gabor maté is an established name in the psychology trauma field. combined with a recommendation from a professional psychologist, and several glowing reviews from professional critics, i was curious about “the myth of normal”.
the book makes a robust case explaining what is wrong with the most of modern societies, how we got here, and in the final part tries to give you tools on how to fix things at least on the personal level. but the most important achievement of this work, from my point of view, is the clear albeit lenghty explanation that psychological trauma is ubiquitous.
the final part is where it falls a little bit short, because so many root causes are systemic, therefore require systemic solutions. i am still tempted to say – read this book if you can’t get into therapy.
this is a short story published separately on the back of success enjoyed by other two miller’s books – “the song of achilles” and “circe”.
madeline miller is a convincing story teller who uses ancient greek mythology as a template to draw a subtly different picture, different from conventional narrative. this time she takes the well-known story of pygmalion and tells it from galatea’s point of view. miller puts woman’s narrative in the centre – something that classic literature doesn’t do well, so modern writers are filling the gap.
it’s been a while since i read a book so slow-paced and yet this immersive. first half is almost exclusively exposition, done in a masterful way – reader is almost as uninformed as the narrator, who is a visiting human from our future earth to a new world. ambassador of space travel on a planet that doesn’t have flying transport.
i don’t think it will be a spoiler if i mention that the key difference between terran humans and gethenian ones is biological. ursula le guin thought out how a world would look like if humans were not split into duality of men and women. she paints a convincing picture that had me longing for gethen, despite its horrible climate.
my second book from this author, and definitely not the last. i want to read everything kawakami has written and would write. thankfully her books are proving to be popular and therefore more likely to be translated into english.
“heaven” describes the life of one middle-schooler who is cruelly bullied at school and his tentative friendship with another classmate who suffers from the same treatment. as you can imagine, it’s not a book you read as a pick-me-up. but don’t let that put you off. “heaven” puts into words both ugliness and beauty of human condition.
a large collection of various speeches and introductions over the time. can be used as a tool to discover other good writers (i presume they are good since they are getting gaiman’s endorsement). can be skipped if you are not a completionist fan of gaiman’s works.
i did not like this book, and i’m almost surprised by it.
maybe because my expectations were too high (there was so much praise from many different people), maybe because this is not my thing.
formally “piranesi” shares a lot of features with things i consistently rate 3, 4, and 5 on 5-point scale. but the narration style, abruptness of resolution, and the take on animism put me off.
for some reason, modern interpretations of animism don’t sit right with me. and i might be completely wrong, and there is none of that in “piranesi”. but that’s what i picked up.
“nothing but my body” is a fictionalised memoir of a young sex worker in australia, recounting end of 2019 and 2020. so, very recent and very time-specific. though, i don’t think it will age badly, because the themes of the book are timeless and relatable. said themes include climate change catastrophe, inherent economic inequality of capitalistic society and power dynamic associated with it, discrimination of minority groups. and, of course, ins and outs of sex work.
such a good book, clicked with me just so. though i would imagine it’s not for everyone.
if you decide to read it, note that the novel includes descriptions of sex, casual drug use, problems with addiction, and acts of self-harm.
grieving for father via storytelling. incredibly personal, yet universal.
i dread the day when this book will become more relatable.
rooney’s debut novel, but not my first book of hers. like so many others, i discovered “normal people” first, and liked it enough to seek out other works.
“conversations with friends” tried hard at being sincere, and mostly succeeded. what it didn’t do is make me empathise with any of the characters. i felt like a distant observer belonging to a different species reading through a field report.
the story revolves around frances, the narrator, and her relationships with people around. she’s young, confused, and arrogant (the way most young people are), thus all relationships end up incredibly messy. though, is there any other type way of interacting with people? we are messy creatures in the end.
p.s. here goes the usual gripe with cover blurbs. me and some newspapers have wildly different definitions of “funny”. i saw nothing funny in this novel.
full title of the book is “the lady tasting tea: how statistics revolutionized science in the twentieth century”, and the content matches it accurately.
this book is a valiant effort to described mathematical discoveries without a single formula. as the author says in the foreword, his wife convinced him to write a nonmathematical book about people who made the statistical revolution.
my overall rating is that “the lady tasting tea” was a useful book to read, and at times even enjoyable. by the end of it i don’t know any more about statistical methods of analysis, but have much better understanding why said methods are everywhere in modern science.
“tokyo ueno station” is one of those books that i would have never found if not for someone’s recommendation.
this is a sad story about a life filled with loneliness and many misfortunes. the main character didn’t get a single break from the universe.
on the macro level, the book sheds light on classism in japanese society, attitude towards homeless people, and hardships of working class. themes that i haven’t yet encountered in my exploration of japanese literature.
until recently, when i thought of latin american literature, it was gabriel garcia marques, jorje amadu, borges, julio cortasar, and mario vargas llosa who came to mind. do you notice the trend? all of them are men. but it’s not like the rich and incredibly versatile field of latin american literature doesn’t have any women writers. i just didn’t know about any of them.
if you are like me, then let me offer you The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende. this book is one of magical realism masterpieces deeply rooted in the joys and sorrows of everyday life. the novel’s events take place in unnamed country in south america, in the first half of XX century – far from us both in time and space. yet, you will feel empathy and kinship with the incredible women who are in the centre of the story – nivea, clara, and alba.
a word of warning: the book covers quite heavy topics and has brief graphic descriptions of acts of misogyny, violence, civil war, classism, and racism.
if this what the debut novel is like, then i can’t wait to read the rest of zadie smith’s body of work.
the novel is part of “wayfairer” series, but what i love about this series is that they all stand on their own, and even can be read out of order. in this one you get to live through an adventure with the crew of one space ship. at first i got strong “firefly” tv show mood, but the similarity ended with the setting. the plot and character development was deeply unique.
if you liked “..angry planet”, it goes without saying that you would like the rest of the cycle. beyond chambers, i’d say you could check out robert sheckley’s short stories – good old classics, that mostly aged well.
i have been planning to read “the long way to a small angry planet” after reading “the close and common orbit”, but it was quite down on my to-read list until someone whose opinion i value a lot recommended it to me as a book that brings good mood. (spoiler: this was a good advice).
p.s. if i could change one thing about becky chambers books, it would the titles. they are so difficult to remember.
“highly irregular” is such a fun book. it was recommended by gretchen mcculoch on the “lingthusiasm” podcast. obviously it is about linguistics.
there are many, many books about english language, as one would expect. however, since the subject continuously evolves, each subsequent book has something new to say, including this one. of course, it’s light pop-science, you won’t become a champollion of the twenty first century after reading it, but does every non-fiction book has to be useful?
“connections” is a refreshing non-fiction where the author tells you about one new thing without making himself sound like a new saviour of the world.
dr deisseroth knows one thing – optogenetics, he knows it well, and is eager to take the reader on the journey of discovering it.
i appreciated author’s transparency about the context. he was clear where it was so called pure science and where it’s fictionalised narrative. after finishing the book i felt like having learnt something new about psychiatry as a profession.
i didn’t give this book any rating. my scale does not have a necessary definition for it. how can i say “really liked it” about the book that was so painful to read.
avni doshi is an immensely brave writer. the subject of bad relationship between mother and daughter is almost taboo in modern english-languaged literature. at least, when i looked for anything that is fiction, and not of self-help genre.
antara, the narrator, is in the middle of a crisis – her mother is seemingly falling victim to dementia. this puts antara into unresolvable bind – she has no warm feelings towards her mother while experiencing massive pressure to fulfil her daughterly obligation and care for the frail parent. that pressure is both external – traditional patriarchal society – and internal – through growing up in such society.
reader, following antara’s hardship, really can’t judge her. her childhood was such that it’s a miracle she got through it, no thanks to her mother. at the same time, there is mother’s side of reality, adding a ton of nuance. quickly, the narrative gets hazy, reality is shaky, and nothing is clear. the only thing you can be sure of is that both of them had incredibly difficult, traumatic lives.
the novel felt so real. there is no clear distinctions between bad and good, no neat resolution of confict.
i am cautious of recommending this book, because it is a heavy one, and the more you empathise with it, the more difficult it is.
p.s. this book was first published in usa under the title “girl in white cotton”, and “burnt sugar” is the title for uk edition. isn’t the latter so much better?
the book doesn’t waste any time. you can tell from page one, what exactly you’re in for – action and humour at a fast pace.
i imagine that many people are familiar with this work either via the book or, most likely, via the movie. i technically watched the movie first, as in – i was in the room when the movie was on tv. and since i rarely make effort to avoid spoilers, i knew the key plot points when starting the book. nevertheless, i had great time reading “the martian”, (which makes me more entrenched in the opinion that fear of spoilers is often taken out of proportion).
by the way, i’d never picked it up, if not for the book club.
“the martian” is nearly perfect holiday read. i can’t think of any counterindications for it.