What I’ve Been Reading

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I visited Japan a couple of years ago. At the time I thought it was the most ‘foreign’ country I had visited. Yet this translated novel about a 19-year-old university student who lives in Tokyo describes a life surprisingly like my university life. Except the protagonist has girlfriends, a concept sadly absent from my student years. Highly readable, but slightly on the depressing side as no less than four characters commit suicide.

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. Apparently this was an enormous book in the 80s. I was too young to be aware of it, although I suspect this was the book my English teacher described when trying to explain writing in the second person. (“You did this. You said that”). The whole book is in the second person, slightly disconcertingly. If you like your books full of stories of cocaine and spousal abandonment, this is for you.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. The book that led to last year’s movie. A bright, successful American student graduates and then wanders through the American wild. He ends up in Alaska where he meets his dismise. I liked this book a lot – because of Jon Krakauer’s highly readable style and because of the story of a young man who refused to follow society’s norms.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, which seems to be unreleased in the states, although I’ve got a UK-edition paperback. It’s an unusual novel, hard to categorise. It’s sort of a love story, but that’s selling it short. Badly-burnt burns patient encounters nutcase who believes she was already alive in medieval Germany. Lots of stories-within-stories. Unique.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Very disappointing. I thought I should read some pivotal texts first-hand and started with this. This is the manifesto that led to revolution in several countries – most notably Russia and China – while others such as Italy and France narrowly avoided it? It seemed to me a polemic rant with little rationalised argument. Perhaps that’s because I’m not living in 19th-century Europe’s highly explotiative economy.