Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review 2012

Books read:
  1. A History of Cambodia - David Chandler
    Excellent. Recommended.
  2. A History of Democratic Kampuchea - Khamboly Dy
    Very good, extremely disturbing.
  3. Before Kampuchea - Milton Osborne
  4. Cambodia Silenced: The Press Under 6 Regimes - Harish Mehta
    Limited interest.
  5. Cambodia's Hidden Scars - Beth van Schaak, Daryn Reicherter, eds.
    Disturbing, good.
  6. Can You Forgive Her? - Anthony Trollope
    Got into reading Trollope on someone else's recommendation, and I think this is one of those writers that I can marvel at as a wordsmith, but who leaves me pretty cold. I did give him a bash, though.
  7. Designer Genes - Chee Heng Leng & Chan Chee Koon, eds.
    Excellent. Recommended.
  8. Dubliners - James Joyce
    Joyce in imago. Recommended.
  9. Facing the Cambodian Past - David Chandler
    Excellent. Recommended.
  10. Fire In The Lake - Frances Fitzgerald
    Pulitzer prizewinner. Interesting. Good.
  11. Flower Of The Dragon - Richard Boyle
    Interesting look at the Vietnam war.
  12. Foreign Bodies - Tan Hwee Hwee
    Colossal and horrifying waste of time. I hope this lady is doing something else these days. Oops, no, she's having Christian insights. Of the smallest-minded ilk.
  13. Futureland - Walter Moseley
    Excellent. Recommended.
  14. Hell In A Very Small Place - Bernard Fall
    Fall was the kind of military historian military historians read. Fascinating, depressing, etc.
  15. Incursion: From America's Chokehold on the NVA Lifelines to the Sacking of the Cambodian Sanctuaries - J.D. Coleman
    Read this. Then read Wilfred Burchett, and you'll understand why the US lost in VietNam.
  16. Khmers Stand Up! - Justin Corfield
    Srsly? Somebody's thesis. And it kind of petered out towards the end.
  17. May 13 - Kua Kim Soong
    Limited interest, but fascinating accounts of the school riots in Singapore in the 1950s, with new information from recently released Colonial Office documents. Those colonial fuckers.
  18. Middlemarch - George Eliot
    A writer of rare weight and heft. Every book is a joy.
  19. Murder Through The Looking Glass - Mike Venning
    Very good little whodunit.
  20. Norodom Sihanouk: My War With The CIA - Wilfred Burchett
    Fascinating, and vintage Sihanouk.
  21. Phineas Finn - Anthony Trollope
    It's literature.
  22. Pol Pot - Philip Short
    Short is as unbiased as a white man can be (FWIW) and goes a long way to revealing the remarkably invisible Saloth Sar.
  23. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
    I don't think I've come across too many writers who made language their own the way Joyce did, although this makes me frown and remember that I'm not reading enough in languages other than English.
  24. Rule 34 - Charles Stross
    SF, and if you don't know what Rule 34 is, Google it.
  25. Street Without Joy - Bernard Fall
    VietNam war. Fall's a Frenchman writing about "les petits jaunes," whaddya want?
  26. Singapore The Air-Conditioned Nation - Cherian George
    You're never going to get a look at Singapore by a Singaporean that is more honest than this, although, frankly, it's a masterpiece of the two-step.
  27. Self Censorship: Singapore's Shame - James Gomez
    Is Southeast Asia suffering from a shortage of book editors, or something? This is the third or sixth book from the region I've read that started out fine and then suddenly turned into a mess of repetitive blather.
  28. The Butcher Boy - Patrick McCabe
    This is one of those rare, violent, disturbing books that stays with you for a LONG time after.
  29. The China-Cambodia-Vietnam Triangle - Wilfred Burchett
    Excellent. Recommended. Some have chosen to lob slurs at Burchett now that he's no longer around to defend himself. But where Wilfred Burchett went and the caliber of stories he got, no other white person ever touched. He was a friend to the revolutionary people of Asia at a time when most white people thought of Asians as not-quite-human.
  30. The End of The Affair - Graham Greene
    Greene's a Catholic, and I don't care for their worldview. That said, he's an excellent writer, although this is a disturbing, sick little story.
  31. The Eustace Diamonds - Anthony Trollope
    See "Trollope, Anthony, future of on tpc's reading lists."
  32. The Gate - Francois Bizot
    Bizot was one of VERY few people imprisoned at Tuol Sleng by Angkar's jailor who survived relatively intact. Most lost their lives after they had lost everything else they had. One wonders how/why he made it. Creepy.
  33. The Hatchet Man of Singapore - J.B. Jeyaretnam
    Limited interest.
  34. The Mighty Wave - He Jin (Transl: Tan Jing Quee, Loh Miaw Gong, Hong Lysa)
    A look at the student riots in Colonial Singapore from the student side.
  35. Victims and Perpetrators - Ea Meng-try & Sorya Sim
    Not for the weak of stomach. This is a chronicle of the murdered and their murderers.
  36. Viet Nam and Ho Chi Minh - Wilfred Burchett
    A photographic chronicle of two very interesting people.
  37. Vietnam: Inside Story of Guerilla War - Wilfred Burchett
    Excellent. Recommended.
  38. Into Cambodia - Keith William Nolan
    Someone very dear to me recommended this dreadful book, and I have not been able to speak to him honestly since I read it. I do not recommend it to anyone except the extremely ignorant, racist, closed-minded. It's a revolting look at the VN war written by some chickenhawk who never was there (wasn't even a zygote at the time, IIRC), and who never served his nation in any capacity except that of beating his own chest, pulling his own pud, and riling up his teabagger cohorts. This book makes me so sick, I wish I could fucking BURN it. Badly researched, poorly written, with a political agenda so obvious it made me want to choke the bastard within the first ten pages.
  39. Grasshoppers and Elephants - Wilfred Burchett
    Excellent. Recommended.
  40. Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson
    He's an interesting guy but I've lost interest in this kind of stuff. New-Age guru bla bla you know the drill.
  41. A Spy's Revenge - Richard V. Hall
    I'm sorry, this was nearly unreadable. It has now been inflicted on the public at large.
  42. The Voice At The Backdoor - Elizabeth Spencer
    Excellent. Recommended.
  43. Following Ho Chi Minh - Bui Tinh
    Bui Tinh and his family served VietNam for generations. Portrait of a fascinating human being now living in exile in Paris. Humans get trapped in the political conflicts of their day, and ground down; which was the Colonel's fate. He sounds like a gentleman.
  44. Flashbacks - Morley Safer
    You know who the guy is. He wrote a book about reporting on the VietNam war and going back afterwards. White folks go to other countries and judge them ALL based on their own limited experience. Read it if you want, it's got some juicy insider gossip about dead people.
  45. Hero And Deity - Pham Quynh Phuong
    Very interesting book about post-US War VietNam and the religious cults that now flourish there. The writer is such an insightful individual!
  46. Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia - William Shawcross
    Very good and depressing.
  47. Stress and Mental Health in Malaysian Society - Tan Chee Khuan
    Limited interest.
  48. The British Humiliation of Burma - Terence R. Blackburn
    Limited interest.
  49. Who Killed Aung San? - Kin Oung
    The writer makes a good case. Worth reading.
  50. A Journalist, A General, and An Army in Burma - U Thaung
    The writer was a journalist in Burma after the assassination of Aung San, during the rule of General Ne Win. Limited interest.
  51. Back to Mandalay - Gerry Abbott
    Abbott was in Burma before and after the rise of the military dictatorship & paints a beautiful picture of Burma.
  52. Lempriere's Dictionary - Lawrence Norfolk
    This book started out much better than it ended, somehow.
  53. Black Dog of Fate - Peter Balakian
    Not for the weak of stomach. Balakian is an excellent writer, and his subject is the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. It's not a pretty story.
  54. The Bedroom of The Mister's Wife - Philip Hensher
    A collection of short stories by another writer for whom I had such high hopes.
  55. California Photographs - Pirkle Jones
    If you're trying to teach yourself to see, this book is a tremendous help.
  56. Picturing California: A Century of Photographic Genius - Oakland Museum
    Are there any BAD photographs of California? I mean, this is intimidating.
  57. Singapore Rediscovered - National Museum of Singapore
    Wut? It's of historical interest.
  58. Siamese Cats: Legend and Reality - Martin ClutterbuckInteresting.
  59. The History of Photography - Beaumont/NewhallYour basic book.
  60. Portraits - Helmut NewtonVery good.
  61. Tete A Tete: Portraits by Henri Cartier-Bresson - Very good.
  62. The Emergence of Modern Turkey - Bernard Lewis
    Excellent. Recommended. Bernard Lewis is the authority on Turkish history, and rightly so.
  63. Myths About The Ethnic Chinese "Economic Miracle" - Joaquin Sy & Go Bon JuanNot very good. I haz teh disappoint.
  64. Handbook for Women - FPASLimited interest, but a very interesting look at women's rights/feminism in Southeast Asia of that period (1950s-1970s)
  65. The Rise & Fall of the Knights Templar - Gordon NapierWell-researched and written, though probably not of interest to DaVinci Code nutbags.
  66. My Friend Dahmer - John Backderf
    Excellent. Recommended.
  67. The May 13 Generation - Poh Soo Kai, ed.The Singapore school riots' history from the OTHER side. About fuckin' well time, too.
  68. Singapore Women Re-presented - Constance Singam and Audrey Chin
    Thought this would be a serious look at the status of women in Singapore. It's really just a feel-good bunch of limited-interest, er, stuff.
  69. Granta on Film
    Excellent. Recommended. If only because it's delightful to hear John Fowles grumble about Harold Pinter.

So those were the books I read this year. Pathetically few. And my book list somehow skyrocketed from 150 to nearly 300 by year-end.

I now also have FIVE BOXES full of books on China to add to my already enormous reading list on China.

It's still good, though. Having a reading list for the year forces me to stay on track, read as much as possible, and GET RID OF SHIT!! This is no joke. Not every book on my list or in my house is a keeper. And I no longer feel obligated to finish every last word. This year, I must eliminate 100 books (at least) from my enormous goddamn collection. Or else I'll be reduced to crawling through tunnels made entirely of books to get from room to room.

On the plus side, I read nearly 70 books, which makes about five books each month. On the minus side, I now know more about what happened in Kampuchea than most people want, or ought, to know.

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