While January moved at a snail’s pace, February moved swiftly, rapidly rather. Oh well, it is, after all, the shortest month of the year. Nevertheless, I hope the second month of the year has been kind to everyone. I hope that the succeeding months of the year will be brimming with nothing but good news and blessings. I can’t believe it is already March! Before I can wave February goodbye, I am sharing my book haul for the month. At the start of the year (every year really), I resolved to read more and buy less. I guess I can tick this resolution off already as a failure. Why are there too many good books out there? Without more ado, here is my January 2023 book haul.
Title: The Natural
Author: Bernard Malamud
Publisher: Time Life Books
Publishing Date: January 1, 1966
No. of Pages: 241
Synopsis: The Natural, Bernard Malamud’s first novel, published in 1952, is also the first—and some would say still the best—novel ever written about baseball. In it Malamud, usually appreciated for his unerring portrayals of postwar Jewish life, took on very different material—the story of a superbly gifted “natural” at play in the fields of the old daylight baseball era—and invested it with the hardscrabble poetry, at once grand and altogether believable, that runs through all his best work. Four decades later, Alfred Kazin’s comment still holds true: “Malamud has done something which—now that he has done it!—looks as if we have been waiting for it all our lives. He has really raised the whole passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball as a popular spectacle to its ordained place in mythology. (Source: Goodreads)
Author: Kim Thúy
Translator (from French): Sheila Fischman
Publisher: Vintage Canada
Publishing Date: 2015
No. of Pages: 141
Synopsis: Ru. In Vietnamese it means lullaby; in French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow – of tears, blood, money. Kim Thúy’s Ru is literature at its most crystalline: the flow of a life on the tides of unrest and on to more peaceful waters. Written with piercing clarity, sharp obversation, and sly wit, Ru carries us on an unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded and muddy Malaysian refugee camp, and onward to a new beginning in Quebec. Moving seamlessly from past to present, from history to memory and back again, Ru is a book that celebrates life in all its wonder: its moments of beauty and sensuality, brutality and sorrow, comfort and comedy.
Title: Miles from Nowhere
Author: Nami Mun
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publishing Date: September 2009
No. of Pages: 286
Synopsis: Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father’s infidelity; he has left the family, and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of thirteen, decides she’ll be better off on her own, a choice that commences a harrowing, often tragic, and sometimes hopeful journey of a life lived on the margins. Joon’s adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and, finally, toward something resembling hope.
Title: Novel Without a Name
Author: Dương Thu Hương
Translators (from Vietnamese): Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1996
No. of Pages: 289
Synopsis: Twenty-eight-year-old Quan has been fighting for the Communist case in North Vietnam for a decade. Filled with idealism and hope when he first left his village, he now spends his days and nights dodging stray bullets and bombs, foraging for scraps of food to feed himself and his men. Quan seeks comfort in childhood memories as he tries to sort out his conflicting feelings of patriotism and disillusionment. Then, given the chance to return to his home, Quan undertakes a physical and mental journey that brings him face to face with figures from his past – his angry father, his childhood sweetheart, his boyhood friends now maimed or dead – and ultimately to the shattering reality that his innocence has been irretrievably lost in the wake of the war. In a voice both lyrical and stark, Dương Thu Hương, one of Vietnam’s most beloved writers, powerfully conveys the conflict that spiritually destroyed her generation.
Title: The Bookshop
Author: Penelope Fitzgerald
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publishing Date: September 1997
No. of Pages: 123
Synopsis: In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop – the only bookshop – in the seaside town of Harddborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town’s less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbor’s lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Her warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently… haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: that a town that lacks a bookshop isn’t always a town that wants one.
Balzac, an expert on how nasty people can be to one another in small country places, once said that the ordinariness of human lives can never be a measure of the effort it takes to keep them going. Anyone who has found this to be true will admire Florence Green for her wit and her innocent courage, a courage that comes from simply choosing to survive.
Title: The Guide
Author: R.K. Narayan
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1985
No. of Pages: 220
Synopsis: Release from jail, Raju – once India’s most corrupt tourist-guide – takes refuge in an abandoned temple. A peasant mistakes him for a holy man, and gradually, reluctantly, Raju begins to play the part. Villagers bring him offerings; he even grows a magnificent beard. Then God Himself decides to put Raju’s new holiness to the test. . . .