OscarWilde87's reading log 2021

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OscarWilde87's reading log 2021

Gen 2, 3:45am

Hi there and welcome to my 2021 thread!
This is my eighth year on CR and I would not want to miss having this group. So, thanks for having me.

I'm a teacher of English and mathematics at a German high school and I'm in my thirties. I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction, but I generally enjoy both. My reading is all over the board and I'm interested in a wide range of topics. You'll probably find me reading classics as well as popular fiction.

My reading goals for this year will be the following:
1. Read a book with more than 1,000 pages. This is an all-time favorite annual goal.
2. Read at least 7,500 pages. Why 7,500? The goal here is to read at least 25 books with an average page count of 300.

Happy New (reading) Year!

Modificato: Set 20, 3:11pm

This post will serve as my reading summary and provide some stats about my overall reading.

Reducing the TBR pile: This year's challenge (to be updated)

Currently reading:
My Life by Bill Clinton

Finished in 2021

#1: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy ()
#2: Greenwood by Michael Christie ()
#3: Aktien für Einsteiger by William Lakefield ()
#4: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ()
#5: The Institute by Stephen King ()
#6: Redemption by David Baldacci ()
#7: Getting Started in Technical Analysis by Jack D. Schwager ()
#8: Apeirogon by Colum McCann ()
#9: Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck ()
#10: Camino Winds by John Grisham ()
#11: The Fourth K by Mario Puzo ()
#12: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ()
#13: Just like you by Nick Hornby ()
#14: The Spider King's Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo ()

Books read: 14
Pages read: 5,088

Books read: 18
Pages read: 9,191

Books read: 20
Pages read: 12,414

Books read: 17
Pages read: 9,373

Books read: 18
Pages read: 6,403

Books read: 28
Pages read: 10,426

Books read: 20
Pages read: 8,280

Books read: 27
Pages read: 7,164

Books read: 26
Pages read: 11,618

Modificato: Gen 7, 5:07am

Book-wise, 2020 was quite okay for me. I read 18 books and a total of a little more than 9,000 pages. My favorites were Where the Crawdads Sing for fiction and Born to Run for non-fiction. I also took a first dip into Nigerian fiction and will continue this with Americanah this year.

Otherwise, 2020 was quite an unexpected year. Who would have thought what would become the new normal after such a year? Let's all hope that 2021 will slowly start getting better for each and everyone.

So, here's to a healthy and happy 2021!

Gen 2, 4:27am

#1: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
(128 pages)

Oh, what a wonderful little book this is. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is about friendship, and life. The artwork in this graphic novel is outstanding and the text is fabulously life-affirming. A recommendation to everyone.
5 stars.

Gen 2, 4:54am

>4 OscarWilde87: Everyone seems to love this one, including me. It's kind of like Oh the places you will go, written for a younger audience but enjoyed equally by adults.

Gen 2, 1:38pm

Hi OW, happy 2021!

Gen 5, 12:01pm

Happy New Year! Looking forward to your 2021 reading.

Gen 6, 9:14am

Happy New Year, Oscar! Just stopping by to say that, and leave a star.

Gen 7, 4:12am

#2: Greenwood by Michael Christie
(490 pages)

Michael Christie's Greenwood is set in Canada and relates the story of different generations of the Greenwood family between 1908 and 2038. The family only comes into being when two boys survive a train crash and are found and taken in by locals. They are assumed to be brothers although they are actually not and as no one knows their names they are given the surname Greenwood. Harris and Everett Greenwood grow up in the woods and are cared for and looked after by the townspeople. They both develop a relationship to nature, especially to trees, which will shape their later lives. While Harris will own a successful business, Everett's life will take a turn for the worse and he will spend a large part of his life in prison. Cut to 2038. The world is in a bad shape and trees and woods are scarce. Jake Greenwood is a forest guide with an eco-tourism agency that lets people enjoy nature for a while, provided they are willing to pay high prices. The rest of the world is haunted by dust that affects people's health. Soon Jake learns about her roots and a story of different generations of the Greenwood family tree unfolds.

While the idea for the novel did not really fascinate me right from the beginning and I found it hard to get into the book because of the jumps in time, I liked the book quite well. The main part is set in the 1930s which made it easier to grasp the connection between the different characters. Towards the middle of the book I was actually intrigued to find out more about the Greenwood family and the fates of its members. I was disappointed by the ending, though. 3.5 stars.

Gen 7, 1:14pm

Dust instead of global warming? Interesting. I saw this was in a Giller Prize list.

Gen 9, 4:35pm

Even though the ending disappointed, I've added Greenwood to the wishlist. It sounds the tiniest bit similar, at least in feel, to The Overstory, which I loved.

Gen 10, 6:44am

>10 dchaikin: Yeah, they are connected obviously, but the focus here is on dust as a consequence of deforestation. I found this idea quite intriguing.

Modificato: Gen 30, 10:57am

>11 arubabookwoman:: I hadn't known The Overstory and looked it up just now. They do seem to be similar indeed.

Gen 30, 11:05am

#3: Aktien für Einsteiger by William Lakefield
(96 pages)

The title of this book, which is German, translates to 'Stocks for beginners'. It was published independently and the author, William Lakefield, is a German-American broker. The book is a brief introduction to the world of stocks, trading and investing in the stock market. I found it to be quite helpful as it does not just explain relevant terms and provide how tos for beginners, but also delves into the psychology of trading as well as winning and losing money.

Gen 30, 11:46am

>14 OscarWilde87: That's very timely, considering the story that's been in the news the last several days now.

Gen 30, 3:14pm

>14 OscarWilde87: At first I was thinking cooking stocks and wondering how someone squeezed a whole book out of that!

Gen 31, 3:19am

>15 Julie_in_the_Library: Indeed! It will be interesting to see how all this turns out...

Gen 31, 3:20am

>16 janemarieprice: Ha, that would be a great book. You'd probably have to use a bigger font size. And maybe just copy a whole chapter only to recommend using the bones of a different animal. ;)

Feb 11, 4:29pm

Stopping and drop a star Oscar! Happy belated New Year! Any chance you have been watching The Stand on CBS all access?

Mar 29, 2:38am

>19 brodiew2: Hi there and (very) belated happy new year to you, too! Unfortunatetely I haven't had that chance, no. Did you see it? Is it any good?

Mar 29, 2:58am

#4: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(477 pages)

Americanah relates the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, two young adults growing up in Nigeria. They are in love and plan to flee the military-ruled country together. However, only Ifemelu gets a visa for the United States. Obinze, on the other hand, has to wait and re-apply time and again only to find himself able to escape Nigeria to the UK, where he leads the life of an undocumented immigrant. He is in constant fear of being caught, cannot really take all the jobs he wants and eventually he is detained and has to return back home to Nigeria. While Obinze sets up a new life in Nigeria and becomes very successful, Ifemelu has to deal with her own problems in the US so that the two of them do not stay in touch. Ifemelu finally makes a living with a blog about being Black in the United States and has a few relationships she always ends before they become too serious. Eventually, she wants to escape the life she has made for herself in the US and takes a job as an editor with a Nigerian magazine. After fifteen years abroad, Ifemelu returns home and meets up with Obinze again. Obinze is married now and has a family, but there is still a spark between the two. What will the future hold for them? Will they become a couple again? Will they become friends? Can they re-ignite their former passion for one another?

Adichie's novel is as much about the relationship between Ifemelu and Obinze as it is about so many other underlying issues that shape their lives. There is the issue of emigration to another country because of the dire situation in their homeland, there are the issues of living life as an undocumented immigrant, there is the issue of being Black in the US (which is further divided into American Black and Non-American Black) and eventually there is the way you are treated in your home country upon returning as an 'Americanah'. The novel explores how to deal with the hard decisions you have to make in your life that are amplified by the underlying question of identity.

On the whole, I liked Americanah a lot, both for the relationship between Ifemelu and Obinze which kept me wanting to see how it all turns out in the end as well as for the underlying issues the novel explores. 4 stars.

Apr 9, 11:41am

#5: The Institute by Stephen King
(676 pages)

Stephen King's 2019 novel The Institute relates the story of a group of young kids who are abducted from their homes and brought to the so-called institute, a place where they are experimented on. What unites those kids is that they have some form of psychic ability like telekinesis or telepathy. The institute tries to amplify their powers and use them for clandestine missions.

A large part of the novel is spent outlining life at the institute, which includes descriptions of daily life as well as the experiments that are carried out. Protagonist Luke Ellis, a smart young boy, wants to find out what happened to his parents when he was abducted. He quickly makes friends with the other kids at the institute only to learn that they are sent to so-called back half to undergo different experiments and finally serve their purpose. It appears that the only way out of the institute is death. Led by Luke, the kids start a revolt to destroy the institute. Will they succeed? Will they be able to escape?

I found the novel quite intriguing but rather lengthy. While said length is usually something I like about Stephen King's novels I found this one could have done with fewer pages. It was not that I was utterly bored, but the novel did not manage to grip me over its whole length. Still, an enjoyable read. 3.5 stars.

Giu 6, 10:24am

#6: Redemption by David Baldacci
(482 pages)

Redemption, the fifth novel in David Baldacci's Amos Decker series, sees the protagonist returning home for the annual visit of his family's grave in his hometown in Ohio. Decker is approached by a former convict whom he put into prison as one of his first cases on the police force. The former convict, who was released from prison early because he is terminally ill, claims that Decker got it wrong and that the case should be reopened in order to find the real murderer. While Decker is not convinced at first, he starts to reopen the case when the ex-convict is found murdered in his hotel room soon after he talked to Decker. Risking his job with the FBI, Decker decides to stay in Burlington, Ohio, to investigate the case and find out the truth. He soon learns that the story is much bigger than he had assumed years ago when first working the case.

