Top Ten 2014 Release I’m Dying To Read

toptentuesday-1So it’s been a while since I’ve participated in a Top Ten Tuesday last – mostly because the topics haven’t really spoken to me. But this week it’s all about which books we’re looking forward to in 2014 and looking forward to the new releases is very much on my mind, this time of year. So of course I had to participate. And of course there are lots of great reading experience to come out in 2014!
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuro Tazaki and his Year of Pilgrimage. So the newest Murakami novel is supposed to be published in English next year and of course I’m looking forward to that. It’s supposed to be a bit like Norwegian Wood which I really liked so this is definitely one I’m looking forward to.
  2. Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage. Of course there’s a book by Joyce Carol Oates on the list – there is every year. This year it’s about the disappearance of a young girl and what it means to her community and family.
  3. Stephen King: Mr. Mercedes/Revival. It seems we get another Stephen King novel next year – or maybe more than one. There have been several titles mentioned and it’s all on a rumor basis right now but here’s hoping that 2014 will be another big King year (even though I haven’t read Dr. Sleep or Joyland yet).
  4. Patrick Rothfuss: The Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicle #3). I’m am so eager for this one to come out because then I can finally start this series. From what I’ve heard, this is a series with serious cliff hangers so I have forced myself to wait. But now the final novel is coming out and I can finally begin reading it!!
  5. Lev Grossman: The Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3). This is the series heralded as being a combination of Narnia and Harry Potter, but for adults. I liked the first book in the series so now I’m looking forward to reading the entire series.
  6. Leigh Bardugo: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy #3). This is another trilogy I’ve been waiting to read so I could read it all at once. It sure does look like I’m going to read a lot of series next year!
  7. Blake Crouch: The Last Town (The Wayward Pines #3). Both my boyfriend and I are intrigued by this series and I hope we’ll get around to reading it. It sounds intriguing with a small town completely shut off from everything around it and with no one knowing what’s going on.
  8. Torben Munksgaard: I virkelighedenI studied philosophy together with Torben so I’m always intrigued whenever he publish a new book. This is his fourth novel and I own his first three. If I could just get around to actually reading any of them … They all sound good – I just don’t read a lot of Danish literature…
  9. Diana Gabaldon: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8). I’ve read the first two in the Outlander series and really enjoyed them. I need to pick up my pace and get this series read!
  10. Jim Butcher: Skin Game (Dresden Files # 15). I read the first two in this series and liked them, but didn’t love them. However, I’ve been told that they improve so hopefully I will stick with this series and find out if this one is worth having hopes for!

So there’s my list. I’ve been trying to google a bit and finding some good titles for next year but this is the best I’ve found. It annoys me to have a list filled with books from series – especially from series which I either haven’t started or where I’m far behind – but these are the books I know about, which I’m the most intrigued by.

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle readalong #winditup2013 (book 1)

windup-bird

As you might know, I’m participating in a wonderful readalong of Haruki Murakami hosted by Ti at Book Chatter. This is my wrap-up post for the first book. You can read Ti’s post about it here.

So the first two weeks of April have flown by and we are already done with the first book of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and it’s been a couple of exciting weeks. I didn’t know all that much about the book before I started. Back when I discovered Murakami in 2008, I read that one shouldn’t read The Wind-up Bird Chronicle before one was somewhat well-versed in Murakami’s universe. I’ve read 5 books by Murakami, both non-fiction and fiction, and both realistic and magical realistic fiction. So when I began this readalong, I felt ready for it and wasn’t intimidated at all. I was looking forward to this book!

And now, two weeks in, how am I doing? Well, the book is about the disappearance of a cat. Think of it as chaos theory. When a butterfly flaps it’s wings in one part of the world, there’s a tornado in another. Or something. One small event has unforeseen consequences. And this is what the disappearance of the cat means in this book.

