Books for the End of December / Christmas Break

It’s rapidly approaching my most reading-ful time of year . . . the time-off I take around Christmas! This year, it is only going to be one week—I am saving up PTO for some thing splendid—but I intend to read a fair bit anyways.

First off, and hopefully before break even starts, I shall finish The Unwomanly Face of War and Dune Book I (of the first novel). The former will officially kick off my War & Pacifism reading project, and the latter will bring me (plot-wise) to the end of the 2021 film. Both have been excellent reads so far, though in different ways. I think Alexievich’s book is profoundly important, potentially a new Axe for me, and I don’t say that lightly. As for Dune, while the writing style leaves a great deal to be desired (being as spoiled by great prose as I am), the political-ecological detail you find in the novel is very satisfying compared to the movie. I understand why the movie is as simplified as it is—it makes for better cinema—but I am glad the reading experience is offering more depth.

I am also interested in finishing Anita Brookner’s Look at Me. I started this a year ago (literally, December 19), flew through the first third, then set it aside because it was drearily relatable. However, after a gut punch of a year that made the book seem lighthearted by comparison, I have returned to it now, eager to complete it. I’m heartily enjoying Brookner’s style and psychology—she reminds me so much of Charlotte Brontรซ, sans Christian themes. I’d never heard of her before, but in the 80s Brookner was a prolific and prestigious British author. This was one of those random library ebooks that caught my eye, showing that once in a blue moon, you can judge a book by its cover. (Well . . . I must not speak too soon. Let’s hope it ends satisfactorily.)

I haven’t started The Unconsoled yet. It is a bit of a chunkster. Nonetheless, I have a mental image of reading it over the course of 1-2 days nonstop. In the past, my favorite Ishiguro novels have been utter page-turners. I shall know quickly if it is a hit or a miss.

I read chapter 1 of Daniel Deronda recently and really enjoyed it. It is so different from Middlemarch, at least so far. The writing flows and pulls you in. I am very doubtful of having time to really get into it, so this may have to be deferred.

Also on the horizon: Book III of Kristin Lavransdatter and The Woman in White (reread). I’m very stoked to finish Kristin, which is Norway for Reading the World. It’s been quite a while since I read the first two novels (The Wreath in autumn 2020 and The Wife in spring 2021). I’m somewhat of a changed person since I read those two, and I’m curious what effect that will have upon my reading of Book III (The Cross), if any. There is also something nice about returning to a familiar setting and cast of characters.

16 Comments

  1. The Unconsoled was a definite hit for me, but I think it is one of those books that won’t be for everyone. I think it was rather misunderstood by some, and at least I believe I “got” what Ishiguro was trying to do there. I loved Look at Me, too, and am looking forward to reading Brookner in 2023, too, such as her books Fraud and Providence.

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    1. That seems to be the trend with The Unconsoled… mixed reactions. I have had such varied reading experiences with Ishiguro that I am not sure what to expect. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’ll look forward to your Brookner reviews! I am just a few chapters from the end of this novel and feeling confident I will read more by her. Also, starting to think I’ve previously overlooked the 80s as a literary era.

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  2. I’m definitely interested in your War and Pacifism series. I used to call myself a pacifist, but I’m more of a amiable cowboy sort, I think — all for keeping the peace, deeclating, etc, but if someone is a persistent aggressor then my feeling is that they need to be knocked on their caboose. My main argument for pacifism would be that war is the lifeblood of the state.

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  3. Re-Read the first 2 Dune books this year (after a 45+ year break) and plan to re-read book 3 at least next year. Did you only read up to the end of the 1st movie bit? No ‘spoilers’ for you?? I might get around to ‘The Unwomanly Face of War’ next year too, or one of my other books on Soviet women @ war. We’ll see…. I am aiming for 10 Classics next year – my 1st review of 2023 will be a classic – so that should throw up some interesting things (I hope!)…..

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    1. Well I haven’t quite got there yet, but my goal is to read up till the end of the first movie this week and then start on the next part ๐Ÿ™‚ ideally to finish the first book before film 2 (late next year I think?)

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      1. Dune part II is due out Nov ’23. I think you’ll have long enough to finish it…. [grin] Definitely looking forward to the next instalment. Although I understand he won’t be going further than that. Pity. I’d like to have seen more Dune on screen.

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  4. Iโ€™m glad to see you diving into the subject of War & Pacifism. Especially from a Christian perspective, I find it a fascinating and important topic. A common argument against pacifism is what about defense, but almost all people act out in defense of what they believe in (not considering themselves the bad-guy in the situation). That being said, we also believe that evil exists and there are different degrees of violence. I lean toward pacifism as much as I can, but if I was a father in charge of caring for a family, that is one of the circumstances I am most conflicted in what God would wish for me to do. Cowardice would never be the issue, but merely how to rightly serve God and others. Christianity is a very radical belief in comparison with the values the world teaches, especially to love our enemies. Excited to hear how the books you read influence your understand and perspective on the matter!

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    1. It is indeed a very radical belief, especially if you pair it with Jesus’ words on martyrdom. Of course martyrdom is not something to be sought, but we are told it is to be expected, and there is no commandment to, say… form a massive political empire to fight against it. Uncomfortable thoughts, but so it is…

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  5. That’s quite a reading list. I’m not so spoiled by prose, but Dune for me was kind of hard to read yet I enjoyed it. I like the new Dune movie quite a bit and thought it did pretty well in sticking to the written story, for what the movie did show. I’ve not read the other Dune books and doubt I will. I’m supposed to read Asimov’s Foundation and others on the priority list, so… Right now I’m into books related to video gaming! I like to game, I like to read…so “surprise,” reading about gaming is cool too ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m behind my humble reading goal of 12 books this year. Think I have 8. I might finish my current one before New Year’s during my time off work for #9. If I count all the story reading from the JRPGs I’ve played, then I’m probably close to 12 “books” read.

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      1. No, I haven’t. But I’ve heard of it: by Mistwalker’s Hironubo Sakaguchi, who did FF. Also Nobuo Uematsu did the music. It sounds like a very good JRPG. It happened to release when I wasn’t gaming. I also didn’t own an Xbox 360 or PS3. If LO ports to Switch, though, I may add it to my backlog.

        So what made you like the story so much? (For this convo, if you like, might be better to switch to email. jason@jasonmcfadden.com

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    1. It’s been a long time since I did any gaming, but that’s cool to hear! Another friend of mine is really into gaming as well and draws literary inspiration from the stories. ๐Ÿ™‚
      (also feel free to use the comments as much as you like! Tangents are the best IMO)

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  6. While I have enjoyed the books of Ishiguro, most recently Klara and the Sun, The Unconsoled was not one. I should probably return to it someday. As for your other projects both Eliot and Brookner have never disappointed me and while I enjoyed Daniel Deronda, Middlemarch is on my all-time favorite list of books that I reread from time to time. However, I’ve not yet summoned the courage to tack Kristin Lavransdatter, talk about a “chunkster”.

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    1. It is indeed! If I remember correctly, the various parts of Kristin were published 1 year apart each. And of course, Middlemarch was serialized. It is reassuring to know that these books were not meant to be marathoned. ๐Ÿ˜€

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