While the setting - ex-con approaches cop and claims his innocence - might not be completely new, this story succeeds to keep you engaged by unraveling an unexpected tale of betrayal, dark machinations and foreign spycraft. The novel is highly readable and a page turner. If you are interested in thrillers and have read the other instalments in the series, make sure to pick up this novel. 4.5 stars.

Giu 6, 10:39am

I've basically been absent here most of the year. I managed to drop in time and again, but I am simply swamped with work. The pandemic only increased the workload for me and I did not really find the time to react to anyone's posts, which really saddens me. All the while I quite frequently returned to the same poem (probably also my favorite) for strength. Here goes.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Lug 10, 1:48pm

#7: Getting Started in Technical Analysis by Jack D. Schwager
(339 pages)

This is probably one of the standard works on technical analysis of charts in the stock market. While the book offers a lot of advice to the novice trader it can at times also be very overwhelming. All in all, well worth reading, but I think I will have to re-read certain parts before I can commit them to memory and use them in trading.

Lug 25, 5:09am

#8: Apeirogon by Colum McCann
(463 pages)

Apeirogon - a shape with a countably infinite number of sides. From the Greek apeiron 'to be boundless, to be endless' and the Indo-European per 'to try, to risk'. Mathematically an apeirogon approaches the shape of a circle. When magnified, however, it appears as a straight line.

Colum McCann chose this shape for the title of his 2020 novel that explores the never-ending conflict between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East. The protagonists are Bassam and Rami, both of whom have lost a daughter to the conflict. Although Bassam is Palestinian and Rami is Israeli, the two find common ground in their grief and the useless deaths of their daughters. A friendship develops and they work together to make people on both sides of the conflict - both internally and internationally - aware of the consequences of senseless killing by telling their own personal stories.

I quite liked the book for the story it tells as well as its message. I have to admit that apart from what one hears on the news I am not very informed about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reading the novel made me dive a little deeper and read up on several issues online, but I still feel that I do not know enough to read the novel with the historical background knowledge it probably deserves. Still, the story captivated me and I liked McCann's way of portraying the conflict through the lens of two personally involved characters. 4 stars.

Lug 25, 2:12pm

#9: Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
(179 pages)

As several of his other books John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat is set in Monterey, California. Tortilla Flat is part of Monterey and the place where Danny, one of the protagonists, comes to inherit two houses after returning home from fighting in World War I. Danny and his friends are poor and had been homeless before the inheritance. Danny keeps one of the houses for himself and rents the other one out to his friends Pablo and Pilon who basically live there rent-free as no one ever pays rent. When they leave a candle burning overnight the second house burns down and Pablo and Pilon move in with Danny. Soon Danny takes in other friends as well. The story is probably best described by the very first sentence in the novel: "This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house."

The characters in Tortilla Flat are poor, they hardly get by, do not work and are involved in the occasional robbery. They do not really care about having money. Rather they trade whatever is in their possession for wine that they drink together. As a reader you will constantly find them drinking wine or discussing how they can procure the next bottle. One thing is certain, though, they share a very strong friendship and always help one another without expecting anything in return. This is also what makes for the charm of the novel. The characters become very likeable although they cheat and rob others. Companionship and enjoying life is valued more highly than money and material possessions.

While there was not much of a plot on a larger scale, I quite enjoyed reading this short novel for the portrayal of the characters and their life in Monterey, California. 3.5 stars.

Lug 25, 2:40pm

#10: Camino Winds by John Grisham
(326 pages)

Camino Winds is the sequel to Grisham's Camino Island and is set on said island. Protagonist and owner of Bay Books Bruce Cable prepares for a reading of one of his famous authors when there are news that Hurricane Leo is heading directly towards the island. At first he does not believe that the island will be hit by the hurricane, but when it is clear that landfall is inevitable, he makes some preparations but decides to stay on the island and not evacuate to a safer place like most others. Bruce Cable survives the hurricane unscathed at his home and without much damage to his property. Other parts of the island are more severely hit. Exploring the island the protagonist finds a writer, Nelson Kerr, dead in his house. Bruce's temp Nick quickly realizes that Kerr did not fall victim to the hurricane but was killed. Slowly, a national conspiracy that was to be the subject of Kerr's next book, is unraveled. A big nursing home company is involved in Medicare and Medicaid fraud as they prolong the lives of their dementia patients with the help of an unapproved Chinese drug in order to cash in more money for the care of those patients.

I found the novel to be a page-turner and I also liked the characters a lot. However, the plot was not the most intriguing to my taste. Yet overall, an enjoyable summer read. 3.5 stars.