The cat belongs to Kumiko and Toru Okada. It’s hugely important to Kumiko so when it disappears, she asks Toru to look for it 2 – as well as to talk to a woman on the phone. This is the start of a very strange period for Toru. Not only does he meet a rather strange teenage girl while looking for the cat in the neighborhood, but the woman calling him is equally strange.

Toru strikes up a somewhat friendship with the neighborhood girl, May Kasahara, and even helps her with her job of counting bald people. She lives next door to a abandoned house where a lot of cats hang out and she promises to keep an eye out for Toru’s cat.

Kumiko asks Toru to let a woman named Malta Kano help him. Malta has named herself after the island and is a strange woman. She is able to sense the cat and can therefore give clues about it’s whereabouts – or at least about where it’s not. But Malta also allows her sister Creta to help and she comes with a lot of baggage. The two sisters are definitely not your normal set of sisters, well, for a Murakami novel, they fit right in.

The disappeared cat seems to have a huge influence on the relationship between Kumiko and Toru. She works later and later and doesn’t seem happy and they are both keeping secrets. But the relationship seem to have been so strong that both Toru and us as readers feel that it can survive anything. But this is a Murakami novel and cats are always hugely important so we’ll see how it goes.

I am really enjoying this book. The characters feel very Japanese and some of them very Murakami-esque. There are always details in Murakami’s books that show me the difference between Japan and my daily life in Denmark. The ways people act in their working life, the incredible politeness, the stiffness in behavior – all very different from the way we do things in Denmark.

But while I enjoyed it, there was a couple of pages that were in my personal top two of horrific and horrible scenes in literature (the other is from the Stephen King novel Gerald’s Game). It was only a few pages but I had to shut the book several times and breathe and think of something else because it was so difficult to read. I know Murakami can do this – there was a nasty cat torture scene in Kafka on the Shore that probably should be on my top 3 of nastiness but this one was just so awful.

But I made it through it and am very, very excited about how the book will progress. It is Murakami at his finest, I think. So far, my two favorite Murakami novels have been Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood but this one is up there with them. I love it’s strangeness, the dreaminess of it all, where dreams overlap reality in ways so you don’t know which is which. As always, things are told that may be clues and may not be important at all. I think I read somewhere that Murakami makes it all up as he goes along and it definitely feels that way. Like there’s no one who knows where this is actually going, what the importance of the war story is, what is up with the sisters and who the strange woman is who keeps trying to have phone sex with Toru and insists that he knows who she is? But we are in safe hands when it’s Murakami behind the wheel – or at least safe in the sense that he will get us to the finish line, it will be wonderful, magical, disturbing and surreal on the way and we might get hurt, but we’ll get there!

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Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger

