Another Mini-Review

I haven’t done it in a while, but I think it is time for another book review–because reading is amazing and important.  Long live literature.

In books, perfection is hard to come by.  If any book that I have read comes close to that,  I would have to say that A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is that book.  I realize that kind of statement is rather strong, but I truly believe it is well earned.  The book is fantastic.

What makes this book really good is how well it is thought out.  While some books seem to be killing time, inventing subplots and following meandering plot lines, this book does none of that.  In that regard it might demand more of your attention, but most really good books do.

Perhaps the greatest things about the book is how it makes you feel.  By the end, you will feel as though you have experienced something amazing.  By the end, you will feel as though you have been on an incredible journey.

I have decided not to try and explain the plot in this blog.  I would rather you experienced it without any outside influence.  However, if you need to check out the plot, well google brought you here, so I am sure google can provide you with a plot site.

I rarely read books more than once, but this is one of those books that I will read again and again. It speaks to me much in the same way that A Separate Peace does,  Youth is an amazing time, and though it is long past, I can celebrate it in books.

Commuting Distractions: An E-Reader Update

I used my e-reader for the first time today.  I spent a relatively brief time downloading free e-books from the Kobo website.  I spent a much longer time trying to find available (and free) books from the library.  The first of those tasks was fruitful and I now have about 31 books to read.  The second was difficult because anything I wanted was too popular and was subsequently checked out.  In addition, some of the waiting lists were so long that I didn’t feel inspired to get on them.

As far as reading goes, it seemed rather comfortable.  It certainly took less effort to turn the page–unbelievable to think of all the energy I wasted turning pages the old fashioned way.  (I guess I can take solace in the fact that I probably burned a few calories the old way)

My first book was a bummer.  It was really short (I read it in about 30 minutes) It wasn’t particularly well written, but since it was free, I really shouldn’t complain.  I am on the second book, and all is progressing nicely.  It is better written, and managed to keep my attention for most of the trip home.

I don’t seem to have any eye strain, and the e-reader is probably lighter than any book I have ever carried on the bus, so I shouldn’t experience any muscle pain.  If I have misjudged this, I will probably wake up tomorrow with an incredible headache.

The only negative thing about the device so far is that way it counts pages.  In a single commuting session, I read about 200 e-reader pages.  I take pride in my reading speed, but that seems rather fast.  The pages are small, so you blast through a lot of them.

I talked to a woman on my bus and one of those George R. R. Martin books clocks in at over 1000 pages.  Keeping that in mind, I was temped to download Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, but that would most likely surpass 2000 pages.

Time will tell if this device will replace books for me.  Most likely I will still go to the library to check out books from time to time.  I can’t imagine my life without periodic pilgrimages to the library.

I had a thought this weekend.  I was gearing up to write another blog about commuting distractions and usually this involves rereading the previous commuting distractions bog.  In one of them, I asked for book recommendations.  This blog is relatively new, so I only got one.  I felt pretty good about the one, but I realized I would need to be patient.

Rather than sit idly by, I decided that I could (hopefully) write one blog a week recommending books.  I am not sure how this will go over, but any feedback is welcome.

I am not entirely sure of what type of books I am going to review.  Considering this blog, and considering my previous posts, you can bet it will include:

1.         books about Japan (the obsession boils close to the surface)

2.         science fiction (that was a given)

3.         unusual books

4.         books about trains, and hobbies

5.         books that I like quite a bit and feel like recommending

For my first book, I have decided to write about Cathy N. Davidson’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji.  This was probably the first book about someone teaching, or travelling in Japan that I read. It was rather ironic, since I was living in Japan when I stumbled across the book.  It was amongst a bunch of books teachers (I suppose) had left at the school in the teacher’s room.  There were about 30 of them, and they comprised an unofficial lending library.

I don’t know what drew me to the book, but as I didn’t live in Tokyo, and there wasn’t any online shopping,  getting my hands on an English book, while not impossible, was a pretty mean feat.

I wouldn’t call this book a masterpiece.  I like it more for sentimental reasons.  Since that day I have read quite a few books in the genre, but this one will always be the first.  The story in no way resembles my own experience–but then again, I have yet to find a book which does. (I guess I should write that one.  If blogging goes well, maybe I will rekindle that dream)  I have reread this book a couple of times, though more for sentiment, rather than any desire to probe between the lines.  I have found things I have missed, but the effect is not that profound.

This book chronicles the three extended stays the author had in Japan.  It spans her days as a professor at an elite women’s university to lazy days spent in a fishing village on an island.  In between we get the classic stages of cultural adaptation (I know there is a better way to express this, but for the life of me I can not think of it as I type this). 

There is less explanation of the Japanese way of life in this book than there is in other books of the genre.  There are fewer stories of overwork and cram schools. 

That being said, there are still judgements about Japan, and explanations of cultural phenomenon which many other reviewers found lacking.  Other reviewers criticized her for her unfair treatment of foreigners like herself.  It is true that she seems to have only two characterizations–ugly tourists who don’t fit in, and those that have gone completely native.  This is a fair criticism.  It would be fair to say the author spends a lot of time looking outward, when perhaps more introspection would have helped.

Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile read, if only as an introduction to the genre.  The writing is decent and the story flows well enough.  Check your library, and you might find it there.

Comic Book Day

Today is Comic Book Day.  You can walk into a comic book store and walk out with a free comic book.  It makes me wonder what I am doing inside, typing this, rather than at my local comic book store.  Sadly, I had made other, unchangeable, plans before I found out that today was comic book day.  For those of you who are reading this, you should be out there getting your comic–after you finish reading this of course.
As you might of guessed, comic books, and the superheroes they were full of, played a big part in my early years (and later years, but that isn’t the point really).  The epic struggles depicted on those pages were great food for my imagination.  Every month my heroes fought the villain, overcame great odds and personal doubts, and eventually triumphed.
These days comic book characters have made the jump to the big screen.  Yesterday the long awaited Avengers opened.  I wanted to be among the first in line, but sadly it will have wait until later this week–but it will be this week.
Comic books might get a bad rap but, honestly, how can anything that promotes literacy be bad.  Besides, comics haven’t just been about superheroes for a long time. They have been used to tell a wide variety of stories with appeal to more than just your stereotypical teenage boy.
Enjoy Comic Book Day everyone.