I have been lagging behind my reading schedule in the last three months. I did start regaining badly needed momentum in September but I still felt that it fell short of targets. The only redeeming point is that I finally got to tick off one of the most intimidating reads lined up for me this year: Margaret Mitchell’s complex and labyrinthine masterpiece, Gone With The Wind.

With that out of my mind, I now find myself focusing on the rest of my 2019 Top 20 Reading List. It is in this spirit that I embarked on my October 2019 reading journey. To be able to accomplish my goal, I have to muster all my energy and focus it all on the original target. This was my mantra for the entire month of October. Thankfully, my diligence paid off and I was able to make a badly needed progress into my reading goals for the year.

Before I get carried away, here is the list of books that I was able to (thankfully) read in October.


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On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Rating: 68%

This is my first dip into Zadie Smith’s repertoire. I’ve come across her and her works in numerous must-read lists. This unexpected encounters piqued my interest so much that I included On Beauty in my 2019 Top 20 Reading List. My memory of availing a copy of the book after numerous attempts is remains vivid. The book is, after all, listed as one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I was dying to know what this book has to offer.

And of course, from lofty (and perhaps unrealistic) expectations come the proverbial fall. I had all sorts of lamentations about the book. Don’t get me wrong. The book’s main premise is compelling and so is Smith’s writing. However, I found the main characters bland. They felt more like caricatures than actual people readers can relate, too. Nevertheless, the book had its moments in the sun.

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Rating: 45%

I’ve always had a thing for historical novel; maybe because history was my favorite subject in school. This is the reason why this book, though I barely had any iota on who the author was, immediately piqued my interest while I was on one of my random (and impulsive) book buying binges. Moreover, the book did get a fair amount of positive feedback. It was a book that was tailored for me. Or so I thought.

Just like On Beauty, the book’s premise is truly interesting. It helped a lot that the book was based on an actual individual’s horror stories in the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is, actually, a poignant story about survivalism with undercurrents of romance. Again, the premise was truly interesting. The execution, however, did not sustain the story. The writing was too movie-ready. The objectives of the prose was all but evaded. It lacked imagination and was just too bland for my taste. I commend Lale Sokolov though, for his heroics.

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Rating: 88%

Finally, I get to read one of the books that I have been looking forward to for the longest time. From the moment I first heard of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible through reading list challenges, my curiosity and interest was already piqued. Apart from the fact that it is part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, it is its title that drew me in; it was wrapped in enigma and mystique that I was taken at the onset.

I am very glad the book lived up to my expectations. It wasn’t totally perfect but it had the right mix and the right ingredients. The story begun in 1959 when the Prices, a family of missionaries, moved to Kilanga, Zaire (present day Democratic Republic of Congo). Led by the domineering patriarch, Nathan Price, the family set on a mission to indoctrinate the seemingly “barbarous” denizens of Kilanga and convert them to Christianity. As well-meaning as there mission was, it was met by all kinds of resistance from different corners.

Apart from the interesting premise and colorful set of characters, what I found interesting about the book is its vivid depiction of its backdrop. Kingsolver did a commendable job of capturing the wild spirit of Africa and its citizens. With her capable hands, she painted the rough contours of Africa whilst complimenting it with fine textures of history. Overall, a wonderful read.


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Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Rating: 90%

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s seminal work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or alternatively, Life Among the Lowly), is quite popular to devout lovers of the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. The book was Rizal’s inspiration in writing his first novel, Noli Me Tangere, which relates the abuses of the Spanish conquerors on their Filipino subject. It was a significant Filipino literary work and is extensively studied in high school classes.

Okay, enough about Philippine history. History, however, is a major element in this American literary classic. It chronicles the life of the eponymous Uncle Tom who was supposed to be freed by his owner but circumstances altered his fate. Despite this reversal in his fortune, he remained enthusiastic whilst being guided by the Bible. Uncle Tom is part of the large scale slave trade of the American South’s antebellum era.

Related through the perspective of an omniscient narrator (who I felt was the author herself), it is the heartbreaking tale of the dark part of the Deep South’s history. Despite the heavy and dark subject (and couple of deaths in the story), it beacons with rays of hope and positives. It wasn’t difficult understanding how the novel influenced Dr. Jose Rizal.


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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rating: 97%

Off to my favorite read of the month.

I have never heard of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca until I started doing must-read list challenges a couple of years aback. Even though I had no iota on what it was about, it immediately captured my imagination. What does this mysterious book hold that it had so much pull? What mysteries lie within its bounds? Or were these things just figments of my imagination?

From the start, even without reading book reviews of backgrounds, I have guessed that the book must be part-suspense, part-horror. I wasn’t off the target. However, more than the story being about people, it was the story of a place and the mysteries and horrors it hold. It was a story about Manderley, a vast house once saw the gracious Rebecca walk down its storied halls.

But that was all in the past as Manderley is now home to its new mistress, the story’s anonymous narrator. Just like the first two books I’ve read in October, Rebecca relied so much on the author’s ability to vividly describe scenes and settings. Halfway through the book, I already had an inkling on how the story would develop. However, I was caught off guard by the twists that du Maurier infused on the story. The atmospheric and tension-filled story engaged me from the onset and not once did it falter.

Overall

October seemed like a good reading month; I really thought I’ve read more than three books but I guess not. However, knowing that I am making progress on my reading lists is more than enough. More importantly, the books I have read were all well-written. The accolades and encomiums the authors and the books received are justified. Not one book I have read for the month is disappointing; this is a rarity.

What to look forward to in November…

There is only one thing to look forward to for the rest of the year. It isn’t lost in me that, apart from my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I am lagging behind in my different reading challenges. It is then imperative to tick off these books, with My 2019 Top 20 Reading List being the priority. With three books ticked off during the month, I am left with seven more. Maybe all hope is not lost.

Another challenge I am hoping to complete is the Beat the Backlist 2019 edition. As early as now, however, I am conceding defeat. It would be in vain trying to complete the books in this list. Still, I am hopeful.

Do look forward to what is in store for the rest of the year.

Reading Challenge Recaps:

  1. My 2019 Top 20 Reading List: 13/20
  2. Beat The Backlist: 5/15
  3. My 2019 10 Books I Look Forward To List: 4/11
  4. Gooodreads 2019 Reading Challenge: 45/50

Goodreads

Book Reviews Published in October:

  1. Book Review # 140: The Testaments
  2. Book Review # 141: Little Women
  3. Book Review # 142: The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea
  4. Book Review # 143: Pachinko
  5. Book Review # 144: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
  6. Book Review # 145: 1Q84

How about you readers? How was your September reading journey? I hope you had a great journey. You can also share your experiences in the comment box.

Happy reading everyone!