Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day the week. I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Oh well, Tuesday also means one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s given topic is Book I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)
I am starting the list with one of my more recent reads. Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice is a title I have never heard of until this year when I encountered a list recommending it as a must-read book about South America. The moment I encountered a copy of the book, I didn’t hesitate in buying it. As I was also in the midst of a Latin American reading month, I immediately read the book. At a little under a hundred pages, it was really a quick read but it was no ordinary read. Taking the structure of the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test, the novel has no solid plot but the questions make one think about the role of multiple choice tests in our lives. Parts-parody and parts-social commentary, it was a thought provoking read that entails a lot of critical thinking.
Chilean novelist Luis Sepulveda’s The Old Man Who Read Love Stories is another fairly recent read. It was also part of my recent South American literature immersion. At less than 150 pages, it is a slender book that I read in one sitting. The novel was set in a remote river town deep in the Ecuadoran jungle where the titular “old man” Antonio José Bolívar was living a tranquil life in the company of nature. To kill the time, he reads romance novels brought by the dentist who visits twice a year. Order in the town was unsettled when a female ocelot went rogue and killed a man. Bolívar was then forced to join the manhunt. It was another product of masterful storytelling as it grappled with the impact we have had on nature and our environment.
During my university days, I have been building my portfolio on romance fiction after years of immersing in suspense and mystery fiction. One of the authors that caught my fancy was Nicholas Sparks (and yes, because I liked A Walk to Remember and The Notebook). It was a reading phase I had as I tried to read as many Sparks novel as I can. One of these novels was Nights in Rodanthe. At less than 200 pages, it was a very readable novel. It was no surprise that I completed it within two hours of starting it. It was, however, one of my lesser favorite of Sparks’ works.
Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is, without a doubt, one of the most popular titles in the world of literature. It was even listed as part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I read the novel back in 2016, when I was supposed to go to work (I didn’t mind getting late for it was a weekend anyway). I picked it for it was quite short, less than a hundred pages and within two hours, I was already done. Reading The Old Man Who Read Love Stories this year reminded me of the Hemingway classic for both books dealt with the impact of humans on nature.
Yasunari Kawabata’s Thousand Cranes is easily one of my favorite Japanese novels. It explored several themes that were seminal in the period it was written, with particular emphasis on the shift from traditional values to more westernized values as an offshoot of the Second World War. These subjects were explored through the protagonist, Kikuji, an orphan who got involved with one of his father’s former mistresses, Mrs. Ota. Although it was a little over a hundred pages, the lush details of Japanese culture and society were vividly captured by the Nobel Laureate in Literature. This novel is one of the many reasons why Japanese literature is one of my favorite parts of the literary world.
One weekend a couple of years ago, I picked up Russian novelist and Nobel Laureate in Literature Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. When I bought the book, I had no iota on what it was about nor did I know that Solzhenitsyn was an accomplished writer. I just knew that the book was listed as part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. As the title suggest, the less than 200-pages novel details a day in the life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, a prisoner in one of Russia’s gulags. He was accused of becoming a German spy and despite his innocence, he was sentenced to 10 years in labor camp. The action riveted me and within the day, I finished the story.
Just like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I first encountered Nobel Laureate in Literature Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World while going through must-read lists. It was a title that has been recommended by many a reader and is quite popular amongst literary pundits. Back then, however, I barely had any iota on what the book was about nor who Kazuo Ishiguro was; this was my first Ishiguro novel. What tempted me to read the novel was its length but there was more to it than just its length. It was an atmospheric and nostalgic tale of an old man, a painter, who looks back at his life. As it was my first Ishiguro novel, I was deeply impressed and I do admit that I keep looking for the novel’s qualities in Ishiguro’s succeeding works.
The third Latin American novel in the list and also the fifth Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘s Memories of My Melancholy Whores was my fifth novel by the popular Colombian writer. It was also part of my recently concluded Latin American Literature Month. At a little over one hundred pages, it was no surprise that I finished reading the novel within a couple of hours after starting it. It was the story of a 90-year old bachelor celebrating his birthday. As a gift to himself, he decided to have a “wild night” with a virgin. The novel reminded me so much of Yasunari Kawabata’s The House of the Sleeping Beauties and I was even more surprised when I learned that I wasn’t the only one who had made such observation.
And speaking of House of the Sleeping Beauties, it was one of my most memorable reads written by Yasunari Kawabata. It was even more memorable for I read an e-copy of the book, one of the rare times I read an e-book. The novel’s premise simply riveted me as Kawabata vividly captured an aging population where old men visit “house of sleeping beauties” to lie next to sleeping maidens. It was perhaps in the hopes of reminding themselves of their virility and their youth that they visit such establishments. These men, however, are barred from performing lewd acts to the narcotized women. It was certainly a unique experience, a deep rumination on the frailties of human nature.
One weekend evening, I picked up my first ever John Steinbeck novel, The Pearl. Back then, I barely had any iota on who Steinbeck was; it was only later that I learned about his fascination with the Great Depression and his winning the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Pearl is the story of Kino and his family. To keep his family afloat, he dives for pearls, just like his father and grandfather before him. One day, a scorpion stung his young son, Coyotito. The local doctor refused to help because of his views towards Amerindians and because Kino doesn’t have enough to pay the doctor. In desperation, Kino dives for a pearl he can use to pay the doctor. He finds a large pearl that yielded an immense pearl, which he called “The Pearl of the World”. The Pearl is a short but powerful tale about greed and poverty.