Books 2007/2008

Writing a dissertation can be a daunting challenge, so I try to have breaks whenever possible and read a bit for fun. So these are the books I read in 2007/08 and the ones I’m reading. I do read more than one at a time.

La Hora de la Estrella (1977) by Clarice Lispector- A Brazilian of ucrainian origin, Lispector (1925-1977) is known for her style and technical brilliance. A hora da estrela (original portuguese title) was her last novel and there’s much autobiographical in it. Through the story of a young woman who migrates to the big city from the poor northeastern region of Brazil, Lispector brilliantly explores the process of writing from the creativity of the author to the mind of his reader. The book intermingles ramblings from the author and the actions of the character, making one wonders how much of it goes on in Lispector’s mind when she writes. All of that in under 100 pages (the spanish version is 80 pages).

Eating for Better Health (2005) by Jane Plant & Gill Tidey – Jane Plant had breast cancer five times before she discovered a link between nutrition and the disease. Changing her eating habits – particularly going dairy free – helped her beat cancer. Last year I bought her The Plant Programme last year and really enjoyed it.

El Río de la Desolación by Javier Reverte, – My new favourite spanish author, Javier Reverte sets out on a journey along the Amazon river. Last year I thoroughly enjoyed his book on Africa (Un Vagabundo en Africa) and I’m very curious to see what he has to say about my own country.

Race, Identity, and Citizenship: A Reader (1999), ed. by Rodolfo D. Torres, Louis F. Mirón, and Jonathan Xavier Inda, ed.,- I have, in one way or another, always been interested in issues of race and identity. After I’ve immigrated to Canada and became a Canadian citizen, I’ve also began to think more about multiculturalism, immigration and citizenship. I think this book will be a good introduction to what scholars have written about it.

Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, – Decided to re-read all the Harry Potter books to prepare for the release of the final installment of the famous series, on July 21st. Ended up re-reading all but HP 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) – there was no time to re-read the book and the timely release of the movie allow me to skip this one.

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secret

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – Final episode of the adventures of Harry, Ron & Hermione. Very satisfying end but left me wishing for more HP books…

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – first of a series; very good although a little odd at first

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – I liked the movie but the book is really amazing; written by a guy with an MA in Japanese history. I noticed the attention to historical detail.

All the Good Pilgrims: Tales of the Camino de Santiago by Robert Ward – I first met Bob in 2004 when we were both part of the organizing committee for a big conference on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Spain), held at the U of T campus in the spring of 2005. We had some memorable chats and I remembered him fondly but had lost touch until, browsing aimlessly at Chapters Bookstore, I came across his book about the camino. It’s very nice; brought me to tears many times. We’ve since reconnected and metfor a coffee and long chat about Spain and life in general…

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) by Mohsin Hamid – At the time I write this, I’ve just turned over the last page of this book. I’m not too sure how I feel about it yet. The book is the tale of a young Pakistani man on his way into a promising future in the US. Graduated from Princeton, he is recently hired by a top firm with a handsome salary and much potential for growth, when 9-11 hits NY. The events that ensue take him into a search for his own identity. A very interesting book.

How to be a Canadian (2001) by Will Ferguson & Ian Ferguson

Why I hate Canadians (2007) by Will Ferguson – Both of these are hilarious. But you need to have lived in Canada for a few years to get many of the jokes.

The Subtle Knife & The Amber Spyglass, both by Philip Pullman – final installments of the His Dark Materials series that started with the Golden Compass mentioned above. The end is disappointing.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) by Michael Pollan – Worth the read. You’ll never look at corn quite the same way again.

It’s not about the tapas (2003) by Polly Evans – Young British girl quits journalist job n Hong Kong to cycle around Spain. Very good and highly entertaining, although the history bits are a bit iffy. Or maybe I know too much for my own good.

The Vision of Emma Blau by Ursula Hegi – Hegi’s A stone from the river is one of my all-time favourite books. Emma Blau has hooked from the start.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin – One of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time. Greg Mortenson will win the Nobel Peace Prize one day. If he doesn’t, that award has no meaning.

In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan – Pollan takes his critique of the food industry and nutritional science (what he calls “nutritionism”), already blatant in Omnivore’s Dilemma, to a new level. The book is clear, well written and researched and should be on anybody’s bookshelf.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – I’ve had it on my night table for a long time and finally took the plunge. It’s slow at the beginning but once I passed that, it was reading non-stop until it was over, from 9pm to 2 am. It’s many degrees of good and sad. The movie was very disappointing.

An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-First Century by James Orbinski – I’ve been a big fan of Orbinski since I’ve heard him speak about the Rwandan genocide four years ago. He was in Kigali as a member of Médecins sans Frontières during the genocide and was also there at the worst of Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan…. MSF won the Nobel Peace Prize when he was president of it. I’ve written about him here. In this book he explores some of the moral and practical dilemmas surounding many of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twenty-first century. Having taken a class on humanitarian intervention and genocide in the 20th century, the subject is of great interest to me. Worth a read.

Books I’m reading (or trying to)

The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan, – A really good book so far. Must think of ways to use it in class.

No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod – A brilliant Canadian novel about the mythical past of a family from the Scottish Highlands who immigrates to Canada (“the land of the trees”) and settle in Cape Breton. Really, really good.

Neither here nor there: travels in Europe by Bill Bryson – Funny (and silly) account of Bill Bryson’s adventures through Europe as he relives his first backpacking trip around the continent as a young man.

The Historian (2005) by Elizabeth Kostova – couldn’t quite get into it. Paused it for a while.

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (3rd edition: 2007) by Thomas L. Friedman – very interesting but will need time to read it properly.

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