Books I read in 2021

This year I finished 52 books, about a book a week on average. That’s less than previous years, but there were some REALLY long ones: Les Miserables, not one but two translations of The Tale of Genji… and a fat amateurish non-fiction book about the experiences of Singapore educators that felt even longer than it was.

I might finish Atlas Shrugged, another really long one… Still a few hours left! XD

This year, 60% of the books I read were non-fiction. All my favorites were non-fiction (in bold below). Classic fiction titles were mostly chosen by the leader of the local book club I’m in in Singapore, The Hungry Hundred Book Club.

I’ve posted about the foreign classics on my other website, We Love Translations: World Literature in English.

Many books (both fiction and non-fiction) were about Singapore and/or written by Singapore authors; some were not Singaporean but were Southeast-Asian or Asian.

Why?

Well, my reading is following the book group selections and also the “last in, first out” rule that whatever I buy, I have to read it next, not ‘eventually’. I thought of this rule several years ago as a strategy for reining in book purchases, and I’m finally starting to follow it. There’s still a huge backlog, but the backlog has stopped growing. Yay.

See below for a sorted list of the books I read in 2021.

Continue reading Books I read in 2021

Which translation of Les Miserables should I read?

What’s the best translation of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo?

I researched the different translations of Les Miserables and posted on my other website, We Love Translations. That was, however, after I had already bought the two-volume Wordsworth Classics paperback edition of the Wilbour translation.

You know, the one with Zombie Cosette on the cover. = \

Anyway… Wordsworth is what I had, so Wordsworth is what I read!

I posted my review of Les Miserables at We Love Translations too. Check it out!

When and Why I Read Les Miserables (Vol 1)

I might have read it in high school, but if I did it was probably an abridged version. Time to attack the real thing! My copy is the Wordsworth Classics two-volume edition, translated by Charles E. Wilbour.

Genre: French literature
Date started / date finished: 27-Sep-21 to 19-Oct-21
Length: 494 pages
ISBN: 9781853260858
Originally published in: 1862/1994/2002
Amazon link: Les Miserables (Vol 1)

Which translation of The Plague by Camus should I read?

The book was originally published in 1947 under the French title La Peste. There are three English translations:

What is the BEST translation of The Plague by Camus?

I know some French—but not, like, a lot—and I haven’t read both the existing English translations. Still, you asked, so here’s my answer.

I recommend the Buss / Penguin translation of The Plague:
It’s got a nice afterword by Tony Judt. See below for other reasons.

Buy paperback from Amazon

Continue reading Which translation of The Plague by Camus should I read?

We Love Translations

I am pleased to present the new home of whichever of my posts are dedicated to English translations of books originally written in other languages. Posts on the site also focus on a couple of collections of translations of books across several languages, whatever language they were originally written in, and books about translation, language, and culture in general.

Visit welovetranslations.com!

Which translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment should I read?

I read the Garnett translation. I was happy with it, to the extent that “happy” is the right word to describe the experience of reading what I found to be a depressing novel.

What is the BEST translation of Crime and Punishment?

I did some research on the available translations, which I have presented in a long, illustrated post on my other website, We Love Translations, called “Which translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment should I read?”

That post compares in-print translations. I count seven in-print translations of thirteen total, listed here:

# Translator Year Publisher
Frederick Whishaw 1885
1. Constance Garnett 1914 Heinemann
David Magarshack 1951 Penguin
Princess Alexandra Kropotkin 1953
Jessie Coulson 1953 Norton
Michael Scammell 1963 Washington Square
2. Sidney Monas 1968 Signet
Julius Katzer 1985 Raduga
3. David McDuff 1991 Viking
4. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky 1992 Knopf
5. Oliver Ready 2014 Penguin
6. Nicolas Pasternak Slater 2017 Oxford
7. Michael R. Katz 2018 Liveright (Norton)

I recommend the Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment.

Buy Garnett / Wordsworth paperback from Amazon

Buy Garnett / Wordsworth ebook from Amazon

I love books. I love languages. I built welovetranslations.com. 

Visit to learn more about translations of Crime of Punishment!

Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett

I didn’t particularly like Crime and Punishment… it was third-person omniscient but drifted into unreliable narrator territory because the protagonist is crazy, and you spend a lot of time watching him very closely as he goes around in circles being indecisive. I find his behavior dull at best and really frustrating at times—which is perhaps the point, but it’s unpleasant and rather drawn-out. I think I was expecting more overt philosophy, but there’s only a couple of scattered bits.

I read the Constance Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment. If you are trying to decide on a translation, check out my post over at Medium on which translation of Crime and Punishment you should read.

More on what I liked about the translation and didn’t like about the novel below.

Continue reading Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett

When and Why I Read Crime and Punishment

I was too tempted by the price! Bought it for 50% off SG$5.89. But according to the rules I've been trying to follow for a couple of years now, if I buy it, I can't just put it aside for another day. Last in, first out. Means I have to read it. So that's what I'm doing!

Genre: Classic Literature (Russian)
Date started / date finished: 28-Mar-20 to 05-Apr-20
Length: 485 pages
ISBN: 9781840224306
Originally published in: 1867/2000
Amazon link: Crime and Punishment

Which English translation or edition of The Count of Monte Cristo should I read?

I love books. I love languages. I built welovetranslations.com. 

You can read this post on that site!

So you want to read Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure, The Count of Monte Cristo. And you don’t read French.

No problem. This massive novel has been available in English since the 1840s. You’ll find a copy in any decent library or bookstore, and if you like reading ebooks, you can download the novel for free because it’s not under copyright. That’s sorted, then.

Not so fast!

As soon as you visit the library or bookshop or click over to Amazon, you realize there are a host of publishers offering a myriad of paperback and hardcover editions and dozens of digital versions. What’s the difference?

Unexpurgated, unabridged, abridged, children’s, illustrated, and film versions are available. Keep reading to learn how to choose an edition that’s right for you.

Continue reading Which English translation or edition of The Count of Monte Cristo should I read?

The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Surendranath Tagore

Not a lot happens in The Home and the World, but a lot is felt and thought and said. The novel explores male and female gender ideals, the changing role of women in the modern world, and approaches to political change. It showcases contrasting character traits: patience and impulsivity, thoughtfulness and recklessness, candor and cunning, generosity and jealousy, conscientiousness and ambition, practicality and idealism.

The main character, Bimala, is an Indian woman caught in a love triangle with her mild, loving husband Nikhil and the charismatic, impetuous nationalist Sandip. She has always had a place in the home, but what is her place in the world?

See my Backlist books post on Asian Books Blog for more on this Bengali novel. See below for what stood out when I read it.

Continue reading The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Surendranath Tagore

Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen

I love books. I love languages. I built welovetranslations.com. 

You can read this post on that site!

This box set contains three folk tales told in Singlish style: The Three Little Pigs Lah, The Red Riding Hood Lah, and The Goldilocks Lah.

The plots are not very different from other adaptations of these familiar tales. The characters are not very different, except that the bears in the story of Goldilocks are not bears but wolves, a change presumably made to connect the third book with the first two. The setting for the stories is Singapore. The illustrations are a mix of drawings and photos of objects and places, and each book’s drawings are by a different artist.

The appeal of these books (in general and for me specifically) is that they use and teach Singlish dialect and slang expressions. The target audience includes both those who want to see their own dialect used for humorous effect and those who are unfamiliar with Singlish and interested in increasing their understanding of it.

See below for more details about these books.

Continue reading Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen