August 2009

This is part of a series of wrap-up posts I’m writing to cover books I read after I’d started noting down when I read them, and giving them ratings, but before I started writing full reviews of them at the time. This post covers books I read in August of 2009 – a month during which I apparently got through quite a few books.

Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found ThereThrough the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
Series: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland #2
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: December 27, 1871
Pages: 228
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In 1865, English author CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON (1832-1898), aka Lewis Carroll, wrote a fantastical adventure story for the young daughters of a friend. The adventures of Alice-named for one of the little girls to whom the book was dedicated-who journeys down a rabbit hole and into a whimsical underworld realm instantly struck a chord with the British public, and then with readers around the world. In 1872, in reaction to the universal acclaim *Alice's Adventures in Wonderland* received, Dodgson published this sequel. Nothing is quite what it seems once Alice journeys through the looking-glass, and Dodgson's wit is infectious as he explores concepts of mirror imagery, time running backward, and strategies of chess-all wrapped up in the exploits of a spirited young girl who parries with the Red Queen, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and other unlikely characters. In many ways, this sequel has had an even greater impact on today's pop culture than the first book.

A continuation of the Alice-story, or, for those of us who grew up with the Disney-adaptation, the second half of it. It’s as much fun as the first part and, I believe, a great children’s story.

To the LighthouseTo the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Publisher: Hogarth Press
Released: May 5, 1927
Pages: 209
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The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.

As time winds its way through their lives, the Ramsays face, alone and simultaneously, the greatest of human challenges and its greatest triumph—the human capacity for change.

This is one of the books that I bought for school, but ended up not having to read. It shouted out at me from the bookshelf, and I figured that I should give this classic a chance. I found it to be perfectly ok, but I have a feeling this is a rare case of a book that might actually benefit from being analysed in a class-setting while being read. I think there is probably quite a bit more to this book than the story, and I probably missed quite a lot by treating it like “just” another piece of fiction.

Little BrotherLittle Brother by Cory Doctorow
Series: Little Brother #1
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: April 29, 2008
Pages: 382
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Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: "M1k3y" will take down the DHS himself.

Little Brother is a young adult novel that was surprisingly enjoyable. I picked it up because I likes what Doctorow has been writing online, and the book didn’t disappoint. The book is satisfyingly techy, with a solid story in the base of it. As far as the Young Adult genre goes, I’d recommend this to anyone in general, and the technically inclined in particular.

Prince CaspianPrince Caspian by C. S. Lewis
Series: Chronicles of Narnia #2
Publisher: Geoffrey Bles
Released: October 15, 1951
Pages: 240
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The Pevensie siblings are back to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

Not my favourite among the Narnia-books. This was a slight bit of a let-down after Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but as it makes up part of a rather good whole, that’s easy to forgive.

The Tales of Beedle the BardThe Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: December 4, 2008
Pages: 109
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The Tales of Beedle the Bard contains five richly diverse fairy tales, each with its own magical character, that will variously bring delight, laughter and the thrill of mortal peril.

Additional notes for each story penned by Professor Albus Dumbledore will be enjoyed by Muggles and wizards alike, as the Professor muses on the morals illuminated by the tales, and reveals snippets of information about life at Hogwarts.

A uniquely magical volume, with illustrations by the author, J. K. Rowling, that will be treasured for years to come.

A collection of short tales, written and sold for charity and later published in this book. I didn’t have the highest expectations of this book, but it ended up being surprisingly fun!

Fight ClubFight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Released: August 17, 1996
Pages: 218
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It follows the experiences of an unnamed protagonist struggling with insomnia. Inspired by his doctor's exasperated remark that insomnia is not suffering, the protagonist finds relief by impersonating a seriously ill person in several support groups. Then he meets a mysterious man named Tyler Durden and establishes an underground fighting club as radical psychotherapy.

I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen the film of Fight Club, so I read Fight Club without knowing what the twist was going to be. My expectations were so and so, but I really liked it. It was a quick, well-paced read.

LolitaLolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Publisher: Olympia Press
Released: January 1, 1955
Pages: 417
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Humbert Humbert - scholar, aesthete and romantic - has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady's gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

I read this book as it is part of the 1001 books to read before you die-list. I don’t quite understand why this has become the iconic book it has become, but there is something to be said for the style of being inside the head of someone with thoughts that make you uncomfortable. I wonder how much of the popularity of this book was due to the controversial nature of it. I just found it to be a bit boring.

The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
Series: Chronicles of Narnia #3
Publisher: Geoffrey Bles
Released: September 15, 1952
Pages: 248
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Lucy and Edmund, with their dreadful cousin Eustace, get magically pulled into a painting of a ship at sea. That ship is the Dawn Treader, and on board is Caspian, King of Narnia. He and his companions, including Reepicheep, the valiant warrior mouse, are searching for seven lost lords of Narnia, and their voyage will take them to the edge of the world. Their adventures include being captured by slave traders, a much-too-close encounter with a dragon, and visits to many enchanted islands, including the place where dreams come true.

This edition follows the original numbering scheme. More recent publishers have re-numbered the volumes so that the books are ordered chronologically. This was reportedly the author's preference. Other editions number this book as #5.

Narnia continues! This time on a boat, which spells adventure. Along with Prince Caspian this also felt like a bit of a filler-book for me, but there is something about books being  set on a ship that make them just a little bit more appealing.

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