Book 16: The Discovery of Heaven

The Discovery of Heaven is a 1992 novel by Dutch author Harry Mulisch. It describes the intense friendship between two men and the mystical journey of another to return to Heaven the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

– From Wikipedia

I start Book 16 even further ahead of schedule than Chess or Persepolis. The Discovery of Heaven is a big book with small type, so I imagine my schedule will catch me up. Having said that, 50-odd pages in I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. (I hope this goes some way to healing Jeroen’s – who suggested this book – wounds after I so disliked his previous suggestion, Paulo Coelho’s The Zahir).

In a mildly amusing twist, my other failure this year has been replaced with another of Coelho’s books, widely acclaimed The Alchemist. Rosa and Wes – one of the people who warned me against reading The Zahir – gifted me it for my birthday. Thanks Wes, I think!


Book 15: Persepolis

Persepolis is a French-language autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The title is a reference to the ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis.

– From Wikipedia

On the day I’m supposed to begin Persepolis I find myself nearly 100 pages ahead; this is due to a combination of the two previous books in my 26 book challenge being cracking reads that I’ve flown through, and Persepolis itself being a graphic novel (and an equally swift read).

It’s been lovely to get into books that are a genuine delight, after struggling with books that were either not to my taste, brilliant but difficult, or probably brilliant but extremely difficult; and taking such pleasure in reading has set me really looking forward to next year when I can begin ploughing through my own list of books-to-read (of that, no doubt, more later in the year).

What are your “brilliant and easy” book-based pleasures?

Book 14: Chess

The Royal Game (Or Chess Story; Schachnovelle in the original German) is a novella by Austrian author Stefan Zweig first published in 1942, after the author’s death by suicide.

– From Wikipedia

The elusive Chess (it seems to have three different names) has an equally elusive description on Wikipedia. I know nothing about the book (just how I like to operate), and I should have finished it in three days. Quick sharp!

Book 13: The Reader

The Reader (Der Vorleser) is a novel by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink, published in Germany in 1995 and in the United States in 1997. The story is a parable, dealing with the difficulties post-war German generations have had comprehending the Holocaust; Ruth Franklin writes that it was aimed specifically at the generation Berthold Brecht called the Nachgeborenen, those who came after.

– From Wikipedia

I’m a bit behind on my blogging; in fact, I’ve just finished reading – and thoroughly enjoying – The Reader. After struggling with several of my 26 book challenge books it’s encouraging to have read two excellent books in a row, and specially encouraging to have read one – this one – with such ease and vigour.

Book 12: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World). The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s, and describes a single day of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Its publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history – never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed.

– From Wikipedia

Book 12, and I’m enjoying myself again. I have a like-dislike relationship with historical novels (or novels that are broadly based on true history) as they frustratingly highlight my ignorance while satisfyingly denting it (if only slightly). On the other hand, I have no time for films that (honestly, at least) claim to be “based on true events”; I find it never gives a film any greater context or value.

Do you prefer “historical” novels? “True” films? Or would you rather not know at all?

Reading failure #2: Neuromancer

Well, here we are again. Neuromancer is the second book of my 2012 26 book challenge that I simply can’t finish.

Whereas I simply disliked eveything about The Zahir, my reasons for giving up on Neuromancer are quite different: I just don’t understand it. I’ve perservered for some time, insisiting on reading 26 pages each day, determined to reach that “aha” moment, but I think it’s just too technical or verbose or complex for little-brained me, and I find I’m just brushing my eyes against the words without taking anything in.

So, head hung in ignorant shame, I need a suggestion for a book to fill the Neuromancer-shaped gap. Your recommendations, please, for a story of 130 pages or fewer…

Book 11: Neuromancer

Neuromancer is a 1984 novel by William Gibson, a seminal work in the cyberpunk genre and the first winner of the science-fiction “triple crown” — the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. It was Gibson’s debut novel and the beginning of the Sprawl trilogy. The novel tells the story of a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack.

– From Wikipedia

William Gibson’s Neuromancer is (as far as I’m aware) the only science fiction or fantasy book in my 2012 26 book challenge. It’s a startling shift from the primarily existential, introspective novels that have so far defined my year. I feel like, not only has the content shifted, but I’ve had to shift the way in which I receive the words, to accommodate its significantly different tone and outlook.

Have you ever read a book that’s broken from conventions or expectations (yours or, perhaps, its own) so much that you had to rethink your own reception of it?