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The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living - Russ Harris. Harris argues, quite reasonably, that pain is unavoidable during life, but our constant striving for happiness & for the avoidance of pain makes us even more miserable & less well-equipped to cope w/life. I felt like this book actually did make a lot of sense; it's the sort of thing I might prefer to have in paper rather than electronic format so I could flick through it more easily. It's also the sort of book that ideally requires you do the exercises listed in the book, & here I failed, & here I've been meaning to go back & actually do them for months.

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki. This is a dark, difficult novel, containing, among other things: suicidal ideation (of a teenage girl & her father), sexual assault, bullying, WWII (kamikaze pilots & extreme bullying among their ranks), the recent tsunami/earthquake in Japan, animal suffering/death, &... honestly I've probably blanked the rest out. I think this book is worth reading, but I'm not quite sure I could bear to reread it. I do think it does something narratively clever near the end -- possibly the narrative structure seems a bit cutesy or contrived early on, with a Japanese American writer living in British Columbia (named Ruth, & who is very like Ruth Ozeki in some ways) finding the diary of a Japanese teenage girl washed up on shore: the book alternates between Nao's experiences & Ruth reading about them. Anyway, worth the read, but definitely a novel that may require some shoring up of the self beforehand.

Among Others - Jo Walton. I feel like I should've liked this more than I did, given that the teen girl protagonist is way into science fiction & finds her way into fandom, but I couldn't really warm to this. It felt a bit Diana Wynne Jones, w/the evil-mother thing going on. ... I really have just about nothing to say about this. I should've liked this, w/the gritty, tricky, complicated, not-friendly magic & the stubborn, grimly realistic main character & you know, fandom, etc. But I just feel v. tepid about it.

Keeping up with the Germans: A History of Anglo-German Encounters - Philip Oltermann. This mixes memoir w/history & sociology to take a look at the often uneasy relations between England & Germany. I admit I was a bit skeptical when I saw that the cover copy talked about Oltermann, moving from Germany to England as a teenager, worrying about how his new classmates would take to "a lanky sixteen-year-old German." My first reaction was, "I dunno, try being from Nigeria or India instead & I think you'll find you rather prefer being a German in England!" Anyway, this was a fast, interesting read; I certainly gained insights into the country I have now lived in for nearly 7 years in total, & since I have about zero cultural insight into Germany, obviously I had a lot to learn there as well. & as an immigrant to England, I could identify w/some of the things that baffled, infuriated, or amused Oltermann (why are mixer taps not a universal thing?), as well as the slow confused process by which one might become more settled in a new country.

Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch. After all the hype, my reaction to this book (& yes, I was playing the "death of the author" reading-style!) was overwhelmingly: meh. It sounds like so many things I should like! A mixed-race protagonist! Powerful black women characters! Embodying the titular rivers of London! & yet.

A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar. I'm not the audience for this fantasy novel, which is written in an ornate literary style & is about a mystic -- two signs I should've stopped reading right from the start. I'm sure if you're into either of those things then this book is probably pretty good -- it's just not my thing.

Understanding the European Union: A Concise Introduction - John McCormick. This is, indeed, relatively concise (the main text is a little over 200 pages), & yet it took me months & months to read. & so while it was informative, I feel like a lot of the information has since fallen out of my brain. Anyway: brief history of the EU & information on the various forces at play in terms of integration, immigration policy, enlargement, security, foreign policy, etc. There's also an explanation of how the EU works, in terms of governmental bodies. I'd say this book is cautiously pro-EU, but doesn't shy away from critiquing how the EU works in theory or in practice. Also I'd say this book would be more useful if you didn't take the better part of a year to read it, but oh well.

Cart and Cwidder - Diana Wynne Jones. A reread for the billionth time of this YA novel, the first in the Dalemark Quartet. I once wanted to get a tattoo of part of what's written on Moril's cwidder, randomly! (I may still get it someday!) What strikes me a lot more this time around is how much Lenina's choices were limited by her being a woman, & how she tried to live her life within the constraints of that as best she could. Also how bloody annoying Clennan was, heh. & also, struck anew by how dark the book is, how suddenly characters can die or otherwise have their worlds turned upside down. I know that current YA can be quite dark, but possibly it wasn't as much a thing back when this was first published, I dunno.

Date: 2014-04-11 08:15 am (UTC)
bibliofile: Fan & papers in a stack (from my own photo) (Default)
From: [personal profile] bibliofile
I read the Aaronovitch too (US title: Midnight Riot), and it was okay. Yeah, I'd been kinda hoping for more than okay, but it never got there. And I'm a sucker for the elements you listed PLUS a novel where the city is a character (or multiple characters, as it was here). Ah well.

For Among Others, I think it appeals best to people closer to Walton in age and/or who have read many of those same books in adolescence. That's my anecdotal take, at least.

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