toptentuesday-1I’ve only been blogging for two years and a bit so I read about a billion books before. But it’s difficult to make a top ten list of the 10 best. But I’m definitely going to give it a go. I love recommending great books to other readers and these are books I maybe haven’t recommended before so this is exciting! As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. John Irving: The World According to Garp. If I have to name one book as my favorite book, this is the one. I absolutely adore John Irving’s books (or many of them, at least) and this one is my favorite. I just love the story of this one tough lady who did something unimaginable and got a child which she raised in a rather untraditional way. I love reading about Garp growing up, his writing, his marriage and children and all the twists and quirkiness which Irving puts into the writing. I simply love this book.
  2. Joyce Carol Oates: Blonde. This is one of my all time favorite books. Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors and this was the book which introduced me to her. I loved the way she wrote in this one, fictionalizing the life of Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe. Loved it!
  3. Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore. This was the first Murakami novel, I read. It is magical realism with fish raining from the sky and guest appearances from Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders. And lots of cats. Joyce Carol Oates blows me away with her ability to go in and out of her characters’s minds, John Irving with his ability to be a quirky story teller and Murakami blows me away with his imagination and the oddness in this one. I adore all three writers.
  4. Stephen King: The Stand. Stephen King is the author I’ve loved for the longest time. I discovered him as a young teenager, read him for several years, took a break but have now gotten back to Uncle Stevey. And this is his best book. At least his best novel – On Writing is absolutely amazing too. The Stand is one of the best dystopian novels out there, if not the best. I read it years ago in a Danish translation and some years back in the improved – or at least longer – version in English. It’s one of the books that I have thought about several times in the many years between the two reads. Randall Flagg and Mother Abigail are the perfect characters to set up against each other. There is just so much in this book, so many characters to love – or hate. King also impresses me with his story teller abilities – as well as with how prolific he is and how high quality most of his output have (same goes for Joyce Carol Oates of course).
  5. John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath. I could almost as easily have put East of Eden on this list because both these two are just amazing novels. I haven’t put Steinbeck on my list of favorite authors yet but I think I will some day in the future. The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck’s with his social consciousness in highest gear. Writing about the victims of the 30s Great American Depression, Steinbeck manages to both write about one family’s plight as well as the transformation of an entire nation.
  6. Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. I love this novel. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything else by Christie but I’ve read this one several times and I love it. It is such a clever book about a group of people being lured to an island where they are killed off one by one. But by whom? And I don’t even like crime fiction!
  7. Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace. I could just as easily have put Anna Karenia on this list. Both are amazing books and highly recommended. Anna Karenia is more accessible, but War and Peace is at least as amazing – and gives you bragging rights (if you know anyone who cares about this).
  8. Yann Martel: Life of Pi. I adored this novel back when I read it in 2007. This story of a very ressourceful boy being trapped on a lifeboat with a huge tiger just captured my heart. And the ending – it blev me away! I read it back in 2007 so I think it’s about time for a reread as well as time to watch the movie.
  9. Georges Perec: Life – a User’s Manual. This book has been featured on so many of my top 10 lists that it’s starting to be embarrasing. But it doesn’t show up on many other people’s list so I’ll keep mentioning it, hoping others will pick it up and love it as much as I did when I read it back in 2007. It’s definitely not for everyone but I was quite taken in by it and want to read it again. It centers around one apartment building in Paris and the people living there and moves from apartment to apartment to staircase and from character to character. Love it!
  10. Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre. I think it’s time for a reread of this one. I remember loving it, I remember the plot, yet I can’t pinpoint exactly what I love about it. Hard pressed, I would probably admit to loving Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice more but I’m afraid that owes more to the BBC and especially to Colin Firth. And every book can’t have Colin Firth starring in it. Still, I loved this for it’s flawed characters, for it’s wonderful story and beautiful writing. I think I might have to reread this one soon as well!

The worst with writing a list like this is, that you feel like you have missed some obvious books. Books that you adore and love but which for some reason didn’t pop into your head at the moment of writing the list. That said, even if I have forgot some obvious ones, I love these books so they all come with my highest recommendations. And I want to give honorable mentions to a few books that didn’t make the list but which are nevertheless on my list of favorites:

  • Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials.
  • David Wroblewski: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.
  • Alan Moore: Watchmen.
  • Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

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Top ten auto-buy authors

I have been slacking off on participating in the Top Ten so far this year, partly because of lack of time and partly because I’ve found some of the topics really hard to answer, some of them because they were not really relevant for the types of books I read. But I think it is fun to participate and I’m trying to get back in the game with this week’s theme, authors you automatically buy whenever they publish something new.

