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Year End Reading Summary (2013)

25 Dec 2013


The year 2013 is coming to its end, less than a week is left, so I’ve decided to summarize some specific achievements of the year here in my blog. In the beginning of the year I did a great investment. It was not something that was hard to afford, but it is a very valuable thing, so that many times throughout the year I was blaming myself for not doing it earlier. I am talking about the purchase of a Kindle e-reader. This compact and comfortable device costed me around RMB500, but it did help me with my progress in reading very well.

Before I start on talking about the books I’ve read, I want to mention that I bought a standard Kindle. Not the paperwhite touchscreen, but the very one that sometimes is called Kindle 5. Technically, Kindle 5 is the same device as Kindle 4, but it was released a year later and is in black colour, not white. Kindle 3 is what they call a reader with a keyboard. I am especially happy, that I haven’t bought a touchscreen reader, because now I can use the device as a real book, not being worried about accidentally swiping to the next or previous pages. The side buttons on Kindle 5 are made extremely convenient for a user too.

Totally, throughout the last year I’ve read more than 20 books in 4 different languages, which are English, Russian, Chinese and Esperanto. I will group them by languages and leave some short comments:

Esperanto

  1. Gerda malaperis (Gerda disappeared): Probably one of the most famous books among people who has just shown interest in Esperanto. Remarkable for its style, as it’s written in the way that the further you read it, the more complicated its language becomes.

  2. La adventuroj de Alicio in Mirlando (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland): The first book I had ever read in a foreign language (English), now has also become the first complete book I’ve finished in the international language. Yes, it’s a translation, of course. But I still enjoyed it very much.

  3. Other short stories and articles from magazines and periodicals. During this year I also spent quite a few evenings, reading some short stories and magazine articles, with a view of improving my Esperanto skills. Many of the articles are from the Kontakto magazine, but there are also some from other sources.

Chinese

  1. 爱丽丝漫游奇境记 (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland): Yes, Alice again. This is one of my favorite books, and now I can proudly announce that I’ve read this book in all languages I speak and learn.

  2. 小王子 (The Little Prince): I had a great pleasure reading this brilliant book in Chinese. It’s also one of those books, which you can read again when you are a grown-up, and learn something new from it. Same as Alice, I’ve focused on not missing a single unknown word from the book, to improve my vocabulary.

English

  1. The 4-hour Body [by Timothy Ferris]: The book I had already mentioned in an article before, which, despite my aversion to the way author conveys information, helped me to improve the quality of my flesh dramatically.

  2. Brave New World [by Aldous Huxley, 1931]: This is classical, and also one of not many non-ebooks I’ve read this year. I had found the printed version of the novel back in year 2010 at one of the islands of Thailand, and only in 2013 finally finished reading it.

  3. 1Q84 (ichi-kew-hachi-yon) [by Haruki Murakami]: This large three volume novel reminded me how easy and smooth reading of Murakami’s works can be. I remember it was hard saying goodbye to Aomame and Tengo, when I was reading the last chapter. You are getting attached to the characters and even are happy for the happy ending of their searches. The novel gave me some food for thought on religious sects, the moon, Japan and other things.

  4. Nineteen Eighty-Four [by George Orwell, 1949]: That’s a shame I’ve never read it before, but now the book is read and the drawback is eliminated.

  5. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind [by Shunryu Suzuki, 1970]: Due to my increasing interests to meditation and Buddhism, other than a pile of articles online, I’ve read this masterpiece, that widen my outlook and helped me better understand the way of thinking of a (layman) buddhist.

  6. Stateless in Shanghai [by Liliane Willens]: Meeting a unique person - the author of the book - made me want to purchase and read it. I don’t regret, for that broaden my knowledge of the general history of China and shed some light on the life people had had here during the era of The International Settlement and French Concession in the oriental Sin-city. Born from Russian parents in 1930s in Shanghai, Lillian tells the stories of her life and of the life of Shanghailanders, foreigners from around the world, who had perceived Shanghai as their hometown. I’ve learned so many interesting things, some of those are closely related to my life.

