March Mini-Reviews

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.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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.

Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones

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.

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10 comments

  1. This Steinbeck is one of a collection of books, on my must reread list, as I read it a lot of years ago & wonder if a new read, now that I’m a mature adult functioning member of society (errhm) well older.

  2. “Of Mice & Men” is one of my favorites – like you say, Lennie is one of the best characters I’ve ever read.

    Have you read Peter Hessler? He does a lot of great nonfiction about China, not falling into either of the extremes you mention.

    1. I have read Peter Hessler. I’m not quite sure what to make of him. He’s a very, very good writer and some of what he writes about China is spot on, in my experience. However, I do take issue with some of what he writes and feels that, especially in River Town, he romanticized a bit. But, again, everyone has a different experience and I may just be overly critical.
      Thanks for coming by!

  3. I had to read “Of Mice and Men” in high school AND college. I did not feel the same about it as you did, but then, familiarity probably bred contempt.

    I have picked up “The Guns of August” before but never got around to reading it. I really enjoy war epics (am reading “From Here to Eternity” currently) so I guess I might have to read it now that you’ve given it the thumbs up.

    1. From Here to Eternity is one of the few World War II novels I haven’t read. I did a lot of work in college on the literary representation of WWII. That’s one that I should pick up one of these days. If you like war epics, do read the Follett book. It reminds me a bit of Herman Wouk’s “Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance” Wouks books are superior but Folletts is a very well written, absorbing epic. Plus, it’s the first in a trilogy so there will be two more covering the Second World War and the Cold War.

  4. Josie read the Follett book last week. She literally raced through the tome in a single week, which was the equivalent of me being single with a roommate on the couch for that time.

    Follett has kind of fell off the grid after his sequel to Pillars Of The Earth, but apparently, this one brings him right in the mix.

    1. Haha, I can empathize with Josie. I pulled it off in about six days, it’s just that kind of book. It was very similar in style to Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, absorbing and addicting if not the most well-written. Still, a great book. Thanks for coming by.

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