As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. John Irving. I love John Irving’s books. I always buy him. I have almost everything he’s published, only lacking his movie memoir, two of his early books and a short story collection. I haven’t read all his works yet because I’m savoring them and I can’t imagine having no new Irving novels to read. He is a definite auto-buy author!
  2. Haruki Murakami. Murakami is another of my favorite authors where I have a no-questions-asked policy and just buy whatever he writes. I love both his magical realism books and the realistic ones – it’s just all good.
  3. Donna Tartt. I’m not going broke it anything by promising to auto-buy all if Donna Tartt’s future books. So far, she has published two (both of which are in my collection) and has one coming out this year. She published her first book back in 1992 so that’s 3 books in 21 years. I’ve really loved her first two novels so I’m so so excited about a third. Definitely a must-buy!
  4. Joyce Carol Oates. I really try to buy all Joyce Carol Oates’ books when they come out or soon after but it is so hard when we’re talking about a so extremely fast-writing author as Oates. She usually has more than one book coming out each year so I mostly limit myself to her novels. And a novelette. And her diaries. Ideally, I want to own everything she has written but … It’s close to impossible!
  5. Stephen King. So here we have another prolific writer whom I am desperately trying to keep up with. Again, I’m only buying the novels although I am reconsidering this because King writes excellent short stories. But yeah, I buy him even though he sometimes misses.
  6. Terry Pratchett. I buy the Discworld novels. I don’t buy the Discworld companion books and I haven’t (yet) bought any of his other novels or books. I don’t buy the books immediately after publication, though, since when I began buying them I could only get the paperbacks and so I have continued with this format. He never disappoints!
  7. Jonathan Franzen. After The Corrections, I’m buying Franzen’s novels. I loved The Corrections so so much. Again, this is not an author who is going to make me broke. He is not exactly a fast writer.
  8. Jeffrey Eugenides. I really liked Middlesex and so I have bought whatever he has published since. Which is one book, The Marriage Plot. So again, easy to promise to buy all his novels!
  9. Neil Gaiman. He can publish his grocery list for all I care. I’m buying! Even though he is a difficult author to have on the auto-buy list, since he writes in so many different genres and formats. Still, I am so looking forward to his next novel, I desperately want to get Chu’s Day, his children’s book, and translate it to my daughters and he’s also publishing a prologue to Sandman, the graphic novel series, this year, I think. I want it all!!! More, more, more!
  10. J.K. Rowling. I debated with myself whether I should put her on the list since I haven’t bought and have no intention of buying the various companion books to the Harry Potter series. Still, right now, I’m buying any novel she puts out there so on the list she goes.

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2013 is going to be a very, very good year!

So on top of all the good books coming out this year I’ve already  mentioned, there are a couple more. First of, it has finally been announced that this really is the year that Donna Tartt will publish a new book! The Goldfinch will be published in October and I’m so excited about it. It’s only her third book and the first two have been really good so I can hardly wait for this one to come out.

And I just saw yesterday on Facebook that Haruki Murakami has a new book coming out this year as well! I’m really hoping that it will be translated soon so the non-Japanese speaking among us can read it too! I love Murakami’s works so it is always great news when he has a new book out. I don’t know anything else about this but I am still looking so much forward to it.

dan-brown-to-investigate-dante-s-masterpiece-in-new-novel-infernoAnd of course – probably the biggest commercially but not the most interesting literary which is why I haven’t mentioned it before – Dan Brown too has a new book coming out. I liked the first two Robert Langdon books but I was so disappointed in the third one. Still, the third one is inspired by Dante’s Inferno and I love Inferno so I will want to read this one too. I don’t have high hopes though but I hope that he will have moved away from the formulaic writing and write an exciting thriller which doesn’t reflect badly upon Inferno.

So more new books to read. More good books to read. 2013 is going to be such a god year!

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Read-along: Haruki Murakami’s The Windup Bird Chronicle

wind-up-bird-read-along-button-2013-finalSo I signed up for my first read-along of the year. Ti over at Book Chatter is hosting a Haruki Murakami read-along in April. It’s a read-along of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, probably Murakami’s most famous book. I’ve owned since 2008 and have been postponing reading it because I was told that it would be good to have read a few of his other works to have an idea about what kinds of topics he deals with in his books and get an idea of how he write.

windup-bird

Well, I’ve read several of his books now and I’ve loved them so much that Murakami is oneof my favorite authors. I really love his works – both the magical realism ones and the straightforward ones. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is one of the magic ones and I am really looking forward to reading is. I’m also told that 1Q84 is having parts or characters in common with Wind-up Bird so I’m considering reading that afterwards.

The read-along is a casual one with no fuss. You can read more about it here and sign up, if you feel like it.