  7. Vurt [by Jeff Noon, 1993]: That’s a book the last pages of which I was reading at the moments of writing this article. Being listed in The Best Novels of the Nineties, Noon’s novel really shakes up the reader’s imagination. It tells the story of people living in a very different world from ours, without really explaining why does it work so and how the world got there. Pure is poor. It took me some time to get use to the author’s style, since it’s mostly written in phrases, not in a proper sentences, and some grammar inaccuracies are also absolutely normal in it. The novel stung me to the quick. There are two more Noon’s books, sequels, to which I might rivet my attention in the near future. Moreover, I’ve learned that Jeff Noon also had written a book called “Automated Alice”, which is positioning itself as a continuation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s adventures. I am looking forward to it in year 2014. Which feather are you on lately, kittling?

  8. Night Shift [by Stephen King, 1978]: Night Shift is the first collection of short stories by Stephen King. I have a printed volume at home and sometimes, when I have a desire to shake my nerves a little with a good horror story, I open it and dive into King’s selected works, one or two an evening. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, neither am I in a big hurry though.

  9. The Unfolding of Language [by Guy Deutscher]: Languages are being my another hobby, and that’s the amazing book for having some light being cast on a very interesting aspects of linguistics. As for the moment, I haven’t yet finished the book, but looking forward for it in the coming year.

Russian

  1. Санькя (Sankya) [by Zakhar Prilepin, 2006]: In the very beginning of the year I had a honor meeting Zakhar Prilepin, a laureate of many Russian literature awards, in person, when he was invited to be a guest in “Laowaicast” Podcast, which is traditionally recorded in the audio recording studio of our office. Shame on me, but I had never heard about him and only after shacking his hand, I decided to make up this disgraceful drawback. “Sankya” is a rather dark story about Sasha Tishin, member of revolutionary organization, similar to National Bolshevik Party. It can frighten the reader, showing the cruel reality of people’s lives and their straightforward ways of understanding the world around them. People like Sankya are able to start a real revolution, and that’s scary. By the way, this book was the first I’ve read on my newly bought Kindle.

  2. S.N.U.F.F. [by Victor Pelevin, 2011]: Pelevin had been recommended to me as a great read many years ago, when I was a second or third year university student, but only this year I actually understood what I’d been missing. Excited with my still-new purchase, I was looking for another book to start and, I remember, Noize MC, one of my favorite modern Russian musicians, recommended SNUFF as a book that he recently read and was impressed with, in one of his recent interviews. I didn’t waste time, found it online and plunged deep into a great world of Big Byz of a relatively new novel by this great contemporary author. The book is telling us about the world of the distant future, where the humankind divided into two separate casts. The higher cast, living on a huge globe, floating above the surface of Earth; and the lower cast, called Orcs, who continue living on the surface, up the neck in corruption and suffering from periodical inevitable wars (not with each other, though). The reader can feel that the whole thing is presented as an allegory, depicting lives of “developed” West, and the rotting third world of the contemporary age. Furthermore, the concept of News being nothing but Movies people take for granted, is chewed in detail. That’s a great read I recommend; the English translation is soon to be available, hopefully.

  3. Чапаев и Пустота (Chapaev and Void, Buddha’s Little Finger) [by Victor Pelevin, 1996]: The first buddhist work ever been written by a post-soviet writer, as some critics called it. I will name it THE BEST BOOK I had put my eyes on this year. I am looking forward for a German movie “Buddha’s Little Finger”, which hopefully should be finally released in the coming year. I also would like to mention, that I have a printed version of Chinese translation of it [夏伯阳与虚空] and sometimes I open it, both reviewing the great novel and improving my Chinese knowledge.

