Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review 2008

Final. I swear. Enough of 2008, already. End of teh shrub error. So there.

Earlier reviews available here.

Here go:

  • A History of Malaysia - Barbara Watson Andaya & Leonard Andaya

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For readers interested in a comprehensive and detailed history of Malaysia from its beginnings through the 20th century.
    Reread? As time permits.

  • A History of Selangor - J. M. Gullick

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Only for those interested in the history of the state of Selangor. For an overall look at the history and politics of current Malaysia, there are much better alternatives. This book is excellent, but somewhat dated and limited in scope.
    Reread? Probably not.

  • A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This is the second novel of Vikram Seth's that I have read. He is beyond doubt an excellent writer; however, this book lacks the appeal of his first, Golden Gate. A good read, nonetheless.
    Reread? No.

  • Baba Nonnie Goes To War - Ron Mitchell

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Interesting book for those interested in a personal recounting of WWII as it occurred on the Pacific front. The author is sometimes bitter and unhappy, understandable when you consider that, like most little boys, he was raised on the glory and romance of war. Poor preparation indeed for the revolting blood-and-guts farce that it really is. In the end, Mr. Mitchell experienced his own epiphany, and that saves the book from the possibility of floppitude. However, it's not a pretty story, so be warned.
    Reread? No.

  • Broca's Brain - Carl Sagan
    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Carl Sagan's collection of essays titled Broca's Brain deals with science and pseudo-science, and how they affect our lives. His fact-based, lucid approach to pseudo-science is utterly delightful. Each chapter posits one or more questions regarding science and its application to life. This book will leave you thrilled by the philosophy of science, and eager to read more.
    Reread? Probably, after the next X books are finally dispatched.

  • Famous People of PNG: Bishop Sir Louis Vangeke - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Lady Carol Kidu - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Dame Alice Wedega - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Dame Rose Kekedo - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Tui of Gorendu - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Maino of Moata - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Pipi Gari of Elevala - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Ligeremaluoga of Kono - Eric Johns

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Highly. This series of booklets describes the lives of prominent Papua-Niuginians. Not much is known by anyone outside PNG about this fascinating country, home to the largest number of languages in the world.
    Reread? Afraid not.

  • Grass- Sherri Tepper

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. I think Grass is probably the best of Sherri Tepper's work (or it might share that spot with Plague of Angels or Family Tree or both of them). This must be the fourth time I've read it in as many years, and it never grows tired or old.
    Reread? About once a year, I reckon.

  • Golden Gate - Vikram Seth

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. The author's debut is utterly delightful, brilliant, witty, and well worth reading.
    Reread? I wish! Someday.

  • In The Time Of Butterflies - Julia Alvarez

    Borrowed? No. Someone gave it to me, damn their eyeballs.
    Recommended? This is an interesting book, although it's rather slow getting off the ground. I daresay if one doesn't know much about the Dominican Republic and the (mis)rule of the dictator Trujillo, it's interesting. The writer is an academic and I'm not sure I like the writing and the style. Still, it's informative.
    Reread? Nope. Gave it away already.

  • Kim - Rudyard Kipling

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? I've read many things by Kipling, in that tooth-grinding cross between annoyance at doggerel, jingoism, glorification of racism and Empire and that shabby lot, and plain poor writing that, unfortunately occupies too large a niche in world literature for various reasons. Quite honestly, much as I hate to say this, this is the best thing Kipling ever wrote. Unlike the rest of his work, which I honestly believe is only read because it provides an important background for the times in which he lived, this is a beautiful piece of work. Marred by his innate racism, yet allowing a glimpse of a great story to peek through.
    Reread? Quite possibly.

  • Malaysia - R. Emerson

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Dated, though a useful introduction to an earlier period of Malaysian history and politics. Regrettably, it is marred by the viewpoint that the writer and his ilk are somehow (for reasons unclear) superior to those about whom he writes. Worth reading only if your interest lies in the subject.

  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vols. 1-4

    Borrowed? Fortunately, I was able to borrow this fine piece of work and return it fairly swiftly.
    Recommended?Miyazaki is just excellent, and the story is just excellent, and I just loved this so much. I tend to think of comic books or graphic novels as quick "skim" type reads, but the book is actually very dense with, like, 2-pt type or something. Anyway, it took much longer to go through these four books than I would have thought. Part of it is, of course, the suspension of disbelief as one enters a world of the creator's imagination.
    Reread? No, but it did make me fervently wish Studio Ghibli would make the whole series into films! The film Nausicaa really only covers a tiny bit of the story.

  • Night Butterfly - Tan Guan Heng

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Mr. Tan really ought to consider a different line of work. Ballroom dancing or something. Or possibly hiring a ghost writer. This dreadful piece of drivel was read in the hope that I could somehow absorb some of the flavour of that era. Unfortunately, the flavour left much to be desired and required quantities of strong drink to wash down.
    Reread? Good grief, no.

  • Prehistory of the Indo-Malayan Archipelago - Peter Bellwood

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. This is a fine scholarly piece of work spanning the prehistory of the territories today known as Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia, and includes fascinating information about the tribal communities of the areas and the subsequent migrations from other areas that led to the intermingling of the various groups and development of the languages of the region. Absolutely delightful. Considering the weightiness of the subject the author is gifted in making it not just readable but wonderfully enjoyable.
    Reread? Good heavens, yes, if only there were more time, I'd do it now.

  • Raising the Stones- Sherri Tepper

    Borrowed? No. But it was a re-read.
    Recommended? Highly. Another wonderful piece of fiction by Sherri S. Tepper, who is an excellent writer with visionary power unrivalled by any but, possibly, Philip K. Dick.

  • Rhymes of Li Yu Tsai - Chao Shu Li

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Yes. Although set in the late 40s through the 50s, this charming little book embodies the spirit of the teaching tales found throughout Asia, one of the best examples of which is the collection known as the Tales of the Mullah Nasruddin. Although dealing with more practical and less spiritual matter, it is, nevertheless, enjoyable.
    Reread? Yes.

  • The Crippled Tree - Han Suyin

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly, especially to those interested in China, its history and culture, from the rare viewpoint of one who stands in the middle. Though Han Suyin herself was part Belgian, her sympathies clearly lay with her Chinese ancestors, and her ability to relate clearly the incredible exploitation of China and her empathy for the suffering Chinese people will give you rare insight into the events of the period. It's not easy reading, but well worth the effort.
    Reread? Someday.

  • The Family: They Fuck You Up - Granta

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Especially for those whose family has fucked them up.
    Reread? Um,no. Enough with the suffering.

  • The Malay Archipelago - Alfred Russell Wallace

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly, but only to enthusiasts of a particular type of writing once known as "naturalism." Wallace was Darwin's contemporary and quite the enthusiast of the natural world, especially that to be found far from his own home. Unlike most other Englishmen of the period, he appears to have a genuine love and respect for the other cultures he encountered, and other than displaying a regrettable tendency to kill lots of creatures in order to learn about them, is a thoroughly enjoyable writer. Sort of Gerald Durrell in a previous century.
    Reread? If I ever find the time.

  • The Rabbi's Cat - Joann Sfar

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Highly. Sfar is a Moroccan Jew (I believe), a very talented artist, and owned by a cat rather like our own Gojira, all of which makes this wonderful book well worth reading. Personally, I liked the Rabbi and his cat best of all the many colourful characters herein.
    Reread? Someday!

  • The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd

    Borrowed? Yes. Well, it's all Ms. Manitoba's fault, y'know.
    Recommended? Er. Um. It's not a bad book, as books go, as H.H. Munro might've said, and, any road, it went, of which I'm glad. Let's just say that this is the world of white people's views of nonwhite people. Or something. Not a bad book, just not my cuppa tea.
    Reread? No.

  • The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie - Malu Halasa & Rana Salam

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Utterly fascinating look at the intimate life of Syrian women, and women in that part of the Muslim world. Given that these women are veiled, mysterious, and unknown to those of us who don't share their culture, their taste in underpantment is, shall we say, revealing. How interesting this book is, I leave you to discover. There is a certain sweet innocence to the pictures, especially to one who is more used to the Victoria's Secret models, who look more like expensive horses than real people.
    Reread? If only for the photographs, I mean, the anecdotes. Srsly, though, this book is recommended.

  • The Unabomber Manifesto - Ted Kaczynski

    Borrowed? Found.
    Recommended? No. I was fascinated (though not approving) of this man, expecting to find a genius, possibly a mentally ill one. He might well be one or more of such, but the tone of this book is one long whine against the society wot hath wronged 'im. Geez. Hates women, hates people, hates small furry things. I could barely plough through the drivel, and I don't recommend you do unless you're planning to write a book on the bastid. Though why anyone would want to is utterly beyond me. What a sniveling wretch!
Feck, no!

So I read a lot, but not all the books I'd planned to read, and a lot of what I read ended up being lifesaving entertainment, but so what? The whole purpose of creating an annual list is to have a guideline for getting some of these fecking things off the floor, out of their boxes, and, hopefully out of mah house. I feel good. So there.

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