since i've been in country, i've read quite a few books (thanks to the loads of free time and the extensive kaolack regional house library).
here's a list of them and indications of whether or not you should read them. the number of asterisks (*) represents my enthusiasm for a book and basically, if you don't read it, you're a literary loser, a minus sign (-) means don't say i didn't warn you, and nothing means it's up to you to decide. i've also included some commentary because i always have to have an opinion.
1. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
the one and only book i read during PST. was the movie any good?
2. Atonement by Ian McEwan
did i not grasp the reason why this book is so famous? i found the premise tried and predictable and expected although the war time descriptions were fascinating. i was rather disappointed and far prefer "on chesil beach."
3. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (-)
i'm not obligated to like a book just because everybody else does, right? books with "family secrets" and angst all turn out the same way (somebody has an affair, the kids turn out screwed up) and don't really affect me.
4. About A Boy by Nick Hornby
nothing too deep but a fast, easy, and funny read with a surprisingly solid ending. It is nice to read something with humor but quantifiable angst.
5. State of Fear by Michael Crichton
i read this because paul tried to convince me that global warming doesn't exist (a drunk conversation that i don't remember very well) based off of arguments in this book and i wanted to prove him wrong. turns out, he's right! just kidding. i still respect paul a lot but i don't buy it.
6. Saturday by Ian McEwan (*)
this makes up for the disappointment that was "atonement." i had a really hard time getting into it but once i got past the 1st or 2nd chapter i was pretty deeply engrossed.
7. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (***)
i had been meaning to read his autobiography for quite some time now and i'm glad i finally had the chance to. this only took me 4 days to complete and i -- as trite as this sounds -- laughed, cried, was infuriated, was inspired, and overall was in true admiration for mandela.
8. God's Bits of Wood by Sembene Ousmane
pretty cool to read something senegalese and to know all/most of the cultural and locational references. i wonder if i would have enjoyed it as much if i didn't. it was good to get a sense of "revolution" that exists here as i am constantly underwhelmed by the general public apathy. however, i know a lot of people who did not like this book.
9. Frida by Barbara Mujica (-)
this book gave me a headache. artists are crazy.
10. Deliverance by James Dickey (**)
i was surprised as to how much i enjoyed reading this. i had picked it up in passing and was totally absorbed within minutes. the language is captivating and being that i had never heard of the book before, had no idea where it was going but was not at all disappointed.
11. The Known World by Edward P. Jones (*****)
i first read this book a few years ago in el salvador and fell in love with it there. i've recommended it to everybody and decided that i needed to reread it to make sure my recommendation held true. it did. i loved it as much as i did the first time, if not more. this is by far one of my favorite books ever. moreover, anybody i've ever recommended this book to has loved it as much as i do.
12. The Last Life by Clare Messud (**)
i am impressed with messud as i had loved "the emperor's children" as well. granted, this falls into the "family angst" criteria but messud is skilled enough of a writer to avoid all the pitfalls of such a theme. this may be one of the first dysfunctional family novels that i can appreciate.
13. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
i originally would have given this book a star because it was the first romance that i believed in for quite some time. i'll even admit that i cried. but then upon reflection i realized that it wasn't anything spectacularly deep or profound, just well written, and therefore, took away the star. that, or my pride wouldn't allow me to give a high recommendation for a book about romance.
14. The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago (***)
witty and funny. even though conservatives might be upset at the liberties taken with the life of jesus, it actually strengthened my belief in these things. however, overall, taken as pure literature (and nothing to do with spiritual matters), the book is a beautiful piece of literature. having knowledge of the new testament really enhances the novel and saramago's creativity links together parts of the life of jesus remarkably. (the one thing that annoyed me is the long paragraphs. i hate long paragraphs!)
15. July's People by Nadine Gordimer
i still can't figure out if i liked this book or not. i just recall being really annoyed at every single character. maybe that was the point? regardless, i think it captures well the tensions of race relations.
16. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
i did not have very high expectations for this book (maybe because of the movie?) but in the end i found it excellent and poignant and ultimately, very sad.
17. Peace Like A River by Leif Enger
damn these books that make me cry!
18. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (-)
ugh, chick lit!
19. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (*****)
one of the best books i've read. no wonder so many people love this book. it is brutally honest in how twisted our notions of love and romance are but simultaneously, it is one of the few things we have to believe in.
20. Reforestation in Arid Lands by Fred R. Weber with Carol Stoney
if you really care to know what it is exactly that i am doing here in senegal, this book/manual explains it all. i guess it isn't really a book but i wanted to have a solid 20 books in this list and i mean, i did read the whole damn thing.
i figure that this is a good time in my life to read a lot of books, particularly books that i've been meaning to read for some time but haven't gotten around to it. some of them are "classics" that i have managed to avoid but feel like i am less of a person because i haven't read them. while the kaolack library is really great, it is by far from complete, so feel free to send me a book or books from this following list or books of your own recommendation. remember, any book you send me will most likely get circulated among all the PCVs in my region and for those to come so it is totally worth it.
books i've been meaning to read (author may/may not be included):
- the world is flat (thomas friedman)
- vive sandino (gabriel garcia marquez)
- 100 years of solitude (gabriel garcia marquez)
- the elephant vanishes (haruki murakami)
- sputnik sweetheart (haruki murakami)
- the pact (the three doctors)
- crime and punishment
- catch 22
- dandelion wine (ray bradbury)
- cat's cradle
- the odyssey
- a people's history of the united states (howard zinn) (*i've actually read this and love it but think it is absolutely necessary to read again and to have in the kaolack library)