Ruby Ramblings

January 2010 Reads

I’ve come full circle, for a year of blogging, reading, and moving half-way around the world. This month may have been a little too eventful, but it was a robust reading month.

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

I was surprised to see this on NPR’s 100 best beach books list. To me a beach book is something you could recommend to anyone – non-offensive, delightful, and easy to read. This is none of those. The only reason I can think of that it would be on a beach books list is because it is relatively short. Although I thought this was an extremely well written book, and I will seek out more Coetzee just for his prose, this is one of those books that I would only recommend to people who I know to have some fortitude in digesting harsh subject matter, and who are “true” readers.

by Amy Bloom

Now this could be a beach read. Even though it does have some interesting moments, I think you could read it with your toes in the sand without it ruining your day. It was decent, but not great, a Russian immigrant to the US in NYC decides to travel across the country by foot when she hears that her daughter may still be alive and living in Russia.

by Amanda Eyre Ward
Kindle Version

Another book about a family member searching for someone who is lost. A girl goes missing, and years later her sister thinks she finds her in Montana. Another light but decent read.

by Ian Baker
Kindle Version

A travel narrative of Baker’s slog through the heart of Tibet to the rarely seen Tsangpo river, which is believed to be a sacred place where people can achieve enlightenment on earth. I enjoyed the book, although due to the nature of his journey, it is quite repetitive. His knowledge of Tibetan folk lore and history is extensive and added interest, for me, to the book. Overall, I think he does fall into the trap of writers such as Micheal Palin where he is a western man out to “acquire” the piece of the world his heart and mind desires.

This video is unrelated to the book, but it gives you a good idea of the area:

by Miriam Toews
I picked up this book in Beijing at the Emperor Guest House for my friend Bybee who is collecting Canadian authors. I enjoyed this story of a sweet neurotic mayor of the “smallest town in Canada” as he tries to convince the Prime Minister (who he believes is his illegitimate father) to come for a visit. The book is full of great, quirky characters – like the four year old named Summer Feeling, and reminded me a little bit of the writing of Fanny Flagg.

by Pietra Rivoli
Kindle Version

What a book of this type should be – informative, yet conversational and engaging. Rivoli travels around the world from cotton farms in Texas, to T-Shirt factories in China, to second hand clothes shops of discarded American clothes in Africa.

by Adeline Yeh Mah
Kindle Version

When Adeline’s mother dies after having her, her father marries a Chinese-French woman who abuses her stepchildren and turns the family away from the unwanted girls. What was most surprising about this book is what an amazing sense of humor Yeh Mah has. Even though this was a tragic story, she found many places to add absurdity and humor.

Lockpick Pornography
by Joey Comeau
This is a free PDF version of this short fiction by a Canadian author depicting a young man’s anger at feeling dejected by the heterosexual majority. He gets back at the mainstream by stealing from middle class houses that appear to have “typical” families in them. A group of young friends devises a way to make a big public statement challenging the gender paradigm.

by Peter Matthiessen
I like Matthiessen, but I often find him to be quite male-centric and arrogant. In this book he lays aside his usual macho-ness to describe the death of his wife and his transition (because of her interest) into Zen Buddhism. I’m not surprised that he is attracted to this particular branch of Buddhism since I’ve found it to be also very male-centered, hierarchical, and controlling. Unfortunately after the initial personal aspects of the book are finished, I think it was rather dry and uninteresting.

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