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The books taken off from the 2012 version of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

So about three weeks ago I wrote about the new version of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and the 12 books that have been added to the just published version. At that point, I couldn’t find out which books had been taken off the list – but now I do. So here’s the list of the 12 books, the editors no longer feel we should read before we die.

  • Edward St. Aubyn: Mothers Milk
  • Paul Auster: Invisible
  • Paul Auster: The Music of Chance
  • Pat Barker: The Ghost Road
  • Peter Carey: Jack Maggs
  • Don DeLillo: Falling Man
  • Ian McEwan: Enduring Love
  • Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore
  • Ardal O’Hanlan: The Talk of the Town
  • Ricardo Piglia: Money To Burn
  • Ali Smith: The Accidental
  • William Trevor: Felicia’s Journey

So these books are no longer worth reading apparently. I’ve only read two of these – Don DeLillo’s Falling Man and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore – and I haven’t read enough of the rest of the books still on the list to really be able to say if that’s true. I think it’s okay to take off one book by an author to add a better book by that author instead – however, I loved Kafka on the Shore. I haven’t yet gotten around to reading 1Q84 which is now on the list so I don’t know if it’s as good or maybe even better than Kafka on the Shore. But I’m definitely willing to give it a go.

Don DeLillo, as I’ve written before, confuses me. I’ve read Mao IIFalling Man and parts of Underworld and I really don’t get what all the fuss is about. I simply don’t get him or his work. I don’t understand quite what it is he wants with his books. I liked parts of Falling Man, parts I thought were brilliant, but overall, I didn’t like it all that much.  I gave up on Underworld and although I plan on giving it another go this year, I’m really not looking forward to it. And I don’t remember anything about Mao II except that I was disappointed in it. I really feel most like giving DeLillo this last chance and then give up on him, if I don’t like this book. But I’m pretty sure that there are more DeLillo books on the list so maybe I’ll just push them down so his books will be the last books I read from the list – DeLillo’s books and American Psycho

But these books are off the list – what do you think about it?

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June 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up post

So with June gone, we’re halfway through the year and it’s time to do not only a monthly wrap-up post but take a look at the first 6 months and see how far I’ve come in my goals for the year. In total, I’ve read 26 books which is one every week and exactly half of my goal of 52 books – so right on target with that one. Of the 25 books I’ve decided to read this list, I’ve read 12 which is pretty much on target too. So I just need to basically repeat this in the second half of the year.

I also want to talk about Armchair BEA, an online book blogger award that took place early June. For four days, bloggers socialized, talked about books and visited each others blog and discussed the many facets of book blogging. I met some fascinating new people, found great new blogs and had a great time. Although I haven’t changed anything on the blog after BEA, I certainly got a lot to think about as well as some new inspiration – and got more certain about some of the things I do. Maybe I will add some new features or change things up a bit at a later point, for now I’m pretty much satisfied with things as they are. I highly recommend anyone to join Armchair BEA if it is held again next year.

I’ve read 1794 pages this month which is a bit of an improvement on the last couple of months but still not quite where I want it to be. I made it through 4 books which is okay but again, I really would like to read 2000+ pages and at least 5 books.

  1. Haruki Murakami: Underground. Murakami’s take on the 1995 terror attack in the Tokyo subway. Interviews with victims and with members of the cult who did it. All together, they give an interesting view into terrorist attacks in general and the Japanese psyche in specific. 4 stars.
  2. Mark Helprin: Winter’s Tale. The fourth book added to my favorites shelf this year! (The other three were We Need to Talk about Kevin, Drood and The Woman in White.) Such an amazing book – Peter Lake, Beverly Penn, Athansor and all the other fantastic characters that you can’t help fall in love with. Bigger than life characters, beautiful language, great story – all set in a mythical New York. It’s a great, great book. 5 stars.
  3. Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders. I’m sorry to admit that these novels about ‘fallen women’ from the 18th century isn’t really working for me. Still, it’s an interesting read this story of Moll Flander’s life, several marriages and children, criminal career and prison time. 3 stars.
  4. Salman Rushdie: Shalimar the Clown. Amazing story about Shalimar, his wife Boonyi, Max Ophuls the American ambassador to India, and Max and Boonyi’s daughter India … It’s also about Kashmir, the relationship between muslims and hindus – and it’s such a great read! 4 stars.
Even though I feel like I worked hard with Clarissa this month, I haven’t finished the June letters yet. I have read more than half of them though, and at the moment, I’m enjoying them very much. Expect my Clarissa read-along post in a few days.

