Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day of the week already but I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Tuesdays also mean 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 Books with Geographical Terms in the Title
As someone whose favorite subject at school was geography and history, I love this week’s prompt! There are quite a lot of geographical terms to choose from. Mountain, valley, island, cape, city, town, bay, bayou, and even beach are just some of these terms. For a great list, click here! Without more ado, here is my list. Happy reading everyone!
How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang
It was in early 2020 that I first encountered C Pam Zhang and her debut novel, How Much of These Hills is Gold. About to be released early that year, I listed it as part of my 2020 Top 10 Books I Look Forward To List. My interest was further piqued when it was longlisted for the 2020 Man Booker Prize. I really liked the book. The subtle incorporation of magical realist themes elevates the story that explores seminal and timely themes such as identity, sexuality, and the immigrant narrative. Zhang painted a vivid picture of the twilight years of the American Gold Rush in How Much of These Hills is Gold. However, the novel goes beyond the American Gold Rush; it carries with it a powerful voice that reverberates in the contemporary. It is, without a doubt, an impressionable read and an explosive debut.
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s The Mountains Sing was one of my random purchases in 2020; I wasn’t planning on buying it until I learned that it was published this year. Nevertheless, I am glad I opted to purchase a copy of the book. Through it, my understanding and appreciation of our South East Asian neighbors deepened. Nguyễn vividly and powerfully painted the dark phases of her country’s history. More importantly, The Mountains Sing resonated with hope and positive. It beacons with its powerful voice that resonates through a time of uncertainty and turbulence. I loved how Nguyễn underlined the fact that we can carry the burden of history in our hearts but we can lighten our load through forgiveness.
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
Through Lisa See’s powerful narrative, she managed to transport me to Jeju Island, made me experience its traditions, and even envision its rough contours. The Island of Sea Women made me experience an entire spectrum of emotions that lingers. I have to say I really loved the story albeit its main theme is very elementary – betrayal, friendship, and forgiveness. It is perhaps this very same reason that it was easy finding an emotional connection with Young-sook and Mi-ja’s story. Apart from their story of grief, sorrow and love, what I was really enthralled with is the novel’s exploration of the story of haenyeos and the finely textured elements of history. The backdrop to the story was finely and vividly painted by Lisa See’s capable hands.
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
The first time I encountered Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea through must-read lists, including 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, I knew I just had to read it. I also knew that I would end up loving it. The Sea, The Sea, however, was contrary to my expectations but it more than lived up to its billing. It is a compelling tale about a flawed and absurd character who, on the deeper end, represents the pits of our own personas. In a sense, the lives we are all living are theaters where everyone plays a role. It is a thought-provoking masterpiece that is packed with critical subjects and themes. Its exploration of human nature makes one ask what lies beyond the calm surface of the sea. It is a difficult read but it is a very fulfilling one.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
When I learned that Amor Towles, who first captured my interest with his sophomore novel A Gentleman in Moscow, was releasing new work in 2021, I was excited for Towles became one of my favorite new authors. Thankfully, the book was already available in the bookstore. In his third novel, Towles again relied on what he does best: historical fiction. It was not, however, purely historical for it was laced with adventure. The Lincoln Highway is a multifaceted story about friendship, brotherhood, and misfits. Tragedy trickled into the story in surprising ways but it was also brimming with tender moments shared between brothers for life. It was about life in general, a fine and entertaining intersection of humor, grief, wit, tragedy, and most importantly, hope.
The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe
Like most of the books I have been reading since 2016, my first encounter with Kōbō Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes was on must-read lists. It was ubiquitous and also came in highly recommended. At the start of the story, I was thrown off. I knew immediately that it was not something common, at least as far as I have read in Japanese literature. The elements of science, particularly the details of insects, felt eccentric. I, later on, realized that it was setting me up for an unusual literary journey. As the story moved forward, I got my grip on it. What Abe did best was evoking the feeling of isolation, desolation, and desperation, in equal measures. There was an atmosphere of claustrophobia and hopelessness that transcended the story. And it all felt so real despite what one can perceive as absurd.
Drop City by T.C. Boyle
It was through must-read lists that I first encountered Drop City and Thomas Coraghessan Boyle. My lack of knowledge about the book and the author did not preclude me from obtaining a copy of the book. One of the things that caught my attention was the book’s cover which featured naked individuals lying on the ground. As unexpected as the cover was the book’s content. Perhaps because of its length and the complexity of the subject being explored, it did take me time to find my footing in the story. Once I was able to establish a consistent reading pace, the story started to make sense. I kind of had an iota of the hippie culture but my knowledge of it was not as extensive; images of flowery vans were the first ones to come to my mind. Boyle provided me not only a better understanding of the lifestyle but also an interesting story and a diverse cast of characters.
A House in the Country by José Donoso
Prior to 2020, I have never heard of José Donoso. By pure chance, I encountered one of his works, A House in the Country, through an online bookseller. I was really excited to read A House in the Country. There was an appeal to it that immediately captured my imagination. However, it was not an easy read. The ease by which Donoso conjured images in the readers’ minds was a credit to the power of his vivid writing. However, the repeated graphic images were tedium. Look past it and the story takes a different shape. How I wish that the book also explored more extensively the psychological profiles and the growth of the characters. Otherwise, A House in the Country was an overall excellent albeit brutal read that makes me look forward to reading more of Donoso’s works.
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Prior to 2015, I have never heard of Alan Paton or his seminal work, Cry, the Beloved Country. The book was listed in several must-read lists, most prominently in the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. It was for this reason that I added the book to my growing reading list. There are so many reasons to appreciate Paton’s first novel. Cry, the Beloved Country was a bleak story but it was, nevertheless, a powerful and insightful one. Paton did a great job of vividly capturing the conditions and the circumstances that eventually led to the infamous policy instituted by the South African government, the Apartheid. Beyond its political and social undertones, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic that deserves its place among the titans of literature.
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
It has been years since I first encountered James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain on must-read lists. The book immediately piqued my interest for it reminded me of a popular Christmas song of the same title. Without any iota on what the book was about, I nevertheless dived in. What I have not expected was the book’s main motif: religion. Nevertheless, I was intrigued for Baldwin’s storytelling was spellbinding. He managed to capture how religion binds a community while, at the same time, painting a portrait of its follies. While religion was the main theme, the novel’s chief concern was the development of the characters. There was so much reality in the book that it comes as no surprise it was drawn from the author’s own life. Go Tell It On The Mountain, while not totally perfect, was an insightful read.