A Thousand Splendid Suns, #17 2020

I read the Kite Runner a few years ago, and remember it as being well-written, but with a grim story.
This is no different. I felt the tragedy was piled on, especially in opening section, to the point where I thought I might stop reading it. I went through to the end, but found it a slog, and found myself looking at the page numbers wondering how much farther did I have to go.
The story is based in an Afghanistan that was a real, brutal home for many throughout the time of the story. I think for me I would need to read about this in non-fiction, rather than a fictionalised account.

Concrete Island, J G Ballard, #15 2020

Ballard is one of the writers I keep – no matter how hard I cull my book collection, he stays.

I hadn’t read this one before, and it felt like an amazing treat when it landed in my mailbox.

It seems like an unlikely premise – a driver crashes into a strip of waste land bounded by motorways, and finds himself marooned there. But Ballard makes it work with clear description, obstacles, and deep, well-drawn characters, making the microcosm come alive.

Great speculative fiction.

Lost over Laos, Richard Pyle and Horst Fass; #14 2020

I bought this in Vietnam and it’s been sitting on my shelves for a couple of years. I thought it was older, but copy is just well used.

I learned a lot about the Vietnam war from this. Maybe because it was written by journalists who were there. The events of the story were given solid foundations with the history and strategy of the war. The mini-bios of those involved were well-crafted and thoughtful. The atmosphere of the time, and the details of the work of the journalists gave a rich depth.

I’m glad I persevered. I found the preface slow going, perhaps also repeating what was in the foreword, and I almost abandoned it.

Between The World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates: #12 2020

Another difficult book. Not the beautiful, poetic writing, but the subject matter. What it is like to live your life black in the US.

A country and a world where privilege and discrimination is part of the DNA of history: (p83) – “They sent the killer…back to his work, because he was not a killer at all. He was a force of nature, the helpless agent of our worlds physical laws.”

A world where just surviving the day takes its toll: (p90) “This need to be always on guard was an unmeasured expenditure of energy, the slow siphoning of essence.”

The inter-generational effect of one generation over the next: (p92) “And now I measure this fear against the boldness that the masters of the galaxy imparted to their own children…”

The double-think that allows the world to continue despite the injustice that jars against the dream of the country: “p 98) “This is the practised habit of jabbing out one’s eyes and forgetting the work of one’s hands.”

There’s something about this book that spoke to me that I hesitate to write about.