Saturday, June 30, 2007

Teddy @ Seksan, 30 June

Here's Teddy reading his piece at Seksan.

There a little bit missing from the beginning, sorry.
And you have to tilt your head. Sorry again.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Towards 100 Books : 57 !

I've upped my previous book count to 57 with these recent reads.

1) Decent Exposure Phillipa Ashley
2) The File on H Ismail Kadare
3) High Fidelity Nick Hornby
4) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
5) The Outsider Albert Camus

Five books in half-a-month? Of course I cheated.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
and The Outsider are very good books, both focusing on a strong alternative-personality character as the central story, and are both a very short 100-ish pages each only.

Decent Exposure is a Little Black Dress floozy read, and a very bad one too! Very roll-your-eyes lame. Don't waste your time reading this.

High Fidelity
is a male version chic-lit (what do you call it? dick-lit?). It's a good fun laugh-out-loud read on the inner-monologue of a neurotic song-obsessed relationship-impaired guy. Was that sentence over analysing? The book is too. Highly recommended.

The File on H is a thoughful read. Read some excepts here and here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Today's Buy: 27 June 07

Book sales should be 2 weeks long and no more. Agreed?

I tried, so very hard, to NOT go for Big Bookshop's Warehouse Sale. But everyday the temptation gets stronger, and the sale just will not go away! It should have ended weeks ago and saved me my conscience.

So I succumbed. Here's the spoils of my folly.

Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse @ 12.90
Franz Kafka's The Trial @ 12.90
Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie @ 12.90
Adam Phillips' Going Sane @ 12.00
Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited @ 12.90
Albert Camus' The Outsider @ 10.00
Anthony Burgess' A Clockwok Orange @ 10.00

Total damage: RM 83.60

This is not my first time to a Big Bookshop sale, so I didn't go through the heart-stopping "d*** these books are so d*** cheap how the h*** did they manage this why did I spend so much before this getting books at retail prices oh d*** read red penguins at 10bucks argh heart pain argh" attack I suffered at the last sale.

All books that followed me home are on my shopping list save one. Adam Phillips' Going Sane is such a beauty - I can't resist such a lovely thing!

I brought a list this time so I don't go overboard, and stick to only getting books I wanted. There were some other titles I wanted to get but didn't because of poor book condition, book size (I prefer small ones), font type, font size, font spacing, paper quality, margin spacing, book cover, edition type .. etc .. etc... Haha.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Best of Lists of Best

Lists of books read. List of books to read. List of good books. List of great books. List of award-winning books. Lists of. Lists. Lists. Lists.

I like keeping lists because it spells out a target to achieve and let's you measure your progress towards it. I keep an excel list of books bought (sorted by year, arranged chronologically, with auto-calculations of % of RM saved from discounts and % of read vs bought and ...). I keep another excel list of the 501 Must-Read books (sorted by category, with % of books owned, books read, books read per category ...).

And I am not alone! There are people out there that are list-centric too! I discovered a nifty little thing while browsing The Old Book Bag.

List of Bests lets you keep and mark lists of anything and everything. You can latch on to existing lists too - there is already a list of Booker prize books,a list of Pulitzer prize books, and many many personal book lists of other people. The best thing I like about it is that it you can add your list (with % or progress!) to your blog. I like!

I've added the 501 Must-Read list to this blog (see side panel). So far I've filled up Children's Fiction and Memoirs, I'll be slowly adding the rest. The process of filling up a list a tad bit tedious.

Want to keep a list of your progress on the 501's? Want to track your reads of award-winning books? Just add them to your list. You need a account with List of Bests first though.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

now reading : 26 June 07

Book of the moment:
Nick Hornby's High Fidelity

Started and inching towards the finish line:
T.H White's The Sword in the Stone
Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
Salman Rushdie's Fury

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Library

This is a rather blurry snapshot of my library. It's not huge and well-kept but it's mine (most of it, anyway) and I'm proud of it.

My library needs
1) Re-sorting and re-arranging (my fave pastime!)
2) A good dusting
3) More shelves, judging by the pile at the bottom.
4) More books, judging by the empty space beside the pile
5) More readers. You are very welcome to my library. If I like you enough to have a teh tarik with you, you may borrow any book from the library on my 3-year return policy.

What's in my library? All books mentioned in the Bookgila, plus a few this and thats. I like uniformity, so I usually get books in a set. They look sooo good on the bookshelves with their heights neatly in order.

Here's my favourite edition, the Penguin Read Red collection. Nice paper, good font, nice wide margin and spacing.

And here's my current addiction, the Little Black Dress fun reads.

Here's what shelves with unmatching editions looks like. Ug-lee. must .. rearrange..

