Category archives: Recommended

The Handmaid's Tale

by Aug. 14, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

Wow, it's been so long since I last posted that you're probably thinking I decided to read The Tale of Genji all over again. I did not, though, so I promise that's the last reference to the length of Genji that I'll make (in this post). No, the real reason I haven't been posting is due to a combination of being on vacation with no internet, and laziness. I was still reading, however, so let's get to that.

The Handmaid's Tale, sexual pun intended, is set in a futuristic dystopian society and tells the story of a Handmaid - a religiously and politically sanctioned concubine. The Handmaid who serves as our narrator is not a huge fan of her new role in society.

Though Atwood does an excellent job of creating a cohesive, well-realized, and clearly defined society, I would not go so far as to say the events she portrays are believable. I don't think our own society is just one step away from heading down this particular path. That isn't a criticism, however, because I don't think you have to consider this a real possibility to appreciate what Atwood is trying to tell us.

As a matter of fact, one of my favorite aspects of this book is how it captures both the bad qualities of the society before the new "Handmaid" regime is put in place, as well as the "Handmaid" regime itself. It would probably have been easier just to cast the latter regime in an evil light, but I appreciate that Atwood was willing to criticize the extremes of the pre-dystopian society as well.

I definitely recommend The Handmaid's Tale, especially to anyone interested in dystopian literature.  However, considering how well-crafted the book is, I don't think you have to be a fan of similar books to enjoy this book.

"Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations" (270).

The Tale of Genji

by July 30, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

If you've been reading this blog recently, you know that I've been reading (and enjoying) The Tale of Genji.  I'll do my best not to reiterate anything I've said already, but that shouldn't be hard considering there are so many great things happening in this book.

First of all, the briefest of synopses.  The Tale of Genji follows 4 generations of individuals in Japan's Imperial court during the late 10th Century (which is also when it was originally written).  Though Genji is the main character, he is not the only one we get to ...

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Tale of Genji - Update 3

by July 27, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

Yes, you are seeing that picture correctly - I finished reading The Tale of Genji over the weekend.  I'll do a final post, database entry, etc later in the week, but for now I just want to bask in the glory of finishing an epic book.  Now I'm going to spend a week collecting my thoughts and trying to condense a months worth of reading in a few thousand words....

Quick aside - considering the numerous characters, titles, and interconnected relationships in The Tale of Genji, I'm also considering putting together a few tools to help anyone who wants ...

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Tale of Genji - Update 2

by July 21, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

If you are at all familiar with the Summer of Genji reading schedule, you will probably notice that I'm a little ahead of where I'm supposed to be at this point:

There are two reasons for this.  First of all, I really want to finish before going on vacation in the first week of August.  Bringing a book this big onto a plane simply seems absurd.  Second, though, is that the nature of this book begs for it to be read in huge chunks.  There are so many characters, often identified only through generic, frequently changing titles, that ...

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First Line: Tale of Genji

by July 9, 2010 in Books, First Line, Fiction, Recommended

Let's jump right into it:

"In a certain reign (whose can it have been?) someone of no very great rank, among all His Majesty's Consorts and Intimates, enjoyed exceptional favor" (1).

This immediately reminded me of the opening line for Don Quixote, another lengthy, historic tale.  Just as Cervantes's claim that he can't remember quite where in La Mancha Don Quixote was from is brimming with irony, Genji's introduction strikes me as slightly ironic as well.  It may not be immediately evident (unless you consider just how long the book is), but Genji is rife ...

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Tale of Genji - Update 1

by July 6, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

I feel like I've been reading The Tale of Genji nonstop since I started last weekend.  Even so, though, I've still hardly made a dent in this massive book:

Don't get me wrong, though, it's really quite enjoyable.  As the characters were being introduced in the first few chapters it felt more like a collection of isolated short stories, but at this point things are coming together in a much more cohesive manner.  Additionally, the discussions happening over at the Summer of Genji blog are entertaining and informative.  To make things even more interesting, the translator ...

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Summer of Genji

by June 28, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

I've had a copy of The Tale of Genji on my bookshelf for several years now.  It's status as the world's first novel (though that term may be a tad anachronistic) intrigued me, but it's size and scope (1120 pages/11th Century Japan) was intimidating.  Last week, however, I discovered the Summer of Genji - a group of readers who will be spending between now and August 30 reading and discussing The Tale of Genji.  With this discovery, I've decided it's finally time to get started on this massive epic.

Why am I making such ...

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The Well at the World’s End Volume II

by June 22, 2010 in Books, Fantasy, Recommended

Considering The Well at the World's End was split into two volumes arbitrarily, it's not worth reiterating what I said in my post on Volume I.  No time passes between the volumes, and the quest for the Well picks up right where it left off.  What is worth mentioning, however, is how great the book continues to be.

Without the surprise of the language, or the need to grow accustomed to it, I had a great time reading Volume II.  Unfortunately, there's really no good way for me to explain what exactly I liked so much without ...

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Goose Girl (Audio)

by June 21, 2010 in Audio Books, Books, Fantasy, Recommended

Goose Girl is not the type of book that would normally catch my eye.  However, after reading Christy's review of the sequel I figured it would be worth requesting from the library and listening to it when I got the chance.  I had it for a few weeks and, honestly, I didn't have a plan to start it anytime soon until I saw Erin's claim that Shannon Hale "has not written a bad book".

Convoluted story of why I started reading it aside, I'm really glad that I did.  Goose Girl seems pretty straight forward at ...

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Perelandra

by June 11, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

Instead of listening to audio books during my daily commute, I have recently been enjoying lectures from The Great Courses.  These cover all types of subjects, from classical mythology, to Einstein's theory of relativity.  The one I just finished, however, was a 12 lecture series on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis.  I complimented this listening experience by reading Perelandra, the second book in Lewis's classic Space Trilogy.

I've read Perelandra before, as well as a number of Lewis's other works, but by listening to lectures discussing major themes of his work in general ...

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