Friday, February 1, 2013

A Fistful of Reads: January Edition

So February has begun, which means that January is over.  I’m going to try a few new things on the blog this year, and one of those is incorporating my other loves into this site.  When I started this site I was obviously compelled to focus on film, thus the name of the blog, but before I was obsessed with film (something that actually did not happen until 2005) I was obsessed with both music (especially as a young teen) but more so with literature.  Yes, since I was four I was reading, engulfing book after book like my life depended on it.  While my friends were fantasizing about growing up to be astronauts or cowboys or whatever the hell kids want to be when they grow up, I was convinced I would be an author.

So, I decided to dedicate a post per month on my collective reading of the month.  I really am trying to read more.  As I get older reading gets harder.  Juggling a forty hour work week, two kids, a pregnant wife and all the other things that come at me all day long I find that I can’t get to a book until 11 o’clock at night and by then I’m dead tired and fall asleep mid-sentence.  I read about 25 books last year (largely thanks to the fact that I read seven books while in Europe) and so my goal this year was 30.  January saw a really good dent in that goal, since I read seven books.  I became addicted to Harry Hole and so I read three Nesbo novels and then put a dent in my collection of Chabon novels, reading three of them, and then finished up (actually last night!) with The Stranger, the revered Camus novel from 1946.

So here are my rankings and thoughts on my January reads:

7) Gentleman of the Road/Chabon
Chabon is one of my favorite writers, not necessarily because I love all of his work (I actually only consider ‘The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ to be perfection) but because he writes so ethereally that reading his work, even when the story isn’t my cup of tea, is always a pleasure.  For me, this is his lesser work and that really lies in the fact that the story itself is harder to follow for those unfamiliar with the Khazars.  Chabon explores his love of comics with a very ‘graphic’ type story that feels tailor made for a graphic novel (there are illustrations).  While it moved lyrically, it became somewhat jumbled and just didn’t live and breathe like I wanted it to.

6) Phantom/Nesbo
The latest and possible last Harry Hole novel, I was saddened with the drop in overall impact from the previous two (I’ve only started reading with ‘The Snowman’).  It isn’t that Nesbo completely dropped the ball, for after the midway mark the novel picks up and really takes off, but the diversion from murder to drugs makes for a less interesting premise and the characters here are just not as interesting as the ones explored in Nesbo’s other books.  Still, it made for a very intriguing conclusion to Hole’s legacy and I find the way Hole himself is continually developed over the course of these novels to be outstanding.

5) The Snowman/Nesbo
The first Hole novel I read and previously mentioned here, ‘The Snowman’ caught my eye because of the apparent film adaptation being flirted with at the moment.  I found this to be a captivating if not somewhat silly read that never failed to hold me tight with suspense, and despite my belief that the crazy ass conclusion was unnecessarily ‘on the nose’, I still loved the hell out of this and can’t wait to see it on the big screen.
4) The Final Solution/Chabon
Chabon writes a children’s book for adults, and it works really well.  Pulling strength from his love of Sherlock Holmes, Chabon crafts a quick read that relishes in the love of the junior sleuth (even though the sleuth here is far from junior) but crafted a story that feels respectable juvenile.  It is rather slight on details and so when all is said and done it does almost feel like half a concept, but respectable so (I already said that, didn’t I) because of the fact that this is so refreshingly sincere.
3) Werewolves in their Youth/Chabon
A collection of short stories, Chabon’s writing style and storytelling skills are put to the test here.  It is very hard to write a short story because one cannot hide your faults in the strength of ‘the next chapter’, and deciding how much to tell or refrain from telling can be difficult.  For the most part, Chabon soars here.  A few of these stories are magnificent, ‘Son of the Wolfman’ possibly being the GREATEST short story I’ve ever read (please make this a movie) and so for this reason I highly recommend digging into this collection.

2) The Leopard/Nesbo
My second taste of Nesbo proved to be my favorite.  This bypasses the silly and just gives us a whole lot of crazy, but in a more progressive and suspenseful way.  Harry’s plunge back into alcoholism and his drug addiction and his spats with fellow police officers and the whole crazy naked jaw shattering scene was just  brilliant and I SO FUCKING WANT for Bruce Willis to win an Oscar for this!  Sadly, I doubt he’d even get cast in the film adaptation (assuming there will be one).  Still, this was non-stop exhilarating and really develops so much character (multiple characters, which is something I really admire about Nesbo) and it never becomes predictable thanks to Nesbo’s ability to lead us down every path simultaneously (and have it all make sense). 

1) The Stranger/Camus
While barely over a hundred pages in length, there is no end to the depth pulled from the soul of Camus’s intensely strung and largely lauded masterpiece, ‘The Stranger’.  With towering power and a conundrum of ambiguous nature, Camus weaves such a beautifully orchestrated character study that studies more than the mere character of one man but the character of society and, in the end, the character of character itself.  Yes, without saying much at all, ‘The Stranger’ says more than most by asking the right questions and underscoring the right themes.  In the final chapter, Camus spins a web of questions that shed light on the protagonist’s situation and the complexities that lie in deciding his guilt.  I think that is what makes this novel so profound and so respected.  It manages to speak to the heart and soul of all who read it because it dissects injustice in a way that is less manipulative and more intimate.  As the story comes to a close (the finale being an open end) all that came before it makes more sense, especially in the development of Meursault (our narrator), a man who was devoid of emotion and suffered the consequence of such self-denial.

So that’s what I’ve got.  I hope that this motivates you to explore some new reads.  I can’t recommend Nesbo enough.  I was really sucked in and can’t wait to get my hands of the rest of the series of books.  He just knows how to tell a story, which is so impressive. 

Until next month!


  1. Nice month of books. I'm one of those people who has trouble finishing books, but reading more is one of my goals too.

    For instance, I started Red Harvest last year, but I didn't get very far in the 2 weeks I had it out from the library. So, I bought a set of Hammett's novels so I can finish it and dig into his other works.

    1. LOL, yeah...I hate libraries because I hate time restraints...and I like the way books look on my shelf. I buy all my books.