2015 has come and gone, and it’s already the second week of January 2016! Can you believe it? Time just seems to pass by faster and faster with age, no?
You know, I was never one to make resolutions with each passing year. It just seemed so corny to me (and lame too). I mean, why plan for each year when you can plan for each day? But that was the younger self, the one with all the time in the world and freedom to explore her choices. Now that I’m older, its hard to keep track of my personal goals if I don’t write them down somewhere to remind me (age is catching up, that’s for sure). Somewhere that’s not a post-it note slapped onto my desktop, that is.
For 2016, I want to read more diversely in that I want to try different genres, some of which I might have been too scared to give it a shot in 2015. In a sense, I want to step even further away from my reading comfort zones. I want to give a book another chance (another 50 pages more) before I slam it down and say it’s not for me.
I also want to read harder, in that I might be reading more philosophy, socio-critics, and others that were meant for the academic curriculum but sadly didn’t make it into mine. To be honest, I’ve always been afraid to do this because now that I’ve graduated from college, I don’t exactly have the privilege of discussing a text I don’t understand with my classmates and professors (that’s a part of college I’ll always miss). What if I misunderstand a text and nobody corrects me? What if I don’t even understand a portion of the book and there’s nobody to enlighten me? Still, I’m going to give harder texts a try, and we’ll see how it goes from there (crossfingers that I won’t give up too quickly).
So onto the 10 books I want to read in 2016. They’re a mixture of literary fiction, older books, and maybe some popular fiction that I’ve always wanted to check out but didn’t. I see these books as a priority for me to get to in 2016, thought they are not an urgent priority. I believe I will get to them soon, and even if I don’t by the end of 2016, it will be interesting to see how many I’ve (remembered to) read.
As usual, links, short synopses, and my own commentary will be included so onwards and away!
The Man Who Was Thurday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton, Jonathan Lethem
G.K. Chesterton's 1908 masterpiece, The Man Who Was Thursday, is a metaphysical thriller, and a detective story filled with poetry and politics. Gabriel Syme is a poet and a police detective. Lucian Gregory is a poet and a bomb-throwing anarchist. Syme infiltrates a secret meeting of anarchists and becomes 'Thursday', one of the seven members of the Central Anarchist Council. He soon learns, however, that he is not the only one in disguise, and the nightmare begins…
Recently I had a dream of hiding from my doppelgänger. It started out with me climbing up a huge stacks of books that were stored in a library/safe house of sorts and it was then that I saw someone looking at his/her doppelgänger. God knows why, but I realised then that mine was following me and coming up soon, which resulted in a nightmare of hide and seek.
It could be that this sparked my interest in The Man Who Was Thursday, though I’m not entirely sure if it contains any doppelgängers. Either way I hope to not get any more of such weird dreams any time soon.
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor
It is an unforgettable tale, both riveting and comic, of the confrontation of a family with violence and sudden death. More than anything else O'Connor ever wrote, this story mixes the comedy, violence, and religious concerns that characterize her fiction. This now-classic book revealed Flannery O'Connor to be one of the most original and provocative writers to emerge from the South. Her apocalyptic vision of life is expressed through grotesque, often comic, situations in which the principal character faces a problem of salvation: the grandmother, in the title story, confronting the murderous Misfit; a neglected four-year-old boy looking for the Kingdom of Christ in the fast-flowing waters of the river; General Sash, about to meet the final enemy.
I’ve read nothing by Flannery O’Connor and it’s high time I give it a try. Alongside Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories, I think both are going to be great examples of literary fiction given the amount of praise they get. We’ll see how it goes.
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
Sugar, 19, prostitute in Victorian London, yearns for a better life. From brutal brothel-keeper Mrs Castaway, she ascends in society. Affections of self-involved perfume magnate William Rackham soon smells like love. Her social rise attracts preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.
I almost borrowed this when I went to the library a month ago but I stopped myself (wow, willpower!) because let’s face it, I won’t be able to finish it with my reading speed in 4 weeks judging from the sheer amount of text. I might (will) purchase it because the first page sucked me in and given the subject matter, I’m excited to see where it goes since female prostitute and patriarchy don’t exactly bond well together.
Life and Death are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan, Howard Goldblatt
Ximen Nao, a landowner known for his generosity and kindness to his peasants, is not only stripped of his land and worldly possessions in Mao's Land Reform Movement of 1948, but is cruelly executed, despite his protestations of innocence. He goes to Hell, where Lord Yama, king of the underworld, has Ximen Nao tortured endlessly, trying to make him admit his guilt, to no avail. Finally, in disgust, Lord Yama allows Ximen Nao to return to earth, to his own farm, where he is reborn not as a human but first as a donkey, then an ox, pig, dog, monkey, and finally the big-headed boy Lan Qiansui. Through the earthy and hugely entertaining perspectives of these animals, Ximen Nao narrates fifty years of modern Chinese history, ending on the eve of the new millennium. Here is an absolutely spellbinding tale that reveals the author's love of the land, beset by so many ills, traditional and modern.
