Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday Salon: August in Review

This week I finished reading Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa and I have to admit I was a little disappointed with it. It was a huge best-seller in Japan and has been made into a movie, a TV series, and even a manga. I'm curious how they filmed it so I might try to see the film sometime and see if that alters my perception of the story at all. Still, it was a quick read and a nice way to pass the time commuting on the train. After finishing Be With You, I picked up The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings by Edgar Allen Poe, which had just arrived from my recent Book Depository order. So far I've read the Introduction (being a complete newbie to Poe, it was interesting to learn a bit more about his life and his writing), a couple of poems, and the story M.S. Found in a Bottle, which was a bit odd.

I was supposed to read some more of Poe's stories today to join in with the R.I.P. Challenge Short Story Sundays, but instead I ended up reading Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi. Talk about completely different! The thought process went something like this though ... Gee, I still need to read 2 non-fiction books before the end of the month if I want to complete the Non-Fiction Five Challenge ... Do I have any short non-fiction titles? (looking at shelves) ... Oh yeah, what about Embroideries that I picked up in Canada last winter ... Let's just take a look and see how it compares to Persepolis ... (an hour or so later)... oh, that was a pretty good read! Oops. I actually kind of had it in mind to read during the next read-a-thon, as I've found graphic novels are great for when my eyes are getting tired and I can't concentrate as well, but I have some other graphic novels that I can just as easily save for then. This was definitely a good book to read right through in one sitting, and it kind of fit in with my August non-fiction reading about women's lives in Japan, so I'm glad I ended up reading it this weekend. As for Poe, I think I'll try to read a story a day this week, so hopefully I'll be able to chat about some of them next Sunday.

August was spent primarily in Japan, yes literally, but also book-wise. I started off the month reading the true stories of regular women in modern Japan, as they talked about their loves, their marriages, and their disappointments. Then I moved back in time to the late nineteenth century where I read about the many hardships and indignities Ginko Ogino had to suffer to become Japan's first licensed female doctor. After that I took a little break from Japan, and hopped over to England to find out what Nick Hornby had been reading, or not reading, over the last couple of years. Then I returned to Japan, to read about the differences in culture and lifestyle between Japan and the US. And finally, I ended the month in a bizarre place that resembled Tokyo, where a beautiful psychotherapist had to travel into the world of dreams to fight her enemies, and save the city from some disturbingly real nightmares. What a surreal ride that was!

Books completed:
(click on the title to read my review, click on the book covers below for more information on the books themselves)
42. Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman - Sumie Kawakami
43. Beyond the Blossoming Fields - Jun'ichi Watanabe
44. Shakespeare Wrote for Money - Nick Hornby
45. Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Caught Between Cultures - Kyoko Mori
46. Paprika - Yasutaka Tsutsui (review pending)

New-to-me authors: 4
Books in Translation: 3

My favourite book of the month is Beyond the Blossoming Fields. It was well-written, engaging and I really enjoyed learning about Japan's first woman doctor and some of the changes the country was undergoing at the time. However, even though that was my favourite, I enjoyed everything I read in August. I found much to agree with in the non-fiction titles and I was especially glad to read the impressions of Japanese women, from the source as it were. Nick Hornby's reading adventures are always a pleasure, and Paprika was the perfect way to lighten the mood after the more serious topics. So all in all, it was quite a good month.

Books in: 8
Books out: 0
I'm trying to be good but I just had to buy a couple of Japanese titles and then a few books that I can't wait to read for the R.I.P. IV Challenge.

The Year of Readers: Reading for the Book Wish Foundation.
Money raised this month: $13
Total raised to date: $129

Reading Challenges Progress Report
(see sidebar for current challenges)
Non-Fiction Five Challenge (May 1 - September 30, 2009): 3/5
Dewey's Books Reading Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 3/5
Lost in Translation Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 13/6
Orbis Terrarum Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 6/10
World Citizen Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 2/3
What's in a Name? 2 Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 5/6
Herding Cats II: Attach of the Hairballs (until Dec. 31, 2009): 2
1% Well-Read Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 0/10
Manga Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 6/6
Graphic Novels Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 2/6
ARC Reading Challenge (by Dec. 31, 2009): 13 read, 6 to go
Everything Austen Challenge (July 1, 2009 - Jan. 1, 2010): 1/6
Japanese Literature Challenge 3 (July 30, 2009 - Jan. 30, 2010): 3/1
Canadian Book Challenge 3 (July 1, 2009 - July 1, 2010): 1/13

