A student gives final touches to classroom decorations as they gear up to celebrate National Teacher’s Day in Herat, Afghanistan, Monday, May 24, 2010. – AP Photo | Reza Shirmohammadi
The cover of a book does a lot for me. I love beautifully designed and creative book covers. I’m unlikely to read a book with a boring cover, and also likely to read a crappy book with a gorgeous cover. I went to the bookstore today and found these three books displayed next to each other. It was so pretty.
They look nicer in person. I want to read them now.
I’m doing some editing on here and making some private posts, which were previously public, public again. Maybe. If you’re following me on Google Reader or something like that and this floods your RSS feed, my apologies.
There are so many books I’m wanting right now, but I’ve imposed a buying ban, effective now, on books and other crap I don’t really need.
But if I could, I would totally pick up:
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
The Blue Notebook by James Levine
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
However, these a few of the books I’m determined to read this summer. I doubt that it will happen, though.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John J. Mearsheimer
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
I am officially done with school until next fall. It feels good, but now I won’t know what to do with my time.
I’m procrastinating on studying for my final.
The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria
Political Science Non-Fiction, 336 pages
The Post-American World is divided into three sections. The first is kind of like an introduction and addresses a lot of concepts you would have learned in a basic political science class. Each following section is about China, India, and America, and where they’re headed in the future.
I found the section on China especially interesting. I knew China’s economy was large, but I had no idea exactly how huge. Zakaria makes some interesting comparisons between China and India regarding the pros and cons of democracy v. a “communist” leadership (China’s leadership is not Communist so I hate using that word but the average person does see it as such). India’s democracy is more stable but much less efficient. On the other hand, China’s government allows for much more efficiency and therefore faster growth.
The final section on America is also interesting. Zakaria summarizes the rise and fall of the British empire in order to compare it to America. He suggests that Iraq is like the Boer War – the beginning of America’s decline.
Zakaria remains hopeful throughout the book. He claims that America will never fade into the background completely and that China will never take America’s place, but we will have to learn to be less powerful than we once were, and we will have to learn to share power with others. I think it’s a valid point, but it is so optimistic and moderate (as are many of Zakaria’s opinions found in his other work), that I sometimes wonder if he truly believes that.
I think China is demonized in the media and largely misunderstood, and this book helps to correct some of that. I think its an interesting subject and does a good job in explaining things so that it won’t go over your head if you’re not familiar with the topic.
After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Fiction, 256 pages
After Dark is a mash-up of encounters, set in Tokyo, between midnight and the early morning hours. The story centers around two sisters, Mari and Eri. Eri is the older, stereotypically beautiful, shallow, and disturbed older sister while Mari is the responsible and studious younger sister. Although about every other chapter is about Eri, Mari is the central character as Eri remains asleep for the majority of the book.
The plot in this book is complicated and all over the map so its impossible summarize concisely. Some of the encounters include some sort of The Ring-like mysterious entity on a TV screen, translating for a beaten Chinese prostitute, and connecting with a sweet musician.
After Dark is very complex, conceptual and artistic. It’s very metaphorical so if you’re looking for answers at the end of the book, you won’t find any. There are many layers to the story that I wasn’t able to peel back until after I had finished it and spent some time thinking about it. It is also very character driven. The character development is excellent and feels very real.
The thing I liked the most about this book was the mystery of the disembodied voice. The beginning of the book and the chapters about Eri are told from an unknown viewpoint. In the beginning, it sounds like a group of people who happen to be out wandering the streets late at night and focus in on Mari. It is only until it starts to observe Eri that the reader realizes that it is something else entirely. This entity refers to itself as “we” and slowly reveals more details about itself as the story goes on. It says that its job is to observe and collect data – not to interfere in the progression of events. It has camera-like qualities as it can zoom in and out, but it also has a voice. You never find out exactly what it is, but it makes the story much more interesting and creepy.
This was the first Haruki Murakami book I’ve read, and it certainly will not be the last. I can’t wait to read more of his work and I understand now why many people are crazy about him. After Dark is a short, but engrossing read and I highly recommend it.
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
Historical Fiction, 415 pages
I read a lot of great reviews on The White Queen, and I loved The Other Boleyn Girl, so I had some high expectations. I guess they were too high because I thought The White Queen was a disappointment.
The White Queen tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville: a commoner who is married to King Edward IV. It tells of the endless fighting and scheming of the War of Roses.
The one thing that bugged me the most was how repetitive Gregory’s writing was. She would often repeat the same phrase several times in the book – sometimes even in the same paragraph. Perhaps she thought it would be artistic, but it was just irritating.
I also thought the characters were shallow and underdeveloped. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters – especially Elizabeth. She is meant to be a devoted wife and mother, but I didn’t get any of that from the book.
I disliked Gregory’s depiction of magic and witchcraft, and her repetitive telling of the story of Melusina, a water goddess that Elizabeth believes her family is descended from. I first thought that Gregory was trying to depict the role of magic and superstition in English life, but the spells that Elizabeth and her mother preform actually work, and her mother can tell the future. I thought it was unbelievable and laughable. Historical fiction should be believable.
The inside flap of the book alludes to the mystery of the two missing princes – Elizabeth’s sons. But most of the book doesn’t even address this issue, and it is hardly the central plot.
I really wanted to like this book because I don’t know enough about this period in English history. I did learn some things from it, but that isn’t enough to redeem this book. It is an easy read, but not something I would recommend.