If the synopsis doesn’t interest you, I don’t know what will. Mo Yan has been writing novels inspired by bits and pieces of the Chinese political environment and culture since his first book, and given the recent case of a Hong Kong publisher gone missing, I believe Life and Death are Wearing Me Out will be an interesting look into the Chinese political and cultural landscape through the eyes of a Chinese. Though I haven’t read any of his works, his other books seem to be equally interesting, and I would recommend everyone to check them out.
The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
George Stroud is a hard-drinking, tough-talking, none-too-scrupulous writer for a New York media conglomerate that bears a striking resemblance to Time, Inc. in the heyday of Henry Luce. One day, before heading home to his wife in the suburbs, Stroud has a drink with Pauline, the beautiful girlfriend of his boss, Earl Janoth. Things happen. The next day Stroud escorts Pauline home, leaving her off at the corner just as Janoth returns from a trip. The day after that, Pauline is found murdered in her apartment. Janoth knows there was one witness to his entry into Pauline’s apartment on the night of the murder; he knows that man must have been the man Pauline was with before he got back; but he doesn’t know who he was. Janoth badly wants to get his hands on that man, and he picks one of his most trusted employees to track him down: George Stroud, who else? How does a man escape from himself? No book has ever dramatized that question to more perfect effect than The Big Clock, a masterpiece of American noir.
After one too many mediocre mystery novels in 2015, I feel that I not only want to read better crafted mysteries, but also classic mystery novels (think hard-boiled) that may or may not have been forgotten by today’s generation. The Big Clock seems to fit both criterions, and besides is that title a metaphor or what?
Needful Things by Stephen King
Leland Gaunt opens a new shop in Castle Rock called Needful Things. Anyone who enters his store finds the object of his or her lifelong dreams and desires: a prized baseball card, a healing amulet. In addition to a token payment, Gaunt requests that each person perform a little "deed," usually a seemingly innocent prank played on someone else from town. These practical jokes cascade out of control and soon the entire town is doing battle with itself. Only Sheriff Alan Pangborn suspects that Gaunt is behind the population's increasingly violent behavior.
A Stephen King a year, keeps your horror tolerance high and something. I can’t rhyme.
The Last Policeman (The Last Policeman #1) by Ben H. Winters
What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway? Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact. The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares. The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
I’ve been meaning to read this for 2 years, and I still haven’t gotten to it. Dear oh dear. I have an inclination to blame the huge surge in dystopian novels since 2014 which has also led to a disappointing decline in the quality of said novels. I think I had just about enough of people in a zombie filled world, or some other post apocalyptic world with mediocre character and plot development. I also have this strange fear that my high hopes for The Last Policeman will somehow jinx the book and make the storyline make a sudden change a.k.a. Marauder’s Map. Dear oh dear indeed.
Insomnia by Stephen King
Ralph Roberts hasn't been sleeping well lately. Every morning he wakes just a little bit earlier until pretty soon, he isn't sleeping at all. It wouldn't be so bad if not for the strange hallucinations - and the nightmares that keep coming to life.
Ok I might have included another Stephen King into my list.
I, Robot (Robot 0.1) by Isaac Asimov
The three laws of Robotics: 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2) A robot must obey orders givein to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future--a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete. Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world--all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asmiov's trademark.
I have always felt that short stories are the one of the hardest literary genres to pull off (other than poems. I mean, rhyming? Come on.). Nothing more challenging than developing a story with adequate plot and character development in a set number of words without killing your reader’s interest and expectations. Executed badly, short stories can often be (very) underdeveloped, and there’s nothing worse than ‘what could have been (more word count)’.
Probably I Am Legend done it for me, but I’m just psyched to see what classic short stories hold that brings their messages and ideas across generations and word counts.
Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings by Jorge Luis Borges, Donald A. Yates , James E. Irby ,André Maurois
Jorge Luis Borges was a literary spellbinder whose tales of magic, mystery and murder are shot through with deep philosophical paradoxes. This collection brings together many of his stories, including the celebrated 'Library of Babel', whose infinite shelves contain every book that could ever exist, 'Funes the Memorious' the tale of a man fated never to forget a single detail of his life, and 'Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote', in which a French poet makes it his life's work to create an identical copy of Don Quixote. In later life, dogged by increasing blindness, Borges used essays and brief tantalising parables to explore the enigma of time, identity and imagination. Playful and disturbing, scholarly and seductive, his is a haunting and utterly distinctive voice.
If one were to visit my goodreads tbr list, one would know that this book has been one of the earliest texts I’ve been wanting to read. The concept of time, identity and self has always been one that intrigues me, and I sure hope I can get to this book this year.
…And that’s it!
What are the books you wanna read in 2016? Have you read any of the aforementioned books before? How was it for you? Let me know.
Have a great 2016! (: