Bookworms: Monthly Readings, February 2016

Book reviews, murakami, pelevin, orange is the new black

Books I read in February and my humble remarks:
Piper Kerman "Orange Is the New Black";
Victor Pelevin "Empire V";
Sven Nordqvist "Pettson and Findus";
Haruki Murakami "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage"

Piper Kerman

Orange is the New Black

Country – United States
Year – 2010
Language – English
Genre – Memoir
Listened on Audible [in English]: perfect book to listen to while driving.

Orange is the new black book review

I can’t say I either loved or hated the book. In short – it was an interesting easy read and I don’t regret having read it. However, I wish it were a bit more intricate as I found the plot rather plain overall. Piper Kerman commits a money laundering crime in young age and gets to serve one-year sentence years later. She describes the time of her conviction, the prison and its rules perceived by a so-called black sheep who would never think that one day she might get behind the bars.

I wish I felt more compassion or empathy for the characters and kept waiting for heartfelt details that would bring tears to my eyes or make my heart pound. That didn’t happen and most likely was not the intention of the author. What I did enjoy was Piper’s discourse about her struggle to stay true to herself, to maintain humanity and to guard dignity in prison conditions of daily humiliations and complete helplessness.
“Do you have to find the evil in yourself in order to truly recognize it in the world?”
“The unfortunate truth of being human is that we all have moments of indifference to other people’s suffering. To me, that’s the central thing that allows crime to happen: indifference to other people’s suffering. If you’re stealing from someone, if you’re hurting them physically, if you’re selling them a product that you know will hurt them—the thing that allows a person to do that is that they somehow convince themselves that that’s not relevant to them.”
 “Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient—people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled.”

Victor Pelevin  Empire V

Country – Russia
Year – 2006
Language – Russian
Genre – Novel
Listened to an audio [in Russian]: would not recommend an audio version. This book must be read.

Victor Pelevin  Empire V book review

Victor Pelevin is a mystical genius of contemporary literature and sometimes I even doubt he is human – his books are That unthinkably unpredictable, wickedly satirical and oh my God at times totally convoluted. But you absolutely have to get yourself some “Pelevin” and read-read-read (if you haven’t done so already)! You might encounter a few (well, a lot actually) rough moments comprehending what the heck he is talking about, because of countless inside jokes. To understand those you would need to have some idea of what was going on in Soviet Union, or better yet have a Russian “comrade” by your side to explain how on Earth those things could make sense. His books have a lot of references to Soviet history as well. Just let me say one last thing – all the troubles you will go through trying to grasp some sense in Pelevin’s ramblings are totally, totally worth it!

Empire V is both intellectually challenging and entertaining. It is about vampires after all! Just don’t expect some romanticized pale beauties aka Twilight characters. Pelevin vampires rule the world by sucking…no, not the blood, but “bablos”, a drink distilled from the money-generating human's energy. Humans are merely a special breed, like cows, whose only purpose is to long for money, make money and to be milked by vampires. They can also become bats, fly, read your thoughts after they bite you, hang upside down, fall in love… Needless to say I literally swallowed the book.

Empire V has been published in English only a few days ago and you can get it on Amazon. Or you could start with some of his earlier works that have been widely praised and made Pelevin share the pedestal with Kafka, Orwell or Bulgakov. 

Sven Nordqvist Pettson and Findus

Country – Sweden
Year – 1984
Language – Swedish
Genre – Children's Series
Listened to an audio [in Russian]: loved it! Perfect to listen to when driving, cooking, etc. An instant mood booster!

Findus and Pettson book review

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis                                          
This quote says it all in a nutshell! I had to grow a little bit over 30 to start reading children’s books again and, from what I can remember, an adult version of me loves fairy tales dozens times more than my kid-counterpart. Children’s books totally rock: they have knockout jokes; they lack adult world’s sarcasm and pessimism; they reinforce fundamental values, so simple, yet often strangely abandoned in adults’ lives. Thus my newly discovered route in the quest towards a better and happier me lies through children’s books.

Sven Nordqvist is a Swedish writer and has a very light breezy style of storytelling with witty, yet kind anecdotes and jokes. The series about a kind-hearted old farmer Pettson and his talking kitten Findus will melt anybody’s heart. I earnestly recommend getting the series, especially if you have kids – they will learn to be kind to animals, to care for the nature and to be considerate of others. Available on Amazon.

Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Country – Japan
Year – 2013
Language – Japanese
Genre – Realist Novel
Read a "real" book made of paper! [in Russian] And I truly believe this is the only way to read Murakami – with the feel and touch of paper.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage book review
Murakami is by far one of my most appreciated and cherished authors. I could live in Murakami’s worlds. There’s no counterfeit in his worlds. No pretentiousness, no phonies. Murakami doesn’t make grand gestures or claims universal truths. His genius is in his minimalism, ability to captivate describing mundane everyday life, to see extraordinary in ordinary, to blend magic and mysticism with reality, to see beyond the shadows. His characters are simple and down-to-earth yet undoubtedly refined, which fact they deny largely for their own sake. Murakami’s worlds exude whale’s tranquility and serene solitude and serve as a remedy for my case of a lunatic personality inclined to anxieties and panic over insignificant negligible things.  Just like an antidepressant for a depressed patient, Murakami is my cure in dark times. :-)

Needless to say I loved Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, but again I can’t be objective when it comes to Murakami. It is a story of five friends, inseparable in school years, until one day when Tsukuru Tazaki finds out he has been cut from the group. His friends closed the doors and left him behind. The following years of ostracism are the years of his pilgrimage full of mysteries that doesn’t let the reader off the hook until the very last page.

“As we go through life we gradually discover who we are, but the more we discover, the more we lose ourselves.” 
“Let’s say you are an empty vessel. So what? What’s wrong with that?” Eri said. “You’re still a wonderful, attractive vessel. And really, does anybody know who they are? So why not be a completely beautiful vessel? The kind people feel good about, the kind people want to entrust with precious belongings.”  

Did you read any of these books?

What did you think?

What would you suggest for me to read in March? 

Thank you for stopping by! :)

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    1. I haven't read the Orange is the New Black book yet, but I enjoyed the Netflix series. Too bad you were disappointed with the book. Maybe I'll pass on this one. Thanks for sharing!

    2. I haven't watched the series, but I've heard a lot of positive feedback, so my guess it's that case when the movie is better than the book :)

    3. Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this .very interesting information.i would like to do all the information

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