Reading List 2009
- Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet by Peter Hopkirk (1982).
- Nueromancer by William Gibson (1984).
- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980).
- Passing By: Selected Essays by Jerzy Kosinski (1984).
- Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (1922).
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1988). I’ve put off reading this for, oh, so long. My pre-reading impression was this book is utterly pedestrian. I generally avoid those works that enter the popular consciousness, whether via Oprah Book Club or otherwise. I can’t pinpoint it for sure, but when I overhear conversation from the next cubicle along the lines of, “This book is, like, so deep and stuff!” it makes me want to go to Walmart and buy a gun.
Post-reading impression is that the book is pedestrian. But good. There is nothing new here, the author re-read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and regurgitated some old Carlos Castaneda. Can I go home now?
- Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (1985). Can’t go wrong with Vonnegut.
- Almost Transparent Blue by Ryū Murakami (1976). I really dig this author and filmmaker. An Amazon review by Zack Davisson sums it up succinctly:
John Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat.” Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” William S. Burroughs’s “Junky.” The semi-autobiographical novel of disaffected youth and their abusive love-affairs with drink, drugs and sex is certainly not without literary precedence. Over the years, it has become a genre, one which shocks people with its honestly, and lures with its romanticism of the life of a fringe wastrel, who looks no further than the next drink or fix, living life in pursuit of pleasure.
Joining their ranks is “Almost Transparent Blue,” the debut novel by Japanese virtuoso Ryu Murakami. This first novel, written while still in collage, won the prestigious Akutagawa award and skyrocketed Murakami to fame and financial independence. Telling the semi-connected tales of young junkies Ryu, Kazuo, Yoshiyama, Moko, Reiko, and Kei, the book is a decent into the underbelly of 1970’s Japan, fresh with Jimmy Hendrix music, exotic black men from the local military base, and the numbness of emotion that comes from living in a drug-haze.
- Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East by Pico Iyer (1988). Well written travel literature about the author’s search for American cultural colonialism in Asia. A bit dated, really I expected more considering he is praised as the best living writer of this genre. Each chapter is a different country; some bang on about the same details and other offer insightful observances. There has to be over 50 references to the song “We Are the World” in the Philippines chapter alone. This reminds the reader the book is over 20 years old with details no one really cares about.
- Himalaya by Michael Palin (2005). I brought this one to attention in this post. I really only read the parts of where I have visited and skimmed the rest. The documentary is better as this is just like a journal of his journey.
- A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda (1944). The supposedly non-fictional tale of Carlos and his mentor don Juan continues…. this time with Carlos returning from 68-71 to learn how to “see” (like everyone looks but not everyone sees). Via the “little smoke,” or hallucinogenic mushroom mixture, Carlos attempts to “perceiving energy directly as it flows through the universe”.” Castaneda continues his lucid story with another great book, can’t wait to read more.
- The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (1944). Having a strong interest in teh Beat Generation, this book was described to me as the first or proto-Beat book. I’ll consider it one of my favorites. The story revolves around Elliot, a snobbish upper-class elite, and young Larry, who turns his back to society to fulfill a life of spiritual development.
For myself, and most readers I assume, Larry is the most interesting of the prominent characters. Yet, the book does not take great effort to expose too much of his travels (China, India, etc). While the message is great, Larry does pull a stunt curing a friend of headaches with a coin that I thought undermined the larger message of the book.
- Shiva 3000 by Jan Lars Jensen (2001). Interesting concept taking ancient Hindu mythology and setting it in a science fiction future. The Gods again wander the earth with a host of other supernatural entities. It starts well and he definitely has interesting ides, but the writing is bland and he loses focus at the end. Hindus probably consider it a sacrilege.
- Steps by Jerzy Kosinski (1968). A man relates graphic and dark tales to his lover about revenge and sexual encounters from his sordid life. Very intense with each short chapter being a different story, only being interrupted with bits of dialogue between the lovers. I will probably read all of his books based on this one.
- Lonely Planet Indiasooo fun to carry around. The Kindle is looking better and better.
- Omerta by Mario Puzo (2000). This Mafia tale is from the end of Puzo’s career. Read too soon after the Godfather. Average paperback fare here.
- The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969). Why not start the new year with a classic mafia tale? Haven’t seen the movie for several years and it’s just as good as I remembered it.