(1) The Ha-Ha by Dave King
Contemporary: "Rendered unable to speak, read, or write after a Vietnam War injury thirty years earlier, Howard Kapostash feels trapped by his disability until one day, everything changes."
Interesting novel about a war veteran named Howard who has a disability that makes him unable to speak properly - he can just make out a few stutters and words here and there, but that's it. The story follows how he tries to find ways to overcome this when he has to open up a line of communication with a young boy who comes into his care when his mother (Howard's long ago ex-girlfriend) goes into rehab.
The relationship between Howard and the young boy is one that has its inevitable ups and downs; lots of frustration, the difficulty of building up someone's trust and the further difficulty of trying to do all of this when you can't actually speak directly to them. It gave me a lot of food for thought as to how people in Howard's position are viewed by others, and I got a good insight into Howard himself - a man who can still think, feel and do everything independently, except communicate verbally. A good story but one that does seem to drag a bit in places. [3/5]
(2) Mister Roberts by Alexei Sayle
Fantasy / Novella: "Millions of light years away a battle raged. In a bid for freedom, a lone spaceship hurtled through space before crashing in the hills outside a small village in Spain."
Mister Roberts is the kind of book that I'd recommend to any friend who is feeling down and needs something light and funny to cheer themselves up. This novella (it's about 180 pages long) is a simple, but highly imaginative story that takes no time at all to get stuck into it, and before you know it, you're already approaching the last page. The story is set in Spain within a small English ex-pat community, and one day they experience an encounter with an alien robot from outer space. It's wacky and filled with humorous one-liners as you'd expect from Alexei Sayle, so just go with the flow and don't take it too seriously! [3/5]
(3) New Selected Poems 1966-1987 by Seamus Heaney
Poetry: "An updated selection of all Heaney's poetry during this important timespan."
I didn't study much poetry in my English Lit classes, so I've been reading through some of the classics, both old and contemporary, over the years. I've been dipping in and out of this volume of Seamus Heaney's poems for a while now and I've finally, finally finished it!
Some of his work appealed to me, whereas others just felt very repetitive. I liked his strong recurrent themes such as his praise of the working class and his comments on social injustice, but I did feel like I didn't understand some it because I'm not Irish and haven't read up on a lot of Irish history. Still, two firm favourites that I picked out of this volume were 'Mid-Term Break' and 'The Other Side' which really stuck in my head long after I'd closed the book. [3/5]
(4) Stupid White Men by Michael Moore
Non-Fiction / Humour / Politics: Reveals, among other things, how 'President' Bush stole an election aided only by his brother, cousin and dad's cronies, electoral fraud and tame judges; how the rich stay rich while forcing the rest of us to live in economic fear; and how politicians have whored themselves to big business."
Given how utterly crazy the world of politics has become (again), it seemed appropriate to revisit Moore's bestseller, Stupid White Men, as the US gears up to the very real possibility of voting for one of the most despicable men in the world as its president.
Despite being originally published in 2001, shortly after 9/11, much of this book still sadly rings true and it demonstrates in depressing clarity, how little seems to have changed in America (if anything, it looks like things have gotten worse from this outsider's point of view). Told in Moore's unashamedly loud and brash voice, Stupid White Men is a scathing criticism of mainly Bush policies with biting humour thrown in to make it more palatable and engaging, though I can appreciate it won't be everyone's cup of tea. Like many, I do wish it was more fact based, but at least it's fun to read if you take it for what it is. [3/5]
(5) We Think by Charles Leadbeater
Non-Fiction / Internet / Social Media: "In a world being created by YouTube and MySpace, Wikipedia and Facebook, We-Think is a rallying call for the shared power of the web to make society more open and egalitarian."
I read this for some basic research info and stats about the early days of the internet, and the boom in people starting to use social media platforms (it's quite dated now, but fine as a starting point). In We Think, Leadbeater makes some good points on the many positive aspects of sharing and collaborating with one another via the internet, highlighting greater freedom of speech (well for some of us in select countries anyway) and elements of mass participation across different age and race groups.
However, I don't think he executes his ideas very succinctly as he has a tendency to repeat himself which causes this book to be a bit of a bore to read. A case of someone having an interesting concept but not really explaining it very well. [2/5]