There are some aliens on my bookshelves. Old Bro is a Jeffrey Archer fan

while Young Bro is a Tom Clancy nut. I might never attempt these books, I think they're long-winded. In turn both bros don't like my selection, they say I read weird books. Humph.

And here's a few nice leather-bound classics I stole from my dad's library. >:)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dull the Amazing Reporter

Looks like a lot of readers didn't quite get me in my last post. Oops.

Amongst the characters in The File of H is the state spy Dull Baxhaja, the governor's pet spy. The governor prizes Dull above all for Dull's superb report writing skill. Dull's reports ARE amazing - amazingly atrocious, peppered with bombastic words and alltogether too.. too..

Here's an example of Dull's reporting. To me it has a certain 'duh' humour.

Malicious persons, he continued, would no doubt attempt to explain this request as a petty manoeuvre related to dissatisfaction over his rank, for instance, or his salary, etc., but he trusted the governor knew Dull well enough to believe that he had never allowed personal ambition or personal interest to influence his work. Other persons of ill will would perhaps attribute his resignation to the humiliation, or even to the jealousy, he had allegedly experienced on the arrival of the English-speaking spy. Coming from them, such an explanation was entirely natural, since just as a cucumber is nine-tenths water, so their lives consisted in equal proportion of offences taken and resentments harboured.

And worse is the governor's esteem of Dull.

Nine-tenths water! the governor repeated to himself. Dull knew even that kind of thing! That man had the makings of a university professor, he thought, not just a mere spy.

There are a few even better paragraphs of Dull's writing skills and the governor's awe, but they are too long to type out. Go pick up the book if you like to read more :).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

... notwithstandings.

Excerpt from Ismail Kadare's The File on H.

He had long envied Dull's style in secret, especially turns of phrase like "leaving aside the fact that this task is not incumbent upon the present writer", or all those "notwithstandings" that he sprinkled around his sentences with such elegance. The governor himself used to try to insert that last word wherever he could in his letters, even when it did not really fit at all, and on rereading his texts he always found himself obliged to cross it out again.

I find this passage dryly funny. Reminds me of the style of writing I applied in secondary school - to fill up the quota of 350 words on the BM karangan. Haha.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Previous Buys : 29 April 07

@ MPH Mid Valley

The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
RM 35.90 (+ 20% dics)

The File on H
Ismail Kadare
RM 49.90 (+ 20% disc)

She'll Take It
Mary Carter
RM 19.90

I got the first two books as recommendations from my 501 Must-Read bible. I like Margaret Atwood's work so the first was an easy choice. It was not disappointing - The Handmaid's Tale is an eerie tale of a world where fanatics rule (ruin) your life. I'm halfway through 'The File on H' at the moment.

Mary Carter's 'She'll Take It' is a Little Black Dress (LBD) book. I loved her other LBD 'Accidentally Engaged' (it's my favourite LBD to date) so I set out to read another of her book to see if she flings that wonderful wit of hers into every book she writes. I have to say I like 'Accidentally Endgaged' better, maybe because I just can't morally agree with the pick-pocket thieving heroine of 'She'll Take It'. Anyway I'm majorly addicted to LBDs - this is my 13th LBD to date. Yummy.

501 Must Reads Children's Fiction

This is the list of must-reads for Children's Fiction, taken from 501 Must-Read Books.

You're sure to go oooh and aaah at the childhood favourites. I read a lot of condensed versions when I was a kid though, so after getting this list I went out and got the full versions and had a go. Fun!

How many have you read from the list?

1) Little Women Louisa May Alcott*
2) Fairy Tales Hans Christian Andersen
3) Peter Pan J.M.Barrie*
4) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum*
5) The Last Unicorn Peter S. Beagle
6) The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett*
7) Alice's Adventure in Wonderland Lewis Carroll*
8) Pinocchio Carlo Collodi*
9) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl*
10) Sophie's World Jostein Gaardner*

11) The Weirdstone of Brisingamen Alan Garner*
12) The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame*
13) Children's and Household Tales Jacob Grimm*
14) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Mark Haddon*
15) Emil and the Detectives Erich Kastner*
16) Just So Stories Rudyard Kipling*
17) The Complete Nonsense Books Edward Lear
18) A Wrinkle in Time Madeline L'Engle*
19) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C. S. Lewis*
20) Pippi Longstocking Astrid Lindgren*

21) Dr Dolittle Hugh Lofting*
22) At the Back of the North Wind George MacDonald
23) Nobody's Boy Hector Malot
24) Winnie-the-Pooh A. A. Milne*
25) Anne of Green Gables L. M. Montgomery*
26) Five Children and It E. Nesbit*
27) Tom's Midnight Garden Philippa Pearce*
28) The War of the Buttons Louis Pergaud
29) Fairy Tales Charles Perrault
30) The Tale of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter*

