some thoughts on my reading in 2017

As the end of the year nears, it is customary for me to do a round-up post discussing my favorite books. I might do a little vlog later on as a special December treat, but for now, here's my usual:

My top reads of 2017 are, in no particular order:

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill 

I've read this one early on in the year, but it still feels fresh like it was yesterday.

All Our Yesterdays is a time-travelling tale and it's got all the right moves. What attracted me about this book is its smart science, powerful narration and realistic resolution, albeit a sad one.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Gosh, I love books about super-villains! And Vicious does not disappoint.

It was so ridiculously good!

A must for V.E. Schwab fans as well as those not familiar with her fast-growing body of diverse work.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

I admit, I saw Andrei Tarkovsky's eponymous movie first, then read the book it's based on nearly two decades later. I wish it was the other way around: the movie had a very different ending, which honestly I prefer to the book's more convoluted conclusion. But don't get me wrong: I appreciated the book nonetheless - it's a timeless psychological study of what a truly alien mind would be like, think like, act like. These questions asked, we are left without a definitive conclusion. 

Also, be prepared for an agonizingly slow-paced plot, long-witted philosophical monologues and a few info-dumps. Though, overall Solaris is a science fiction classic for a reason!

(a version of this review was first published on my Goodreads account)

Here are a few stills from the movie, because I just can't help myself (I'm a huge Tarkovsky fan, HUGE!)

Still from Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972)

Still from Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972)

Still from Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Where do I begin... 

I adore pretty much everything Leigh Bardugo writes. She's a genius.

If you feel intimidated by Bardugo's fast-growing number of books, starting with Six of Crows is a good bet as it gives you a nice entry into the Grishaverse and you can take it from here...

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

My mandatory Murakami of the year. First published (in English) in 1994, The Wind-Up Bird follows Toru Okada as he embarks on a metaphysical quest to save his wife from her evil mystic brother. (I think.) In the process, Toru becomes a mystic of sorts himself. He sits inside an empty well a lot, befriends a slightly disturbed teenage girl and listens to a prolonged war tale of an elderly psychic.

This book also has one of the most disturbing and violent sequences I've ever read (and it takes A LOT to freak me out!).

Check this one out if you're a die-hard Murakami fan (like myself), though better don't read this while eating or if you want to relax. Trust my advice on this.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

When I first drafted this post, I was about 75% into this book, and so based on my impressions then I had it sitting at the very top of this blog post, along with my infatuated praises and complements. Now that I finished The Female of the Species, I'm lost for words and I honestly don't know how to describe my feelings the right way - mostly I'm pissed off and slightly underwhelmed. 

Don't get me wrong - I loved about 75% of this book, and this is despite me going out of my way to avoid YA contemporaries (with a few exceptions, namely Brena Yovanoff, whose Places No One Knows rocked my world), multiple POV narration (the highest number of narrators I can handle is two, and even then only when dual-POV is absolutely necessary to the plot, and usually it's not) and stories set in 'typical' high school universes, complete with cliques, bullying and evil mean girls.

Anyway, I'll still include this book in my list because I did go into trouble of getting the image embedded into this post and such, but after being sucked in into Alex's (the main character? Question mark is because Alex is one of the three narrators...) raw agency and then let down so much by the ending, I'm cautious in my recommendations.

Trigger warnings: violence, sexual assault, animal cruelty, alcoholism, bad parenting

Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory by Patrick Wilcken

I finish up my 2017 top reads list with this biography of Claude Levi-Strauss, a French anthropologist also known as the Father of Structuralism.

It was not a breezy read, but a superbly meditative and ultimately enjoyable one as the persona and life of Lévi-Strauss were definitely fascinating (if not for the wrong reasons).

This is something you might enjoy if you happen to be an anthropologist by training (like myself) or just curious about stuff in general .

I thought, I'd conclude this by sharing some structuralist love from the book. Here's my favorite quote from Lévi-Strauss's seminal work Sad Tropics that Wilcken cites/paraphazes wisely as a summation of the anthropologist's (failed) effort to understand, classify and categorize humanity:

"The world began without man and will end without him... Man's endeavors are merely a 'transient effervescence', fizzing chemical reaction, destined to burn itself out, ending in sterility and inertia. Anthropology should be renamed 'entropology', since it is really recording a process of the breaking-down, the dismantling of structures, as cultures... disaggregate, losing their special forms and ideas."

That's it for now.

Leave a comment to tell me what you enjoyed reading this year!


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