Friday, November 14, 2008

another meme

I'd avoided these memes for ages, and now I get sucked into two of them in less than 24 hours. Oops.

This one comes from my friend Mark's blog, which I just discovered.

Anyway, here goes:

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed. Well let's see.
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ blog so we can try and track down these people who've only read 6 and force books upon them.

I can't figure out how to underline with Blogger's editor, so the books I've loved will be asterisked instead. Also, since some entries in this list are comprised of many works put into one I'm counting some (Shakespeare and Holmes) as both unread yet loved.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien *
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling *
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (I read it in school, but I can't remember anything about it.)
6. The Bible (I've read bits and pieces of it.)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare * (I've read bits and pieces.)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien *
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I actually started it recently, but have been having a hard time getting into it.)
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (I think I read this in school, but I can't remember now.)
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (also in Chronicles of Narnia, #33)
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (I read the Spanish translation, which has the title El código Da Vinci. I doubt I'd ever have read it in English, but at the time it appropriately matched my Spanish ability.)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez * (I read it in Spanish, where it's called Cien años de soledad.)
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy * (I think I read it and I'm sure we saw a film adaptation in English class in high school. I intend to read or re-read it in the future, in any case.)
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert * (Just stay away from the prequels.)
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel García Márquez (I'll read this in Spanish when I get around to it)
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (We have this in French—and I think in English and Spanish too. I'd like to read it in French, but if I do it'll be very slow going.)
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie *
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker *
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle * (I've read half of the Barnes and Noble two volume edition of the complete works. Holmes is awesome.)
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (I read the French original but didn't understand all of it. Hey, it was my first, and so far only, book in French.)
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare (also in Complete Works, #14. I know I've seen it, but I can't remember if I've read it. I intend to read it in the future, in any case.)
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl *
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday, November 13, 2008

closest book meme

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
The following comes the book that, I think, was closest to me at the time, although it was hard to tell for sure since there tend to be books strewn around my apartment:

"Taking Burgundy and Provence peaceably by marriage, he proceeded to make Italy the fulcrum of his new empire."

The quote comes from
A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People by Steven Ozment.

Ya te toca, Alma.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. Penguin.

I doubt there's much I could say about this book that hasn't said before, so I won't even try.

Pisa y corre

Pisa y corre: Beisbol por escrito. By Vicente Leñero and Gerardo de la Torre (eds). Alfaguara. ISBN:968-19-1304-3.

A collection of short stories by Latin American writers about baseball. The book is organized by innings (the table of contents actually says "innings" and not "entradas"), and as you might expect, the score's tied at the end of the ninth, so there are three extra ones.

One of the editors, de la Torre, is the father of a good friend of Alma's. Small world.

Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Vinage.

As much as I've appreciated Murakami in the past (certainly finding out about an author hitherto unknown to me, liking his work, and discovering that he's prolific is a great thing to happen), this book seemed to me in many ways to be a pastiche of his own earlier works, and as a result not very satisfying. Which is to say: a person who would or does enjoy reading Murakami but hasn't read much so far, should by no means turn down Kafka on the Shore. However, if you've already read a fair amount of his works and are, like me, a bit Murakamied out, you might be disappointed. I expect to continue reading his stuff, but I'm now in much less of a rush to do so.

God's Secretaries

God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible
God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson. Harper Perennial.

A series of short biographies of the Translators who worked on the King James Bible.

While these biographic sketches were interesting in their own right, the book did feel somewhat incomplete: it discussed just the Translators and their close acquaintances, but very little about the process of translating and compiling the Bible itself, which is unfortunate.

Unfortunate for me, anyway; perhaps Nicolson decided, not unreasonably if so, that there are already enough works available that discuss the Bible qua literature and that writing another such work would be redundant. In which case, God's Secretaries serves its intended purpose swimmingly, and I'm merely not quite its intended audience.

Histora de una gaviota y del gato que le enseñó a volar

Historia de una gaviota y del gato que le enseñó a volar
Historia de una gaviota y del gato que le enseñó a volar by Luis Sepúlveda. Tusquets.

So short, but so very sweet. In more than one sense. This was the book that finally sold me on Sepúlveda.

God's Crucible

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215
God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis. Norton.

A history of Western Europe, particularly the areas of it that today comprise Portugal, Spain, and France, and how conflicts between Muslims and Christians shaped it.

Letter to a Christian Nation

Letter to a Christian Nation Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Knopf.

My comments about The End of Faith apply equally here.

First Stop in the New World

First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st Century First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, the Capital of the 21st Century by David Lida. Riverhead Books.

A collection of portraits of various people and places in Mexico City. Although Lida loves this place—and, in spite of everything, there is indeed quite a lot to love about it—First Stop's strongest effect on me was to make me want to leave, pronto.

