March was a banner month so far as reading was concerned. I was able to get through seven full books despite being swamped at work. For those books I wasn’t able to write about, here are some thoughts.
Heartbreaking. Really, this is the only word I can think of to describe Steinbeck’s classic tale of friendship and loss. Lennie is probably one of the most tragic, touching characters in American literature. For whatever reason, I never had to read any Steinbeck in high school or college and I realize now what I missed. Next up, Grapes of Wrath.
I tend to be very critical of books about China written by non-Chinese. They tend to lump into two extremes: those books which romanticize China and those which demonize it. Nicole Mones, who lived and worked in China for quite a while, manages to avoid both of these pitfalls. That doesn’t mean I’m gushing over Lost in Translation. Imagine a Dan Brown thriller about lost relics and mysterious symbols crossed with a Harlequin romance all set in China during the late 1980’s. It was engaging enough and I found the portrayal of China and the Chinese quite interesting, but the writing was pedestrian and the dialogue laughable. An easy read.
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett and The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
I’m a history buff. I’ve loved reading about it since I was a child, I majored in it at university, and I continue to be fascinated by the past to this day. As such, both historical fiction and straight histories are high on my reading priorities. When I started reading Ken Follett’s World War I epic, I decided to read Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history in tandem. It turned out to be a fascinating combo. While Tuchman’s book only covers the first month or so of the war (along with the events leading up to it), it provided a more detailed context to Follett’s book that made the novel more enjoyable.