Educated by Tara Westover

I am not practiced in evaluating biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. I don’t often read them. In fact, I only just learned (by asking Google) that the difference between an autobiography and a memoir is that the former generally consists of key facts about a person who just happens to be the author, whereas the latter is more about “emotional truth”.

So what do I think of the emotional truth of Tara Westover’s memoir Educated? I’m not sure. I could go at it one of several ways. Maybe it’s an indictment of a backward Mormon family. Maybe it’s the story of the triumph of a determined individual over uniquely challenging circumstances. Maybe it’s the literary equivalent of a sordid reality TV-show. Probably it’s a little bit of all those things. See below for more on what I thought of the book and why.

Are there spoilers in the post? Well… memoirs don’t have plot, and you know that Tara became a successful author in the end, so… no. Not really.

Continue reading Educated by Tara Westover

When and Why I Read Educated

I don't usually read memoirs, but people keep talking about this book.

Genre: Memoir
Date started / date finished: 22-Mar-20 to 23-Mar-20
Length: 384 pages
ISBN: 9780099511021
Originally published in: 2018
Amazon link: Educated

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge

I’m glad I got The Many Worlds of Albie Bright from the library rather than the book store. Didn’t like it. Why? See below.

If you’re looking for middle-grade science-fiction/fantasy involving physics and a child who goes on a quest to find a lost parent, you can’t go wrong with Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 classic A Wrinkle in Time.

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When and Why I Read The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

I am reading this for the Middle Grade / Young Adult Fiction Book Club. Even if nobody else is. Borrowed the ebook from the Singapore library system.

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi
Date started / date finished: 21-Mar-20 to 22-Mar-20
Length: 176 pages
ISBN: 9781524713584
Originally published in: 2016
Amazon link: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics by Peter Ladefoged

I know where the book came from, but not how it ended up where it did, in the West Elm home furnishings store in Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia, where along with two other books it was resignedly decorating a console table.

Continue reading Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics by Peter Ladefoged

When and Why I Read Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics

If you have ever doubted the forces of coincidence, doubt no more, for they conspired to an almost inconceivable degree to ensure that I came into the possession of this particular book.

Genre: Linguistics
Date started / date finished: 08-Mar-20 to 21-Mar-20
Length: 111 pages
ISBN: 0226467864
Originally published in: 1971
Amazon link: Preliminaries to Linguistic Phonetics

Asian Proverbs by FormAsia

When I moved to Singapore in 2008, my then-husband’s employer put us up in a hotel (The Copthorne Orchid, since torn down) while we looked for a place to rent. The hotel ran a shuttle bus to downtown Singapore’s shopping district, Orchard Road. The first time I took the shuttle bus, I alighted, went up and over a pedestrian bridge, walked in a shopping mall, and immediately encountered a bookstore. “I’m going to like this country,” I thought.

That bookstore, San Bookshop, has since closed. So have all the other San Bookshops. So has another bookshop I found at Far East Plaza that day.

However, ANA Book Store is still selling used books on the top floor of Far East Plaza. That’s where I bought Asian Proverbs. It’s also where I got these (October 20, 2018):

All but that bottom one are local books.

Asian Proverbs is a heavy, compact hardcover volume of full-color, glossy pages showcasing 40 sayings from each of 11 different countries and regions: India, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Tibet, China, The Philippines, Korea, and Japan. The quotations are shown in smoothly translated English and the original language opposite a selection of artworks representing the culture of the country or region. Some of the sayings are rather opaque, while others have a familiar flavor. Most have the ring of truth.

When and Why I Read Asian Proverbs

I bought this book at ANA Book Shop at Far East Plaza.

Genre: Reference
Date started / date finished: 21-Mar-20 to 21-Mar-20
Length: 186 pages
ISBN: 9789889827069
Originally published in: 2011
Amazon link: Asian Proverbs

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (vs War Horse the stage play)

I knew that the book would be different from the stage play because halfway through the film of the stage play the organizers showed a short “making of” documentary describing the development of the play and its puppets. Just how different, I could only imagine.

Now I know. It’s hugely different.

See below for more on the book’s characters, settings, plot, style, but you might want to read the book first, because it’s short and this post has SPOILERS. You might also want to read my post on War Horse (the film of the stage play).

Continue reading War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (vs War Horse the stage play)

When and Why I Read War Horse

I recently saw a film of the stage play. I wanted to compare the story as it is told in the book.

