Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I almost didn't read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I am a little bit of a book snob and have some reservations about reading fiction that is classified as young adult. After all, I am not a young adult. I am an adult and should read adult fiction, right?

I changed my mind after the New Year, when all the book bloggers posted lists of their favorites from 2008. The Book Thief was on many of those lists. Plus, I had already committed to reading it for the BangBang challenge. So, I went ahead and read it.

I am quite happy I did. Markus Zusak's tale of a young girl growing up in a small German town in the midst of Nazis and World War II is something special. Funny and heart-breaking at the same time, this novel definitely deserves all the praise I have seen it receive from my fellow book bloggers. This book is so good, I feel that I will be forced to rethink my snobbishness about reading young adult fiction. So, if you haven't already read it, please go pick up a copy from your local bookstore and library and do so with all haste!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

BangBang Challenge Completed!

This evening I finished Mark Zusak's The Book Thief to complete the BangBang Book Challenge:

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (WW II) review

  2. War Trash by Ha Jin (Korean War) review

  3. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (WW II) review

  4. The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell (Sepoy Rebellion) review

  5. The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh (Vietnam War) review

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Am Feeling Chunky!

I am going to participate in the 2009 Chunkster Challenge. I am trying to complete the Mor-book-ly Obese level by reading 6 or more books over 450 pages in length before November 15, 2009. I am also going to go for the Too Big To Ignore Anymore award by listing the books from my TBR list that I will read, each of which overlaps with another challenge:

  1. The Nightwatch by Sarah Waters, 524pp (Overlaps the BangBang Challenge)

  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, 521pp (Overlaps the BangBang Challenge)

  3. The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon, 571pp (Overlaps the Book Awards II & What's In A Name II Challenges)

  4. Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennet, 586pp (Overlaps Seconds Challenge)

  5. Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, 551pp (Overlaps Seconds Challenge)

  6. Who's Been Sleeping In Your Head by B. Kahr, 493pp (Overlaps What's In A Name II Challenge)

It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I am on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany at the start of the Second World War. (The Book Theif by Markus Zuzak)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya

Wow! I am not really sure what to say about the short novel Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya. The novel is about a man who, fleeing his own country due to political persecution, is hired to edit a report on the atrocities committed against the native peoples by the army of a neighboring country. The entire book is a crazy, ranting stream of consciousness constructed out of pages of run-on sentences. And yet, it is magnificent. The horror of what was done and the narrator's reaction is made darkly humorous in a deeply disturbing way. I enjoyed this little novel and would recommend it to any serious reader.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

Dr. Niall Ferguson, an historian at Harvard University, believes that you cannot understand our current financial crisis unless you have a solid grounding in financial history. In The Ascent of Money he tries to provide just such a grounding. He starts by tracing the development of money itself. But, it is only after money is developed that things really get interesting. Ferguson goes on to cover what he believes are the cornerstones of modern finance: credit, bonds, stocks, and real estate. He traces the development of each, regaling the reader with fascinating historical anecdotes. My favorite is how John Law ruined the finances of France by inflating the first stock market bubble. The penultimate chapter of the book covers modern financial history, with a look at such things economic empires and hedge funds. Finally, in the Afterword, Dr. Ferguson points out the evolutionary character of financial markets, as well as the irrational behavior of its participants.

I found this book to be quite entertaining. It is full of interesting historical anecdotes. But, there is much scholarship to learn from as well. However, I am not entirely in agreement with Dr. Ferguson that understanding financial history will help you understand our current economic straits. Having finished his book, I am still a little baffled about how exactly we have reached our current point of crisis.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

The novel The Night Watch by Sarah Waters follows several Londoners during WWII and shortly afterward. The sections of the novel move backward from 1947, 1944, and 1941. The novel tells the story of clandestine lovers, Julia and Helen, and their circle of friends. Also the story of Vivien and her brother Duncan, both harboring painful secrets. As the novel retrogresses through 1944 and 1941, these secrets are revealed. We also learn how Julia & Helen met and fell in love.

I was underwhelmed by this novel. The prose is fantastic, but overall the story left me flat. It took about half of the more than 500 pages of the novel before I could recognize the characters. I did not like the way the story moved backwards. I will admit that it added some dramatic tension to the secrets carried by Vivien and Duncan, but not very much tension. Those secrets, especially Vivien's, were quite easy to divine beforehand. I am resolved to try another of Waters' novels, most likely Fingersmith, but I was definitely disappointed with this one.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Tuesday Where Are You?

I am in London during World War II, screeching through the streets at night in an ambulance. (The Nightwatch by S. Waters)

Premios Darda Award

Wow! I am shocked. Claire over at Kiss A Cloud gave me a Premios Darda award. I am sort of new to this book blogging thing, so I am surprised to receive this award from Claire. I am very grateful.

Now, the rules of the award say:

  1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.

  2. Pass the award to 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment.

I would love to pass this award on to fifteen other bloggers, but I have a feeling that the award giving is becoming a little bit of an echo chamber. I started making a list, but when I started poking around I found that many of the bloggers that I follow had already received one or more of these awards. So, instead, I am just going to say thank you!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

The winner of a PEN/Hemingway prize in 2007, Then We Came To The End is a pretty good book, if a very quirky one. I enjoyed the book, which consists of a series of tenuously connected anecdotes about life as employees of an ad agency in Chicago during the early part of this decade. The anecdotes are told from the point of view of the employees, that's right, a rare book told in the first person plural voice. Many of the anecdotes are uproariously funny, but my overall impression of the book was mediocre. The author, Joshua Ferris, does eventually develop a plot, but for most of the book I couldn't really find it. The narration moves forward and backward in time and I got lost more than once. Given this criticism, I would still recommend the book to anyone looking for a good dose of office humor.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Favorite Books of 2008

It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?

I misread the question at first. I thought I was being asked to choose one favorite. One!?! Just One?!? Fortunately, I reread the question and, much to my relief, I can pick more than one favorite book from 2008. So, without further ado:


  • The Sea by John Banville

  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

  • The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell


I didn't really read that much non-fiction in 2008. Certainly less that I did in previous years. I wonder if it might have something to do with discovering all these book challenges ...

  • Personality: What Makes You The Way You Are by Daniel Nettle

Read to My Six Year Old Son

  • UnLunDun by China Mieville

  • The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I am still at the ad agency, although I have since found out that the office is in Chicago. (Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris)

I am also in the United States Scotland, Holland, Japan, and the United States learning about the development of insurance. (The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson)