Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2020 Reading Challenge complete!

 Just finished The Monks of War, and thus have finished both my 2020 Reading Challenge (70 books) and my Dewey Decimal Challenge.

I had originally set 80 for my reading goal, I believe, and was on tap to exceed that, what with COVID shutting down most other fun things. But I'm working a lot now so my reading slowed down. I put away 23,461 pages, the longest, no surprise, being W&P. The shortest was the Diaries of Adam and Eve at 72 pages. (W&P at 1298.) 

For the Dewey Decimal Challenge, where I wanted to read one book in each "century" (000-099, 100-199, etc), I read at least one in each, but for a few, I read more than one book: 300s (The Medieval Machine and The Pursuit of Power); 400s (International Planned Languages, Serendipities, and How to Learn Any Language); 600s (Leaving Earth, You are Your Own Gym, and Strong Advice); 700s (The Naked Nude, The Nude, and Long Distance Swimming); 800s (The Fatal Eggs and Sexual Personae); and 11 books in the 900s (not gonna list them all, but tops of this almost-dozen had to be Story of a Secret State). 

I read five books not in English. Three in Esperanto, one in Russian and one in Croatian. Not too shabby.







Monday, December 14, 2020

A couple reads, and nostalgia

 Since finishing War and Peace (thank the sweet Lord) I've had fun reading other stuff. First stop was back to one of my favorite characters: Arkady Renko. Damn that Martin Cruz Smith sure has pegged the Russian soul (русский дух). If I didn't know the author's name or background, I would have believed the book was translated from the Russian. 

This time I read Red Square. Renko is back in the (semi-)good graces of the prosecutor's office after his time afloat. As usual his investigating nose is getting him into trouble with 'the man.' Another great story, and set at a time that I lived through in one of the settings of this novel: 1991 in Berlin.

My father came to visit me and my wife in Berlin in summer 1991. We took him to Brandenburg Gate where I was stunned to see, over the former killing fields between East and West Berlin, a crane from which for a mere 100 deutsche marks one could bungee jump. It was surreal. 


That exact scene that my father, my wife and I all experienced took place in this novel. One paragraph for what to me has been decades of memory. It simply blew me away. 

(c) Martin Cruz Smith

Then came the coup against Gorbachev. Both in real life and in this novel. So close to home. What a great read. 

After Renko I read the hilarious and quite quick Twain novella The Diaries of Adam and Eve. Holy crap it was so funny. This can't be the first ever 'he said, she said' in literature, is it? Maybe not, but it might possibly be the best. I had such a good time with it. Despite the terribly sad ending. 

I'm still reading The Monks of War by Seward and just started Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John. When I finish those two I will have officially completed my 2020 reading challenge (70 books) on Goodreads. But I'll probably get a few more books in before 00:01, 1 Jan. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

War and Peace and War, and more War, and Napoleon

 I've never wanted to finish a book more in my life. Oh dear God, this thing never ended. Took me forever. About as long as the frigging Napoleonic War lasted. Or so it seemed. 

War and Peace is, well, mandatory if you claim to know something of Russia. Or Russian culture. You really must read it. Just as you should read Crime and Punishment (excellent) or The Master and Margarita (incredible). 

But oh lordy, it just kept going. 

I decided to read it at the start of the are-you-essential-or-non-essential time, March-ish. I'd just heard about a bunch of book geeks who were going to read W&P over the year 2020. There's 361 chapters, so a chapter a day with some flex, and boom, you're done in a year. 

I figured: I'm going to be deployed for six months. Why not do two chapters a day for the deployment? Boom, book read. 

Don't get me wrong. It really was good. I was way ahead of the 2-a-day sked within a couple days. No reason to put the book down if I was enjoying it. At any point I was anywhere from one week to one month ahead. 

But after a few months it dragged. I just wanted to read something else. I read other books during this time, and that's when I would lag on W&P, then have to catch up. But I like variety and too much Napoleon after a while. 

I went balls to the wall the last couple of weeks. And got 'er done. And I'm glad. I even threw in some chapters in Russian toward the end. Since I knew how the story was going and where it was going, I was able to get a lot through context if I didn't know. So count some language practice in there too.

But now I'm free! I'm reading my last of the Dewey Decimal Challenge now (The Monks of War by Seward) and will start a fiction book probably tonight or tomorrow. Can. Not. Wait!

The Double, by Jose Saramago

 This is my first Saramago that I've read. My wife loved  Blindness . I couldn't get into it years ago when I attempted it. But this...