First of all, Happy Halloween! In the Philippines, the annual tradition of visiting cemeteries has been cancelled due to the thread of COVID-19. Currently, the country’s main island is being ravaged by the year’s strongest typhoon/hurricane. Pictures and videos being posted in social media show a picture of widespread devastation. I am fervently hoping and praying that my countrymen are doing fine and that they pick up the pieces as soon as conditions get better.
Going back to reading, October has been a slow month which was largely impacted by my job. Due to tasks related to the migration of our current accounting system, I was not able to read as much as I can or write as much as I can. However, I picked up a book whenever the time allows me to. SI have read six books in October, all belonging to the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Six is still a pretty decent number.
Without more ado, here are the magnificent reads I had in October.
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
I kicked off my October reading journey with British writer Ford Maddox Ford’s The Good Soldier. As I had no idea what direction I am going to take, I randomly picked this book which is also listed as one of 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I bought The Good Soldier during the 2019 edition of the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale. Related in the first person perspective of American John Dowell, it is the intriguing story of two pairs of couples, one American – the Dowells, and one English – the Ashburnhams. Their lives and stories intersected in more than one way and would eventually lead to devastating revelations and events that would make them question what love and marriage means. It was a challenging read and was meant to be consumed slowly, in small bits.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Since I have started October with a book listed as 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, I decided to walk on that path. After The Good Soldier, I next picked Mexican writer Laura Esquivel’s popular novel in installments, Like Water for Chocolates. It is a very popular work that I kept on encountering it in many must-read lists but I was reluctant to read it at first because I thought it was a short story collection. Divided in 12 sections for each month of the year, it charts the story of Tita de la Garza, the last of three daughters of Mama Elena. The first element that makes the narrative flourish is its integration of recipes. Food permeated all throughout the story but the narrative is centered on the story of Tita, who, being the last daughter, was destined to go unmarried for tradition marked her as the one to take care o their mother. It was a luscious read to say the least.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
I have always been curious about D.H. Lawrence as I keep encountering his name and his works in various must-read lists. I finally made my first dip into his works with Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It is a novel that is so controversial that it even saw litigation before it was published. Lawrence took biographical elements in writing the book which relates the story of the titular Lady Chatterley, Constance, who was married to Clifford, a former soldier who was wounded during the war. His war injury left him paralyzed from the waist down. As Clifford was unable to fulfill his physical duties as husband, Constance, feeling dejected, turned to Oliver, the estate’s gamekeeper. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is no easy read not because it has vivid and intricate descriptions of sex but because the writing can be, at times, emotionally inaccessible.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
I am no fan of science fiction, hence, my reading list is sparsely populated with sci-fi novels. However, I do ,make exceptions just like with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Apart from being part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, the title itself is enough to pique my interest. Set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, the novel follows the story of Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter working for the San Francisco Police Department. He was hired to kill/retire six highly-intelligent androids who managed to escape from Mars to Earth. Originally published in 1968, it was a highly innovative and futuristic work for its time. It showed that Dick was way ahead of his time and his work endured decades. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is truly an ageless classic.
Independent People by Halldór Laxness
From post-apocalyptic San Francisco, my next literary journey brought me to Iceland, a country I have never been to, both in literature and in real life. Noble Laureate in Literature Halldór Laxness’ Independent People was my initiation into the world of Laxness’ writing. I have never heard of Laxness until this year when I encountered a bookseller selling his books. Out of curiosity, I researched more about him and upon learning about his Noble Prize in Literature win. Independent People narrates the story of Guðbjartur Jónsson, generally referred to as Bjartur of Summerhouses. As the title suggests, the novel is centered around Bjartur’s struggle for independence. For 18 years, he worked as a shepherd for an affluent bailiff. After he saved enough, he bought a piece of land which is believed to be cursed by Saint Columba. Apart from independence, the novel does have several allusions to political and social subjects which reminded me of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. A literary epic, it was a challenging read.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
I closed the month with a book with an interesting title that piqued my curiosity – Ukrainian British writer Marina Lewycka’s debut novel A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. I initially thought that it was a nonfiction book, owing to its title, but upon researching more about it, I inevitably added it to my book shopping cart. Unlike Independent People, this novel is a very quick read. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian relates the story of sisters Vera and Nadezhda. Their parents, Nikolai and Ludmilla Majevkij, migrated from Ukraine to their current residence in Petersborough, England but Ludmilla’s death further deepened the rift between the sisters. An unexpected event, however, was slowly closing the gap between them. Accenting the story is Nikolai’s book about the history of tractors and how it influenced the economy of Ukraine and Russia. It was, however, an underwhelming read.
Current Read: Dream of the Red Chamber by Tsao Hsueh-Chin
Dream of the Red Chamber is touted as one of the best works that originated from China. It is also considered as one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels. The novel paints the life of two households belonging to the same family, the great house of Chia. It was a quicker read that I expected as I am nearly midway through the story. However, with month-end activities occupying me this week, it might take me some time to complete it.
Reading Challenge Recaps
- My 2020 Top 20 Reading List: 19/20
- Beat The Backlist: 12/12
- My 2020 10 Books I Look Forward To List: 5/10
- Gooodreads 2020 Reading Challenge: 75/80*
- Year of the Asian Reading Challenge: 20/20**
- 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: 22/20
*I have updated my Goodread reading challenge tally from 75 books to 80 as I am way ahead of my target.
**I included Israeli-American Ilana Masad in the count.
Book Reviews Published in October
- Book Review # 206: Anxious People
- Book Review # 207: The Mountains Sing
- Book Review # 208: The Housekeeper and the Professor
- Book Review # 209: Memoirs of a Polar Bear
October, like September wasn’t as productive book review writing-wise. I war originally planning on completing all my pending book reviews for May. At the start of the month, I had four but due to my hectic schedule for the month, I managed to complete just two of these book reviews. I am hoping to finish these two pending book reviews in November so that I can start with my pending book reviews from June; I have not written even just one book review from the books I’ve read in June.
Unlike the past two months, I expect November to be kinder to me. The migration in our finance process is nearly done and all transactional activities have also been transferred so I expect November to be less tedious. However, I don’t want to jinx it so I am setting my expectations to a more realistic level. For November, I am planning to read my recent 2020 book purchases, including Akwaeke Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji. Then I’ll chart my reading month from that point on.
One more thing I am looking forward to in November is the announcement of the Man Booker Prize Winner. Sadly, I haven’t read any books from the shortlist although I am itching to acquire all of them. Hopefully I do so this year.
How about you readers? How was your October reading journey? I hope you had a great journey. You can also share your experiences in the comment box.
Happy reading everyone! And to my fellow countrymen, I hope and pray that you are all safe from the devastation of super typhoon Goni (or locally called as Rolly).
“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”~ D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover