Saturday, December 01, 2012

November in Review, Projections for December

In order to complete all those challenges with December 31, 2012 as a deadline, I needed to increase my reading rate. I did this in two ways. First, I read less chunky books and also increased the morning reading hours by waking up early. These two factors have cranked up my figures. I completed the 100 Shots of Shorts Challenge when I finished reading The Best American Short Story 2004, which I reported as read/being read in last month's activity review. Again, I'm just four (4) books, and a month, away from completing the 70 Books Reading Challenge. I set this challenge to push myself to read more books than I did last year, fifty-six (56). 

In all, the month was good. I read a total of eight (8) books which make up a total of 2,109 pages, an average of 70.3 pages per day. Four of the books were by females, three by males and one is a mix (an anthology). I read one non-fiction, one short story anthology, and two African books. Though I couldn't project all the books I wanted to read in November, the two that were were read. The following are the books I read in November and a brief notes on them:
  1. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. This is a memoir about the author on her life in Iran during the revolution. It provides snapshots of what took place in the Iran after the Shahs were overthrown by the Ayatollahs. It is a memoir that relies heavily on books and hence 'a memoir in books'. Lolita is but one of the books.
  2. The Best American Short Stories 2004, edited by Lorrie Moore. I started reading this in October and reported it for that month; however, the quantity of the short stories in this anthology that I read in November forced me to shift it to November. There are several interesting stories in this collection. Stories like What Furniture will Jesus Choose, Tooth and Claw, If you Pawn I will Redeem, will interest the reader.
  3. Fury by Salman Rushdie. This was to be an introductory text to Salman Rushdie as I prepare to read his two famous books: Satanic Verses and Midnight's Children. It is about a middle-aged man in cultural anomie as he tries to identify (or define) himself in a rapidly changing world whose values keep shifting. He deserts love, finds love, loses it, finds it and loses it again. The vistas provided could aptly be described as a social commentary of contemporary America. It is similar, in some weird way - not the prose - to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections.
  4. Diaries of a Dead African by Chuma Nwokolo, Jnr. This is a story of two generations involving three men - a man and his two sons - spanning a period of just over a month. The diary, a single item, that passed from one man to the other records their intimate aspirations, failures and impotencies. Chuma found humour in their tragedies.
  5. July's People by Nadine Gordimer. The story is set in South Africa's apartheid regime. In this story, the blacks were fighting the whites with heavy weaponry, with the help of the Cubans and Russians, and the white South Africans were scattering like disturbed ants, seeking refuge everywhere they could. The Smales sought protection from July's - their houseboy's - family. July is a family man and this book is about the dynamics of the relationship between master and boy in the boy's home. Like Gordimer's two other books, the dialogue is sparse though the prose is not as dense as the other two: The Conservationist and Burger's Daughter.
  6. Home by Toni Morrison. On Goodreads.com someone commented on some form of similarity between July's People and Home. This is one of the reasons I read this book just after Gordimer's. Besides, Morrison is one of the authors I intend to read completely. This is her fifth book I've read following Song of Solomon, Beloved, The Bluest Eye and Sula. In Home, Frank Money has returned home from the Korean War with the horrors of the war hanging over his conscience, sometimes making him act like one who's crazy. He must overcome these troubles and his demons and must also search and rescue his only sibling Ycidra from medical abuse. An interesting, straight-to-the-point, book.
  7. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. This book won the 1992 Booker Prize. Written in poetic language, Ondaatje follows the story of a burnt and enigmatic man who claims to be English. As the English patient and the others exchange their stories about their role in the second World War, the lives they've lived prior to their meeting unfolds. And there is a love story in this one. A beautifully written story.
  8. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. This is a quick read even at 234 pages. Winifred's prose is enticing and makes for a fast read. Miss Pettigrew knows no other life apart from her genteel upbringing. When she was given the address of a young woman, Miss LaFosse, supposedly in need of a governess, Miss Pettigrew's whole perception of the life she knew and how it should be lived would collapse in a day's encounter. Funny, interesting, illuminating and sarcastic. I love this book.
These are the books I read in November and I enjoyed all of them thoroughly. Like I did last month, it will be difficult to project the entire reading list for December because I would have to be circumspect in my selection to complete the challenge. In addition to the one I'm currently reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, I might read:
  1. Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling
  2. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Funny enough I've always thought Cather to be a man, perhaps the 'Willa' and 'Cather' deceived me. The main reason I might read this book is that the synopsis is similar to Andre Brink's Praying Mantis.
I hope that I will complete all the challenges which must end on December 31, 2012. What did you read? Did you enjoy them? Are you meeting the reading goals and completing your challenges set earlier this year? What are the problems you're facing in completing them, if you are lagging behind? Let's talk.

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