31) The Colour of Magic Terry Pratchett*
32) Northern Lights Philip Pullman
33) Swallows and Amazons Arthur Ransome
34) Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang Mordecai Richler
35) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone J. K. Rowling*
36) The King of the Golden River John Ruskin
37) The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupery*
38) The Human Comedy William Saroyan*
39) The Misfortunes of Sophie Comtesse de Segur
40) Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak*

41) And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street Dr Seuss*
42) Black Beauty Anna Sewell*
43) The Golem Isaac Bashevis Singer
44) Heidi Johanna Spyri*
45) Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
46) The Fellowship of the Ring J. R. R. Tolkien
47) Mary Poppins P. L. Travers*
48) Charlotte's Web E. B. White*
49) The Sword in the Stone T. H. White
50) Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Kate Douglas Wiggin
51) The Happy Prince and Other Tales Oscar Wilde*

* read

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Confessions of an Old Boy by Kam Raslan

A Review

Title: Confessions of an Old Boy - The Dato' Hamid Adventures
Author: Kam Raslan
Price: RM 32.00

Go get this book!

This is a hilarious memoir of a retired civil servant, born and bred with colonial mindset. Dato Hamid recounts episodes of his long and blessed life through a series of short adventures.

He reminisces finding true love in ‘Dato in Love’ - the irony of this chapter is a-ma-zing. Dato then reflects on his young and dumb days (don’t we all have this black episode in life!) in ‘Beat Generation’.

Dato Hamid muses over his brief sojourn into making pocket money the civil servant way in ‘Ariff and Capitalism’. This is not one of my favorite adventures, possibly because it is less humorous and more real.

Then there’s the Dato’s foray into murder and mystery in ‘Murder in Parit Chindai’. I love this adventure, it’s a great suspense story made impossibly droll with the Dato’s distinct character deficiencies. Dato Hamid deserves the anti-hero of the year award for his spineless passivity in this mystery.

There are a few other adventures in this hysterical collection. Pick up the book in your local bookstore and read the first few pages – I guarantee you will most probably buy the book after that. Oh, and did I mention that Dato Hamid is purely fictional? You’ll never guess otherwise.

How much you enjoy this book will be proportionate to how truly Malaysian* you are.

Read Teddy's review here.
Read Sharon's review here.

* does not apply to Mat Rempits and its-my-duty-to-protest-against-Lina-Joy types, of course. Of course!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Towards 100 Books : 52 !

I've added four books to my previous book count, bringing the number of books read this year to a total of 52. That's the halfway mark crossed, on the journey to 100 books. Hurrah!

1) Disgrace J.M.Coetzee
2) A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian Marina Lewycka
3) The Color Purple Alice Walker
4) More Work for the Undertaker Margery Allingham

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chinua Achebe Honoured

Shortly after posting a review on Chinua Achebe's Thing Fall Apart, I read that the authour was honoured with this year's Man Booker International Prize.

Read Sharon's write-up on the honour here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

501 Must Reads gets another thumbs-up

I thought I might be the only one harping about 501 Must-Read Books, but here's another fan! He's got a much snazzier photo and a better write-up too.

Monday, June 11, 2007

... tidy books.

Excerpt from Margery Allingham's More Work for the Undertaker.

"The rest was books, not one of them dusty and dog-eared. They filled the walls and side tables and the tops of cabinets, overflowing into heaps in corners and on chairs.
Yet it was the tidiest living-room in Charlie Luke's wide experience."

Now that would be a book-lover's paradise. I can't seem to keep my books in sterling condition, they insist on yellowing at the exposed top. And dusty, too.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

501 Must Reads : Modern Fiction, Q1

Here's the first quarter of the recommended reading list for Modern Fiction, from 501 Must-Read Books.

Works published after 1900 qualify for Modern Fiction, those before are categorized Classic Fiction. A few authors who lived (and wrote) across the century boundary have books on both list.

Modern Fiction, Quarter1

1) Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe*
2) Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands Jorge Amado
3) Le Grande Meaulnes Alan-Fourneir
4) Take A Girl Like You Kingsley Amis
5) Winesburg, Ohio Sherwood Anderson

6) Surfacing Margaret Atwood*
7) The New York Trilogy Paul Aster
8) Tales of Odessa Isaak Babel
9) Giovanni's Room James Baldwin
10) The Sweet Hereafter Russell Banks

11) The Regeneration Trilogy Pat Barker
12) Herzog Saul Bellow
13) Ficciones Jorge Luis Borges
14) Nadja Andre Breton
15) The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov*

16) The Naked Lunch Willian Burroughs
17) Possession A. S. Byatt
18) If On a Winter's Night a Traveller Italo Calvino
19) The Outsider Albert Camus
20) Auto da Fe Elias Caneti