Long-term Reading Projects (Total read in 2009)
Reading Japan Project: 14 (including manga, 4 in August)
Orange Prize Project: 0

Reading plans for September
I hope to read one more non-fiction title for that challenge, but otherwise I'm very much looking forward to, and in the mood for, some R.I.P., autumn-type reads. I have quite a few that I really want to read so the only problem will be in choosing which ones. Now if only the weather would co-operate; I'm so ready for summer to be over.

What books are you most looking forward to reading this autumn?

Have a good week, and if you haven't already, don't forget to enter my Japanese Literature Giveaway. Happy reading!


  1. I had pretty much the same experience with EMBROIDERIES. (Well, minus the challenge stuff). I picked it up, intending to just look through it, and the next thing I knew I'd read the whole thing!

  2. I have always been interested in Poe, although I have really only read his poetry. I keep meaning to read some of his short story work. He really is an interesting figure in literary history.

    I am glad to see that you liked Embroideries. I want to read that one too.

    I ended up dropping out of most of my challenges today. I still am going to try to read many of the books I had on my lists--it just might not be this year.

    I'd still like to read Tears of the Desert you. Are you up for it this month or would you like to put it off? I'm good either way.

    I hope you have a good week, Nat.

  3. lol! I remember that I read the whole of Embroideries while waiting in line at my university's administrative services. I was all, "let me read for a bit to pass the time". And then: "Hey, I'm done with the book and I'm STILL waiting in line!" :P

  4. The challenges are starting to breath down my neck so I'll be reading a lot of those in autumn!

    I'm especially looking forward to The Pillowbook by Sei Shonagon (personal 2008-2009 challenge, Classics challenge and extra for the JapLit Challenge), and Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road (Classics challenge & October read for online bookgroup).

  5. I read Embroideries in August as well, and loved it! But you're right, it would make excellent Readathon material.

  6. Memory - LOL. Maybe it's the pictures. I had the same thing happen when I was reading the Emma manga series. Just kept turning the pages and suddenly realized I was done!

    Wendy - I probably should drop the one challenge that I haven't even started to read for yet, but the others still seem doable to me. We'll see if I get distracted by shiny, new books though.

    I'd love to still read Tears of the Desert with you and have been meaning to email you. Will do that now...

    Nymeth - It's just that kind of book I think! And I think it shows we would've been happy to have it be even longer.

    gnoegnoe - Oh I hope you enjoy The Pillowbook! It's partly the inspiration behind my blog and I still take it down every now and then and read a random passage or two. Good luck with your challenge reading!

    Amanda - It would've been a good choice for the Read-a-thon, but I'm not at all disappointed that I read it now.

  7. Well you have been busy with traveling, now haven't you. :) I can't believe you accomplished so much in such a short time. You go with your plans.

  8. Embroideries! I read it a while back and enjoyed the change in tone from her earlier works. That grandmother was a hoot!

  9. I just finished Persepolis, I'm glad to hear you liked Embroideries, because I want to read that one too. I think I will take a little break, though. Maybe when I am doing a read-a-thon! That's a great plan.

  10. Those are some great-sounding books in your monthly list. Glad you had a good month.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  11. Harry - I haven't been able to do much real travelling this year so armchair-travel is the next best thing! :)

    Andi - The grandmother was great, wasn't she? I loved how open-minded she was.

    Kim L - If you enjoyed Persepolis, I'm sure you'll like this one too. It's a really quick read, and will be great for the read-a-thon.

    Anna - Thanks, I enjoyed my Japanese themed reading this month.

  12. Embroideries seems right up my alley since my attention span is next to nil most days! I love the progress report!

  13. Rebecca - Thanks. Embroideries is the perfect kind of book for when you're having a bit of trouble concentrating on reading. Hope you enjoy it.


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