Choices, choices, choices…

I’m off on vacation this Thursday until the second week of May.  Holidays are the time when I usually get the most reading done, although this trip is going to be a bit busy.  Still, I figure I’ll be able to get through four books.  First on my list is Don Quixote. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this behemoth has been sitting on my shelf staring at me for almost a year now and guilt (as well as desire to read what most consider to be the forerunner of the modern novel) compels me to make this my priority.  For the other three slots, options abound.  Some of my choices:

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Another prize-winning book that I’ve picked up and then put back down a few chapters in.  Time to give it another go?

The Devil Soldier by Caleb Carr.  A non-fiction account of an American mercenary fighting for the Emperor of China during the biggest and deadliest rebellion in human history.  Looks fascinating.

Seeing by Jose Saramago.  Follow-up to Blindness, an amazing book.  Downsides include almost complete lack of punctuation, quotation marks, paragraphs.  Makes reading a bit more arduous.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.  I have not read anything by Faulkner.  Of that, I am ashamed.  Still, after tackling Don Quixote, I’m not sure I’m going to want to jump into another dense, difficult book.

Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami. I’ve been saving this – once this one is completed, I’ll have no new Murakami material until next autumn when 1Q84 is released in English translation.

Gulag by Anne Applebaum.  This won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2004.  A book about the notorious Soviet prison camp system could be interesting, but probably not very uplifting.

So, those are my choices of which I can realistically get through three (not including Don Quixote). Suggestions are most welcome.



  1. Hi Pete,

    Great list…but where are the easy ‘no thinking required’ books? Vacation means at least a little mental junk food, doesn’t it?

    So As I Lay Dying is actually a great introduction to Faulkner…not a long read and sadly humorous at times. It’s my favorite of his.

    Gulag is also good but sooo painful. Similar to it is House of Meetings by Martin Amis, which is a tiny bit more readable.

    I envy you your time off and it sounds like you have some great stuff. Let me know how you manage to make Don Quixote manageable!


    1. Hi Amy, I’m in a strange position- I live in a small Chinese city where I don’t have access to English language books other than my own stash. I few times a year, I visit friends in bigger cities or return to the US where I stock up on reading material. When I get back here, I’m stuck with what I’ve got. I also like to binge. So, I fly through all my junk food and am left with the more serious fare. To be honest, it’s a pretty good system, because it does ensure that I read a lot of what I collect and it forces me to read through things that I might otherwise put off indefinitely. I do have a copy of The Historian which seems junk food-ish to me, but I’m saving that for June when I have a 16 hour flight back to the US.
      Thanks for the suggestions. I’m hearing a lot of good about Faulker, so I may bring that one along. Not sure yet about Gulag.

  2. Have you read Haruki Murakami’s What Italk about,when I talk about running. Imention this because it often get missed as its not fiction, even recently on a Murakami fan group this book was missing.

    1. Hi Parrish, good point. I haven’t read What I Think About…. When I get through Dance Dance Dance, that will be my next read. Is his non-fiction as good as his fiction?

  3. Hi Pete! I’m a Faulkner fanatic, so I’m going to recommend As I Lay Dying. It is a deep, dark, and deliciously funny book at times. Faulkner had a really wicked sense of humor. I love the fact that it is told in so many voices; the story is a tragi-comic journey, and one section is told in the voice of the dead woman who is being transported in her coffin. And it is written in stream-of-consciousness, which somehow seems appropriate for travel.

    1. Hi Lisa, thanks for the suggestion. I think I’ll probably end up taking it. I’ve always wanted to read Faulker, but he’s a bit intimidating. I also have a copy of The Sound and the Fury. As a Faulker Fanatic, which one would you suggest? I’ve heard that As I Lay Dying is a bit more accessible.

      1. I’d say As I Lay Dying is more accessible. It tells the story of a journey, which helps with the comprehensibility of the text; I also think the characters of the Bundren family are really compelling. The Sound and the Fury is another of my favorites; as you probably know, the title comes from Macbeth’s :”Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” speech (Act 5 scene 5). The “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing” is partially narrated by Benjy, a mentally disabled character. When I read Faulkner, I just let myself get pulled along by the beauty of the language. I figure I can always figure out what it actually means later!

      2. Thanks for the advice, I’ll give As I Lay Dying a shot. Although, I’ve just looked through Don Quixote and, man, is that an intimidating book. We’ll see if I’m in the mood for some more ‘serious’ fiction when I get through that.

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