Genre: Children's Historical Fiction / Animals
Date started / date finished: 31-Jul-19 to 31-Jul-19
Length: 188 pages
ISBN: ASIN B00457WZEI
Originally published in: 1982/2010
Amazon link: War Horse

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

I have nothing good to say about this book. I do not understand how it can possibly be a bestseller.

I’m not the only one who feels like it’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Here’s an excerpt from a PW review of Wintersong that encapsulates my objections succinctly:

“The plot meanders, the stakes are ill-defined, and the characters lack depth and verisimilitude.”

If you think I’m cherry picking and only this one snooty publishing gatekeeper disliked it, yes, I am cherry picking—but here are some notes from an editor and book blogger who was similarly underwhelmed.

If you want to know more about why I didn’t like Wintersong, dive in to the rant below.

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When and Why I Read Wintersong

I am reading this for the Middle Grade / Young Adult Fiction Book Club. It is marketed as a retelling of the 1986 movie Labyrinth.

Genre: young adult fantasy / romance
Date started / date finished: 13-Jun-19 to 17-Jun-19
Length: 448 pages
ISBN: ASIN B01C2TAATC
Originally published in: 2017
Amazon link: Wintersong

Mulla Nasreddin Folktales

This book of folktales was a gift brought back for me from Uzbekistan with a couple of other items:

Dried apricots, spice tea, a detailed handcrafted magnet, and a booklet of folktales.

The booklet is not a top-quality production, and has some flaws and errors. By far the worst error is that one of the stories was accidentally split into two parts, the second part printed on an earlier page and the first part printed on a later one! Still, the translation is accessible, the introduction is informative, and the folktales are entertaining.

The stories are a mix of humor, wisdom, and foolishness. The central character, Mulla Nasreddin or Nasrudin, is known by a variety of names with a variety of spellings. He is sometimes clever and sometimes obtuse.

See below for some examples of his shenanigans.

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When and Why I Read Mulla Nasreddin Folktales

This small booklet was purchased for me recently in Uzbekistan.

Genre: folktales
Date started / date finished: 12-Jun-19 to 13-Jun-19
Length: 46 pages
ISBN: 9789943398826
Originally published in: 2018

Dubliners by James Joyce

I am, still, not a fan of James Joyce.

I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a high school student. When I re-read it again recently for the Hungry Hundred Book Club I asked myself, more than once, why I’d even bothered, not having liked it the least little bit the first time around.

Enough was enough, I told myself. Lesson learned. I was never going to read more Joyce. Life’s too short to spend time trying to like stuff I don’t actually like, regardless of how ‘important’ the stuff purports to be. But then, I read more Joyce anyway! Why did I do that?!

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When and Why I Read Dubliners

The Irish Embassy in Singapore invited local readers to participate in Bloomsday by reading James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners and coming for a discussion on 14 June 2019. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue the question of whether Joyce is really the founder of ALL modern fiction, as has been asserted.

Genre: literary fiction (short stories)
Date started / date finished: 30-May-19 to 05-Jun-19
Length: 150 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 2814
Originally published in: 1914
Gutenberg link: Dubliners

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The full title of the work is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come. The work tells the story of a man named Christian who reads the Bible and thus comes to fear his doom and to feel that he is carrying a burden. He desires to be saved. Luckily, he subsequently encounters a man named Evangelist who advises him to travel to the Celestial City by a certain path. Christian tries to follow his instructions, with varying degrees of success, and (massive spoiler alert) ultimately reaches his goal.

Is it worth reading this venerable Christian text nowadays?

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When and Why I Read The Pilgrim's Progress

The characters of Little Women refer to the book and its setting, characters, and plot.

Genre: fiction (religious allegory)
Date started / date finished: 16-May-19 to 20-May-19
Length: 145 pages
ISBN: Project Gutenberg 131
Originally published in: 1678
Gutenberg link: The Pilgrim's Progress

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, a popular and influential nineteenth-century American novel about the coming of age of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, is familiar, charming, and—for those with a compatible upbringing—only a little bit too didactic.

It’s easy to admire Jo, the fiercely independent heroine of Little Women, a tomboy who cuts all her hair off, looks forward to spinsterhood, and aims to support herself by writing. I wonder if she’s a Mary Sue; others (doubtless more fruitfully) debate whether or not the book is feminist.

Continue reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott