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📖 Recent reads

[This is in a different format from the usual book post.]

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Late Night at The Lobster

I started on this book as a recommendation from Story Graph, and I guess I approve of the algorithm! It is a very interior book, and you live in the head of Manny, the manager of a chain restaurant that has just been ordered by HQ to close down for good. Manny struggles through the last shift, with his rag-tag crew, and he struggles through life – with a waitress he is in love with and his pregnant girlfriend. It is very far from my day-to-day, and I enjoyed being immersed, for a short while, in Manny’s world. [3/5]


The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team

The story on Alberto Salazar broke a few years ago, and Nike continued to support him for a time. We have read Mary Cain’s brave story, and Kara Goucher’s book brings more depth to the darkness that consumed those who happened to be Salazar’s orbit in those years. It is a courageous book, and a story that ought to be written and ought to be read. Harsher critics question if the writer could have done more / earlier, and whether this book serves to ameliorate some of her guilt. But to me, to even be able to do what she eventually had, Goucher had to have fortitude in spades. Yes, she could have done differently, but so do we all. She deserves to process it the way she wants to (the privilege of being a writer). She was in a tough situation and perhaps the progressiveness of the world today makes us forget that just 5, 10 years ago, the world was very different. [4/5]


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

This book is very interesting from a sociological perspective. There are also some pop psychology musings from the author. When you finish the book, you will wonder whether politics and what appears to be a desire to drum up publicity for some collateral purpose ought to affect your view of a book. If you are a discerning reader, you will wish for better writing and you would be able to form your own conclusions about whether the author’s conclusions are right. (Every hillbilly can make it to law school like he did!) He may or may not be able to speak for all Appalachians and working-class whites, but he sure knows how to tell a story. After reading the book, you will do well to read a few reviews on why the book was controversial. The book is a deceptive piece of art. [3/5]

Links from the past weeks

Links from the past weeks 

📖 On Reading – the early 2020s 

I used to read one book at a time. But in the last few years, coincidentally with my weaning myself off physical books, I began to read more than one book at a time. Sometimes, I had 2 or 3 books I consider myself to be actively reading. Perhaps it became necessary because borrowing e-books sometimes requires one to wait for the book to be released.

I also decided to read 1000-page things (Russian epics; WWII) and series (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings), and decided these efforts would be better aided by having physical books. So I ended up between e-books (mostly on Libby, sometimes on Kindle or the Books app) and physical books. And in a way, I am glad that I moved on from single-mindedness to this … flexibility. Sometimes you just want something different. And sometimes, in the midst of battling a big tome, you need a break.

For the past 5 years, I finished 32.8 books per year on average. I have 84 “currently reading” titles on Goodreads (I started tracking my reading in late-2017). Which seems about right, because I “touch” around 50 books a year. I used to try to finish books I started, but then decided life’s too short to finish books you don’t care to finish.


Already this year is shaping up to be different from the past 5 years. It is the end of June, and I have already finished 33 books. Perhaps it’s because of a confluence of: a stronger urge for reading this year; lowered running volume; a less busy year at work.

PS. I cannot believe we are “in the early 2020s”.

📖 The Trackers

Blurb: In The Trackers, singular American writer Charles Frazier conjures up the lives of everyday people during an extraordinary period of history that bears uncanny resemblance to our own. With the keen perceptions of humanity and transcendent storytelling that have made him beloved for decades, Frazier has created a powerful and timeless new classic.

The Trackers


I have never read Frazier before, so the fact that I was holding a signed copy did not mean that much to me. I had wanted to read it because I was in the mood to be transported, and this book was set in Depression-era America. It was also a nice souvenir, since I was visiting Seattle and the Elliott Bay Book Co made book-buying rather irresistible.

I enjoyed the book, loved how the scenery and the scene were depicted (mostly of the west, plus Florida), and felt the wistful sense of longing that every character had. Everyone is always missing something.

📖 Out 

“You know,” she murmured, “we’re all heading straight to hell.”
“Yes,” said Masako, giving her a bleak look. “It’s like riding downhill with no brakes.”
“You mean, there’s no way to stop?”
“No, you stop all right – when you crash.”

Natsuo Kirino


I finished this book in two days, or perhaps two and a half, because I read a good part of it on a plane flying from Seattle to Singapore.

The characters are all gloomy and messed up, and the details (of the scene, of the inner dialogue, of the dialogue…) are many, but the plot moves along, and you cannot put this book down. So, please make sure you have the time for it, because this book is so delicious, sucked in at one go.

Literary realism at its best. Artfully grisly? Because we all have dark impulses, and how do you know how you would act, if you were put in that situation? Despite the brutality, you feel sympathy for the downtrodden protagonist, and hope that somehow she finds some peace.


Links from the past weeks 

📖 The Wall 

“Billions of tiny cocoons hang woven into its threads, a lizard lying in the sun, a burning house, a dying soldier, everything dead and everything living. Time is big, yet it has room for new cocoons. A grey and relentless net, in which every second of my life is captured. Perhaps that’s why it seems so terrible to me, because it stores everything up and never really allows anything to end.”

Marlen Haushofer
The Wall


This story is morbid, disturbing and I loved it. It had me in a soft but firm grip, and there are no chapters, just a breathless report stretching 238 pages. The main character goes off for a holiday in the mountains and finds herself the sole survivor behind a transparent wall. The book follows her as she undertakes the task of surviving – cutting wood, planting crops, milking a cow… The narrative skips between the past and present, and that required processing but also made the read even more engaging. Even as it was clear that things would not generally go well, I was engrossed in the details, trying to guess what happens next.

This is not a fast-paced science fiction novel. It is an ode to the natural world and the human spirit. It is a simple story, told in beautiful prose. But as to whether the protagonist truly finds equanimity, I do not know.

[The book was first published in 1963, and I have never heard of the author. I am so pleased I chanced upon it at the bookstore.]



“But if time exists only in my head, and I’m the last human being, it will end with my death. The thought cheers me. I may be in a position to murder time. The big net will tear and fall, with its sad contents, into oblivion. I’m owed some gratitude, but no one after my death will know I murdered time. Really these thoughts are quite meaningless. Things happen, and, like millions of people before me, I look for a meaning in them, because my vanity will not allow me to admit that the whole meaning of an event lies in the event itself.”

Links from the past weeks