On the other hand, it also made me aware of, in spite of having lived here for over four years, how little I really know about this place. I guess after I got settled in and learned my way around a bit, I became set in my routines, or at least out of the habit of regularly exploring and getting lost.

And, although I was by no means ever a regular cantina-goer, I haven't been into one in ages, and sometimes I wonder if maybe I should.

This copy was probably one of the first not initially possessed by its author in Mexico. (I acquired and read it in July.) A friend who was visiting Mexico City from California brought it for me. Thanks, Arturo.

The End of Faith

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. Norton.

Sam Harris' take on religion. Reasonable enough, I guess, except he goes off track with new agey crap and other mostly irrelevant bits and pieces.

El hacedor

El Hacedor El Hacedor by Jorge Luis Borges. Emecé.

Half short stories, half poems, including "Poema de los dones" with the famous lines:

...Dios, que con su magnifica ironía
me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.

written around the time of his appointment to the Biblioteca Nacional de Buenos Aires and his final lapse into blindness.

El español en América

El Español En América by Jose G. Moreno Alba. FCE.

A slightly dry yet nonetheless interesting look at the varieties of Spanish as spoken in the Americas, its origins, and its influences.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

El secreto del caldo

Hace una semana preparé un caldo de pollo. Ésta es la receta que usé (espero no haber olvidado algo esencial):

  • Hervir una pechuga de pollo
  • Quitar el agua hervida de la pechuga y reañadir más agua
  • Añadir caldo (en cubo o en polvo)
  • Añadir col rayada, zanahoria, calabacín, cebolla, dientes de ajo y jengibre (de preferencia raíz, pero sirve con polvo)
  • Añadir hierbas como albahaca, orégano, tomillo, etc (opcional)
  • Cortar el pollo en pedacitos
  • Hervir más
  • Hacer cubos de una papa y hervirlos aparte (opcional pero recomendado)
  • Preparar arroz blanco (opcional pero recomendado)
  • Meter el arroz y la papa en la sopa y cocer un poco más (sólo después de haber hecho los dos pasos anteriores)
  • Disfrutar, con sal, pimienta, chile, limón, etc a gusto
Y no salió mal, pero tampoco fue muy bueno. No sé por qué. Pero anoche le tocó a Alma preparar el caldo de pollo, y salió mucho mejor. ¿Por qué? Ni idea. Queda evidente que ella tiene un ingrediente secreto o una técnica secreta. Pero no me dice qué será y me es un misterio.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan

Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan, by Todd Gallagher. Three Rivers Press.

A collection of burning smoldering questions fans of American sports may have, along with some answers.

For example, would a morbidly obese person make a good goalie in hockey? Or, would a baseball team comprised of midgets be successful due to their small strike zones?

Cute, but I'd be exaggerating if I called it a particularly satisfying read.

Shakespeare: The World as Stage

Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson. Atlas Books.

A short (199 pp, including a Bibliography) biography of William Shakespeare. It's short by necessity: in spite of his stature as a writer, very little is known about Shakespeare today. Bryson acknowledges this, but does an admirable job of putting together what is known while avoiding the crap that literary critics tend to make up—which isn't entirely satisfying, but it's a lot less unsatisfying than reading clearly fabricated claptrap.

La vida nueva

La vida nueva, by Orhan Pamuk. Alfaguara.

A strange book, and one harder to summarize than most without giving away too much.

La Reina del Sur

La Reina del Sur, by Arturo Pérez Reverte. Alfaguara.

The story of a Teresa Mendoza, a woman from Sinaloa who rises in the world of illegal drug dealing.

Exciting and fun güey, except when Pérez Reverte, a Spaniard, uses too much Mexican slang. Chale. Híjole. Also, do Mexicans and other Latin Americans start to use vosotros after living in Spain for a while? Pérez Reverte's Mendoza does, and I thought it odd.

Alma tells me that this book is based loosely on the life of a real person, and even showed me an article about her, but the details seemed rather different in a number of ways.

Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin

Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin by Nicholas Ostler. Walker.

Quite similar in intent and scope to A Natural History of Latin (indeed, Ad Infinitum's preface mentioned it in positive terms, which is why I bought it). It's an interesting and entertaining overview of Latin's history.

Although generally good, I found it curiously weak in some places, where Ostler came across strangely pedantic. For example, Ostler translates expecto patronum, from Harry Potter, as "I await the master". True, I guess, in the literal sense, but odd all the same.

