Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2009 Final Book Review

This is it! The final review of books on my reading list for the year.

2009 Final Book Review
  • A VietCong Memoir - Truong Nhu Tang

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A very, very interesting look at the VN war from the inside. The writer, who now lives in France, was a member of the "middle" - neither pro-Viet Minh nor pro-American, initially. He describes how his sympathies turned towards the Viet Minh (later derisively termed by the Americans "Viet Cong"), and the resulting power shifts and political ideologies created by the long battle by VietNamese nationalists against foreign occupation, colonization, and all the ills attendant thereupon. He suffered for his ideology, and is understandably somewhat bitter as a result, but his memoir is well worth reading.
    Reread? As time permits.

  • Armed Communist Movements in Southeast Asia - Lim Joo Jock, Vani S., Eds.

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A series of scholarly papers on the nature and capabilities of the armed factions of the Communist party throughout Southeast Asia. Technical. Requires a reasonable familiarity with the history and politics of the region. Only for those with real interest.
    Reread? Probably not.

  • Comet In Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History - Tan Jing Quee and Jomo K.S., Eds

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A must for anyone with any interest in the history of Southeast Asia. A revealing look at the machinations of the British and the puppets that they used in order to hold on to the last vestiges of their crumbling empire. It will change your outlook on history and politics, regardless of your current ideology.
    Reread? Yes.

  • Kranji - Romen Bose

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Only for those with any serious interest in the WW II as it played out in the Pacific Theater, and the commemoration of the individuals who lost their lives therein. Light reading, despite the heavy subject matter.
    Reread? No.

  • Lavinia - Ursula K. LeGuin

    Borrowed? Bri. Blame him.
    Recommended? Interesting, but only to SF fans, feminists, and those with an interest in the classics. Not her best effort, but readable.
    Reread? No.

  • Musicophilia - Oliver Sacks

    Borrowed? Bri. Blame him some more.
    Recommended? Highly. Few scientists are as enjoyable and thoroughly readable, in fact, delightful, as Dr. Sacks. La Casa de Los Gatos has never read a book by this author that didn't cause a neuronal tingle, and lots of "Aha!" moments as his skillful hand draws the skeins of various observations into a magical tapestry with the underlying scientific theories. An utter joy for anyone interested in the human brain.
    Reread? Pleez. We begs and begs.

  • Niels Lyhne - Jens Peter Jacobsen

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A pretty book. Not sure that I liked it much. It's lyrical. The author is skilled. Had the same feeling as when reading Virginia Woolf. Skilled writer, subject matter not very interesting. Nevertheless, the literary world swoons over both writers. We are willing to accept blame for being an eccentric curmudgeon with unlikely, as it were, likes and dislikes. Feh.
    Reread? Nope.

  • Sisterhood: The Untold Story - Joash Moo

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Not really. Interesting only if you have prurient attitudes about transsexuals, or if you want some anecdotal information about transgender life in Malaysia.
    Reread? Nuh-uh.

  • Slaughter and Deception: Batang Kali - Ian Ward & Norma Miraflor

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Oh boy. This is one of the incidents that will never be forgotten by the people who experienced it, and that the British Foreign Office has done their best to cover up for decades. Post WWII, Malaya was ready for independence, but the British (who fled like chickens when the Japanese came bicycling over the Burma road) were not ready to give up their colonies. As a result of their wartime Lend-Lease agreements with the US, the British needed resources to repay their indebtedness, and the colonies were their resources. Needless to say, the natives did not agree, having lost many of their number in the fight to defend their nation (after the British, assuring them for decades that they were protected, turned out to have lied, and fled to evade the consequences), and during the terrible war years that followed. This book is the description of one of the post-war crimes that occurred, when British troops massacred an entire village for the "crime" of being, apparently, unable to understand English. Britain's My Lai. Ward and Miraflor have done a fine job of documenting the incident. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of WWII, colonial history, Southeast-Asian history, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and British history.
    Reread? Ah, yeah, sure. Soon as I need to lose some more weight or something.

  • The Communist Struggle in Malaya - Gene Z. Hanrahan

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Hanrahan is a "cold warrior." 'Nuff said. Nothing in this book that you couldn't find elsewhere in a more objective presentation.
    Reread? Puh-leez, as in, never.

  • The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

    Borrowed? Ms. Manitoba, of course.
    Recommended? Highly. Frankly, I didn't expect to like this book much. Any time a book is raved about by all and sundry, you can pretty much bet that it appeals to the lowest common denominator, cough, cough, Dan Brown. Ondaatje is, of course, worlds above the likes of Brown. Not sure if I'm ready to put him in my pantheon of Great Writers (Kafka, Garcia Marquez, Rushdie, Zola, Mo Yan, Tanizaki, Tagore, Sharat Chandra, et al). Must read more. Excellent book, highly recommended.
    Reread? Groan. As soon as there is time.

  • The Mak Nyahs: Malaysian Male to Female Transexuals - Teh Yik Koon

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This book is actually the result of research into issues affecting the lives of the transgender/transexual community in Malaysia. The author is sympathetic, yet objective. For those interested in gender issues, social issues, transgender/transexual issues in Asia.
    Reread? Not really.

  • The Queen's Gambit - Walter Tevis

    Borrowed? That wretched Canuck, at it again.
    Recommended? To chess lovers, Tevis fans, and anyone who needs a fun read. Not a weighty tome, although as chess-impaired, we have to admit that a lot of it just went Whoooosh! right over our heads.
    Reread? No.

  • The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Tea - Bret Hinsch

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A good guide for beginners. The writer is quite the Sinophile, and clearly knows his stuff, but if you're not into Chinese tea, this book is a little too too for you.
    Reread? No.

  • The Worst Album Covers In The World Vol. 2 -

    Borrowed? The offender shall remain nameless.
    Recommended? Sure, if you want to guffaw at teh Tacky. Enjoyed it. Good break from reading about war crimes.
    Reread? No.

  • The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon

    Borrowed? The Canadians have infiltrated this blog as well as our heads. We welcome our new Canadian overlords.
    Recommended? Highly. Never liked Michael Chabon before, but this book set that right in a big way. This is a writer who, if he keeps producing stuff like this, is going to win some big-assed fucking prize, and you heard it here last. Love the Yiddishkeit. Read it. You'll love it. Nu, what have you got to lose?
    Reread? Oh hell to the fucking yeah.

  • Vietnam: A Long History - Nguyen Khac Vien

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For a history of VietNam from a VietNamese viewpoint, by an eminent and highly respected VietNamese scholar, look no further. Sad to say, the post-revolutionary period to the present is somewhat lacking in the fine detail of the earlier periods, but this is the definitive tome if you want VietNamese history uncoloured by colonial prejudice.
    Reread? Geeze, when? Love to, but WHEN?

  • What is the What - Dave Eggers

    Borrowed? Blame those damn Canucks. They're taking over the world, eh?
    Recommended? Highly. Dave Eggers is another writer that I never could get into before. I'm told I need to read Zeitoun to appreciate the full magnificence that is Dave Eggers, but if you can read this book and not think that the writer is simply effortlessly brilliant, well. Dave Eggers, I used to fucking HATE you. I'm converted now. The trick to writing someone else's story is to become invisible, to allow the subject to have their own voice, yet to be the master of that story, to patch it and polish it and put it in order so that someone who doesn't know the protagonist can form an idea of just who that person is, what shaped them, their pains and griefs, their triumphs and losses. Eggers does this masterfully. Zeitoun next.
    Reread? Let's see, was it "Hell to the yeah?"

  • Who Won The Malayan Emergency - Herbert Andrew

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Um. Herbert Andrew was, like, some low-level gunny in Malaysia sometime after WWII, during the period called (euphemistically) the Emergency. He has opinions. Not all of them seem to be grounded in fact.
    Reread? This book would totally be a candidate for "Hell to the No."

  • Women Against The Raj - Joyce C. Lebra

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For historians, feminists, military buffs, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indians, Southeast-Asians, and the curious. The book describes the women of Malaysia (of Indian origin), who bravely armed themselves, formed the Rani of Jhansi regiment, and fought against the Japanese. The stories of the women who survived are interwoven with the historical background in which they lived and fought. Fascinating book. Highly recommended.
    Reread? Time, time.

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