  4. Lolita [by Vladimir Nabokov, 1955]: I didn’t like Lolita much and do think it’s overrated dramatically. I see the novel as an exercise for the reader’s brain. I started reading it in English first, but it was too much, so I switched to the Russian version. But I still can say that I read the book in original, since Nabokov personally translated it into Russian after a few years since it’d been released around the globe. I’m not giving up on Nabokov, though. I’ve heard and believe that his other, later novels possess more meaning and also not lacking his great style of phrasing phrases.

  5. Ампир “В” (Empire V / Vampire) [by Victor Pelevin, 2006]: Continuing Pelevin’s topic, I’ve also delved into his world of Vampires. Definitely, not as deep and penetrating as Chapaev or SNUFF, but does have interesting points.

  6. Бэтман Аполло (Batman Apollo) [by Victor Pelevin, 2013]: The latest Pelevin’s book, a sequel for Empire V. Glamour and Discourse, ladies and gentlemen, are being lingered over and over.

  7. П5: прощальные песни политических пигмеев пиндостана [by Victor Pelevin, 2008]: The Farewell Songs of the Political Pygmies of the Pindostan. That’s a rough translation of the collection of some short stories by Pelevin, again. Pindostan, if you don’t know, is a derogative term for Americans, which is quite popular among post-USSR nationals, but barely anyone can tell you why they’re called so and what origins are. Something related to Kosovo military actions, some sources say. Whether I can’t fathom the name, or the name has nothing to do with the stories.

  8. Процесс (The Trial) [by by Franz Kafka, 1915 / published in 1925]: My parents told me multiple times, that existentialist authors, such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Jean-Paul Sartre, Julio Cortázar or Franz Kafka, are the basis of all the literature and one must not switch over to a modern authors as Prilepin or Pelevin, unless some of their famous writings are read thoroughly. I disagreed with this point of view, but to prove it to myself I’ve read the famous trial, The Trial. I can’t say I enjoyed it much. It’s not anyhow related to my current life or to what gives me an inspiration, neither do I enjoy the absurd humor of it very much. Those sort of the existentialist authors I listed above, that’s their books, are something I was fed with by my parents since childhood. We have a great library of them at home, but I don’t see myself coming back to them in the near future. I appreciate my parents’ efforts very much, not everyone’s parents force their children to read such books, but sorry: That’s not what I am interested in, at least now.

  9. Град обреченный (The Doomed City) [by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, 1972 / published in 1988]: In the end of the year I also opened a book of the famous (at least among post-USSR nationals) Strugatsky-brothers. I’d opened it and closed it after not long. The book was called “Monday begins on Saturday”. Boring! Seemingly heavily censored piece, which they published in 1961 during a time of serious USSR regime. Later I was told, that there are early and late Strugatskies, so I gave them another chance and… yes. “The Doomed City is widely considered among the most philosophical of their novels”, wiki says. Different people are put in a very peculiar conditions, called The Experiment. Not surprisingly, the novel was never been properly translated into English; I’ve heard reviews, where people are saying that “westerners won’t understand it, it has to be read in Russian”. Perhaps. Perhaps I also don’t fully get it. Or I became “too international” to comprehend it. Anyway, apples and oranges, comparing to my first attempt reading them. Nevertheless, I reckon the brothers being slightly overrated.

The article turned up to be slightly bigger, than I expected. It’s hard to write little about so many different things. But I still consider it to be a great contribution to the future, where I hope to compose a summary articles like this at least annually.

Interesting, that the number of books I’ve read in my mother tongue is the same with the English books. Reading books in original (all except Murakami) already helped me very much to obtain the level of confidence in speaking and writing, as well as reading faster and checking up vocabulary less and less. Even though I can feel that my written English is still dry and lacking the charm I want to achieve, I am glad to admit, that writing goes smoother for me now. I can feel more confidence now when I have to decide which sentence has a definite grammar/semantic mistake and which will make do.

I already have a list of books I’m looking forward to read in 2014, but if someone has good recommendations for me, please fire them away.