21) Oscar and Lucinda Peter Carey
22) The Kingdom of This World Alejo Carpentier
23) The Bloody Chamber Angela Carter
24) What We Talk about When We Talk about Love Raymond Carver
25) The Horse's Mouth Joyce Carey

26) Journey to the End of The Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine
27) Soldiers of Salamis Javier Cercas
28) The Stories of John Cheever John Cheever
29) Disgrace J. M. Coetzee*
30) Cheri Colette

31) Victory Joseph Conrad
32) A House and its Head Ivy Compton-Burnett
33) Fifth Business William Robertson Davies
34) Captain Corelli's Mandolin Louis de Bernieres
35) Underworld Don Delillo

* read

Friday, June 8, 2007

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

A Review

Title: Things Fall Apart
Author: Chinua Achebe
Edition: Penguin Read RED

Things Fall Apart is a beautifully told tale.

The story, set in Africa, is about strong-willed Ibo warrior Okonkwo. The simple but powerful narrative easily sucks the reader into Okonkwo's world. We follow him through the motions of his daily life, his interaction with his clan members, his dealings with his family. We soak up the traditions of his people. We immerse ourselves in the culture and beliefs of his people. It is an interesting read, an insight into the life of others so different yet so same from us.

Then it gets more interesting. White people start coming into the life of Okonkwo and his people. White people start disrupting the life of Okonkwo and his clan. We read his anger and feel with him. We read his rage and feel with him. We see his… ah. Go read the book yourself.

I highly recommend this book. Read it for
1) its beautiful story.
2) its beautiful story-telling.
3) that extra window of awareness it will open in you.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

... ignoring

Excerpt from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

"We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it."

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Today's Buy: 2 June 07

@ MPH Mid Valley

More Work for the Undertaker
Margery Allingham
RM 35.90

The Color Purple
Alice Walker
RM 34.30

More Work for the Undertaker is a recommendation from 501 Must-Read Books : category Thrillers. I’ve not read any books in the Thrillers list, and admittedly I don’t read mystery as a matter of preference. Even growing up with my mother’s collection of Agatha Christie novels staring down from the bookshelves had no effect. I just didn’t do the type of stories from P.D.James and gang. Well, its time I started.

The Color Purple, I thought was also a recommendation from the same. But turns out it’s not (I must carry a list!!), I’ve most probably picked up this recommendation from Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust. I like this book for its pages, they’re just the way I like them: clear font, good spacing between words and lines, good page margins. Compare The Color Purple (below)

to Penguin Popular Classic standard page (this is the older brown version).

With a choice, won’t you pick the first one too?
Yes, I’m a sucker for presentation. ;-)

Friday, June 1, 2007

501 Must Reads

Prior to this brilliant find, I’ve picked up books to read based on trusted recommendations, cheap sales and (yes!) interesting book covers. I’ve tried using prize winners as a reading guide but it was a hard follow as the books tend to be dry and taxing.

And then, I found IT. My revered book-bible.

501 Must-Read Books (ISBN 978-0-7537-1343-3, by Bounty Books) is a wonderful find. This hardcover, full colour gloss paper tome is a collection of recommendations from a varied team of book-people (lecturers, writers, book-nuts).

The list is organized into categories: Children’s Fiction, Classic Fiction, History, Modern Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers, and Travel Writing. Each book gets a full page write up with a by-note on the author’s details and titles. Unlike other must-read list which tend to bias towards the list-makers favourite genre and authors, this list actually includes a lot of really good books.

When I first got my copy, I eagerly browsed the titles to tick off those I’ve read. The count - only 6 out of 501! Shameful.

A lot of the titles are familiar, but unfortunately unread. The Children’s Fiction section especially, I know the story of The Secret Garden, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Heidi and many more but I’ve read the simplified Ladybird version back in those days. Then there are those I’ve seen the cartoon / movie version; Dr Dolittle, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Pinocchio. And those that are popular characters yet I’ve never read the original; Winnie-the-Pooh, Pippi Longstocking, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The list also includes recent good reads; Sophie’s World, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. And also very lovely stories I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise; Terry Prachett’s The Color of Magic, Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

Whew! And this is only the Children’s Fiction!

This book is my reading guide for now. I hope to be able to read all the books in 5 years time, but even might be aiming too high. So far I’ve upped the read count from the measly 6 to 57, mostly with books from Children’s Fiction. See my recently read list. I stick a nice little star for every book I read, for that little sense of accomplishment.

This book is a treat for any bibliophile. I got mine for RM59.90 form MPH, there’s a softcover (not paperback, just not hardcover) version in Border’s bargain bin.

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