Anyway, the lapses into unloving pedantry are rare. Recommended for language nerds.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí

Diría que es una de las novelas más varoniles que he leído. Los planteamientos de Javier Marías me parecieron bastante amenos y enriquecedores. De vez en cuando una carcajada, de pronto nuevamente el drama. Lo que más me inquietó fueron sus profundas reflexiones entorno a la muerte, muchas veces vulgar y ridícula, a través de una historia que en apariencia es simple: Víctor (el protagonista) se encuentra en un verdadero problema la noche en que cenando en casa de Marta, se dispone a su primer encuentro extra marital con ella pero ésta muere.

De ahí se disparan una serie de acciones que Víctor buscará enfrentar, como si fuese un terco cinéfilo que permanece en su butaca incrédulo, reacio a olvidar un final que no entendió.

Lo que más me gustó es su sarcástico y crudo punto de vista sobre el "arrepentimiento humano", ese que lleva a una persona a revelar un obscuro secreto años más tarde, una cuestión que responde más al cansancio que a la moral -cuestión muy masculina eh.

No había tenido la oportunidad de leer antes a Javier Marías, yo lo recomendaría para una persona que esté en buen estado de ánimo y que no le espante lo sórdido ya que no es una novela rosa.

Su narrativa es fluida como caudal de río, como tantas en España, como esas conversaciones de escazas pausas. Es evidente su tendencia a descartar el punto y aparte, pero con tal fluidez se lo puede permitir.

El final es inesperado, muy extendido a mi parecer, definitivamente me quedaría sólo con la primera y segunda parte de la novela. Pero vaya, aún me queda pila de leer la siguiente. Vale, vale, saludos al tío "Chema" desde acá.

Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí de Javier Marías. DEBOLS!LLO. ISBN-13: 978-970-780-086-1.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ham on Rye

Charles Bukowski: Ham on Rye. Ecco. ISBN:0-87685-557-5.

A semi autobiographical version of Bukowski's childhood, and a counterpart and effectively a prequel to Post Office.

En diálogo / I

Jorge Luis Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari: En diálogo / I. Siglo Veintiuno Editores. ISBN:968-23-2606-0.

Transcriptions of short dialogues, about a variety of themes — literature, languages, Argentina, politics, etc — held between Borges and Ferrari.

This is the first volume in a set of two.

Interpreter of Maladies

Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies. Mariner Books. ISBN-13:978-0-395-92720-5.

A collection of short stories mostly about Indian-Americans; one takes place in India. A really good book; I definitely intend to pick up other books by Lahiri in the future.

A Natural History of Latin

Tore Janson (translated and adapted into English by Merethe Damsgaard Sørensen and Nigel Vincent): A Natural History of Latin. Oxford University Press. ISBN-13:978-0-19-921405-1.

A discussion of the history of the Latin language, beginning with the early years of Rome, ending with the present.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


In spite of the context being different, everything about this graphic novel seems familiar to me: the characters, the places, etc. Maybe it's because I've known people like Peter: rational and negative at the same time. And I've just been to New York city, where part of the story happened.

I like very much this kind of comic, maybe more than manga, althought may be too soon to say that. Really I prefer longer graphic novels, and ones and based on real situations, with funny dialogues and beautiful drawings, like this one. If I were to make a comic without any doubt it would be one like this: funny and pensive. Although I don't like sad endings, and almost I cried this time.

Deogratias, a tale of Rwanda

We can think that a graphic novel is just a form of entertainment, works of science fiction or fantasy, but that is not always the case. Sometimes the stories are based in reality and we must remember that the reality can be better (or worse) than real life. This is the case of Deogratias, a tale of human horror. I don't remember being in such a state of anxiety and horror after reading a book, not even when reading horror stories.

It's strange to say, but I have to say that I really didn't like the story because it made me feel as though I was suffering the violence and the irrational injustices, but at the same time I have to recognize the ability of the author, Stassen, to show one of humanity's more difficult episodes in a simple way. After just a few minutes of reading, I got sucked in. While it was easy to come to a conclusion about the one of history's worst genocides, which had claimed about 800,000 lives, I don't know what to think about that poor "dog" and eponymous character Deogratias. I really don't know.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Borges on Writing

Borges on Writing edited by Norman Thomas Di Giovanni, et al. Ecco.

Transcriptions of seminars Jorge Luis Borges gave at Columbia University in the early 1970s.

Los 1001 años de la lengua española

Los 1001 años de la lengua española by Antonio Alatorre. FCE.

An interesting book about the history of the Spanish language. 1001 years is overspecific, which Alatorre acknowledges, but it's reasonable. Alatorre provides information about how the languages of the Celts, the Romans, the Visigoths, the Arabs, and others shaped what would eventually become Castillian, and how the language of the Castille region of Spain would influence and be influenced by other languages or dialects spoken in Iberia, ultimately resulting in the Spanish language as we know it today.