against fellow man.
- The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – from the concentration camps of Auschwitz to the Death Railway of Burma. It seems that my reading for February, The Love Month ladies and gents, will be centered on the theme of the infinite cruelties that man can inflict on their fellows.
That’s about it for my February. Til next time.