Books I Read This Month - June 2014

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murkami

More Haruki Murakami, of course, because he is easily one of my favorite authors. This book is one of his earlier works, and it's less supernatural and surreal than his later books. It's more straightforward and clear in its writing style, but it still has Murakami's quirky sense of humor and introspectiveness. In this book, a young man who's a bit dull (again, classic Murakami) takes on a task that's a bit more than he can handle: literally a wild sheep chase. A man contacts him in search of a sheep with a star on its back that, according to legend, enters people's souls to make them immortal (but leaves them and makes them mortal again if it deems them unworthy). There's a creepy man who dresses up as a sheep, there's another creepy guy who hates his son for no reason but who claims that the sheep was once inside of him, and there's a girl with beautiful ears. Weird and wacky and unexpectedly insightful (or not unexpectedly, if you know Murakami's works at all). This book certainly has not hanged my overwhelmingly positive opinion of Haruki Murakami.

Bad Teeth by Dustin Long

If you like literary allusions (and I do), you'll definitely like this. It's very layer-y, more than a cake or an onion or other cliches, and follows a college-age man who's looking for a mysterious Thai author. He goes from Brooklyn to Berkeley to Bloomington to another town that starts with a B that has slipped my mind in search of any information he can find on this man. Several characters he meets are also tormented writers, and the relationships he makes with them reveal a lot about modern literary culture. I'd recommend this book for people like me (well, I mean, I did read this and enjoy it) who are well-read, and mostly young writers. It's a fun read, if you just read it along the surface like any other novel, but if you follow closely to the metaphorical language and what the characters are saying about their states of being, you'll discover some interesting analyses of the self and what "self-consciousness" means.

Drood by Dan Simmons

Told in the style of Charles Dickens, this epicly long and winding novel details (in a fictionalized manner) the last five or so years of Dickens's life, after the Staplehurst accident that killed several people and left Dickens mentally scarred. The book is told in a Watson-like fashion from the first-person perspective of Dickens's author friend Wilkie Collins. The layers of the narrative are extremely satisfying to read and uncover, especially with the voice of the story, which is immensely Victorian. It's Gothic, creepy, and very suspenseful; even at over 700 plus pages, I found myself whipping through it, wanting to know what happens in the next chapter (although, obviously, Dickens is dead by the end of the book). The book asks some fascinating questions not only of Dickens's life and motivations but also of the afterlife, the supernatural, and the divide between good and evil (as so many excellent books tend to do). The character of Dickens is, well, very like Dickens. Author Dan Simmons did a fantastic job making him act and sound like the image of Dickens we have today, only as a more full person revealed through the narrative. I will definitely be reading more by this author, and soon.

For the Time Being by Annie Dillard

I'm not entirely sure I've read anything by Annie Dillard before, but I have to say that this book is one of the most thought-provoking and deep books I have ever read. It covers a range of seemingly unconnected topics (China, Israel, clouds, birth defects, sand, and more), but she is somehow able to connect them through an analysis of how they reflect what God is like, while constantly asking of the universe if there is a God, what our world says about the nature of God, and how miraculous and uniquely awesome our world is, with or without God. It can sometimes be boring to read about a random topic and strange facts in some of the sections, but overall, this book is extremely fascinating and made me think deeply more than any other book has. If you venture into this one, be prepared to skip over some dull, boring parts but to find yourself thinking about the universe in a new way at the end of it.