Lug 27, 7:33am

#11: The Fourth K by Mario Puzo
(501 pages)

A terrorist group murders the Pope in the Vatican. On the same day, the daughter of Francis Xavier Kennedy, the President of the United States, is abducted in Rome by members of the same terrorist group. Kennedy's daughter is brought the oil-country of Sherhaben where she is held hostage. When President Kennedy learns of the abduction he is willing to do everything in his power to get his daughter back. The terrorist Yabril, however, has different plans and kills Kennedy's daughter in front of TV cameras in order to make a statement. From there on the story unfolds. How will the US act? How will Kennedy act personally? What will happen to the terrorists? What will happen to the Sultanate of Sherhaben which backed the terrorists?

Puzo's The Fourth K follows president Francis Xavier Kennedy, a cousin of JFK, through the final part of his first term in office and the bid to his re-election for a second term. At the same time it explores the different forces of influence on power in America. There is the so-called Socrates Club of the one-hundred most influential and wealthy men in the US, there is Olliver Ollifant, called the Oracle, who has just turned one-hundred years old and wields more power than any man in the Socrates Club, there are the foreign terrorists, and eventually there is President Kennedy and the other politicians who want to set the course of the American future as they see fit. The different factions all have their own agendas, some hidden and some very open.

What I like about the novel are the different perspectives and the interplay between the different groups who want to get a grasp on or maintain their grasp on power. The novel was a very entertaining read and a real page-turner towards the end. What bugged me, though, was the many spelling mistakes. It might just have been my edition, but this edition could have benefited from more serious editing. As this was only a minor distraction in an otherwise enjoyable novel: 3.5 stars.

Ago 11, 3:38am

#12: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
(333 pages)

The so-called Georgia flu arrives in Toronto, Canada, and people quickly die from it. Soon it becomes obvious that this is going to be a pandemic. Eventually, the whole world collapses and civilization is lost. Station Eleven follows a small cast of characters in the aftermath of the pandemic. They inhabit a world that is not the same as before. No electricity, no fuel, no cities. Twenty years after the collapse there might be hope that things are taking a turn towards the better, but will they?

I picked up the book because of the setting and was interested to see how the start of a pandemic unfolded in the book. After experiencing it first-hand - something I would not have expected to experience in my lifetime and in this day and age - I deemed the topic of the novel quite fitting. I was slightly disappointed by the plot, though. The first pages gripped me and I wanted to follow Jeevan, who I supposed was probably the main character. However, there were a couple of different plot strands, some of which I did not find that exciting. I can understand why the author did it, but it was just not my cup of tea at times. Overall, the novel was not the best I have read, but also not the worst. 3 stars.

Ago 20, 3:50pm

#13: Just like you by Nick Hornby
(310 pages)

Nick Hornby's Just like you tells the story of Lucy and Joseph, two Brits who could not be more different. Set against the backdrop of the Brexit referendum in the UK, Lucy meets Joseph who works in a butcher's shop in North London. She is a teacher, head of her department, mother of two, separated from her husband but not yet divorced, white, in her forties. Joseph is 22, black, works many jobs, wants to become a music producer one day and has never had a long-term relationship. But as the saying goes, opposites attract. First Joseph is hired by Lucy to babysit her kids while she is out dating, but quite quickly both notice their attraction to one another and start a relationship that is secret at first but slowly becomes more public. Can such a relationship work, though? This is what Hornby explores in his novel.

While I liked the setting of the novel, I did not find the plot particularly exciting. Maybe this is because I found many turns quite predictable and was not surprised by the general direction the couple was heading towards. For me, the strength of the novel lies in the dialogs and the everyday-ness of the conversations not just between Lucy and Joseph, but also between them and their friends and family. On the whole, Just like you grew on me during the reading process, but did not completely win me over. 3 stars.

Set 20, 3:10pm

#14: The Spider King's Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo
(288 pages)

The protagonist Abike Johnson lives in Nigeria's biggest city Lagos and is the seventeen-year-old daughter of the so-called Spider King from the title. She moves in the upper echelons of Lagosian society and there is nothing lacking in her life. One day, in the car on her way to school, she meets a hawker who is trying to sell ice-cream to the passengers in the cars. Abike decides that she wants to get to know him better and the two meet more often. The hawker could not be more different from Abike, though, as he lives in the slums of Lagos. As Abike and the hawker become closer their backgrounds and their past collide and their romance is over soon. As the hawker learns more about the person he is dating, the story takes an unexpected turn.

The Spider King's Daughter brilliantly portrays the disparities in 21st century Nigeria. They serve as the backdrop of a personal story, one of the kind that Onuzo once described in an interview. According to the author, every story, no matter how small, is worth telling. This one definitely is. 4.5 stars.