I finished the Haruki Murakami challenge – since I had only signed up to read one book by Murakami this year, this challenge was finished the moment I closed Underground. I do hope that I will have time to read more Murakami this year, time to read some of his fiction. All in all, I’m feeling on target with all my challenges.

So in July, I’m going to spend time watching Tour de France and reading about it, as I’ve already mentioned. I think I can read through the three books rather quickly and after that, I’m not quite sure what I want to continue with but I probably need to focus a bit on books for my challenge, maybe the two last volumes in the Earth Children’s series by Jean M. Auel, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley or The Message to the Planet by Iris Murdoch. I hope to get a lot of reading done in June to stay on track!

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Haruki Murakami: Underground (review)

‘The date is Monday 20 March, 1995. It is a beautiful clear spring morning. There is still a brisk breeze and people are bundled up in coats. Yesterday was Sunday, tomorrow is the Spring Equinox, a national holiday. Sandwiched right in the middle of what should have been a long weekend, you’re probably thinking “I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.” No such luck. You get up at the normal time, wash, dress, breakfast, and head for the subway station. You board the train, crowded as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. It promises to be a perfectly run-of-the-mill day. Until five men in disguise poke at the floor of the carriage with the sharpened tips of their umbrellas, puncturing some plastic bags filled with a strange liquid…’ (p. 7)

This is a strange book. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t quite this. Most of the book consists of interviews with victims from the gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995. Then, the second part, is interviews with members of Aum, the group responsible for the gas attacks. There’s an introduction where Murakami explains why he wrote the book as well as the process with gathering the interviews and writing the book and there’s an essay, ‘Blind Nightmare: Where are we Japanese going?’ which finishes the first part.

There were 5 members of the Aum group who released Sarin gas in various subway trains. Murakami has collected the interviews so each of the 5 trains has it’s sections so what you read, are several eye witness accounts from the same event, one after another, before moving on to another train, another attack and the eye witness accounts from that. This means, that it does get a bit repetitive and this was the first thing I noticed. There are small differences in the accounts, but the main story are the same, of course. Each eye witness account tells a part of the story – each account is equally important because when taken together, they give a picture of what happe: ‘Even if there are some details inconsistent with reality, the collective narrative of these personal has a powerful reality of its own. This is something novelists are actively aware of, which is why I regard this as fitting work for a novelist.’ (p. 214)

Murakami is on a mission with this book. He wants ‘/…/ to recognize that each person on the subway that morning had a face, a life, a family, hopes and fears, contradictions and dilemmas – and that all these factors had a place in the drama.’ (p. 6). Even it if was very difficult for Murakami to find people willing to participate in this book, he wanted to show how it really felt for the people suffering the effects of the gas.

As I said, it’s a strange book. Interview after interview with survivors. All telling somewhat the same stories about experiencing symptoms like darkened vision and coughing, being confused about why and hospitals not knowing how to help. A lot of the victims still suffers from the effects when Murakami talks to them. The attack hit all types of people – some were traveling on those trains everyday, some was there only by chance, some used the subway maybe once a year… – the attack truly hit randomly, and I guess thereby hurt the most.

One of the things I found most interesting in this book was the informations about how life is in Japan for normal citizens. The interviews reveal a lot about the Japanese psyche – about work ethics and how many meet in maybe an hour or more before the work day starts, how many of the victims got back to work very very soon, even if they were suffering serious symptoms. Also how many live with their parents and siblings well in to their 20s – or how it doesn’t surprise Murkami that a man gets up at 3 in the morning to clean his entire house before going to work.

I found the interviews with the Aum members very informative. These interviews were not with people who were actually participating in the gas attacks, just people who had joined a religious group in order to find peace and a higher state of mind. Most of these were just people searching for something to give meaning and purpose to their lives and while reading these interviews, I couldn’t help but think how similar all cults are – and how dangerous it is, when we give our own choices over to others and these others are led astray by their own corrupted visions. A lot of the members of the cult had no idea what was going on and didn’t believe it really was Aum that had performed the attack until members started confessing, after being arrested.

For Murakami, what is needed after the attack is for the Japanese to take a good long look at themselves and to realize that the people who were members of Aum, aren’t that different from everyone else: ‘Now of course a mirror image is always darker and distorted. Convex and concave swap places, falsehood wins out over reality, light and shadow play tricks. But take away these dark flaws and the two images are uncannily similar; some details almost seem to conspire together. Which is why we avoid looking directly at the image, why, consciously or not, we keep eliminating these dark elements from the face we want to see. These subconscious shadows are an “underground” that we carry around within us, and the bitter aftertaste that continues to plague us long after the Tokyo gas attack comes seeping out from below.’ (p. 199).

This was a fascinating read. A bit repetitive at times, but the repetitiveness is important since it’s Murakami’s way of showing the importance of each individual victim. I thought Murakami succeeds in exploring the gas attack and the Japanese psyche and how each influence the other.

This is definitely not a book for everyone. It’s repetitiveness might put some readers off, for starters, but so might the subject. If you are interested in Japan or in terrorist actions, Murakami created an excellent testimony which is very much to the honor of the victims.

  • Title: Underground. The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
  • Author: Haruki Murakami
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Year: 2002 (original 1997)
  • Pages: 309 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars:  4 stars out of 5

On a Desert Island …

So what if you had been Robinson Crusoe and was stranded on that island – or any island (not the one from Lost though) – which books would you bring? If you should choose a small number of books and those were the only books you had to read for maybe the rest of your life or at least for a very, very long time.

You have food enough and enough to drink, there’s a comfy chair as well as a comfy beach chair, but your only company is your books. So which books would you choose? Don’t choose lightly – this is your only chance.

I really wanted to limit myself to 5 titles but when I first got started, I couldn’t limit myself to just 5. I figure, I’m a fast reader – I need more than 5 books to sustain myself on on this beautiful island. So there – my list of 10 books to bring on a desert island.

  1. John Irving: The World According to Garp. This is my favorite, favorite book. I love this book. Even though I’ve already read it a lot of times, I still want to read it again. And again.
  2. Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace. Well, one thing this has going for it, is it’s length. I’ve already read it once and I will really much like to read it again. And since there’s so much going on in it, I will most likely need to read it several times.
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings.  I’ve only read it once but I loved it and I loved the movies. So definitely want to spend some time reading this.
  4. Georges Perec: Life – A User’s Manual. I don’t think many know about this book and it’s a shame. It’s a weird book – all about the people living in the same apartment building. It’s amazing and I loved it.
  5. Marcel Proust: Remembrance of Things Past. I’ve read Swann’s Way 1 and liked it. I think if I was stranded on a island for a long time, I would get the whole thing read.
  6. Joyce Carol Oates: Blonde. Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors and this was the first book I read by her. And I loved it. I really want to re-read it and a desert island is perfect place to spend reading about the life of Marilyn Monroe.
  7. James Joyce: Ulysses. Oh yeah, I’m serious. I want to read this. I have never read it but what better thing to do on an island than to try and tackle Joyce? And on that note …
  8. James Joyce: Finnegan’s Wake.  Yeah, I’m still serious. I want to read Joyce!
  9. Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore. Another spot taken by one of my favorite authors. I loved this novel and so far, it’s my favorite book by Murakami.
  10. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I read this once, loved it. I really want to read it again – great book with awesome footnotes.